Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(67) by Lorraine Heath
“You came,” she said softly.
“You are quite astute, Princess.”
Her smile diminished and he wanted to kick himself for the harshness in his tone. Could he sound any less charming? Maybe she should hit him with the mallet. Good and hard.
“You’re not comfortable,” she said.
“You seem to have quite the round of admirers.”
Why should he be jealous? He’d tasted what they hadn’t and would again if he so desired. He so desired, dammit. Two minutes after leaving her company, he wanted to be back with her. He didn’t know what to make of this strange obsession. “I think coming here was a mistake. I should probably go.”
“Turning cowardly, already?”
He gave her a look that normally quelled rambunctious men—men much heftier than she—into behaving. She merely angled her chin defiantly.
“It’s only because you don’t know everyone,” she said patiently. “Let me introduce you around.” Gliding over, she slipped her arm around his.
“Keeping the mallet?” he asked.
“Never know when I might have to use it on a hard head. In particular, yours.”
He couldn’t help the grin that tugged up the corners of his mouth. Her eyes were sparkling with teasing. She nudged her shoulder against his arm. “I’m glad you’re here.”
He realized with a sudden unequivocal certainty that he would walk through hell for her. No doubt he was about to do just that.
Anne began with Chetwyn because she knew that, like Walter, he possessed a kindness and wasn’t likely to give a cut direct. That she couldn’t rely on her brothers to be charming was a sad state of affairs. She was quite aware of the two who had come—Jameson and Stephan—shooting daggers at Tristan. Based on his cocky grin and swagger, she was rather certain he was mindful of it as well.
She supposed she couldn’t blame them for keeping their distance. Confidence radiated off him, and his command of himself and those around him was evident in his mien. In his presence, everything—everyone—dwarfed. Just as they had on his ship, as they did in her bedchamber. It wasn’t because he was a lumbering giant. Because he wasn’t. It was quite simply that he was so self-possessed. He’d been on his own since he was fourteen. In years, he was no older than Jameson, but in life’s experiences, her brother had no hope of ever catching up.
Until this moment she wasn’t quite certain she’d realized all that. What could he possibly talk to these men about that he wouldn’t find trivial? The weather? When they complained of the light drizzle while he had survived nature’s fury? A trip to the seaside when he had walked along shores that possibly weren’t even marked on a map?
She wanted to tell her brothers to stand at his side, that he possessed a goodness. But her brothers would only accuse her of becoming starry-eyed. Perhaps she had. She knew only that her heart had soared when she spotted him lurking beside the rhododendrons. He’d come when she knew he didn’t want to, so perhaps she meant a tad more than a bit of bed sport to him.
“I remember my father speaking of a visit he made to Pembrook,” Chetwyn said, sipping on the champagne that the footmen were serving. “I seem to recall he had a jolly good time fishing while there.”
If she hadn’t spent so much time in Tristan’s company, she wasn’t certain she would have noticed the subtle start of surprise that appeared in his eyes and was gone in a blink. She wondered if it was because he hadn’t expected Chetwyn to be so cordial or if he was remembering a happier time.
“Yes,” he finally said. “We have a pond. It was once well stocked with fish. I spent many an hour sitting with father, waiting for them to bite.”
“Is that why you love being out on the water?” she asked, striving to keep the conversation on an even keel.
“I love the sea because it provided me with a safe haven when mine was taken from me.” Although she had been the one to ask the question, he directed a challenging glare to Chetwyn as though he expected him to argue against the claim.
“I never much cared for Lord David,” Chetwyn said. “He seemed to be rather too full of himself.”
For the second time Tristan seemed taken aback. But before he could respond, Chetwyn added, “If you’ll excuse me, I need to have a word with Fayrehaven. Lady Anne, don’t think I’ve forgotten that we’ve yet to finish our game.”
She smiled. “You were giving me such a sound thrashing that I was hoping you would forget.”
He winked at her, brushing her elbow lightly and quickly with his fingers. “Later, m’dear.”
He strolled away as though he had no cares, and she wondered if Tristan would ever be as at ease. Even that first night when he’d been slouched in his chair at the tavern, he’d possessed an alertness, as though he could enter into the thick of a brawl with a second’s notice.
“I didn’t think to ask earlier, but how is your head?” she asked.
A wicked gleam came into his pale eyes and she suspected he was going to say something bawdy. Perhaps he thought better of it, because his words were innocent enough. “Much improved.”
He shifted his attention back to where Chetwyn had departed. “Was your fiancé like him?”
Now she was the one startled. “Like Chetwyn? Very much so, yes. They were brothers after all.”
“I’m nothing at all like my brothers.”
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