Nathan's hand moved back to his side, away from his dagger. Jade went weak with relief. "He has, has he?" Nathan drawled out.
Caine stared at the intruder, knowing now there couldn't be any doubt that the pirate was Jade's brother. They both had the same green eyes.
"Damn right I figured it out," Caine suddenly roared. "You're Pagan and you did kill my brother."
She pushed away from Caine and took a step toward Nathan. Caine roughly shoved Jade behind his
back. "Don't try to go to him, Jade."
"Are you trying to protect me from my own brother?" she asked.
Caine didn't answer her.
"Did he touch you?" Nathan shouted the question as though it was a blasphemy.
"Nathan, will you quit that topic?" she cried out. "Now isn't the time to discuss such a personal matter."
"Be silent," Caine commanded.
Jade grabbed hold of the back of his shirt when he started forward. The action didn't waylay him. Caine kicked the ornately carved tea cart out of his path and continued toward his prey. "Damn right I touched her," he roared. "Wasn't that all part of the plan, you bastard?"
Nathan let out a roar, then rushed forward. The two men were like bulls charging at each other.
"No," Jade screamed. "Nathan, please don't hurt Caine. Caine, you mustn't hurt Nathan either . . ."
She quit her pleas when she realized they weren't paying any attention to her.
Caine got in the first toss. He literally threw Nathan up against the wall. A lovely painting depicting the Thames in earlier, cleaner times fell to the floor with a loud thud. Nathan finished the destruction of the artwork when he put his foot through it in an attempt to slam his knee into Caine's groin.
He was determined to make a eunuch out of him. Caine easily blocked the blow, however, then threw Nathan up against the wall again. Jade's brother landed the first good punch, though it was most assuredly by foul means. Caine had Nathan by his neck and was just about to smash his fist through the back of his skull when his attention was caught by the man standing in the doorway. His hold immediately slackened. Nathan pressed his advantage. He slammed his fist into Caine's jaw.
Caine shook off the blow as insignificant, then shoved Nathan against the wall again.
The name came out in a strangled whisper of disbelief. His mind couldn't accept what he was seeing.
His brother was alive. Colin was leaning against the door frame, grinning that lopsided grin of his that
was so familiar, so boyish ... so Colin. He looked thin, terribly thin, but very much alive.
Caine was so stunned he didn't realize he was strangling Nathan until he heard him gasping for air. As soon as he lessened his grip, Nathan tore free and hit him again. Caine ignored the blow and finally let go.
Almost as an afterthought, Caine slammed his elbow into Nathan's ribs, then took a step toward Colin.
"Honest to God, Colin, I'm going to kill your brother," Nathan shouted. "Do you know what he's done
to my sister? He . . ."
"Nathan, you don't have to tell Colin," Jade cried out. "Please," she added. "For once, try to be a gentleman."
Colin slowly pulled away from the door. He used his cane to aid him as he made his way over to his brother. Caine was shaking with emotion when he wrapped his arms around his little brother. "My
God, you're really here. I cannot believe it."
"I'm so damned happy to see you, Caine," Colin said. "I know you're surprised. I'll explain everything. Try not to be too angry with me. I wouldn't let anyone tell you. I wanted to explain first. They're evil men. You would have gone charging in . . ."
Colin didn't seem to have the strength to go on. He sagged against Caine, giving him most of his weight. Caine continued to hold him close while he waited for his brother to regain his composure. "Take your time, Colin," he whispered. "Just take your time."
When Colin nodded, Caine stepped back to have another look at his brother. The dimple was back in Caine's cheek and tears had formed in his eyes. "Colin, you look like a pirate, too," he announced.
"Your hair's as long as Pagan's," he added with a nod and a scowl in Nathan's direction.
Nathan scowled back. "I haven't told him anything, Colin," Nathan said. "But your astute brother has it all figured out. He knows I'm Pagan and I sent my little sister to whore for me."
Jade wished the floor would open up and swallow her whole. Her face felt like it was on fire. "Nathan, if Caine doesn't kill you, I very well might," she threatened.
Colin was staring at her. When he started laughing, she knew exactly what he was thinking. "Didn't I tell you . . ." he began.
"Colin, do sit down," she commanded. "You must get your weight off that leg. It's too soon for you to be walking."
Colin wasn't about to forget Nathan's horrid comment. "I knew you and Caine would . . ." He let out a sigh. "I did warn you, didn't I?"
"Colin, I don't want to hear another word about Caine and me," she shouted. "It's over, finished. Do you understand? Where is Winters?" she added in a rush, hoping to turn his attention. "The physician should be at our side."
"Winters was with you?" Caine asked.
"Pagan convinced him to take care of me aboard the Emerald," Colin explained. He hobbled over to the settee and sat down. "He was a little resistant at first, but Pagan can be very persuasive. And in the end, I think Winters had the time of his life."
"Well, where is he?" Jade asked.
"We let him go home," Colin answered. "Now quit fretting. It's just going to take time for the leg to heal."
Jade pushed a pillow behind Colin's back, then propped his feet up on a large round footstool.
"I believe I will order some refreshments for you, Colin," she said. "You look too pale to me. The walk from the drive tired you out, didn't it?"
She didn't give him time to answer, but picked up her skirts and started for the drawing room doors. Caine blocked her path. "You aren't going anywhere."
She refused to look up at him as she tried to move around him. Caine took hold of her arm. The grip was stinging. "Sit down, Jade."
Colin said her name in a surprised whisper.
"I have allowed Caine to call me by my given name."
"Allowed?" Nathan asked.
"What do you call her?" Caine asked his brother.
"She has several nicknames," Colin answered. "I call her Red most of the time, don't I, Jade?"
When she nodded, Colin continued on. "Nathan calls her Brat all the time. He has a particular fondness for that nickname."
His slow wink increased Jade's blush. "Black Harry calls me Dolphin," Colin went on to explain. "It's meant as an insult, too."
Nathan shook his head. "Dolphins are gentle, Colin. It wasn't meant as an insult."
Caine let out a weary sigh. "Who is Black Harry?"
It was suddenly hitting him full force, this amazing miracle. He found his strength deserting him. Caine dragged Jade over to the wingback chair that faced the settee, sat down, and forced her with his hold to sit on the arm.
He stared at his brother all the while. "I still cannot believe you're alive," he said.
"You have Pagan to thank for that," Colin replied. "And I can't believe you're so calm. I was certain you'd go into a rage when you found out I made Jade promise not to tell you. Caine, there's so much
I have to explain. First, however, I do believe Nathan's sister has something she wants to tell you."
Jade was shaking her head vehemently. "I have nothing to say to him, Colin. If you feel like enlightening him on all the facts, do so after I've left."
Caine wasn't paying any attention to her rantings. He let go of her arm, leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees, and said, "I want you to tell me who did this to you. Give me the name, Colin. I'll do the rest."
Jade took advantage of Caine's inattention. She once again tried to leave. Caine never took his gaze away from his brother when he grabbed hold of her hand. "I believe I mentioned that you aren't going anywhere."
Nathan looked incredulous. "Why haven't you put your knife through him yet?"
She shrugged before answering. "Colin would have been upset."
"What's taking Black Harry so long?" Nathan asked Colin then. He strolled over to the settee, took his place next to Colin, and propped his feet up on the same wide stool.
"He'll be a while yet," Colin explained. "He lost his spectacles."
Both men started laughing. Jade was horrified. "Black Harry's here? In England?"
Her voice shook. Only Nathan seemed to understand the reason for her distress. "He is," he announced
in a hard voice. "And when I tell him . . ."
"No, Nathan, you mustn't tell him anything," she cried out. She tried to get out of Caine's grasp. He tightened his hold in reaction.
"Who is Black Harry?" Caine asked, ignoring Jade's struggles.
"He's the uncle," Colin answered. "He took care of Jade after her father died."
Caine was trying to filter all this information through his mind. The way Jade had reacted to the news
that Harry was here indicated she was afraid of him.
"How long was she with him?" he asked Colin.
"Years," Colin answered.
Caine turned to Nathan. "Where the hell were you when she was growing up? Out robbing people blind?"
"Damn it, Colin, a man can only take so much," Nathan muttered. "If he keeps it up, I'm going to kill him, even if it means losing your friendship."
Colin was still too exhausted from the walk to take part in the conversation. He wanted to rest for just a few more minutes before he started his explanation. With a loud yawn meant to draw attention, he said, "No one's going to kill anyone until this has all been straightened out." He leaned back against the cushions and closed his eyes.
A loud commotion drew everyone's attention then. Caine looked up just in time to see a large flower pot fly past the windows to the terrace. The pot crashed against the stone wall. A sharp blasphemy followed the splintering noise.
"Harry's here," Colin drawled out.
Caine continued to stare at the entrance, thinking to himself that he was prepared for just about anything now. Nothing more could ever surprise him again.
He was, unfortunately, mistaken. The man who finally strutted across the threshold was so outrageous looking, Caine almost laughed.
Harry paused, put his big hands on his hips, and glared at his audience. He was dressed all in white, with a wide red sash tied around his pot-bellied waist. His skin was bronzed by the sun, his hair was silver as clouds. Caine judged his age to be near fifty, perhaps a bit more.
This one could give children nightmares for months. He was amazingly ugly, with a bulbous nose that covered most of his face. His eyes were bare slits, due to the fact that he was squinting fiercely.
The man had flair, he'd give him that much. He literally swaggered into the drawing room. Two men rushed ahead of him, moving objects out of his way. Two more filed in behind. Caine recognized the last two. They were Matthew and Jimbo. Both of their faces were covered with fresh bruises Caine had inflicted when he'd had his little talk with them.
"It's getting damned crowded in here," Caine stated.
Jade jerked her hand away from his hold and rushed over to Black Harry. She threw herself into his
arms and hugged him tightly. Caine noticed Harry's gold tooth then. When he smiled down at Jade, one of the front teeth gleamed in the light.
"Oh, Uncle Harry, I've missed you," she whispered.
"Of course you missed me," the elderly man grumbled. "I'm going to beat you good though," he added after he'd given her another hug of affection. "Have you gone completely daft, girl? I'll be hearing every spoiled morsel of this tale, and then I'm going to beat the daylights out of you."
"Now, Harry," Jade said in a voice meant to soothe. "I didn't mean to upset you."
Harry let out a loud snort. "You didn't mean for me to find out, that's what you didn't mean to do," he countered. He leaned down and kissed her loudly on the top of her head.
"That one be Caine?" he asked, squinting at the man in question.
"He is," Jade answered.
"He ain't dead."
"You done your task well then," Harry praised.
"He will be dead soon enough if 1 get my way," Nathan drawled out.
"What's this mutiny I'm hearing?"
"Harry?" Jade asked, tugging his attention back to her.
She leaned up on tiptoe and whispered into his ear. Harry frowned during the telling.
When she was finished, he nodded. "I might be telling, and then again, I might not. You trust this man?"
She couldn't lie. "I do."
"What does he mean to you, girl?"
"Nothing," she blurted out.
"Then look at me eyes," he ordered. "You're talking to the floor and that tells me something tricky's going on."
"There's nothing tricky," she whispered. "I'm just glad this deception is over."
Harry didn't look convinced. "Then why'd you bother watching out for him if he meant nothing to you?" he prodded, sensing she wasn't telling him the full truth.
"He's Colin's brother," she reminded her uncle. "That is the only reason I bothered."
Harry decided to wait until they were alone before he forced the truth out of her. "I'm still not understanding," he bellowed. He was squinting in Caine's direction now. "You should be kissing Pagan's feet to my way of thinking," he added. "Your sorry brother's alive, ain't he?"
"Now that you're here, we can sort all this out, Harry," Colin called out.
Harry grunted. He looked back down at Jade. "I'm still going to beat you bloody, girl. Do you doubt me?"
"No, Harry, I don't doubt you," she answered. With an effort, she hid her smile. In all their time together, Harry had never, ever harmed her. He was a kind, gentle man with a soul so pure, so white, God was surely smiling down at him with pride. Harry liked to threaten all sorts of horrid punishments when there was an audience listening. He was a pirate, he would often remind her, and appearances had to be kept up.