Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(74) by Lorraine Heath
“So does my family.”
Her father and brothers couldn’t have been happier with all the attention Chetwyn was lavishing on her. They sang his praises to her whenever they crossed her path in the hallways of their residence. It was very much like living in an opera. Although she could hardly fault them.
He was akin to them. He had attended the same schools, belonged to the same clubs, shared the same interests. He didn’t jump into shark-infested waters to save a child from gaping maws.
He had traveled to Europe and Egypt. He wanted to journey to America someday, perhaps after he was married. Of late he spoke often of a future that included a lady, and she knew that in his mind, that lady was she. She tried to envision a future with Chetwyn. But she seemed unable to see anything beyond parks, balls, and theater.
She wanted to gaze into his eyes and long for his kiss. She wanted to grow warm with the possibility of him touching her.
“Do you like him?” Sarah asked.
“He’s pleasant, yes. More than pleasant, really. He makes me smile.”
“But does he make you laugh?”
She turned to her dear friend. “What sort of question is that?”
“An odd one, I’m sure, but I’ve discovered that for true happiness one must laugh. Fayrehaven makes me laugh on occasion.”
“I’m certain I’ve laughed with Chetwyn.” Although she couldn’t remember a moment when she had. Not truly. A small laugh here and there she supposed. Was she being unfair to him to want for more?
“What about Lord Tristan? Have you seen him of late?”
“No. I told him that we couldn’t continue on as we’d been. I think he took my words to heart.” More than she’d wished for, truth be told. She hadn’t meant that she never wanted to set eyes on him again. She just wouldn’t serve as a convenient mistress or lover.
“And how was that?” Sarah asked.
“How had you been?”
“Oh, you know, passing here and there, knowing all along there would be nothing permanent. A good strong wind would have him back on the sea.”
“Do you miss him?”
Terribly, but she fought not to dwell on it because she would not sink into despair. This Season was about pleasing her father and finding a husband. “I hardly give him any thought.”
“Liar. I’m married and I give him thought. He’s a remarkable specimen.”
“Sarah, you’re not helping matters.”
“Apologies. I daresay, it’s wonderful what Chetwyn and his mother are doing for the soldiers.”
A change in topic, thank God.
“Yes, they’re exceedingly generous.” She suspected this would be but the beginning of Chetwyn’s efforts. He had a kindness in him that wanted to protect and shelter. He would make an excellent husband. If he were hers, she would strive to be an exceptional wife. But then she wondered if she should have to strive. Shouldn’t it come naturally?
The orchestra struck a chord, the room quieted, and with her son’s assistance, Lady Chetwyn stepped onto a dais. Her hair had gone completely white since her younger son’s passing. A bit of murmuring began and she clapped her hands. When silence again reigned, she said, “As you all know, caring for our soldiers is an endeavor that is near and dear to my heart. Funds are needed to ensure that those who are not yet able to work are cared for. We owe them housing, food, and warmth. We owe them our undying gratitude for going where we did not wish to tread. I hope you will not find offense in how we wish to begin this ball. Consider that it is done with the best of intentions. Unmarried ladies, please come forward.”
“That’s you,” Sarah said, nudging Anne’s shoulder with her fan.
“Do you know what this is about?” she asked.
“No. I would think you would, though. You’re the one who’s been keeping time with Chetwyn.”
“He’s been quite secretive about the plans.” He caught her attention then, winked at her, and jerked his head toward the dais. She had a feeling in the pit of her stomach that she wasn’t going to like this.
“There you go. Off with you now,” Sarah insisted.
Anne meandered over to where the other ladies were standing about, smiling, and giggling.
“Do you know what they have planned?” one of the ladies whispered.
Anne shook her head.
“I’ve heard it’s going to be scandalous,” someone else said sotto voce.
Anne had never associated the word scandal with Chetwyn.
“The first dance with each lady will go to the highest bidder,” the marchioness announced.
A couple of ladies squealed. Anne wished she’d stayed with Sarah until she saw that Chetwyn seemed rather pleased with himself, rocking back and forth on his heels, his gaze never straying from her, his mouth tilted upward in a gentle smile. She was beginning to suspect that this little spectacle was as much about him claiming her as it was about raising the needed funds for a soldiers’ home. She had expected a moment like this to come. She simply hadn’t anticipated that it would be so public, but she was determined to be a good sport about it.
As each of the ladies took the dais, there was an abundance of blushing and a few bids, as though people weren’t quite comfortable with the notion. Lady Teresa had received the highest bid so far: twenty-five pounds.
Anne’s was the fourth name that Lady Chetwyn called out. As heat warmed her face, she stepped onto the dais and tried not to feel uneasy with all the attention focused on her. Her father, of course, wasn’t here tonight, but she caught sight of Jameson grinning and nudging Chetwyn, encouraging him no doubt. It was suddenly obvious how the winds were blowing. She would be betrothed by the end of the Season, married by the end of the year. She would never be lonely again. It was what she wanted.
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