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In Bed With the Devil
From the Journal of Lucian Langdon
They say my parents were murdered in the London streets by a gang of ruffians. I have no memory of it, yet it has always seemed to me that I should.After all, I was supposedly there, but only if I truly am who the world recognizes me to be.
The Earl of Claybourne.
It is not a pleasant thing to always doubt one's identity. I often study the portrait of my father hanging above the massive fireplace in the grand library of my London residence and catalogue the similarities in our appearance.
The hair...black as the soot that lined the inside of a chimney.
The eyes...the shade of pewter that brought a fair price from fences.
The nose...a slender knife-like shape, a fine-honed blade, aristocratic.
Although that similarity might be merely wishful thinking on my part. It's difficult to tell if our noses are truly the same, as mine was severely broken at an early age, the result of an encounter that left me nearly dead. I have always attributed my escape from death's clutches to Jack Dodger, who offered himself up as a target for the abuse being delivered to me. Things went much worse for him. Not that we ever speak of it.
When you grow up on the streets of London you learn about a great many things of which people never speak.
It's my eyes that convinced the old gent who called himself my grandfather that I was indeed his grandson.
"You've got the Claybourne eyes," he'd said with conviction.
And I readily admit that looking into his was very much like looking into a mirror at my own, but still it seemed a rather trite thing upon whichto base so grand a decision.
I was fourteen at the time. Awaiting trial for committing murder. I must confess it was a rather fortuitous moment to be declared a future lord of the realm, as the judicial system was not opposed to hanging young lads who were considered troublesome. I'd developed quite a reputation in that regard. Considering the circumstances of my arrest, I have no doubt I was traveling a swift path straight to Newgate and then the gallows. Having a fondness for breathing, I was determined to do whatever was necessary to escape the hangman's noose.
Because I was brought up under the tutelage of Feagan, the kidsman who managed our rather notorious den of child thieves, I was adept at deceiving people, at pretending to remember things of which I truly had no memory. During a rather intensive inquisition, observed by inspectors of Scotland Yard, I was quite the showman, and the old gent not only declared me to be his grandson, but appealed to the Crown to take the unfortunate circumstances of my life into consideration and to show extreme leniency. After all, I'd witnessed my parents' murder, been stolen and sold into near slavery. Certainly it was understandable that I'd engage in a bit of misbehavior. If returned to his keeping, he vowed to set me back on the righteous path to being a proper gentleman. His request was granted.
And I found myself traveling a far different...and more difficult...road than I'd expected, always looking for the familiar, the evidence that I truly belonged where I now resided. By the time I grew to manhood, by all appearances, I was an aristocrat.
But beneath the surface . . . I remained a scoundrel at heart.In Bed With the Devil
. Copyright © by Lorraine Heath. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.