Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(55) by Lorraine Heath
“Only that she makes Jameson happy. I shan’t be living with her.”
“But you shall see her from time to time.”
“I can tolerate anything unpleasant for a short period of time.”
“Even a husband?”
She smiled. “No, I would like him to be pleasant all the time, although I suspect there will be moments when he’ll be difficult.”
“I can’t imagine that any man who gained your favor would ever abuse such grand fortune. He would want you to always be happy.”
She wondered if he was talking of himself. She didn’t want to journey into a discussion regarding the sort of man she wished for a husband. She feared her desired qualifications might have taken a nasty turn toward the adventuresome. “You and Jameson have been friends for a good while. Do you know if he ever had any tender feelings for Lady Hermione?”
Clearing his throat, Chetwyn looked out over the green. “He might have found himself fascinated with her.”
“Two years ago? Before the lords of Pembrook returned?”
Chetwyn nodded, then shifted his glance over to her. “It seems you have captured the attention of at least one of those lords.”
“It was only a dance.”
“Two is proper.”
“But he isn’t.”
She wanted to deny it, but proper gentlemen didn’t climb in through windows bent on seduction.
“Does he fascinate you as he fascinates all the ladies?” Chetwyn asked.
“He’s not a threat to you or any of the other lords. He has no intention of staying here. He has a ship. He travels the world. Marriage to him would be a lonely affair.”
“So you’ve considered it?”
“No!” She felt herself blushing. She had not wanted the conversation to go here. “I only meant to reassure you that he engages in harmless flirtation.”
“Then I need not consider him competition for your attentions?”
Her face, her entire body, grew warmer. She had to tread lightly here. Did she wish to encourage him? She knew him. He was kind and well mannered. She suspected he would not stray from his vows. He would not leave her weeping or angry or shattered. She wanted to reassure him, but instead she heard herself spouting a lie. “He means nothing to me.”
Chetwyn nodded. “I still miss him, you know?”
The words made no sense and left her doing little more than batting her eyes, because she was fairly certain he wasn’t referring to Tristan.
“Walter,” he added, as though she needed the clarification, and shame on her because for a moment she’d forgotten all about him.
“As do I.”
“War is a terrible thing.”
“But sometimes necessary.” She could not—would not—believe Walter had died in vain.
“It takes a toll on a man,” Chetwyn said. “On his family, on those who love him. And on a country actually. A lot of men returned with missing limbs, unable to work.”
“I suspect they could work if people would only give them a chance.”
He gave her a small smile. “Quite right. But until they are given that chance, some are living in the gutters. I want to change that, Anne. In Walter’s memory. I want to arrange a home for soldiers where they can stay until they get back on their feet.”
“Oh, Chetwyn.” Without thinking, she placed her hand over his where it rested on his thigh and squeezed. “What a lovely idea.”
He turned his hand over, threaded his fingers through hers. “I’m arranging a ball, with help from Mother, of course. Only a select few shall be invited as we’ll solicit monetary contributions. A crass endeavor in one way, but I feel I must do something.”
“I think it’s an exceedingly generous undertaking.”
He held her gaze. “May I feel free to seek your advice on certain matters?”
“By all means. I would love to be involved.”
“I feared it might make things more difficult for you. I know you’re striving to move on.”
“Moving on doesn’t include forgetting.”
“My brother was exceedingly fortunate to have you in his life. I don’t believe I received a single letter from him that didn’t mention you. Although I have to confess that even without his assurances, I knew you were extraordinary.”
She wondered if she was blushing as deeply as he was. “You’re too kind.”
She tried to imagine what it would be like to gaze across a room every evening and see his face, to hold the majority of her conversations with him, to have him kiss her. She was fairly certain it would all be comforting enough. Pleasant even. She would have no surprises, no—
Her eyes widened as she caught sight of Tristan sitting astride a beautiful ebony horse, trotting toward her. He looked as magnificent as she’d imagined. Did any setting exist in which his mere presence didn’t dominate? It was as though the lovely park suddenly became smaller, insignificant. As though—
She looked at Chetwyn, his furrowed brow, his concern. “I’m sorry. I became distracted.”
Then as though her attention had become metal shavings and Tristan were a magnet, she was again gazing past Chetwyn.
“I see,” he muttered and ordered his driver to draw the carriage to a halt.
She wasn’t certain if that was good or bad. It would certainly make it easier to speak with Tristan, but it would also make it easier for him to speak and she dreaded what he might say, how he might insinuate an intimacy between them.
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