Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(83) by Lorraine Heath
Anne stood in the grand entry hallway waiting for the butler to inform Tristan that he had a caller. The London residence was one befitting a duke. She’d never visited before, but it was her understanding that it was during a ball held here that Tristan and his brothers had made their notorious entrance back into London Society.
Anne was not prone to snooping and while she knew she should wait where the butler had left her, she found herself drawn to the portrait depicting two boys that was hanging above a table adorned with flowers at the edge of the entryway. The boys couldn’t have been any older than twelve. They were of the same height with the same build and matching features, and yet they were remarkably different. They stood with their backs to each other, looking out, one incredibly serious, the other with a bit of deviltry in his eyes and the start of a smile that promised mischief.
“Can you tell them apart?” a soft voice asked.
Anne spun around and curtsied. “Your Grace, my apologies. I didn’t mean to pry—”
“Don’t be silly. I’d have not placed the portrait there if I didn’t mean for it to be viewed.” She wore a pale green dress that made her upswept red hair seem more vibrant. But her emerald eyes spoke of harsh wisdom. “I wanted people who came here to see them as they were, to perhaps understand how life changed them. For a while we thought the portrait had been destroyed, but a servant recently discovered it hidden behind some furniture in an attic. It’s been here for only a couple of weeks. But I digress. You didn’t answer my question, Lady Anne. Can you tell them apart?”
Nibbling on her lower lip, Anne looked back at the portrait that represented youth lost. “The one on the left is Lord Tristan.”
“You know few could ever see the difference in them. I never understood that. It seemed easy to me, but I thought perhaps it was because I always loved Sebastian.”
Anne jerked her head around, met the duchess’s speculative look. She didn’t love Tristan. “The artist managed to capture Lord Tristan’s teasing nature, I think. That’s all.”
“He did have a bit of the devil in him. Still does, truth be told, but it’s not quite as innocent as it once was.”
“Are any of us as we grow up?”
“I suppose not. I understand you’ve come to see Lord Tristan, but unfortunately, he’s not here.”
“Do you know when he might be returning?”
The duchess shook her head. “They set sail last night, from what I understand. My husband saw them off at the docks.”
“I see. It could be years then.”
“I suspect it will be, yes.” She studied Anne, and Anne wondered what her face revealed. “Will you join me for a spot of tea in the garden?”
“I would be delighted.” And perhaps, just perhaps, some of her melancholy would lift. As she followed the duchess through the house and into the garden, she wished now that she and Sarah had come to call as they’d spoken of doing.
Anne sat at the lace-covered table that the duchess indicated. As they sipped tea, Anne glanced around. The garden was awash in color and fragrances. “You have a very talented gardener.”
“I stole him from my father, but is it really my roses you wish to discuss?”
Anne set aside her cup. The duchess waited patiently, her expression open and inviting. Anne thought under different circumstances that they might have been friends. She released a small self-conscious laugh. “I’m not quite sure what I’m doing here. As I understand it, Tristan announced at my brother’s club that our involvement was quite innocent. To staunch any further gossip, Lord Chetwyn and I are to be married in two weeks. I thought he should know that all is right with the world again.”
“Is it?” the duchess asked.
Anne nodded, because the affirmation wouldn’t pass her lips. If all was right with the world, why was she so remarkably sad? “He needs the sea . . . Lord Tristan.”
“I’m not sure he knows what he needs.”
“He told me that you rescued him.”
“I’m not quite certain of that. I helped him and his brothers escape but that’s not quite the same as rescuing, is it?”
“You were incredibly brave to do what you did.”
“Unlock a door? Hardly. They were much braver—to ride off into the unknown.”
She made her part seem insignificant, but Anne didn’t see how it could have been. It seemed everyone in this family fought to make light of an event that had changed all their lives.
“You should come to Pembrook sometime,” the duchess said. “I think it would help you to understand Lord Tristan better. The original Pembrook was a castle, with a dungeon where people were tortured and a tower where prisoners awaited their fate. After our marriage, Keswick spent many an hour pounding a hammer against the walls of the tower, striving to destroy it. But it still stands. He decided to leave it in case his brothers needed to take part in its destruction. But his brothers haven’t returned there since they laid their uncle to rest.”
“Do you think he meant to kill them as they believe?”
“Without a doubt. I heard him plotting their murders. I try to imagine how terrifying it must have been for them in the tower—without light, warmth, or comfort. Waiting. Waiting to be murdered, by their own blood. You would think having shared the same experience in the tower that they would be very similar. It shaped them. There can be no denying that. But it is what happened after they left the tower that made them the men they are today.”
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