Without another word, I turn on my heel and walk swiftly into the hall.
I knock on the marquis’s door, wondering how long it will take Brahm to answer.
“Alice,” Regina says softly from down the hall. “Did you need something?”
I frown when I realize her eyes are red and her face is pale. It looks like she’s been crying. What happened tonight? What is Brahm hiding from me?
Carefully, I say, “I was hoping to speak with Lord Ambrose.”
Grief passes over her face for a split second before she composes herself. “Tonight isn’t a good night.”
I glance toward the door. “But…he’s in?”
“I was just with him.”
Stumped, I step away slowly. “I’ll speak with him tomorrow.”
“I think that would be for the best. Would you like tea? I can have a pot brought up to you.”
“I have some, thank you.”
She continues walking, glancing at my face before she quickly looks away. “Have a good evening, Alice.”
I watch her disappear down the hall, feeling flummoxed.
When I open the door to my room, I find the bandit sitting on the chaise longue, staring at the ever-burning candles in the fireplace. “You weren’t gone long,” he says. “Did you speak to him?”
“No,” I say slowly.
I fully expected to find my room empty. I’m not sure what to make of his presence.
He drums his fingers on his leg. “Tomorrow will be soon enough.”
I study his handsome lines and muscular build. The only thing soft about him is his lips.
Lips I’ve kissed.
Lips I want to kiss again.
I stand in front of him. “Even if Lord Ambrose gives me back my family’s estate, I will still ask to paint him.”
The bandit looks up sharply. “Why would you delay returning home?”
“I wouldn’t feel right leaving without offering something in return.”
The bandit rises, his movements betraying his frustration. “Alice, you owe Lord Ambrose nothing. This was never your wager—it was between your brother and him. The fact that you’ve been affected doesn’t make you a party to the crime.”
“I feel responsible for Gustin’s actions,” I argue. “He’s my brother.”
“Gustin is—was—your guardian. It’s not the other way around. He is a grown man who had too much to drink and made a foolish decision in the heat of the moment.”
“How do you know he’d been drinking too much?” I ask.
The bandit looks startled. After a moment, he hedges, “Don’t all habitual gamblers drink while they are playing?”
“I wouldn’t know.”
I can only imagine what goes on in the places Gustin patronized.