Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(54) by Lorraine Heath
“As I’ve already said, I have no plans to go anywhere near her.”
“And what of Lady Anne Hayworth?”
Tristan’s fingers tightened around his knife as he sliced off another bit of ham. His temper was straining its tether. “What of her, Brother?”
“We noticed you dancing with her last night,” Mary said softly enough to quiet his anger.
“She’s a beautiful woman. I happen to enjoy beautiful women.”
“She might be vulnerable. As I understand it, she’s only just coming out of mourning after having lost her fiancé in the war.”
“I know exactly what she’s coming out of. What have you done? Become the patron saint of unmarried women?”
“Don’t speak to my wife in that tone,” Sebastian said, his voice seething.
“I’m trying to understand what’s behind the bloody inquisition. I’m a grown man free to do as I damn well please.”
“Not if others may be hurt by it. This isn’t the sea, Tristan. You don’t rule here.”
Tristan shoved back his chair and stood. “Please give me some credit. I held the woman while she wept over her damned fiancé’s bones. The very last thing I would ever do is hurt her.”
At their stunned expressions, he spun on his heel and headed for the door, not so much to escape them, but because he feared the words that still echoed around the room and in his head were a lie. He had the potential to hurt her and he damned well knew it. But even knowing it wasn’t enough incentive to keep him away from her.
Anne had only just finished her breakfast and was considering a stroll in the garden when she was summoned to her father’s study. It did not bode well that Jameson was there or that both men were on their feet before she entered. They were going to discover that their strategy to intimidate held little sway over her these days. After all, she had climbed to the top of a mast. She doubted either of them could claim the same achievement. Although she planned to keep it to herself since she’d been wearing britches at the time. That revelation would no doubt give her father an apoplectic fit.
“Jameson tells me that you traveled with this Pembrook lord.”
“I traveled on his ship. Hardly the same thing.”
“Semantics,” Jameson barked.
“Quite. And in this instance crucial to the understanding of what actually transpired.”
“Which was?” her father snapped.
“A journey from England’s shores to Scutari. I visited the British cemetery. I said my good-byes to Walter. We began the journey home. I weathered a storm. I watched porpoises play. I heard whales moan. And I released the last of my sorrow at Walter’s passing. It was a journey of healing. Now I am ready for the Season.”
“Yet this man approached you last night,” her father said.
“Yes. As did Chetwyn. And the Duke of Ainsley. Lords Malvern, Summerly, and Churchaven. I’m not certain why you’re so bothered that Lord Tristan would do the same.”
“He does not treat women well,” her brother said succinctly.
“Women? Or Lady Hermione?”
Jameson glared so fiercely that she was surprised she didn’t ignite into a ball of fire. “Did you have a fondness for her?” she asked softly.
“It is you with whom I am concerned. Your reputation. The possibility for a secure future with a husband and children. You’re in a precarious position, Anne.”
“Yes, because I’m so old. I must stop leaving my walking stick in my bedchamber lest I discover I’m unable to traipse about without falling on my backside.” She was fairly certain Tristan would have smiled at that. Her brother only glowered.
“Chetwyn will be coming by this afternoon to take you on a ride through the park,” her father announced.
She jerked her head around to stare at him. “Pardon?”
“He mentioned it at the club last night. I expect you to behave as a woman who could one day be a marchioness.”
“I had plans for this afternoon.”
He arched a brow. “What were those?”
“A solitary ride through the park,” she said, knowing it was a weak excuse that would hold no influence.
“So now you’ll have a gentleman to accompany you, with our blessing.”
And to be present when Tristan approached her. What could possibly go wrong there?
Anne desperately wanted to be on a horse but Chetwyn had brought his barouche. The driver had set the chestnut mare from a lovely trot into a leisurely walk once they arrived at the park. The carriage’s hood was folded back, allowing the sunshine to wash over them. Anne knew she should relax and enjoy it, but she was anticipating the arrival of a storm.
Chetwyn sat beside her. They had spoken of the weather and the flowers. She didn’t know why she was having such a difficult time with ordinary conversation. She certainly had never found herself lacking for words where Tristan was concerned. Their discourse ran the gamut from teasing to serious to sensual to angry to sad to profound. She thought she could talk with him forever and never find herself scrambling for topics. But with Chetwyn—
“What sort of sister by marriage would you like?” he asked.
She looked at him. He had such kind brown eyes. Walter’s eyes. “Pardon?”
“I promised to provide you with a list of potential ladies for Jameson. I wondered what your criterion was when it came to a sister by marriage.”
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