Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(66) by Lorraine Heath
“But if he does, Fayrehaven will have an absolute cow.”
“Are there un-absolute cows, I wonder?” Anne asked. “Might he have one of those instead?”
“Anne, honestly. You don’t understand what you’ve done.”
“Relax, Sarah. He might not even be here any longer. He keeps saying that he’s going to sail away. Perhaps he has by now.” She wouldn’t put it past him in order to make a point that he wouldn’t be bullied into doing something that he didn’t want to do.
“I heard he approached you and Chetwyn at the park.”
“Are we all the gossip then?”
“Apparently so, yes.”
Anne sighed. “I’d arranged to meet Tristan at the park but then Father arranged for me to go with Chetwyn. One could hardly blame Tristan for approaching and voicing some disappointment.”
“Tristan? Such informality. You’d best take care that others don’t hear you referring to him in that manner.”
“Oh, Sarah, we seem to care about such trivial things.”
“Yes, well, those trivial things lead to a good marriage, and speaking of, I see that Lord Chetwyn has just arrived. And look at how he smiles now that he’s spotted you. I daresay, I think he has set his cap for you. Come with me to welcome him. I’m fairly certain he can take your mind off this Lord Tristan.”
Unfortunately, Anne very much doubted it.
The very last thing that Lord Tristan Easton thought he would ever be doing was attending a garden party. Yet there he was, standing by the rhododendrons, feeling very much out of his element. Give him a ferocious storm on the high seas any day compared with this maze of etiquette and proper behavior.
He’d been forced to ask Mary what to wear to such an event, which had resulted in her arching a brow in speculation. He’d been halfway tempted to tell her about Anne, to hear her advice on dealing with a troublesome woman, but what was Anne’s crime? Denying him her bed. If he was planning to marry her, he’d admire her for it. As it was, he was merely frustrated—or he would be by night’s end. So he’d held his tongue, left Mary none the wiser, and prodded her again for assistance on his attire. Having spent a good part of her youth in a convent, she’d been of little help and suggested only that he not be too formal. “What you might wear to the park.”
At least he’d gotten that part right.
He’d arrived late because he wasn’t certain he wanted to come. What he was certain of was that he wanted to see Anne again, and she’d issued her blasted challenge, one similar to the one he’d delivered when he wanted to entice her into climbing the mast. She’d implied he was a coward. Blast her to hell. The woman stood toe-to-toe with him, never backing down—something no other female of his acquaintance had ever done. His other partners had been content to romp about in bed. Anne wanted to romp elsewhere.
He’d spied her as soon as the butler had shown him into the garden. She was holding a mallet, attempting to strike a ball so it went through a metal archway. She wore a lilac dress with a high neck that was buttoned all the way to her chin. He understood why that shade was her favorite. It went well with her fair complexion. The dress had long sleeves that ballooned out from shoulder to elbow, then narrowed down into a snug fit against her skin. Gloves covered her hands. She wore a small hat, brim down on one side, up on the other.
He wanted to march over and tell the three gents standing around her that he knew what she looked like with all those buttons undone. He knew the silkiness of her skin that all that clothing hid. He had peeled off her gloves, peeled off her dress, peeled off everything.
Without even bothering to glance around, he knew she was the most beautiful lady here. It didn’t matter what anyone else looked like. To him, she was exquisite. The way the sun lightly danced over her face, trying to chase off the shadows provided by her hat. The way she moved with such lithesome grace. He’d experienced her elegance when they’d clambered to the crow’s nest and when he had her in his bed. But here with an audience, she was poised. She belonged here, and he wished to hell that she didn’t.
She gave one of the gents—Chetwyn, he recalled—a playful slap before directing her attention to the blue ball at her feet. She lightly tapped it. It rolled along the green grass, hit the side of the arch, and came to a stop without going through. She craned back her head and laughed, the sweet trilling traveling across the garden to touch him as though she were right beside him. She was more comfortable today, here in the garden, than she’d been at the ball. Perhaps because that night had been her first public event since going into mourning. She was settling in now, and he could see that this was her world. She moved about it with the same ease that he swaggered over his ship.
She said something to Chetwyn. With a slight bow he moved in behind her—
Tristan clenched his back teeth, tightened his hands into fists, and growled low. He didn’t think he’d been loud, but she suddenly jerked up her head and looked in his direction. With a soft smile to Chetwyn, a word to the other gents, mallet in hand, she began striding across the green and he wondered briefly if she was coming to deliver a blow to his head for disturbing her game.
Then she smiled brightly at him as though she was truly happy to see him, and he felt a sharp stab of pain in his chest. He would do anything to keep that smile on her face, and that made him want to leave because he’d never cared so much in his life about the ridiculous parting of the lips, revealing of the teeth.
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