She Tempts the Duke(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 1)(83) by Lorraine Heath
“Sneaking or kissing?”
She laughed. He so loved her laughter and he’d heard so little of it since his return.
“I’m not sure. The kissing I suppose. I don’t really know, because he never kissed me.”
“Never?” What sort of jackanapes was he?
“No. Even when he had the opportunity, when we were alone—”
“When were you alone?” Dear God, was that jealousy he was experiencing? No, of course not. She was with Fitzwilliam. Now she was with him. He had no cause for jealousy.
“I went to see him, to question him about the awful rumors. Come to think of it, he was in his library and he appeared rather pensive. I wonder if he was beginning to have doubts about our marriage then.” Her eyes widened. “Her dowry is not as large as mine and he told Father he wanted a large dowry. Do you suppose he welcomed the excuse to break it off? The cad!”
He heard a strange sound echoing around him, and realized it was him, laughing. With a smile as bright as the sun, she pressed her hand to his throat.
“I feared I’d never hear that sound again.” Tears welled in her eyes.
“Don’t you dare weep.”
She swiped at them. “I just . . . I’ve missed it so much. What did I say to make you laugh? I’ll say it again.”
“You want your cousin to mean something to him and when you think perhaps she does, you consider him a scapegrace.”
“I can’t have it both ways, can I?”
“I wouldn’t think so.”
“I want her to be happy.”
He cradled her face. “Are you, Mary?”
Instead of answering, she rose up on her toes and kissed him. He snaked an arm around her and drew her closer.
He remembered Rafe’s question: would he cheat to lose or cheat to win?
Did she kiss him because she was happy or to distract him from the answer that she wasn’t?
When she drew back she gave him a soft smile, then her eyes widened. “I forgot. You received a letter as well.”
She handed it over to him. He removed the paper from the envelope and read it.
Bad news I’m afraid. Upon my return to London, I discovered Rafe had been attacked by three ruffians near your residence. He is recovering nicely from a bullet he took to the leg. I discovered that our brother is a nasty bit of work. He apparently dispensed with two of the fellows rather quickly and coerced the other into describing the man who had hired them before sending that fellow to hell as well. If he isn’t Uncle, he’s his twin.
Due to his injuries, Rafe was unable to confront Uncle straightaway. I immediately saw to the task. Unfortunately Uncle has secreted away from the boarding house. Rafe’s man who was keeping watch did not see him leave after Uncle returned from a pub one night deep into his cups. Or so the watchman thought. He did see an old woman depart with a satchel later that night. But when I questioned the young woman who runs the house, she informed me that no elderly people—save Uncle—resided there.
I know your first inclination will be to come to London straightaway, but rest assured Rafe is well on his way to recovery. You can accomplish nothing here. See to your duties at Pembrook. I will continue to search for Uncle until I can find his trail.
Watch your back, Brother.
Sebastian crumpled the letter. “Damnation!”
“What is it?” she asked, clutching his arm, worry marring her features.
“Uncle tried to have Rafe killed. I’ve been wasting the day away admiring horseflesh when I should be searching for some evidence of what Uncle put into play all those years ago. I must redouble my efforts. Focus on proving him guilty of killing Father, of intending to kill us.”
Damn it! He had failed to protect Rafe once more. He was almost to the house when he realized that Mary hadn’t followed him. “Saunders!”
The man looked down at him from a parapet. “Yes, Your Grace?”
“My wife is not to be left alone on these grounds. Find her. Escort her to the residence.”
He pushed through the door and headed to his study. Nothing was more important now than destroying his uncle. The man was determined not to give up. He was about to discover that his nephew could be equally determined.
That night, after Sebastian made love to Mary, he was restless, tossing and turning, and with a kiss on her brow he told her he would sleep in his room so as not to disturb her. She didn’t like seeing him leave. He’d been unusually quiet during dinner, and she suspected it had something to do with his worry over Rafe. While he hadn’t said anything, she knew he felt guilty about his brother getting hurt.
There had been an almost desperation to their lovemaking as though he were striving to escape something, just like that night in the garden when he had told her that he wanted to forget—and then delivered a blistering kiss that she would never forget.
She didn’t like the emptiness of the bed without him there. She considered joining him in his bedchamber, but it was obvious he wanted to be alone. So rather than do what she wanted, she did what she thought he needed: she remained where she was and drifted off to sleep.
Mary awoke to the arrival of hell. At least it sounded as though it had descended upon them. She could hear the thunder crashing around her. She scrambled out of bed and flew to the window. But gazing out, she could see no lightning streaking across the velvety black sky. But she did see light spilling out from the small window at the top of the northeast tower. The prisoners’ tower. She could see shadows wavering before the light. She almost thought she could feel the building trembling.
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