Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(82) by Lorraine Heath
“I won’t stay away from England forever.”
“But when you return you mustn’t seek me out. It would be unfair to us both, to have continual joinings and partings. It’s too hard, Tristan. It’s too damned hard.”
“I won’t leave until I know for certain that you’re not with child.”
“I’m not. My courses began rather fortuitously this morning. I’d have not accepted Chetwyn’s offer otherwise.”
He didn’t understand the disappointment he experienced at her reassurance that she wasn’t carrying his child. He didn’t want children. His life wasn’t suited to them. He was completely unencumbered, free to do as he desired. And what he desired was to leave, to be back out on the water.
“I’ll never forget you,” he said as he lowered his mouth to hers to taste her for the final time. She was right, of course. Walking away from her was one of the most difficult things he’d ever done. But she wouldn’t be happy on his ship and he wouldn’t be happy off it. Nor would she be happy waiting for him to return. No matter how glorious the reunions might be, there would always be the bitter knowledge that they would come to an end.
With Rafe’s assistance, Tristan was able to learn that Chetwyn’s favorite club was Dodger’s Drawing Room. With a letter of introduction from his brother, he was allowed into the hallowed gentlemen’s domain. With some well-placed coins in the proper palm, he quickly located Chetwyn in the smoking salon, sitting in a plush chair in a seating area near a fireplace. He was smoking a cigar and sipping brandy. He was also flanked by all four of Anne’s brothers. They were no doubt consoling him. Tristan was actually grateful for their presence. It would ensure they all heard what he had to say.
He could feel eyes coming to bear on him, attention being diverted to him. He’d always given the impression that he savored being the center of things, but the truth was that he abhorred it. Perhaps it was the remnants of having his uncle’s attentions focused on him and his brothers. When he was shivering in the tower, he’d wished that he’d been invisible, that his uncle had ignored him, that he was insignificant. Maybe that was part of the reason he hated being in London, where every aspect of a person was scrutinized and commented on. Anne relished this life and he couldn’t wait to leave it.
As he approached the seating area, Tristan watched as Anne’s brothers came menacingly to their feet while Chetwyn did little more than study him with a speculative gleam. It seemed the man was always observing, seeing things that Tristan rather wished he didn’t.
He came to a halt before Chetwyn. “Gentlemen.”
“You haven’t been to see my sister,” Jameson said.
“Actually I’ve just left her.”
“You bastard,” one of the younger pups groused, his hands balling into fists.
Tristan ignored him. “Chetwyn, I thought you should know that I’m not going to marry Anne because nothing happened between she and I.”
He cut Jameson off. “That she was with me. Yes. On my ship. On the deck with the smell of the sea around her and the wind blowing her hair. I did my best to convince her that she’d have a more enjoyable time below in my quarters, but she was having none of it. She simply wanted to be on the water for a bit. Fewer cares out there, she said. As a gentleman, I swear to you that nothing untoward happened, certainly nothing that demands she spend the remainder of her life shackled to a rogue such as myself. I’m not giving up the sea, not even for her.” He shrugged. “Which will leave her very lonely indeed.”
Chetwyn slowly came to his feet. “You did attempt to seduce her.”
“Without question. But she’s made of stern stuff, your Anne.” He nearly gagged on the last two words.
“I believe we need to take this conversation into the alleyway,” Jameson said, rage evident in his eyes.
Tristan held Chetwyn’s gaze. “Yes, I believe we do.”
The conversation was fairly brief, a few harsh curses uttered as fists were flailing. He had no doubt that the more brutal of the blows came from Jameson—not for Anne’s sake, but for Lady Hermione’s.
They left Tristan in a crumpled heap, with a battered face and a couple of broken ribs. He groaned as Rafe gently turned him over.
“Did you enjoy watching that?” he asked through a puffed-up tender mouth, tonguing a loose tooth.
“Not as much as I thought I would. How did you know that they’d want to pummel you?”
“It’s what I’d do if we’d had a sister and some blackguard treated her the way I treated Anne. Help me up.”
Oh, he hurt, dammit, as he staggered with a great deal of help to his feet. He couldn’t straighten, not completely. He wasn’t even certain he could walk.
Rafe slipped beneath Tristan’s arm to give him support. “They gave me hope.”
Through eyes half closed with swelling, Tristan squinted at his brother. “What?”
“The globes. I collected them because they gave me hope that there was someplace out there better than where I was.”
“But you have new ones. You’re still collecting them.”
Rafe didn’t respond as he helped Tristan hobble to the waiting carriage, and Tristan couldn’t help but wonder if his brother was still searching for someplace better. It occurred to him that he and Rafe weren’t so very different after all. Wasn’t that the reason he stayed on the sea: searching for what he’d lost?
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