Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(87) by Lorraine Heath
“I can’t, sweetheart.”
He saw the devastation of rejection fill her eyes and he wanted to kick himself for the words he’d spoken and the ones he hadn’t. “I’ve sold my ship, Anne.”
She blinked, the shock of his words apparent. “Why ever would you do that?”
“So you’d have no doubt that I was committed to living a life on land. I was on my way to the church, to embarrass you in front of all of London. I was going to charge to the front of the sanctuary, kneel down, and ask you to become my wife before you had a chance to exchange vows with Chetwyn.”
Smiling brightly, she laughed. “Were you really?”
“I love you, Anne, so damned much that it terrifies me. But a life without you terrifies me more. I don’t need the sea. All I need is you. We’ll find a posh house here in London and one in the country and I’ll be a gentleman that you can be proud of.”
Tears welled in her eyes. “Oh, my darling, I am proud of you. And you are a gentleman and a gentle man in spite of the hardships of your life. I love you, Tristan. I didn’t want to. I didn’t think I ever wanted to love again because the potential for hurt is so great, but so is the potential for happiness. With you I’m happy. With Chetwyn, I would be only content. I don’t care if we live in London or the country or a cottage by the sea. I only care that I’m in your arms.”
“That, my darling, is where you shall always be.”
Chetwyn stood off to the side of the vestry. He’d told Anne that he would keep the guests waiting some fifteen moments before announcing that no wedding would take place—on the off chance that Lord Tristan broke her heart and she still wanted to marry Chetwyn.
“I can’t believe you sent her to him,” Jameson grumbled. He was beside Chetwyn while her father stood at the window, also not terribly pleased with Chetwyn at the moment.
“She loves him and well you know it. I daresay she loves him more than she loved Walter.”
“He’s not a proper lord.”
“I suspect his father, if he were still alive, would disagree.”
Chetwyn heard a commotion at the front of the church and stepped toward the doors. Anne strolled in with Lord Tristan at her side. Behind them were the Duke and Duchess of Keswick and Lord Rafe Easton. Taking a deep breath, he went to greet them.
“Well, it seems I shall announce that a wedding will not be taking place this morning.”
“Not necessarily,” Lord Tristan said. “I already obtained a special license.”
Chetwyn fought not to be taken aback. He knew it was something that couldn’t be done in a day, so apparently marriage to Anne was something Lord Tristan had been planning. “Cheeky bugger. What if she’d say no?”
“But I didn’t,” Anne said. Leaning up, she kissed his cheek. “Thank you, Chetwyn.”
He thought she’d never looked more beautiful. Her eyes were filled with such joy, joy he didn’t think would be there if she was going to be marrying him.
“You’re very welcome.”
Then Lord Tristan turned to Anne’s father, Lord Blackwood. “My lord, I know having me in your family is probably the last thing you would ever wish for, but I treasure Anne with all my heart. She will never want for anything that is within my realm to provide. But I cannot give her your blessing. That must come from you. I hope you will bestow it.”
Lord Blackwood approached his daughter. “Are you sure about this, Anne?”
“I love him, Father. With or without your blessing, I intend to spend the remainder of my life with him. It would be easier with your blessing.”
“Then God help me, you have it.”
With tears in her eyes, Anne hugged her father. “Thank you.”
“Lord Jameson—” Tristan began.
“I won’t give my blessing.”
“I’m not fool enough to ask for it, but I thought if Lady Hermione were here—”
“Perhaps you would ensure she doesn’t create a fuss.”
Jameson straightened his shoulders. “I’ll do it for Anne. Not for you.”
Chetwyn wondered if Jameson realized he was also doing it for himself.
“I say, Chetwyn, I was wondering if you might stand with me,” Lord Tristan said.
Chetwyn could not have been more surprised if the man had asked for his hand in marriage. “Surely your brother—”
“If you would honor this request, I think it would go a long way to smoothing things over for Anne and the scandal we’ve stirred up. I also have an additional request.”
As Chetwyn listened, he couldn’t help but think that Walter was smiling down on them with approval.
Lady Hermione could hardly countenance that Lord Tristan was standing at the altar slightly behind Lord Chetwyn. She wondered what that was about. But it didn’t matter. What mattered was that Lord Tristan had returned and he would no doubt be at the reception. She could apologize to him for her deception and work to convince him that he belonged with her.
It had been difficult to come here today, to suffer the stares and speculative looks, but she had wanted to witness Lady Anne’s marriage, to see her nemesis permanently removed as a threat. Surely Lord Tristan was standing beside Lord Chetwyn as a symbol that he was glad the lady would no longer be available to him. For she had lied as well, saying that she’d been intimate with him, when all she’d done was sail on his ship.
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