Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(84) by Lorraine Heath
“It’s lovely out here, isn’t it?” Lady Anne asked.
Evelyn turned and smiled at her. “It’s peaceful.”
“The breeze sounds different here; the water has its own song. Tristan and I often picnic on various islands. He needs the sea.”
“But he gave it up for you.”
Lady Anne laughed lightly. “I was going to give up the land for him. In the end, I think we compromised. Neither of us feels as though we gave up anything at all.”
“You’ve been very kind to me.”
“It’s not easy to love any of these Pembrook lords. They’ve all led harsh lives. They all became misguided as to what should be held dear. Keswick, as I understand it, thought that only Pembrook was significant. For Tristan, the sea was his mistress and she was the only thing of importance. I don’t know Rafe well enough to know what he believes matters.”
He believed that nothing mattered. Or at least it was important to him that nothing—no one—mattered.
It was nightfall by the time they returned to their residence.
Evelyn wasn’t surprised that they immediately retired to her room, and that Rafe had discarded his jacket, waistcoat, and shirt within minutes. It had been a week since she’d discovered his aversion to clothing, a week during which time his side had begun to heal nicely.
She was a bit slower at loosening her buttons. She was more interested in studying the man she thought she was coming to know. She’d thought he was well past the age of thirty. Instead he was merely three years older than she.
She’d known he’d had a difficult life, but it had never occurred to her how hard he would have had to have worked to acquire everything he now possessed in such a short span of time.
“Would you rather be with him?” Rafe asked gruffly.
She was taken aback by the question. “With whom?”
“The lad. Martin. Mouse. Whatever the deuce his name is. Were you thinking of him when you went to the water’s edge?”
“I was thinking of you,” she admitted.
That brought him up short.
“I was thinking of us. We’re very different from the other couples.”
Leaning forward, he planted his elbows on his thighs, narrowed his eyes on some point on the far wall, the window maybe. “I never lied to you. I was always honest about what would exist between us.”
“But we’ve shared so much, I began to convince myself that things might change. I saw potential for what might be. I dared to want what I never thought to hold.”
He shifted his gaze over to her.
“I still dream of being a wife.” Of being your wife. She wasn’t certain when she’d begun to entertain that thought. She held his gaze for a moment, trying to read something there, to see if he was appalled by the notion or perhaps receptive to it, but his emotions were shuttered. The night he’d been wounded he’d lowered the wall, but during the nights that followed he’d put it carefully back into place. Although he continued to allow her to touch him, and he held her while she slept, still something was missing, the loneliness hadn’t dissipated completely. He never told her that he loved her—or that he even liked her for that matter. She didn’t know quite how to broach the subject. “Your brothers and their wives have been very kind to me, but it’s only because they don’t wish to create more distance between you. I’m still a scandalous woman. I doubt they’d welcome me into their home if you weren’t about.”
“They know a bit about scandal. They had their own.”
“But it’s forgiven when love is involved. Then it becomes romantic, the stuff of books, something to be sighed over by young girls who don’t yet realize that not all scandal ends well.”
“Yours will end well. You’ll become a woman of independent means.”
Eve stared at this man tugging off his boots. Her stomach tightened, she felt a small tremor cascade through her. “Do you care for me?”
He slowly set aside his second boot. “I give you jewelry, do I not? I took you on the blasted boat, didn’t I?”
“But you didn’t hold me.” She slapped her hand over her mouth, fighting away the tears that stung the back of her eyes. “The entire day, distance existed between us. We might as well have been strangers. Martin paid me more attention than you did.”
“Perhaps you think you’d be happier with him.”
“Of course not. I know only that I’m not completely happy with you.”
He shot to his feet. “What do you want of me, Eve? I’ve given you everything.”
Her heart sank to the bottom of her soles. Slowly, she shook her head. “No, you’ve only given me what can be purchased.”
Wearing naught but his trousers, he strode over to her. “Surely you didn’t think there would be more between us. I explained that the first night. It is better without sentiment.”
“Is it? Truly. You said it wasn’t so lonely when I touched your skin. Do you not think it would be remarkable to have your heart touched?”
He began the task of undoing her buttons. “I have no heart to touch. I haven’t for a good long while. And I’ll not feel guilty about it.”
He removed her dress and petticoats, discarding them on the floor. Her shoes, her stockings. Her limbs seemed to be moving of their own accord; she had no control over them. “So this is all that will ever be between us?”
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