Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(41) by Lorraine Heath
He could see the realization dawning that her father might not have been as proud of her as she’d always imagined. Anger, quick and sharp, surged through him. He fought to keep his tone flat, uncaring. “It wasn’t because your father didn’t value you that he didn’t bring you for the promenade. I suspect it was because he cared for you so much that he wouldn’t wish to see you hurt. The people prancing about now can be cruel when they put their minds to it.”
“You don’t think much of them.”
“No, and neither should you. They’re not important.”
“What of the people who live in the residence next to yours? The ones with the little boy. Do you know them?”
“They’re not important.”
She twisted her lips into an ironic smile. “Is anyone important to you?”
You are. The sentiment made absolutely no sense. His rush to the residence in order to see her again, his prolonging their time together by bringing her here. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d come to a park. It had been for a lady, and they had parted ways soon after. “I’ve been on my own for too long, Eve, for anyone else to matter.”
“Will I feel that way, do you think? After a time?” She shook her head. “I hope not. I find it very sad. And I should think it would be very lonely.”
“Not if you like your own company.”
“And do you like yours?”
Not very, but that was beside the point. He ignored her question, allowed the silence to stretch between them.
“Will we see Geoffrey out here, do you suppose?”
“Not if he sees us first.”
She smiled, a bright cheery smile that reached her eyes and made them sparkle. Something in his chest tightened. The damned waistcoat was much too snug. He shouldn’t have indulged in a sweet. It didn’t take many before his clothes needed altering. He’d discovered that quickly enough years ago.
“Did he give you much trouble over the horse?”
“He named a price and I paid it.” He’d considered simply taking it, but he knew the money would end up back in his pocket anyway, and he had decided angering Wortham further would only serve to increase his resentment toward his half sister. He didn’t think Eve would ever see him again, but one never knew.
“Did he take advantage, do you think?”
He laughed darkly. “Eve, no one takes advantage of me.”
“I can’t decide if you’re confident or arrogant.”
He met and held her gaze. The color of her eyes was darker, not quite so violet. It was the blue of the riding habit. He should have gone with a violet, but he couldn’t deny the grace that it added to her form. Nor did he understand what had prompted him to purchase an item of clothing that covered so much of her.
Wasn’t a mistress supposed to be daring and bold in what she revealed? Eve looked absolutely innocent. Young. So very young. “How old are you anyway?”
“What difference does it make?”
The difference was that out here, content on her horse, relaxed, with no worries that he would demand of her what she certainly was not yet ready to give, she looked more girl than woman. “None at all. Simply curious.”
“Four and ten.”
Swearing harshly, he reached out and grabbed her reins, jerked her horse and his to a stop. He dragged his gaze over her. The delicate features, the slope of her neck and shoulders, the curve of her bodice, the narrow waist, the flare of her hips. “You’re not a child,” he ground out, because he didn’t want her to be, he didn’t want to have this utter fascination with someone he would have to wait years to possess.
She angled her head slightly. “If I were?”
“I don’t take children, and you’re lying.”
“Teasing more like. I thought you a man without a moral compass at all. I’m quite relieved to discover you’re not completely wicked.”
“Two and twenty. An old lady by most standards, I believe. Quite on the shelf. That’s why I thought . . .” Sighing, she shook her head.
“Thought your father intended to marry you off.”
She nodded, skewed her lips into annoyance. “And Geoffrey. When he said he wished to introduce me to gentlemen—I assumed marriage. What of you? Is there someone you fancy?”
“Marriage is not for me.” He released his hold on her reins. His fingers were beginning to ache from the tight grip. The thought of not having her for years—
“Don’t tease me,” he ordered before urging his horse on.
“I enjoy teasing.”
“Yes, well, that’s a habit you’ll have to break while you’re with me.”
“I don’t think I want to be molded into something I’m not.” She sighed heavily, glanced around. “Although I suppose that’s happening, isn’t it?”
He refused to feel guilty because of her father’s poor planning.
“Are there other mistresses here, do you think?”
“I suspect there are, but they’re cleverly disguised as ladies.”
“Much like me.”
Not like you, he thought. In all of England, he doubted there was a woman to compare.
Evelyn knew she was babbling, talking about nothing of consequence or importance. It irritated her that she worried what people thought, that she felt as though she moved about with a great big M sewn onto her chest. She saw many couples parading about. Surely they weren’t all married.
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