She Tempts the Duke(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 1)(28) by Lorraine Heath
“I suppose no harm can come of it,” Tristan said.
“None whatsoever,” she assured him.
Mary suddenly found herself wishing for charades, no matter that she was horrible at it. She’d never quite seen the humor in the game Alicia chose: “Questions.” They all sat in a circle. Sixteen people. She hadn’t meant to place herself between Fitzwilliam and Sebastian. It had simply happened that as they’d taken their chairs so they had ended up in the same area. Each of them held a card with a unique number on it. In the center of the circle was a stack of cards.
The game was simple. Someone posed a question, turned over a card, and the person with the corresponding number had to claim the question.
“I’ll begin,” Alicia said. “Who is the silliest person in the room?” She turned over a card bearing the number three and glanced around. No one responded, and Mary had her first sense that this game was not going to go well at all.
Alicia frowned. “Who has the number three?”
“I do,” Tristan said.
She scoffed. “You’re supposed to put your card down and say, ‘I am the silliest person in the room.’ ”
“But I’m not.”
“Doesn’t matter. You see, that’s what makes it funny. The question doesn’t apply to the person who answers, and therefore, it makes us laugh. Now you ask a question and draw a card.”
“Any question?” he asked with a devilish glint in his eye.
Tristan lowered his gaze into a sultry invitation that Mary could not help but believe had lured many a woman into his bed. “Who does not wear undergarments beneath her skirts?”
One lady gasped, a couple tittered, and Alicia smiled broadly. “That’s the spirit.”
He reached out and turned over a card. Five.
“That would be me,” Fitzwilliam said, clearly irritated as he tossed his card on the table.
Tristan grinned. “I should have known you’d fancy wearing a skirt now and then, Fitzwilliam. Do you don a corset as well?”
“Watch your manners, lad,” Fitzwilliam growled.
Mary placed her hand over his. “It’s all in jest.”
“Of course it is,” Alicia reiterated. “Don’t take offense, Fitzwilliam. It’ll ruin the fun. Now ask your question.”
He took a moment to regain his calm. “Who smells like roses?”
“Boring,” Tristan muttered.
Beside Mary, Fitzwilliam stiffened. Before she could wonder overly long as to why Fitzwilliam had chosen her cousin’s fragrance and not hers of orchids, she quickly reached out and flipped over a card. “Six.”
“I smell like roses,” Lady Kathryn answered. Only she didn’t. She smelled of vanilla. “Who snuck out of the music room earlier for a secret tryst in the garden?”
She turned over a card. “Twelve.”
Alicia laughed and revealed her card. “That was me! Quite the trick, wasn’t it, to do so while I was playing the pianoforte?”
Mary laughed. “Your mother always claimed you were good at handling more than one task at a time.”
Beside her, Fitzwilliam relaxed. “A very useful talent to have indeed.”
“You make me blush, my lord. Now, who is the handsomest devil in London?” Alicia asked and flipped over the number ten.
Sebastian went so still that Mary wasn’t certain he breathed. Dear God, no. She wanted to snatch the number from his clenched fist.
“The hour is late,” he said, bringing himself to his feet. “If you’ll be so good as to excuse me, it’s time I took my leave.”
Alicia appeared stunned. “But we’ve not finished the game.”
How could her cousin not realize who held the number ten? “Alicia—”
“My brother is quite right,” Rafe said. “If you’ll excuse me, I, too, must depart.”
He didn’t wait for a response, but followed his brother out. Not certain what to do, Mary rose. She couldn’t let them leave. Not like this. “Excuse me.”
As she was walking out, she heard Tristan say, “Lady Alicia, perhaps you would be kind enough to oblige me and allow me to teach you a game I learned in the Orient. It involves a blindfold and . . .”
Mary didn’t care what else it involved, although she suspected it would be scandalous. She hurried into the hallway, only to find it empty save for a footman standing at attention. “The Duke of Keswick.”
He stared at her dumbly. She touched the left side of her face. “Scars. Where did he go?”
“Through the front door, m’lady.”
She dashed out, saw him standing in the drive, and raced down the steps. “Sebastian!”
He turned. The gaslights were kind, only revealing his unmarred side. She was struck with the realization that he had been the handsomest man in the parlor. Although he and Tristan were twins, something in Sebastian’s features was nobler. Had always been so, but was more pronounced now.
She brought herself to a staggering halt before she rammed into him. “Don’t leave. Not like this. It’s only a silly game. It doesn’t mean anything.”
“I’m too old for games, Mary.”
“You’re what? All of six and twenty?”
“I have been on the earth for that many years, but within a few days of leaving Pembrook I grew into manhood. Add twelve years to that, and I would say that I’m well into my thirties. I have no time for nor any interest in parlor games.”
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