Deck The Halls With Love: Lost Lords Of Pembrook Novella

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Book: Deck The Halls With Love: Lost Lords Of Pembrook Novella by Lorraine Heath Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lorraine Heath
Tags: Romance, England, Historical Romance, Love Story, Regency Romance
lords.”
    After gathering up his clothes, he knelt beside her and cradled her face. “Tell them you made your way here, but the storm prevented you from going farther, and you’ve been waiting it out.”
    “I don’t understand. You’ll be here.”
    He stroked her cheek, and the sadness in his eyes almost made her weep. “No. I won’t have your reputation dragged through the mud by having us found together.”
    She flattened her hand against his chest. “But the discovery of us together will ensure that we marry. My father will very well insist.”
    He brought her in close, then tucked her beneath his chin. “I want you, Merry, more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life, but not at the risk of bringing you shame or more pain than I’ve already caused. Nor will I do as Litton and force you into marriage.” Dipping his head, he kissed her short and sweet, but in the tenderness of the moment she heard volumes: love, caring, goodbye.
    Then he was rushing out of the room as though the hounds of hell were nipping at his heels, while the duke’s hounds were barking more loudly with their approaching nearness. Feeling lost and bereft, she went through the motions of slipping back into her stiff but dried riding habit. She was buttoning up the last of the pearl disks when she heard a door slam open and the stomp of feet.
    Her father was the first to come barging through the doorway. “Meredith, thank God. What in the blazes happened, girl?”
    “I . . . I got caught in the storm. I wanted to go ice skating.”
    Litton approached and swept his coat around her. “You must have been terrified.”
    “Only of the ghosts. I’ve heard the manor is haunted.”
    “The tower and the dungeon,” the duke said, studying her carefully. “Not the manor itself.”
    “Well, then, I had nothing to fear.”
    “I don’t suppose you’ve seen Lord Chetwyn,” Lord Tristan asked. “We’ve not been able to find him.”
    Her mouth dry, she shook her head. “No, our paths didn’t cross, but I’m certain he’s all right. He probably just went for a walk. But he’s familiar enough with the outdoors that he would have taken shelter.”
    Litton placed his arm around her shoulders. “Come, we must get you back to the residence. You must be famished.”
    “Quite.”
    She allowed him to lead her from the room but she couldn’t help glancing back over her shoulder. Lord Tristan had a speculative gleam in his eyes as he studied the mound of draperies. He had a reputation for being quite the rogue, and she hoped he couldn’t guess what had truly transpired here.
    F rom the master’s bedchamber upstairs, Chetwyn watched as the search party headed back toward the manor. For a few hours, he held in his arms every dream he’d ever dreamed, and once again he’d let her go.
    To have her, he would have to ruin her, and he loved her far too much for that. But neither could he bear the thought of her with Litton.
    “Thought I’d find you somewhere about.”
    He spun around at the sound of Lord Tristan’s voice.
    “Trying to protect the lady’s reputation?” Lord Tristan asked.
    Chetwyn sighed. “I seem to recall your doing a very similar thing for Anne.”
    “And it almost cost me a life of happiness.”
    “I could never be happy if Meredith suffered because of scandal.”
    Lord Tristan ambled over, leaned against the window casing, and looked out. “Suppose I could say that I found you in the tower.”
    Chetwyn shook his head. “Too close.”
    “The abbey ruins then. We shall have to wait here for an hour or so to make that believable.”
    With a nod, Chetwyn pressed his back to the wall and slid down to the floor. He glanced up as Tristan offered him a silver flask. He said nothing as he took it and drank deeply. Rum. It might warm the coldness that had settled in his chest when he’d watched Meredith walk away without looking back.

 

C HAPTER S EVEN
----
    M eredith awoke in a fog. She remembered the warm bath, the

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