Macaulay let out his breath. “I think you’d better talk to her yourself.”
“I agree.” Sinclair shoved the last stack of his papers into some kind of order. “If the children are tucked up and sleeping, send her down.”
“Right.” Macaulay hurried off, looking relieved, slamming the door behind him.
Sinclair gave up on his papers and moved to a little table near the window and the decanter of Scots whiskey on it that was always kept full for him. The table had an inlaid checkerboard pattern, and Andrew always begged his father to play chess or checkers with him on it. The last time Andrew had been down here, he’d tried to climb onto the table, and had smashed the whiskey decanter to the floor, sending shards of lead crystal and the best Mackenzie malt all over the carpet.
Sinclair poured a measure of whiskey into a heavy glass and drank it in one go, trying to enjoy the sensation on his tongue. He heard Macaulay’s voice on the stairs, the man speaking to someone who wasn’t answering. Macaulay’s footsteps were firm, those of the governess hesitant, as though Macaulay was having to pull her down here.
Sinclair turned around as Macaulay opened the door so swiftly that it banged into the wall. Macaulay’s kilt swung as he pulled the young woman he held by the wrist around him, her dark green wool skirts swirling in ahead of her.
Sinclair dropped the glass. It made a resounding smash, almost as resonant as had the one when Andrew knocked over the decanter. Whiskey stained the carpet anew.
Macaulay, having delivered the goods, turned and fled, slamming the door behind him. The big Scotsman was fearless in the wilds, marching miles alone and facing ferocious beasts without blinking. But when it came to handling governesses, he was apt to go pale, his freckles standing out on his face, and disappear as quickly as he could.
Sinclair was exhausted, unsated, hoping to be drunk, and tired of the mad thoughts that had flooded his brain since the night his pocket had been picked.
He was not prepared to face the pickpocket herself, who stood just beyond the whiskey spots on the carpet of his study, staring up at him with her Mediterranean blue eyes. Her bare hands twined nervously, and her face was strained below dark hair straggling out of her coiffure, but she sent him a cocky grin, one that had kept him awake and hard for six nights in a row.
“Now then, Mr. McBride,” she said. “Fancy meeting you here, eh?”
Sinclair’s simmering Scots temper, fueled by fatigue, the be-damned letter, and his aching need, boiled up and exploded. He dragged in a breath and let out a shout that reverberated through the cluttered room.
“What the bloody hell are you doing in my house?”
The young woman blinked and took a step back. But she didn’t run, didn’t gasp and press her hand to her heart as young women who heard Sinclair shout were apt to. Officers and soldiers alike had blenched when Sinclair had wound up into one of his serious tempers, and scrambled to obey him.
The pickpocket only stared, the red lips he’d kissed parting a little. “I was looking after your little ones, wasn’t I? I tried to leave after they went to sleep, but your man, Macaulay, bolted the door, and I couldn’t open it.”
“Bollocks.” Sinclair’s body was tight and hot. “You scoot around the streets of London where you bloody well please—I can’t believe you couldn’t find your way out of a house. It’s why you’re in the house I want to know.”
“Told ya. Looking after your children. Your governess did a bunk, leaving them to me, if you please. Couldn’t see her for the dust, she was running so fast. Did you want me to leave them in the street?”
Sinclair scrubbed his hand over his face. “I have no idea what the devil you’re talking about. What are you doing here? In Mayfair? In my house?”
Her brows drew together, which made her blue eyes and her round face even more fetching. “I did you a bit of a favor, bringing them home. And getting them into bed to stay. I understand that’s a chore.” Her little smile came back. “Don’t know why. They just wanted a bit of a story, and they dropped off, simple as that. But seeing as you’re home, I’ll be off.”
She headed for the door. Sinclair barreled in front of her, turning around at the door and putting his back to it. The young woman halted, her eyes widening.
“You are nae going anywhere.” Sinclair dimly wondered why he didn’t take her by the arm and march her out into the street—she couldn’t be up to any good here—but his body and mouth had taken over. “You are going to tell me how ye got here and why you’re upstairs in my nursery telling stories to my children.”
Her expression softened again. “You know, I like when your voice goes like that. All rich and lilting.”
Dear God. The smile, the warmth in her eyes, was killing him. He was going to grab her any moment, drag her into his arms, and kiss her until he couldn’t feel anything. Sinclair had to get her out of here. Had to.
He pressed his back to the door. “You will answer my question.”
“Now you sound like you did in that courtroom.” She gave him an exaggerated nod. “If your lordship pleases.”
Or maybe he’d simply fall down dead. Her laughing mimicry of a barrister bowing to a judge made Sinclair’s need for her soar. He was achingly stiff, his throat dry, and cold sweat trickled down his spine.
“You’re good at evasion, I’ll give you that,” he managed to say. “How did you find my house?”