Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(72) by Lorraine Heath
So it was—as he stood in the shadows of the balcony of his gaming hell and watched his brother tossing dice—that he knew Tristan was in an unusually foul mood. Oh, he was quick to smile and jest but it was a performance, although Rafe was fairly certain his brother always performed when in London. Only tonight it reflected a harder edge. Tristan wasn’t enjoying the role he’d chosen for himself.
Rafe truly didn’t care if his brother wasn’t happy, but he could see his temper roiling to the forefront, and the last thing with which he wanted to deal was a brawl in his establishment. He’d worked hard to get where he was, made sacrifices, done things he’d have rather not done.
So he’d be damned if he’d allow one of the brothers who’d left him at a workhouse to tarnish what he’d accomplished.
“Mick, tell my brother that I wish to have a word.”
“Yes, sir,” the young man standing behind him said before skittering off to do Rafe’s bidding. Those who worked for him were loyal, but still he didn’t trust them much farther than he could see them. He certainly didn’t banter it about that he was a lord. Shortly after he and his brothers had made their return to Society, a few of his members recognized him, but because he kept to the shadows, many ceased to associate him with Pembrook. In time, for him, it was as though nothing in his life had changed.
He watched as Mick approached Tristan, leaned over, and whispered in his ear. Tristan paused mid-course in a throw and jerked up his gaze toward the balcony. Their eyes met, and Rafe knew that his held a challenge equal to the one that Tristan was sending. Rafe had no doubt that he could hold his own. He’d stopped being the baby brother the moment they’d cruelly abandoned him. He’d certainly never sniveled or wept since that night. No, since then he felt nothing at all.
The same couldn’t be said of Tristan. It seemed he felt a great deal too much.
Tristan sent the dice flying and turned away from the table without waiting to see how they might have landed. Mick stepped in to retrieve the winnings about which Tristan obviously didn’t care.
Rafe headed for his office, regretting that he knew what Tristan needed was a brother to stand beside him, but Rafe had long ago stopped being a brother to anyone.
The nerve of the pup! Summoning Tristan as though he were a mere member of the club to be brought to task because he was playing a bit too hard, drinking a bit too much, and swearing a bit too loudly. Granted, he didn’t pay the yearly fee so he supposed technically he wasn’t a member, but Rafe had never denied him the pleasures of his gaming hell. Tristan flexed his hands, contemplating how nicely his fist would fit into his brother’s face.
Tristan strode into the office in time to see Rafe fill two glasses with whiskey and shove one across the desk until it came to rest on the far side near a chair that faced him. Rafe took his seat, snatched up his glass, and lifted it in a silent salute before downing its contents.
Tristan supposed all that counted as an invitation.
“Why do you collect the damned globes?” he asked.
Rafe’s jaw clenched before he poured himself more whiskey. “Why are you acting as though someone took your favorite toy?”
“It was you, wasn’t it?” Tristan asked as he stepped farther into the room. “When we were boys. You were the one who stole my wooden horse.” His father had bought it for him at a fair. It was beautifully made, painted black, with a small decorated leather saddle. Tristan had carried it in his pocket everywhere he went. He’d even slept with the silly thing until he was eight.
“Of course it was,” Rafe replied laconically with no indication of remorse.
“Bastard. Do you still have it?” Since leaving Pembrook, he’d never longed for anything from there. He didn’t know why he suddenly wanted the blasted horse, but he did dammit.
“No. Sorry, old boy, but it got left behind with my childhood dreams.” Rafe grimaced and downed his whiskey.
Tristan realized he’d revealed more than he’d intended. The brothers had shared little of their paths since that awful night, as though they didn’t wish to burden the others. He still loved his brothers, wished them well, but he hardly knew them. But then they barely knew him. He wanted it that way. It made him feel . . . safer. Not that they would wish him harm, but he didn’t like feeling vulnerable. Talk of the past always made him feel as though he were fourteen again and facing demons. He could hardly countenance that he’d revealed as much as he had to Anne.
Damn but he missed her. She’d been right, of course. He couldn’t continue climbing in through her window when she wanted the sort of life that she did so badly. Being at Fayrehaven’s garden party had shown him that.
He took the offered seat, lifted the glass, studied the amber liquid, and turned his attention back to his brother. “It was hard on you when we left.”
“I see no point in discussing what is too late to change.”
“Sebastian’s face is half gone. My back was torn asunder more than once. What scars do you bear?”
“None that concern you, but I won’t tolerate you causing trouble in my establishment.”
Not tolerate? Tristan wondered how Rafe thought he was going to bloody well stop him from doing any damned thing he wanted. “I was rolling dice.”
“You were looking for a fight.”
“Going to give me one?”
“If you like. I have a boxing room.”
Tristan tossed back the whiskey, relished the burning, and studied his brother. He’d never noticed how broad-shouldered Rafe was or how large and capable his hands seemed. He usually saw him going through ledgers like a bookworm. Although he recalled that Rafe—gravely injured—had fought off some ruffians when the brothers had first made themselves known in London.
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