Three Kisses Before Christmas
In which our hero seeks out some truths
Wolfstan, the Earl of Wicke and Selborne spotted Alexander Lance the moment he stepped over the threshold of Knightley’s. It was hard to miss him since he was the only man in the establishment who did not partake in any activities. He stood off to the side, stone-faced and watchful.
Their eyes met, and he felt the burn of Lance’s sharp gaze straight to his gut.
Ever since Wolfstan had caught Rebecca with the stoic gaming hell manager, he’d known there was more to the man than met the eye. To their relationship.
They had shared ale together.
It had seemed almost like they were . . . . friends.
Wolfstan could simply not fathom that.
Today, he was determined to find the truth.
He made his way directly to Lance. The man leaned against the far wall of the club with his arms crossed over his chest. His gaze tracked Wolfstan’s every movement.
Wolfstan felt his lip curl upward. An instinctual reaction.
“Wicke and Selborne,” Lance greeted. The mocking edge to his tone almost raised Wolfstan’s hackles.
“You are not here for pleasure.”
Good, the man was astute. Wolfstan did not beat around the bush either. “What’s the nature of your relationship with Rebecca?”
Lance raised a brow. “We are acquaintances.”
“You expect me to believe that?”
“I expect you to believe whatever you will.”
Wolfstan clenched his jaw. “Acquaintances don’t get together for a pint of ale at a pub.”
“You mean a lady does not meet a man such as me for a pint of ale at a pub.”
“Rebecca also doesn’t gamble.”
“No, she does not.”
Wolfstan clenched his jaw. “Then what the bloody hell is she to you?”
“Would the better question not be what am I to her?”
“Are they not one and the same?” Wolfstan barked irritably. The man could try a saint.
“And yet you both claim to be mere acquaintances.”
“Surely Rebecca told you the tale of how we met.”
A hot flush crept up Wolfstan’s neck. He knew Lance only used Rebecca’s name to annoy him. It bloody well worked. “Your carriage wheel broke and she came to your aid. While I do not doubt the story, I’m not a bloody fool. There’s more going on than the two of you are revealing.” Wolfstan held the man’s gaze. “Tell me, Lance, does your sister meet with men in taverns and share ale?”
A shadow moved in Lance’s eyes, and Wolfstan nodded. “I thought not.”
“That is different.”
“I don’t see how. If you respected Rebecca at all, you’d call on her properly, not meet in a tavern where her reputation might be sullied.”
“That was her choice. Who am I to argue with a lady?”
That surprised the hell out of Wolfstan. Rebecca’s choice? Still . . . “You could have insisted she call on your sister and met with her properly.”
“What needles you more, Wicke. That she was at a tavern with me or that I get to share a side of her that she doesn’t share with you?”
“Don’t be so sure about that,” Wolfstan growled.
He thought back to the day at the pub. If he stripped away the layer of jealousy and looked past her good humor, the ale, and instead focused on the venue, her cloak, the meeting of two unlikely individuals . . . their meeting might lead him to suspect to be more a matter of business than personal . . .
Suspicion clenched hard in his gut.
“Tell me, Lance, what business do you have together?” Wolfstan asked, emphasizing his newfound suspicion.
Not a muscle moved in the man’s features, but something in Lance’s demeanor gave Wolfstan pause. He’d gone as still as a lamp post. So slight, almost imperceptible to the eye, but Wolfstan had caught it.
He was onto something.
If Rebecca and Lance were acquainted but Rebecca did not gamble, and neither had she seen fit to meet Lance’s sister, only two other explanations existed to Wolfstan’s way of thinking. Either they were lovers or they were colleagues of sorts. Since he’d been Rebecca’s first kiss, the former seemed improbable. Yet, what business could they possibly have with each other?
His heart dropped to his shoes.
Could it be . . .?
No. Certainly not. Rebecca could not have stakes in Knightley’s, could she? But the more he dwelled on the idea, the more it held merit.
Something shifted in Lance’s gaze, and everything in Wolfstan settled. Lance may not realize it, but the truth had just illuminated itself in his hardened stare.
Rebecca and Lance were business partners.
Wolfstan was sure of it.
Now he just had to prove it.
With one last glare at Lance, he turned on his heel and stalked from the establishment. He did not bother with parting words. He suspected they would see each other again soon enough.
“Take me to the solicitor’s office,” Wolfstan barked at the driver as he entered his carriage. He would do whatever it takes to root out the truth. Bribe. Extort. Threaten.
“Which one, my lord?”
Wolfstan scowled. Determination set in his jaw.
“Every single damn one.”
I hope you enjoyed this bonus scene!
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