Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(77) by Lorraine Heath
He had to escape, he had to fight. If only he could breathe. He could regain his strength, he could fight them off. He had to show them he was strong, that they couldn’t beat him. But his lungs were going to explode.
Air. Air. There was none to breathe because all the space was filled with screams.
The screams woke her. She shot out of the chair near the bed, disoriented and groggy. She’d meant to watch over him, not fall asleep. She was horrified to see him thrashing about as though caught in the grip of a horrendous nightmare.
Climbing onto the bed, she fought desperately to grab his wildly flailing arms. “Rafe. Rafe! Wake up! It’s only a dream.”
“Get it off! Get me out of here!”
His wayward fist smashed into her face and sent her reeling backward off the bed, slamming against the floor, jarring her teeth. Pinpricks of light danced in front of her eyes, her head spun. With determination she struggled to her feet.
“Rafe?” Dear Lord, her jaw ached.
He glared at her with an unholy feral gleam in his eyes, like those of a cornered animal she’d once seen at the zoological gardens. He was a man possessed, battling the covers, as though they were the enemy.
“Oh, dear God.” His rule slammed into her with the impact that his fist had only moments earlier. He didn’t like to be held, and she had tucked the covers in snuggly around him. When she was ill, she drew comfort from being nestled beneath a mound of them. But he had to feel as though the widest arms on earth were holding him. Grabbing the covers, she began jerking them free. “Calm down, calm down. I’ll get them off.”
As their hold loosened, so he began to still. When she had dragged the last of the dampened sheets to the floor, he scrambled off the bed. Breathing heavily, he glanced around wildly. She could see blood seeping through the bandages.
“Where are my clothes?” His voice was rough, harsh.
He was still in his trousers. Surely he wasn’t planning to go out. “They were ruined. I had one of the servants take them to a rubbish bin.”
“My key. I have to get—”
“I placed it on the bedside table there. I found it in your waistcoat pocket.”
He spun around, pinned her with an accusatory glare. She knew what he assumed, and she was so grateful that she could speak the truth.
“I didn’t use it. I didn’t go into your room.” She’d not been able to bring herself to open the door. Everyone had secrets. She had decided he was entitled to his. “Please, lie back on the bed so I can tend to your wound.”
Ignoring her, he snatched up his key and staggered to the door. She didn’t know if it was the pain, the final throes of the nightmare, or the lingering effects of the laudanum, but he was having a devil of a time putting the key into the keyhole.
She darted around the bed, hurried to the door. “Allow me.”
“Rafe, I want to help you.”
“Then leave me be.” He finally jammed the key in, turned it. “Go away, go away now.” He opened the door, slid through the narrow opening.
“You need help. You’re bleeding again,” she said, determined to help this obstinate, proud—
She staggered to a stop in muted disbelief.
“Well, now you know the truth of it,” he said, his voice laced with anger, resignation, shame. “You’re the mistress of a madman.”
Evelyn glanced around at the disarray of clothes strewn about, the buttons littering the floor, the mattress stripped bare, the curtainless window, the dust-coated floor.
“Please leave,” he muttered, hunching over slightly, pressing his hand to his side, no doubt suffering excruciating pain from his wound. But she saw more: his humiliation at her discovery of his secret.
The strong man who had protected her, provided her with sanctuary appeared defeated, and it tore into her soul.
“Don’t be ridiculous. Sit in that chair by the fireplace while I get sheets for the bed.”
“I don’t want sheets. I can’t stand them.” Gingerly, he eased himself into the chair. “They make me feel as though I’m smothering.”
And she had tucked them in securely around him. Quietly, she walked over, knelt before him, and lightly placed her hands on his knees. Holding his gaze, she said, “You’re not mad.”
“Look about you. Of course, I am.”
She could argue until she was blue in the face, but he was obviously past the point of listening. “Please, let me tend to your wound.”
“The bandage wrapped so tightly is killing me. I need to get it off. And my trousers. I need you to leave.” She watched his throat muscles work as he swallowed, his gaze on a distant spot on the wall. “Please go, Eve.”
The rough, ragged plea nearly sliced open her heart. Tears stung her eyes. “I can’t. I can’t leave you alone, not like this. I’ll take off the bandage and your trousers. You can lie on my bed. We won’t put the covers back on, but I can stop the bleeding. Then you can rest.”
Reaching up, she tenderly combed back the hair from his brow. He grabbed her hand. She expected him to fling it aside. Instead, he turned his face into her palm, and pressed a kiss to its center. He closed his eyes, and she thought he might be drifting off to sleep, holding her like that.
“I just need a few moments in here,” he whispered.
Bending down, she picked up a shirt. It was ripped, several buttons missing. “I can mend—”
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