Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(76) by Lorraine Heath
“Most women would be, I should think. But then I learned very quickly that you are not most women.”
“People are watching us.”
“Perhaps because the music is starting.” He extended his arm. “Do I escort you onto the dance floor or to Chetwyn?”
She saw the flash of irritation before he wiped all emotion from his face. “As you wish.”
She placed her hand on his arm and he turned away from the dance area to the corner where Chetwyn was talking with his mother. He was going to do it. Deliver her to another man.
“The dance floor, damn you,” she whispered.
When they were moving among the other couples, he said, “Tell me that you missed me as well.”
She shouldn’t, but she did. “Dreadfully.”
He grinned, even as his eyes promised she’d not be lonely later tonight.
“Don’t look so smug. It only reinforces how difficult a relationship with you is.”
“Doesn’t it make it worthwhile when we’re together?”
She laughed lightly. “Oh, you are arrogant.”
“Only if I claim what I can’t deliver. What do you see in him?”
He nodded. “He seems rather uninteresting to me.”
“Little you know. He is a man of many facets. He’s working to better those less fortunate.”
“Well then, he’s a saint, isn’t he?”
“Don’t mock him. At least he’s doing something larger than himself.”
“You admire that.”
“I do. Rather a lot actually.”
“We should discuss this further. Meet me in the garden three dances from now.”
Glancing around, she saw her brother dancing with Lady Hermione. They were both watching her and Tristan rather than each other. She was surprised they didn’t crash into someone. “Now that my brothers know you’re here they’ll be watching my every move.”
“Then I’ll make certain they see me leave through the front door.”
“You’re very good at these games. I don’t want to think about how often you’ve played them.”
“You’re not a game to me.”
“What am I then, Tristan?”
“I don’t bloody well know. I only know that I have a desperate desire to be on the sea, but my ship remains in port and I am where I would rather not be.”
She couldn’t help but smile. “You sound so terribly unhappy about it.”
“Disgusted actually. I’m accustomed to going where I want to go when I want to go. Yet here I am, floundering in indecision. So meet me in the garden. Or would you rather I crawl in through your window?”
Both, she thought. Whatever was wrong with her? Prolonging their time together would only cause heartache. Still, she heard herself say, “The third dance from now.”
Tristan was in the hallway headed for the door when he heard, “Why did you bid on her and not on me?”
With a deep sigh he came to an abrupt halt and turned around. “Hermione.”
The disappointment in her eyes was enough to make him regret that he wasn’t the man she wished he was.
“I sent word to you about this affair because I wanted you to come and bid on me. Lady Chetwyn had told my mother what she planned.”
And he had come hoping Anne would be here. Not so much to stake a claim, but to ensure that no one else did. It was the reason he’d remained in the shadows until he knew for certain that she was in attendance. If she hadn’t been, he’d planned to slip quietly away.
“Lord Jameson bid on you.”
“Thirty pounds. Not a thousand. A thousand for her? Why?”
That was the question, wasn’t it? The one he couldn’t answer, even to himself.
She took a step nearer, tears welling in her eyes. “I love you.”
“You can’t love me, Hermione. You don’t know me.”
“I would do anything for you.”
Then leave me be.
“Then find your happiness with someone else. I’ll be setting sail soon, and God knows when I’ll be back. You would have a lot of lonely nights, sweetheart.” Why would he use that argument with her, yet deny it as consequential when Anne made the same point?
“I don’t care. I’ll wait faithfully just as I’ve done these two years.”
“I don’t want to hurt you, Hermione. You’re a lovely girl, but you’re not for me.”
“But Lady Anne is? I don’t understand. She’s not even pretty.”
“Not pretty? She’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”
“Her nose is too small and her lips too plump.”
Chuckling, he shook his head. “Go back to the ball, sweetheart, and set your cap for someone else. Lord Jameson if you’re smart, but I’m not for you.”
Rather than continuing to argue with her, he turned on his heel and strode from the residence. He didn’t want to be cruel, but he could think of no other way to get his message across.
He hadn’t said where in the garden they were to meet, but Anne was fairly certain that the farther from the residence the better. She didn’t doubt for a minute that Tristan would find her—wherever she was. She didn’t give any thought to why she felt that way or why she had such confidence in him. Nor did she want to acknowledge how much she was anticipating this little tryst.
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