Lord of Wicked Intentions Page 1

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Prologue

Yorkshire

Winter 1854

Lord Rafe Easton waited, unmoving.

Perched on a boulder in the center of the abbey ruins, he was immune to the discomfort of the hard rock. The icy winds howled around him, the snow fell gently from the heavens, but he did not stir. He allowed no memories of happier times to intrude. He was not anticipating his brothers’ return. He refused to anticipate it. He was merely awaiting their arrival.

Ten years earlier on this very night, they’d left him. As though he were rubbish, as though they weren’t brothers, as though they didn’t have the same blood coursing through their veins. They’d left him with the promise to meet up here on this particular night in order to gain revenge against the uncle who had meant them harm, the one who wanted the dukedom of Keswick. The one who had planned to kill them.

Rafe had found ample opportunities through the years to do in the blighter. He’d watched from the shadows while Lord David strutted about, and enjoyed the fruits of his misguided scheme. He knew he should feel unmitigated anger at the fool, but it was his brothers who garnered his wrath.

Especially Tristan, who had called him a baby. Then Sebastian for not seeking to reassure him that everything would be all right.

Rafe had been barely ten. Terrified beyond measure. They were four years older, blasted twins, who knew each other’s thoughts, each other’s fears, each other’s ambitions. He’d not heard a word from either of them since they’d abandoned him at the workhouse and ridden off together. Yes, he’d cried, blubbered, begged . . .

It shamed him now to think about his behavior on that horrid night. Since then he’d dammed up his tears, dammed up his emotions, dammed up his heart until he felt nothing.

He welcomed the numbness seeping through his body until it matched his soul, didn’t bother to extend his gloved hands toward the wildly dancing flames of the small fire. He would not even consider that they were not here because they were dead. They must see how well he’d done for himself. He hadn’t needed them. In all the passing years, he hadn’t required their assistance in order to survive. He certainly didn’t need them now.

At the workhouse food was short and punishment in abundance, particularly for a lad who wasn’t very agile. Admittedly, he’d been a bit of a roly-poly back then. He loved his sweets. They were his secret indulgence now, but not often. He would never again be slow to action. A number of men had learned how quick he was—and deadly.

Eventually he’d managed to escape the workhouse and made his way to London. He’d lived on the streets, scavenging and scrounging, until he’d fallen in with a fellow who knew all of London’s darkest secrets. Now they belonged to Rafe.

By the time the sun was easing over the horizon, the fire had long since turned to ash, the cold had made its home in the depths of his bones. He finally unfolded his body and made his way over the scattered debris until he reached the remnants of a window.

They’re not coming.

He should have known. He didn’t want to acknowledge the small kernel of disappointment that threatened to blossom into rage and hurt, and something that resembled loneliness. They meant nothing to him anymore. He wouldn’t allow them to mean anything.

He sincerely hoped they were writhing in hell.

His features set in a stoic mask, he spun away from the window, his greatcoat flaring out around his calves. He tugged hard on his finely crafted leather gloves, even though they were already perfectly positioned. “Wait here until they show.”

“For how long, sir?” his man asked from the corner in which he’d been standing guard through the night.

How long indeed? How long was long enough?

“Until they show,” he repeated.

“And if they don’t?”

He wouldn’t contemplate the possibility of that happening. He wouldn’t consider that they were indeed truly dead. That they would leave him totally, completely, absolutely alone. That they would deny him the ultimate pleasure of telling them he didn’t need them in his life. That they were nothing to him, less than nothing. Rubbish, just as he’d once been to them.

“They will.”

He strode to his horse and mounted it in one easy practiced movement. He urged his black gelding into a gallop, its hooves beating out a steady rhythm that caused the words to reverberate through his soul: You’re alone. You’re alone. You’ll always be alone. You deserve to be alone. That’s why they left you behind.

Chapter 1

London

April 1859

Please don’t go. Please don’t leave me.

Evelyn Chambers merely thought the words. She didn’t say them. To do so would be most cruel. Her father had been in excruciating pain for some time now, slowly dwindling away until he was a mere shadow of the robust, boisterous Earl of Wortham whom she loved so terribly much.

Sitting in a chair beside his bed, she held his withered hand, one too weak to squeeze her own. So she did the squeezing, trying to impart with her touch what she could not bring herself to utter with words: It’s all right to let go.

Because once he left her, she had no idea how she might manage. She shoved back the terrifying realization. She would not make his parting more difficult, but the truth was that she hadn’t a clue how she would survive without him. But she would face the uncertain future as best as she could. For now, her only concern was to bring him comfort.

He’d done little more than study her for hours now. It was late into the night. The bustle of the city had quieted. Only the most senior of the servants stood vigil outside the door, waiting for orders. A lamp burning on the bedside table illuminated his sallow complexion, his sunken eyes. With a slow blink, he turned his head slightly, focusing his attention somewhere near the foot of the bed. “Geoffrey?”

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