She Tempts the Duke(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 1)(44) by Lorraine Heath
He walked past without waiting for an answer. Tristan patted himself on the back for not tripping him. Arrogant cad.
Tristan strode into the darker confines of the garden. He despised the notion that other lords were not giving Sebastian the respect with which he was due. He fought in a bloody war, for God’s sake. Was still fighting to reclaim his birthright. As far as Tristan was concerned it wasn’t enough to cut off their uncle’s financial resources. They needed proof of his intended actions where they were concerned. Even Mary’s words wouldn’t be strong enough to dispel his claims that they’d merely run away, as young lads were wont to do. And if he had killed their father as they suspected—
Someone rammed into him, causing him to stagger back. Tristan had his own knife in hand before he fell beneath the weight.
“Tristan?” his brother croaked.
Tristan was too familiar with the warm stickiness soaking his clothes not to know what it was. “What the devil, Sebastian?”
“Mary. Have to make sure she’s all right.”
Sebastian was clutching at Tristan’s arm, striving to right himself.
“She’s unharmed. I just saw her on the terrace only a few moments ago,” he reassured his brother.
Sebastian sank back down. “Then just get me the hell out of here.”
“You were most fortunate, Your Grace,” the physician said, as he finished wrapping a bandage around Sebastian’s midsection. “The knife didn’t slice into any organs.”
If the pain in his side was that of a fortunate man, then Sebastian would hate to experience the pain of an unfortunate one.
“Not a professional assassin then,” Rafe said. He was leaning against one of the posters at the foot of the bed, his arms crossed over his chest. Once Tristan had gotten Sebastian home, he’d sent word to Rafe who had come posthaste, physician in tow. William Graves seemed not much older than them, but he knew well the business of healing.
“Or a soldier,” Tristan said, holding the drapery slightly aside and peering into the night. “Otherwise he’d have known where to strike.”
“I turned. I could have thrown him off.”
“Either would have stayed to finish the job,” Tristan said. “You said he ran off.”
“Maybe he heard someone else coming.”
“Wouldn’t have mattered if he were an assassin,” Rafe insisted. “He’d have done what he was paid to do.”
“Know a lot about assassins do you?” Sebastian asked.
To Sebastian’s consternation, Rafe held his gaze somewhat defiantly, then shifted his attention over to Tristan. “You don’t have to keep watch. I have a couple of my men patrolling.”
Tristan released his hold on the draperies. “So he’ll live?”
Graves completed his task and stepped away. “Most certainly.”
“Pity. I rather fancied the notion of becoming duke.”
The physician halted in the closing of his bag to stare at Tristan. Sebastian settled back against the pillows. “My brother has a strange sense of humor.”
Graves gave a brisk nod. “I shall return on the morrow to change your bandages and assess the healing.”
“I’ll escort you out,” Rafe said and proceeded to lead the doctor from Sebastian’s bedchamber.
Tristan ambled over and dropped into a burgundy velvet chair near the bed. “Our little brother seems to have quite the knowledge regarding unsavory matters.”
Sebastian didn’t want to ponder how he had come to have that knowledge. Rafe returned and took up his position at the foot of the bed, leaning against the post, arms once again crossed—as though he had no desire to make himself comfortable here. Or perhaps he simply didn’t feel comfortable here.
His reappearance, however, seemed to be a signal to Tristan to continue striving to uncover the events of the night. “So you didn’t see the fellow who attacked you?”
Sebastian shook his head. “He came from my left side.”
“I crossed paths with Fitzwilliam as I was looking for you. Perhaps he scared him off.”
“Fitzwilliam couldn’t scare off a rabbit.”
A corner of Tristan’s mouth hitched up. “You don’t like him. Why is that?”
Shrugging, Sebastian regretted the movement as soon as he did it. His side burned as though someone had built a fire beneath the skin, but he’d endured much worse. The physician had given him laudanum before beginning his work. It left him feeling as though he traveled through a fog, striving to snatch hold of his thoughts, only to find them disappearing on gossamer wisps.
“Does it have anything to do with Mary?” Tristan asked.
Mary. She was with him. She left. His heart picked up tempo. Then he remembered that Tristan had seen her, that she was all right. But his heart refused to slow. If anything had happened to her—
“I know you kissed her,” Tristan said.
His arms falling to his side, Rafe straightened as though the news had come as a blow to his midsection. “Why the devil would you do that?”
“Why does any man kiss a woman, Brother?” Tristan asked, his voice laced with humor.
“But Mary. For God’s sake, we don’t want to ruin her, not after what she did for us.”
“I have no plans to ruin her,” Sebastian ground out. “It was simply a . . . a distraction.”
“Distract yourself with one of my doxies. Not with Mary.”
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