Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(9) by Lorraine Heath
“Miss Evelyn Chambers to see Mr. Rafe Easton,” Geoffrey said. “She’s expected.”
“Yes, my lord, as I am well aware, but regretfully the master is not yet home. However, I have been instructed to see to Miss Chambers’s comforts until he arrives. Miss, if you’ll follow me to the parlor?”
She’d taken a mere half-dozen steps when she realized that Geoffrey was not accompanying her. Turning to face him, she asked, “Geoffrey, are you not coming?”
“You’re leaving me here?”
“But you’ll be returning for me?”
“Easton will explain everything.” With that, he placed his hat on his head, spun on his heel, and walked out the front door.
When she took a step forward to follow and question his odd behavior further, the butler gently touched her arm. “It’ll be all right, miss.”
He was not terribly old, somewhere in his thirties, she suspected. He had dark hair and kind brown eyes. His clothing, like everything that surrounded them, was immaculate.
“I fear Geoffrey has told me very little. I understand that I’m to manage the household.”
“I have no doubt that all the servants will heed your wishes.”
“What is your name?”
“I am known as Laurence.” He bowed slightly, extended his hand. “Please allow me to escort you to the parlor.”
She gave a brisk nod and followed a half step behind him. “How many servants are there?”
They walked into a room of burgundy and dark paneling. It seemed Rafe Easton was not one for cheery colors. A large globe rested on a pedestal in a far corner. A low fire burned in the hearth. Suddenly chilled, she went to it and extended her gloved palms toward the small dancing flames.
“May I take your cloak?” Laurence asked.
She rubbed her warmed hands up and down her arms. “No, not yet, thank you.”
“I shall have tea and biscuits brought.”
“Thank you.” She turned, wishing she didn’t feel so unsettled. “When will Mr. Easton return home?”
“I’m sorry, miss, but that I cannot say.”
He left her then, and for reasons she couldn’t explain, she wished she was still locked in her bedchamber. It suddenly seemed a far safer, more comforting alternative.
Lord Tristan Easton stood in the open doorway that led into his brother’s office at the gambling hell. He couldn’t recall ever seeing the door closed. At his desk, his brother poured diligently over his ledgers, his dark head bent in concentration, just as he’d been the first time that Tristan had seen him after twelve long years of separation. Rafe’s giant of a man had been waiting at the abbey ruins and he’d brought Tristan here, to this very doorway.
His grip tightening on the large package he held, Tristan shifted his gaze to the shelves on the far wall where Rafe kept his assemblage of assorted globes. He’d once told Tristan he collected them because they gave him hope of there being a place better than where he was. Tristan was saddened to see that his brother had acquired a new one. After Rafe had helped him right a wrong he’d done to Anne before she became his wife—when he had no expectation of her ever becoming his wife—he had thought they might be on their way to closing this rift between them. But it seemed his hope was as pointless as Rafe’s.
“I hear you’ve taken a mistress.”
Rafe jerked up his head, his eyes—the same crystal blue as Tristan’s—hard, his mouth set in a thin line. “I’ve not seen you in months and that’s how you greet me?”
Tristan almost blurted that turnabout was fair play. After not seeing Tristan in twelve years, Rafe had merely reached back, grabbed a tumbler, poured whiskey in it, and set it at the edge of the desk. His face had held no expression, his eyes had been as calm as the sea before a storm. There had been no surprise, no rising from his seat, no embrace. His first words? Sebastian has yet to show.
“I would have thought you’d learned by now that I believe in getting to the point,” Tristan said, giving his brother what he knew was a devilish smile that would only serve to irritate him. “So who is she?”
Rafe grabbed two tumblers and a bottle of whiskey. He began to pour as Tristan ambled over and took a chair, then pushed the full tumbler toward him. “I don’t see that it’s any of your concern.”
Tristan lifted the glass, inhaled the fumes, and took a small sip. His brother did have damned good taste in whiskey. “Is she pretty?”
Rafe narrowed his eyes. “Thinking of taking her when I’m done with her?”
Tristan belted out a laugh. “God, no. Anne damn near kills me with her desire for me. I could hardly keep another lady satisfied.” He relished another sip. “Besides Anne is everything to me. When you have everything, you neither need—nor want—anything more.”
“Spoken like a poor besotted fool.”
“You don’t believe in love?”
Leaning back in his chair, Rafe took a good long swallow.
Not going to answer, Tristan thought. But then he hadn’t really expected him to. He knew Rafe had yet to forgive him and Sebastian for leaving him behind. They’d had no choice. Separation had been the best chance of ensuring at least one of them survived to manhood in order to reclaim the dukedom.
“Don’t suppose I can blame you. I didn’t believe in it either, not until Anne graced my life.”
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