Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(84) by Lorraine Heath
Anne couldn’t help but wonder if Tristan needed the sea because he was still trying to escape the horror of what he’d learned in that tower: that someone he may have loved would kill him, that the brothers he loved would be ripped from him, that the only one he could ever truly rely on was himself.
She wanted to weep for the lad he’d been when an artist had painted his portrait. She wanted to weep for the man who, she was beginning to realize, would never return home because it had been stolen from him when he was a lad, and he no longer knew how to find it.
It was sometime after midnight when Tristan brought his horse to a halt near Pembrook. He had a bright moon. In the distance he could see the silhouette of the manor house that Sebastian had built on a rise. He had yet to visit there. He wondered if it would feel like home. He doubted it.
Home had always been the looming castlelike structure that cast night shadows over him now.
Two days earlier he’d docked his ship in the port from which he’d escaped when he was a terrified lad on his own, running for his life. Twice he’d returned to Pembrook, but neither time had he come by water. He was a man now, fearful of nothing, yet he hadn’t relished the notion of docking his ship in the same harbor from which he’d escaped. Still he had given the order and watched from the quarterdeck as the Revenge glided silently into place. From Marlow, he learned many of the skills that made him a good captain.
But there had been no one to teach him how to be a lord. Not teach him perhaps—so much as remind him. His father had certainly drilled particular behaviors into him. He pressed a gloved fist to his tightening chest as another memory with his father took hold. They’d all been banished until lately. He’d had so little time to think of anything beyond surviving and revenge.
God forgive him, but he’d actually initially resented Sebastian because he’d handled their uncle’s demise single-handedly. Tristan had been denied any satisfaction in it. By the time he received word from Sebastian, and made his way with Rafe to Pembrook, the vicious swine was already cold and closed in his coffin. Twelve years of plotting revenge—stolen from Tristan.
With every strike of the lash against his back he’d wished his uncle dead. With every storm, with every bout of hunger when food was scarce, with every absence of wind, with every mile that separated him from his brothers and left him feeling so wretchedly alone—
Reaching into his pocket, stroking the kidskin glove he’d acquired the night he met Anne, he acknowledged that was the reason that he’d been blessedly relieved she hadn’t wanted to marry him, the reason he hadn’t fought her on it. He understood her loneliness. He hadn’t wanted to admit it, but he did. He knew the abstract sense of it, the concrete pain of it. He would leave her and forget her. Go on with his life. He wouldn’t love because love tied one down. Love bound. Love and everything that accompanied it terrified him.
Dismounting from his horse, he tethered it to a small scraggly bush and walked through the abandoned courtyard. He knew that Sebastian had plans to destroy this monstrosity, but he had yet to carry through on them. He was too busy striving to keep his wife happy. Love altered a man’s course. It was as unpredictable as a storm.
He strode to the tower. As a lad he’d always thought it so damned tall. Even now it dwarfed him. Wrapping his hand around the latch, he pulled open the door, listened to the hideous screeching of hinges. They’d squealed that night when their uncle’s henchman had escorted them to the tower.
“We didn’t fight,” he whispered. They went like trusting lambs. It was only once they were locked inside the uppermost room that they’d realized something was amiss.
Why would they suspect anything? No one had ever hurt them. They were the lords of Pembrook, idolized and protected by their father.
In the grayness, Tristan made out the lantern hanging on the wall. Taking the matches from his pocket, he struck one and lit the lantern. The shadows wavered around him. He began trudging up the stairs. The old wood moaned. He could smell the must and the odor of disuse.
Finally he reached it. The room. The heavy wooden door stood ajar. Inside was the small table and two stools, one of them overturned. He considered righting it but his attention was arrested by the huge hole on the other side of the room. He set the lantern on the table and examined what remained of the wall.
He remembered Sebastian telling him that he’d taken a sledgehammer to it, that he’d vented his anger there. Through that hole their uncle had eventually fallen to his death.
“Damn you,” he rasped. “Damn you! You stole everything of importance. I don’t care about the titles or the properties. You stole my brothers from me. You stole the opportunity for me to be the sort of man who was content to live in one place, the sort of man who would be worthy of Anne until the day he died.”
He spotted the sledgehammer in the corner, hefted it up, and slammed it into the stone. “Damn you! You made me what I am. My own needs, my own desires, they always come first. There is a wall around my heart as thick—”
He hit the wall again.
A portion of the wall crumbled, broke apart, went flying away from him and into the darkened abyss of the night. Breathing heavily he stared at the damage he’d done. He could tear down the wall. It had been strong enough to hold them when they were boys, but it wasn’t strong enough now to hurt him.
Dropping to his knees he did what he’d wanted to do that long-ago dreadful night, but feared that once he started, he’d be unable to stop.
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