She Tempts the Duke(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 1)(59) by Lorraine Heath
His torturous yell brought him from the depths of hell.
Breathing heavily he found himself gazing into familiar green eyes. He wanted to touch the softness of her cheek. Surely it would be cool. Would cool his fever. But when he reached for her, his arms wouldn’t obey the command. He realized he was bound. He tugged. “No!”
“Shh,” she urged again. “Your wound. It needs to be treated. It won’t be pleasant, Sebastian.”
“Release me.” His voice sounded as though it had been scraped raw.
“We can’t have you thrashing about, Brother.”
Tristan. Dammit. He’d expect this of Rafe, but not Tristan. Rafe would no doubt relish the agony his helplessness brought.
“The doctor’s going to give you ether,” Mary said quietly. “You should sleep through the worst of it.”
He rolled his head from side to side. “No, don’t send me back there.” Not to the nightmares, not to the regrets.
“I’ll hold your hand. I won’t let go.”
“No.” Something obstructed his vision of her, clamped down over his face.
“Breathe, Your Grace,” someone ordered. “Breathe deeply.”
He didn’t want to sleep. He hated to sleep. When he slept he dreamed. All his regrets, all the nightmares welled up—
He fought to keep his eye open, to remain with her, to not succumb . . .
Mary feared that the physician had given Sebastian too much ether. After he’d cleaned the wound, removed the putrid flesh—a ghastly endeavor—he’d aroused Sebastian only enough to ensure he was still alive and then plied him with laudanum before leaving.
“Best to let him sleep through the worst of it.”
From time to time he would moan or groan. He often said no. Sometimes he cried out with the word.
“What do you suppose he’s fighting?” she asked, gently patting a cool cloth over his neck and chest.
Tristan leaned back in a chair on the other side of the bed, his stockinged feet crossed on its edge. “What we all fight. Demons.”
She supposed she’d have hers to battle in the days to come. Honor had forced her to write a letter to Fitzwilliam. Preservation had forced her to lie. She’d told him that a migraine had sent her to bed and that she’d be unable to attend the dinner. She doubted that her father would check on her. He would no doubt spend the evening at a gentleman’s club.
If her true whereabouts were discovered she would be in a great deal of trouble. But she couldn’t regret being here. She thought she could confess to Tristan what she’d never be able to tell Sebastian. “I always resented that I was left behind.”
“Rafe resented being left at the workhouse. You two should talk sometime.”
She glanced over at him. “Did you regret boarding a ship?”
“Thought it would be a fun adventure.”
She returned her attention to Sebastian’s chest. It was broad and powerful. She imagined him wielding a fine-edged glistening sword in battle. Or perhaps he’d held a rifle and bayonet.
“Have you heard the rumors that he forced himself on me in the garden?” she asked, feeling the heat warm her face.
“I pay little heed to rumors.”
She offered him a soft smile. “But you did hear them.”
“I wanted Sebastian to know that I was not the source. And neither was Fitzwilliam. I think perhaps it was your uncle, although I’m not certain what he hopes to accomplish.”
“He just wants to make things difficult for us, I suspect. Sebastian cut off all his access to funds and has alerted everyone to whom Uncle owes money that he will only pay off what Uncle owes if he has their word they’ll not extend credit to Lord David any longer. Makes it rather difficult for him to get along with life.”
“Do you think whoever attacked Sebastian will try again?”
“I think Sebastian will be better prepared. He’ll expect it now.”
“It wasn’t Fitzwilliam. I think you thought it was. But I saw no bruising when our paths recently crossed.”
“Then I suppose we’ll never know who it was. If you want that letter you sent him to be more than a delaying tactic for his learning the truth, you should let me take you home now.”
She shook her head. “Not until his fever breaks.” She peered over at Tristan. “But you may go on.”
“And leave you without a chaperone? What sort of cad do you take me for?”
He made her smile when she thought she might never smile again. “He’s hardly in a state to ravish me.”
Tristan grinned, the familiar boyish grin. She was so glad he’d not lost it, wished Sebastian would reclaim his. “What do you know of ravishment, my lady?”
She giggled lightly. “Nary a thing. Only what I have read in novels.”
He dropped his feet to the floor, bent down, and picked up his boots. “I’ll be down the hallway if you need me.” He grew incredibly somber. “I’m glad you’re here, Mary. While my brother will probably not admit it, I suspect he will be as well when he awakens.”
As long as he awakened. “Sleep well.”
“If only I could.”
She heard in his tone what he had not admitted. In sleep, like his brother, he too battled demons.
The room grew incredibly quiet after he left until all she heard was the ticking of the clock and Sebastian’s labored breathing. She doused all the lamps until only the one beside her remained lit. It cast a pale glow over the unscarred portion of Sebastian’s face. She was not repulsed by his scars, but she suspected upon waking that he would be grateful to know that she’d not sat there studying them.
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