She Tempts the Duke(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 1)(13) by Lorraine Heath
Silence eased in around them as though they each needed to ponder the ramifications of their actions tonight. Sebastian had expected a few of the lords to object quite vocally, but they hadn’t. Too dignified perhaps. Or perhaps they cared for his uncle as little as he did. Or perhaps they were just waiting to see how things sorted themselves out.
“What is your next step?” Tristan finally asked.
“To take up residence at Easton House as soon as the imposer has scurried away. You are both welcome to reside there.”
“I will remain here,” Rafe said without hesitation. “It is where I am most at home.”
“You have comfortable accommodations here,” Sebastian said. “Of that there is no question. But now that you are once again recognized as a lord, you might consider selling this place. Its ownership is hardly befitting a gentleman.”
“I never claimed to be a gentleman.”
“But you are,” Sebastian insisted.
Rafe shot to his feet. “Trust me, brother, I have done things that no gentleman would do. Polite Society would find me . . . not quite so polite. My wealth, my more questionable resources are at your disposal. I have already sent two men to keep watch over Easton House and its current resident. I will do all in my power to ensure you hold your title, but my place is here.”
He made to leave and Sebastian stood. “Rafe.”
His brother stopped but did not turn around.
“I could not take you with me. Not twelve years ago. I can take you with me now.”
“It’s too late.” Rafe’s voice carried no emotion, yet the words slammed into Sebastian with the force of cannon fodder. “Perhaps you can regain what you lost, but I cannot. Nor do I have any desire to. Make yourself at home.”
He strode from the room, never glancing back. Sebastian took a step forward. He would catch up to him; he would make him understand—
“Leave him be,” Tristan ordered.
Sebastian didn’t want the wounds that marred his relationship with Rafe to fester, but he suspected his obstinate brother was in no mood to listen. So instead, he studied his twin, still lounging in the chair. It was difficult to look at him and see what a handsome devil he himself had once been. With great reluctance, he wandered back to the fireplace and pressed his arm against the mantel. “Do you know what happened to him?”
“He talks to me as little as he talks to you.”
“I thought they would keep him clothed, fed, and housed within the workhouse.”
“Whatever he went through it is not your fault. All the fault rests with Uncle. Which is the reason that I do wish you’d bloody well let me kill him.”
“So you could hang?” Mary had issued a similar warning, but somehow accompanied by her sweet voice it had held more power. He wondered if she realized how close he’d been to not releasing his uncle. He wondered if she’d be disappointed to meet the darkness he harbored inside him.
“I have a fast ship. And the sea suits me,” Tristan said.
Sebastian pressed his thumb to his brow, rubbed just above the despicable patch, and stared into the fire. “Will you join me at Easton House?”
“I don’t think so, no. I’ve been on my own far too long. I prefer it, Keswick.”
Sebastian jerked up his head and met his brother’s unflinching gaze. From the moment his uncle’s henchman had escorted him to the tower, he’d not been addressed by his title. He’d whispered it to himself every night before he went to sleep—a quiet reminder, a solemn vow. He did not want to forget who he was, what he was, what was owed him. Everything he’d done from the moment Mary slipped the key into the lock to free him had but one purpose in mind—to see that he regained what belonged to him, and in so doing provide a place for his brothers.
His throat tightened. He’d paid a dear price to once again be duke. But then so had they.
They did not need him now. It left him feeling unworthy, as though he had failed them. Like him, they should have been gentlemen. They should have lived leisurely lives. They should have been like the gents in Rafe’s club who had little more required of them than indulging in their vices. They should not have born scars—both visible and hidden.
He watched as Tristan slowly rose and approached him. “Make no mistake, Brother. The desire to see you standing rightfully in Father’s place burned within me with a vengeance. I would endure it all a thousand times, with no regrets, to ensure that you are once again duke.”
Sebastian released a bitter laugh. “I am humbled, Tristan. By your devotion and Rafe’s. I have been blessed with brothers who would do anything to see me hold my title. Our father was cursed with one who would do all in his power to see that he did not.”
“You still believe he killed him?”
“Without doubt.” He shook his head, regretting the truth that lay before them. “But to prove it will be nigh on impossible. Justice cannot be left to others to consider. I have spent years plotting how best to serve as judge, jury, and executioner. Tonight I feel as though we at least killed his place within Society.”
“We may have achieved that, but there is more we can do. We do not need proof to make his life miserable.”
“That should happen soon enough once he moves out of Easton House. I doubt he has anywhere to light.”
Tristan grinned. He’d always been quick to smile, but this one was more wolf than cub. “Then we should put him out of his misery and kill him straightaway.”
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