She Tempts the Duke(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 1)(52) by Lorraine Heath
He wondered what it would be like to not have such a profound connection with another person. Lonely, he decided. Much more lonely than he was now. And at the same time, it would be a bit of a relief to know that one’s moods and the reasons behind them could not be so easily deciphered.
“I’m simply exhausted.”
“Then we should return to the residence. Calling on Fitzwilliam could be for naught. I don’t recall seeing any blood on him.”
“But you also admitted to being in the shadows and not having a clear view of him.”
“What would be his motive?”
“Perhaps he saw me kiss Mary.”
“Killing a man for kissing your betrothed seems a bit drastic.”
I would, he thought, surprised by the vehemence behind the words. An image of Mary lifting her face for a kiss suddenly loomed in his mind—only it was Fitzwilliam, not Sebastian, lowering his mouth to hers. His stomach knotted so tightly, he feared he might tear loose one of the stitches in his side. What the deuce was wrong with him? It had meant nothing to her. She’d said as much. It had meant even less to him.
A distraction. That was all it had been. A momentary escape from the blight that the night had become. Attending the ball had done little more than reveal the harsh reality of his shortcomings and he’d sought to regain something of what he’d lost. Passion was a powerful distraction.
With Mary it had been incredibly so. He had used her, and for that he should be flogged, but damnation if he didn’t want to use her again. Her lips were as plump as a freshly plucked strawberry. He wanted to settle his in against them and once more become lost in the pleasure of her.
“You’re not going to kill him are you?”
He jerked his attention to Tristan. “What are you on about?”
“You look to be a man on the verge of committing murder.”
“My thoughts turn to dark places. It seems to be the way of it of late. I think it more likely that he will murder me—if he’s heard the gossip regarding Mary and me.”
“If he hasn’t, are you going to tell him?”
He shook his head. “On the off chance that the rumors concerning Mary are not being spread.”
“Oh, I’m sure they’re being spread. Lady Hermione does not seem to be acquainted with the notion of silence. I’ve never known a woman to talk incessantly about absolutely nothing of importance. I almost kissed her on the dance floor in an effort to cease her babbling.”
“If you had, you’d have had her in your life permanently.”
“Precisely why I did not. I would never know a moment’s peace.”
The carriage drew to a stop in front of Fitzwilliam’s modest residence. The footman opened the door and Sebastian stepped out, followed by Tristan.
“So this is where Mary will live when in London,” Tristan said.
Sebastian refrained from commenting that she deserved something grander. Instead he simply charged up the steps and banged the knocker against the door. The butler answered, and to his credit, at the sight of Sebastian he did little more than arch an eyebrow.
“The Duke of Keswick to see Lord Fitzwilliam.”
“His lordship is not in residence.”
“To me or to anyone?”
“He is not in residence, meaning, Your Grace, that he is not here.”
“Do you know where he is?”
“His lordship is not in the habit of informing me of his intentions other than that he is going out.”
Of course he wasn’t. It had been a pointless question.
“When will he be returning?”
“I can’t say.”
“You can’t say or you won’t say?”
“I do not know when he will return.”
Sebastian spun on his heel and began trudging down the steps.
“What are your plans now?” Tristan asked.
“Return to my residence to rest.”
He’d overtaxed himself, dammit. And this had been a futile exercise. He’d just felt a need to take some action. He could only hope that by now Mary’s fragrance had deserted his residence. Otherwise he would have little luck not thinking about her for the remainder of the day.
When Mary first entered her father’s library where she’d been summoned, she was so incredibly grateful that Fitzwilliam sported neither bruise nor cut nor swelling about his face that she nearly rushed forward to embrace him, to hold him tightly. She was even willing to squeal near his ear. She hated to admit that she had not quite believed he hadn’t harmed Sebastian.
It was ludicrous in retrospect now. She knew that. She’d simply forgotten when confronted with the possibility that he could have done harm. He was not a vengeful man. Jealous certainly. He’d confessed that, but every lady desired a man with a bit of green in him. It was a sign of how much she meant to him. That he cared.
Although right now she feared he cared about all the wrong things. He stood solemnly before her, his hands clasped behind his back. Staring up at him, she felt rather like a naughty girl who had been caught with her hand in the biscuit tin.
Looking none too happy, her father sat in a far corner downing whiskey as though he feared the pleasure would soon be denied him.
“Mary,” Fitzwilliam began.
“My lord.” She smiled at him. He tightened his jaw. That didn’t bode well. Only one day had passed since the debacle at the seamstress’s. Surely he’d not yet heard. She’d been in her room penning a letter to him—an explanation. Coward. She should have gone straightway to his residence yesterday to explain it all to his face but a small part of her, a tiny little part of her had hoped that her aunt would indeed awaken twenty years younger this morning, and that Ladies Hermione and Victoria would keep to themselves what she had blurted out.
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