Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(50) by Lorraine Heath
“The money I could rake in.”
She peered over at him, gave him what he suspected she thought was a knowing smile. “You could also lose it.”
“The house always wins in the end, Eve. It wouldn’t be unusual for a million pounds to exchange hands tonight, and most of it will go in the Rakehell’s coffers.”
She spun around, her eyes wide. “You’re joshing.”
He gave a small shake of his head.
“There are worse obscenities.”
She scrutinized him, and he wished he’d kept his mouth shut. “Such as,” she finally asked.
Using children for labor. Sending them down into the mines, in the dark, alone—except for the rats, and the roaches, and other multilegged creatures that bite—expecting them to sit still, open and close a door as needed for the horses and wagons. Sending them deeper into the pits, crawling into tiny spaces where they barely fit, having the dirt cave in on them until they thought they’d suffocate.
But he couldn’t tell her any of that. It wasn’t meant to be brought up to the surface. It needed to remain buried as deeply as the coal.
“Wortham for one,” he said flatly. Perhaps the other lords who had been there that night as well. He was ready to move on. “I think we’re done here.”
She had thought he would escort her out to the carriage. Instead, they trudged up another flight of stairs.
She had to admit that Geoffrey was an obscenity, at least the manner in which he’d treated her. However, she didn’t think for a single moment that Rafe had been considering Geoffrey while she’d waited for his answer. His facial features had not moved at all, but within his icy blue eyes she’d seen something—only a flicker—yet it was deep, powerful, and haunting. Something from his past perhaps, an incident, a person, a place that had been part of the process that had forged him into the man he was.
For a moment she’d thought he was going to share it. She didn’t know if she wanted him to. She had a keen desire to understand him, but she was beginning to think it would come at a high price—that his nightmares might become hers.
At the top of the stairs, in the middle of the hallway, he opened a heavy mahogany door. She stepped through into a large living area, not quite as sparsely furnished as his office but he obviously cared nothing at all for knickknacks. She could see hallways branching off on either side of it and assumed they led to other rooms, bedchambers perhaps.
“My living quarters.”
“Why do you have these when you are in possession of a lovely residence?” she asked as she wandered over to the large bare windows. She looked out on the street below. The fog was rolling in, giving an ominous feel to everything around which it swirled.
“I prefer here. The residence . . . I acquired it because it was within my power to do so.”
She peered over at him. “This is where you’ll reside once the residence is mine.”
“In all likelihood, yes. Although perhaps I’ll purchase another before that happens.” He leaned against the edge of the window.
“You don’t fancy draperies.”
“Why put glass in a wall and then block the view you’ve obtained?”
She turned her attention back to the street. She could see gentlemen coming and going. “No one leaving has quite as lively a step as those arriving.”
“When they first get here, they think Lady Luck sits on their shoulder.”
“I suppose they soon discover that she doesn’t.”
Reaching out, he tucked a few loose strands behind her ear. A warm shiver flowed through her, but she kept her gaze focused on the street. It might prove very dangerous to look at him just then, with other rooms—bedchambers—nearby.
“She doesn’t exist. She’s merely a figment of some poor fool’s imagination. Do you know the worst thing that can happen to a man the first time he visits a gambling hell?”
“He loses everything?”
She snapped her gaze over to him. He was watching her intently, but she was coming to realize that he always studied her as though he wished to decipher every aspect, every nuance, of her. She had journeyed through life paying little attention to anything of importance, while he allowed nothing to escape his scrutiny. He survived while she stuttered along, striving to find her way. She could learn from him.
“It’s the winning that causes the obsession,” he said. “That momentary exhilaration as though you’re on top of the world, unbeatable, invincible. You experience it once and you never forget it. No matter how often you lose after that, you keep seeking that elusive thrill that for a time made you forget all the troubles in your life.”
“So which was I, that night at Geoffrey’s? Something to possess because you could? Or something to win for the momentary delight it would bring?”
He moved nearer, took the strands that had again worked themselves free, and sifted them through his fingers as though he’d never seen them before. “Some day some gent will win your heart, and the elation will far exceed anything he will experience with the turn of a card or the roll of the dice. He won’t care that you’re ruined or that your father never married your mother.” His knuckles grazed her cheek before he slid his hand around to cup her chin. With the roughened pad of his thumb, he painted sensations over her lower lip.
She realized that he’d neatly avoided answering her question by filling her with hope that she might still possess all for which she yearned. “Will you ever marry?”
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