Sir Reynolds could feel the tension between the two. They'd obviously had a falling out, he decided. From the way Princess Christina was trying to get out of his embrace, and the determined way Lyon wasn't letting her, it was very apparent. Why, he could almost see the sparks between them.
Determined to douse the argument and aid Lyon at the same time, he asked him, "Are you sure you wish to see Princess Christina home?"
"Yes," Lyon snapped. "When must she get there, Reynolds? Did the Countess set the hour?"
"No, she assumed Christina would accompany your sister and me to Kimble's. You've at least two hours before the Countess takes notice," he added with a grin.
"Please don't discuss me as if I were not present," Christina said. "I really am tired now and would prefer—"
"That we leave immediately." Lyon finished the sentence for her, increasing his hold on her waist until she could barely catch her breath.
"Perhaps you might consider leaving by the back door," Sir Reynolds suggested in a conspiratorial whisper. "I shall make certain everyone believes Princess Christina left with her aunt, you see, and will of course offer your regrets to our host as well."
"A good idea," Lyon announced with a grin. "Of course, Reynolds, we must keep this deception between the three of us. Christina has such difficulty telling a lie. As long as she doesn't have to fabricate a story to her aunt, her honor will remain unblemished. Isn't that right, love?"
She gave him a good long frown. And she really wished he'd quit dragging up the issue of her honesty. It was making her terribly uncomfortable. Lyon looked sincere enough for her to believe he actually admired her. .
It no longer signified what he thought, she told herself when Lyon started dragging her toward the back of the house. He'd just rejected her offer of marriage. No, it didn't matter what he thought of her anymore.
She wouldn't see him again after this evening. Heaven help her, her eyes were filling with tears. "You've just broken another law," she muttered into his back. She tried to sound angry instead of desolate. "My aunt will be outraged if she hears of this trickery."
"Speak English, sweetheart."
Lyon didn't say another word until he had Christina settled inside his carriage. He sat down next to her, then stretched his long legs out in front of him.
The carriage was much bigger than the one Aunt Patricia had rented, and much more elegant in detail.
Christina still hated it. Large or small, elegant or not, it made no difference to her. "Don't you have any of those open carriages like the ones I've seen in Hyde Park, Lyon? And please quit trying to crush me. Do move over."
"Yes, I have an open carriage. It's called a phaeton. One doesn't use a phaeton after dark, however," he explained with exasperation. His patience was wearing thin. Lyon was itching to get the truth out of her, not discuss such mundane matters as carriages.
"One should," Christina muttered. "Oh, God, I shouldn't admit this to you, but I won't be seeing you again, so it really doesn't matter. I can't stand the darkness. May we open the drapes covering the windows, please? I can't seem to catch my breath."
The panic in her voice turned his attention. His anger quickly dissipated when he felt her tremble against his side.
Lyon immediately pulled the drapes back, then put his arm around her shoulders.
"I've just handed you a weapon to use against me, haven't I?"
He didn't know what she was talking about. The light filtering in through the windows was sufficient for him to see the fear in her eyes, though. He noticed that her hands were fisted in her lap.
"You really are frightened, aren't you?" he asked as he pulled her up against him.
Christina reacted to the gentleness in his voice. "It isn't really fear," she whispered. "I just get a tightness here, in my chest," she explained. She took hold of his hand and placed it against her heart. "Can you feel how my heart is pounding?"
He could have answered her if he'd been able to find his voice. The simple touch had sent his senses reeling.
"I'll try to take your mind off your worry, love," he whispered when he could speak again. He leaned down and kissed her. The intimacy was slow, languid, consuming, until Christina reached up to brush her fingertips across his cheek.
A shudder rushed through him. His heart was pounding now. "Do you know what a witch you are?" he asked when he pulled away. "Do you have any idea what I want to do to you, Christina?" His fingers slid just inside the top of her gown to gently caress her softness.
He whispered erotic, forbidden longings into her ear. "I can't wait much longer, my love. I want you under me. Naked. Begging. God, I want to be inside you. You want me just as much, don't you, Christina?"
He didn't wait for her answer but claimed her soft lips for another deep kiss. His mouth moved hungrily over hers, his tongue delving inside, deeper and deeper with each new penetration, until she was reaching for his tongue with her own whenever he deliberately withdrew.
Christina didn't know how it happened, but she suddenly realized she was sitting on his lap with her arms wrapped around his neck. "Lyon, you mustn't say such things to me." Her protest sounded like a ragged moan. "We cannot share the same blankets unless we're wed," she added before she cupped the sides of his face and kissed him again.
She forgot all about the closeness inside the carriage, forgot all her worries and his rejection of her proposal. His kisses were robbing her of all thoughts.
Her br**sts ached for more of his touch. She moved:, restlessly, erotically, against his arousal. Lyon trailed wet kisses down the side of her neck, pausing to tease her earlobe with his warm breath, his velvet tongue. His knuckles brushed against her ni**les, once, twice, and then again, until a fever began to burn inside her.
She tried to stop him when he pushed the top of her gown down, exposing her br**sts. "No, Lyon, we mustn't—"
"Let me, Christina," Lyon demanded, his voice harsh with need. His mouth found her br**sts before she could protest again, and then she was too weak, too overwhelmed by what he was doing to her to protest at all.
"I love the taste of you," he whispered. "God, you're so soft." His tongue caressed the nipple of one breast while his hand stroked the other. Christina clung to him, her eyes tightly closed. A soft whimper escaped when he took the nipple into his mouth and began to suckle. An aching tightness made her move against Lyon again. He groaned, telling her how much pleasure her instinctive motion had given him.
Christina never wanted the sweet torture to end.
It was Lyon's driver who saved her from disgrace. His shout that they'd gained their destination penetrated her sensual haze. "Dear God, we are home!" Her announcement came out in a strained voice.
Lyon wasn't as quick to recover. It took a moment for her announcement to settle in his mind. His breathing was harsh, ragged. He leaned back against the cushion and took a deep breath while he fought to regain some semblance of control.
Christina had adjusted her gown to cover her br**sts and moved to sit beside him. She dropped her hand on his thigh. Lyon reacted as though she'd just stabbed him. He pushed her hand away. "Are you angry with me?" she whispered.
His eyes were closed now. The muscle was flexing in the side of his cheek, though, and she thought he really was angry with her. She clasped her hands together in her lap, trying to stop herself from trembling. "Please don't be angry with me."
"Damn it, Christina. Give me a minute to calm down," Lyon snapped.
Christina bowed her head in shame. "I'm so sorry, Lyon. I didn't mean for our kisses to go so far, but you made me weak and I forgot all about stopping."
"It was my fault, not yours." Lyon muttered his roundabout apology. He finally opened his eyes and glanced down at her. Hell, she looked so dejected. Lyon tried to put his arm around her again, but she scooted over into the corner. "Sweetheart, it's all right" He forced a smile when she looked up at him. "Do you want me to come inside with you?"
She shook her head. "No, the Countess is a light sleeper. She'd know," Christina whispered.
Lyon didn't want to leave her. Not yet… not like this. He was feeling extremely guilty because she was looking so ashamed. If she started to cry, he didn't know how he'd be able to comfort her.
"Hell," he muttered to himself. Every time he touched her he went a little crazy. If he tried to offer her solace, he'd probably make it worse.
Lyon threw open the door and helped Christina to the ground. "When will I see you again?" he asked her. They were in the midst of a struggle, and he wasn't certain she heard him. Christina was trying to push his hands away, and he was trying to hug her. "Christina, when will I see you again?"
She refused to answer him until he let go of her.
Lyon refused to let go of her until she answered him. "We'll stand here all night," he told her when she kept pushing against his shoulders.
Christina suddenly threw her arms around his neck and hugged him. "I blame myself, Lyon. It was wrong of me to ask you to marry with me. I was being very selfish."
Her words so surprised him, he let go of her. Christina kept her head bowed so he couldn't see her distress, yet was powerless to keep her voice from trembling. "Please forgive me."
"Let me explain," Lyon whispered. He tried to pull her back into his arms. Christina evaded him again by taking a quick step back. "Marriage changes a person. It isn't a rejection of you, Christina, but I—"
She shook her head. "Do not say another word. You might have fallen in love with me, Lyon. When the time came for me to go home, you would have had a broken heart. It is better for me to choose someone else, someone I don't care about."
"Christina, you are home. You aren't going anywhere," Lyon said. "Why can't we go along the way we—"
"You're very like Rhone, do you know that?"
Her question confused him. Christina hurried up the steps to her townhouse. When she turned back to look at Lyon, he could see how upset she was. Tears streamed down her cheeks. "Your friend only steals jewels, Lyon. Your sin is greater. If I let you, you'd steal my heart. I cannot allow that to happen. Goodbye, Lyon. I must never see you again."
With those parting words, Christina went inside the house. The door closed softly behind her.
Lyon was left standing on the stoop. "The hell you will forget me," he bellowed.
Lyon was furious. He thought he had to be the most frustrated man in England. How in God's name had he ever allowed himself to get involved with such a confusing woman?
She'd had the audacity to tell him he might fall in love with her.
Lyon knew the truth. Heaven help him, he was already in love with her.
Needless to say, that admission didn't sit well. Lyon almost ripped the door off the carriage when he climbed back inside. He shouted the order to his driver to take him home, then began to list all the reasons he should stay away from Christina.
The woman was a blatant liar.
He despised liars.
God only knew how many hearts she'd broken.
Destiny… he decided he hated that word.
By the time he arrived home, he'd accepted the fact that none of his reasonable arguments made any difference. He was stuck with Christina whether he wanted to be or not.
Mylala wouldn't leave her homeland. She wouldn't leave her family. While 1 understood her reasons, I was afraid for her. She promised me she'd take every precaution. My maid planned to hide in the hills until Edward was unseated from power or fled the country. Her family would look after her. I gave her all my own treasury, though it was a pittance by England's standards. We wept together before we parted, like true sisters who knew they'd never see each other again.
Yes, she was my sister, in spirit and heart. I'd never had a confidant. My own sister, Patricia, could never be trusted. Be warned, child. If Patricia is still alive when you've grown up, and you meet up with her one day, protect yourself. Don't put your faith in her, Christina. My sister loves deception. She feeds on others' pain.
Do you know, she really should have married Edward. They would have been very compatible. They are so very much alike.
Journal entry September 3, 1795
Lyon spent most of Friday afternoon sitting in the Bleak Bryan tavern, located in a particularly seedy section of the city. Lyon wasn't there to drink, of course, but to glean information from the captains and shipmates who favored the tavern.
He moved easily in and out of such a setting. Though dressed in quality buckskins and riding jacket, he didn't need to worry about being set upon. Lyon was always given a wide berth. Everyone in this area knew his reputation well. They feared him, yet respected him, and entered into conversation only when he motioned to them for an audience.
Lyon sat with his back against the wall. Bryan, a retired shipmate from the moment he lost his hand in a knife fight, sat beside him. Lyon had purchased the tavern and set Bryan up in business as a reward for past loyalty.
He questioned one man after another, refusing to become impatient when the hours stretched or the shipmates lied in order to get another free glass of ale. A newcomer strutted over to the table and demanded his share of the bounty. The big man lifted the seaman Lyon was questioning by his neck and carelessly threw him to the side.
Bryan smiled. He still enjoyed a good fight. "Have you never met the Marquess of Lyonwood, then?" he asked the stranger.
The seaman shook his head, took his seat, and then reached for the pitcher of ale. "Don't give a belch who he be," the man muttered menacingly. "I'm wanting my due."
Bryan's eyes sparkled with amusement. He turned to Lyon and said, "He's wanting his due."
Lyon shrugged. He knew what was expected of him. Every face in the tavern was looking at him. There were appearances to keep up, and if he wanted a peaceful afternoon, he'd have to take care of this little matter.
He waited until the seaman had put the pitcher back on the table, then slammed the heel of his boot into the man's groin.
It happened too quickly for the seaman to protect himself. Before he could scream in pain, Lyon had him by the throat. He squeezed hard, then flung the big man backwards.
The crowd roared their approval. Lyon ignored them. He tilted his chair back against the wall, never taking his gaze off the man writhing in agony on the floor.