She Tempts the Duke(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 1)(70) by Lorraine Heath
Mary sank onto the bed and wondered what the night might bring.
Their dinner was—as every dinner they’d shared since they’d wed—a rather quiet affair. It seemed to Sebastian that he’d never mastered the art of conversation. He was, however, very skilled at ordering servants about. He was pleased that they’d been able to ready the main rooms quickly. More needed to be done: polishing, dusting, scrubbing, but at least they were uncovered and revealed the potential of what they might be.
Following dinner, as he and Mary strolled through them, he wanted her to feel for Pembrook what he did. To appreciate its magnificence, its history, its heritage. Because now it belonged to her as much as it did to him. It would pass down to their firstborn son.
Her laughter had once echoed through these hallways when she came to visit. A good many excellent hiding places had awaited her then. But she had been a child, without appreciation for what she scampered through. With her hand resting on his arm, he escorted her along the hallways and through the rooms. It was not a drafty old castle.
His father had remodeled it. The inside was as grand as the finest manor in England. For two years carpenters had worked to turn great halls into several rooms. Forty bedchambers, four libraries, several galleries, and a good number of sitting rooms. It remained a maze, but hardly cold. They stepped into one of two grand salons.
“I’d forgotten how lovely it all was,” she said.
“I’m surprised you noticed. You were too busy striving to find a place to hide.”
She laughed softly, a musical sound filled with memories. “I was very good at hiding from you. You seldom found me.”
“Do not count on that happening now. You won’t escape me easily.” He’d meant to keep it light, to tease her, but it had come out harsh and stern.
“Would I want to?”
He glanced over at her. A mistake. Strong Mary appeared vulnerable, and he realized that his delaying their joining had given her cause for doubt, might even be responsible for this sudden awkwardness he sensed between them. But he wanted their first time together as true husband and wife to be here. At his estate. He walked these hallways because of her bravery. It was appropriate that they come together here.
“I hope not,” he finally answered.
He’d put it off for as long as he could—the bedding of his wife.
Sebastian tossed back another glass of whiskey. For courage. God, but he wasn’t afraid of her. Rather he feared that she would be repelled if she saw what rose above her, if she opened her eyes—
He would take her in the dark. Complete darkness. With the canopied drapes drawn tightly around the bed. They could both pretend then that he was as devilishly handsome as Tristan.
She’d seen him before, of course, had even looked upon him kindly. But it would be far different when coupling with the beast, knowing it was his hands upon her. He was loath to admit now that all his previous partners had been beauties, that he’d never given the plain girls a glance. He suspected ladies fancied being with handsome gents just as men fantasized about being with beautiful women.
How he would like to see her in the light. Perhaps he would wake early, when dawn filtered into the room. She would be gorgeous. Of that he had no doubt. Yet she was burdened with him as a husband.
He should have made Tristan marry her. What did it matter which brother did? They all owed her. But only marriage to him would make her a duchess. Didn’t she at least deserve the title and all the prestige that came with it?
He glanced over at the bundle resting on the table beside his chair, near the bottle of whiskey. Reaching out, he stroked the silken ribbon, smiling slightly as it wrapped around his finger. For as long as he could remember it had never remained straight. It had curled, just like Mary’s hair. Tonight he might have silk ribbons to untie.
He pushed aside thoughts of the girl who had given him the ribbon. In the bedchamber beside his a woman waited. From the moment he’d first set eyes on her again, he’d tried to think of her as the scrawny, all-limbs girl who had raced over the fields of wildflowers with him. But she was far removed from that. She tempted him as no other woman ever had.
It wasn’t fair to her that scandal had forced them into marriage, but he had promised her she’d not regret taking him as her husband.
It was time he made good on that promise.
Mary sat on the blue velvet chair near the window with her feet perched on the cushion and her toes curled around the edge. Her satin nightgown was drawn down over her legs, creating a tent over her limbs. Pressing her chin to her knees, she decided she was going to remove every damned clock from every damned room. She was already weary of the ticking serving as her only company.
Sebastian hadn’t said good night when he escorted her to the door. He hadn’t said anything at all. He simply opened it, and when she walked through, he drew it closed. But she had sensed the tension radiating through him during dinner and later when he’d walked her through many of the rooms. The residence was so large that she felt swallowed up inside it. It required a bold master, and Sebastian certainly seemed at home here. It also required a strong mistress, but she wasn’t certain if she was up to the task. How could she manage this household if she couldn’t manage her marriage?
Why did he touch her so infrequently? Where was the passion that had seared them in the garden?
She heard the click of a door opening and nearly shot up out of the chair. Instead she took a deep breath to calm her clamoring heart and watched as her husband prowled into the room. He glanced at the bed, seemed surprised by its appearance, and then his gaze found her.
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online