Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(4) by Lorraine Heath
“—although the particulars regarding your heroics were not forthcoming. But I was assured you had excellent command of your men. Surely if you tell them to behave, they will behave.”
“For the chance at one of your kisses, I suspect they’d be willing to risk the bite of a cat-o-nine.”
“I don’t give my kisses freely.”
“And I have no need of your two hundred pounds. So tell me, Princess, what else are you willing to barter?”
Lord Tristan Easton, more commonly known along the waterfront as Crimson Jack, couldn’t stop his smile from widening as she released a small gasp and snatched her lovely hand free of his grip. He wasn’t certain he’d ever encountered such silkiness before. Or such fire in a woman’s eyes. But then he wasn’t in the habit of taunting women. Yet something about her called to the devil in him.
“You’re a cur,” she snapped.
“I never claimed otherwise.” And he’d hang from the nearest yardarm whichever of his men was spouting tales that he was a hero. He wasn’t. Not like his brother Sebastian who’d fought in the bloodiest of battles and barely survived to tell the tale. “You’re asking me to go someplace that I have no desire to go. It needs to be worth my while to be so inconvenienced.”
Although presently he had no commitments other than lifting tankards of ale and doing as he pleased.
“Obviously the tales I’ve heard of you are untrue—you’re not a man of honor.”
He refused to acknowledge how her words bit into his soul. He’d long ago stopped caring how anyone judged him, so why the devil did he give a fig what she thought?
She rose elegantly to her feet. “I’m sorry to have wasted your time and mine. Good night to you, sir.”
With an indignant swish of her skirts, she pivoted on her heel and marched toward the door. Someone jumped forward to open it for her, and then she was gone into the storm.
Tristan shifted his gaze over to the nearby table where a lad of sixteen was trying to entice a serving girl onto his lap. “Mouse,” he barked.
The boy immediately snapped to attention. “Aye, Cap’n?”
He gave a quick nod toward the door. “I want to know where she goes.”
Without delay or complaint the nimble lad took off. If anyone could follow her, he could.
Tristan caught the eye of the disappointed maid and signaled another tankard be brought to him. When it arrived he took a long swig of the thick dark ale and leaned back his chair until it bumped against the wall. His thinking pose.
He’d grown remarkably bored of late. Two years ago he and his brothers had finally made good on their promise—a bit tardy, but still they’d returned to London, routed their uncle, and reclaimed their birthright as the lords of Pembrook.
But London Society had not been so quick to welcome the lords back into the fold. Once Sebastian’s position as the Duke of Keswick was secured and their uncle dead, Tristan had returned to the love that had usurped Pembrook in his heart: the sea.
But after nearly twenty months of fighting tempests and gales, he was back on England’s shores, feeling untethered, as though he’d somehow broken free of his moorings. He had no desire to return to the tedious London ballrooms. While there, he discovered women aplenty to warm his bed, but they were all cut of the same cloth: satin and silk and lace. They were drawn to the danger he represented. He had only to smile and they fell into his arms. They presented no challenge.
The lady who’d been sitting before him was different. She’d stepped through the door as though she owned the night, had called down the rain, had commanded the thunder to rumble. With the most gracious movements he’d ever seen, she’d reached up and moved aside the wet hood of her pelisse.
He’d felt a quick, almost brutal tightening of his body in response to the exquisiteness of the face revealed. High cheekbones, flawless skin. Her hair, piled on top of her head, was not quite blond, not quite white. The palest of shades.
She’d spoken to a man standing nearby, and Tristan—who had never been jealous of any man—was envious. When the lady began wending her way toward him, he’d anticipated her arrival as he’d anticipated little of late. He’d made a wager with himself regarding the shade of her eyes. Green, he’d thought. But he lost the wager. They were a faint silver, haunting. They’d known tragedy. Of that he was certain.
But they’d not been conquered and he was suddenly of a mind to do so. Her fiancé was a fool of the highest order to go off and play at war when he had her here to warm his bed.
Sebastian had fought in the Crimea. He’d left half his face on the battlefield, perhaps even a portion of his soul, until Mary had come back into his life and made him whole again. So Tristan had no love for that area of the world, for the trouble it had caused his brother, but the notion of having Lady Anne on his ship intrigued him. Although he didn’t quite fancy the idea of delivering her to another man. Rather he wanted her for himself. For a time anyway. For a bit of sport, a bit of fun.
He wasn’t surprised that she’d not recognized him. He wasn’t decked out like a gentleman. It was also possible, since she was betrothed, that she’d not attended the two balls where he and his brothers had made their scandalous appearances after returning to London. The nerve of them to actually be alive and not devoured by wolves. While Sebastian might be frequenting those circles now, it would take a keen eye to recognize the similarities between the two men. Most people didn’t see beyond his brother’s disfigurement.
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