Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(65) by Lorraine Heath
“I would say you accomplished your goal since you’re accepting my attentions easily enough.”
She heard the fissure of irritation in his voice. Unfortunately, a spark of annoyance was riffling through her as well. She’d not have him toss into her face what they’d shared. “But we both know it comes with no permanence. It would be unfair to any gentleman who might be courting me if I were to continue with these . . . encounters—as lovely as they are.”
“Lovely? Princess, you can no more keep your hands from me than I can keep mine from you. Hot, torrid, wild, yes. But lovely indicates a tameness that doesn’t exist between us.”
Oh, yes, he was getting angry, addressing her as Princess rather than her name. But she knew it was his pride talking now, not any deep feelings that might be wounded with her departure. “Please, let’s not squabble. There can never be anything more between us than what we’ve shared.”
“Oh, I think there could be much more between us. We’ve only had a few nights when we could have a thousand.”
“But nothing permanent. You’ll grow bored and sail away—”
“Then keep me from becoming bored.”
She laughed at the ludicrousness of it. “Answer me truthfully. If you were not to lose interest in me, would you stay in England . . . forever?”
“It’s not that simple. I’m the captain of a ship.”
“So you’ll leave?”
“Of course I’ll leave.”
“So I can’t hold you here—even if I’m perpetually entertaining.”
He cursed harshly. “I need the sea. I can only stand being landlocked for so long and then I’ll go mad. But you could come with me—”
“No, I can’t. I’m not an adventurer. I want security, children, a home. Tristan, I want what you can’t give me.”
“You want what I can give you in my bed. You’re mad for it.”
“No. Yes, all right. I do want it, but we cannot always have what we want. Sometimes we must say no, no matter how difficult. It is what is proper. It is our duty. When a gentleman calls on me, I must be able to look him in the eye, face him squarely, and not suffer from guilt because when he leaves I’ll be sneaking off with someone else.”
“Don’t feel guilty. Men don’t.”
“Women are held to a higher standard. Doesn’t make it fair, but that’s the way of it. I can’t encourage a man to seek my affections when I’m giving them to someone else. Perhaps you have the ability to hold your heart separate when joined in intimacy with another, but I can’t.”
It was as close as she dared come to admitting that she was beginning to have strong feelings for him. As her words seemed to have left him mute, she could only assume that what he shared with her never went beyond the physical. She had suspected it of course, but a part of her had held out hope that she might be wrong.
On the other hand it made severing things between them so much easier. She settled back against the seat but not against him. He didn’t move to hold her or to take her hand. With each clop of horses’ hooves, she felt the chasm widening between them.
She’d been a distraction, an evening’s entertainment.
She’d not regret what they’d shared. But that didn’t mean that she didn’t find herself wishing she could have more.
When the carriage came to a halt, he stepped out and handed her down. She drew the hood of her pelisse over her head, hoping no one would spot and recognize her. He walked beside her until they were almost to the house.
“I can go on my own from here,” she said quietly.
“Anne, I want to see you again.”
Swallowing hard, she turned to face him. “Not in my bedchamber or on your ship. I’m quite determined that from this moment forward I shall behave properly. If you care for me at all, you’ll honor my wishes.”
“I’ve never liked a woman as much as I like you,” he said.
“Such poetic words. Careful, you’ll have me swooning.”
A corner of his mouth hitched up, then settled back into a firm line. “Meet me in Hyde Park this afternoon. Ride with me, as we’d planned before Chetwyn interfered.”
How she dearly wanted to. “He didn’t realize he was interfering. Besides, I can’t. Not today. I have a garden party to attend.” Then before she thought things through, she added, “You should come.”
“I doubt an invitation has been extended to me.”
“It’s being held by Lady Fayrehaven—whom you correctly identified as my dearest friend. She won’t mind that I invited you. Besides, I can’t see you as being a man waiting for something as paltry as an invitation if you want to be somewhere. Belgrave Square.” She gave him the address. “At two. Unless of course you’re afraid.”
“Whatever would I have to fear—an attack by the roses?”
“Then you’ll be there. Splendid.”
Before he could correct her assumption, she turned, skipped up the steps, and entered the house through the servant’s quarters. She knew it unlikely that he would be there. Still she could hope.
“You did what? Have you lost your mind?” Sarah asked.
Anne wondered if perhaps she had. “I doubt he’ll come.”
They were standing just off the terrace so Sarah could greet her guests as they arrived.
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