Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(13) by Lorraine Heath
Then she fairly raced from the parlor. He heard the front door slam, could almost feel the walls trembling with the impact. Swearing harshly, he tossed back his Scotch.
He supposed he could have handled that a bit better.
Evelyn ran. And ran. And ran.
Her legs churning, her chest aching as she fought for breath, the tears blurring her vision. The rain pelted her, seeped through her clothing. Somewhere along the way she lost her hat, her pins. Her hair tumbled down around her shoulders, absorbed the wetness, weighted her down.
It was lies. It was all lies. Geoffrey wouldn’t be so cruel. In spite of the fact that he had never given her leave to think that he liked her overly much, he was innocent in this debacle. He’d not known what that horrid Rafe Easton had assumed, had planned. When she explained to Geoffrey what the man said, what he expected of her, Geoffrey would call him out. He would insist upon pistols at dawn. In honor of his father, he would protect her reputation. He would not allow her to be completely ruined.
Although he had never given her cause to believe that he would champion her, he was enough of a gentleman that he would not stand by while some cur took advantage of her.
All she had to do was get home. Thank God it wasn’t that far. She remembered the way. One street, and then another and another, and she would be there. The few people she passed stared at her as though she were a mad woman. But it was Rafe Easton who should be carted off to Bedlam.
Geoffrey would apologize for the misunderstanding, and then he would make everything all right. Years from now they might even laugh about it. When she was married and had children and a husband who loved her. He would love her. Maybe not at first, but in time.
What Rafe Easton proposed was so hideously horrible. How could he be so cold, so harsh, so uncaring? How could he think she would welcome his touch?
She wouldn’t. She would die first. She would scrub floors, she would . . . she would—
She couldn’t think, but it didn’t matter. Geoffrey had made a promise. He would keep it. He would see that she was well cared for.
Drenched to the bone, she turned up the long drive. The gaslights were lit along the path, guiding her. Her entire body was aching now. It was becoming harder and harder to pull air into her lungs. She stumbled, landed hard on her knees and hands, jarring her bones, rattling her teeth. Pushing herself to her feet, she staggered on and trudged up the steps.
She expected the door to open. A footman was always standing there to open it, but then they weren’t expecting her, were they? Grabbing the handle, she pressed it and pushed on the door—
It didn’t open. It was locked!
She banged the knocker. Over and over. Harder and harder, with the crash echoing around her. No one came.
“Geoffrey!” Oh, God, surely he wasn’t out of sorts about that. “Wortham! Wortham! My lord!”
She heard a click, the door opened slightly, and the butler peered out, barring her entrance.
“Manson, thank God. Let me in.”
“I’m sorry, miss. His lordship has forbidden me to allow you entry into the residence.”
“What? No, you’re mistaken. He wouldn’t—”
“I’m sorry, miss. But we have our orders.”
His expression as bland as unseasoned food, he closed the door. When she tried to open it, she found it once again locked.
She banged, kicked, screamed until she was hoarse. Her knuckles were bruised, her toes ached. Dejected, horrified, terrified, she unceremoniously crumpled onto the landing, all her strength zapped from her. The rain pelted her unmercifully, but surely he would eventually open the door if she just stayed here long enough. He had misunderstood his orders. Surely.
She became vaguely aware of someone crouching before her. She lifted her face. Through the haze of her hot tears, she saw Rafe Easton. His black hair was plastered to his head. He appeared to be as wet as she.
“Come with me, Evelyn,” he said, his voice calm, even.
She shook her head. “They won’t let me in. There’s been a mistake. He wouldn’t do this to me. He promised Father. He promised.”
“You’re soaked through. You’re going to catch your death.”
“I don’t care. He can’t be cruel enough to cast me out like this.” Why was she even talking to this callous man? He didn’t care about her. He only wanted use of her person. Her stomach roiled. She thought she might be ill. Shudders wracked her body. She didn’t know if it was the cold or the sobbing that almost had her convulsing. She’d never felt more dejected in her life.
A fog of grief snaked through her, settled around her. She was shaking so badly, her teeth chattering, that she could barely think. Where could she go? She had no friends, no one who would offer her sanctuary until she could determine how to resolve this dilemma. She had no funds. Everything was in her bedchamber. What had he said when he’d come for her? “We’re going for a ride.” And she’d been so grateful that she’d not questioned him further. Now she had nothing, no one. She wrapped her arms around her middle, trying to contain the pain.
“Damnation,” Rafe Easton growled.
There it was: more proof that he thought so little of her that he would use profanity in her presence. He considered her a guttersnipe. A wanton. Someone unloved. And now she was. She wanted to curl into a ball—
His arms came around her. She was vaguely aware of his holding her against his broad chest, lifting her as though she were little more than a sodden pillow.
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