Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(86) by Lorraine Heath
“No, Chetwyn.” Her heart going out to him, she crossed over and placed her hand on his cheek. She had yet to put on her gloves and she was grateful she could offer him a warm touch of comfort. “He always liked playing soldier as a lad. You know that. Nothing you could have said would have swayed him from going. His heart was set on it. You can’t hold yourself responsible. We all have to make our choices and live with them.”
“Is that what we’re doing, Anne? Making choices with which we must live?”
“Are you crying off?” she asked, halfway teasing, halfway serious, not quite sure what she wanted his answer to be.
“We beat him up you know.”
“No. Lord Tristan.”
Her stomach tightening, she stepped away.
“The night he came to the club,” Chetwyn explained. “After he told us that he had attempted to seduce you but that nothing occurred between you and he. We escorted him outside and pummeled him. Rather badly, actually. He didn’t lift a hand to stop us.”
“No, he wouldn’t have.”
“I thought he’d have been a better fighter, that he would have held his own against us.”
“He certainly could have if he’d chosen. I saw him beat off the ruffians that my idiot brother hired while barely mussing his clothes.”
“So why didn’t he resist?”
“I suspect because he thought he deserved the beating. Or maybe he wouldn’t hurt those I care for. Probably the latter,” she said after a bit more thought.
“Do you love him, Anne?”
Tears burning her eyes, she shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. The sea is his home . . . and what sort of life would that be for a lady?”
“If it includes love, I should think it would be a very wonderful life, indeed.”
“Oh, Chetwyn.” A sob broke free, and he enfolded her in his arms. He smelled of tart spices while she longed for the fragrance of oranges.
“I vowed that I would honor Walter’s request and see you happy, but I don’t believe your happiness lies with me.”
“According to my maid, he’s sailing off today.”
“Then it seems to me that you should tell him how you feel before he goes. My carriage is in the drive if you wish to go somewhere.”
“My father and brothers have taken to watching me like a hawk.”
“I shall entice them into the library to drink a toast to my happiness.”
Leaning back, she studied his strong features and thought it was quite possible that in time she would have come to love him. “I hope someday you find a woman who deserves you.”
“Meanwhile, darling Anne, let’s stop Walter’s ghost from coming to haunt us, shall we?”
Laughing, she wiped the tears from her cheeks. “By all means.”
Tristan read the words a third and final time. He’d never been a man of indecision and he wasn’t one now. He knew what he wanted, and while he wasn’t quite certain he’d acquire it, he did know that he’d live with regret for the remainder of his life if he didn’t at least try.
With a deep sigh, he dipped the pen into the inkwell and scrawled his name on the designated line. Dropping the pen on his desk, he headed for the doorway.
“Just like that and you’re done?” Jenkins asked.
Tristan paused at the door and glanced back over his shoulder. “I have a church to get to.”
“Good luck, Cap’n.”
He was going to need a good deal more than luck. Tristan rushed through the door and up the stairs to the deck. His plan had been to get off the ship as quickly as possible, but he needed one more moment. Just one.
He went to the railing, wrapped his hands around the familiar wood that had become worn over the years—
He jerked his attention to the docks and watched as Anne, dressed in ivory, with a veil and a swath of skirts billowing out behind her, ran along the warped planks, dodging this way and that to avoid the working men. His heart lurched, tightened, threatened to stop. What the devil was she doing here?
“Tristan!” She began frantically waving her arm as though he couldn’t see her.
But even a heavy fog wouldn’t have kept him from seeing her. And certainly nothing was going to keep him from her. He leaped over the railing and jogged down the gangway. He reached the dock in time to gather her in his arms. “Anne.”
Damnation but it felt so good to hold her again, as though he’d finally come home.
“I’m going with you,” she said, clinging to him. “I don’t care if it’s improper. I don’t care if my reputation will be ruined or no gent will want me after you’re done with me—”
Leaning back, he pressed his thumb to her lips before she could utter any more nonsensical words. “Why in God’s name would I ever be done with you?”
“Because I’m not a proper lady. Because I’ve lain with you without benefit of marriage. I know it makes me the sort of woman that a man doesn’t want forever. But I don’t care. I don’t care if you never marry me. I don’t care if I live in sin and my family refuses to acknowledge me. I’ll travel the world with you. I’ll swim naked in ponds and—”
“You don’t swim.”
“I’ll learn. Just please. Take me with you to the far side of the world.”
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