Logan summoned a footman and instructed him to bring more food from the kitchen: dry chicken with no seasoning, and boiled potatoes mashed with milk.
“I'll only send it back,” Madeline said stubbornly. “I can't eat anything tonight. Perhaps I'll feel better tomorrow.”
They exchanged a mutual glare. “You'll eat something if I have to stuff it down your throat,” Logan said grimly. “Now that you've gotten yourself in this condition, you have a responsibility to the child.”
The accusatory note in his voice stung. “I had some help ‘getting myself in this condition,’” Madeline snapped, her own temper flaring. “It was as much your fault as mine!” She leaned her head on her hands, breathing unsteadily and wishing that the waves of nausea would go away.
There was a short silence. “You're right,” Logan said abruptly. “I didn't give a thought to the possible consequences of what we did that night. I was too eager to bed you.” He sounded distinctly uncomfortable as he added, “Besides, I've never had to bother with that sort of thing. The women I…er, knew before you were all in the habit of taking preventative measures.”
Madeline peered at him between her fingers. Was it her imagination, or did he look almost contrite? “Preventative measures?” she repeated. “I don't know what you're talking about.”
Logan smiled. “We'll discuss it later. After the baby is born.” He moved his chair beside hers and slid his arm behind her back. Dipping a napkin into a water glass, he held the cool cloth against her sweat-beaded forehead. “Remember the milk toast you fed me when I was sick?” he murmured. “You promised I could have my revenge someday.”
She made a sound somewhere between a laugh and a groan. “I should have left you alone.”
“You saved my life,” Logan said. “It doesn't matter what your motives were. You took care of me in spite of my bad temper and delirious rantings and sickroom stench.” The cool, damp cloth moved over her cheek and down to her throat, soothing her. “The least I can do is return the favor.”
The tightness in her throat eased, the sickness receding a little. Madeline opened her eyes and saw Logan's face very close to hers. The way he looked at her made her heart pick up a rapid beat. It wasn't the loving gaze she remembered from before…but at least the coldness and distance had been banished. “You can have anything you want,” he murmured, as if he were coddling a sick child. “Just tell me.”
“Anything?” She laughed shakily. “You're putting yourself at risk, making an offer like that.”
His intense blue eyes held hers. “I never say things I don't mean.”
She stared at him wonderingly, until the footman returned with a new plate of food and set it before them.
“Thank you, George,” Logan said, picking up a fork. “That's all for now.” His arm remained behind Madeline's back. Scooping up a tiny morsel of mashed boiled potato, he held it to her lips. “Do you think you could manage one bite, sweet?”
Resignedly she opened her mouth and accepted the offering, despite the roiling of her stomach. The potato was bland and crumbling on her tongue. Chewing slowly, she tried to keep from gagging.
“Once more,” Logan coaxed.
He was unexpectedly patient, distracting her with light conversation, supporting her back with his hard arm as he fed her. He could be very gentle, for such a large man. Each bite went down a little easier than the last, until she had consumed half the food on the plate. Finally she shook her head with a sigh. “No more.”
He seemed reluctant to withdraw his arm. “Are you certain?”
Madeline nodded. “You should eat now. Your supper is getting cold.” She sipped a goblet of water while Logan attended to his own plate. She was fascinated by the movements of his hands, the way his long fingers tore chunks from a hard-crusted roll, the way he held a crystal glass. As he realized that she was watching him, some unvoiced question seemed to hover between them. His expression was arrested…he seemed curiously discomforted, as if he wanted something he shouldn't have.
Waving away the offer of dessert with an abrupt gesture, Logan helped Madeline from the table. The past few nights they had spent an hour or two after dinner in a private parlor, reading and conversing before the fire. Tonight, however, Logan seemed disinclined to share her company. “Perhaps I'll see you in the morning,” he said, casually flicking her chin with his forefinger. “I have some work to do in the library.”
Her brows knit together, and she kept her voice low, mindful of being overheard. “You won't…come to me later?”
His expression didn't change. “No. I won't bother you tonight.”
Logan started to turn away, but she touched his wrist lightly, and he went very still. Her clear amber eyes looked into his. “I wouldn't mind,” she said. It was the closest she could bring herself to inviting him.
An awkward, charged silence came between them. Logan wrestled with temptation, knowing very well what she was offering. It was something he wanted badly indeed. He wanted to laugh in frustration at the way Madeline doggedly refused to protect herself. It was her peculiar strength, that she could take any setdown and still not close herself away. He almost envied her—it was a strength he didn't possess.
He leaned over and touched his lips to her forehead, craving her silken skin, her supple body beneath his mouth and hands…but he pulled away after the chaste kiss. “Good night,” he said gruffly.
Madeline nodded, forcing an unconcerned smile to her face, and went alone to her room. She would give him all the time he needed. She would be patient with him, just as she would with a wild creature that feared her touch…a creature that might be coaxed to eat from her hand or just as likely bite it off.
Changing into a thin long-sleeved gown, she snuggled beneath the heavy silk covers. Gradually the warmth of her body collected in the cocoon of bedclothes. Her bones seemed to ache, especially the lower region of her spine, and she changed position many times until she found a comfortable place on her side.
Sleep was elusive. Madeline listened in vain for the sound of Logan entering his room a few doors away. Gradually she drifted in and out of a fragmented slumber that gave her no peace. Waking from a vivid dream, she discovered that her legs were tight and knotted, and she flexed her calves to ease them. Immediately she was seized with a knifelike pain in her right leg, the muscle cramping and burning. She wasn't aware of making a sound, but she must have, for Logan's voice suddenly broke through the darkness, and she felt his weight as he climbed onto the mattress to reach her.
“Maddy,” he said urgently, his hands sliding over her as she gathered herself in a ball of pain. “Maddy, what the hell is wrong? Tell me—”
“My leg,” she gasped. It hurt. It paralyzed her so that no movement was possible. “Don't touch me—”
“Let me.” Logan pushed her hands away and felt for her leg. “Try to relax.”
“I can't.” But she leaned back against him and jerked as his hand closed around her calve. He found the cramped muscle and kneaded gently until the agony began to ebb. Madeline let out a sigh of relief, resting against Logan's chest as he continued to work out the soreness. When he moved to her other leg, she managed a soft murmur—“That one's all right”—but he hushed her and massaged it as well.
“What happened?” he asked, pushing her nightgown to the tops of her thighs.
“I woke with leg cramps,” Madeline replied, feeling drugged. Logan seemed to know exactly how to touch her, how deeply to ply her muscles without hurting them. “Julia said to expect it sometimes—it's common for women in my condition.”
“I never knew that,” he said, sounding disgruntled. “How often does it happen?”
“I don't know. This was the first time.” Modestly she tugged at the hem of her nightgown where it had ridden too high. “Thank you. I'm sorry to have bothered you.” His hands slipped away from her, and Madeline yawned and curled on her side.
There were sounds of him undressing in the darkness, the rustle of clothes dropping to the floor. Madeline opened her eyes and stared at his shadowy figure. “Aren't you going to leave?” she asked hesitantly.
“No, madam.” He crawled into the space beside her. “It seems that you're determined to have me in your bed tonight.”
“If you're implying that I was trying to trick you—”
“It's clear that my charms are too much for you to resist. I understand.” His arm slid around her, and his smiling mouth covered hers.
Realizing that he was teasing her, Madeline pushed at his chest. “You conceited man—” she exclaimed with a laugh, as his hand closed around the back of her head.
“Kiss me.” He held her steady as his mouth moved over hers in gentle exploration, his breath burning her cheek. His playful mood vanished, replaced by an intense concentration, a tenderness, that she had never thought he would show her again. He touched her body with his fingertips, brushing across the downy hairs on her spine, the peaks of her breasts, the creases behind her knees. Madeline lay still beneath him, floating on a current of pleasure, trembling in anticipation as his mouth drifted across her chest.
He lingered on her ni**les for long minutes, sucking and stroking with his tongue, bringing them to acutely hard points. Restlessly she arched upward, wanting his body over her, inside her, wanting him to crush her with his weight…but he held back, drawing the smooth pads of his fingers over her body in long trails of fire.
All shame deserted her, and she found herself gasping and pleading, opening her legs for him, until finally his fingers parted her aching flesh, sliding inside with teasing flicks.
Madeline reached down to grasp the stiff, hot length of him, her touch inexperienced but ardent. Logan drew in a sharp breath and held her tightly, one large hand sliding over hers. His voice was velvety-rough as he murmured in her ear. “Maddy, yes…sweet…this way…” Growling with pleasure, he taught her what he liked, pressing mingled words and kisses across her skin.
When he had reached his limits, Logan pulled her to her side and drew her leg high over his hip. Her small body, so supple and responsive, twined around him bonelessly, fitting as if she had been made for him. Entering her by slow degrees, he savored the feel of her, silk and heat enfolding him tightly. Her face was transfixed beneath his, her soft mouth drawn taut, low sounds coming from her throat. Slowly he rocked against her, pushing inside her, until Madeline shuddered and moaned, sensations colliding in a white-hot burst of rapture. Then Logan moved strongly between her thighs, inflamed by her sweet welcoming warmth, letting the tension uncoil and streak through him in exquisite release.
Afterward Logan remained inside her, cupping her body in his hands. Her skin was as delicate and fragrant as the petals of night-blooming jasmine. Lowering his mouth to her throat, he tasted the faint flavor of salt and touched his tongue to her still-rapid pulse. This was a luxury he didn't usually allow himself, to linger with her in the aftermath. Too intimate, and dangerous.
The ticking of the gold mantel clock seemed to mock him. Ignoring the sound, he relaxed beside Madeline, his hands buried in the soft sheaves of her hair. She was his, after all. He could do as he liked with her…just as long as she never came to suspect that he loved her.
Faced with the prospect of a morning meeting with a playwright whose new work required extensive editing, Logan decided to see him at Banbury's coffeehouse. He often did such work at the coffeehouse, where he was always shown to the same table located near a large window that provided ample daylight. The atmosphere at Banbury's was relaxed and convivial. Hopefully it would serve to lighten the playwright's mood, since he tended to regard each word he had written as sacred.
“Brew a pot that's extra strong and black,” Mr. Banbury called to his daughter, who helped him run the place. “Mr. Scott has just arrived!”
Logan made his way to his usual table, stopping briefly here and there to exchange a few words with friends and acquaintances. Banbury's tended to attract an intellectual crowd: artists, philosophers, and hordes of writers from Fleet Street.
One of the coffeehouse patrons, a fellow member of the Society of Artists, approached Logan as he set out the play folio, fresh sheets of parchment, and writing implements.
“Scott, what luck to see you here this morning!” the man, Lord Beauchamp, exclaimed heartily. “I've been meaning to speak to you about a certain matter…pardon, I can see that you're waiting for someone, but it won't take long to ask you…”
“Ask away,” Logan said easily, indicating the chair next to him.
Lord Beauchamp sat and regarded him with an earnest smile. “I wouldn't trouble you with this, Scott, but knowing of your close relationship with the artistic community and the generous patronage you've given to so many artists—”
Logan interrupted with an inquiring arch of his brow. “You may as well go straight to the point, my lord. I'm inured to flattery.”
Lord Beauchamp laughed. “I believe you're the first actor to ever make such a claim. Very well, I'll be direct—I want a favor for a young artist, a gentleman by the name of Mr. James Orsini.”
“I've heard of him,” Logan said, casting a brief smile at the young woman who placed a tray of coffee before him. His attention returned to Beauchamp.
“Orsini has a marvelous technique, experimenting with light and texture—remarkable for a man in his twenties. The problem is, he is in search of a subject that will earn him an invitation to exhibit his paintings—”
Logan interrupted with a quiet laugh, lifting a cup of bitter black coffee to his lips. After taking a bracing swallow, he looked at Beauchamp with gleaming blue eyes. “I know what you're going to ask, my lord. The answer is no.”
“But no artist is considered important until he's painted Logan Scott—and you've allowed at least twenty of them to do so, at my count.”
“Twenty-five,” Logan said dryly.
“I assure you, Scott, you've never sat for an artist as deserving of the honor as Orsini.”
Logan shook his head. “No doubt you're right. However, I've been painted more than any actor you could name—”
“That's because you're so successful,” Beauchamp pointed out.
“—and I've had enough of it. I've been represented in oil, mezzotint, metal, marble, and wax…busts, medallions, paintings, conversation pieces…let's spare the public from yet another portrait of me.”