"Caine, if you can't rob from your friends, who can you rob?" she asked.

He didn't have a ready answer to that absurd question.

"You did say it was all right for me to continue my work," she reminded him. "Have you already gone back on your word?"

He couldn't believe she had the audacity to look so outraged. Caine didn't dare stand up, certain the urge to grab her and try to shake some sense into her would be too overwhelming to ignore.

Jade turned to look at Lyon. "When I give my word, I never break it," she stated.

Caine took a deep breath, then leaned back in his chair. He stared at Jade long and hard.

She glared back.

With the crook of his finger, he motioned her closer. When she'd reached his side, he said, "I meant

what I said. You may continue with your work."

She was totally perplexed. "Then why are you making such a fuss over ..."

"You may continue to rob," he interrupted. "But every time you take something, I'm going to give it back."

Her gasp nearly knocked her over. "You won't."

"I will."

"But that's . . . ridiculous," she stammered. "Isn't it?"

He didn't answer her. Jade looked over at Lyon for help. His grin told her she wouldn't be getting any assistance from him. Sir Richards was still looking too flabbergasted to intervene.

She was on her own, she decided, just as she'd always been. "No."

"Yes."

She looked as though she wanted to weep. "Now give them their..."

"I switched them," she announced. "May I leave now?"

Caine nodded. He waited until Jade had reached the door, then called out, "Jade, you may leave this room, but don't you dare try to leave this house. I'll only come after you if you do. You wouldn't want

to inconvenience me again, now would you?"

She didn't answer that question. Caine knew she was furious with him, though. The door almost flew

off its hinges when she slammed it shut behind her.

"She's got a bit of a temper," Caine announced. His grin suggested he didn't mind that flaw much at all. "Have you recovered yet, Richards?" he asked then.

"I have," Richards agreed.

"But you never once considered . . ."

"No, no," Richards returned.

Caine nodded with satisfaction. "It's good to know my own superior was taken in. I do believe my pride has been fully restored."

Nathan and Colin walked into the library then. Colin used his cane and Nathan's arm for assistance.

"Quit treating me like an infant," Colin muttered, as Nathan helped him ease into a chair.

"You are an infant," Nathan drawled out. He pushed a footstool in front of the chair, then propped Colin's foot on it.

Nathan stood to take his measure of the two men watching him. Caine made the introductions. He shook their hands, then sat on the arm of Colin's chair.

"Jade wants me to ask you what time it is," Nathan stated then.

The director looked puzzled by that request, then shrugged. "I'd say it was going on nine, wouldn't you, Lyon?"

Lyon was more astute than his superior. He lifted the timepiece from his waist pocket. He laughed then, a full booming sound that filled the room. "I believe this one is yours, Richards. You have mine. She did embrace both of us."

Richards was duly impressed. "I certainly misjudged her," he announced. "You saw her make the switch, didn't you, Caine. That's why you called her back."

Caine shook his head. "No, I didn't," he admitted. "But when she embraced each of your I knew she was up to something. She doesn't usually show such affection to strangers."

"No, she doesn't," Nathan agreed;

Caine looked at Lyon. "The woman has led me in circles. She's determined to make me a madman."

"I'd say she's already accomplished that goal," Nathan drawled out.

"This sounds familiar to me," Lyon said. He smiled, remembering the bizarre circumstances leading up to his marriage. "I've been led in a few circles by Christina, too. Tell me this, Caine. What did you do while she was leading you?"

"Same thing you did," Caine answered. "I fell in love with her."

Lyon nodded. "God help you now, friend. It isn't going to get any easier after you've married her.

When is the wedding, by the way?"

"Yes, Caine, when is the wedding?" Nathan demanded.

"There damned well will be a wedding." Colin made that statement of fact. He was frowning intently at his brother.

"Yes," Caine answered. "There will be a wedding."

"Sounds to me as if you don't have any choice, son," Sir Richards interjected. "Will you say your vows with a pistol aimed at your back?"

"If a pistol is needed, it will be aimed at Jade's back, not mine," Caine countered. "I still have to convince her that I mean what I say. Hell, I'll probably even have to get down on one knee in front of her men."

Even Nathan smiled over that picture. Colin scoffed. "Jade won't make you kneel before her," he said.

"No, but Black Harry sure as hell will," Caine replied.

"Who is Black Harry?" Richards asked.

"Nathan, you start explaining," Caine announced. "While I go after Jade."

"She's gone?" Nathan asked.

Caine stood up and started for the door. "Of course she's gone. I never make the same mistake twice, Nathan. I'll be back soon."

Since Caine was already wearing his riding britches and boots, he went directly to the corral housing the horses.

The speckled mare was missing. "How many men do you have trailing her?" he asked the stablemaster.

"Three at the back door chased after her," the servant answered.

Caine bridled his stallion but didn't bother with the saddle. He grabbed hold of the black mane and mounted the steed in one quick motion.

He trailed her to the cabin on the edge of his property. She was standing next to the creek, watering her horse.

Caine broke through the trees, then goaded his mount into a full gallop. Jade heard the sound of pounding hooves. She turned to run into the woods. Caine's stallion never broke stride as he leaned down and lifted her into his arms. He slammed her bottom down in front of him, turned direction and headed back toward home.

He didn't say a word to her, nor she to him, and he didn't slow his pace until they'd reached their destination.

Sterns was waiting at the front door. Caine dragged Jade up the steps. "Lock her in her room!" he roared. "Post two guards below her windows and two more outside the door."

He didn't let go of Jade until he'd dragged her inside the house and bolted the door behind him.

He kept his expression as ugly as he could manage until he was once again inside the library. When he was back in his chair behind his desk, he let himself smile.

"I assume you found her," Nathan said.

"I did," Caine answered. "Impressed the hell out of her, too. Now catch me up on what you've told my friends," he ordered.

The talk returned to the letters and the men didn't finish formulating their plans until well past eleven. Richards and Lyon were given chambers in the North wing. Both appeared to be reluctant to say goodnight.

Richards insisted on taking the copies of the letters to bed with him. "There's information still to be ferreted out," he announced.

No one argued with the director. Caine went directly to Jade's room. He dismissed the guards, unlocked the door, and went inside.

Jade was reading in bed. She wouldn't look at him, but kept her gaze on the book she held in her hands.

"You need more light if you're going to read," Caine announced. "The fire needs to be stoked, too. It's damned cold in here."

She didn't even look up at him. "It's ridiculous to pretend I'm not here," he told her, his exasperation obvious in his tone.

"As ridiculous as giving back everything I take?" she countered, her attention focused on her book.

Caine added two more candles to the bedside table. He went to the hearth next. "Where's Sterns?"

he asked.

"Sterns has gone to bed," she answered. "You'd make a good butler, Caine. Your man has trained you well."

He didn't jump to the bait. "You're spoiling for a fight, sweetheart, but I'm not going to accommodate you."

"I'm not spoiling for a fight," she snapped. She slammed her book shut while she watched him add another fat log to the embers.

In the firelight, his skin looked as bronzed as a statue. His shirt was opened to the waist, his sleeves

rolled up to his elbows. The fabric was stretched tight across the back of his shoulders, showing the splay of muscle there when he reached for the iron staff to prod the fire into a full blaze.

She thought he was the most appealing man in all the world.

Caine turned, still bent on one knee, and smiled at her. The tenderness in his gaze tugged at her heart.

He was such a good man, a trusting man, a loving man.

He deserved better than the likes of her. Why didn't he realize that obvious fact?

Tears welled up in her eyes and she started trembling. It was as though the blankets had suddenly turned into snow. She was freezing . . . and terrified.

Don't ever let me leave you, she suddenly thought. Make me stay with you forever.

Oh, God, how she wanted to love him, to lean on him.

And then what would she become, she asked herself, when he left her. How in God's name would she survive?

The change in her was startling. Her face had turned the color of her white nightgown.

"Sweetheart, what's the matter?" he asked. He stood up and walked toward the bed.

"Nothing," she whispered. "Nothing's wrong. I'm just cold," she added in a stammer. And afraid, she wanted to add. "Come to bed, Caine."

She desperately needed to hold him close. Jade added to the invitation by pulling the covers back for him. Caine ignored her request. He went to the wardrobe, found another blanket on the top shelf, then draped it over the other covers on the bed.

"Is that better?" he asked.

"Yes, thank you," she answered, trying not to sound too disgruntled.

"If you aren't too tired, I want to ask you a few questions," he said.

"Ask your questions in bed, Caine," she suggested. "You'll be more comfortable."

He shook his head, then sat down in the chair and propped his feet up on the foot of the bed. "This will do," he said then, trying his damnedest not to smile.

She wanted him, perhaps even as much as he wanted her. And by God, she was going to have to tell

him so.

Jade tried to hide her irritation. The man was as dense as rain. Didn't he realize she wanted to be held? She'd told him she was cold, damn it. He should have immediately taken her into his arms, then kissed her of course, and then . . .

She let out a long sigh. Caine apparently didn't realize what she needed when he started in with his questions about the stupid files again.

It took all her determination to hold onto her concentration. She had to stare at her hands so his heart-stopping smile wouldn't detract her.

"Jade?"

"Yes?" She looked startled.

"I just asked you if you read the files on our Williams," he said.

"They aren't our Williams," she replied.

She gave him an expectant smile, waiting for his next question.

Caine's smile widened. "Are you going to answer me?" he asked.

"Answer what?"

"You seem preoccupied."

"I'm not."

"Sleepy then?"

"Not at all."

"Then answer my question," he instructed again. "Did you read the files . . ."

"Yes," she interrupted. "You want to hear them, don't you?"

"Yes, I do," he answered. "Was there something else you wanted to do?" he asked.

The blush came back to her cheekbones. "No, of course not," she answered. "All right, Caine, I'll tell

you . . ."

A knock sounded at the door, interrupting them. Caine turned just as Nathan peeked inside.

When Jade's brother saw Caine lounging in the chair, he frowned. "What are you doing here, Caine?"

"Talking to Jade," Caine answered. "What do you want?"

"I couldn't sleep," Nathan admitted. He strode over to the hearth and leaned against it. Nathan was barefoot and shirtless now. Caine saw the scars on Nathan's back, of course. He didn't mention them, but he wondered how Nathan could have survived such a beating.

"Here's Caine's robe, if you're cold, Nathan," Jade said. She pointed to the empty chair on the other side of the bed. "You'll catch a chill if you don't cover up."

Nathan was in an accommodating mood. He put Caine's robe on, then sprawled out in the chair.

"Go back to bed, Nathan," Caine ordered.

"I want to ask my sister a couple of questions."

Nathan had left the door opened. For that reason, Sir Richards didn't bother to knock when he reached the room. The director was dressed in a royal blue robe that reached his bare feet. He looked positively thrilled to see the gathering.

Jade pulled the covers up to her chin. She looked at Caine to see his reaction to this invasion.

He looked resigned. "Pull up a chair, Sir Richards," Caine suggested.

"Be happy to," Richards replied. He smiled at Jade then. "I couldn't sleep, you see, and so I thought I'd look in on you and . . ."

"If she was awake, you were going to question her," Caine guessed.

"This isn't at all proper," Richards said as he dragged a chair close to the bed. His chuckle indicated he didn't mind that fact at all. "Nathan?" he added then. "Would you mind fetching Lyon for us? By now he'll have a few questions of his own."

"He might be sleeping," Jade said.

"I could hear him pacing in the chamber next to mine. This Tribunal has us all rattled, my dear. It's quite a lot to take in," Nathan returned with Lyon by his side. Jade suddenly felt ridiculous. She was in bed, after all, and dressed only in her nightgown. "Why don't we go down to the library to discuss this?" she suggested.



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