She Tempts the Duke(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 1)(23) by Lorraine Heath
“When you discover where he seeks refuge?” Tristan asked.
“Then I shall know where to confront him when I’m ready and better savor his decline.” He would begin by ensuring all funds to him were cut off.
“How long shall we wait before entering the residence here?”
“I wish to relish the moment.”
“He’s not coming.”
Rafe. He kept impossible hours. Working through the night, sleeping through the day. Still, while he’d known that his brother had important matters with which to deal the day before, Sebastian had hoped he would find the time, make the effort, to be with them this morning as they finally realized the fruition of their efforts. “I fear he despises me.”
“He was ten. Too young to truly comprehend what was happening or the danger that dogged our heels. He saw us both riding away, and didn’t understand that we, too, would part company. He thought we were up to our usual tricks—us, the twins, against him.”
“He told you all this?”
“Of course not, but it doesn’t take a genius to deduce it all.”
“You’ve become quite the observer of men.”
Tristan grinned. “And women. Although I must confess that I much prefer observing the fairer sex. Men are far too easy to understand. But women . . . I rather enjoy the challenge they offer.”
Sebastian chuckled. He laughed so seldom these days that the scratchy noise sounded foreign to his ears. “Do you take anything seriously?”
“Contrary to how it may appear, I take everything damned seriously.” He nodded toward the residence. “Have you done enough relishing?”
He glanced around, felt a tightening in his chest at the sight that had been denied him because that portion of the street was not within his limited line of vision. “One moment more,” he said quietly, but unable to withhold the jubilation that soared through him.
Tristan glanced back over his shoulder. “Well, I’ll be damned. Good thing I didn’t make a wager on this outcome.”
For up the street strode Rafe. While he always dressed properly when wandering about his establishment, his clothing this morning was a cut above. Black jacket, pristine white shirt and cravat, gray waistcoat, and fawn trousers. He used a walking stick to pace his steps. His beaver hat sat at a rakish angle. He could have been any lord out for a morning walk. In fact, he was.
“Did I miss Uncle’s parting?” he asked as he came to a halt near them.
“Unfortunately yes,” Sebastian said.
“Not unfortunate. He’s gone. That’s all that matters.”
“It matters that the three of us are here,” Sebastian assured him. “I’m grateful you were able to join us.”
Rafe shrugged, as though it were of no consequence. “I finished with my ledgers earlier than I anticipated and had a bit of extra time. Shall we cross the street so you may take up residence?”
“By all means. Let us reclaim Easton House as ours.”
Their footsteps resounded and the fog swirled as though anxious to get out of their way. Sebastian could only imagine how they must have looked to anyone glancing out a window. Three men—he in the middle, his brothers flanking him and following one step behind—their walking sticks hitting the ground in perfect synchronicity. They passed through the gateway, the wrought iron gate having been left ajar in his uncle’s haste to leave. He wondered what sort of welcome the servants would give him. He’d seen no one he knew the night of the ball. If his uncle had replaced them all, he might very well be doing the same. He wanted no one about whose loyalties could be questioned.
He and his brothers marched up the drive, climbed the steps. They’d just reached the top, when the massive oak door swung open, and the butler stepped out. His was a familiar face. His hair had begun turning white, but he still had a proud, erect carriage. He bowed slightly. “Your Grace.”
A sparkle lit his brown eyes. “You remembered, sir.”
“How could I forget? You slipped me lemon drops when my father wasn’t looking.”
“I thought you did that only for me,” Tristan said.
“For all of you, sirs. Welcome back to Easton House. Anticipating your return, I have taken the liberty of assembling the staff. There are some who will no doubt not meet with your approval, but I believe you will find most are willing and anxious to see to your needs.”
“I appreciate it. Let’s see to business.” As he stepped through the doorway into the marbled foyer, his nostrils twitched as he caught the rancid stench of his uncle. Then he heard a gasp, a breath catch, and a tiny squeak. Three of the maids had lowered their gazes, and he wondered why he could so easily forget that his face was a shock to most who first saw him.
“I am the Duke of Keswick,” he announced. “My brothers, Lord Tristan Easton and Lord Rafe Easton.” Each nodded when introduced. “We are here reclaiming what is ours. If you doubt our claim, I will help you find employment elsewhere for I will tolerate no disloyalty to myself or my brothers. It would behoove you to be honest with us now if you cannot serve us as we require, for you will discover that forgiveness is not our strong suit.”
No one moved. No one spoke.
“Excellent then. I want everything in this residence washed, aired out, and polished until all looks new and I will be unable to find even a hair from the previous resident. Do I make myself clear?”
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