"Who required Sir Harwick's attention?" Caine asked.

"Your father, though he protested most vehemently," Sterns said. "His loss of weight has your mother and your sisters very concerned."

"He grieves for Colin," Caine said, his tone abrupt, weary, too. "I hope to God he pulls out of this soon. AH right, Sterns, send Parks for Harwick."

"Do not send Parks for Harwick," Jade commanded.

"Jade, now isn't the time to be difficult."

"Mi'lady, what happened to you in this unfortunate mishap? Did someone hit you on your head?"

"No," she answered shyly. She lowered her gaze to the I ground. "I fell. Please don't become upset on

my behalf, Sterns," she added when she peeked up and caught his Sympathetic expression. "It's only a little, insignificant bump. Would you like to see it?" she asked as she lifted her hair away from her temple.

The movement made her side start nagging her again. She couldn't quite block the pain this time.

Sterns couldn't have been more interested in her injury, or more compassionate. While Caine watched, his butler turned into a lady's maid. He stammered out all sorts of condolences, and when Jade accepted his arm and the two of them started up the steps together, Caine was left to stare after them.

"We must put you to bed immediately, dear lady," Sterns announced. "How did you take your fall, mi'lady, if I may be so bold as to inquire?"

"I lost my balance and fell down a full flight of steps," she answered. "It was very clumsy of me."

"Oh, no, I'm certain you aren't at all clumsy," Sterns rushed out.

"It is kind of you to say so, Sterns. Do you know, the pain is not nearly as awful now, but my side .. . well, sir, I don't wish to alarm you, nor do I wish you to think I'm a complainer ... Caine believes I do nothing but complain and cry. Those were his very words, sir. Yes, they were . . ."

Caine came up behind her and grabbed hold of her shoulders. "Let's have a look at your side. Take

your jacket off."

"No," she answered as she walked into the foyer. "You'll only prod at it, Caine."

A line of servants waited to greet their employer. Jade breezed past them while she held on to Sterns' arm. "Sir, is my room in the front of the house? I do hope so. I would love to have a window facing the lovely view of the drive and the forest beyond."

Because of her cheerful tone of voice, Caine decided she'd been exaggerating about her aches. "Sterns, take her upstairs and get her settled while I take care of a few matters."

He didn't wait for a reply but turned and walked out the front door again.

"Have Parks fetch the physician," Sterns called down from the top of the steps. The butler turned to Jade. "Don't argue with us, mi'lady. You look terribly pale to me. I cannot help but notice that your hands feel like ice."

Jade hastily removed her hand from his. She hadn't realized she'd held onto him as she climbed the steps. Sterns had noticed, of course. The poor dear was obviously worn out. Why, she was actually trembling.

"The sun will be setting soon. You'll have your dinner in bed," he added. "Did mi'lord really throw you in the Thames?" he asked when he thought she was about to argue with his decisions.

She smiled. "He did," she answered. "And he has yet to apologize. He threw away my satchel, too. I'm a pauper now," she added, sounding cheerful again. "Lady Christina did give me some of her lovely clothes, though, and I thank God for that."

"You don't seem very saddened by your current predicament," Sterns remarked. He opened the door to her room, then stepped back so she could pass through.

"Oh, I don't believe in being sad," she answered. "Why, Sterns, what a lovely bedroom. Gold is my very favorite color. Is the coverlet made of silk?"

"Satin," Sterns answered, smiling over the enthusiasm in her voice. "May I assist you in removing your jacket, mi'lady?"

Jade nodded. "Would you open the window first? It's a bit stuffy in here." She walked over to look outside, judging the distance to the cover of trees. Matthew and Jimbo would be waiting for her signal come darkness. They'd be watching the windows for the lighted candle, the sign they'd decided upon, to indicate that all was well.

Jade turned when Sterns began to tug on her jacket. "I shall have this cleaned for you, mi'lady."

"Yes, please," she answered. "I believe there's a small tear in the side too, Sterns. Could you have someone patch it up, too?"

Sterns didn't answer her. Jade looked up at his face. "Have you gone ill, sir?" she asked. The servant was suddenly looking quite green in the complexion to her. "Sterns, do sit down. Don't take insult, but I believe you might be in jeopardy of a swoon," He shook his head when she shoved him into the chair adjacent to the window. The butler finally found his voice. He shouted in a true roar for his lord to present himself.

Caine was just starting up the stairs when he heard Sterns' bellow. "Now what has she done?" he muttered to himself. He rushed through the foyer where the servants were again lined up, passed a wave in their general direction, and then raced up the staircase.

He came to an abrupt stop when he reached the doorway, for the sight he came upon did surprise him. Sterns was struggling to get out of the wingback chair. Jade held him down with one hand on his shoulder. She was fanning him with a thin book she held in her other hand.

"What in God's name .. . Sterns? Are you ill?"

"He's gone faint," Jade announced. "Help me get him to the bed, Caine."

"Her side, mi'lord," Sterns protested. "Dear lady, do quit waving that book in my face. Caine, have a look at her side."

Caine understood before Jade did. He hurried over to Jade, turned her around, and when he got a good look at the god-awful blood soaking her white blouse, he wanted to sit down, too.

"Dear God," he whispered. "Oh, sweetheart, what happened to you?"

Jade let out a loud gasp when she saw the damage. She would have staggered backward if he hadn't

been holding her. "Love, didn't you know you were bleeding?"

She looked dumbfounded. "I didn't know. I thought it was a scratch from one of the branches."

Sterns stood on her other side. "She's lost a fair amount of blood, mi'lord," he whispered.

"Yes, she has," Caine answered, trying his best not to sound overly concerned. He didn't want her to become any more frightened.

His hands shook when he gently lifted the garment away from her waistband. She noticed. "It's bad, isn't it?" she whispered.

"Don't look at it, sweetheart," he said. "Does it hurt?"

"The minute I saw all the blood, it started hurting like the devil."

Jade noticed the tear in Christina's garment then. "They ruined my friend's lovely top," she cried out. "They bloody well shot right through it. Just look at that hole, Caine. It's the size of a ... of a ..."

"Pistol shot?" Sterns suggested.

Caine had worked the top away and was now using his knife on her chemise.

"She's getting dotty on us," Sterns whispered. "You'd best put her on the bed before she swoons."

"I'll not swoon, Sterns, and you should apologize for thinking I would. Caine, please let go of me. It isn't decent to cut my clothes away. I'll take care of this injury by myself."

Jade was suddenly desperate to get both men out of her room. Since the moment she'd seen the injury, her stomach had been in an uproar. She felt light-headed now and her knees were starting to buckle up

on her.

"Well, Sterns?" she asked. "Do I get my apology or not?"

Before the butler was given a chance to answer, Jade said, "Bloody hell. I am going to swoon after all."

Chapter Eight

Jade came awake with a start. She was surprised to find herself in bed, for she didn't have the faintest idea how she'd gotten there. After a long moment, the truth settled in. Good God, she really had fainted.

She was trying to come to terms with this humiliation when she realized the breeze coming in through the open window was cooling her bare skin.

She opened her eyes to find Sterns leaning over her from one side of the bed and Caine bending over her from the opposite side. Their deep scowls were almost enough to send her into another faint.

"The shot went clear through," Caine muttered.

"Thank the Lord for that," Sterns whispered.

"Which one of you scoundrels removed my clothing when I wasn't looking?" she asked, her tone of voice as crisp as new frost.

Sterns visibly jumped. Caine merely smiled. "You're feeling better, mi'lady?" the butleT inquired after he'd regained his composure.

"Yes, thank you. Sterns? Why are you holding my hand?" she asked.

"To keep you still, mi'lady," he answered.

"You may let go of me now. I won't interfere with Caine's task."

After he'd complied with that request, she immediately tried to push Caine's hands away from her side. "You're prodding, Caine," she whispered.

"I'm almost finished, Jade."

His voice sounded terribly surly to her, yet he was being incredibly gentle, too. It was a contradiction. "Are you angry with me, Caine?"

He didn't even bother to glance up when he gave his curt answer. "No."

"You could sound a little more convincing," she countered. "You are angry," she added with a nod.

"I don't understand why . . ." She paused to let out a gasp.

Caine assumed the bandage he was applying to her injury had caused her discomfort. "Is it too tight?" he asked, his gaze filled with concern.

"You think this is all my fault, don't you?" she stammered out. "You think I deliberately . . ."

"Oh, no, mi'lady," Sterns interrupted. "The Marquess doesn't blame you. You didn't mean to get

yourself shot. Mi'lord always gets a bit..."

"Cranky?" she supplied.

The butler nodded. "Yes, he gets cranky when he's worried."

She turned her attention back to Caine. "I'm sorry if I worried you," she said then. "Are you still worried?"

"No."

"Then the injury isn't as terrible as it looked?"

Caine nodded. He put the finishing touches on his handiwork before giving her his full attention.

"A mere flesh wound, Jade," he said. "You should be up and about in no time."

He really looked as if he meant what he said. Jade was immediately relieved.

"Cover my legs, Sterns, and don't look while you're doing it," she ordered. Her voice had regained some of its bite, warming a smile out of the dour-faced man.

Jade was wearing only her chemise now. One side of the lace-bordered garment had been torn wide to expose her injury. She understood the necessity of having her clothes removed, but now that she knew she wasn't in jeopardy of dying, appearances needed to be maintained.

The butler did as she requested, then left to fetch a tray of supper for her. She and Caine were all alone. "I don't care if it's only a paltry flesh wound," she said. "I've decided I'm going to linger, Caine."

He sat down on the side of the bed, took hold of her hand, and gave her a heart-stopping smile. "Why

do I get the feeling there's more to this announcement?"

"How astute of you, sir," she countered. "There is more. While I'm lingering, you're going to stay by my sick bed. This is, after all, probably all your fault," she added with a nod.

She had to bite her lower lip to keep herself from laughing. Caine looked thoroughly confused.

"Oh?" he asked when she stared at him expectantly. "How have you come to the conclusion that it's my fault?"

She shrugged. "I haven't quite figured it out yet, but I will. Now give me your word, Caine. I won't rest easy until I know you won't leave my side."

"All right, love," he answered. His wink was slow, devilish. "I won't leave your side day or night."

The significance in that statement wasn't lost on her. "You may take to your own bed at night," she replied.

"May I?" he asked dryly.

Jade decided not to goad him any further, guessing he'd get downright cranky if she persisted with her orders. Besides, she'd won this round, hadn't she?

The inconvenience of getting shot was going to be turned into a nice advantage. She now had a perfectly good reason to keep him at her side. Why, she just might linger until Nathan came to fetch her.

She hadn't realized how exhausted she was. She fell asleep right after dinner, the tray still perched on her lap, and only awakened once during the night. Twin candles were burning a soft light on the night stand. Jade remembered the signal she needed to give to Jimbo and Matthew to let them know all was well, and immediately pushed the covers away.

She spotted Caine then. He was sprawled out in the wingback chair adjacent to the bed, his bare feet propped up on the bed, his white shirt opened to the waist, and was sound asleep.

Jade didn't know how long she watched him. She told herself she was just making certain he was really sound asleep. Lord, he was so appealing to her. He had quickly become far more, however, than merely handsome. He was like a safe haven from the storm, and the urge to lean on him, to let him take care of her, nearly overwhelmed her.

Her guardian angel began to snore, pulling her out of her trance. She eased out of the bed, picked up

one of the candles, and went to stand in front of the window.

Light rain cascaded down upon the landscape. Jade felt a bit guilty that her men were getting a good soaking. If she'd given her signal earlier, they could have found dry shelter sooner.

"What are you doing?"

Jade almost dropped the candle, so startled was she by Caine's booming voice.

She turned around and found him just a scant foot away. "I was just looking out the window," she whispered. "I didn't mean to wake you."

His hair was tousled and he seemed to be more asleep than awake yet. A lock of his hair had fallen on

his forehead, giving him the appearance of being a bit vulnerable to her. Without a thought as to what

she was doing, she brushed his hair back in place.



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