Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(30) by Lorraine Heath
She thought at some point she might look back and be as glad—
“It would have been a colossal mistake,” he added.
She almost laughed. Had she ever known a man as pompous and self-assured? Surely not Geoffrey. Not even her father.
“I still shan’t wear the red.”
He flashed a grin, brief and white in the shadows. She didn’t know why it thrilled her to know that she was responsible, even if the smile didn’t last longer than the blink of an eye.
“Oh, I think you will.”
Arrogant man. She held the words back because she didn’t want to ruin this moment of . . . she wasn’t quite certain what it was. Understanding, acceptance. Perhaps after a time they might even become friends.
The tension within the carriage had abated, until it seemed almost pleasant. She tried to imagine what it might be like to have a gentleman court her, take her about in his conveyance. Of course there would be a chaperone. She supposed she really needed to give up on those childish thoughts. On the other hand if he truly gave her his residence and all it contained, she could become a powerful woman, one with enough independence that a gentleman might be willing to overlook her unfortunate beginnings. It was a heady thought.
The carriage turned down the drive. She didn’t want to acknowledge the sense of relief that washed over her. Although nerves quickly followed. She’d made her commitment to him clear. Perhaps tonight would be the one when he came to her, when he claimed her as his mistress.
They jostled to a stop. A footman opened the door. Rafe stepped out, then handed her down, releasing her as soon as her feet touched the pebbles.
“Are you hungry?” he asked as they walked side by side, not touching, toward the steps.
She realized with a suddenness that she was famished. “Very.”
“I thought we might enjoy a late repast on the terrace.”
“I’d like that, yes.”
They went up the steps. The door opened.
Laurence bowed. “Welcome home, sir. Miss.”
“We’ll be dining on the terrace,” Rafe informed the butler.
“Very good, sir.”
Rafe turned to her. “I shall see you on the terrace in half an hour. No need to dress formally.”
Without waiting for a reply, he jaunted up the stairs, taking them two steps at a time. Not that there was anything for her to say, but she was going in the same direction. They could have gone together.
“He always requires a bit of solitude after returning home,” Laurence said kindly.
She snapped her attention to him. “Have you been with him long?”
Laurence looked up at the ceiling. “Six years now, I believe. Ever since he took the residence from Lord Laudon.”
“Purchased it from him, you mean?”
He pursed his lips. “I don’t think so. Lord Laudon was notorious for his gambling habit. I believe the residence settled his debt.”
“So you were employed by Lord Laudon.”
“No, miss. Until Mr. Easton brought me here and saw that I was properly trained in my duties, I had the misfortune of living in the squalor of St. Giles. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must see that dinner is prepared.”
She watched him walk off, then glanced up the stairs where her . . . what was the word for a man who had a mistress? Her lover? Her paramour? Her protector? Whatever he was, he was a mystery. Brute or savior? Or a combination of both?
What would he eventually be to her?
He’d wanted to dine on the terrace with candles flickering because it provided more shadows than light, and he’d already given away far too much. He didn’t want her studying him, trying to decipher him. He also didn’t want the formal attire that was required in the dining room—although it being his home he could wear, or not wear, whatever he wanted.
He was in a loose white linen shirt. His frock coat, waistcoat, and neckcloth were on the floor of his bedchamber. She was still in the hideous black, but she’d removed all the pins from her hair and secured it with a black ribbon. The golden tresses reached the small of her back. It was a vision that would haunt him tonight when he returned to the club. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d spent so few hours in a day at his establishment. Odd that he’d not given it any thought until that moment. She had been his focus for much of the day.
He studied her over the rim of his wineglass, imagining her in the clothing that the dressmaker was no doubt already busily sewing. The black would be gone. He could scarcely wait.
She had been inordinately quiet while enjoying the soup, and then the pheasant. Now he caught her fingers shaking when she reached for her wine.
“It won’t be tonight,” he said quietly.
She peered up at him.
“The bedding,” he continued. “I told you it wouldn’t happen until you were comfortable with me.”
He didn’t much like the gratitude that swept over her features. He should just take her and be done with it. Then she wouldn’t be nervous, although she might be a good deal more uncomfortable with him.
“Do you like chocolate?” he asked.
She smiled softly, sweetly. He wondered how long he could keep her without her losing that particular smile.
“Who doesn’t love chocolate?”
He regretted now that he’d given it away. He hoped the old woman had savored it, rather than gobbling it down.
“When did you begin living with the earl?” he asked.
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