Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(70) by Lorraine Heath
Sebastian stopped by the cherrywood cabinet and generously filled a tumbler with whiskey before taking the chair across from Tristan. “You were awfully quiet during dinner.”
“Did Mary send you down to prod me for answers?”
“She was a bit concerned.”
Tristan ran his finger around the lip of his glass. “I attended an affair at Fayrehaven’s this afternoon. Croquet, little pastry delicacies that would hardly fill a boy much less a man, and nothing stronger than champagne.”
Sebastian arched a brow. “Are you courting Lady Hermione?”
“God no! Can you truly see me with such a flighty chit?”
Sebastian studied him intently for a moment. It was disconcerting to realize that even with his solitary eye he could probably see more clearly than Tristan. “Someone, though. Do you want to talk about her?”
Tristan shook his head. “No.”
What he had with Anne was between them, and while he knew his brother wasn’t one to gossip, Tristan wasn’t ready to give voice to his thoughts where she was concerned. He couldn’t quite sort them out. He should be back at sea by now, and yet here he remained in dismal London.
“Whoever she is, was she the reason for your lapses into silence during the meal?”
“No, I . . . I spoke with Lord Chetwyn for a bit this afternoon. He mentioned his father fishing at Pembrook. I’d forgotten about that—the fishing.” And his father guiding his hands, teaching him how to properly bait the hook, to cast his line . . .
Sebastian’s lips rose on one side, the other too burdened with scars. “The pond is still there, the fish still abundant. You should come for an extended visit, longer than it takes to bury a man anyway. Mary is quite pleased with the new residence.”
Two years ago he’d ridden by Pembrook on his way to the abbey ruins where he was supposed to meet with his brothers to begin their quest to reclaim their birthright. He’d returned to see his uncle buried at the village church. He’d had no desire to linger. Pembrook was not where he called home.
“Did you tear the old one down?” With crenellated walls and towers, it was more castle than manor.
“No. I had planned to but Mary convinced me that it still had a purpose. She is a wise one, my Mary, so I have a tendency to heed her advice.”
“She is also a stubborn one. I suspect she’d make you pay for not doing so.”
Sebastian chuckled softly. “Yes, she would.”
Tristan downed his whiskey. “She should have been at that damned party today.”
Sebastian did little more than nod. “Acceptance will all come about in time. How long do you anticipate being here?”
“Until my business is done.”
“Your business with this lady who shall remain unnamed?”
“I have yet to tire of her.”
“That is indeed a strong endorsement for her qualities.”
Tristan heard the sarcasm in his brother’s voice, but he wasn’t offended by it. He suspected it spoke more to what was lacking in himself. “It truly is, Keswick. I’ve never had much trouble leaving before, which I fear doesn’t say much for my character.”
“Do you love her?”
“One needs a heart to love. I admire her. I certainly desire her. I even have a fondness for her. But love and I are strangers, and I suspect it will always be so.”
“The trouble with love, Brother, is that it isn’t always polite enough to introduce itself. It simply settles in and takes up residence without even bothering to wait on an invitation. I loved Mary for years, but it wasn’t until I thought I would lose her that I finally realized just how much she meant to me. Without her, I am but a shell. I would give up everything for her: my titles, my estates, my very life.”
“I will never give up the sea.”
“Then take care with this lady’s heart.”
“She is quite practical. She has no illusions regarding where our involvement will lead. She is being courted, and I suspect by Season’s end she’ll be some man’s wife.”
“But not yours.”
Tristan shook his head, wished he had more whiskey. “No, never mine.”
Anne wondered if inviting Tristan to the garden party had been a mistake. The following day he sent her two dozen roses. The unsigned note accompanying them had simply said, “You were right. Thank you.”
Right about what, for pity’s sake? That he would enjoy the garden party? That they couldn’t continue their trysts?
A week had passed and she’d not seen him. She tried to settle into the life that she had expected: morning calls, balls, dinners, courtship. But it seemed so trite. As though now she was a stranger to it all. She forced herself to carry on as though she’d not changed one whit since the stormy night she’d walked into a haze-filled tavern. Her father and brothers noticed nothing amiss.
Even Chetwyn seemed unable to detect the differences in her. He called upon her often, most afternoons in fact. This afternoon being no exception. They had abandoned his curricle and were now promenading through the park, admiring the foliage and flowers. She couldn’t imagine Tristan occasionally stopping to admire a bloom or inhale a fragrance.
Two other gentlemen had expressed an interest in her, but she wasn’t as comfortable with either of them as she was with Chetwyn. He was a solicitous soul and he fit her very much as an old shoe might. She grimaced at the image. He was more than that. He was pleasant, charming, kind. He never spoke harshly of anyone. He never tried to take advantage of their time together. He didn’t sneak her into dark corners for a kiss. He didn’t suggest in a low sultry voice that perhaps she should leave her window unlocked.
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