?中文字字幕乱码_LON-008中文字幕第九页 - 第4页

Touched by Angels (Angels Everywhere #3) Hellboy: Oddest Jobs (Hellboy: Odd Jobs #3)

Sure. Greetings dear Kyla; I am Tori. Welcome to our happy Group.

But my home is here in Chicago. He looked puzzled as he slid into the car.I smiled at him. No, your real home.

The Crystal Shard (The Icewind Dale Trilogy #1)

Doldastam, Linus repeated, the same way hed been repeating it over the past day and a half. Every time he said it, hed put the emphasis on a different syllable, trying so hard to match my pronunciation.Id rented a new car, and the drive from Chicago to the train station in Canada was over twenty hours, and wed only stopped for gas and bathroom breaks.Before wed left Chicago, wed swung by my hotel, and Id changed into a much more comfortable pair of jeans and a T-shirt. But I hadnt had any clothes for him, and I didnt want to risk going back to his apartment. In Winnipeg, wed stopped so I could pick up an appropriate winter jacket and hat for Linus, and Id finally gotten him a change of clothes so he could get out of his uniform.

The Silent Boy

I didnt know if Konstantin and Bent were working alone or with others, and I wouldnt feel safe until we were back behind the walls of Doldastam. Really, it didnt matter if they were working with others. Seeing Konstantin Black was enough to unnerve me.As confident as Id tried to sound with him and as well as Id fought him, Id thrown up as soon as we got to my hotel. Coming face-to-face with the man from my nightmares had that effect on me.

But when I was around Linus, I did my best to keep my feelings in check and seem as normal as possible. I needed to be vigilant to keep him safe, which meant staying calm. So I sat rigidly next to him, staring out the window, and not letting my panic show on my face.

Did I say it right? Linus asked, and I could feel him looking at me, waiting for an answer.I think you should marry him. He made a fool of me, Caroline. I don't think that was his intention. It was certainly the outcome. Why do you think that? And then before Elizabeth could answer, Caroline added, I don't think you're a fool. I know Blake doesn't. And James certainly— May we please stop talking about James? Very well. I suppose we might as well return to your home, then. Caroline reached behind her and placed a supporting hand on her lower back. I don't seem to have my usual energy these days. Then she held out her black book, asking, Would you mind holding this?'' Certainly. Is it a journal? Of a sorts. It's my personal dictionary. When I come across a new word, I like to jot it down, along with its definition. Then, of course, I must use it in context, or I will certainly forget it. How interesting, Elizabeth murmured. I should give it a try. Caroline nodded. I wrote about you last night. You did? She nodded again. It's right there on the last page. The last page I've written on, that is. Go ahead. I don't mind if you've a look at it. Elizabeth flipped through the pages until she reached the last entry. It read: in*ex*or*a*ble (adjective). Relentless; unyielding; implacable. I fear that James will prove inexorable in his pursuit of Miss Hotchkiss. I fear it, too, Elizabeth muttered. Well, 'I fear' was really just a phrase, Caroline hastened to explain. I certainly don't fear it. In fact, if I am to be completely honest, I should have written that I hoped James would prove inexorable. Elizabeth looked at her new friend and fought the urge to groan. Maybe we should just go home. Very well, but if I might make one last point— If it has to do with James, I'd really rather you didn't. It does, but I promise it's the last. You see ... Caroline paused to scratch her chin, smiled sheepishly, then said, I do this when I'm stalling for time. Elizabeth motioned with her hand toward the road home, and they began to walk. I'm sure you're going to tell me that James is a perfectly lovely man, and—'' No, I wasn't going to say that at all, Caroline interrupted. He's perfectly insufferable, but you will have to trust me when I tell you that that is the best sort of man. The kind you can't live with? No, the kind you can't live without. And if you love him— I don't. You do. I can see it in your eyes. I don't. Caroline waved her protest away. You do. You just don't realize it yet. Caroline! What I was trying to say is that even though James did a perfectly awful thing by not telling you his true identity, he did have his reasons, and none of them had anything to do with humiliating you. Of course, Caroline added with a nod of her head, I realize that is easy for me to say, since I am not the one who took marquis-marrying lessons from a marquis.... Elizabeth winced. But his intentions were honorable, I am sure of it. And once you get over your anger—your very valid and well-deserved anger—Caroline looked over at Elizabeth to make certain she heard that part—you will realize that you will be miserable without him in your life. Elizabeth tried to ignore her words, because she had a sinking suspicion that they were more accurate than she would have liked. Not to mention, Caroline continued blithely, that / will be miserable without you in my life. I know no females my age besides Blake's sister, and she's off in the West Indies with her husband. Elizabeth couldn't help but smile, but she was saved from further reply when she noticed that the front door of her cottage was open. She turned to Caroline and asked, Didn't we shut that behind us? I thought we did. It was then they heard the thump. Followed by the bellow for tea. Followed by a decidedly feline howl. Oh, no, Elizabeth groaned. Lady Danbury. Chapter 20 Lady Danbury rarely traveled without her cat. Malcolm, unfortunately, had difficulty appreciating the finer aspects of life outside of Danbury House. Oh, he made the occasional trip to the stables, usually in search of a big fat mouse, but having been raised among the nobility, he clearly considered himself one of their ilk, and he did not enjoy being wrenched out of his cushy surroundings. Much to Lucas's and Jane's fascination, Malcolm chose to express his ire with a mournful, rather accusatory whine. He repeated this at two-second intervals, with a regularity that would have been impressive had the sound not been quite so monstrously annoying. Maw, he moaned. What is that sound?'' Caroline asked. THUMP. The whine or the thump? Elizabeth returned, letting her forehead fall into her hand. Maw. Both. THUMP. Elizabeth waited for Malcolm's next Maw, and replied, That was Lady Danbury's cat, and—THUMP— that was Lady Danbury. Before Caroline could reply, they heard another sound, that of feet scurrying very quickly through the house. That, I imagine, Elizabeth said dryly, was my sister Susan, fetching tea for Lady Danbury. I've never met Lady Danbury, Caroline said. Elizabeth grabbed her by the arm and hauled her forward. Then you are in for a treat.

Elizabeth! Lady D boomed from the sitting room. I hear you! She hears everything, Elizabeth muttered. I heard that, too! Elizabeth lifted her brows and mouthed, See? in Caroline's direction. Caroline opened her mouth to say something, then stopped with a panicked glance toward the sitting room. She grabbed her notebook out of Elizabeth's hands, snatched a quill off the writing table that sat in the hall, and scribbled something. Elizabeth looked down and read: She terrifies me. She nodded. She does that to most people. Elizabeth! Maw. Elizabeth shook her head. I can't believe she brought her cat. ELIZABETH! I think you had better go in and see to her, Caroline whispered. Elizabeth sighed, walking toward the sitting room with the slowest steps possible. Lady Danbury would surely have an opinion on the humiliating events of the previous evening, and Elizabeth would surely have to sit still while >he gave it. Her only consolation was that she was dragging Caroline along with her. I'll wait here, Caroline whispered. Oh, no, you don't, Elizabeth shot back. I listened to your lecture. Now you have to listen to hers. Caroline's mouth dropped open in consternation. You're coming with me, Elizabeth ground out, clamping her hand around Caroline's arm, and that is final. But— Good day, Lady Danbury, Elizabeth said, smiling though clenched teeth as she poked her head into the sitting room. This is certainly a surprise. Where have you been? Lady Danbury demanded, shifting her weight in Elizabeth's favorite threadbare chair. I have been waiting for hours. Elizabeth raised a brow. I've only been gone for fifteen minutes, Lady Danbury. Hmmph. You grow cheekier every day, Elizabeth Hotchkiss. Yes, Elizabeth said with a hint of a smile, I do, don't I? Hmmph. Where's my cat? Maaaaaaawwwwwww!'' Elizabeth turned around to see a flash of ecru fur streak down the hall, followed by two squealing children. I believe he's currently occupied, Lady Danbury. Hmmph. Bother the cat. I'll deal with him later. I need to speak with you, Elizabeth. Elizabeth yanked Caroline into the room. Have you met Mrs. Ravenscroft, Lady Danbury?'' That Blake fellow's wife, eh? Caroline nodded. Nice enough fellow, I suppose, Lady D allowed. Friends with my nephew. Came to visit as a child. Yes, Caroline replied. He's terrified of you. Hmmph. Smart man. You should be, too. Oh, absolutely. Lady Danbury's eyes narrowed. Are you funning me? As if she would dare, Elizabeth cut in. The only one you don't terrify is me, Lady Danbury. Well, I'm going to give it my best attempt right now, Elizabeth Hotchkiss. I need to speak with you, and it's urgent. Yes, Elizabeth said warily, perching on the edge of the sofa. I feared as much. You've never called upon our cottage before. As Lady Danbury cleared her throat, Elizabeth let out a long exhale, waiting for the lecture she was sure to receive. Lady Danbury had an opinion on everything, and Elizabeth was certain that the events of the previous night were no exception. Since James was her nephew, she would surely take his side, and Elizabeth would be forced to endure a long list of his many positive attributes, punctuated by the occasional mention of Lady Danbury's positive attributes. You, Lady D said dramatically, pointing her finger in Elizabeth's direction, did not attend my masquerade ball last night. Elizabeth's jaw dropped. That's what you wanted to ask me about? I'm most displeased. You—she jabbed her finger in Caroline's direction—I saw. The pumpkin, yes? A most barbaric fruit. I believe it's a vegetable, Caroline murmured. Nonsense, it's a fruit. If it has seeds in the fleshy bit, it's a fruit. Where did you learn your biology, girl? It's a gourd, Elizabeth ground out. May we leave it at that? Lady Danbury waved her hand dismissively. Whatever it is, it doesn't grow in England. Therefore I have no use for it. Elizabeth felt herself begin to slouch. Lady Danbury was exhausting. The countess in question whipped her head around to face her. I'm not through with you, Elizabeth. Elizabeth would have groaned, had she had time before Lady D sharply added, And sit up straight. Elizabeth stood. Now, then, Lady Danbury continued, I worked very hard to convince you to attend my party. I obtained a costume for you—a very becoming costume, I might add—and you repay me by not even paying your respects in the receiving line? I was most insulted. Most— Maaaaaawwwwwww!'' Lady Danbury looked up in time to see Lucas and Jane run screaming down the hail. What are they doing to my cat?'' she demanded. Elizabeth craned her neck. I'm not certain if they are chasing Malcolm or if he is chasing them.' Caroline perked up. I'd be happy to go and investigate. Elizabeth let one of her hands land heavily on Caroline's arm. Please, she said too sweetly, stay. Elizabeth, Lady Danbury barked, are you going to answer me? <Elizabeth blinked in confusion. Had you asked me a question?'' Where were you? Why did you not attend? I... I... Elizabeth floundered for words. She certainly couldn't tell the truth—that she'd been out being seduced by her nephew. Well? Knock knock knock. Elizabeth shot out of the room like a bullet. Must answer the door, she called out over her shoulder. You'll not escape me, Lizzie Hotchkiss! she heard Lady Danbury yell. She also thought she heard Caroline mutter the word traitor under her breath, but by then Elizabeth was already consumed with worry that it might be James standing on the other side of the heavy oak door. She took a deep breath. If he was there, there was nothing she could do about it. She swung open the door. Oh, good day, Mr. Ravenscroft. Now, why did she feel so disappointed? Miss Hotchkiss. He nodded. Is my wife here? Yes, in the sitting room with Lady Danbury. Blake winced. Perhaps I'll come back later.... Blake? they heard Caroline call out—in a rather desperate sort of a voice. Is that you?'' Elizabeth nudged Blake in the arm. Too late. Blake shuffled into the sitting room, the expression on his face precisely that of an eight-year-old boy about to be scolded for a prank involving a frog and a pillowcase. Blake. Caroline's voice practically sang with relief. Lady Danbury, he murmured. Blake Ravenscroft! Lady Danbury exclaimed. I haven't seen you since you were eight years old. I've been hiding. Hmmph. All of you are growing far too cheeky in my old age. And how are you faring these days? Blake inquired. Don't try to change the subject, Lady D warned. Caroline turned to Elizabeth and whispered, Is there a subject? Lady Danbury narrowed her eyes and shook her finger at Blake. I still haven't finished talking to you about the time you put that frog in poor Miss Bowater's pillowcase. She was a terrible governess, Blake replied, and besides, it was all James's idea. I'm sure it was, but you should have had the moral rectitude to—'' Lady Danbury cut herself off rather suddenly, and shot an uncharacteristically panicked glance at Elizabeth, who then remembered that her employer didn't know that she had discovered James's true identity. Elizabeth, not wanting to touch that as a potential source of conversation, turned and studied her fingernails assiduously. After a moment, she looked up, blinked, feigned surprise, and asked, Were you speaking to me? No, Lady D replied in a puzzled voice. I didn't even mention your name. Oh, Elizabeth said, thinking she might have overdone the not-paying-attention act. I saw you looking at me, and— No matter, Lady Danbury said quickly. She turned back to Blake and opened her mouth, presumably to scold him, but nothing came out. Elizabeth bit her lip to keep from laughing. Poor Lady Danbury wanted so desperately to scold Blake for some two-decades-old schoolboy prank, but she couldn't, because that would lead to a mention of James, about whom she thought Elizabeth didn't know the truth, and— ' Tea, anyone?'' Susan staggered into the room under the weight of an overloaded tea service. Just the thing! Lady Danbury looked ready to vault out of her chair in her haste to have the subject changed. This time Elizabeth did laugh. Dear God, when had she managed to develop a sense of humor about this fiasco? Elizabeth? Caroline whispered. Are you laughing? No. Cough. I'm coughing. Caroline muttered something under her breath that Elizabeth did not interpret as a compliment. Susan set the tea service down on a table with a loud clatter, then was cut off by Lady Danbury, who yanked her chair closer in and announced, I will pour. Susan stepped back, bumping into Blake, who then sidled up to his wife and whispered, All this charming tableau needs is James. Bite your tongue, Elizabeth muttered, making no apologies for eavesdropping. Lady Danbury doesn't know that Elizabeth knows, Caroline whispered. What are you three whispering about? Lady D barked. Nothing! It would have been difficult to discern which of the threesome yelled the word the loudest. Silence reigned as Lady Danbury handed a cup of tea to Susan, then Blake leaned over and whispered, Did I hear a knock? Stop your teasing, Caroline scolded. It was the cat, Elizabeth said firmly. You have a cat? Blake asked. It's Lady Danbury's cat. Where is my cat? Lady D asked. She hears everything, Elizabeth muttered. I heard that! Elizabeth rolled her eyes. You seem in rather good spirits today, Blake commented. It is far too exhausting to be distraught. I have decided to return to my previous custom of making the best of the worst. I'm glad to hear that, Blake murmured, because I just saw James ride up. What? Elizabeth whipped around to look out the window. I don't see him. He already rode past. What are you three talking about?'' demanded Lady Danbury. I thought you said she heard everything, Caroline mentioned. Lady Danbury turned to Susan and said, Your sister looks as if she's about to suffer an apoplectic fit.

Dance Upon the Air ( Three Sisters Island #1)

She's looked like that since last night, Susan said. Lady D hooted with laughter. I like your sister, Elizabeth. If you ever up and get married on me, I want her for my new companion. I'm not getting married, Elizabeth said, more out of habit than anything else. Which caused both Ravenscrofts to turn and look at her with dubious expressions. I'm not! That was when the pounding began on the door. Blake raised a brow. And you say you're not getting married, he murmured. Elizabeth! Lady Danbury barked. Shouldn't you be answering the door?'' I had considered ignoring it, Elizabeth mumbled. Lucas and Jane chose that moment to appear in the doorway. Do you want me to answer the door?'' Jane asked. I think I lost Lady Danbury's cat, Lucas added. Lady D dropped her teacup. Where is my poor Malcolm? Well, he ran into the kitchen, and then out into the garden, and then behind the turnip patch, and— I could waltz to the doorknob, Jane added. I need to practice. Malcolm! Lady D howled. Here, kitty kitty! Elizabeth turned around to scowl at Caroline and Blake, both of whom were shaking with uncontrollable silent laughter. Lucas said, I don't think he's going to hear you from here, Lady Danbury. The banging grew louder. Apparently Jane had decided to circle around the hall before angling off to the front door. Then James started to bellow Elizabeth's name, followed by a rather irritated, Open this door at once! Elizabeth sagged onto a cushioned bench, fighting the absurd impulse to laugh. If the temperature in the room were only a few degrees hotter, she'd swear she was in hell. *      *      * James Sidwell, Marquis of Riverdale, was not in a good mood. His temperament couldn't even be classified as passably polite. He had been climbing the walls all morning, practically chaining himself to his bed to keep from going to Elizabeth. He'd wanted to call upon her first thing, but no, both Caroline and Blake had insisted that he give her a little time. She was overwrought, they'd said. Better to wait until her emotions weren't running quite so high. So he'd waited. Against his better judgment, and, more importantly as pertained to his temper, against his natural instinct, he'd waited. And then, when he'd finally gone to the Ravenscrofts' room to ask them if they thought he'd waited long enough, he'd found a note from Caroline to Blake, explaining that she'd gone out to the Hotchkiss cottage. And then he'd found a note from Blake to himself, saying much the same thing. And then, to add insult to injury, as he'd dashed through Danbury House's great hall, the butler had stopped him to mention that the countess had gone out to the Hotchkiss cottage. The only damned creature who hadn't made the mile-long journey was the blasted cat. Elizabeth! James bellowed, pounding his fist against the surprisingly well-made and sturdy door. Let me in this instant or I swear I'll— The door abruptly swung open. James looked out into nothingness, then redirected his gaze several inches down. Little Jane Hotchkiss was standing in the doorway, beaming up at him. Good day, Mr. Siddons, she chirped, extending her hand. I'm learning to waltz. James reluctantly faced the fact that he couldn't barrel past a nine-year-old girl and live with his conscience. Miss Jane, he replied. It's fine to see you again. She wiggled her fingers. He blinked. She wiggled them again. Oh, right, he said quickly, leaning down to kiss her hand. Apparently once you'd kissed a little girl's hand, you were obligated to repeat the gesture for the rest of her childhood. It's a fine day, don't you think? Jane asked, affecting her most grown-up accent. Yes, I... His words trailed off as he glanced past her shoulder, trying to catch a glimpse of whatever was causing such a commotion in the sitting room. His aunt was bellowing about something, Lucas was yelling something else, and then Susan came tearing out, scooting across the hall and into the kitchen. I found him! Susan yelled. Then, much to James's astonishment, an obese ball of fur trotted out of the kitchen, crossed the hall, and sauntered into the sitting room. Damn. Even the bloody cat had managed to get here before he had. Jane, he said with what he thought was a heroic measure of patience, I really need to speak with your sister. Elizabeth? No, Susan. Yes, Elizabeth, he said slowly. Oh. She's in the sitting room. But I should warn you—Jane cocked her head flirtatiously—she's very busy. We've had a lot of guests this afternoon. I know, James muttered, waiting for Jane to move so that he wouldn't run her over on his way to the sitting room. Maw! That cat is not very well-behaved, Jane said primly, showing no signs of moving now that she had a new topic of conversation. He has been whining like that all day. James noticed that his hands had balled into impatient fists. Really? he asked, as politely as he was able. If he used a tone of voice that reflected how he was really feeling, the little girl would probably run screaming in the other direction. And the path to Elizabeth's heart definitely did not include reducing her younger sister to tears. Jane nodded. He is a terrible cat. Jane, James said, squatting down to her level, could I speak with Elizabeth now?''The little girl swept aside. Of course. You should have asked. James resisted the urge to comment further. Instead, he thanked Jane, kissed her hand again for good measure, and then strode off to the sitting room, where, much to his great surprise and slight amusement, he found Elizabeth on her hands and knees. *      *      * Malcolm, Elizabeth hissed, you get out from under that cabinet right now. Malcolm sniffed. Right now, you miserable little kitty. Do not refer to my cat as a miserable little kitty, Lady Danbury boomed. Elizabeth reached out and tried to grab the recalcitrant furball. The recalcitrant furball replied with a claw-filled swipe of his paw. Lady Danbury, Elizabeth announced without lifting her head, this cat is a monster. Don't be ridiculous. Malcolm is nature's perfect kitty, and you know it. Malcolm, Elizabeth muttered, is the spawn of the devil. Elizabeth Hotchkiss! It's true. Just last week you said he was a wonderful cat. Last week he was being nice to me. If I recall, you called him a traitor. Lady Danbury sniffed as she watched Elizabeth try to grab the cat again. He is clearly overset because those beastly children were chasing him around the house. That was it! Elizabeth hauled herself to her feet, fixed a deadly stare in Lady Danbury's direction, and growled, No one calls Lucas and Jane beasts but me! What ensued wasn't quite utter silence. Blake was audibly laughing under his hand, and Lady Danbury was sputtering about, making strange gurgling noises, and blinking so hard that Elizabeth would swear she could hear her eyelids clamp shut. But nothing would have prepared her for the sound of slow clapping coming from behind her. Elizabeth turned slowly around, twisting to face the doorway. James. Standing there with an impressed half-smile and an arched eyebrow. He cocked his head at his aunt, saying, I can't remember the last tune I heard anyone speak to you that way, Aunt. Except you! Lady D retorted. Then, realizing he'd just called her aunt, she started sputtering anew, jerking her head in Elizabeth's direction. It's all right, James said. She knows everything. Since when? Since last night. Lady Danbury turned to Elizabeth and snapped, And you didn't tell me? You didn't ask! Then Elizabeth turned back to James and growled, How long have you been standing there? I saw you crawling under the cabinet, if that's what you're asking. Elizabeth fought an inner groan. She'd managed to grab hold of Jane and beg her to stall James, and she'd been hoping that Jane would have kept him in the hall at least until she'd managed to return the blooming cat to Lady Danbury. She hadn't really wanted James's first view of her after last night's debacle to be of her swishing behind. When she got her hands on that cat... Why, Lady Danbury shrilled, did no one inform me of the change in James's public identity? Blake, Caroline said, tugging on her husband's arm, this might be our cue to leave. He shook his head. I wouldn't miss this for the world. Well, you're going to have to, James said forcefully. He crossed the room and grabbed hold of Elizabeth's hand. You are all welcome to stay and enjoy your tea, but Elizabeth and I are leaving. Wait a moment, she protested, making an unsuccessful attempt to retrieve her hand. You can't do this. He stared at her blankly. I can't do what? This! she retorted. You have no rights over me— I will, he said, flashing her a very confident, very male smile. Bad strategy on his part, Caroline whispered to Blake. Elizabeth clawed her hands, trying desperately to contain her anger. This is my house, she ground out. If anyone is going to invite my guests to enjoy themselves, it will be I. Then do it, James returned. And you cannot order me to leave with you. I didn't. I told your assorted guests—all of whom I gather were uninvited—that we were leaving. He's bungling this badly, Caroline whispered to Blake. Elizabeth crossed her arms. I'm not going anywhere. James's expression became positively menacing. If he'd only asked her nicely... Caroline whispered to Blake. Blake, James said, muzzle your wife. Blake laughed, which earned him a rather solid punch in the arm from his wife. And you, James said to Elizabeth. I've had all that my patience will allow. We need to talk. We can either do it outside or do it here, in front of my aunt, your siblings, and—here he jerked a hand toward Caroline and Blake—these two. Elizabeth swallowed nervously, frozen with indecision. James leaned in closer. You decide, Elizabeth. She did nothing, strangely unable to make her mouth form words. Very well, then, James snapped. I'll decide for you. And then, without further ado, he grabbed Elizabeth around the waist, threw her over his shoulder, and hauled her out of the room. Blake, who had been watching the unfolding drama with an amused smile on his face, turned to his wife and said, Actually, darling, I'd have to disagree. All things considered, I think he handled that rather well.

Chapter 21 By the time James had her out the front door, she was wiggling like an eel. An angry eel. But James had been modest when he'd described his pugilistic pursuits; his experience was extensive, and he'd had considerably more than a few lessons. When in London, he made daily excursions to Gentleman Jackson's Boxing Establishment, and when out of London, he frequently alarmed and amused his servants by hopping gracefully from foot to foot and punching at bales of hay. As a result, his arm was strong, his body was hard, and Elizabeth, for all her squirming, wasn't going anywhere. Put me down! she squealed. He saw no reason to reply. My lord! she said in protest. James, he snapped, widening their distance from the cottage with long, purposeful strides. You've used my given name often enough. That was when I thought you were Mr. Siddons, she shot back. And put me down. James kept walking, his arm a vise under her ribs. James! He grunted. That's more like it. Elizabeth bucked a little harder, forcing him to wrap a second arm around her. She stilled almost immediately. You finally realize that escape is impossible?'' James asked mildly. She scowled at him. I'll interpret that as a yes. Finally, after another minute of silent journey, he set her down near an enormous tree. Her back was to the trunk, and her feet were boxed in by thick, gnarled roots. James stood in front of her, his stance wide and his arms crossed. Elizabeth glared up at him and crossed her arms in return. She was perched on the raised ground that sloped into the tree trunk, so the difference between their heights was not as great as usual. James shifted his weight slightly but did not say anything. Elizabeth jutted her chin forward and tightened her jaw. James raised a brow. Oh, for heaven's sake! Elizabeth burst out. Just say what you came here to say. Yesterday, he said, I asked you to marry me. She swallowed. Yesterday I refused. And today? It was on the tip of her tongue to say, You haven't asked me today, but the words died before they could cross her lips. That was the sort of remark she might have made to the man she'd known as James Siddons. This man—this marquis—was someone else entirely, and she had no idea how she was meant to act around him. It wasn't that she was unfamiliar with the idiosyncrasies of the nobility; she'd spent years in the company of Lady Danbury, after all. She felt as if she were trapped in some strange little farce, and she didn't know the rules. All her life she'd been taught how to behave; every gently bred English girl was taught such things. But no one had ever told her what to do when one fell in love with a man who changed identities the way other people changed their clothes. After a long minute of silence, she said, You shouldn't have sent that bank draft. He winced. It arrived? Last night. He swore under his breath, muttering something about bloody bad timing. Elizabeth blinked back the moisture forming in her eyes. Why would you do such a thing? Did you think I wanted charity? That I was some pathetic, helpless— I thought, he cut in forcefully, that it was a crime you should have to marry some gout-ridden old lecher to support your siblings. Furthermore, it nearly broke my heart watching you bend over backwards to try to live up to Mrs. Seeton's vision of womanhood. I don't want your pity, she said in a low voice. This isn't pity, Elizabeth. You don't need those damned edicts. All they did was smother your spirit. He raked a weary hand through his hair. I couldn't bear it if you lost that spark that makes you so special. That quiet fire in your eyes or the secret smile when you're amused—she would have beaten that out of you, and I couldn't watch. She swallowed, uncomfortable with the kindness of his words. He stepped forward, halving the distance between them. What I did, I did out of friendship. Then why the secrecy? she whispered. His brows lifted over a doubtful stare. Are you telling me you would have accepted?'' He waited only a second before adding, I thought not. Besides, I was still supposed to be James Siddons. Where was an estate manager meant to find that sort of money?'' James, do you have any idea how demeaned I felt last night? When I came home, after all that had happened, to find an anonymous bank draft? And how, he countered, would you have felt if it had arrived two days earlier? Before you knew who I was. Before you had any reason to suspect I might have sent it. She bit her lip. She probably would have been suspicious, but also elated. And she certainly would have accepted the gift. Pride was pride, but her siblings needed to eat. And Lucas needed to go to school. And if she accepted James's proposal... Do you have any idea how selfish you are?'' he demanded, thankfully cutting into her thoughts, which were leading her in a most dangerous direction. Don't you dare, she shot back, her voice shaking with rage. Don't you dare call me that. I'll accept other insults as possibly true, but not that. Why, because you've spent the past five years slaving away for your family's well-being? Because you've passed every windfall on to them and taken nothing for yourself?'' His voice was mocking, and Elizabeth was too furious to reply. Oh, you've done all that, he said with cruel grandeur, but the one chance you have to truly better your situation, the single opportunity to end your worries and give them the life I know you think they deserve, you throw it all away.I have my pride, she ground out. James laughed harshly. Yes, you do. And it's quite clear that you value it more than you do the well-being of your family. She raised her hand to slap him, but he caught it easily. Even if you didn't marry me, he said, trying to ignore the slash of pain that simple sentence struck in his chest. Even if you didn't marry me, you could have taken the money and locked me out of your life. She shook her head. You would have had too much control over me. How? The money was yours. A bank draft. I had no way to take it back. You would have punished me for taking it, she whispered. For taking it and not marrying you. He felt something in his heart turn cold. Is that the sort of man you think I am? I don't know what sort of man you are! she burst out. How could I possibly? I don't even know who you are. Everything you need to know about the sort of man I am and the husband I'd be, you know already. He touched her cheek, allowing every emotion, every last bit of love to rise to the surface. His soul was laid bare in his eyes, and he knew it. You know me better than anyone, Elizabeth. He saw her hesitation, and in that instant, he hated her for it. He'd offered her everything, every shred of his heart, and all she could do was hesitate! He swore under his breath and turned to leave. But he'd only taken two steps when he heard Elizabeth call out, Wait! Slowly, he turned around. I'll marry you, she blurted out. His eyes narrowed. Why? Why? she echoed dumbly. Why? You've refused me repeatedly for two days, he pointed out. Why the change of heart? Elizabeth's lips parted, and she felt her throat close up in panic. She couldn't get a word out, couldn't even form a thought. Of all things, she'd never expected him to question her acceptance. He moved forward, the heat and strength of his body overwhelming even though he made no move to touch her. Elizabeth found herself backed up against the tree, breathless as she stared up into his dark eyes, which were gleaming with anger. You—you asked me, she just barely managed to say. You asked me and I said yes. Isn't that what you wanted?'' He shook his head slowly and leaned his hands against the tree, one on her left, one on her right. Tell me why you accepted. Elizabeth tried to sink farther into the tree trunk. Something about his quiet, deadly resolve terrified her. If he'd been yelling, or scolding, or anything else she might have known what to do. But this calm fury was unnerving, and the tight prison made by his arms and the tree made her blood burn in her veins. She felt her eyes widen, and knew that the expression he must see there would brand her a coward. You— you made some very good arguments, she said, trying to hold on to her pride—the one emotion he accused her of overindulging. I—I can't give my siblings the life they deserve, and you can, and I was going to have to marry, anyway, and it might as well be someone I— Forget it, he spat out. The offer is rescinded. The breath left her body in a short, violent whoosh. Rescinded? I won't have you that way. Her ankles grew wobbly, and she held on to the wide trunk of the tree behind her for support. I don't understand, she whispered. I won't be married for my money, he vowed. Oh! she burst out, her energy and outrage returning in full force. Now who is the hypocrite? First you tutor me so that I might marry some other poor, unsuspecting fool for his money, then you berate me for not using your money to support my siblings. And now ... now you have the gall to rescind your offer of marriage—a highly ungentlemanly act, I might add—because I had the honesty to say that I need your wealth and position for my family. Which, she bit off, is exactly what you've been using to try to get me to marry you in the first place! Are you done? he asked in an insolent voice. No, she retorted. She was angry and hurt, and she wanted him to hurt, too. You were going to be married for your money eventually. Isn't that the way things work among your set? Yes, he said with chilling softness, I was probably always destined for a marriage of fortunes. It's what my parents had, and theirs before them, and theirs before them. I can tolerate a cold marriage based on pound notes. I've been bred for it. He leaned forward until his lips were just a breath away from hers. But I can't tolerate one like that with you. Why not? she whispered, unable to pull her eyes from his. Because we have this.' He moved quickly, his large hand cupping the back of her head as his lips found hers. In her last coherent second before he crushed her against him, she thought that this would be a kiss of anger, a furious embrace. But even though his arms held her tightly in place, his mouth moved across hers with stunning, melting gentleness. It was the kind of kiss a woman died for, the sort that one wouldn't break if the flames of hell were licking at one's feet. Elizabeth felt her insides quicken, and her arms tore from his firm grasp to wrap around his body. She touched his arms, his shoulders, and his neck, her hands finally coming to rest in his thick hair. James whispered words of love and desire across her cheek until he reached her ear. He tickled the lobe, murmuring his satisfaction as her head lolled back, revealing the long, elegant arch of her throat. There was something about a woman's neck, about the way her hair drew softly from her skin, that had never failed to arouse him.

But this was Elizabeth, and she was different, and James was completely undone. Her hair was so blond that it seemed almost invisible where it met her skin. And the scent of her was tantalizing, a gentle mix of soap and roses, and something else—something that was uniquely this woman. He trailed his mouth down the neck, stopping to pay homage to the delicate line of her collarbone. The top buttons of her frock were undone; he had no memory of slipping them open, but he must have, and he reveled in the small strip of skin that was bared to him. He heard her breathing, felt it whisper across his hair as he moved back up to kiss the underside of her chin. She was gasping now, moaning between breaths, and James's body tightened even more at the evidence of her desire. She wanted him. She wanted him more than she could ever understand, but he knew the truth. This was . one thing she could not hide. Reluctantly, he pulled away, forcing himself to set a foot of space between them even as his hands rested on her shoulders. They were both shaking, breathing hard, and still needed the support of each other. James wasn't certain he trusted his own balance, and she looked no better. His eyes raked over her, taking in every inch of her dishevelment. Her hair had escaped the confines of her bun, and each strand seemed to tease him, begging to be drawn over his lips. His body was drawn into a tight coil, and it took every ounce of James's control not to pull her back against him. He wanted to tear the clothes from her body, lay her down on the soft grass, and claim her as his own in the most primitive way possible. And then when he was done, when she could have no doubt that she belonged completely and irrevocably to him, he wanted to do it again, this time slowly, exploring every inch of her with his hands, and then with his lips, and then, when she was hot and arching with need— Abruptly, he yanked his hands away from her shoulders. He couldn't touch her when his mind was racing into such dangerous territory. Elizabeth sagged against the tree, raising huge blue eyes to meet his. Her tongue darted out to wet her lips, and James felt that little flick straight in his gut. He took another step away. With each move she made, each tiny, barely audible breath, he lost another piece of his control. He no longer trusted his hands; they itched to reach for her. When you admit that this is why you want me, he bit off, his voice hot and intense, then I'll marry you. *      *      * Two days later, the memory of that last kiss still made Elizabeth shake. She had stood by the tree, dazed and stunned, and watched him walk away. Then she had remained in place for another ten minutes, her eyes fixed on the horizon, staring blankly at the last spot where she'd seen him. And then, when her mind had finally woken from the passionate shock of his touch, she had -at down and cried. She had been dishonest when she had tried to convince •wrestle that she wanted to many him because he was a wealthy marquis. It was ironic, really. She'd spent the last month resigning herself to the fate of marrying for money, and now she'd fallen in love, and he was wealthy enough to give her family a better life, but everything was all wrong. She loved him. Or rather, she loved a man who looked just like him. Elizabeth didn't care what Lady Danbury or the Ravenscrofts told her; humble James Siddons could not be the same man inside as the lofty Marquis of Riverdale. It simply wasn't possible. Everyone had his place in British society; this was something people were taught early, especially people like Elizabeth, daughters of minor gentry who lived on the fringes of the ton. It seemed that she could solve all of her problems by going to him and telling him she wanted him, not his money. She'd be married to the man she loved, with ample resources to support her family. But she could not shake the nagging suspicion that she did not know him. The pragmatist inside reminded her that she probably wouldn't know any man she chose to marry, or at least that she would not know him well. Men and women rarely conducted courtships beyond the most superficial of levels. But with James, it was different. Just as he said he could not tolerate a marriage of convenience with her, she did not think she could withstand a union without trust. Maybe with someone else, but not with him. Elizabeth squeezed her eyes shut and lay back upon her bed. She'd spent much of the past few days holed up in her room. After the first few attempts, her siblings had given up on trying to talk with her and had taken to leaving trays of food outside her door. Susan had prepared all of Elizabeth's favorite dishes, but most of the food had gone untouched. Heartbreak, apparently, did little to build an appetite. A tentative knock sounded at the door, and Elizabeth turned her head to look out the window. Judging from the level of the sun, it was about the right time for the evening meal. If she ignored the knock, they would just leave the tray and go away. But the knock persisted, and so Elizabeth sighed and forced herself to her feet. She crossed the small room in three steps and pulled open the door, revealing all three younger Hotchkisses. This came for you, Susan said, holding out a creamy envelope. It's from Lady Danbury. She wants to see you. Elizabeth raised a brow. You've taken to reading my correspondence? Of course not! The footman she sent over told me. It's true, Jane put in. I was there. Elizabeth reached out and took the envelope. She looked at her siblings. They looked back. Aren't you going to read it? Lucas finally said. Jane nudged her brother in the ribs. Lucas, don't be rude. She glanced up at Elizabeth. Are you?Now who's being rude? Elizabeth countered. You might as well open it, Susan said. If nothing else, it will take your mind off of—'' Don't say it, Elizabeth warned. Well, you certainly cannot wallow in self-pity forever. Elizabeth made a sheeshing sound on top of a sigh. Aren't I entitled to at least a day or two? Of course, Susan said conciliatorily. But even by that schedule, your time is up. Elizabeth groaned and tore open the envelope. She wondered how much her siblings knew of her situation. She had told them nothing, but they were little ferrets when it came to uncovering secrets, and she'd wager they knew over half the story by now. Aren't you going to open it? Lucas asked excitedly. Elizabeth raised her brows and looked over at her brother. He was actually jumping up and down. I can't imagine why you're so excited to hear what Lady Danbury has to say, she said. I can't imagine, either, Susan growled, slamming a hand down on Lucas's shoulder to keep him still. Elizabeth just shook her head. If the Hotchkisses were bickering, then life must be returning to normal, and that had to be a good thing. Ignoring the grunts of protest Lucas was making at being manhandled by his sister, Elizabeth slipped the paper from the envelope and unfolded it. It took her eyes mere seconds to scan the lines, and a surprised Me? escaped her lips. Is something wrong? Susan asked. Elizabeth shook her head. Not precisely. But Lady Danbury wants me to come see her. I thought you weren't working for her any longer, Jane said. I'm not, although I imagine I shall have to eat crow and ask for my position back. I don't see how else we're to have enough money to eat. When Elizabeth looked up, all three younger Hotchkisses were chewing on their lower lips, obviously dying to point out that (A) Elizabeth could have married James or (B) she could have at least deposited the bank draft instead of tearing it into four neat pieces. Elizabeth dropped to her hands and knees to grab her boots from under the bed, where she'd kicked them the day before. She found her reticule sitting beside it, and she snatched that up as well. Are you leaving right now? Jane asked. Elizabeth nodded as she sat on the braided rug to pull on her boots. I shouldn't wait up for me, she said. I don't know how long I'll be. I imagine Lady Danbury will have a carriage bring me home. You might even stay the night, Lucas said. Jane walloped him in the shoulder. Why would she do that? It might be easier if it's dark, he returned with a glare, and— Either way, Elizabeth said loudly, finding the entire conversation somewhat bizarre, you needn't wait up. We won't, Susan assured her, herding Lucas and Jane out of the way as Elizabeth stepped out into the hall. They watched as she dashed down the stairs and yanked open the front door. Have a good time! Susan called out. Elizabeth threw her a sarcastic look over her shoulder. I'm sure I won't, but thank you for the sentiment. She pulled the door shut behind her, leaving Susan, Jane, and Lucas standing at the top of the stairs. Oh, you might just be surprised, Elizabeth Hotchkiss, Susan said with a grin. You might just be surprised yet. *      *      * The past few days would not rank among James Sidwell's finest. To deem his temper foul would be a gross understatement, and Lady Danbury's servants had long since started taking circuitous routes around the house just to avoid him. His first inclination had been to get good and drunk, but he'd already done that once, on the night Elizabeth had discovered his true identity, and all it had left him with was a blistering hangover. And so the glass of whiskey he'd poured when he'd returned home from her cottage still sat on the desk in the library, sipped at no more than twice. Ordinarily, his aunt's well-trained servants would have swept away the half-filled glass; nothing upset their sensibilities more than a stale glass of liquor laying directly upon a polished tabletop. But James's ferocious expression the first time anyone had dared to knock on the locked library door had ensured his privacy, and now his haven—and his stale glass of whiskey— remained his own. He was, of course, wallowing in self-pity, but it seemed to him that a man deserved a day or two of antisocial behavior after what he'd been through. It would have been easier if he could have decided with whom he was more angry: Elizabeth or himself. He picked up the glass of whiskey for the hundredth time that day, looked at it, and set it down. Across the room, HOW TO MARRY A MARQUIS sat on the shelf, its red leather spine silently daring him to look at anything else. James glared at the book, just barely suppressing the urge to hurl the whiskey at it. Let's see ... if he doused it with whiskey, then tossed it into the fireplace ... the resulting inferno would be most satisfying. He was actually considering it, trying to gauge how high the flames would reach, when a knock sounded at the door, this one considerably more forceful than the servants' paltry attempts. James! Open this door at once. He groaned. Aunt Agatha. He rose to his feet and crossed the room to the door. He might as well get this over with. He knew that tone of voice; she'd pound the door until her fist turned bloody. Agatha, he said too sweetly, how lovely to see you. You look like hell, she barked, then pushed past him to settle into one of the library's wing chairs.

Still as tactful as ever, he murmured, leaning against a tabletop. Are you drunk? He shook his head and motioned to the whiskey. Poured a glass but never drank it. He looked down at the amber liquid. Hmmm. The surface is beginning to get dusty. I didn't come here to discuss spirits, Agatha said haughtily. You did inquire as to my sobriety, he pointed out. She ignored his comment. I hadn't realized you had become friendly with young Lucas Hotchkiss. James blinked and stood up straight. Of all the non sequiturs his aunt might have chosen—and she was a master at changing the subject with no warning whatsoever—he certainly never expected this. Lucas? he echoed. What about Lucas? Lady Danbury held out a folded piece of paper. He sent you this letter. James took it from her, noting the childish smudges on the paper. I suppose you read this, he said. It was not sealed. He decided not to press the matter and unfolded the paper. How odd, he murmured. That he wants to see you? I don't think it's the least bit odd. The poor boy has not had a man in his life since he was three and his father died in that hunting accident. James looked up sharply. Apparently Elizabeth's ruse had worked. If Agatha hadn't managed to discover the truth about Mr. Hotchkiss's death, then the secret was safe. He probably has a question for you, Agatha continued. Something he'd be too embarrassed to ask his sisters. Boys are like that. And I'm sure he's confused about ill that has happened in the past few days. James looked at her with curious eyes. His aunt was displaying a remarkable sensitivity to the little boy's plight. And then Agatha said, softly, He reminds me of you when you were that age. James caught his breath. Oh, don't look so surprised. He is, of course, much happier than you were at the time. She reached down and gathered up her cat, who had slunk into the room. But he has that lost expression boys get when they reach a certain age and they don't have a man to guide them. She stroked Malcolm's thick fur. We women are, of course, extremely capable and, for the most part, far wiser than men, but even I must admit there are some things we cannot do. While James was comprehending the fact that his aunt had actually admitted that there existed a task beyond her capabilities, she added, You are going to see him, aren't you? James was insulted that she would even ask. Only an unfeeling monster could ignore such a request. Of course I'm going to see him. I'm rather curious, however, about his choice of locale. Lord Danbury's hunting lodge? Agatha shrugged. It's not as odd as you'd think. After he died, no one had any use for it. Cedric isn't fond of hunting, and since he never leaves London, anyway, I offered it to Elizabeth. She refused, of course. Of course, James murmured. Oh, I know you're thinking her too proud, but the truth is, she has a five-year lease on her cottage, so the move wouldn't have saved her any money. And she didn't want to uproot her family. Lady Danbury lifted Malcolm up into a standing position on her lap and let him kiss her nose. Isn't he just the most darling cat? Depends on your definition of 'darling,' James said, but only to needle his aunt. He owed the cat eternal gratitude for leading him to Elizabeth when Fellport had attacked her. Lady D scowled at him. As I was saying, Elizabeth refused, but she allowed that they might move there once her rent came due, so she brought the entire family out for a visit. Young Lucas was quite taken with it. She frowned thoughtfully. I think it was the hunting trophies. Young boys love that sort of thing. James glanced at a clock that was being used as a bookend. He'd need to leave in about a quarter of an hour if he wanted to be prompt for Lucas's requested meeting. Agatha sniffed the air and stood, letting Malcolm vault onto an empty bookshelf. I'll leave you to your own company, she said, leaning on her cane. I'll tell the servants not to expect you for supper. I'm sure this won't take long. One never knows, and if the boy is troubled, you might need to spend some time with him. Besides—she paused as she reached the doorway and turned around— it's not as if you've graced the table with your illustrious presence these past few days, anyway. A cutting comeback would spoil her magnificent exit, so James just smiled wryly and watched her walk slowly down the hall, her cane thumping softly in time with her footsteps. He'd long since learned that everyone was happier if Agatha got to have the last word at least half the time. James walked slowly back into the library, picked up the whiskey glass, and tossed contents through the open window. Setting the glass back down on the table, he glanced around the room, and his eyes fell upon the little red book that had been haunting him for days. He strode to the bookshelf and picked it up, tossing the slim volume from hand to hand. It weighed almost nothing, which seemed ironic, since it had done so much to change his life. And then, in a split-second decision he would never quite understand, he slipped it into his coat pocket. Much as he detested the book, it somehow made him feel closer to her. Chapter 22 As Elizabeth approached the late Lord Danbury's hunting lodge, she chewed nervously on her lower lip, and paused to reread Lady Danbury's unexpected missive. Elizabeth— As you are aware, I am being blackmailed. I believe you might have information that will unearth the villain who has chosen me as his target. Please meet me at Lord Danbury's hunting lodge at eight this evening.Yrs, Agatha, Lady Danbury Elizabeth couldn't imagine why Lady Danbury would think she possessed any pertinent information, but she had no reason to be suspicious of the note's authenticity. She knew Lady D's handwriting as well as her own, and this was no forgery. She purposefully had not shared the note with her younger siblings, preferring to tell them that Lady Danbury needed to see her and leave it at that. They knew nothing of the blackmail plots, and Elizabeth hadn't wanted to worry them, especially since Lady D wanted to meet at such a late hour. It was still quite light out at eight, but unless the countess could conduct her business in mere minutes it would be dark when Elizabeth had to return home. Elizabeth paused with her hand on the doorknob. There was no carriage in sight, and Lady Danbury's health did not allow her to walk such distances. If the countess had not yet arrived, then the door was probably locked, and.. . The knob turned in her hand. How odd, she murmured, and entered the house. There was a fire blazing in the hearth, and an elegant supper was laid on the table. Elizabeth walked farther into the room, turning in a slow circle as she took in the preparations. Why would Lady Danbury ... Lady Danbury? she called out. Are you here? Elizabeth sensed a presence in a doorway behind her and whirled around. No, James said. Only me. Elizabeth's hand flew to her mouth. What are you doing here? she gasped. His smile was lopsided. The same as you, I imagine. Did you receive a note from your brother? Lucas? she asked, startled. No, from your aunt. Ah. Then they are all conspiring against us. Here ... He held out a crumpled piece of paper. Read this. Elizabeth unfolded the note and read: My lord— Before you leave the district, I beg of you to grant me an audience. There is a matter of some sensitivity about which I should like to ask your advice. It is not something a man would like to discuss with his sisters. Unless I hear otherwise, I shall expect to meet you at Lord Danbury's hunting lodge at eight this evening. Sincerely, Sir Lucas Hotchkiss Elizabeth barely stifled a horrified giggle. It's Lucas's handwriting, but the words are straight from Susan's mouth. James smiled. I thought it sounded a touch precocious. He is very bright, of course— Of course. —but I cannot quite hear him use the phrase 'matter of some sensitivity.' Not to mention, James added, that at the age of eight, it is unlikely that he should even have a matter of some sensitivity. Elizabeth nodded. Oh! I'm sure you shall want to read this. She handed him the letter she'd received from Lady Danbury. He scanned it, then said, I'm not surprised. I arrived a few minutes before you did and found these. He held out two envelopes, one marked, Read immediately and one marked Read after you've reconciled. Elizabeth choked back horrified laughter. My reaction precisely, he murmured, although I doubt I looked half so fetching. Her eyes flew to his face. He was staring at her with a quiet, burning intensity that robbed her of breath. And then, without diverting his gaze from hers, even for a second, he asked, Shall we open them? It took Elizabeth a few moments to realize what he was talking about. Oh, the envelopes. Yes, yes. She licked her lips, which had gone quite dry. But both? He held up the one marked Read after you've reconciled and shook it slightly in the air. I can save it, if you think we will have cause to read it shortly. She swallowed convulsively and avoided the question by saying, Why don't we open the other one and see what it says? Very well. He nodded graciously and slid his finger under the envelope flap. He slipped a card out, and together they bent their heads down and read: To the both of you— Try, if you might, not to be complete idiots. The note was unsigned, but there was no doubt who wrote it. The long, graceful handwriting was familiar to them both, but it was the words that definitively declared Lady Danbury the author. No one else could possibly be so delightfully rude. James cocked his head to the side. Ah, my loving aunt. I cannot believe she tricked me like this, Elizabeth grumbled. You can't? he asked doubtfully. Well, yes, of course I can believe that. I just can't believe she would use the blackmail plot as bait. I was quite terrified for her. Ah, yes, the blackmail. James regarded the unopened envelope, the one marked Read after you've reconciled. I have a sneaking suspicion we'll find something about that in here. Elizabeth gasped. Do you think she was making it up? She certainly never seemed overly concerned by my lack of progress in solving the crime. Open it, Elizabeth ordered. Immediately. Sooner than immediately. James started to, then stopped and shook his head. No, he said in a lazy voice, I think I'll wait. You want to wait? He smiled down at her, slow and sensual. We're not yet reconciled. James ... she said, in a voice that was half warning and half longing. You know me, he said. You know more of my soul than any other person alive, maybe even myself. If at first you didn't know my name ... well, all I can say is that you know why I didn't reveal myself to you right away. I had obligations to my aunt, and I owe her more than I could ever repay.

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