Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(73) by Lorraine Heath
Tristan grinned. “I’d just beat you, easily no doubt, and then you’d have another reason to despise me.”
Rafe shrugged, poured more whiskey into both their glasses. “So who is the woman who’s causing you trouble tonight?”
Tristan couldn’t help the look of surprise he directed his brother’s way. “What makes you think it’s a woman?”
“Because if it was a man, you’d take your fists to him and be done with it. But a woman must be handled a bit more delicately.”
Tristan couldn’t argue with that. “The lady is none of your business.”
“Suit yourself. Just don’t cause trouble in my place.” Rafe opened a ledger and began to study the entries.
Tristan sipped his whiskey. He didn’t need to discuss his personal life. He didn’t need anyone to help him sort it out.
“Lady Anne Hayworth,” he heard himself blurt out, then wished he could take a cat-o-nine to his tongue.
Rafe looked up. “The Earl of Blackwood’s daughter?”
“Did she not pay for the passage on your ship?”
“She paid.” A thousand times over. That was part of the problem. Having tasted the payment, he wasn’t of a mind to do without. But the time had come. He was rather sure of it. She tried to entice him to move about in her world, but he fit as easily as a fox in the midst of hounds.
“Then you want more from her.”
He wanted everything. He couldn’t stomach the thought of Chetwyn, of any man, running his hands over her flesh, burying himself deeply inside her—
Damnation. A possessive fury he’d never known shot through him.
“Lord Chetwyn has an interest in her.” It hadn’t helped matters that he’d seen her in the park with the blasted lord that very afternoon. She’d looked happy, had been smiling up at him. She’d laughed. Her arm had been wrapped around his as though she’d turned into a clinging vine. And damn them both to hell, they looked right together. Proper. Chetwyn was everything he wasn’t. People approached them, spoke with them. They didn’t stand warily back wondering what to expect.
“And you want to marry her?”
“Good God, no.” He couldn’t contain his alarm at the notion. How the hell did his brother come to that conclusion from this bit of conversation? “Marriage is not for me.”
“You just want to bed her then.”
There was no “just” when it came to bedding Anne. Her in his bed brought him more pleasure, more . . . joy than he’d ever known.
“I don’t want Chetwyn sniffing about her.” Which wasn’t fair to her if she liked the fellow, but dammit all, life wasn’t fair.
“Suppose you could abduct Chetwyn, drop him into the ocean somewhere.”
“Don’t think I haven’t considered it. But someone would take his place in her affections quickly enough. She’s a beautiful woman. Charming. Feisty. She can hold her own in an argument, doesn’t back down easily. When her temper flares, my God, she’s something to behold.”
“You’re in love with her.”
“What? No, absolutely not. She’s simply interesting and I appreciate interesting things.” Love certainly wasn’t an emotion with which he was familiar or had any desire with which to become familiar. It weakened a man. He’d loved his mother and she’d died in childbirth. He’d loved his father and he’d died. He’d loved his uncle and the blighter had led them to the tower. No, love wasn’t for him.
Rafe studied his refilled glass of whiskey. Tristan had a difficult time believing that the self-assured man sitting before him was the sniveling brat he’d known as a child. As the youngest, he’d been pampered and spoiled. But there was no softness in him now. What paths did you traverse, Brother?
If he weren’t more interested in solving the dilemma he faced with Anne, he might work at getting Rafe drunk and questioning him about the past. Instead he watched the wheels turn in his brother’s eyes.
Finally, Rafe said quietly, “The most powerful weapon among the aristocracy is gossip.”
Tristan was well aware of that. It had forced Sebastian to marry Mary. “As I mentioned, I don’t wish to marry her.”
“You don’t have to, but I thought you were striving to ensure that Chetwyn—or any other lord for that matter—didn’t.”
Tristan cared for her too much to hurt her in that way: to bring her public scorn and not marry her. But then things had turned out well enough for Sebastian and Mary. Anne would always be here waiting for him. He might actually begin to look forward to returning to England.
The suggestion began to have merit. Tristan wanted her. He never denied himself anything he wanted. He knew she desired him. It would be unfair for her to marry Chetwyn when she yearned for another. He’d be doing Chetwyn a favor.
Her as well, truth be told. She just needed to realize it.
In the end, Chetwyn delivered the invitation to Keswick himself. A bit of rebelliousness on his part, Anne supposed, or perhaps he wanted her to view him as a man’s man. “Ladies tend to prefer a gentleman with a backbone,” he’d joked during one of their outings to the park.
So she determined he was striving to impress her, to press his suit, to stake his claim.
“You and Chetwyn are all the talk,” Sarah said now as they stood off to the side in the ballroom at Chetwyn’s residence. “I rather like him.”
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