They both took his clothes off. Then Jamie pushed him onto his back and stretched out on top of him. He trapped her legs between his own as soon as she started rubbing against him. She leaned up on her elbows, shivering again when she saw the hot look of desire in his eyes. "I want to touch you the way you touch me," she whispered. "Please, Alec? Your body belongs to me as much as my body belongs to you, doesn't it?"

He was in wholehearted agreement. Yet he couldn't find his voice to tel her she was right, his body did belong to her. She must have decided she had his permission, however, for she got a most mischievous look in her eyes.


He understood her intent when she lowered her head and began to rain hot kisses down his chest. He made a hissing sound when her tongue circled his right nipple. Her fingers were magical, scorching. And her mouth… dear God, her mouth made him forget to breathe. She kept edging down, lower, lower stil , until she had reached the object of her quest. She bit the inside of his thigh when he tried to stop her. His hands fel to his sides then in total, blissful surrender.

She was awkward at first, but her enthusiasm made her innocence all the more arousing. And when she finally took him into her mouth, Alec closed his eyes and let her fire consume him. It was agony. It was heaven. Only when he knew he was about to spil his seed did he finally take control of her. He knew he wasn't being very gentle. Yet his need to fil her completely, to try to give her fulfil ment before he found his own made him all the rougher.

She didn't seem to mind. In truth, she was as rough as he was in her own demands. Her nails dug into his backside, and she arched up against him so forceful y that he was full y imbedded inside her before they'd rol ed all the way over. They lay on their sides facing each other, each watching the passion in the other's gaze. Their breathing was shal ow, their skin slick with sweat. The wonderful scent of their lovemaking fil ed the air between them.

"I love the taste of you," she whispered. "Did you like—"

"Oh, God, yes, I liked…" He let out a low groan when she draped her leg over his hip. "Don't move, not just… don't…"

She wanted to tel him she was trying not to move, but it felt so incredibly good when she did move that she couldn't seem to stop herself. His hand moved down between their joined bodies, and he touched her just where her body needed his touch so desperately.

They both started moving together then. Their mating was wild, primitive, overwhelming.

And fil ed with love.

Alec didn't have the strength to wait any longer. He felt her tighten around him, felt the first spasms of her surrender, and immediately poured his seed into her.

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It took him a long while before he could move. Then he rol ed onto his back again, keeping her against him.

He sure as hel hoped he hadn't just kil ed her with his passion. He smiled over that rather arrogant notion, admitting to himself that his lusty wife had very nearly kil ed him.

He wanted to tel her how very pleased he was with her, wanted to hear her words of praise, too. No, he decided. He wanted more than that, more than pretty words of praise.

It was high time the little woman realized just what her real duty was. He shouldn't have to explain it to her, however. He wanted her to understand without being instructed.

It was her duty to love him.

The full realization of why he wanted her love hit him like a blow: he was already in love with her.

How in God's name had it happened? She was the most opinionated, ill -tempered, ill ogical, stubborn-to-the-bone woman he'd ever encountered.

No one else would have her, he told himself. He smiled then, recognizing his own lie. Oh, they'd have her, all right, but she belonged to him.

With a resigned sigh, Alec closed his eyes and gave Jamie a fierce hug. He could hear her ragged breathing stil , could feel her heart pounding in rhythm with his own. Her passion belonged to him, too, he thought to himself.

And his heart belonged to her. Alec let out a loud yawn. He guessed he was never going to get over this strange affliction.

His gentle little wife needed her rest, he decided with another yawn. He would stay with her for just another minute or two, until he was certain she'd fal en asleep.

It was his last thought before he started snoring.

He knows now that someone tried to kill his wife. By nightfall everyone will have heard of the sin.

She'll be guarded well. He won't want to take any chances with her safety.

He doesn't understand that she wasn't meant to die yet. I'm much more cunning than he is, but I wish I could boast to someone of my prowess. I dare not, of course, and must therefore let them all believe they intervened in time. Oh, I knew she would be saved. The fire wouldn't have gone undetected. I knew.

It is his torment I want to see now, not his anguish. I'll not finish the kill until tomorrow… perhaps even the day after if I can control my greed.

I can still hear his scream. He was calling her name. I think he has begun to love her. This lesson will be all the sweeter if he does…

I want to touch her when she's dying.

Chapter Fourteen

Jamie gave Gavin quite a start when she came up behind him and gently tapped him on his shoulder. He had not heard her approach. He whirled around to meet the chal enge, then eased his stance when he saw it was his mistress standing before him. She was carrying a pair of shoes. He stared at them, feeling foolish, then admitted the obvious. "I never heard you approaching."

"I didn't mean to startle you," Jamie replied. "And do lower your voice, Gavin. Alec's having a little nap."

"The Kincaid?"

"Please, Gavin, don't shout so," Jamie said. "You needn't look so incredulous, either. Alec is human, after all . He wouldn't be sleeping so soundly if he didn't need the rest, now, would he?"

Gavin shook his head. He was trying desperately not to shout with laughter. The Kincaid hadn't looked the least bit fatigued the last time he'd seen him. Of course, he had been on his way to bed, but Gavin knew he hadn't planned on doing any sleeping.

God, he couldn't wait to bait him.

Jamie took hold of Gavin's arm to balance herself while she put her shoes on. "I believe I'l ask Hessie to help me clean the bedroom upstairs now."

She let go of his arm, smoothed her skirts, and tried to walk around him.

Gavin quickly moved to block her path. "I'l send one of the men to get her for you," he announced.

"The walk will do me good."

"Save your strength for your chore," Gavin advised.

"Al right, Gavin," Jamie agreed, thinking to placate the soldier. He looked worried. She gave him a perplexed look. "Are you feeling well ? You're acting very strange, you are."

He let her put the back of her hand to his brow before he answered her. "I'm feeling quite well , Jamie.

Now, why don't you get started on your chore?"

She gave him another long look before she turned and started up the steps. Gavin was right behind her.

She didn't make mention of that oddity until she reached the third door. Then she turned around to him again.

He blurted out his explanation before she could ask. "I thought if there was something you needed moved about, I could lend you a hand."

She offered him a pretty smile. "How very thoughtful of you, Gavin. Father Murdock already helped me move a chest, though, and there's now plenty of space for my things when they arrive."

"Your things did arrive, milady," Gavin suddenly remembered. "Early this morning. Should I have the men bring the baggage up from the lower bailey?"

"If you would, Gavin," Jamie answered. "Did you see… Was there a chair among the items in the wagon?"

"There wasn't a wagon's worth," Gavin explained. "It isn't possible for a wagon to make the narrow climb. There were four packhorses," he continued when he saw how disappointed she was looking.

"Packed to the sky, milady, and yes, I did notice a rather odd-looking—"

"My very own chair," she interrupted, clasping her hands together. " 'Tis odd because of the legs, you're thinking, but it rocks back and forth, Gavin.

It belonged to my mama's family. Papa liked to sit in it every night and it was most thoughtful of him to send it on to me."

"A chair that rocks, milady?"

"I know," she said with a sigh. "The novelty will never catch on I fear. Stil , it was my mother's and I will of course keep it until I die. It shal be handed down from generation to generation."

Gavin wondered what daft man had fashioned such an ill ogical chair but wisely kept his thoughts to himself.

He left Jamie to her dusting. He accompanied her up the stairs just to make certain no one was waiting to catch her unaware. Marcus was just coming inside when Gavin started down the steps. "Marcus, I need have a word with you," he called out.

"Aye, Gavin?"

The second-in-command didn't explain himself until he had Marcus well inside the great hall . From where they stood, Gavin could keep his eye on the door above the stairs. No one could go in or out without him noticing. "I want two soldiers below the window."

"What window?"

"Jamie's working in the first room above the stairs," Gavin explained. "Put two soldiers outside the door and two others below her window."

"Do I give them a reason?" Marcus asked, frowning intently.

"Of course. They protect their mistress," Gavin snapped out.

"Gavin, what are you trying to tel me?" Marcus asked, his patience wearing thin.

"You haven't heard?"

"Heard what?"

Gavin let out a sigh, then explained the near tragedy. "Someone trapped her inside, Marcus. I'm the one who lifted the beam of wood away from the door," he couldn't help but boast. "And stil I could barely believe it."

"Who could have done such a thing?"

"No one saw anyone near the ridge," Gavin explained. "And Alec wants you and me to keep our guard up."

"He mentioned me specifical y?" Marcus asked, looking as though he didn't believe that.

"He did. He values your loyalty, Marcus. Do you doubt it?"

Marcus shook his head. "I've not given him reason to doubt my loyalty," he said. "Stil , I made it obvious I wasn't pleased with his marriage, forced or not."

"You insult your laird if you believe—"

"Nay," he returned, his voice emphatic. "I'm doing just the opposite. He shows he values me, Gavin, and I'm… humbled by his faith in me."

Gavin shouted with laughter. "You've never spoken so passionately before, and here I am laughing at you. Don't take offense, good friend, it's just that your face has heated up to a full blush."

Marcus lost his scowl when Gavin whacked him on his shoulder. He even managed a rare smile.

Both soldiers quit their smiling when their laird joined them. The look on Alec's face didn't suggest lighthearted conversation.

"Where's my wife?"

His bel ow was so loud Gavin thought the soldiers training in the lower bailey surely heard him.

"She's above the stairs, cleaning the far room," Gavin explained.

"She's alone?"

"I checked the room before she entered," Gavin rushed out. "No one can go in or out without my watching," he added.

Alec nodded. "I want the two of you to stay with her until I return," he ordered. "She doesn't take a step without one of you in front of her and the other in back. Do you understand?"

Gavin and Marcus nodded. "She's going to wonder why," Marcus said then. "She's English, Alec, not stupid."

Gavin was more amazed by Marcus's jesting tone of voice than Alec appeared to be. "Yes, she will wonder," he agreed.

"Then let the woman wonder," Alec snapped. "Just tel her it is by my order. The woman shouldn't be doing common chores, damn it all ," he added.

"She wanted to, Alec," Gavin said. "And I could see she needed to work off some of her energy.

Perhaps she borrowed some of your strength. You look plain tuckered out to me, if I may say so. Do you need a longer nap, milord?"

"He had a nap?" Marcus interjected, looking quite incredulous.

"Your amusement displeases me," Alec stated. "And if you two keep smiling at me like that, I swear to God I'l flatten both of you. When I'm done, I promise you'l sleep a hel of a lot longer than I did."

That threat gained him just the amount of respect he wanted. "I'm going to speak to Angus," he called over his shoulder. "I'l be back in a few minutes."

Alec's mood was as fierce as the rising wind when he made his way to Angus's cottage. The shouting he heard when he reached his faithful soldier's home told him Angus wasn't having a much better time of it.

Elizabeth opened the door. She gave her laird a wide smile, indicating she wasn't the least bit upset by her husband's bel owing. "You look none the worse for wear, Elizabeth, living with a wildman," Alec told her as he entered their home.

"Your wife warned me it wouldn't be easy trying to keep Angus resting. She was right, too, for Angus really has turned into a bear. He's a most difficult man to love right now," she added in a raised voice so that her husband would be sure to hear, "but I'm certain that once the threads are pul ed out of his chest, he'l ease up with his constant complaining."

"Will you quit talking about me in such a disrespectful manner?" Angus shouted from his bed. "The laird has come to see me, wife. He doesn't want to listen to a woman's complaining."

Elizabeth gave Alec an exasperated look before she rounded on her husband. "May I offer him a drink of wine?" she asked.

Angus gave her a disgruntled look, then nodded. "I could use a spot myself."

Elizabeth ignored that hint. She poured Alec a fair portion of dark red wine and gave her husband a cup of water. Alec would not have been surprised if Angus had started growling. "I'l leave you two to your visit," Elizabeth said. She bowed to Alec and started out the doorway.

"Elizabeth? Come here before you leave," Angus instructed.

Alec leaned against the window ledge and watched Angus's pretty little wife hurry over to her husband's side. He'd caught Elizabeth's blush and understood the reason for her embarrassment when Angus reached up with his good hand, wrapped it around the back of her neck, and dragged her forward. He kissed her long and passionately.

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