Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(40) by Lorraine Heath
Her breath hitched, and while she knew it was quite possible that he had a stable filled with horses, she couldn’t stop herself from asking, “You have Snowy?”
He lifted his glass in a salute, downed the remainder of its contents.
“That’s where you’ve been, what you’ve been up to.”
Tilting his head slightly, he studied her. “Where did you think I was?”
“At your club. I thought you were giving me time to become accustomed to you.”
“A bit difficult to become accustomed to me if I’m not here.”
She released a slight self-conscious laugh. “I’m not certain I shall make a good mistress. I didn’t like not knowing where you were or when you might return. I didn’t like waiting about, not knowing what I should be doing. I realize that you don’t have a care for me and that I’m to serve only one purpose, but—”
In a motion as quick as it was powerful, he shoved himself out of the chair and crossed over to her. His gaze wandered over her face, and she felt it almost like a touch. “It did not occur to me that you would worry. Rather I thought you would welcome the reprieve that my absence offered.” With the knuckle of his forefinger, he grazed her cheek. “I can’t always know when I can be here. My business, sometimes it will keep me away.”
“But it didn’t this time.”
He skimmed his thumb over her lower lip. “You are part of my business now.”
Before she could respond or read whatever might be in his eyes, he turned away. “Let’s go for a ride, shall we? I went to a great deal of trouble to bring that horse here.”
He had suggested they go for a ride because from the moment she had walked into the parlor, he wanted nothing more than to lift her into his arms, carry her up the stairs, and ravage her. Like the barbarian London accused him of being.
His desire for her had only worsened as he’d watched the delight play over her features as she’d viewed one item of clothing after another. And the red—she would wear it. He had seen the temptation of it in her eyes before she shuttered it. He could not have been more pleased with her reaction to his gifts.
But when she had seen the horse—
Something inside of Rafe had felt as though it were being torn asunder. He wanted her to look at him with the same joy, the same pleasure, the same . . . he wasn’t quite sure what the emotion was. She liked the horse, deeply. Favored it. She had stroked it and murmured to it and smiled at it.
He wanted her to smile at him.
Not look startled and apprehensive when she walked into the room and saw him sitting there.
As he kept his horse plodding along beside hers, he didn’t want to contemplate that he might be jealous of the creature because it held her affections.
He didn’t know what was wrong with him. He’d returned to London, stopped by the dressmaker’s to see what had been completed, and then he’d gone to his residence. Not his club. From the night he’d obtained it, it had always held sway over everything else in his life. In his absence, it could have burned down for all he knew, but he had hardly given it a thought. His entire focus had been on seeing her again.
He had not missed her, because he was not in the habit of missing people. But he had thought of her constantly, continually. He had dreamed of her naked and writhing beneath him. He had dreamed of her wrapping her arms about him—and his not breaking out into a cold sweat, his breathing not becoming erratic, his heart not pounding unmercifully. In his dream, he had merely sunk down into her as she had tightened her hold, until it was impossible to tell where he ended and she began.
But that was fantasy. Reality would be much different. He knew that. Accepted it.
He couldn’t stop his gaze from wandering back over to her. The clothing fit perfectly, hugged her bosom, her ribs, her narrow waist. She sat a horse well. As they entered the park, her eyes widened.
“There are so many people,” she murmured softly.
“This is the time of day when anyone who is anyone promenades about. Have you not been to Hyde Park before?”
She suddenly took great interest in the reins, running the leather through her gloved fingers. “My father brought me here once, in a carriage, early in the morning. I can’t recall seeing more than a dozen people. Will the people here know what I am to you?”
He wished he’d taken her father’s tact and not brought her during the height of the late afternoon. “I doubt it. The men you met that night—of course, they will know, but it serves them no purpose to tell others about what took place. As they did not leave with you, it makes them appear weak.”
“Yet here I am without a chaperon. That says a good deal about my morals, doesn’t it?”
“A good many ladies come unchaperoned—only because there are so many people about. Besides, it doesn’t matter what they think.”
“No, I suppose it doesn’t. Not anymore anyway.” She straightened her shoulders, lifted her chin. “After Mother died, Father took me to his country estate. I’d not returned to London before this year.”
“You remained at the country estate.”
Nodding, she patted the horse’s neck. “I liked it there.”
He imagined she did. From what he’d been able to determine, it was remote, quiet, green. So very green.
“Why did you return this year?”
“I think Father intended to marry me off, but then he took ill—so swiftly, so unexpectedly. His health declined at an alarming rate. The physician said he’d had cancer of the blood for some time. I thought that I might be attending balls.” She glanced around, guided her horse with an expert hand. “I realize now it was a silly dream. If he’d not have brought me to the park during a time when everyone else was about, he’d not have bothered to garner me an invitation to a party.”
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