Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(80) by Lorraine Heath
Jameson puffed up like an irate rooster. He shot his gaze to Chetwyn as though he were somehow at fault. “After the charity ball . . . Lord Tristan Easton secreted Lady Hermione away. Spent the night with her. She returned home with her hair tumbled, and her gown ripped. Now he refuses to marry her. When I confronted him, he said she was lying.”
She was! Anne bit back the words. Oh, God, she couldn’t do this to dear, unsuspecting Chetwyn.
“Pity those ruffians you hired didn’t do a better job of putting him in his place,” Stephan muttered.
She felt as though the earth had shifted beneath her and she was in danger of losing her balance. “You hired the ruffians who attacked him at the docks?”
Jameson straightened to his full height. “They were to deliver a message to him to stay away from you. I suppose you know of it because he told you.”
She looked at Chetwyn, discovered him studying her intently, and wondered what he suspected. “Forgive me, Chetwyn,” she whispered before turning back to a brother she suddenly immensely disliked. “He didn’t have to tell me of it. I was there . . . on the docks . . . with him when the four of them attacked.”
“Christ!” Edward blurted, while Stephan’s eyes bugged and Phillip’s mouth dropped open. Her father’s face turned a mottled red.
“Anne—” Jameson began, his voice seething.
“I can also assure you,” she cut in, “that he was not with Lady Hermione following the charity ball. He was with me. Until dawn. Did he not tell you that?”
Appearing horrified, Jameson shook his head, opened his mouth, closed it.
“So perhaps he’s a gentleman after all, striving to protect my reputation.”
“Good God,” her father barked as though he’d finally found his voice. “But Chetwyn—”
“Yes, Chetwyn,” she said softly, turning to him. “I’m so sorry. Shall we simply pretend that you never asked and I never said yes?”
“Will Lord Tristan marry you?” Chetwyn asked.
She released a choked laugh. “I doubt it.”
“He bloody well will,” Stephan said.
No, she thought, he bloody well won’t.
“She’s lying?” Sebastian barked.
“She’s lying,” Tristan repeated for the third time.
Sitting in a nearby chair, Mary watched as the two brothers faced off.
“I warned you to take care with her, that this would happen,” Sebastian said.
Lounging back in a chair, Tristan laughed. “I’m not sure what more care I could have taken than not leaving the ball with her. I can’t help it if she’s lying through her teeth.”
“If you weren’t with her, then where were you?”
“That, Brother, is none of your business.”
Ah, Mary thought. He was with someone, and she suspected she knew who the lady was.
“It’s going to be all of London’s business—”
“It’s nobody’s damn business. But if you must know I was on my ship. My men will vouch for me. I was feeling claustrophobic after the ball so I went for a sail.”
“Only your men can vouch for you?”
Mary hid her surprise. It seemed her husband was more aware of the situation than she thought. He knew another lady was involved.
“Only my men.”
“I doubt they will hold much sway. People will think you’ve bribed them to lie for you. Lady Hermione comes from a powerful family. Not to mention that they are much more well liked than we are.”
“I’ll speak with her.”
“I’m not sure that’s wise.”
“I’m not going to marry her.”
“I’m not sure you’ll have a choice.”
“I was forced once before to do something that I didn’t want to do. It’ll be a cold day in hell before I’m forced again.”
Mary watched as her husband paled.
“I had no choice. I had to get you away from England. You were second in line.”
“I’m not blaming you. I blame Uncle. But I will not marry Lady Hermione. I can speak with her or I can simply set sail tonight.”
“If you leave, you’ll never be able to return.”
“Tell me, Brother, what the hell am I returning to?”
Mary watched as Tristan stormed from the room and her husband sank into a chair. She thought he’d moved beyond the guilt from what happened all those years ago but it still lingered. It probably always would, until his brothers were happy.
She rose, walked over to him, knelt before him, and took his hands. “Did you not once tell me that we must let him travel his own path?”
“But he’s lost, Mary. I can see that now and he has been since he was fourteen. Maybe marriage to the chit would help settle him.”
“Not when he loves someone else.”
Sebastian studied her. “Do you know who was on the ship with him?”
“I don’t know but I have a good idea.”
“Then why doesn’t he announce it and marry her?”
“Because just as he doesn’t want to be forced, my love, I suspect he doesn’t want to force her.”
“It makes no sense.”
“He’ll find his way.”
He sighed. “At fourteen, I thought we would be able to step back into our roles so easily. I should have kept us all together.”
“You made the best decision you could at the time.”
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