Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(76) by Lorraine Heath
Evelyn put her faith in Dr. William Graves because he had the countenance of an angel. Rafe seemed to have an inordinate amount of confidence in the man’s abilities as he cleaned out the wound—which was far deeper and ghastlier than Evelyn had originally thought—and sewed it up.
After Graves left, tiny tremors were still coursing through her. She was half tempted to take a dose of the laudanum that the doctor had left behind. It had certainly worked to put Rafe asleep. As he didn’t stay with her after they—she didn’t know how to think of it. They weren’t making love, yet it seemed to be more than just bedding, at least to her; she doubted it was to him. But because he didn’t remain, she’d never had the opportunity to watch him sleep. With the medication carrying away his worries and burdens, he appeared vulnerable, young.
And so damned proud. Not allowing the servants in to see to his needs. What if he’d not had her? Would he have suffered through all this alone, with no one to watch over him? She knew the answer before she’d completely asked herself the question. He would have. He kept himself isolated from others. He fought not to need anyone. Not even her.
She provided surcease for his physical needs, but his heart, his soul remained distant, untouchable. He did things for her because they were expected of him—a man bought jewelry for his mistress and so he bought it for her. Because she was his mistress, not because he held any tender regard for her.
She was a fool for wanting to mean something to him. But then, unlike him, she seemed to have little control over her heart. Perhaps she was more like her mother than she realized. Surely if she’d had a choice, her mother would have fallen in love with a man who could marry her, instead of one forced to steal moments with her. Evelyn would be mistress to but one man. When he was done with her, she would find a way to make herself presentable. She would leave the aristocracy behind, London as well. She would go someplace where she wasn’t known and she would find love. Or at the very least a man who placed her happiness above his own. He would intertwine his fingers with hers when they strolled along. He would wrap his arms around her when they watched the sunset. He would carry her into the house because his strides were longer than hers and he was impatient to be with her.
With a sigh, she brought the covers up higher over Rafe’s still form and tucked him in. A chill haunted the air tonight, and she didn’t want him falling ill. Dealing with his wound would be troublesome enough. Dr. Graves had told her to expect a fever and explained how she would know if the stitched-up gash became infected. He gave her instructions to send for him if he was needed. Lowering her head, she pressed a light kiss to Rafe’s forehead, aware that it was clammy. She hated seeing him in agony. She would get a damp cloth and gently pat his face.
Turning away from the bed, she spotted his clothing strewn over the floor. As she gathered it up, her gut clenched at the sight of his blood staining the white, and marring the beautiful brocade. The material was ripped beyond repair not only from the knife—she shuddered with the image—but from Rafe’s haste to rid himself of his clothing.
Starting to bundle it up, she realized that something was in the pocket of the waistcoat. Gingerly, she dug her fingers into it and retrieved a key. It very much resembled the one in her door, one she never turned because a mistress shouldn’t lock out her lover. And then she knew. This brass object provided entry into his room. Clutching it to her breast, dropping the clothes, she snapped her head around to stare at the bed.
He was still there, had not moved a single muscle. Sleeping soundly.
She turned her attention to the door separating their rooms. What was behind it that he protected so fiercely?
As quietly as possible she crept toward it, her heart hammering, her breathing unsteady. Reaching the door, she unfurled her fingers and stared at the blood smeared over the brass. His blood.
She would not feel guilty for wanting to know everything possible about him. It was unconscionable that they were intimate physically and yet he held secrets. What might be behind that door had been taunting her. Now she would know. It wasn’t as though she was really doing anything awful. She would see the room when the house became hers exclusively. So where was the harm in seeing it now?
She peered over at him to make certain he was still asleep. Deeply based upon the snores he was beginning to emit. She didn’t know he snored. She didn’t know so many things about him. It was the reason that she wanted to take a peek into his room. Just a peek. Was the bedding dark? Was the bedchamber filled with globes?
Once she opened the door, she couldn’t unopen it. She looked at him again. If he trusted her, if he cared for her, he wouldn’t remain so mysterious. He would bare all. By opening the door, wasn’t she indicating that he couldn’t trust her? Even if he never found out, she would know.
Placing her hand on the knob, she moved the key nearer to the keyhole—
They were holding him down, beating him, monsters with hideous smiles and cackling laughter. He wanted to kick at them, strike out with flailing fists, but he had no arms, he had no legs. Nothing. He could do nothing, not even roll. Everything was pressing in. His chest was going to cave in. He couldn’t breathe.
He heard the whimpering, the fading cries for help. They were coming from him. They weren’t coming from him. They stopped, and that terrified him even more.
“I’m a lord! You can’t treat me like this! I’m a lord! My father was a duke! My brother’s a duke!”
But they only laughed louder, pushed harder, wrapped more tightly. They were putting him in a cocoon, like the one he’d once seen a caterpillar create. Being inside it had changed the insect into something else, something beautiful. He’d seen it emerge. But he knew he wouldn’t emerge from this. He was going to suffocate, die. He could feel less and less of himself. He was disappearing while the monsters loomed larger. When he no longer existed, he wouldn’t be free of them. They would follow him into hell.
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