She Tempts the Duke(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 1)(60) by Lorraine Heath
She started at his unexpected outburst, fought not to panic at his sudden agitation. Again, he repeated the name of his estate, with a bit more force.
He gasped, opened his eye. “Pembrook.”
Surely he was delirious. “No, you’re in London,” she told him, touching his brow.
He grabbed her wrist, jerked her near. Once the physician was finished with his task, they’d unbound Sebastian. Fire burned in his gaze. “Pembrook. All that matters. Must reclaim it.”
“You have reclaimed it. It’s yours again. No one will take it from you a second time.”
He calmed, but continued to study her. “Mine.”
He drifted back to sleep. Once again, she began to blot the dew from his throat. Until that moment she wasn’t certain that she’d truly understood his obsession with Pembrook. It meant everything. Fevered, near death, he didn’t call out for a woman or his brothers or even her as a friend. He called out for an estate, for land, for an ancient castle that had withstood the test of time.
It couldn’t wrap its arms around him or comfort him or talk quietly with him during a long winter night. Yet it didn’t seem to matter. He loved it. It was everything to him.
What was it about Pembrook that possessed men? To be owner of it, his uncle had done horrible things. To reclaim it, Sebastian had become a man obsessed so that he thought of nothing else. She’d set free a boy only to have him return with a heart that belonged solely to his heritage, to Pembrook.
“Where is she?”
“My lord,” Tristan began, trying to calm the man who had burst into the foyer shortly after the clock chimed midnight. One of Rafe’s men who was on watch outside had halted him until Tristan could be found. Fortunately he’d yet to retire, but instead had been enjoying whiskey in the library.
“Where is she?” Lord Winslow bellowed. “Mary!”
“Easy, my lord.”
Winslow glared at him. “Do you know what you’ve done to her? You and your damned brother? You’ve ruined her.”
“He had nothing to do with it,” a soft voice called down.
Tristan glanced up the stairs to see Mary standing on the landing. When he looked back at Winslow, the man’s face was so ruddy with anger that he feared he might have an apoplexy fit. “It’s not what you think, my lord.”
“She’s dressed like a servant . . . coming from the bedchambers,” he stammered.
She might be dressed like one, but she came down the stairs with such regal bearing that she’d never be confused for one. She’d pulled back her hair into a braid. It was a style familiar to him. She’d worn it often when she came to visit Pembrook but she certainly no longer looked like a child.
“You will come home with me this instant,” her father ground out.
“No. Sebastian is fighting a fever. Until it is gone, I will remain here.”
“You will defy me?”
“I have no choice.”
“They can hire a nursemaid.”
Slowly, regretfully, she shook her head. “No.”
“Fitzwilliam will not tolerate this blemish on your character or this—all night in a bachelor’s residence.”
“How did you know where I was?”
“I was at the club. Fitzwilliam was there. Said he sent regrets to the Morelands. He wasn’t of a mood to attend their affair with you at home nursing a headache. A headache. Of all things. You’ve never suffered so much as a sniffle. When I returned home and discovered you were not about, I confronted the carriage driver. He confessed to bringing you here. What sort of madness is this? Without your reputation, you have nothing.”
She stepped forward and touched his cheek. “I saved Sebastian once before. I can do it again.”
Winslow glared at Tristan. Tristan merely shrugged. “I tried to convince her to leave, my lord. She’s rather set on staying. One of the female servants is with her. I can send them all up if it’ll put your mind at ease. We owe her our lives. We would never take advantage of Mary.”
“It doesn’t matter if you do or not. The gossips will have a field day with this.”
“I’ll explain to Fitzwilliam,” Mary offered. “He’ll understand.”
“Don’t count on it, my girl. And then what? No other man will have you. Men do not fancy spoiled goods.”
“She’s not spoiled,” Tristan ground out.
“In the eyes of Society she will be.”
“Only if you say anything,” Mary said quietly. “If you back my story that I was abed with a migraine, no one need know differently.”
Tristan watched Lord Winslow struggle with his decision. He could only hope he never had any daughters. They appeared to be a great deal of bother.
Finally, Winslow nodded. “The matter of your presence here is to stay between us. I’ll have your word on that, Lord Tristan.”
“You have it.”
“All right then. When you can return home, Mary, you do so by cover of night.”
Instead of answering, she stepped forward, hugged her father, and whispered, “Thank you.”
Then she was scampering back up the stairs to care for her patient.
“She’s a brave girl, Winslow,” Tristan said somberly.
“That will be little consolation, my lord, if word of her presence here does get out.”
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