She Tempts the Duke(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 1)(31) by Lorraine Heath
He’d only caught a glimpse of his brother’s back once—when he’d walked into his room at Rafe’s without knocking. But it had been enough to send guilt and fury spiraling through him. His brother’s back had been torn apart—more than once based upon the thickness of the scars. Tristan had merely shrugged into his shirt and ordered him to never walk in unannounced again.
Tristan tossed aside the missive he’d been reading. “Boring rubbish, this. I don’t know why we’re bothering with it.”
“Because we don’t know what may be of value. And you avoided answering my question.”
Tristan shoved himself to his feet, walked to the window, and gazed out on the magnificent gardens. Sebastian couldn’t fault his uncle for the manner in which he’d taken care of the London residence. Everything was in good repair. An abundance of fine liquor was easily at hand. The horses were of strong stock. The carriages were well-sprung. Nothing was in want of attention. Except the books. They left him feeling as though he were overlooking something vital.
“I wasn’t accustomed to being ordered about,” Tristan finally said quietly. “I enjoyed a good brawl. A lot of anger churned within me, and there are few places to unleash it on a ship.”
“I’m sorry for the hardship.”
Tristan faced him. “Did you find orders easy to take?”
He shook his head. “Saved every ha’penny I earned so I could purchase my way up the ranks to be the one who gave them rather than the one taking them. I never was completely without orders being thrown at me, but in time they became fewer in number and I was issuing most of them.”
“Well, there you are then. We are better suited to being gentlemen of leisure.” He spread his arms wide. “So here we are.”
“Why do I have the impression you are chomping at the bit to be elsewhere?”
“Because there’s no blasted wind here. I enjoy standing on the deck with the wind billowing the sails. Out there is freedom. Here I am left with the constant sense that I’m on the verge of being caught.”
“By Uncle?” Had there been threats? Had he spied someone lurking in the shadows? Sebastian was at a disadvantage because he could only ever clearly see the shadows to his right.
Tristan scoffed. “God, no. I’d welcome him attempting to do me harm. They couldn’t hang me for self-defense.” He shook his head. “I’m not quite sure what it is that bothers me. The thought of domesticity perhaps. Of being reined in.”
“A woman then. Has someone caught your fancy?”
He laughed. “They all catch my fancy.”
Sebastian was well aware that Tristan caught theirs. During his time at Rafe’s, he’d seen the women draped over Tristan as though he stole the bones from their bodies with a mere glance. Even at Lady Ivers’s dinner party, the young ladies were eyeing Tristan as though he were their favorite chocolate. He wasn’t envious, but he did miss the enthusiasm with which women had once come to his bed.
The door opening caught his attention. His butler strode in, carrying a salver. Sebastian came to his feet, wondering who might be calling.
“A missive has arrived, Your Grace.”
Sebastian took the envelope, turned it over. The waxed seal carried no crest, but outlined a single rose. Perfume wafted up to tease his nostrils. Orchids. It had been more than a week since he’d relished Mary’s sweet fragrance, but he would recognize it anywhere.
“You’re done here, Thomas. I’ll ring for you if I need to send a response.”
“Very good, sir.”
He waited until the butler had left before returning to his chair. He’d never had any correspondence while he was away. He’d envied the men who had received missives from home. He slid the tip of the letter opener into place and relished the ripping sound. He removed the folded paper and opened it.
It’s imperative that we meet at Rotten Row at four. I shall be riding a chestnut gelding.
Always your friend,
As though he needed to know the shade of her horse in order to find her. Her hair would give her location away. Even tucked up beneath a hat, it would serve as a divining rod for him.
“I can’t determine if you’re delighted or bothered by what you’re reading,” Tristan murmured.
“It’s from Mary. She wishes to meet me at Hyde Park. She says it’s important.”
“Rather cryptic. Any notion regarding what might be important?”
“No, but I doubt it bodes well.” He trailed his finger over the delicate script. He wondered if this meeting would go any better than the previous ones. He did hope they weren’t forever destined to have abrupt partings.
“Maybe she’s simply inventing some excuse to see you again,” Tristan said. “You two seldom went a day without visiting each other, and here it’s been several.”
“We were children, caught up in play.”
“ ’Tis true she’s no longer a child, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get caught up in play.”
Sebastian scowled at Tristan. “She is a lady for God’s sake. Do not imply otherwise.”
“Have you no interest in her at all?”
“As a friend, of course. As more than that . . . I do not think we’d suit.” He looked away when Tristan arched an eyebrow. “Besides, she’s betrothed.”
“Betrothals can be broken.”
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