And where in God's name would she have heard the roar of lions?

Lyon knew he was becoming obsessed with finding out about her past. His determination didn't make much sense to him. Christina was affecting him in ways he'd thought impossible. He'd never felt so overwhelmed by a woman before. The admission bothered him far more than the nagging pain in his knee.

He would learn all her secrets. She was sure to have them—every woman did—and then his curiosity would be satisfied. Yes, then he'd dismiss her.

The obsession would end.

With that decision reached, Lyon dispatched notes to the gossip leaders of the ton. He was, of course, discreet in his requests for information about the Princess, using his sister Diana and her introduction into society as his main reason for wanting to know the ins and outs of "business."

He wasn't the least concerned about his deceitful endeavor. And in the end, when all the letters had been answered, Lyon was more frustrated than ever. According to all those in the know, Princess Christina didn't have a past.

The woman hadn't even existed until two months ago.

Lyon wasn't about to accept such a conclusion. His patience was running thin. He wanted real answers… and he wanted to see Christina again. He had thought to corner her at Creston's ball the following Saturday, then decided against waiting.

Ignoring good manners altogether, he called upon No. 6 Baker Street at the unholy hour of nine o'clock in the morning. Lyon hadn't bothered to send a note begging an audience, certain the ill-tempered Countess would have denied him entrance if she'd been given advance warning.

Luck was on Lyon's side. An extremely feeble old man with a mop of stark yellow hair opened the door for him. His clothing indicated that he was the butler, and his manner resembled that of an uncivil pontiff.

"The Countess has just left for an appointment, sir, and won't return home for a good hour or more."

Lyon held his grin. "I don't want to see the Countess," he told the butler.

"Then who exactly did you want to see?" the servant asked in a haughty tone of voice.

Lyon let his exasperation show. The old man guarded the entrance like a gargoyle. Lyon brushed past him before he could issue a protest, calling over his shoulder, "I wish to speak to Princess Christina." He deliberately used his most intimidating voice to gain compliance. "Now."

A sudden grin transformed the servant's dour expression into wrinkles of delight. "The Countess ain't going to like it," he announced as he shuffled ahead of Lyon to the double doors on the left of the entry way. "She'll be displeased, she will."

"You don't seem too disturbed by that eventuality," Lyon remarked dryly when the butler let out a loud cackle.

"I won't be telling her about your visit, sir," the butler said. He drew himself up and turned toward the staircase. "You can wait in there," he said with a wave of his hand. "I'll go and inform the Princess of your wish to speak to her."

"Perhaps it would be better if you don't tell your mistress who her caller is," Lyon instructed, thinking Christina just might decide against seeing him. "I'd like to surprise her," he added.

"Since you ain't given me your name, it'll be easy enough to comply with your wishes."

It seemed to Lyon that it took an eternity for the butler to make it across the hallway. He leaned against the door frame and watched the old man. A sudden question made him call out, "If you don't know who I am, how can you be so sure the Countess will be displeased?"

The butler let out another crackle of laughter that sounded very like a long nail being dragged across a chalkboard. The effort nearly toppled him to the floor. He grabbed hold of the bannister before giving Lyon an answer. "It doesn't matter who you be, sir. The Countess don't like anyone. Nothing ever makes the old bat happy." The butler continued up the stairs in his slow, sluggish stride.

Lyon would have sworn it took the old man ten minutes to gain three steps.

"I take it the Countess wasn't the one who employed you," Lyon remarked.

"No, sir," the servant answered between wheezes. "It was Princess Christina who found me in the gutter, so to speak. She picked me up, dusted me off, and fixed me up real nice in new clothes. I was a butler many years ago, afore hard times caught me." The old man took a deep breath, then added, "The Princess don't like me calling her aunt an old bat, though. Says it ain't dignified."

"It might not be dignified, my good man, but old bat really does describe the Countess rather well."

The butler nodded, then grabbed hold of the bannister again. He stayed in that position a long moment. Lyon thought the man was trying to catch his breath. He was wrong in that conclusion, however. The butler finally let go of the railing, then cupped his hands to the sides of his mouth and literally bellowed his announcement up the stairwell. "You got yourself a visitor, Princess. I put him in the drawing room."

Lyon couldn't believe what he'd just witnessed. When the servant repeated the scream, he started laughing.

The butler turned back to explain to Lyon. "She don't want me overdoing," he said. "Got to save me strength for the old bat's orders."

Lyon nodded. The butler shouted to his mistress again.

Christina suddenly appeared at the top of the steps, drawing Lyon's full attention. He wasn't ever going to get used to looking at her, he decided. She kept getting prettier. Her hair wasn't pinned atop her head today. Glorious. It was the only word that came to mind, for the thick, silvery mass of curls framing the angelic face defied any other description.

When she started down the steps, Lyon saw that the length of hair ended against the swell of her slender hips.

She was dressed in a pale pink gown. The scoop neckline showed only a hint of the swell of her bosom. There was something a little unusual about the modest ensemble, but Lyon was too distracted watching her smile at her butler to decide what seemed out of place to him.

She hadn't seen him yet. "Thank you, Elbert. Now go and sit down. The Countess will be home soon, and you'll have to be on your feet again."

"You're too good to me," Elbert whispered.

"It is good of you to think so," she said before continuing on down the steps. She spotted Lyon leaning against the entrance to the salon.

He knew she was surprised. Her eyes widened. "Oh, dear, the Countess is going to be—"

"Displeased," Lyon finished her comment with an exasperated sigh.

Elbert had obviously heard the remark. His scratchy laughter followed Christina into the drawing room. Lyon followed her, pausing long enough to shut the door behind him. "Believe it or not, Christina, I'm considered pleasing enough by the rest of the town. Why your aunt takes exception to me is beyond my comprehension."

Christina smiled over the irritation she'd caught in Lyon's voice. He sounded like a little boy in need of assurance. She sat down in the center of the gold brocade settee so Lyon couldn't sit beside her, motioned for him to take the chair adjacent to her, and then said, "Of course you're pleasing. Do not let my aunt's opinions upset you. Though it is rude of me to admit, your feelings are surely at stake, and so I will confess that my aunt doesn't really like too many people."

"You mistake my comment," Lyon drawled out. "I don't give a damn what your aunt thinks of me. I just find it puzzling that I…"

She was giving him a wary look, and he paused in his reply to change the topic. "Are you unhappy I called?" he asked, frowning over his own question.

Christina shook her head. "Good day to you," she suddenly blurted, trying to remember her manners. It was a problem for her, of course, because Lyon was looking wonderfully handsome again. He was dressed in buckskin riding pants that were the color of a young deer. The material clung to his powerful thighs. His shirt was white, probably made of silk, Christina thought, and partially covered by a forest-in-autumn-colored brown jacket that nicely matched the color of his shiny Hessian boots.

She realized she was staring at him, yet decided to excuse her ill conduct because he was looking at her with much the same intensity.

"I like looking at you."

"I like looking at you, too," Lyon answered with a chuckle.

Christina folded her hands in her lap. "Was there a specific reason for your sporadic visitation?" she asked.

"Sporadic? I don't understand…"

"Spontaneous," Christina said hastily.

"I see."

"Well, sir? Was there a specific reason?"

"I don't remember," Lyon answered, grinning at her.

She gave him a hesitant smile back. "Would you care for refreshment?"

"No, thank you," Lyon answered.

"Well, then, kindly explain what it is you don't remember," she instructed.

She gave him an expectant look, as if what she'd just requested was the most logical thing in the world. "How can I explain what it is I don't remember?" he asked. "You're back to making little sense again, aren't you?"

His smile could melt snow. Christina was having difficulty sitting still. All she wanted to think about was the way Lyon had kissed her, and all she wanted to do was find a way to get him to kiss her again.

It was, of course, an unladylike thought. "The weather has turned warm, hasn't it? Some people say it's the warmest autumn in many years," she added, staring intently down at her hands.

Lyon smiled over her obvious nervousness. He slowly stretched out his long legs, settling in for a confrontation. It was going to be easy work finding out his answers if Christina remained this ill at ease.

The tips of Lyon's boots touched the hem of her gown. She immediately scooted back against the settee, glanced down at the floor, and let out a small gasp. "Would you care for refreshments?" she asked in a surprisingly loud voice, jerking her gaze back to him. She wiggled to the edge of the settee again.

She was as skittish as an abandoned kitten. "You've already asked me that question," Lyon reminded her. "No, I don't care for refreshments. Do I make you uncomfortable?" he added, grinning enough to let her know he'd be happy if he did.

"Why would you think that?" Christina asked.

"You're sitting on the edge of the cushion, looking ready to run at any second, my sweet."

"My name is Christina, not sweet," she said. "And of course I'm uncomfortable. You'd make a buffalo nervous."

"A buffalo?"

"You'd make anyone nervous when you frown," Christina explained with a dainty shrug.

"Good."

"Good? Why, Lyon, you do say the oddest things."

"I say…" Lyon shouted with laughter. "Christina, you haven't made any sense since the moment I met you. Every time I see you I promise myself I'll get a normal conversation out of you, and then—"

"Lyon, you're being fanciful," Christina interrupted. "This is only the second—no, the third time I've seen you, if you count two times in one evening—"

"You're doing it again," Lyon said.

"Doing what?"

"Trying to push me off center."

"I couldn't push you anywhere. You're too big. I know my strengths, Lyon."

"Do you take everything in literal meaning?"

"I don't know. Do I?"

"Yes."

"Perhaps you're the one who has trouble making sense. Yes," Christina added with a quick nod. "You see, Lyon, you don't ask logical questions."

She laughed when he glared. "Why are you here?" she asked again.

She was back to staring at her hands again. A faint blush covered her cheeks. She was suddenly embarrassed about something.

He didn't have any idea what or why. That didn't surprise him, though. The unusual was becoming commonplace where Christina was concerned. Lyon thought he was ready for just about anything now. He was confident he'd have her game found out before the end of their visit.

"I really do know why you came to see me," Christina whispered timidly.

"Oh?" Lyon asked. "What is that reason?"

"You like being with me," she answered, daring a quick look up to see his reaction. When he didn't seem irritated by her honesty, she warmed to her topic.

"Lyon? Do you believe in destiny?"

Oh, dear, he was looking confused again. Christina let out a long sigh. "Well, you do admit you like being with me, don't you?" she coached.

"Yes, but God only knows why," Lyon confessed. He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees.

"Yes, the Great Spirit does know why."

"Great Spirit?" Lyon shook his head. "Lord, I'm starting to sound like an echo. All right, I'll ask. Who is this Great Spirit?"

"God, of course. Different cultures have their own names for the All Powerful, Lyon. Surely you know that. You aren't a heathen, are you?" She sounded quite appalled at that possibility.

"No, I'm not a heathen."

"Well, you needn't get irritated with me. I only asked."

He stared at her a long, silent minute. Then he stood up. Before Christina knew what he was going to do, he'd pulled her up into his arms. He hugged her to him and rested his chin against the top of her head. "I'm either going to strangle you or kiss you," he announced. "The choice is yours."

Christina sighed. "I would prefer that you kiss me. But first, please answer my question, Lyon. It's important to me."

"What question?"

"I asked you if you believed in destiny," she said. She pulled away from him and looked up at his face. "You really do have trouble holding a thought, don't you?"

She had the gall to sound disgruntled. "I don't have any trouble holding a thought," he muttered.

Christina didn't look like she believed him. She was a witch, trying to cast her magical spell on him. Lyon felt as besotted as a silly, worthless fop and as puny as an infant when her gaze was directed on him so enchantingly.

"Well?"

"Well what?" Lyon asked. He shook his head over his ridiculous reaction to the nymph glaring up at him. A lock of hair fell forward, concealing a part of his scar. Christina quit trying to pull away from him and reached up to smooth the lock back in place. The gentle touch jarred him back to her question.



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