Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(75) by Lorraine Heath
“Lady Anne Hayworth, gentlemen. What shall you bid to be the first to waltz with this lovely lady this evening?” As she spoke, she smiled at her son.
Anne saw him raise two fingers. “Fifty pounds.”
A few gasps resounded. His mother’s smile widened, not so much because of the astonishing amount but because she hoped it would get the other gents into the spirit of things. Or perhaps it was because her son was making it clear that he valued Lady Anne Hayworth. Considering the amounts that had gone before, no one was going to challenge—
Anne felt her breath leaving her body as she recognized the voice. What was he doing here? Surely Chetwyn had not invited him, but the crowd parted to reveal Tristan leaning negligently against a white marbled column. Although he was dressed as a gentleman, he seemed more roguish tonight, more dangerous. If at all possible he’d grown more devilishly handsome in the two weeks since she’d seen him. She’d begun to think he’d left England, and she’d been determined not to mourn his leaving but to carry on. But here he was.
Anne’s mouth was so dry that it was as though she’d swallowed sawdust.
“One fifty,” Chetwyn challenged.
Gasps floated through the room. Someone clapped. Jameson looked on the verge of committing murder. Chetwyn’s jaw tightened. “Two hundred and fifty.”
She looked at Tristan and tried to convey with pleading eyes, Please don’t bid any more. Let Chetwyn have this moment. But either he couldn’t read or he didn’t care.
“Two hundred and sixty,” Chetwyn announced.
“My apologies, my lord, for not being clearer,” Tristan said, his voice booming to the far corners. Anne suspected it was communicating through storms that gave him such a command of the room. “I wasn’t bidding two hundred and fifty-five, but rather five hundred.”
Let it stop here, dear God, let it stop here. She could see Chetwyn hesitate and then he seemed to straighten himself up. “Six hundred.”
“One thousand,” Tristan responded with no hesitation. He was not a man accustomed to losing, and she knew he had no intention of losing here.
Chetwyn acknowledged the bid with a slight nod as he stepped back. Anne’s heart went out to him. She wanted to leap from the dais, rush over to him, and assure him that everything was all right. She was his. But duty forced her to stand and bear the humiliation of having all eyes on her filled with speculation. First the garden party, and now this. Her reputation was likely to be torn to tatters.
“Well, sir,” Lady Chetwyn said, her smile sickly, “you certainly got into the spirit of things and your generosity is much appreciated. Next, we have Lady Hermione.”
If looks could kill, the glare Lady Hermione bestowed upon Anne as they passed each other would have surely seen her on her way to the grave.
In long strides Tristan ate up the distance separating them and offered Anne his hand as she stepped off the dais. Her embarrassment for Chetwyn had her ignoring it. She walked to an empty spot near the wall to await the end of the bidding and the beginning of the music. Tristan took up his place beside her.
“You purposely sought to humiliate him,” she said, her voice low and seething.
“I promise you that was not my intention. I merely wanted to dance with you.”
“A thousand pounds?”
“For a good cause. Surely you can’t fault me for that.”
Perhaps not. If she thought his intentions were honorable, rather than simply a means to gain something that he wanted. If only Chetwyn hadn’t looked so disappointed, so defeated.
“You can’t always have what you want, especially when it hurts others,” she admonished.
“Trust me, Princess, I spent a good deal of my life not having what I wanted. If I’m in a position to take, I take. Besides it’s only a dance. He can have the next and it won’t cost him a ha’penny.”
She watched as Jameson escorted Lady Hermione off the dais. So her brother had bid on her. She wondered for what amount. Certainly not the exorbitant amount of a thousand pounds. “I thought you understood that my purpose in this Season was to secure a husband.”
“Which is the reason that I’ve stayed away, but I missed you, dammit.”
She could have sworn she heard longing in his voice, longing that would mirror hers if she said the same words. She had missed him as well. Dreadfully. But admitting it would serve no purpose except to prolong an inevitable separation. “I wasn’t aware you were invited.”
“My brother and his wife were. I tagged along. Are there rules that say I shouldn’t have?”
Chetwyn was no doubt wishing at this moment that he had been precise with his invitation. She was grateful that in the end he had delivered it. Otherwise he might be under the impression that she had invited Tristan.
“I thought perhaps you’d left England.”
“Not yet.” He grinned. “Obviously.”
“What are you doing here, Tristan?”
“I told you. I missed you. I wanted to dance with you.”
“Did you have to draw so much attention?”
“I’ll leave if it’s what you want, and he can have the damned dance.”
“The home can use the thousand pounds.”
“I’ll still pay it. I honor my debts. Tell me to go and I will.”
Closing her eyes, she took a deep cleansing breath. Then she opened them to find him watching her. His gaze dropped to her lips before lifting back to her eyes. She saw the yearning there and it matched a similar longing in her. Whatever was wrong with her? “I suppose I should be flattered that you would pay so much for a single waltz with me.”
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