Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(66) by Lorraine Heath
“I hadn’t planned to return until after midnight.”
“Yet, here you are.”
“Here I am.”
“You must think me quite the ninny to be dancing in the garden.”
“I think you’re beautiful dancing in the garden, with just enough moonlight to make you mysterious.” His voice was low, sultry. He smelled of tobacco and whiskey. “You’re wearing the red.”
“I was hoping you wouldn’t notice.”
“You like it.”
“I love it. Blast you. You knew I’d wear it.”
He grinned, his teeth pearly in the moonlight. “I had hoped. It suits you as I thought it would.”
The music stopped, and when the next tune began—a quadrille—they continued to waltz. So like him. Determined not to conform, but to do exactly as he wanted, and he obviously preferred waltzing.
“I’ve never danced with a gentleman before.”
“You’re not dancing with one now.”
Only she was. He saw himself as a rogue, a scoundrel, but threads of goodness were woven through the coarse fabric of his character.
“I’ve never been to a ball,” she told him. “Do they have many next door?”
“This is their first in London.”
“They seem to have drawn quite the crowd.”
“Because they’re a curiosity.”
“Who are they?”
He merely shook his head and studied her intently. “Did you wish to go?”
To the bedchamber. It was where they were inclined to spend all their time now, and while it was lovely when he was with her, sometimes she wanted more. “A few more moments before we go indoors.”
“I was referring to the ball. Would you like to make an appearance?”
A shiver of anticipation raced through her, before it crashed into reality. “What do you plan? Climbing over the wall? You can’t simply arrive. You must be invited.”
“I received an invitation.”
She nearly tripped over her feet. His hold on her tightened as he steadied her. Naturally he’d been invited. He was a lord. An available one at that. The mamas would be all over him, striving to match him up with their respectable daughters. She shifted her attention to the wall, thinking of the glamour that rested beyond. It was a world into which she’d hardly been allowed to peer. Stepping away from him, she walked into the deeper shadows. She had so often dreamed of attending a ball, but the price now . . .
She shook her head. “They’d not welcome me.”
“They would or they’d deal with my wrath.” He glided his finger along the nape of her neck, then across her bared shoulder. “Evie, if you want to go, I’ll take you.”
As she turned around, his finger remained on her skin until it came to rest in the hollow at her throat. “People will know I’m your mistress.”
“When will you learn that they don’t matter? None of them matter. Besides, it’s not as though you’ll be announced as such. You’ll be announced as Miss Evelyn Chambers. That I accompany you might raise a few eyebrows but that will be because of my reputation, not yours. The gents who were at Wortham’s aren’t going to say anything. They’re not likely to admit that they didn’t end up with the prize.”
If she was going to become infamous, make Geoffrey regret his treatment of her, she supposed tonight was as good a night as any to begin. “Yes, all right. Let’s go.”
His finger dipped down to touch the chiffon that began just below the swell of her breast. “The red is for me. I suggest you change into the purple.”
She had planned to do exactly that. The red was gorgeous but incredibly scandalous with its frightfully low neckline. She expected at any moment to pop right out of it. “I shan’t be long.”
“Take all the time you need. I have it on good authority that this particular ball shall go on forever.”
Or at least it would feel as though it was going on forever, Rafe mused while his valet assisted him as much as possible into his formal attire. Rafe buttoned the blue silk brocade waistcoat because the dexterity required was beyond Bateman’s skills. When finished, Rafe slipped his arms into the black swallowtail coat that his man held for him.
“Can’t remember the last time you dressed so formally,” Bateman said, masterfully brushing the lint off the jacket.
He wished he wasn’t wearing it now. He didn’t know what had possessed him to tell Eve he’d take her to the damned ball.
He’d not planned to return to the residence until late, but he’d been at the club no more than an hour before he found himself thinking of her, wondering what she was doing. He’d found her in the garden waltzing. Alone. He didn’t even remember striding across the lawn. He knew only that suddenly she was in his arms and they were moving in rhythm to the music.
Her touch was light, so very light upon his shoulder that he’d barely felt it, and therefore he’d been able to endure it. With little regard to consequences, he’d almost told her to tighten her hold, to close her fingers around him. Would it be different with her? Could it be different with any woman?
He didn’t know. It didn’t matter. He wouldn’t risk it.
Because there was far too much of himself that he couldn’t share with her, he had decided to give her this ball.
Evelyn had often crouched at the top of the stairs and watched as the countess, dressed in her finery, descended to the foyer where the Earl of Wortham waited for her. She’d always thought that her father was the handsomest then, when he was accompanying his countess to a ball or the theater. Rafe quite literally put her father’s handsomeness to shame. When he was dressed in evening clothes, he was devastatingly gorgeous. She suspected the ladies would be clamoring to dance with him. With the thought, a fissure of jealousy went through her. They would be the sort whom he would marry, and when he did, he would no doubt dispense with her. If not, she would leave, in spite of everything her leaving would cause her to give up. She would not share him with another who warmed his bed. She almost told him that she’d changed her mind: she didn’t wish to attend the ball. Almost. But she had wanted to experience one for far too long to give up on the dream now. Besides she might never have another opportunity.
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