Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(54) by Lorraine Heath
Because the cane was always waiting.
Once again, he trailed his fingers over Eve’s delicate script. Only this time he noticed as well the faint crisscross of scars where the most minute strands had bitten into his fingers. It seemed almost an abomination that hands such as his would touch her. Not because of the scars, but because of what they’d eventually become. Weapons used to do another’s bidding.
Rafe stood in his library savoring his Scotch. Upon arriving, he had been informed by Laurence that Miss Chambers had indicated that Rafe was to wait in the library.
He was to wait for her. That was not the way of mistresses. Though he had no one to blame but himself. He’d been remiss in providing her with a complete list of his rules.
The door opened. She glided in and he nearly swallowed his tongue. His fingers tightened around his glass and he suspected if it wasn’t so thick that it would have shattered. Miracle of miracles, the black was gone at last. She wore the purple gown, the one he’d had sewn for her. Her upswept hair caught the light, causing it to flicker over the pale locks, captivating him. The necklace her father had given her sparkled at her throat, tempting him to kiss over it, beneath it, along it until he reached the shell of her ear where he could nibble lingeringly.
She exuded confidence.
Yet as she neared he saw the doubts, the insecurity. He wished he were a man of poetry, but poetic words had been stripped from his soul. Besides, poetry was the domain of lovers, and the one thing he would not do was be dishonest with her. He had no heart with which to gift her, and he didn’t want to give her false hope that he might suddenly obtain one. Although for a fleeting moment, he thought if he could purchase one for her, he would.
Turning toward the table that housed his spirits, he uncorked a bottle of wine and concentrated on pouring it generously into a glass, grateful his hands had steadied so he wasn’t making a mess of things. “Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?”
“A mistress is supposed to make herself presentable, isn’t she?”
He extended the glass toward her, watched in fascination as her fingers curled around the stem. Why were his senses heightened? The anticipation of soon having her, he supposed. “A mistress is not to go to her bro—to Wortham’s—without me.”
She angled her chin. “I took Lila and three strong footmen with me.” She took a sip, touched her tongue to her lips. He wanted that tongue touching his. “The night when everything happened, the butler—Manson—told me he was sorry that he couldn’t let me in, but seeing him today, the way he looked at me as though I should be used as an object upon which to wipe his boots, made me realize that it was only training that had him telling me he was sorry. He wasn’t really. I told my lady’s maid, Hazel, that she was welcome to come with me if she wanted. I rather missed her.”
She sipped again, taking in more. “But she declined my invitation, as though it were beneath her. All my life, I knew what I was, but my father provided a shield for me. I never comprehended the extent of it. With his death, and my visit today, I realize I was not as well liked as I assumed.”
All his life, he’d known what he was as well, but it had not shielded him. At times it had served to make situations worse. “They don’t matter,” he grounded out. “They’re nothing.”
“Is that how you carry on? By pretending no one matters?”
“I don’t pretend, Evie. They don’t matter.” He wouldn’t allow them to matter. “Why did you even bother to go there?”
“There were a few things that I decided I wanted, small things: a pearl comb for my hair, gloves, a brush that had belonged to my mother—he sold everything. Walking into that room, I saw no evidence at all that I’d ever even lived there. He simply wiped me away, as though I’d never been born, which I suppose is what he always wished.”
It angered him beyond measure that she should feel less because of this unplanned visit she’d made today. Wortham was going to pay, and pay dearly—eventually. But for now Rafe needed someplace to vent his fury. “If you want something, then purchase it for God’s sake. Here.” He removed a folded sheaf of paper from beneath the blotter. “Did Laurence not tell you about this? It’s a letter I wrote for you. You take it to any shop in London—in Great Britain for that matter—show it to a shopkeeper, and your purchases will be charged to my accounts.”
Her chin came up with such force that he was surprised he didn’t hear her neck pop. “I’m not going to spend your money.”
Proud stubborn woman. How she infuriated and intrigued him. Seldom did anyone stand up to him, and that this small woman continually did so astounded him. “Have you not eaten since you’ve been here?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Have you not had meals since the night you came here in the rain?”
“You know I have.”
“Do you use the gas lights? Do you leave an oil lamp burning by your bed? Have you taken a warm bath? Have you had a fire going in the fireplace in your bedchamber on a chilly night?”
“You’re already spending my money, Eve. It’s ridiculous to split hairs as to whether you’re walking into a shop and purchasing something that you want or burning oil late into the night because you wish to read. I pay for the gas, the food, the salaries of the servants who see to your every need. If you want a blasted comb for your hair, purchase a comb.”
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