Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(53) by Lorraine Heath
“A year. Two.”
“And then? Upon my return, what shall I do with a tattered reputation?”
He sighed. There was the rub.
“No man will have me,” she continued. “My family will no doubt disown me. What will my future be?” She shook her head. “I want a proper life, Tristan. With a husband I see every day and children and a home on land.”
“Being proper brought you unhappiness. Being improper . . . Princess, I’ve seen the way you smile afterward.”
“Being improper in bed is one thing. Being improper with my life is something else entirely.”
He shoved his foot into the other boot. He would never be happy here, in London, living within Society, with all its blasted rules. He’d always known the sea wasn’t a life for everyone. He couldn’t blame her for not wanting it. But damnation, it didn’t stop him from wanting her.
He snatched up his remaining clothes, bundled them up, and walked to the window. He should say good-bye to her, never see her again. Instead he heard himself ask, “What are you doing today?”
“Making some morning calls. Going to Hyde Park this afternoon.”
“Carriage, horse, or stroll?”
“Horse, I should think.”
He grinned. “I’ve never seen you ride a horse.”
She returned his smile. “Do you know how to ride one?”
“I’m a lord. Of course, I do.”
With that, he slipped out the window. He’d thought one more night and he’d have his fill of her. It was disconcerting to realize that before his feet landed firmly on the ground, he already wanted her again.
“By God, but I’m famished,” Tristan said as he strolled into his brother’s breakfast dining room and headed for the sideboard where an abundance of delicacies awaited his appreciation. He’d experienced far too many occasions when food was scarce on a ship. All the planning in the world couldn’t guarantee good winds and the absence of delay in reaching a port.
“You’re not properly attired,” Sebastian chided from his place at the head of the small table.
Tristan had dropped his waistcoat and jacket on a chair in the foyer on the way in. He gathered up ham, eggs, bread, and a bit of everything else. “Do you know that I’ve eaten meals with no shirt on at all?” he asked as he took his seat.
Sitting beside her husband, rather than at the foot of the table, Mary blushed. Tristan had noticed that the two of them always stayed within easy reach of each other. He didn’t want to acknowledge the tug of longing that realization brought. How boring life would be to wake up to the same woman every morning. Eventually he suspected he’d just as soon not wake up.
“I imagine you did quite a bit on a ship that you do not do in a residence,” Sebastian chided. “You’re not setting a good example for my son.”
“I don’t see him about.” The little bugger was barely a year old. He wasn’t likely to notice anyway. “Perhaps you’d rather I not be here either.”
“Of course we want you here,” Mary quickly said. “Never doubt that.”
“It is simply that you are in Society now,” Sebastian added, “and certain behaviors are expected.”
Tristan relented. A blasted waistcoat, jacket, and cravat weren’t worth fighting over and creating a chasm between him and his brother. They’d had too many years apart as it was. “I shall come properly attired in the future.”
“Might help if you didn’t stay out all night.”
Tristan barked out his laughter. “Are you going to deny me all my pleasures?”
“Was it pleasures or creating trouble that kept you out?”
“A little of both, truth be told.” He winked at Mary, and her blush returned deeper than before, almost scarlet. She had spent a good many years in a convent, protected from the likes of him. She was fun to tease now, but she could hold her own. She’d proven that with Sebastian. Dammit, she’d proven it when she was twelve years old and helped them escape from the tower at Pembrook. “You should have some oranges, by the way. Prevents scurvy. I’ll see that some are delivered.”
“We are not likely to get scurvy here.”
“It’s not a pleasant thing, so humor me.”
“Did you ever suffer from it?” Mary asked.
“No, but I’ve seen plenty who have. I fear I became rather obsessed with oranges. Other fruits work, but oranges are my preference.”
He cut into the ham, like a gentleman. Marlow had insisted that his men not eat like savages. Marlow was a contradiction. A man who could order, without compunction, that the flesh be flayed off a man’s back one minute and the next offer solace, holding a seaman’s hand while he waited for death to claim him. Tristan had experienced both his kindness and his brutality.
“Lady Hermione seemed quite thrilled to see you returned,” Mary said, snapping Tristan from his musings.
“She doesn’t seem to have matured any during the time I’ve been away.”
“She’s simply an excitable girl. I would caution you to take care with her.”
“Trust me, Mary, I intend to avoid her like the plague.”
“That may prove a challenge at the balls. And elsewhere. She appears to be in pursuit of you.”
“I’m quite skilled at avoiding capture.”
“On the sea, perhaps,” Sebastian said. “It’s not always so easy in Society. If her father does little more than think you’ve compromised her, you may find yourself at the altar.”
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