She Tempts the Duke(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 1)(78) by Lorraine Heath
“And if your suspicions are correct, your father allowed himself to be whacked on the head. If he’s disappointed in anyone I suspect it’s in himself.”
He barked out a laugh, a raspy sound that seemed as though it had been trapped somewhere rusting away and needed to be polished a bit. “You’ve always had such faith in me.”
“Because I’ve always—” Loved you. But it had been a childish love, given so easily, without condition or expectation. Now she wasn’t quite certain what she felt for him. She knew something in her chest tightened when she gazed on him. She wanted to ease his sorrows. “—known you would do what was right.”
He laughed again, an edge of bitterness ringing out this time. “Not always I fear.” He glanced back at the portrait. “Think I shall have it moved to another room. I don’t want him looking over my shoulder.”
“I’ll find a place for it.”
“Thank you. Let’s see what news Tristan has to impart.”
Sebastian strode over to the desk, picked up the letter, broke the seal on the envelope, and withdrew the parchment. He unfolded the letter and read it. She couldn’t tell if he was pleased or not.
“What does it say?” she asked moving nearer.
He folded the letter and placed it back in the envelope. “He’s purchased for us some horses as a wedding gift.”
“There seemed to be a lot of words there for so little news. What else?”
“Rafe is well. Tristan may return to the sea.”
“There’s something you’re not telling me.”
“I have no secrets.”
“Then let me see what he wrote.”
He studied her for a long moment, then handed her the letter. She scanned it quickly.
I hope this letter finds you well and enjoying marital bliss. I found some excellent horseflesh in Hertfordshire that I purchased for you and your lovely bride as a wedding gift. It should arrive without much delay.
All is well at the estate in Shropshire. Tomorrow I head down to Wiltshire to check on things there. I am having difficulty comprehending why the Crown couldn’t have given our ancestors all of their property in one place. While I’ve enjoyed not being in London, I miss the sea. Don’t take offense if I raise anchor shortly after seeing to the tasks you asked me to.
The man watching and following Uncle reports that he rarely leaves the boarding house except to visit with his wife.
Rafe was well when I left London. He promised to watch over the residence. I’m not sure what to make of him. He seems to lead some sort of secretive life. Can only hope that in time he will trust us with it.
Give my best to Mary. Not a night goes by that I don’t wish you’d have let me marry her.
She turned and stared at him. “Tristan wanted to marry me?” she asked.
“If I wasn’t willing.”
“Why didn’t you let him then?”
“Because I was willing.”
“I thought you married me because you had no alternative.”
“We should probably begin preparing for dinner,” he said, completely avoiding addressing her inquiry.
Wasn’t that interesting? He’d had a choice.
She could not imagine that Tristan had offered to marry her. Would she have been happier with him? Would he have taken her with him when he set sail or left her behind? Did it really matter? It was a bit of a revelation, though, to realize that Sebastian could have pawned her off on his brother. But he hadn’t.
Of course, he hadn’t, silly goose. If he was anything at all, he was a man who took responsibility for his actions. He kissed you in the garden. He felt obligated to marry you.
Only perhaps it was more.
Following dinner, Mary sat curled in a chair in the library with her small rosewood secretary on her lap and jotted notes regarding tasks she needed to see to. The residence had a smaller library with a delicate desk in it that she assumed the former duchess had used, but she wanted to be near Sebastian. He worked at his desk, scouring through ledgers, making notations on a sheaf of paper beside him. So much needed to be done here that it was almost like starting over.
“Hmmm?” He kept his attention on the books.
“I thought I might go to the village tomorrow and see about hiring some temporary help to assist the servants in readying the remainder of the manor. So much requires dusting, polishing, and scrubbing that I thought it would hurry things along.”
“Splendid notion,” he muttered distractedly.
“Then I thought I might go to Willow Hall. I know Father was planning to leave London shortly after we did. I wanted to see about luring away some of his servants.”
“His gardener, for example, has been training his son in the trade. I thought we could offer the young man a position here as our gardener.”
“I think we would need more than one but it would be a start.”
“Then I thought I might very well scamper through the fields without my clothing.”
He paused before giving her a pointed look. She smiled mischievously. “I wasn’t certain you were listening.”
He poured whiskey into a glass, then swirled it, watching her closely over the rim. “Feeling neglected?”
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