She Tempts the Duke(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 1)(77) by Lorraine Heath
“Where did you leave him?”
He crushed his hat, straightened it. “At a workhouse. I knew Uncle wouldn’t look for him there.”
“From a workhouse to a den of vice? Rather odd going. How did that come about?”
“I don’t know. Somehow he ended up on the London streets. Maybe he ran away. He survived. I don’t know the particulars. He won’t talk to me about it.”
He released a brittle laugh. “It’s not your fault. If not for you, we’d all be dead.”
She crossed over to him, studied the strong lines of his face. She realized it was far more than the scars that had changed his features. It was remorse, regrets, burdens. She touched his jaw. “You did what you had to do. And what courage it took.”
“There was nothing brave about it. I was terrified.”
“Isn’t that what courage is? Doing something even when you’re frightened?”
He studied her for a moment. “I was frightened the day you kissed me here. Do you remember it?”
She welcomed the change of subject. She had hoped that coming here would remind him of better times. “My first kiss. I’m not likely to forget.”
“Why did you do it?”
“Because I saw you kissing the silly milkmaid.”
His eye widened and he laughed. It wasn’t a large laugh, but neither was it bitter or harsh. It filled her with hope that more laughter awaited them. He shook his head. “I never kissed a milkmaid.”
“Yes, you did. I saw you.”
“No, she was the egg girl.”
She slapped his arm. He grabbed her wrist and yanked her close until she had to bend her head back to look up at him.
“Were you jealous?” he asked.
“No. I was angry. I was afraid you’d start playing with her. But then after we kissed, I thought, ‘Well, that wasn’t anything.’ I stopped worrying about it.”
He cradled her cheek. “It wasn’t anything? I think it was the first time that I ever thought of you as a girl. Until then, you were just Mary, my friend. I was afraid my father would find out and I would have to marry you.”
She laughed. “Oh, I was afraid of that, too. But I was afraid it would be my father who discovered what I’d done. And he would send me away. Only it wasn’t very much of a kiss, not really.”
He grew serious. “No, it wasn’t very much of a kiss.”
He lowered his mouth to hers, and this time the kiss they shared in the abbey was incredible, filled with warmth and passion.
As they entered the great manor, all the warmth from outside failed to come in with them. Mary shivered. She would love this place because he loved it, but she couldn’t help but fear that they would never be truly happy here.
The butler, Thomas, approached. He’d come with them from London. She suspected he had no preference for where he worked as long as he was serving the young duke.
“Your Grace, one of the servants found a portrait of your father in the attic. I had it hung in the library.”
“Excellent.” But something in Sebastian’s voice made Mary wonder if he rather wished they’d not had such luck.
“Also, a missive arrived from Lord Tristan. I placed it on the desk.”
“Very good. We should like an early dinner.”
“I shall see to it.”
The butler retreated, and she couldn’t help but feel that Sebastian was suddenly not nearly as relaxed as he’d been when they were out riding about. “I suppose I should prepare for dinner,” she said.
“Perhaps you would take a moment to see if the portrait is to your liking.”
“I would be delighted, but my father always told me that the library was the lord of the manor’s domain, so what matters is if it is to your liking.”
“I value your opinion on the matter.”
“As you well know, I’m not one for mincing words.”
“No, you’re not.” His smile was small, but at least it was there, and she saw affection in his gaze. He held out his arm and she placed her hand on it.
“You let me win today,” she said, and felt his arm tighten beneath her fingers. “Did you always?”
“Not always. It’s easier to win when one isn’t riding sidesaddle.”
“Ridden sidesaddle a lot have you?”
He chuckled. “No. Never. But I can’t imagine it’s very comfortable.”
As they reached the library, the footman opened the door and they strolled in. She loved the masculinity of this room: the dark walls, the sturdy wood and leather furniture. The books. So many books. She adored reading. It introduced her to characters, took her to places where she was never lonely.
The portrait over the mantel was life-size and Sebastian’s father had been a large man, rather like him. Perhaps not quite as broad, but then he’d had a slightly easier life.
“I’d forgotten how large he was,” she said.
“I’m not certain I like it.” Moving away from her, he went to the table in the corner. “Brandy?”
“No thank you. What is it about the portrait that you object to? It’s an amazing likeness.”
Sebastian took a long swallow of brandy, before refilling his glass. “It serves to remind me that I am a disappointment to him.”
“However did you draw that ludicrous conclusion?”
He took another sip of brandy and leaned back against the bookcase, his gaze transfixed on the portrait. “I allowed us to be walked to the tower without a fight.”
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online