Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(74) by Lorraine Heath
He’d always known, deep in his gut, that they’d had no choice except to leave him behind. But he also knew that if he’d been stronger, sharper, quicker they might have taken him with them. It was what was lacking in him that had forced them to abandon him. He was tired of clutching to the past. Yet it was so damned hard to let go.
The following night, standing in the shadows of the balcony, Rafe decided that he was going to stay at the club until dawn. Simply because he so desperately wanted to be with Eve. This need he had for her—
He shook his head. He didn’t need anyone. Only himself. He wouldn’t need anyone. He’d learned that lesson soon enough when he’d first arrived in London. He was a quick study. When taught a lesson once, he mastered it. He was giving Eve too much power, allowing her to have too much influence over him. Did he really want to go on Tristan’s boat? Or was it that she wanted to go, and he wanted only to please her? When had he ever wanted to please anyone other than himself?
He didn’t like the little game she played with the flip of a coin. He believed in knowing his own mind. If she flipped a coin, she should leave it to fate. She shouldn’t have stayed with him. That had been fate’s answer. Go.
Eventually she would. Everyone did. Everyone left.
Except for Wortham, it seemed. The man was losing at an astonishing rate. “How much is he into?”
“Eight thousand quid,” Mick said from farther back in the shadows.
Rafe scoffed. “What an idiot.”
“He thinks the cards will turn in his favor. They all do. That’s the reason they play.”
And the reason that Rafe didn’t. A man had control over the cards only when he cheated. Rafe had done that on occasion when he wanted something badly. His residence, for one. It assuaged his conscience little that once he’d taken ownership, he’d invited the lord to a private game in which the lord had walked away with the majority of the take. The lord had then retired to his country estate. He’d cancelled his membership at Rafe’s club.
Wortham should do the same.
“Think I shall have a word with his lordship,” Rafe murmured.
“In your office?”
“No, on the gaming floor should work well enough.” He didn’t expect much of a protest from Wortham. The man had no backbone. He needed to leave the table until his debt was again paid in full.
Rafe made his way down the darkened stairs. His club was made up of more shadows than light. That’s where sin was best carried on and sinners were most comfortable. He strolled among the tables. Once this was the only place he wanted to be. It irritated him that he now longed to be elsewhere. It annoyed him further that the one place he wished to be most of all—in Eve’s arms—was the one place he would never be. But sometimes he wondered: could it be different with her?
He came to a stop beside Wortham’s chair, watched as the last hand was played out, and the chips were taken from Wortham. “Now would be the time to leave, m’lord. While you still have a few chips to cash in. Your credit here has reached its limit.”
“You fuck my father’s daughter—”
Fisting his hand around the man’s neckcloth and collar, Rafe yanked him to his feet. “Do not speak of her.”
“Or what? You won’t allow me to breathe any longer? Perhaps it’s you who will cease to breathe.”
As fire burst through his side, Rafe slung Wortham away. A knife clattered to the floor one second before Wortham joined it in a sprawl, his eyes wide, his face ashen. Rafe suspected the man had never poked another.
The dealer straddled Wortham and drew his fist back.
“No,” Rafe barked. “He’s not worth it.” One didn’t go about striking the nobility without suffering dire consequences.
“He knifed you,” Mick said.
“It’s just a nick, but get him out of here. I don’t want to see him in here again.” He tugged on his waistcoat when he dearly wanted to rip it off. “Back to your games, gentlemen. The entertainment is over.”
Leaning down, he picked up the knife, pocketed it, and began striding for the stairs that would take him to his office and a back exit.
Mick caught up to him. “Judging by the blood on that knife—”
“See that things are tidied up and everything returns to normal. I’m going to my residence.”
To Eve, a small voice whispered, to Eve.
He had yet to show. It was unusual for him, even though he always claimed he would not see her before midnight, he had never held to that claim. As Evelyn waited in the sitting area of her bedchamber, she tugged on the sash of her silk wrap. Beneath it, she wore a silk nightdress that shimmered over her skin whenever she moved. She saw no reason to dress formally, when he would have her out of the clothes almost as soon as he walked through the door. She supposed she should be glad that he had such a driving need to possess her, but sometimes she did wish they had time to savor each other a little more. Although she wasn’t going to complain. He had taken her to the ball after all. She thought if she asked that he would take her to the theater. She had seen an advert—
The door burst open. He took two steps in, halted. “Why weren’t you waiting for me downstairs?”
“I was waiting for you here.” She’d never seen him look so disheveled. He was breathing harshly, his neckcloth askew, his waistcoat open, his shirt unbuttoned. She slowly came to her feet. “Dear God, is that blood? Did you kill someone?”
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