She Tempts the Duke(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 1)(69) by Lorraine Heath
He darted up the stairs. “I gave you the key so you wouldn’t have to stand out here in the chill.”
“I wanted us to go in together—husband and wife.”
He seemed surprised, as though it hadn’t truly dawned on him that they were married. She certainly didn’t feel married. They could be merely friends considering all the passion that had passed between them since they exchanged vows. She wondered if he might at least kiss her before they went inside but he simply took the key from her, unlocked the door, and shoved it open.
He looked at her with impatience. “Go on.”
“I believe a husband is supposed to carry his bride across the threshold.”
“Why? You’re perfectly capable of walking.”
“Tradition. It’s good luck. Oh, never mind. I know it’s sill—”
She released a tiny screech as he swept her into his arms. Water dripped from his hat onto her. She studied the seriousness in his face, and wished she could believe that he’d married her because he wanted to, not because he felt an obligation.
“I suppose we can use all the luck we can get,” he said.
She heard clapping, glanced over her shoulder, and saw the servants standing around giving applause. “I hadn’t considered we had an audience.”
“One that should be working.”
“You’re a romantic.”
He shook his head. “No, but for you, I wish I was.”
Tears burned her eyes, but she pushed them back as he stepped over the threshold. She was hit by the stale muskiness of someplace hardly ever used. Heavy shadows hovered. Sebastian set her feet on the stone floor and she felt colder than she had outside. He moved to a table and lit the candles in a candelabra. He held it aloft and the flickering flames chased back the darkness.
As she followed him into a front parlor, she heard the servants coming inside. Some no doubt would be carting in their trunks while others would see to unpacking them. But their duties did not interest her now. Rather it was her husband who occupied her attention as he strode through the room, dragging away the white cloths that covered the furniture, stirring up clouds of dust.
She sneezed. He glanced back at her. She smiled. “Apologies.”
“No, I am to blame. I should have sent the servants ahead of time to see to matters, but I hadn’t considered I’d arrive with a wife.”
“But this way, it’s rather like exploring, isn’t it? We’ll discover everything together.”
“Such an optimist you are.”
“I find no joy in being a pessimist.” Walking through the room, she began tugging off her gloves. “At least he covered the furniture before he left. There seem to be bare spots on the wall.” Rectangles of wallpaper that had yet to fade where something had protected them from the sun.
“As in London he removed all portraits of my father, myself, and my brothers. Oddly any portraits of my mother alone remained.”
Turning, she studied him as he continued to yank off cloths with one hand, holding the candelabra high, uncovering treasures: sofas, plush chairs, small tables. “Why would he keep those on display but eliminate the others?”
“I don’t know. I’m not sure I’ll ever understand how his mind works. Not certain I want to.”
“It is curious, though,” she mused, glancing around, before sneezing again.
“What?” She spun around. White sheets were still draped over half the furnishings in the room, but he was no longer tending to them. “Did you find something?”
“Yes, I discovered you have an inconsiderate lout for a husband. I was so anxious to reintroduce you to Pembrook that I didn’t consider that you’re no doubt damp and chilled from standing in the rain. Come, I sent the servants around to start fires. Your room should be warm by now. Cook is preparing dinner. It will be light fare, limited to what we brought from London, until she can get to the market.”
He extended his arm, and she crossed over to him. “I’m not really that hungry anyway.”
He led her into the massive foyer where stairs on either side curved around to the landing on the next floor. As they ascended the steps, the light illuminated their path and the many portraits of all the dukes who had come before. But even here, some portraits were obviously missing.
At the top of the stairs, he guided her toward the left, past a closed door—
“My bedchamber,” he said quietly as though she’d asked.
—and to a room beside it. He opened the door and she skirted around him. He must have sent several of the servants here first because nothing remained covered. A pleasant sitting area was arranged in front of the fireplace where a fire burned lazily. Lamps flickered on two tables. The drawn-back draperies revealed that night had fallen. The windows were ajar only enough to allow in the rain-scented air.
“Would you like a bath before dinner?” he asked.
“That would be lovely, yes.”
“I’ll have the servants see to it.”
“Do the bellpulls work?”
“I don’t know.”
She crossed over to the bed and gave hers a yank. “I suppose we’ll find out if Colleen comes up.”
“Do you remember where the dining hall is to be found?”
“I believe so, yes.”
“I’ll meet you there in an hour.” He left the room, closing the door behind him.
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