Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(91) by Lorraine Heath
“I’m not quite certain you understand the concept. This isn’t the way to go about it. Oh, my Lord, your hand. It’s so terribly swollen and bruised. We must get you to a doctor.”
“Later. First, you must know that I love you, Evie. I want to marry you. I want to give you children and the family you so yearn for.”
“You’re in pain, Rafe. Your poor hand. You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“I know exactly what I’m saying. I wanted to tell you before. But I couldn’t find you.”
Tears welled in her eyes. Because her answer would be no or yes?
“Sebastian, stop now,” Tristan ordered, and Rafe glanced over to see him trying to move an unconscious Dimmick out of the path of his brother’s flailing fists. “You’re going to kill him.”
“Do you think I bloody care? Did you see what he did to Rafe?”
“He’s alive. That’s all that matters.”
Sebastian slumped down onto the floor. “It’s not all that matters. I’m supposed to watch out for him, for you and Rafe. I didn’t do it fifteen years ago. By God, I should be able to do it now.”
Rafe wanted nothing more than to take Evie into his arms, kiss her soundly, and then lead her someplace where they could be alone. But he’d been doing a lot of thinking the past few days, as he had nothing else to do except think. He stood on unsteady legs and walked over to where his brothers were hunkered near Dimmick.
Sebastian looked up at him. “I’m sorry, Rafe.”
“I don’t need you to watch out for me.”
“Hear me out. I don’t need you to watch out for me because I’m completely capable of watching out for myself. Even if he’d killed me, it would have been on my terms. You had no choice except to leave me all those years ago. I’ve always known that. Didn’t make it more palatable but there it was. Because you weren’t there to coddle me, I made something of myself—something I’m not always proud of—”
“You might want to rethink that,” Tristan said. “The being proud of what you are. How do you think we found you?”
Rafe hadn’t had time to give any thought to how they’d known he’d been taken, by whom, and to where. His brothers didn’t know the dark side of London, not as he did.
Tristan jerked his chin to the area behind Rafe. “You’ve got quite the loyal following.”
Rafe turned then, stunned by the sight that greeted him. His servants, his staff at the Rakehell Club—they were all there, down to every man and woman. And Evie, standing apart from them, and yet part of them. But more, so much more.
She smiled softly. “I knew they would help us to find you.”
He’d never felt so overwhelmed. Never felt as though something inside of him was crumbling. He’d not cried since the night he was left at the workhouse, but something thick and hot was clogging his throat.
Tristan slapped him on the back. “Seems you’re not as alone as you always thought.”
“God, Rafe, your hand,” Sebastian said.
“It’ll heal. You and Tristan have had worse.” And for the first time in his life, he recognized that perhaps they had.
Mick and Laurence wandered over.
“What do we do with the maggot?” Mick asked.
“Haul him down to Scotland Yard, hand him off to an Inspector Swindler. Tell him I’ll be down with some information in a day or so.” Rafe knew James Swindler because he, too, had grown up on the streets. He knew he could trust him with the journal he’d written that described Dimmick’s activities.
“Right. And his lads? Same as always?”
Rafe looked around at Dimmick’s pitiful followers. He knew what it was to fall in with the wrong sort. He nodded. “Give them their choice: service work or the club.”
As Mick and Laurence took over, issuing orders, having Dimmick carted out, Rafe turned his attention to Eve. She was still standing there, studying him.
Sebastian cleared his throat. “Tristan and I will be waiting outside for you.”
Just as he’d once been waiting for them. Two long years of wondering if they were dead. During the ten that had come before, it had never crossed his mind that he wouldn’t see them again. But the last two of waiting for them had been the longest of his life.
Finally, it was only he and Eve. “I meant what I said,” he told her. “I want to marry you.” He took a step toward her. “I know I don’t deserve you, and that I can never be the kind of man who does deserve—”
“I need to hold you,” she cut in.
He felt as though his chest might cave. “Dear God, Evie, I need you to hold me. But more than that, sweetheart, I need to hold you. Desperately.”
In the next breath, her arms were locked tightly around his neck and she was sobbing against his chest. It nearly broke his heart. When had he acquired one?
He folded his arms around her. “Oh, Evie, sweetheart, don’t cry.”
“I was so afraid you might be dead.”
“I’m too much of a bastard to die young, so if you do marry me it’ll be for a good long while.”
She leaned back slightly. “You do know that you’re only giving me the illusion of choice. How can I not marry you when I love you so much?”
He felt as though she’d picked up the hammer and slammed it into his chest. No woman had ever loved him. “Say it again.”
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