Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(42) by Lorraine Heath
“I found something in the trunk. I’m not sure what it is. I put it on your vanity.”
Anne walked to the vanity and discovered a small paper-wrapped parcel. The paper was more suited to serving as stationery but it had been crumpled and folded, secured with string around an object. Slowly she untied the string and pulled back the paper to reveal a starfish.
On the paper was written: For making a wish when there are no stars to be seen.
Tears stung her eyes. So many things to wish for, but only one mattered: Be safe, Captain. Please always be safe on your travels.
Carefully she flattened the paper, then folded it and placed it, along with the starfish, in her jewelry box.
“I’m tired, Martha. Help me prepare for bed.”
When she was dressed and Martha had left, Anne sat in a chair by the window and gazed out as the fog rolled in. The gaslights offered a meager attempt to hold it at bay, but they lit a path to the residence. She wished now that she hadn’t left the ship so soon. Perhaps Tristan wished the same. He could climb the tree. He could come to her. She wouldn’t turn him away. Just one more night.
But morning found her asleep in the chair, alone.
“I’m so glad you’re finally back in London. I’ve missed you dreadfully.”
Reaching across the small round table in the garden, Anne smiled and squeezed the hand of her dearest friend, Lady Sarah Weston. “I’ve missed you as well.”
“I can serve as your chaperone this Season.”
Anne laughed lightly. It had been three years since Sarah had married the Earl of Fayrehaven. Anne had attended her at the wedding, served as her maid of honor. She had always planned for Sarah to assist her when the time came to exchange vows with Walter. They had decided to toss aside the societal rules that said a married lady could not stand beside a bride. They were going to allow it to happen. It was silly now to wonder if the possibility of flaunting convention had been responsible for fate’s nasty turn.
“You will find someone else, you know,” Sarah continued.
Anne wanted to confess that she had found someone else. But that had been a temporary holding. She’d been home all of three days now and she’d almost gone to the docks during each one of them to see if the Revenge was still in port. But going to the docks was not something that ladies did—although it had not stopped her before.
She wondered if he spent his evenings in the same tavern where she’d first seen him. Did he wait for other ladies to approach him? Would he compare them to her? Would he find them lacking? God help her, she wanted him to find them lacking.
“I have heard . . .” Sarah began, leaning forward as though the blooming flowers had the ability to gossip, “that Chetwyn has set his cap for you.”
“He has said nothing to me.”
“Well, you’ve hardly been in London long enough, have you? I called on you a month ago, when I first arrived in town and was told that you weren’t in residence. I was so disappointed. I’m remarkably glad you sent a note round letting me know that you were indeed in the city. Did you need a bit more time in the country?”
Anne nibbled on her lip. “No, actually. If I tell you, you must hold it a secret.”
Now Anne was lowering her voice, which was ridiculous because no one was about. “I went to Scutari, to say good-bye to Walter. It was a remarkable trip, liberating.”
Sarah furrowed her brow. “Did your brothers take you?”
“No, I went by myself. Well, with my maid. I wore trousers. I climbed a mast. I stood in a crow’s nest and looked out on the world. I felt small, yet significant. It was a strange dichotomy.”
She realized she was throwing out everything in a nonsensical manner, but she’d been unable to share it with anyone and it was just there, bubbling to the surface.
“Not to mention scandalous,” Sarah said with a measure of disapproval that Anne fought to ignore.
“Yes, I know. Which is why you mustn’t tell anyone. I haven’t told my father or my brothers everything that I did. Only that I went to Scutari. They wouldn’t understand.”
“I’m not quite certain that I do either.”
“Do you ever consider that we behave a certain way because it’s expected of us, but no one ever truly explains why we must behave as we do?”
“We behave as we do because it’s the way one behaves.”
She had once thought the same, but now she questioned the staidness of her life. But how could Sarah understand when she’d never ventured from it?
Anne heard a servant approaching and glanced up to see one of the younger maids carrying a tray. Earlier she had brought them tea. Now she set on the table some scones and a bowl of orange segments. Anne couldn’t help but think of that first morning on the ship when she had bitten into one. “Those look tempting.”
“They’re very good, m’lady,” the girl said. “Cook had us taste them to make sure there was nothing amiss. A crate of them just showed up on the steps.”
“From the shops? Cook purchased them?”
“No, miss. We don’t know who sent them.”
Tristan. She was as certain of that as she was of her name. She wondered if it had been a final good-bye gift, knowing that she would never again eat an orange and not think of him. She wondered if he would think of her when he tasted one. She’d not anticipated that so many things would remind her of him.
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