Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(49) by Lorraine Heath
“This is your office; it’s where you work.” She strolled inside. It was Spartan. A desk. A chair in front of it, and another behind it. A table with decanters. The windows were bare, looking out onto the night.
“Why do you say that?” he asked.
Looking over her shoulder, she saw him leaning against the doorjamb, his arms crossed over his chest. “The globes.”
They were sprinkled about numerous shelves on three walls. “There must be a hundred of them.”
“A hundred and two to be exact.”
Astonished, she twisted around. “Does that include the ones at the residence?”
“Why do you collect them? What’s your fascination with them?”
He just stood there, staring into the dimly lit room.
“Is it because you were planning to travel the world and you wanted to study where you might be going? You can confide in me. I won’t tell anyone.”
“You have no one to tell.”
“I suppose that’s true enough. I collected dolls when I was a child. Not by choice, but rather it’s what my father always gave me. So perhaps I wasn’t so much collecting dolls, as I was collecting symbols of his love. Maybe that’s why I smashed so many of them. I was angry, and I couldn’t very well smack him.” She turned away from him. She hadn’t wanted to travel into her own life. Rather, she wanted to journey into his.
“They gave me hope.”
Her heart hammering, she jerked back around. Just a glimpse. She wanted only a glimpse into his soul. She waited. Surely there was more. And then her patience was rewarded.
“They gave me hope that there was someplace better than where I was.”
“So you collected all these when you were a child?”
“No, Eve, I still collect the damn things.” He shifted back into the hallway. “Did you want to see the gaming hell or not?”
He was still searching for someplace better than where he was—just as she was. She didn’t want to be a mistress, she didn’t want to live in a house that belonged to a man who wanted her only for sport. She wanted something better: a husband, a family, a home.
His residence would never be a home.
Nor would his office. It didn’t satisfy him. As comfortable as he appeared, nothing here—except the globes—reflected the man. She had thought she’d make some small discovery about him that would explain him, but even here he was very careful to reveal nothing about himself.
“Yes, I want to see it.”
Maybe there at last, she would come to understand him.
Rafe had an unsettling suspicion that he hadn’t brought her to the club in order to teach her how to defend herself. That he’d used it as an excuse—to himself of all men, someone who had no tolerance for excuses—because he wanted her to see his establishment. Not the sins perpetuated within it, but rather what he’d managed to make of it, something that ensured he would never again be in another man’s debt, that he would never suffer, that he would never be forced into doing what he had no desire to do.
She could learn from him. Yes, for a time she would be unhappy, but when she was free of him, she would have the means to do whatever she wanted. Between now and that time, she needed to come to understand exactly what she wanted. He suspected that as soon as she was handed her first doll, the only thing she had envisioned for her future was becoming a wife.
Just as he had spent his first ten years believing that he would be a gentleman.
As he escorted her down a darkened hallway to the shadowed balcony, he drew forth a memory that he had long ago locked away. Sitting on his father’s lap at his father’s desk, watching as he carefully turned the pages of his atlas, and pointed out all the places that Rafe would someday visit.
“Pembrook brings in a fine yearly income so you’ll have an allowance. No army or vicarage for you. I know it troubles you when Sebastian and Tristan go off without you, but someday you shall travel the world, while Sebastian will be forced to remain here.”
In the end, they’d all been forced to leave.
He drew back the thick heavy curtains, inhaled Eve’s rose scent as she walked by, and followed her onto the balcony. She went to the very edge, wrapping her hands around the carved railing. Even there, though, the shadows kept her hidden from those on the floor below. No one would ever know she’d visited. Although he suspected her phantom scent would haunt the hallways through which they’d walked. It was a mistake to bring her here, to risk having a memory of her within his club. When he let her go, he wanted nothing of her to linger. He wanted no recollections outside the bed.
Yet here he was enjoying the vision of her profile, while she studied everything spread out before her like a feast of sin. He could hear the cards being shuffled, the dice being thrown, the wheels being turned. He could hear the exclamations of joy and the groans of despair. He didn’t have to look onto the gaming floor to know what he would see.
“There’s so much activity. It’s very much alive, isn’t it?”
He didn’t have to ask her to explain. He knew too well what she meant. It was a pulsing room of activity. Always something was happening. A card turned, a die tumbling to a stop, a ball dropping into a slot.
“What appealed to you about this place?”
Had he ever known a woman who asked so many questions? Had he ever known another woman who made him want to answer? Inquiries irritated him. They were bothersome, intrusive. Yet when she questioned, a small kernel of something in his soul snapped to attention and wondered, foolishly, ridiculously, if she cared.
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