Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(70) by Lorraine Heath
Evelyn blinked. “I’m quite sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Rafe’s a loner. Yet here you are. With him.”
“It’s not what you think,” Evelyn assured her. She couldn’t risk thinking that it might be more, because she knew he could very easily break her heart.
“Forgive me then. I’m just a romantic. Oh, and look, Mary’s coming to visit with us. She knows the Pembrook lords better than any of us. She grew up with them.”
“They’re not the boys I knew,” the duchess said as she joined them. “But I’m ever so glad Rafe is here tonight.” She smiled. “I suspect you’re responsible for that.”
“I only wanted to dance.”
“Well, perhaps you’ll get another dance before you leave. Sebastian shouldn’t keep him overly long, but as it’s been a good long while since Rafe has been to the manor when Sebastian was here, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to speak with him.”
“I understand they separated when they were boys.”
“They had no choice.” And Mary began to tell her the tale.
“How long have you lived there?” Sebastian asked.
They were in his well-appointed library. He sat on the edge of his desk, Tristan lounged in a nearby chair, and Rafe leaned against the fireplace. They each held a glass of whiskey.
“Three years longer than you’ve lived here.” Rafe shrugged. “It allowed me to keep a watch over Uncle.”
“Why didn’t you tell us? Everyone is of the belief that Lord Loudon lives there, although he’s not been to town in years from what I understand.”
“I didn’t want Uncle to know I was there, so Loudon and I handled the transaction very quietly. I pay him a yearly sum to maintain that he still owns it. The fact that he doesn’t come to town means that no one calls, so no one learned differently.” Although now he supposed he could dispense with paying the man.
“But you could have told us,” Sebastian insisted.
“As I said, I normally stay at the club. It’s just a bit of property. Besides I don’t really consider my properties to be any of your affair.” And he hadn’t wanted Sebastian popping over or interfering with his life, and he’d feared he do that if he knew that their residences were in such close proximity. Besides he liked that people—even his brothers—knew so little about him.
“How wealthy are you?” Tristan asked.
“Wealthier than you, I’d wager.”
“And this woman you brought here tonight,” Sebastian began.
“She’s your mistress?”
“You say that as though you disapprove. Considering the scandal that resulted in your marriage, I’d rethink my tone if I were you.”
“I’m not finding fault. I’m simply trying to understand—” Dragging his hand through his hair, he sent his eye patch askew, scowled as he straightened it. Rafe had never considered that after all this time, his brother wasn’t completely accustomed to the changes the war had wrought. “Why must you keep your distance, be so secretive? You’re our brother. We might not have been there for you for twelve years, but we can be here for you now.”
“I don’t need you now.”
“One always needs family,” Tristan murmured, staring into his glass.
“Don’t take it personally. I was on my own—”
“We were all on our own.”
“Not like I was. Sebastian had his comrades in arms, you had the crew of your ship.” I had no one. I was completely, absolutely alone. “I’m not discussing this.”
“I want to know what your life was like, what happened while we were away,” Sebastian said.
Rafe shook his head. “No, Sebastian, you don’t.”
Sebastian downed the remnants of his glass. “I’ve been reading troubling accounts in the newspaper about some of the workhouses and the conditions there. Did they beat you?”
“What does it matter?”
“They did then.”
Rafe sighed. “Does it make you feel better knowing that? At least none of the punishments left scars. Tristan can’t claim the same thing.”
“I wouldn’t have left you there if I’d known what truly took place within its walls. I thought it a place that took care of orphans and abandoned children. Not abused them.”
Rafe had never wanted his brothers to know what he’d suffered. It had made him feel weak that he’d not been able to stand up for himself, that even the heritage of which he’d been so damned proud carried no sway within the confines of the workhouse. It had only made things worse because no one believed him. They ridiculed him and made his punishments harsher. Everyone had only served to reinforce his suspicions regarding why his brothers had left him behind: because he was inadequate, unable to be of any value in helping them escape. He was a deterrent, a burden, incapable of carrying his own weight. “I truly see no point in traveling this path. It only serves to bring to the surface what is best left undisturbed.”
Sebastian studied him for a moment, while Tristan contemplated the contents of his glass.
“As you wish,” Sebastian finally said. “We won’t talk of the past then. But we can move forward. I want my son to know you, to know both his uncles, to understand that what he inherits, he does so only because you and Tristan were willing to fight with me for our birthright. He needs to fully comprehend the legacy that is being passed down to him.”
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