Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(69) by Lorraine Heath
With a wink he took her mallet, and holding it with only one hand, let loose a negligent swing that sent the ball rolling through the first two wickets.
“You cad! You know how to play.”
He grinned. “Before you spotted me, I’d watched you long enough to figure it out.” He leaned near. “Later, perhaps,” he said quietly, and she could do no more than nod, certain he wasn’t referring to catching up to her later here.
She tried not to feel a spark of envy when he offered Lady Hermione his arm and escorted her toward the roses. She wished she was walking in the girl’s place. No one would fault her for talking and laughing with him as they strolled about the garden. How simple—
“Well, that was an embarrassing display,” Jameson said tartly as he came to stand beside her.
“Yes, I daresay, Lady Hermione seems intent on garnering his attention.”
“I was referring to you and that man.”
Her blood boiled. “That lord.” She moved in front of her brother and even though he was a head taller, she still managed to meet his gaze levelly. “He is a lord, Jameson, however much you may wish he wasn’t.”
“A lord does not wrap himself around a woman—”
“I was instructing him on how to properly hold the mallet.”
His jaw dropped. “You honestly expect me to believe that you were responsible for that charade?”
“I don’t expect anything of you except to be civil. Why will you not give him a chance to prove himself? It’s not his fault that Lady Hermione traipses after him like she’s transformed into his shadow. Would you rather he rebuffed her, hurt her tender heart?”
“She has nothing—”
“She has everything to do with it and well you know it. As do I. Now do you wish to play a game of croquet or not?”
“I don’t like him.”
She took a deep breath. “That’s a pity. Because I do.”
Resisting the urge to accidently swing the mallet into his shin, she held tightly to it and marched away.
“He’s absurdly handsome, isn’t he?” Sarah asked.
Anne was sitting at a small round table with her, eating a scone, sipping a cup of tea. She knew she should be out enjoying the company of the other guests, but she seemed only capable of watching Tristan as he played croquet with Lady Hermione. “I hadn’t noticed.”
“Of course, you have, silly girl. I suppose the duke would be so if not for the scars that mar his face.”
“Why didn’t you invite him?”
“Lord Tristan? I should think it’s obvious.”
She gave Sarah a pointed look. “No, Keswick.”
Sarah seemed to become interested in her clotted cream. “Well, I don’t really know him or his wife.”
“How can they become known if everyone ignores them?”
Sarah looked up indignantly. “What would you have me do?”
“Call on the duchess.”
“What if the duke is there?”
Anne smiled. “He’s not going to bite.”
“He’s quite frightening.”
“At the ball I thought his wife looked to be madly in love with him, so how bad can he be?”
“I suppose we could go together.”
Anne’s smile grew. “I think that’s a lovely idea.”
Sarah glanced toward the guests. “I didn’t invite her, you know.”
“Lady Hermione. She prattles on so, drives Fayrehaven to distraction. One of her friends must have sent word that Lord Tristan was here. She is making quite the fool of herself.”
“I feel for her. He won’t settle down. He won’t give up the sea.”
“Not for her, but he might for you.”
Anne jerked her head around. “Don’t be ridiculous.”
Sarah scoffed. “Anne! I fully expected at any moment that he would toss you over his shoulder and cart you away. The man is clearly intrigued by you.”
“It’s all a game, Sarah. Just a game.”
No matter how much she might have wished otherwise.
Brooding, Tristan sat alone in Sebastian’s study, slowly sipping good whiskey and staring at the portrait above the fireplace. It was late. The house was quiet. He supposed he should go to Rafe’s for a bit of sport, but he’d had enough of games for the day.
Once Lady Hermione had latched onto him, he’d been unable to shake her. He didn’t want to hurt her but she was becoming quite the nuisance. Not that he’d listened much to what she’d had to say. Instead his mind had drifted off to a lazy afternoon when he’d been fishing with his father. He’d been happy. That’s what he’d been unable to tell Anne. Standing beside his father, he’d known contentment. A month later he’d been running for his life, and he’d not experienced that sort of contentment again until he’d been standing beside Anne on his ship.
What was it about her that made her different from every other woman?
Hearing the door open he glanced over and watched as Sebastian strode toward him with the confidence of a duke. He’d once used Sebastian as a mirror, but now they were far too different, and it had little to do with the scars that puckered their flesh.
His brother was settled with a wife and son. He had his estates. He was again in possession of his titles. He was where he would have been had they never been forced to leave everything behind. Yet it wasn’t the same. It occurred to him only now that Sebastian and Mary should have been at that blasted and utterly boring garden party.
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