Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(24) by Lorraine Heath
He shrugged as though it hardly mattered, because in truth it didn’t. He purchased items because he could, but he took no pleasure in them or the act of obtaining them.
“How can you value it so little?”
“Perhaps the better question is how can I value you so much?” As soon as he heard the words, he wanted to suck them back in. He didn’t value her, not at all, but he knew what awaited her with him. Guilt prodded him to give her what he could so she would forgive him for the things he couldn’t.
She opened her mouth slightly, pinched her bottom lip between her teeth. “That is a good question. I’ve not given you any reason to place such a high value on me. So why are you?”
“Mistresses are supposed to take what they’re given and not question it.”
“Is that the law? Is there a law of mistresses somewhere, a book that solicitors study?”
It seemed the farther they traveled from a bed, the bolder she became. He wondered how she might react if he informed her that he could bed her without a bed, that the plush cushions of his carriage would do just as nicely. And yet, he couldn’t bring himself to silence her. She made him want to smile, a real smile, not the wolfish one practiced over the years to imply victory before a battle was even fought.
“Yes, I believe there is.”
She angled her chin haughtily, her pert little nose going up ever so slightly. “I should like to see it. I suppose you know all the laws where mistresses are concerned.”
“The important ones.”
“How many have you had?” she asked.
She scowled. He suspected she imagined that she looked quite ferocious. Instead, she looked kissable. Utterly and fascinatingly kissable. “Mistresses.”
He considered lying. But what would he gain? Nothing. He reserved falsehoods for when they were useful to obtain what he sought. “You shall be my first.”
Her eyes widened. “Why me?”
Why her? That was the question, wasn’t it? The one he’d asked himself a thousand times since that night in Wortham’s study.
“Ekroth wanted you. I don’t much care for Ekroth.”
“I seem to recall he has jowls and pudgy fingers.”
She glanced out the window. “I didn’t like the way he looked at me. I didn’t like the way any of them looked at me. As though I was beneath them. But you didn’t.” She looked over at him, gave him a sad smile. “I thought you were incapable of caring any less about me. Yet, here I am with you. What if Lord Berm had spoken up for me?”
“He has rancid breath.”
She gnawed on her lower lip, and he thought she did it to stop herself from smiling. It irritated him that she might laugh at him. “Lord Pennleigh?”
“He has too many years on him. He’s bound to be wrinkled in places where he shouldn’t be wrinkled.”
She studied him intently, and he fought not to squirm. Why weren’t they at the blasted dressmaker’s yet?
“Who would have been acceptable, do you think?” she asked.
Any of the other lords, sweetheart. Even Ekroth, Berm, and Pennleigh, truth be told.
“It hardly matters,” he said. “You’re with me now.”
The carriage came to a stop. Thank God.
“And we’re at the dressmaker’s. Let’s see about getting you some proper clothing.”
Proper clothing? As though what she was wearing wasn’t proper.
But when she stepped into the shop, her irritation with him dimmed. She’d been in shops before, but never a dressmaker’s. Two well-dressed ladies were at the counter, obviously making their purchases. Another elegant woman was sitting in a plush chair in a corner studying what appeared to be drawings of patterns.
A large woman bustled toward them. “Sir, how might I be of service?”
Rafe tugged on his waistcoat. “I wish to be attended to by the proprietor.”
“I am she. Madame Charmaine.”
“I expected a French accent.”
She smiled, her teeth straight and white, her lips as red as cherries. “I excel in providing my customers with the unexpected.”
Rafe seemed to be taking measure of her. She remembered that he said he was a good judge of character. She wondered what he thought of so bold a creature. “Miss Chambers is in need of a wardrobe. Everything.”
Madame Charmaine arched a brow, and Evelyn imagined she was creating a mental list of what everything might include, and how profitable this endeavor might be.
“She will require only the finest of materials,” Rafe said before walking over to a table burdened with bolts of brightly colored cloth.
Evelyn traipsed after him and whispered, “I’m in mourning. I should wear black.”
“You may when I’m not about, but when you are in my presence it will please me to see you in colors.”
He selected them: rich blues, purples, crimson. Bold strong colors. She’d always worn pale shades, pastels, so that she blended in, wasn’t truly visible. Except for the one purple gown Geoffrey had selected for her to wear. She’d had it made as a dream, something to be worn if she ever attended a ball.
All the while Madame Charmaine slowly raked her gaze over Evelyn, and she knew the moment that the woman deduced exactly what she was to Rafe—or what she would become to him. She thought she might die, that her heart would cease beating, her blood flowing, her lungs drawing in air.
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