Caine had obviously come home.

Jade couldn't remember the number of men Briars had with her. She began to fret again. Should she sneak in by way of the back door or should she boldly walk into the foyer and try to confront Briars once again.

The question was answered for her when Caine's bellow reached her.

"Where is she?" Caine roared through the door.

The anguish in his voice tore at Jade's heart. She pulled the door open and rushed inside.

They were all in the drawing room. Lyon, Jade noticed, was holding Caine by the shoulders. Briars stood in front of the two men. Sir Richards stood next to her. Both Cyril and Alden stood behind the director.

"She'll die of starvation before you find her," Briars shouted. She let out a snort of amusement.

"No, you'll never find her. Never."

"Oh, yes, he will."

Briars let out a screech when Jade's soft voice reached her. Caine and Lyon both whirled around.

Caine simply stood there, smiling at her. She saw the tears in his eyes, knew her own were just as misty. Lyon looked as startled as Richards. "Jade . . . how did you . . ."

She looked at Caine when she gave her answer. "They locked me in."

It took a full minute before anyone reacted. Lyon was the first to laugh. "They locked her in," he said to Caine.

Jade kept smiling until Caine walked over to her. When he reached out to touch her face with his fingertips, she burst into tears and ran up the stairs.

She went into the first bedroom, slammed the door shut behind her, and threw herself down on the bed. Caine was right behind her. He pulled her into his arms. "My love, it's all over now," he whispered.

"I didn't leave you. I stayed right here until they came inside and dragged me away. I didn't break my word."

"Hush, Jade. I never thought..." "Caine, I was so scared," she wailed against his chest. "So was I," he whispered. He squeezed her tight, then said, "When Cyril told me ... I thought you were ... Oh, God, yes, I was damned scared."

She mopped her eyes on his jacket, then said, "You can't say damn anymore. We can't ever use another blasphemy, Caine. I promised God." His smile was filled with tenderness. "I see." "I would have promised anything to keep you safe," she whispered. "I need you so much, Caine." "I need you, too, my love."

"We can't steal anymore, or lie, either," she told him then. "I made those promises, too."

He rolled his eyes heavenward. "And your promises are also mine?" he asked her. He hid his smile now, for she looked so sincere, and he didn't bother to mention to her that he'd never stolen anything before.

"Yes, of course my promises are also yours," she answered. "We are suppose to share everything, aren't we? Caine, we are equal partners in this marriage."

"We are equal," he agreed.

"Then my promises are also yours?"

"Yes," he answered. He suddenly pulled away from her.

The worry in his expression was obvious. "You didn't give up anything else, did you?"

He looked as though he dreaded her answer. She immediately guessed what he was thinking.

"Like dancing?"

"Like making love."

She laughed, a full rich sound filled with joy. "Aren't they the same thing?"

"This isn't the time for jests, Jade."

"No, Caine, we didn't give up dancing or making love. I would never give a promise I couldn't keep," she added, quoting back his very words to her.

Caine wanted to tear her clothes off and make love to her then and there. He couldn't, of course, for there was still the mess to be cleaned up downstairs.

He wasn't able to spend much time with his bride over the next couple of days. He and Lyon were both occupied dictating their findings for their superior's records. Lady Briars was locked away in Newgate Prison. There was talk that she was going to be transferred to a nearby asylum, for the court had decreed that the woman was quite mad. Jade was in wholehearted agreement.

Caine was finally free to keep his other promise to Jade. They settled down to live a peaceful life together.

And just as he'd predicted, they did live happily ever after.

He was still terribly insecure, however. Jade did worry about that. On the morning of their first anniversary, he demanded she give him her pledge to stay for another year.

Jade thought the question was ill-timed, considering the fact that she was in the midst of an excruciating contraction. She gritted her teeth against the agony.

"Caine, we're going to have our baby," she said.

"I know, my love," he answered. He rolled to his side and gently rubbed her swollen abdomen. "I noticed quite a long time ago," he added just to tease her. He leaned down to kiss her damp brow. "Are you too warm, Jade?"

"No, I'm . . ."

"Give me your promise," he interrupted while he pulled the top cover away. "Then you can go back to sleep. You were very restless during the night. I think you stayed up too late talking with Lyon and Christina. I was glad to see them, of course, and I'm happy Christina wants to offer her services when the time comes, but I still insist that a physician be in attendance, Jade."

Jade was too exhausted to argue. She'd been having sporadic contractions during the long night. She didn't wake Caine, though. She was following her good friend's advice. Christina had suggested that it would be better if her husband weren't bothered until the very last minute. Husbands, Christina had explained, fell apart too easily.

Christina considered Jade her blood sister, ever since the night she handed her Lyon's file and told her to keep it safe. The two ladies trusted each other completely and spent hour upon hour telling each other favorite stories about their pasts.

Caine gently prodded his wife. "I want your word now."

As soon as the fresh contraction faded, she answered him. "Yes, I promise you. And, Caine, we're going to have our baby now. Go and wake Christina."

The babe Jade was certain was going to present himself at any moment didn't actually arrive for another three hours.

Through the intense labor, Caine remained as calm, as solid and dependable as Jade had expected. She thought then that Christina had been wrong. Not all men fell apart so easily.

Christina sent Caine down to the library when Jade's contractions became too unbearable for him to watch. Caine only lasted five minutes below the stairs, however, and was then back at Jade's side, clutching her hand in his and begging her forgiveness for putting her through this god-awful ordeal.

He was more hindrance than help, of course. He didn't panic during the birthing, however, and just bare minutes later was holding his beautiful daughter in his arms.

Sterns couldn't restrain himself. As soon as he heard the lusty cries of the newborn, he bounded into the room. He immediately took the baby away from Caine, announced that she was indeed magnificent, and then proceeded to give her her first bath.

Christina took care of Jade. Caine helped her change the sheets and Jade's gown, as well, and when Christina told Caine he'd held up rather well, he actually managed a smile.

Caine was pale, his hands were shaking, his brow was drenched with sweat, he still couldn't speak a coherent word, but he had held fast.

Yet once the trauma was over, his discipline deserted him.

Christina had just left the room to give the wonderful news to her husband. Sterns was cuddling his new charge in his arms, and Jade was simply too weak to catch her husband.

"Is he all right?" Jade asked Sterns. She couldn't even find the strength to look over the edge of the bed.

"He swooned."

"I know he swooned," Jade replied. "But is he all right? He didn't hit his head on anything sharp, did he?"

"He's fine," Sterns announced. He hadn't bothered to look down at his employer when he made that pronouncement but continued to stare down at the beautiful infant; The look on his face was one of true adoration.

"Do help him up," Jade whispered. She was biting her lip to keep herself from laughing.

"He doesn't appear to be ready to get up just yet," Sterns announced. "The babe needs my full attention now. You've done very well, mi'lady, very well, indeed. I'm certain the Marquess will agree when he finishes his faint."

Jade beamed with satisfaction. Her eyes filled with tears. "You're never going to let him live this down, are you, Sterns?"

Caine groaned then, drawing her attention. "We must never tell anyone he swooned. He'd die of embarrassment."

"Don't worry, mi'lady," Sterns returned. "I certainly won't tell anyone. I promise."

She should have realized from the determined sparkle in his eyes that he wasn't going to honor his promise. Three days later, she read all about Caine's fainting spell.

The rascal butler had posted it in the dailies.

The Marquess of Cainewood took it all in stride. He didn't mind the jests from the well-wishers at all.

Nothing could rile his temper. After all, his mission had been successful. He'd hunted down the infamous pirate . . . and now she belonged to him.

The hunter was content.



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