Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(46) by Lorraine Heath
Before Anne could respond to her assumption that it was pity he bestowed on her, the girl turned to Tristan. “But I must claim the next dance, my lord. Please.”
“It will be my pleasure. Perhaps Lord Jameson will partner with you for this dance.”
“I don’t take another man’s leavings,” Jameson said before turning on his heel and striding away.
Anne gasped at her brother’s callousness but Lady Hermione didn’t seem at all bothered. Anne was fairly certain the girl heard nothing that was not uttered by Lord Tristan.
“If you’ll excuse us?” Tristan said to Lady Hermione, while offering Anne his arm.
She wasn’t certain she should take it. She felt as though she’d stepped into the middle of some sort of drama.
“Yes, of course,” Lady Hermione answered brightly. “I shall wait here with bated breath for your return.”
He arched a brow at Anne, and in spite of her reservations, suddenly well aware that they were capturing the attention of others standing nearby, she placed her hand on his arm.
“What is she to you?” she heard herself ask as he escorted her toward the dance floor.
“She seemed incredibly smitten.”
He stopped. “I promise you, Anne, I never gave her reason to believe she was anything more than a dance partner—twice. Two years ago.”
He took her in his arms and swept her over the floor, and God help her—if he had danced with such skill two years ago, if he had gazed on the girl with the intensity that he now gazed at Anne, she could well understand how Lady Hermione might have fallen under his spell. He was so very masculine, so very earthy. She had succumbed to his charms easily enough. Why shouldn’t every other lady in the room?
“You should have told me who you were,” she said, her words clipped because she had to shore her resolve that things between them were over.
“Because you made a fool of me.”
“That was never my intention. Nor did I ever intend to return to this madness. Your brother is not the only one here tonight who has expressed dissatisfaction over my presence.”
“Then why are you here?”
His jaw tightened. “I can’t stop thinking about you. I wanted to make sure that you were all right. That your family didn’t ship you off to a convent or something.”
She laughed lightly. “Why ever would they do that?”
He shrugged his broad shoulders without missing a step. “I’ve heard of it being done.”
“I was given a scolding but nothing worse than that. But they wouldn’t send me away when they are quite desperate for me to marry.”
“The chap you were dancing with earlier . . . is he whom they wish you to marry?”
She almost stumbled with the realization that he hadn’t just arrived at this affair. He’d been here for a while. He’d been watching her.
“The Marquess of Chetwyn. Walter’s brother. And yes, he has apparently expressed interest. But I haven’t settled on him.” She didn’t know why she felt compelled to say the last. Perhaps because she feared he might get into a row with Chetwyn. Seek to stake his claim. A claim he didn’t truly have.
As her hand rested in his, as his other hand cupped her waist, she tried not to think about how marvelous it had been to have those hands roaming over her flesh. To have him rising above her. To have him bring her pleasure. She was fairly certain, though, that her cheeks were flaming red, because she saw satisfaction in his gaze and feared he knew what paths her thoughts traveled.
“I found your gift. The starfish. Thank you. Where did you find it?”
“I’ve seen them along many a shore, but that particular one I found in Yorkshire.”
Her laugh, though light, sounded as though it was on the edge of hysteria. “I imagined it came from the Far East or somewhere equally exotic.”
His gaze darkened, and she saw secrets hidden there.
“No, it came from my youth. The morning I left England.”
“Why give it to me?”
“I don’t know. Perhaps because of your fanciful tale of stars falling into the sea. Just something to remember me by.”
As if she could ever forget him.
“The oranges. You sent those.”
“Yes. I can’t eat one without thinking of you. I hoped the same could be said of you regarding me.”
As much as she wished it wasn’t so, she did very little that didn’t remind her of him.
“Don’t you have journeys that await you? Obligations that must be met? You transport goods, do you not?”
“The advantage of owning my own ship is that no one commands me.”
Even if he didn’t own his own ship, she suspected no one would command him.
“But you must earn a living, you must . . .” She felt as though she had so much to learn about him.
“All I must do, Anne, is dance with you.”
Each time he called her Anne, it spoke of intimacies. She wished he’d revert to calling her Princess. It kept her hackles up, made it easier to deal with him, to keep her distance. He was a lord and it gave a new meaning to everything they’d shared.
“The duke, your brother, I’ve never seen him. Is he about?”
“He’s dancing with his wife, Mary. To your left.”
As unobtrusively as possible, she glanced over her shoulder and nearly lost her footing. The left side of his face was heavily scarred and he wore an eye patch.
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