Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(85) by Lorraine Heath
For the boy he’d been.
For the man he was.
For the lord he wished he might have become.
And he screamed out because in the end, his uncle had won. He’d destroyed Lord Tristan Easton. And Captain Crimson Jack didn’t know how to find him again.
In two hours Anne would be married, yet as she stood in front of the cheval glass in her gown of satin, lace, and tiny beaded pearls, she felt no measure of excitement. She liked Chetwyn. She surely did. Marriage to him would be proper. She would be proper. She adjusted the veil that fell from a wreath of orange blossoms and wished she’d chosen some other sort of blossom because oranges always reminded her of Tristan. And she didn’t want to think of him today. She didn’t want to think of him ever again.
She was wrapping about her finger the strip of leather that he had once used to bind his hair, to bind hers. She needed to toss it away, but she knew, instead, she would return it to her jewelry box before she left for the church.
“Don’t you look lovely, my lady,” Martha said. “Lord Chetwyn is such a fortunate man.”
“It is I who am fortunate.” The words were the proper thing to say, so why were her eyes burning? “I think you’ll be happy in Chetwyn’s household.”
Anne turned to find her maid’s brow furrowed so deeply that she was surprised the woman didn’t yelp in pain. “Ew?”
Martha released a deep sigh. “I was going to tell you after the wedding—”
“Tell me what?”
She smiled brightly. “Mr. Peterson has asked me to marry him. I’ve said yes.”
Anne took Martha’s hands. “Oh, that’s wonderful. Congratulations. Although I don’t understand why that should make you dread Chetwyn’s household.”
“Oh, I don’t dread his house, but telling you, m’lady, that I won’t be going. I’m giving my notice.”
Releasing her hold on Martha, Anne scoffed. “That’s a silly thing to do. It’ll be years before he returns—”
“No, he came back last night. Said he missed me too much and had the captain turn the ship about.”
Anne’s heart slammed against her ribs. “They’re in port?”
Martha nodded. “Yes, miss.”
Anne’s gaze shot to the window. What was she expecting for God’s sake? To see Tristan clambering into her bedchamber?
“But they’re setting sail again this afternoon,” Martha continued. “Just not with Mr. Peterson. He’s given up the sea. He’s going to work in a shipping office or some such. He’s saved his money so we can purchase a home. I don’t have to work any more.”
“Oh, Martha, I’m so happy for you.”
“I’m happy for myself.” Her smile grew. “I never thought to find love. He’s a good man.”
“I’ve no doubt of that.”
A brisk knock sounded on her door. Martha hurried over to open it. Stiff and clearly unhappy, Jameson stood beside Chetwyn. “Leave us, Martha,” her brother ordered.
Martha gave Anne a quick look before scampering into the hallway.
“Chetwyn wishes to speak with you before the nuptials. Highly unusual, but I’ve granted him permission. However, the door is to remain op—”
Chetwyn stepped into the bedchamber and slammed the door shut in her brother’s face. Anne pressed a hand to her mouth to stifle her laughter. She could only imagine Jameson’s startled expression. She’d never seen Chetwyn so forceful. It was a bit disconcerting to realize that it excited her to see him this way.
He strode to the fireplace, raised his arm, pressed it against the mantel, and stared into the cold empty hearth. “Do wish I’d stopped by your father’s study for a bit of spirits.”
“I have some brandy.”
Looking over his shoulder at her, he grinned. “Do you?”
“Yes, would you like some?”
He shook his head. “No, I suppose not. You should know, Anne, that I will treat you kindly.”
“I never doubted that.”
“You will never want for anything. I am convinced and believe with all my heart that I can provide you with a satisfactory life. But I daresay that I believe you deserve more.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I think Lord Tristan is a rotten bastard,” he continued. “But be that as it may, I’ve seen the way he looks at you and more, I’ve seen the way you look at him.”
“How is that, my lord?” she dared to ask.
“As though you are the only two people who exist in the world.” He faced her completely. “Do you love me, Anne?”
She dreaded answering him. She didn’t want to hurt him but she couldn’t begin today with a lie.
“I don’t love you either,” he said as though she had responded. “I asked you to marry me because of Walter’s letter. I’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion at a rather inconvenient time that it’s not enough upon which to base a marriage.”
He reached into a pocket inside his jacket and removed a yellowed crumpled piece of paper. “He was ill when he wrote it. I suspect he knew he would die. He asked me to see that you were happy, and I thought that I could ensure that best if you were my wife. I thought I owed him that at least. I pushed him into joining a regiment, into making his own way. Our coffers are thin, you see, and I didn’t want to give him an allowance. Then we declared war on Russia and I told him to sell his commission. Marriage to you would bring him a dowry; he could make do with that. But he didn’t want to be seen as a coward. It’s my fault he’s dead.”
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