Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(31) by Lorraine Heath
She picked up her wineglass, and he was grateful to see that she held it steady.
“When I was six, after my mother died of the scarlet fever. His wife passed away four years after that. Then it was just he, Geoffrey, and I. For the longest I didn’t understand his having a wife. He was my papa. I thought he was married to my mother. Do you know how to ensure that we don’t have children?”
He nearly choked on his wine. When would he learn not to drink when she was about?
“I shouldn’t like to have children out of wedlock,” she continued. “No matter how much they might be loved, it’s not an easy path for them.”
He almost told her that if they had children, he’d not leave them unprotected as Wortham had, but had he not thought that very afternoon that children were not for him? “I know methods that increase the unlikelihood of children.”
“I thought you might. How long does a mistress generally stay with a gent?”
“Depends on the gent. Depends on the mistress.”
“My father loved my mother. I don’t think he would have ever turned her out.”
“But she left him.”
She jerked her head back. “Not by choice. Death took her.”
“But it must have hurt.”
“Of course it hurt, but that is part of life, is it not?”
Not his life, not if he could help it.
“You may redo the rooms if you like,” he said.
She blinked at him. He knew it was an abrupt change of subject, but he didn’t want to follow the conversation she was leading.
“May I? Some of the rooms seem rather dark. Did you decorate them?”
“The house is as it was when I acquired it. But I like the dark rooms. If you don’t”—he shrugged—“change them. I don’t spend much time here. I have rooms at my club.”
She set down her wine, studied him. Thank goodness for the shadows. He didn’t want her to guess that even for tonight, he didn’t want to leave. He wanted her to play the pianoforte for him. He wanted her to read to him. He wanted her to just sit in the garden with him. He wanted her to spread out on the bed and welcome him. He would hold her hands to keep her from reaching for him, but then he would kiss her slow and deep, just before he pounded into her. He wouldn’t be able to hold back. He knew that. Already his body was aching for her.
He thought about going to a prostitute tonight, but she wouldn’t satisfy him. From the moment he had seen Eve, he had known no one would satisfy him save her. He could blame Ekroth for having pudgy fingers all he wanted, but the truth was that he had desired her from the moment he’d gazed on her profile.
“Then I won’t see much of you,” she said, her voice sounding more raspy.
“Only late evenings usually. Once things begin between us.”
“Haven’t they already begun? Surely there will be more between us than just the rutting in bed.”
No, no there won’t be hung on the tip of his tongue. But he’d already hurt her enough by not being the man she desired—a man who would marry her. So he held back the words that would upset her. He’d never considered himself deliberately cruel. What he liked most about her was that she wasn’t cynical. She would be in time, the longer she was with him. He would let her go shortly before then.
As though realizing that no answer would be forthcoming, she asked, “May we take a walk about the garden?”
He finished off his wine, got up, and pulled out her chair. She rose so gracefully, and it was all he could do not to plow his hands into her hair, cup the back of her head, and kiss her with every ounce of passion he possessed.
As they walked side by side, the lit gaslights guided their path past the rhododendrons, pansies, and roses.
“I don’t understand why you would want to bed me when you don’t even want to touch me.”
Not want to touch her? He wanted to touch her more than he wanted to breathe, but that would invite her to do the same, and therein resided the problem. In spite of his loose shirt, if she wound her arms around him, he would feel as though he were suffocating, he would shove her aside, possibly hurt her.
“I understand your rule about not embracing you, but we could at least hold hands, don’t you think?”
Before he could respond, she’d slipped hers into his, her palm pressed flat against his, her small fingers threaded through his larger ones, curling around to rest against his knuckles—knuckles that had battered faces for money owed, not to him, but to the man he’d worked for when he was younger. He’d done what he needed to do in order to survive. He didn’t make excuses for it, but it seemed wrong for her to be clasping his hand as though it were worthy of her touch.
But he couldn’t bring himself to pull free. Nor could he bring himself to talk. His throat had clogged with an emotion he didn’t recognize, couldn’t name.
“When I was a child, my father would give me dolls,” she said softly, as though the journey through reminiscences required a reverence. “When I was sad, when I was happy. When I was ill, when I was well. It didn’t seem to matter. They were so beautiful. I would have tea parties for them. They were my friends. They kept me from being lonely.
“Then one day, I found a path through the hedgerows, to a wooden fence. There was a small hole, and I could peer through and see the neighbor’s garden. I saw a girl, not much older than I was at the time, and she was playing with another girl. They were talking and laughing and frolicking about. Dolls can do nothing except sit. I threw a tantrum and broke all my dolls. It wasn’t the least like me. Father was terribly disappointed. That’s when I began to suspect that I was a secret.”
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