She Tempts the Duke(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 1)(47) by Lorraine Heath
A bell tinkling above the door caught her attention. Another lady coming in for a fitting no doubt. This seamstress was one of the more sought-after in London.
“There you are!” Lady Hermione announced. “When I saw your carriage in the street, I told Lady Victoria that we must stop and have a look-see for surely you would be here.”
In the mirror’s reflection, she saw Ladies Hermione and Victoria gliding into the room, an excitement in their step as though they both had delicious gossip to share.
“You’re not to spread rumors about the design of Mary’s gown,” Alicia said. “We want it to remain a secret—”
“Oh, dear girl, we couldn’t care less about a gown. We want to know the truth about what really happened in the garden last night with Keswick. So many delicious rumors are running rife through London this morning that it’s difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff. So, Lady Mary, what the deuce happened in the garden?” Her gaze honed in on Mary with such force that had it not been for the danger of pins pricking her, she would have sunk into the nearest chair.
Her knees had grown so weak that it was a wonder she was able to remain standing. Who had seen them in the garden? What precisely had they seen? More importantly—
“Does Fitzwilliam know?” she asked, pushing the words through her knotted throat.
“I should think so. No matter where Lady Victoria and I have gone today, it’s been on the tip of everyone’s tongues. Such delicious gossip. I daresay I’m frightfully surprised to find you here having a fitting done, considering all that transpired in the shadows. Now, come, you must give us specifics for surely—”
“We only kissed,” Mary blurted out, in an effort to stop this madness. “Keswick and I.”
Her aunt gasped and pressed a hand to her chest as though she needed to contain her heart beneath her ribs. The three younger ladies stared at her open-mouthed. Even the seamstress seemed unable to move from the shock of her words.
“He apologized afterward,” she hastened to explain. “It didn’t signify. Was only a moment of insanity.” She was babbling. It was important that she speak with Fitzwilliam, explain everything, but that would indicate that she understood what had happened, when she really didn’t.
“Welllll,” Lady Victoria said, dragging the word out as though she were savoring a delicious bit of chocolate. “That was most unexpected.”
Mary jerked her attention to Lady Hermione. “You said everyone knew, everyone was talking about Keswick and what happened in the garden.”
“Yes, well, apparently a good deal more happened than we were led to believe.”
Mary was torn between begging the ladies not to say anything and holding her head high, never straying from her story that it was all in innocence. But the kiss had rocked her to the core. How could she not blush with even the thought of it?
“So come, Lady Mary, now you must give us the juicy details of what transpired between you and Keswick,” Lady Hermione said.
“You didn’t know about the kiss?”
“No. How did it come about? Details. We must have the details.”
“I don’t understand. If you weren’t aware of the kiss, what did you think happened? What have people been saying about us?” Could it be anything worse than what she’d already confessed?
“Not you. Only Keswick.”
“What is your gossip?”
“Not nearly as interesting as yours, it seems.”
“For God’s sake, girl,” her aunt snapped. “Stop torturing Mary. What the devil did you think happened in the garden?”
“Someone tried to kill Keswick.”
Sebastian had just slid out of bed and was struggling to straighten to his full height, when the door to his bedchamber was flung open and Mary burst through like an avenging angel, her aunt and cousin in her wake.
Thank God he was wearing trousers. Unfortunately he wore no shirt, and he was still hunched over like some creature that should be skittering about Hugo’s Notre Dame. Fighting the pain, he forced himself to stand tall, then realized the folly in that when Lady Ivers gasped and took a step back, while Lady Alicia paled. The sunlight streaming in through the window washed over his scars, all his scars. The damned eyepatch was resting on the table by the bed. He should have been reaching for it instead of striving to stand with some dignity.
“What the devil are you doing here?” he barked, before gritting his teeth and shuffling like an old man to the table to snatch up the patch. It was an awkward thing to strive to put it on when every movement strained his stitches, ignited fire in his side. Where the hell was his valet?
Thomas worked his way between the ladies hovering in the doorway. “Your Grace—”
But then even he came to a stop at the hideous sight before him. Unlike his valet, the butler had never seen the scars that Sebastian’s clothes hid.
“We’d heard you were attacked,” Mary said, before striding across the room with purpose as though shot from a cannon.
Her aunt called after her, but she simply marched on. He was tempted to back away, but forced himself to stand his ground. Something in her determination unsettled him. It was dangerous for her to be here. Dangerous for them both.
She stopped so near, her orchid scent wafted around him. Reaching up, she adjusted the patch before skimming her hand lightly over his cheek, his jaw, his shoulder, bringing it to rest where his heart thudded so hard that it was in danger of cracking a rib.
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