Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(44) by Lorraine Heath
Chetwyn rolled his eyes. “With your brothers—the worst gossips in all of England—about? I rather doubt that.”
She laughed. It felt good to laugh beneath flickering chandeliers while an orchestra wooed the dancers with gentle strains of harmony.
“I should like to see Jameson married this Season,” she said.
“He should like to see the same of you.”
She couldn’t miss the speculation and interest in Chetwyn’s eyes. It wasn’t that he was an awful fellow, but he didn’t make her heart speed up or her body yearn for nearness. But then she suspected few men would have that influence over her.
“I was going to ask if you knew of any prospects with whom I might entice my brother into walking down the aisle,” she said, hoping to direct them off a path she wasn’t ready to travel. Her own possibility of marriage was far from her thoughts. Tonight she simply had to survive her reentry into Society.
“Perhaps I could come to call later this week and provide a list at that time,” he suggested.
Oh, she’d been too long out of the flirtation game, felt as though she’d maneuvered herself into a trap. “Do you not worry that your brother would always be between us?”
“No. He and I were very different. I daresay, my mother often quipped that if she wasn’t present at the birthing, she’d have not believed we were brothers.”
She felt the heat suffuse her face. Not exactly a proper topic, and she wondered briefly if he was slightly nervous about being in her company. It couldn’t be easy to be with a woman who had a past with his brother. “Well, then, I suppose a call later this week would be lovely.”
The music wafted into silence and without another word he escorted her to her aunt, her father’s sister, who was serving as her chaperone this evening. In spite of Sarah’s offer to take on that role, her father thought she needed a more seasoned lady. Especially as he wasn’t here, but had elected to spend the evening at his club.
“He is such a handsome devil,” her aunt Penelope said after the marquess had wandered away.
“Yes, he is.”
“I’ve heard he’s set his cap on you.”
“So I’ve been told.”
“You could do far worse, my girl.”
“That is a ringing endorsement.”
All the wrinkles in her aunt’s face shifted around until she looked rather like a dried prune. “Whatever do you mean by that?”
“It just seems that one should set one’s standards a bit higher than simply not going with the worst.”
“You’re close to being on the shelf. You can’t be particularly picky. You had your love, which is more than most women have. Now you must settle in and do your duty.”
“Is one allowed love only once?”
“I daresay, if at all, once is all that one can hope for.”
“That’s a rather sad state of affairs for women, isn’t it?”
“It is the way of it, m’dear. I’m a bit parched. Perhaps you’d like to come with me to the refreshment room.”
So she could continue to be bombarded with such demoralizing commentary? “No, thank you. I believe I shall watch the dancers.”
After her aunt left, Anne moved farther back into the fronds. It wasn’t that she didn’t like being here. She loved the gaiety and the music and the lovely gowns. She enjoyed watching the gentlemen flirt, but she couldn’t quite relish them flirting with her. She caught speculative glances from time to time, knew they were sizing her up. She’d forgotten how calculating everything was. Perhaps she should simply drop every eligible bachelor’s name into a hat and draw one out. It seemed as good a solution as any if her aunt was correct in her assumption that love wouldn’t be part of the bargain. It would certainly save her time, humilia—
“I never took you to be a wallflower.”
Her breath hitched at the familiar silken voice that rasped near her ear. The tang of orange wafted around her. Fighting for composure, she slowly turned. Her heart pounded at the sight of Tristan, so devilishly handsome in his black swallowtailed coat. His face was bare of whiskers. His hair, while still long, had been trimmed. His light blue eyes were filled with devilment. “You,” she croaked.
He grinned, a grin that spoke of secrets shared. “Me.”
“Whatever are you doing here?”
“Speaking with you obviously.”
“But—” She was fighting not to panic. He shouldn’t be here. He couldn’t be here. “However did you get in?”
“Through a door.”
Oh, God, the infuriating man! “Invitations were required.”
“And I managed to gain one.”
“I had hoped you’d be a bit more pleased to see me, rather than seeking answers to such trivial matters.”
“But this isn’t your world.”
“Unfortunately it is.” Some emotion that she couldn’t identify flickered in his eyes. Loss, grief, sorrow. “I don’t believe we’ve been formally introduced. Allow me.” He tipped his head slightly. “Lord Tristan Easton.”
Lord? Impossible. He was untethered, did as he pleased. He grew up on the sea, he—
Then the name he’d spoken registered at the back of her mind.
“Easton?” The word came out on a choked breath. “Your brother is—”
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