Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(83) by Lorraine Heath
She shifted her gaze over to Rafe. “You told me you were ten.”
He shrugged. “I was.”
“You’re only twenty-five?”
“How old did you think I was?”
“A good deal older than that.”
He felt older than that. Sometimes he felt as though he were a thousand, weighted down with years.
“It is difficult to believe how truly young we all are,” Sebastian said.
“Age is measured by how the years are lived, not by the time in which they pass,” Tristan mused.
“Ah, is my husband spouting philosophy again?” Lady Anne asked as she sat down beside him. His arm immediately went around her shoulder, bringing her in close.
“You like my philosophies.”
She smiled softly. “Indeed I do. They are part of the reason that I love you.”
Rafe felt as though his clothes were beginning to restrict his breathing, even though all he wore was a shirt and britches. Tristan had insisted they dispense with proper attire when on board. Maybe it was that the bench had suddenly become so crowded. Rafe shot off it, nearly lost his balance, regained it, and covered the short distance to stand by Eve.
Mary joined Sebastian, and he held her near.
Rafe suddenly felt self-conscious not placing his arm around Eve, but she wasn’t his wife or the love of his life. He didn’t want her to misinterpret her place. “You seemed to like steering the ship.”
“Martin did most of the steering,” she said, and he heard no laughter brimming in her voice, when only moments before she’d been overflowing with the joyous sound.
How could that scrap of lad bring her such joy with so little effort?
“Land-ho!” the boy yelled.
“Thought we’d picnic on an island,” Tristan said, getting to his feet.
“Which island?” Eve asked. “I see several.”
“As you’re our guest, you get to pick.”
Eve was smiling so brightly that Rafe wished the gift of the choice had come from him.
The blankets were spread out with each couple having their own upon which to sit, and wicker baskets filled to the brim with food and bottles of wine. The couples were all near enough to each other that they could carry on a conversation if they wanted, but it seemed most were wont to murmur among themselves.
At least the other two couples were murmuring. Evelyn and Rafe seemed to have fallen into an awkward silence. She enjoyed the company of the others, but being in their presence reminded her of what she wasn’t: loved.
With the prospect of children.
She was grateful that they didn’t shun her, make her feel less, but a small part of her wished she’d stayed on the yacht with Martin.
“You’re quiet,” Rafe said, his voice low, as though he had no more desire to disturb the other couples than she. He was stretched out on his side, wineglass in hand. “You were laughing earlier with that Martin fellow.”
She smiled in remembrance. “He was sharing some of his adventures with me.” Stammering while he did it until he came to realize how much she was enjoying the tales. Then he had begun to relax. A shy lad, but she suspected he’d win over many a heart. “I can’t imagine seeing as much of the world as he’s seen.”
“Yet you’re sad now. Is it because you must stay in London?”
It was because she was a mistress and not a wife, but now wasn’t the time to get into a discussion on that matter. “I was surprised you’re so young.”
“That’s the reason behind your melancholy?”
She wanted to reach out and press flat the furrows between his brows, but they’d not touched since they boarded the Princess. The lack of bonding signified a difference between the couples, and as much as she wished it didn’t, it caused an ache in her chest.
Perhaps if she’d known what Geoffrey had planned for her, if she’d had some forewarning, she might have found another way. In the past few weeks she’d lost all her innocence, felt as though she’d aged beyond her years. At the time her decision had seemed the only way to go. She’d been frightened, disoriented, taken unawares by the path that Geoffrey had flung her on. Her father had done her no great service with his shielding of her. With Rafe, she’d become stronger, more confident.
Now, she knew not only what she wanted, but what she deserved.
“Life forced you to grow up very quickly. Early on, you learned what you wanted and what you didn’t. You didn’t let people take advantage of you. I can’t say I’ve done the same.”
For a moment there she thought he might have ceased to breathe. “You think I took advantage?”
Dear God help her, but she believed he had, that he was the sort of man who would. Was he really the sort of man worthy of her love? “I believe I’m going to take a walk.”
“I don’t wish to walk.”
“That works out perfectly then, as I prefer to go alone.” He didn’t try to stop her, for which she was immensely grateful, as she pushed herself to her feet and walked to the edge of the beach where the water lapped at the shore. She had removed her shoes earlier so they wouldn’t become filled with sand, and now she waded out until the water swirled about her ankles. She didn’t care if her hem got wet. It would dry.
She understood Rafe, knew much of what had shaped him, what had caused him to build a wall around his heart. She was slowly chipping away at it, but even if she did find it, he was a lord and she was the illegitimate daughter of an earl. She was a fallen woman, a mistress.
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