Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(5) by Lorraine Heath
Glancing around, she appeared confused, her smile uncertain, until Wortham eventually crossed the room to stand beside her without looking as though he was with her. Two people could hardly appear more different. Wortham stood stiff as a poker while she was composed, but emitted a softness. She would be the sort to touch, hold, and comfort. Rafe almost shuddered with the realization.
“Gentlemen, Miss Evelyn Chambers.”
She dipped elegantly into a flawless curtsy. “My lords.”
He’d expected her voice to be sweet, to match her smile, but it was smoky, rich, the song of decadence and wickedness. He imagined that voice in a lower pitch, whispering of naughty pleasures, curling around his ear, traveling through his blood. He imagined deep throaty laughter and sultry eyes, lost to heated passion.
“Visit with the gentlemen,” Wortham ordered.
Again she gave the impression of one confused, but then she straightened her lovely shoulders and began making her way from one man to the next, a butterfly trying to determine upon which petal to light—which would be sturdy enough to support her in the manner to which she was accustomed.
He caught glimpses of her face as she worked the crowd of a dozen men. A shy smile here, a bolder one there. Furrowed brow when a gentleman rested a hand on her shoulder or arm. Fluttering eyelashes as she expertly glided beyond reach without offending. He wasn’t quite certain she understood the rules of the game she was playing. Could she be that innocent?
Her mother had been the earl’s mistress. Surely she knew what her mother’s role in his life had been—to warm his bed, to bring him pleasure, to keep him satisfied.
Sometimes she seemed to have confidence, to know exactly what she was doing. Other times she seemed baffled by the conversation. Still, it was as though she were ticking off a list, speaking to each man for only a moment or two, before moving on. Never returning to a man once they were acquainted.
Come to me, he thought. Come to me. Then he shoved the wayward thoughts aside. What did he care if she didn’t notice him? He was accustomed to living in the shadows, to not being seen. The gossamer depths offered protection equal to the strongest armor. No one bothered him there unless he desired it.
He didn’t desire her, yet he couldn’t deny that he wondered what her skin might feel like against the tips of his fingers. Soft. Silky. Warm. It had been so very long since he’d been warm. Even the fire by which he sat now couldn’t thaw his frigid core. He liked it that way, preferred it.
Nothing touched him, nothing bothered him. Nothing mattered.
No, she didn’t. She was an earl’s by-blow, on the verge of becoming some man’s ornament. A very graceful ornament to be sure. An extremely lovely one. But she would be relegated to the same importance as a work of art: to be looked upon, to be touched, to bring pleasure when pleasure was sought.
She glanced around, appearing to be lost within a room that should have been familiar to her. Then her gaze fell on him, and his body tightened with such swiftness that for a heartbeat he felt light-headed, dizzy. He should look away, tell her with an averted glance that she was nothing to him, that he had no interest in her, and yet he seemed incapable of doing anything other than watching as she hesitantly strolled toward him.
Finally, she was standing before him, her small gloved hands folded tightly in front of her. With her this near to him, he could see clearly now that her eyes were the most beautiful blue. No, more than blue. Violet. He’d never seen the like. He imagined them smoldering with heated passion, darkening, gazing at him in wonder as he delivered pleasure such as she’d never experienced. An easy task if she had indeed never known a man’s touch.
But just as he had no use for mistresses, so he had none for virgins. He had not been innocent in a good long while. He had no interest in innocence. It was a weakness, a condition to be exploited, a quick path to ruin. It held no appeal.
She held no appeal.
He rethought the words in an attempt to convince himself of their truth. But as her eyes bore into his, he was left with the realization that she was not only innocent, but very, very dangerous. A silly thought. He could destroy her with a look, a word, a caustic laugh. And in destroying her, the tiny bit of soul that remained to him would wither and die.
It was an unsettling realization, one he didn’t much like.
He watched her delicate throat work as she swallowed, her bosom rise with the intake of a long breath as though she were shoring up her courage.
“I don’t believe we’ve spoken,” she finally said.
“May I inquire regarding your name? The other gentlemen were kind enough to introduce themselves.”
“But then I am not kind.”
Two tiny pleats appeared between her brows. “Why would you say something of that nature?”
“Because I am honest, at least.”
“But surely you have a name. Is it a secret? You steal children from their beds? Rumpelstiltskin perhaps? I would be hard-pressed to see you as Prince Charming.”
Fairy tales. She’d been brought up on fairy tales, and she seemed to have no awareness that she was wading through a nest of ogres.
“Come. It can’t be that horrible of a name. I’d like to call you something.”
He considered suggesting Beelzebub, something to unsettle her, send her scurrying away, but for reasons he couldn’t fathom, he simply said, “Rafe.”
“Rafe,” she repeated in her smoky voice, and a fierce longing fissured through him with an almost painful prickling. “Is that your title?”
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