Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(39) by Lorraine Heath
“You’ve returned.” Her voice was raspier, throatier, and sounded quite breathless. From the scurrying to get here, no doubt. Not as a result of any joy emanating from the fact that he was here, because his presence always brought with it the possibility of total ruination.
“It would seem so, yes,” he said, his gaze shuttering whatever he might be feeling upon seeing her again. Probably nothing at all. It saddened her to think that he might never view her as anything more than a tumble. He waved his glass toward the boxes. “Some of your clothing is completed. The remainder should be finished by the end of next week.”
She glanced over at the myriad of boxes before returning her attention to him. They seemed inconsequential now that he was here. She wanted to ask him where he’d been, what he’d been doing, why he had stayed away, if he was well, although she doubted he’d answer. “You went to the trouble to pick them up.”
He shrugged. “I was passing by. Take a peek, see if the items are to your liking.”
She desperately wanted to tell him that he couldn’t just leave her here, languishing, worrying over him—but she didn’t want him to know that she had been worried. Were men likely to become volatile when they lost a good deal of money? She had disquieting visions of him being accosted by someone who had lost at cards at his club. Someone like Geoffrey.
She wanted to inform him that she expected certain considerations, but an image stuttered through her mind—one she’d not thought of in a good long while. Her mother sitting by the window, dressed so beautifully, gazing out.
“What are you doing, Mama?” Evelyn had asked.
“Simply waiting for the earl, darling.”
In retrospect she realized that her mother had spent a good deal of her time simply waiting. Now it seemed living in expectation of Rafe’s arrival would become her lot in life. But waiting on him was preferable to waiting for Geoffrey to come unlock her bedchamber door.
She also remembered how her mother would rush out the door the moment she spotted the earl’s carriage. How she would be in his arms as soon as he alighted. How after he patted Evelyn’s head and gave her a doll, he would go up the stairs with her mother. She wondered if she’d ever experience such delight in Rafe’s arrival. Delight, not relief because she suddenly thought that she should do more than simply stand there like a ninny reveling in his physical perfection when it was obvious that seeing her stirred nothing at all in him.
Self-conscious of her role in his life, she turned to the first box, lifted the lid, and dug through the tissue until she found the dark blue riding skirt with its white shirt and its blue jacket trimmed in silver piping. It was elegant, yet sedate. She’d expected the clothing he purchased her to be risqué, to proclaim loudly and clearly what she was, but this was the sort of outfit that a highborn lady would wear. She peered over at him, certain he hadn’t moved a single muscle.
“Thank you. It’s lovely.”
With the hand holding his tumbler, he indicated a circular box resting on a settee. “The hat that goes with it.”
It was the same shade of blue. White chiffon wound around the brim and was gathered into a bow at the back. “It seems you have superb taste.”
“I have you, don’t I?”
She jerked her head around to find him studying the liquid in his glass as though it had spoken rather than he, and he was castigating it. She couldn’t recall him ever issuing her a compliment, ever admitting that he found her attractive or enticing. He’d wanted her because other men had, and he’d found them unsuitable. Or so she thought.
She reached for another box. Inside was a gown very similar in shade to the purple she’d worn the night that Geoffrey introduced her around, but the cloth was silkier, a finer quality. Slipping it over her body would cause her nerve endings to dance.
Within each box was a surprise: a black mourning dress, plain and yet elegant. She’d not expected him to provide her with something to wear when he wasn’t around, something that would allow her to continue to honor her father.
A deep green gown for dining. It would bare her décolletage. One of soft pink that had a frothy bodice. A silk dressing gown of violet. A gossamer nightdress of white. Even gathered up, when she ran her hand behind it, she could see her skin. It would leave nothing at all to his imagination.
As she placed it back in the box, she couldn’t look at him, didn’t want him to see the fear and trepidation that raced through her with the reminder that he would bed her, and he wanted her to be enticing when he did.
Among the scattering of box lids and tissue, only one box remained. She knew what it was before she’d fully pushed the paper covering it aside. The vibrant red could not be hidden. When she pulled the gown out of the box, she gasped, her breath caught.
She hated it . . . because it was so beautiful. It was silk and lace, satin bows, and elegant flounces. Clutching it to her bosom, she wished she knew how to knock that smug self-satisfied expression off his face.
“It’s . . . it’s exquisite.” She balled it up, stuffed it back into the box. “But I still shan’t wear it.”
A corner of his mouth quirked up. “You’ve a bit of stubbornness in you.”
She didn’t know why she was being so obstinate about the red. She just wanted something in her life that she had some say over. “I should probably take these upstairs and try them on, make sure they fit properly.”
“Start with the riding habit,” he said, tapping his glass with one finger. “We’ll go for a ride through the park.”
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