Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(8) by Lorraine Heath
When he’d come to her room and commanded she ready herself for a ride, she’d almost told him to go to the devil. He’d left her to languish all night, wondering if any of the gentlemen had hinted at an interest in her. But she’d been too desperate to leave the residence to chance upsetting him by revealing that she was out of sorts with his behavior and lack of regard for her feelings. So she’d simply donned a black walking dress, matching pelisse, and hat. She hated appearing so docile as to give the impression that she was someone upon whom he could wipe his muddy boots, but the truth was she had so few options.
She had no money to speak of. She supposed she could sell the jewelry her father had given her, but she didn’t know its value or how far it might take her. She was beginning to realize that her father, bless his soul, had done her a disservice in not preparing her adequately for his departure, in making her dependent upon Geoffrey’s kindnesses—of which he appeared to possess so very few.
Wondering how to properly broach the subject of last night’s endeavors, she quietly cleared her throat before taking a stab at it. “Were your friends adequately amused last night?”
Geoffrey’s jaw tightened, his gray eyes narrowed, and she suspected he looked frightening to anyone who caught sight of his features as the carriage rolled along. “Yes.”
Yes? That was it? She wanted to reach across, pinch his nose, and order him to expand on his answer. She squeezed her hands together. “Did anyone in particular express any sort of interest in me?”
“Rafe Easton. We’re off to his residence now.”
So his last name was Easton, was it? Not that it meant anything to her. Why had he been so mysterious about it? “Oh?”
Geoffrey looked at her then. Did she actually see regret in his eyes?
“Is he a good friend then?” she asked.
“He’s not a friend at all. He owns a gambling establishment. I am in his debt.”
“I see.” Only she didn’t. Marrying a gambling den owner would be far worse than marrying a merchant. As a matter of fact, it would be quite scandalous. She was surprised he was allowed entry into polite circles. “He mentioned that he wasn’t titled.”
“He’s the third son of a duke, although he rarely acknowledges it.”
“So he’s a lord,” she murmured. She supposed that explained his presence the night before.
“He doesn’t fancy being addressed as such. You should probably simply call him ‘Mr. Easton.’ At least until he informs you differently.”
It still made no sense. If the man had been resting in a casket, he couldn’t have expressed less interest in her than he did last night. So why would he wish to spend more time with her? “It’s a bit early to be dining. Will we be going for a walk about the park? Will this be the start of his official wooing of me?”
Geoffrey squinted, blinked, squinted again as though his mind were stuttering along, unable to process the words she’d spoken. He returned his gaze to window. “I doubt he has plans to woo you.”
“Then I don’t understand why we’re going to pay him a call.”
“You’ll . . . see after things for him.”
What a strange turn in the conversation. And then it dawned on her—
“You mean I have been employed to manage his household?”
“I am not certain exactly what your duties will entail, but you will see to his needs.”
Why didn’t he look at her? Why didn’t he meet her gaze? Why was he being so blasted mysterious regarding her purpose? Was he embarrassed that he had found her employment rather than a husband—that his own place in Society had not allowed him to do more for her? She didn’t wish him to feel as though he had failed in his promise to her father, but still this was rather odd going.
The carriage turned onto a cobblestone drive. In spite of her best intentions, she leaned over and peered out the window. A grand residence, larger than Geoffrey’s, loomed before them. She could not help but be impressed. “He must be incredibly wealthy to live in a place such as this.”
She heard the resentment then, the anger. Geoffrey had said he owed him. Was she to work for Rafe Easton as a way to pay off her brother’s debts? Surely this arrangement would be only temporary, until someone spoke for her. “How long will I work here?”
“As long as he wants you.”
The carriage rattled to a stop. A footman opened the door. Geoffrey leapt out as though his seat had suddenly caught fire. The servant handed her down.
“Geoffrey, I’m not quite sure I understand.”
“It’ll all be explained. Come along.” He dashed up the wide sweeping steps.
She contemplated climbing back into the carriage, but if she were being paid for her services, she might have the means to see after herself until she could find a proper husband. She supposed the least she could do was listen to the terms of the arrangement. Lifting her skirts, she walked up the stairs. At the beginning and end of them sat the most hideous stone gargoyles. They seemed to fit their owner. Based upon her limited interaction with him, she couldn’t imagine him suffering through cherubs dancing about.
As soon as she reached the top, where Geoffrey waited, a butler opened the door and she glided through, aware of Geoffrey following in her wake. The inside was even more impressive, with frescoed ceilings, exquisite artwork, and statuary standing about. But she saw nothing personal. No portraits. All the paintings were landscapes: stormy seas and dark forests. Everything was arranged perfectly, too perfectly, as though it was all for show.
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