Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(46) by Lorraine Heath
Rising back to her knees, she carefully placed the ice enfolded in the cloth on his darkening bruise, and her nearness distracted him from his irritation. Her breast rested firmly against his upper arm now, and he could feel the taut nipple through her nightdress, through his sleeve. He wanted to circle his tongue around it, once, twice, then over—
“I should like to visit your gambling establishment sometime.” Her voice seemed raspier. Did her thoughts travel in the same direction as his? He doubted she was even aware of the liberties a man would take with a body such as hers.
He scoffed. “Ladies are not allowed inside.”
“But then I’m not a lady, am I?” She held his gaze with a challenge. He wanted to deny her words, but he couldn’t.
“You wouldn’t much like it. It’s mostly black and green. There’s always a smoky haze. It smells of rich tobacco, fine liquor, and finer women.”
“Still, I should like to see where you spend so much of your time.”
Before she’d entered his life, he’d spent all his time there.
She set the cloth aside, and with a featherlike touch moved his hair back. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d known a caress that was as light as a cloud. Yet even for its faintness, it was powerful.
“I wish he hadn’t hurt you,” she said.
“I’ve known worse.”
Her eyes shifted over to his. “Yes, I presume you have. You live in a very rough world. Do you ever think of leaving it?”
“It’s where I belong.”
“But you’re the son of a duke.”
“If he were alive, he’d disown me.” Never mind that if he were alive Rafe would have never been in a position to do the things he’d done.
“I suspect my father would do the same, knowing the decision I made to stay here. Although I suppose in truth, he never really owned me.”
“Don’t give too much weight to a trip to a park.”
“But you’re not keeping me hidden away. You’re not ashamed to be seen with me.”
He cupped her face, grateful she hadn’t realized that his knuckles were also lightly bruised and slightly swollen. They bothered him more than his cheek, but when he touched her, the pain eased, as though she were a balm. He wanted her now, this moment. He wanted all the hurts to cease. What a fanciful thought. Some were embedded so deeply they’d never be touched, comforted, eased. He would take them to the grave.
He skimmed his thumb over her cheek. He had promised to give her the skills she needed to survive on her own. He had yet to begin teaching her about investments, but he knew now that she needed something more. “How tired are you?”
Her eyes widened slightly, her skin flushed, and he knew by her reaction where she thought he was going with his question. “I’m fully awake.”
He heard the slight tremble in her voice, but at least she hadn’t lied. She was growing more comfortable with him. He thought about taking her to bed, but he wasn’t at his best tonight. Too many dark thoughts were tumbling through his mind. Faces he’d beaten, bones he’d broken. On Dimmick’s orders. At first he’d been too young and frightened not to obey the ruthless orders. Disappoint Dimmick, and there would be hell to pay. Then for a time he’d begun to enjoy it. Smashing people up, throwing his weight around, being feared. Until he’d been passing by a shop one day and caught sight of a thug in the large mirror that was on display behind the window. It took him a moment to recognize who the brute was—it wasn’t until he’d looked into the icy-blue eyes that he’d known, and his stomach had roiled with the realization of what he’d become.
He shoved himself out of the chair. “Get dressed. Your hideous mourning attire should do nicely. We’re going to the club.”
“You’re less likely to be seen at this hour.” And at the club, he was less likely to tumble her onto the bed and turn his attention to a sport that had little to do with fisticuffs.
Evelyn fought not to be disappointed. When they’d first arrived, he’d brought her downstairs, and she’d thought they were heading for the dens of depravity. Instead, he’d led her into a room with a roped-off square in the middle and benched seating stacked along the walls. She imagined people sat there to watch what occurred within the boundaries of the rope.
She was hoping to see the gaming room, to view the games that men lost fortunes playing, especially the one that had put Geoffrey into debt to Rafe, the one that had caused him to invite the gaming hell owner to his night of entertainment when he’d sought to foist her off as some man’s mistress. She didn’t like to contemplate where she might be now if Rafe hadn’t been there.
“Remove your cloak,” he ordered, and she glanced over to see he was shrugging out of his jacket. She did wish the man wasn’t in the habit of ordering her about without first explaining where his directives would take her. Still, she unfastened her cloak, slipped it off her shoulders, and draped it over a bench.
When next she looked at Rafe, his waistcoat was gone and he was dragging his shirt over his head. He tossed it aside. She stared in wonder at his rippling muscles, his washboard stomach. He moved as though he were comprised of poetry, smooth and flowing. She had visited a museum with her father once and seen statues of the gods. But even they were not as lean, as firm, as beautifully sculpted as Rafe.
“Am I to remove my clothing?” she asked.
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