"What are you thinking, Jade?" he asked.
When she didn't answer him, he pulled on her hair. "I know you found fulfillment. Are you going to deny it now?"
"No," she whispered shyly.
Caine moved to his feet in one fluid motion with Jade in his arms. When they were both back in bed and under the covers, she tried to turn her back to him. He wouldn't allow her retreat, but forced her to face him. "Well?" he demanded.
"Well, what?" she asked, staring into those dark eyes that made her feel fainthearted.
"I'm good, aren't I?"
The dimple was back in his cheek. She couldn't help but smile. "Good at what?" she asked, pretending innocence.
She slowly nodded. "Very good," she whispered.
"And did I impress you?" he asked.
"Perhaps just a little," she answered. She let out a gasp when the palm of his hand pressed against the junction of her thighs. "What are you doing?"
"Impressing you again, sweetheart."
The man was as good as his word, Jade decided a long while later. And he had far more stamina than
she did. When he finally rolled away from her, she felt like a limp rag.
She fell asleep with Caine holding her close, whispering words of love. She didn't have any nightmares that night.
By noon, they were back at Caine's house. Matthew and Jimbo couldn't leave for Shallow's Wharf quickly enough. They were both mortified by their slip up of the night before. They'd obviously underestimated the Marquess. Matthew didn't think he'd ever live down the disgrace; though, of course, Jade promised not to tell anyone he'd been caught so unaware.
Hell, Caine had prodded him awake, and how in God's name such a big man was able to get into his
room without making a sound still baffled him.
As soon as they returned to Caine's home, Jade changed her gown and then went to Caine's study to make copies of the letters for him. She listened to him explain his plan. She argued something fierce
about trusting Richards, but agreed that Lyon could hold a confidence.
"When you meet Richards, you'll like him as much as you like Lyon," Caine replied. "You'll trust him as much, too."
She shook her head. "Caine, I like Lyon, yes, but that isn't the reason I trust him. No, no," she continued. "Liking and trusting are two different kettles of fish."
"Then why do you trust Lyon?" he asked, smiling over the censure in her tone.
"I read his file," she answered. "Do you know, in comparison, Caine, you've led the life of a choirboy."
Caine shook his head. "I wouldn't mention reading his file to him," he advised.
"Yes," she agreed. "He'd probably get as prickly as you did when I told you," she added. "Lyon's file is just as fat as yours, but he didn't have a special name."
Caine looked thoroughly irritated with her. "Jade, exactly how many files did you read?"
"Just a few," she replied. "Caine, I really must concentrate on these letters. Please quit interrupting me."
The library door opened then, drawing Caine's attention. Nathan walked inside. "Why hasn't anyone tried to get to you, Caine, since you've been here? It's damned isolated, and I would think . .."
"Someone did try to get to Caine the day we arrived, Nathan," Jade said without looking up.
When Jade didn't continue, Caine filled Nathan in on the details of the failed attempt.
"Nathan, how nice you look," Jade said, completely turning the topic when she glanced up and saw his handsome shirt and pants.
"That shirt looks damned familiar," Caine drawled out.
"It's yours," Nathan answered with a grin. "Fits well, too. Colin has also borrowed a few of your things. We hadn't packed sufficiently when we were tossed into the ocean. Why hasn't anyone tried to get to you since that first day?" he added with a scowl.
Nathan started to pace the room like a tiger. Caine continued to lean against the edge of the desk. "They have."
"What?" Nathan asked. "When?"
"They have not," Jade interjected. "I would have known."
"In the past ten days, four others have tried."
"And?" Nathan asked, demanding more of an explanation.
"Why wasn't I informed?" Jade asked.
"I didn't want to worry you," Caine explained.
"Then you had to have known Matthew and Jimbo were here," Nathan said.
"I knew," Caine answered. "I left them alone, too, until they burned down my stables. Then I had a little talk with them. Couldn't you have come up with another plan to keep me busy while you went to see my father?"
He was getting all worked up again. Jade guessed he still wasn't over the fire yet. Sterns had said the stables were brand new. "I should have been more specific with Matthew," she announced. "1 left the diversion up to him. Still, he was very creative, effective, too. You were busy."
"You took a needless risk going off on your own like that," he snapped. "Damn it, Jade, you could have been killed!"
He was shouting at her by the time he'd finished that statement. "I was very careful," she whispered, trying to placate him.
"The hell you were!" he roared. "You were damn lucky, that's all."
She decided she needed to turn his attention. "I'm never going to finish this task if you two don't leave
me alone." She tossed her hair over her shoulder and returned to her letter writing. She could feel his
glare on her. "Why don't you both go see how Colin's doing. I'm sure he'd like the company."
"Come on, Caine. We've just been dismissed."
Caine shook his head. "Promise me you won't take needless risks again," he ordered Jade. "Then I'll leave."
She immediately nodded. "I promise."
The anger seemed to drain out of him. He nodded, then leaned down to kiss her. She tried to dodge him. "Nathan's here," she whispered.
Her face was bright red when he lifted his mouth away from hers. Her hands were shaking, too. "I love you," he whispered before he straightened up and followed Nathan out of the room.
Jade stared at the desktop a long while. Was it possible? Could he really love her? She had to quit thinking about it in order to calm the trembling in her hands. Richards and his friend wouldn't be able to read the letters otherwise. Besides, it didn't matter if he loved her or not. She still had to leave him. Didn't she?
Jade had worked herself into a fine state of nerves by the time dinner hour was over. Nathan had decided to eat his supper upstairs with Colin. She and Caine, and Sterns, of course, ate at the long table. They got into a heated debate about the separation between church and state. In the beginning, when Caine stated he was in favor of the separation wholeheartedly, she took the opposite opinion.
Yet when he deliberately argued the opposing view, she was just as vehement in her rebuttal.
It was a thoroughly invigorating argument. Sterns ended up acting as referee. The debate made Caine hungry again. He reached for the last slice of mutton only to have it snatched out of his reach by Sterns.
"I wanted that, Sterns,"" Caine muttered. "So did I, mi'lord," the butler answered. He picked up his
utensils and proceeded to devour the food. Jade took sympathy on Caine and gave him half of her portion. Both Sterns and Caine looked at each other when the sudden pounding on the front doors
echoed through the room. Caine lost the staring contest. "I'll get it," he announced.
"As you wish, mi'lord," Sterns agreed between bites of his mutton.
"Be careful," Jade called out.
"It's all right," Caine called back. "No one could have gotten to the doors without my men noticing."
A good ten minutes elapsed before Sterns finished his second cup of tea. "I believe I shall go and see who's calling," he told Jade.
"Perhaps it's Caine's papa."
"No, mi'lady," Sterns countered. "I have ordered the Duke and Duchess to stay away. It would draw suspicion if they began to pay daily visits to their son."
"You really ordered them?" she asked.
"But of course, Lady Jade." With a formal bow, the butler left the room.
Jade drummed her fingers on the table until Sterns returned.
"Sir Richards and the Marquess of Lyonwood have arrived," he announced from the doorway.
"My lord is requesting both brandy and you in the library."
"So soon?" she asked, clearly startled. She stood up, smoothed the folds of her gold-colored gown, then patted her hair. "I wasn't ready to meet anyone," she said.
Sterns smiled. "You look lovely, mi'lady," he announced. "You'll like these visitors. They're good men."
"Oh, I've already met Lyon," she replied. "And I'm certain I'll like Richards just as much."
As she started for the door, her expression turned from carefree to fearful.
"There's really nothing to be concerned about, mi'lady."
Her smile was radiant. "Oh, I'm not worried, Sterns. I'm preparing."
"I beg your pardon?" he asked. He followed after her. "What are you preparing for, mi'lady?"
"To look worried," she answered with a laugh. "And to look weak, of course."
"Of course," Sterns agreed with a sigh. "Are you ill, Lady Jade?"
She turned to look at him when she reached the library door. "Appearances, Sterns."
"They must be kept up. Do the expected, don't you see?"
"No, I don't see," he answered.
She smiled again. "I'm about to give Caine his pride back," she whispered.
"I wasn't aware he'd misplaced it."
"I wasn't either, until he mentioned it to me," she replied. "Besides, they're only men, after all."
She took a deep breath, then let Stems open the door for her. She stood just inside the entrance, her head bowed, her hands folded together in front of her.
Sterns was so surprised by the sudden change in her demeanor, his mouth dropped open.
When Caine called out to her, she visibly jumped, as if his command had the power to terrify her, then slowly walked into the study. The one called Richards bounded to his feet first. He was an elderly man with gray hair, a gentle smile, and a round belly. He had kind eyes, too. Jade acknowledged the introduction by making a perfect curtsy.
She then turned to greet Lyon. When he stood to his full height, he fairly towered over her. "It is good
to see you again, Lyon," she whispered, her voice little more than a faint shiver.
Lyon raised an eyebrow in reaction. He knew she was a timid creature, but he thought that she had
gotten over her initial reaction to him the first time they'd met. Now, however, she acted afraid again.
The contradiction puzzled him.
Caine was sitting behind his desk. His chair was tilted back against the wall. Jade sat down on the edge
of the chair adjacent to the desk, her back ramrod straight. Her hands were clenched in her lap.
Richards and Lyon both resumed their chairs across from her.
Caine was watching Jade. She appeared to be terribly frightened. He wasn't buying it for a minute. She was up to something, he decided, but he would have to wait until later to question her.
Richards cleared his throat to get everyone's attention. His gaze was centered on Jade when he said, "I cannot help but notice, my dear, how worried you seem to be. I've read the letters your father saved, but before I ask you my questions, I want to make it perfectly clear that I don't hold you in less esteem because of your father's transgressions."
She still looked like a trapped doe, but she managed a timid nod.
"Thank you, Sir Richards," she replied in a bare whisper. "It is kind of you not to blame me. I was worried that you might condemn me."
Caine rolled his eyes heavenward. Richards, a man rarely given to showing any affection, was now clasping Jade's hands. The director looked like he wanted to take her into his arms and offer her solace.
She did appear to be very vulnerable. Caine suddenly remembered that that same expression had been
on her face when she'd stared at him in the tavern. She'd appeared vulnerable then, too.
What was her game?
"Neither one of us condemns you," Lyon interjected. He, too, leaned forward, bracing his elbows on his knees. "You have had a difficult time of it, Jade."
"Yes, she has," Sir Richards agreed.
Caine forced himself not to smile. Both his superior and his friend were falling under Jade's spell. He thought Lyon should have known better. After all, he'd met Jade before. Still, her manner now, added
to his earlier thought that she was terribly timid, obviously convinced Lyon that she was sincere.
"Are you up to answering a few questions now?" Richards asked.
Jade nodded. "Would it not be better to have Nathan answer your questions? Men are so much more logical. I'll probably make a muddle out of it."
"Jade." Caine said her name as a warning.
She turned to give him a tremulous smile. "Yes, Caine?" she asked.
Richards turned to frown at Caine. Then he returned his attention to Jade.
"We'll ask Nathan our questions later. If it isn't too painful to recount, please tell us exactly what happened to you from the moment you arrived in London."
Jade nodded. "Certainly," she agreed. "You see, this all begins with the letters. My Uncle Harry was
given a packet of letters by my father. Just two days later, Father was killed. Harry took me away on his ship then. He saved the letters, and when he felt the time was right, he gave them to me. I read them of course, then showed them to Nathan. My brother was working with Colin at the time, and he confided in him. Now then," she continued in a brisker tone. "As Caine has probably told you, both Colin and Nathan were . . . attacked. The villains thought they'd done them in, and . . . Pagan decided to let the hired thugs return to London to report their success."
"A sound decision," Richards interjected.
"Yes," Jade said. She turned to frown at Caine. "The plan was very simple. Pagan snatched a physician