Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(14) by Lorraine Heath
She had a strong urge to protest, to let loose a scream that would wake the dead, but all she seemed capable of doing was sagging against him. She wished he were kind. She wished he had spoken for her, that he sought marriage, that his intentions toward her were not so wicked.
He wanted to ruin her, to take away her chance at happiness, a proper husband, and children. He wanted to dally with her, soil her reputation, then toss her aside. Wasn’t that what men did with mistresses? Her father might have even done that with her mother had she not died so young.
Her entire life she’d known exactly what her mother was: good enough to bed, but not to wed. Her father had always made her feel as though she were somehow better than that. Her brother made her realize that she wasn’t.
Beneath the roar of the pounding rain, she became aware of Rafe Easton’s muttering, “One more step, one more step. Almost there.”
She didn’t know why he was urging her on like that. She wasn’t the one taking the steps. Perhaps he thought his words would be reassuring, but she knew what would happen when they were finally there.
He would take the one thing left to her that mattered, that was of any value. She couldn’t allow that to happen, yet neither could she simply wander the streets. She would find the strength to fight him. She would find a way to barter, to bargain, to regain some pride and dignity.
She was vaguely aware of his climbing steps, of a door opening, of light washing over her.
“Good God,” a voice she recognized as belonging to Laurence said.
“I want a hot bath prepared for her. Rouse the maids to see to her care. She’s like ice. Hasn’t moved a muscle since I picked her up.”
Hadn’t she? She’d thought she’d been protesting, but perhaps it was all in her mind. She was conscious of him going up stairs. The wide sweeping ones that had so impressed her when she’d first stepped into the residence, before she’d known exactly why she was here.
She could hear other footsteps rushing by them, those of a servant perhaps. They reached the landing. The click of a door opening. He swept through the entry, his progress muffled by thick carpets before he set her on the bed. He grabbed her wrists, unlocking her arms from about his neck. When had she clutched him so? Why had she?
He stepped away without a tender touch, a word of kindness, a whisper of reassurance.
“Get her warm,” he barked. “Find her something dry to wear.”
Then she became aware of gentle hands urging her to care, to ignore the fact that the remainder of her life would be spent within the bowels of hell.
Hell and damnation!
As soon as Rafe was in his bedchamber with the door slammed behind him, he began tearing at his sopping clothes before they suffocated him. Buttons went flying, brocade and linen ripped. He was fighting to draw in breath, had been ever since he’d made the ghastly decision to cart the woman back to his residence. He knew it was a mistake the moment she wound her arms about his neck and clung tenaciously to him.
He couldn’t very well drop her at that point, no matter how desperately he’d wanted to be rid of her cloying hold. So he’d urged himself on with a mantra: One more step, one more step. Almost there.
Knowing all the while that he was lying to himself, that he had a good distance to travel. Why the devil hadn’t he taken the time to have his carriage brought round? He’d been almost certain where she was going. Instead, like a blundering idiot, he rushed out into the rain after her to ensure that she reached her destination without being accosted.
He’d wanted Wortham, the worthless blackguard, to tell her exactly what his plans for her had entailed, that he had purposely set out to ruin her, to turn her into what her mother had been. Rafe had intended to lead her back to his residence with the assurance that he would forgive her unconscionable behavior, but he would not tolerate it in the future.
Instead, he had watched as she’d banged on the locked door, had heard her exchange words with the butler when he finally appeared to her summoning, had seen her crumple into a shattered heap.
Damn Wortham for being the coward he was!
With his clothes finally strewn about his bedchamber, Rafe marched to the fireplace, set match to kindling. When the fire was finally going properly, he stood. The flames licked at the air, but the warmth barely reached him as, legs spread, head bowed, he grabbed the mantel and stared into the writhing precipice. Finally able to breathe again, he gasped in great draughts of air.
Anger swirled through him. Anger at Wortham for his insipid handling of the situation; anger at the woman for looking at him in abject despair. Images of his own caterwauling at the age of ten had rushed through his mind. It was disconcerting to feel completely helpless, to not know how to right things for her. He’d wanted to shout at her to stop blubbering, buck up, be strong, stop being a baby—
He pressed his head to the hard edge of the marble mantel, welcomed it digging into his brow. Was that the reason that Tristan had lashed out at him, called him a baby all those years ago? Because he’d felt helpless, maybe even terrified himself, had feared that he was on the verge of tears as well?
It had unnerved Rafe to see her reduced to a lifeless heap, especially when the evening before she’d been daring enough to inform him that they didn’t suit. As though he wanted them to be well matched, as though it mattered to him.
He should have left her on her brother’s front stoop, but by God, she was his now. He had claimed her, whether she liked it or not. Whether he liked it or not. He had put a great deal of effort into building a reputation as being someone who was dangerous, who got his way at all costs, who was not to be trifled with. What would happen to his reputation if word got out that he’d allowed her to escape him?
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