"You may look out the window tomorrow," he returned, his voice husky from slumber.

After making that statement, he took the candle away from her, put it back on the table, and then arrogantly motioned for her to get back in bed.

"Does your side hurt?" he asked.

She didn't think he was overly concerned about her injury because he'd yawned when he'd asked the question.

Jade started to tell him no, that it didn't pain her much at all, then reconsidered. "Yes," she said. "It

stings, but only just a little," she added when he looked a bit too concerned. "Why were you sleeping

in the chair?"

He pulled his shirt off before answering her. "You were taking up most of the bed," he explained.

"I didn't want to move you."

"Move me? Why would you want to move me?"

Caine blew out the candles, pulled the covers back, and stretched out next to her. Then he gave her a roundabout answer. "I'll just stay with you until you fall asleep again."

"But Caine, it isn't at all proper . . ."

"Go to sleep, love. You need your rest."

She stiffened when he put his arm around her. His hand rested between her breasts. When she tried to ease it away, he captured her hand and held on.

"This really isn't at all. . ." She quit protesting in mid-sentence, realizing it was wasted effort. Caine was already snoring again and certainly wouldn't hear a word she said.

She decided there was little harm in letting him sleep with her for a short while. She had, after all, run

the man ragged and he surely needed his rest. She'd already noticed how cranky he became when he was weary. Odd, but she found that flaw a bit endearing.

Jade snuggled up against him and closed her eyes. She instinctively knew he would behave himself. He was a gentleman, and he'd given her his word that he'd never take advantage of her.

She was obviously just as exhausted as he appeared to be, for she fell asleep with the most confusing thought rambling through her mind.

She was beginning to wish he wasn't such a gentleman after all.

The physician, Sir Hanvick, couldn't be located for two full days and nights. Caine sent messengers to his London home and to his country estate. Harwick was finally located at the residence of Lady McWilliams, attending to a birthing. He sent a missive back to Caine explaining that as soon as his duty there was completed, he would immediately ride over to Caine's estate.

Caine ranted about that inconvenience until Jade reminded him that her condition wasn't life threatening, a fact, she added, that the messenger had related to the physician, and that she was beginning to feel much better anyway and didn't need or want anyone poking at her.

Lingering soon became torture for Jade. She couldn't stand the confinement.

The weather mimicked her mood too. Since the moment she'd arrived at Caine's home, it hadn't quit raining.

Caine's mood was just as sour as her own. He reminded her of a caged animal. Every time he came into her room to speak to her, he paced back and forth, his hands clasped behind his back, while he grilled

her about her past, her brother, and all the events leading up to the murder she'd witnessed. Caine always ended each dueling session with the remark that he didn't have enough information yet to draw any substantial conclusions.

His frustration was almost visible. Jade found fencing with him just as nerve grating. She was careful not to give him too many true facts or too many lies, either, but Lord, it was exhausting work.

They spent quite a lot of time shouting at each other. Jade accused him of being sorry he ever became involved in her problems. He was, of course, insulted by such an accusation. Still, he didn't come right out and deny it.

In her heart, she thought he didn't find her appealing any longer. Why, he didn't even try to kiss her anymore, or sleep next to her, and by the third day, he was barely speaking a civil word to her.

On the fourth night of her confinement, Jade's control snapped. She tore off the fresh bandage that Sterns had changed for her just a few hours' earlier, ordered a bath for herself, and then announced that she was fully recovered.

By the time she finished washing her hair, her frame of mind had improved considerably. Sterns helped her dry the long curls, then sat her in front of the hearth where a full fire blazed.

After Sterns directed the servants in changing the bedding and removing the tub, he nagged Jade back into bed.

As soon as darkness fell, Jade gave the signal to her men, then returned to her bed. She opened one of the books she'd borrowed from Caine's library, and settled down to read to the sound of thunder rumbling in the distance.

The storm proved to be more than just bluster, however. A giant tree, as tall as Caine's three-story house, was felled to the ground by a bolt of lightning that was so powerful, the exposed roots glowed an eerie red for a good long while. The clap of thunder shook the house, and the aftermath, a sizzling, crackling sound of wood burning, snapped and popped in the night air like meat roasting over an open fire.

All the extra hands were needed in the stables to soothe the frightened horses. The scent of fire was in their nostrils, or so Kelley, the head stablemaster, professed. Caine was called when his stallion wouldn't settle down. As soon as he entered the stables, however, his mount immediately quit his tantrum.

It was well after midnight when Caine returned to the main house. Though it was only a short distance from the stables, he was still soaked through. He left his boots, socks, jacket, and shirt in the entryway and went upstairs. Another booming clap of thunder shook the house just as Caine was about to enter

his room.

Jade must be terrified, he told himself as he changed direction. He would just look in on her to make certain she was all right. If she was sound asleep, he'd leave her alone. If, however, she was still awake . . . well then, perhaps they could have another shouting debate about the ills of the world and the inferiority of women. That thought made Caine smile in anticipation. Jade was turning out to be anything but inferior. She was making a mockery out of his beliefs, too. He'd go to his grave before admitting that fact to her, though, for it was simply too much fun watching her try to cover her own reactions to his opinions.

It was actually a little stunning when he realized he really wanted to talk to her. Granted, there were several other things he wanted to do as well, but he forced himself to squelch those thoughts.

He did pause to knock on her door. He didn't, however, give her time to tell him to go away, or time either, if she was sleeping, to wake up. No, he had the door opened before she could react.

He was pleased to see she wasn't sleeping. Caine leaned against the door frame and stared at her a long minute. A warm feeling of contentment filled him. In the last few days he had begun to accept that he liked having her in his house, and even when she frowned at him, he felt he'd arrived in heaven. He really must be daft, he thought then, for he was beginning to love her disgruntled expressions. The fact that he could so easily get her riled indicated that she cared, if only just a little.

The woman bewitched him. Caine didn't like admitting that truth ... yet she was so beautiful, so soft, so feminine. A man could only take so much before surrendering. God help him, he knew he was nearing that point.

It was becoming a torment not to touch her. His mood reflected the struggle he was going through. He felt tied up in knots inside, and every time he saw her, he wanted to take her into his arms and make wild passionate love to her.

And yet he couldn't seem to stay away from her. Hour after hour he kept coming into her room to check on her. God, he was even watching her sleep.

She couldn't possibly know the torment he was going through. She wouldn't look so damned serene if

she had any idea of the fantasies he was considering.

She really was an innocent. She was sitting up in bed with her back propped up by a mound of pillows, looking so pure and virginal as she shook her head at him.

Two candles burned on the side table and she held a book in her hands. While he continued to stare at her, she slowly closed the book, her gaze directed on him all the while, and then let out a long sigh.

"I knew I should have bolted the door," she announced. "Caine, I'm simply not up to another inquisition tonight."

"All right."

"All right?"

His easy agreement obviously surprised her. She looked suspicious. "Do you mean it, sir? You won't badger me?"

"I mean it," he answered with a grin.

"You still shouldn't be here," she told him in that husky, sensual voice he found so arousing.

"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't be here."

"My reputation and your near nakedness," she answered.

"Those are two reasons," he drawled out.

"What can you be thinking of?" she asked when he shut the door behind him. "Your servants will know you're here."

"I thought you didn't care about your reputation, Jade. Have you changed your mind, then?"

She shook her head again. The light from the candles shimmered in her hair with the movement. He was mesmerized. "I didn't care about my reputation when I thought you were going to kill me, but now that you've given me hope for continued good health, I've changed my mind."

"Jade, Sterns knows I slept in here the first night when . . ."

"That was different," she interjected. "I was ill, injured, and you were concerned. Yes, that was definitely different. Now I've recovered. The servants will surely tell your mama, Caine."

"My mama?" He burst into laughter. "You needn't worry about the servants, Jade. They're all sleeping. Besides, my motives aren't lascivious."

She tried not to let him see her disappointment. "I know," she said with another mock sigh. "But if you're not up to mischief, why are you here at this hour?"

"Don't give me that suspicious look," he replied. "I thought you might be frightened by the storm, that's all." He paused to frown at her, and then added, "Most women would be frightened. You're not, though, are you?"

"No," she answered. "I'm sorry."

"Why are you sorry?"

"Because you look so disappointed. Did you wish to comfort me?"

"That thought did cross my mind," he admitted dryly. His frown intensified when he realized she was trying not to laugh at him. He pulled away from the door and walked over to the side of her bed. Jade moved her legs out of the way just a second before he sat down.

She tried desperately not to stare at his bare chest. The mat of dark, curly hair tapered to a line that

ended in the middle of his flat stomach. She wanted to run her fingers through the crisp hair, to feel his heat against her breasts, to ...

"Hell, Jade, most women would have been afraid."

His voice pulled her from her erotic thoughts. "I'm not most women," she replied. "You'd best understand that now, Caine."

He was having trouble understanding much of anything now. He stared at the buttons on the top of her white nightgown, thinking about the silky skin hidden beneath.

His sigh was ragged. Now that he knew she wasn't worried about the storm, he really should leave. His pants, wet from the storm, were probably soaking the covers.

He knew he should leave, but he couldn't seem to move.

"I'm not at all like most of the women you know," she announced, just to fill the sudden awkward silence. Drops of water clung to his muscular shoulders and upper arms. In the candlelight, the moisture made his bronzed skin glisten. She turned her attention to his lap. That was a mistake, she realized. The bulge between his thighs was very evident. . . and arousing. She could feel herself blush in reaction.

"You're soaking wet," she blurted out. "Have you been walking in the storm, you daft man?"

"I had to go to the stables to help quiet the horses."

"Your hair turns to curl when it's wet," she added. "You must have hated that when you were a child."

"I hated it so much I wouldn't share my toys," he drawled out.

His gaze turned to her chest. He noticed her hardened ni**les brushing against the thin fabric of her gown. It took a supreme act of discipline not to touch her. His control was close to snapping, and even a simple goodnight kiss would make him forget his good intentions.

Another bolt of lightning lit up the room, followed by an ear-piercing explosion of thunder. Caine was off the bed and standing by the window before Jade had kicked the covers away.

"That surely hit something," Caine announced. "I don't think I've ever seen a storm as fierce as this one."

He peered into the darkness, looking for signs of a budding fire. Then he felt Jade take hold of his hand. He hid his concern when he turned to look down at her.

"It will wear out very soon," she promised. She nodded when he looked so surprised, squeezed his hand to reassure him, and added, "You'll see."

He couldn't believe she was actually trying to comfort him. Since she looked so sincere, he didn't dare laugh. He didn't want to hurt her tender feelings, and if she felt the need to soothe him, he'd let her.

"Uncle use to tell me the angels were brawling whenever there was a thunderstorm," she said. "He made it sound as if they were having quite a party."

"And did you believe your uncle?" he asked, a smile in his voice.

"No."

He did laugh then, a full booming sound that reminded her of thunder.

"I have grown to appreciate your honesty, Jade. I find it most appealing."

She didn't look as though she wanted to hear that opinion. She let go of his hand and shook her head again. "Everything's always black and white to you, isn't it? There's never any room for deviations, is there? I tried to believe my uncle, but I knew he was lying to soothe my fear. Sometimes, Caine, a lie is all for the good. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

He stared down at her for a long minute. "Give me another example, Jade." His voice was whisper soft. "Have you ever lied to me?"

She slowly nodded.

Several heartbeats later, Caine asked, "And what was this lie?"

She didn't answer him soon enough to please him. His hands were suddenly on her shoulders and he forcefully turned her to face him. Then he nudged her chin up, demanding she look at him. "Explain this lie!" he demanded.

The look in his eyes chilled her. She couldn't find any warmth there. The color had turned the gray of winter mornings.



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