Lyon turned to yell instructions to his driver after making that accusation. "Go and wake up the servants, man. Bring half the number over here. They'll stay with Princess Christina until her aunt returns from the country."
He'd been forced by circumstances to bellow his orders. His driver wouldn't have heard him otherwise. No, the parade of carriages coming down the street was making too much of a clatter.
He knew he should have felt a shred of shame for what he was deliberately doing. When he spotted the first carriage rounding the corner, the very least he could have done was wave his driver away and shut the door.
"Thompson's party must have just let out," he remarked in a casual voice to the horrified woman hovering behind his back.
Lyon actually smiled when he heard her gasp, pleased she understood the ramifications well enough. Then he leaned against the door frame and waved at the startled occupants of the first carriage.
"Good eve, Hudson, Lady Margaret," he shouted, totally unconcerned that his pants were only partially buttoned.
Over his shoulder he told Christina, "Lady Margaret looks like she's about to fall out of the carriage, love. She's hanging halfway out the window."
"Lyon, how could you?" Christina asked, clearly appalled by his conduct.
"Destiny, my dear."
He waved to three more carriages before he finally closed the door. "That ought to do it," he remarked, more to himself than to the outraged woman looking ready to kill him. "Now, what were you saying about not marrying me, my sweet?"
"You are a man without shame," she shouted when she could find her voice.
"No, Christina. I've just sealed your fate, so to speak. You still do believe in destiny, don't you?"
"I'm not going to marry you, no matter what scandal you weave."
If she hadn't been so infuriated, she might have tried to explain again. But Lyon was grinning at her with such a victorious, arrogant look on his face, she decided to keep the full truth to herself.
He drained the anger right out of her. Lyon suddenly pulled her into his arms and kissed her soundly. When he finally let go of her, she was too weak to protest.
"You will marry me."
He started back up the stairs in search of his shoes.
Christina held on to the bannister, watching him. "Do you think ruining my reputation will matter, Lyon?"
"It's a nice start," Lyon called back. "Remember, what will be is going to be. Your words, Christina, not mine."
"I'll tell you what's going to be," she shouted. "I won't be in England long enough to care about my reputation. Don't you understand, Lyon? I have to go home."
She knew he'd heard her. She'd shouted loud enough to rattle the walls. Lyon disappeared around the corner, but Christina patiently waited for him to come back downstairs. She wasn't about to go chasing after him again. No, she knew she'd end up back in bed with him if she went up the stairs. God help her, she'd probably be the one to suggest it. Lyon was simply too appealing, and she was too weak-hearted to fight him.
Besides, she told herself, she hated him. The man had the morals of a rattlesnake.
He was dressed when he came downstairs. He was ignoring her, too. Lyon didn't speak another word until his carriage had returned with two big men and one heavyset maid. Then he spoke to his staff, giving them his orders.
Christina was infuriated with his high-handed manner. When he instructed the men to see to her protection, to let no one enter her home without his permission, she decided to protest.
The look he gave her made her reconsider. She was seeing a different side of Lyon's character now. He was very like Black Wolf when he was addressing his warriors. Lyon was just as cold, as rigid, as commanding. Christina instinctively knew it would be better not to argue with him now.
She decided to ignore him just as thoroughly as he was ignoring her. That decision was short-lived, however. Christina was staring into the fireplace, trying to pretend the man didn't even exist, when she heard a rather descriptive curse. She turned just in time to see Lyon jump up from the settee.
He'd sat on her knife.
"Serves you justice," she muttered when he held the blade up and glared at it.
She tried to snatch her weapon away from him, but Lyon wouldn't let her have it. "It belongs to me," she announced.
"And you belong to me, you little warrior," Lyon snapped out. "Admit it, Christina, now, or I swear to the Great Spirit I'll show you how a real warrior uses a knife."
Their gazes held a long, ponderous moment. "You really don't know what you're trying to catch, do you? Very well, Lyon. For now—until you change your mind, that is—I will belong to you. Does that satisfy you?"
Lyon dropped the knife and pulled Christina into his arms. He then proceeded to show her just how immensely satisfied he really was.
Edward had left to put dawn a resistance in the West. When the captain of my ship came for me, I made him wait outside my husband's office while I went inside to steal the jewels. I briefly considered leaving a note for Edward, then decided against it.
We set sail immediately, but I didn't begin to feel safe until we were two days out to sea. I stayed below in my cabin most of the time, for 1 was terribly ill. I couldn't hold any food in my stomach, and I believed it was the weather that was the cause.
It wasn't until a week had passed that the truth settled in my mind. I was carrying Edward's child.
God forgive me, Christina, but I prayed for your death.
Journal entry September 7, 1795
Monday was a trial of endurance for Christina. Although she protested vehemently, Lyon's servants had her possessions packed up and transferred to his mother's townhouse by noon.
Christina kept insisting that she wasn't going anywhere, that the Countess would be home Monday next, and that she would take care of herself until that time. No one paid her the least attention. They followed the instructions from their employer, of course, and though they were friendly enough, one and all suggested she mention her distress to the Marquess of Lyonwood.
Although Christina had not seen Lyon since Friday evening, his presence was certainly felt. He hadn't allowed her to attend Creston's ball, or to go anywhere else, for that matter. Christina thought he kept her closeted inside her townhouse so she wouldn't be able to run away.
There was also the possibility that he was trying to protect her feelings, Christina realized. He might not want her to hear any of the whispers circling the ton about her liaison with Lyon. It was a scandal, to be sure, but a scandal Lyon had personally caused.
Perhaps Lyon thought she'd be upset about the slurs against her character. She was unmarried, Lyon had been undressed, and half the ton had witnessed the scene. Oh, there was a scandal floating about; Christina had heard Colette, the lady's maid Lyon had thrust upon her, tell one of the other servants a juicy bit of gossip she'd overheard when she'd gone to do the marketing with the cook.
Christina had a splitting headache by midafternoon. It came upon her all at once when she happened to notice the wedding announcement in the newspapers. Lyon had had the gall to post his intention to marry Princess Christina the following Saturday.
Colette caught her tearing up the paper. "Oh, my lady, isn't it romantic the way the Marquess flaunts tradition? Why, he's doing everything to his liking and doesn't care what others will say."
Christina didn't think it was romantic at all. She felt like screaming. She went upstairs to her bedroom, thinking to find a few minutes' peace, but she'd barely closed the door behind her when she was once again interrupted.
A visitor was waiting for her in the drawing room. Since Lyon had ordered that no one was to be allowed entrance, Christina naturally assumed he was the one waiting for her.
She was fighting mad when she stormed into the salon. "If you think you can…"
Her shout tapered off as soon as she saw the elderly woman sitting in the gold wing-back chair. "If I think what, my dear?" the woman asked, looking perplexed.
Christina was embarrassed by her outburst. The woman smiled at her then. Some of the awkwardness left her. Christina could tell the stranger was kind. There were laugh wrinkles around her eyes and her mouth. The top of her gray-haired bun was level with the top of the chair, indicating she was an extremely tall woman. She wasn't very attractive. Her hooked nose took up a good portion of her face, and she had a slight yet noticeable line of hair above her thin upper lip. She was a heavy-bosomed woman with wide shoulders.
She seemed to be about the Countess's age. "I do apologize for shouting at you, madam, but I believed you were Lyon," Christina explained after making a low curtsy.
"How very bold of you, child."
"Bold? I don't understand," Christina said.
"To raise your voice to my nephew. Proves you've got spirit," the woman announced with a brisk nod. She motioned for Christina to sit down. "I've known Lyon since he was a little boy, and I've never had the courage to shout at him. Now, allow me to introduce myself," she continued. "I'm Lyon's aunt. Aunt Harriett, to be correct. I'm his father's younger sister, you see, and since you'll soon be the new Marchionness of Lyonwood, you might as well call me Aunt Harriett from the beginning. Are you ready to come home with me now, Christina, or do you need a little more time to prepare? I shall be happy to wait in here, if you could order me a spot of tea. My, it has gone warm again today, hasn't it?" she asked.
Christina didn't know how to answer her. She watched her take a small fluted fan from her lap, open it with a quick flip of her wrist, and begin to wave it a bit violently in front of her face.
Because of the woman's advanced years, Christina naturally took a submissive attitude. The elders were to be respected and—whenever possible—obeyed without a word of protest. It was the way of the Dakota, the way Christina was raised.
Christina bowed her head and said, "I am honored to meet you, Aunt Harriett. If you have the patience to listen to me, I would like to explain that there seems to be a misunderstanding."
"Misunderstanding?" Harriett asked. Her voice sounded with amusement. She pointed her fan at Christina. "My dear, may I be open with you? Lyon has ordered me to see you settled in his mother's townhouse. We both know he'll have his way, regardless of your feelings. Don't look so crestfallen, child. He only has your best interests at heart."
"Do you want to marry Lyon?"
Her blunt question demanded an answer. She was staring intently at Christina. Very much like a hawk, Christina thought. "Well, child?"
Christina tried to think of a way to soften the truth. "What I would like to do and what I must do are two separate issues. I'm trying to protect Lyon from making a terrible mistake, madam."
"Marriage would be a mistake, you say?" Aunt Harriett asked.
"If he marries me, yes," Christina admitted. "I've always been known for my bluntness, Christina, so I'm going to ask you right out. Do you love my nephew?" Christina could feel herself blushing. She looked up at Aunt Harriett for a long moment. "You don't need to answer me, child. I can see you do."
"I am trying not to love him," Christina whispered.
Aunt Harriett started fanning herself again. "I certainly don't understand that remark. No, I don't. Lyon did tell me you've only just learned the English language, and that you might not make sense all the time. Now, don't get red in the face, Christina, he meant no criticism. Do you have any idea how remarkable it is that this union will be based on love?"
"When I first met Lyon, I believed we were meant to be together… for a short time. Yes," she added when Aunt Harriett gave her a puzzled look. "I believed it was our destiny."
"Destiny?" Aunt Harriett smiled. "What a romantic notion, Christina. I believe you're just what my nephew needs. He's such an intense, angry man most of the time. Now please explain what you meant by saying it would be for only a short while. Do you believe you'd fall out of love so quickly? That is a bit of a shallow constitution, isn't it?"
Christina wasn't sure what the woman meant by her remark. "Lyon would like to marry a princess. I would like to go home. It is really very simple."
The look on Aunt Harriett's face indicated she didn't think it was simple at all.
"Then Lyon will have to go home with you," Aunt Harriett announced. "I'm sure he'd insist upon visiting your homeland."
The absurd suggestion made Christina smile.
"See? I've lightened your worry already," Aunt Harriett said. "Why, of course, Lyon will take you home for a visitation."
Christina knew it was pointless to argue with the kind woman's expectations, and it would have been rude to disagree openly with her. After ordering refreshments, Christina spent the next hour listening to Aunt Harriett tell amusing stories about her family.
She learned that Lyon's father had died in his sleep. Lyon was away at school when the tragedy happened, and Christina thought it sad indeed that he hadn't been by his father's side. She also learned that Lyon's wife, Lettie, had died in childbirth. The story was so sad, Christina had to fight back her tears.
And when the hour was up, Christina went with Aunt Harriett to Lyon's mother's home.
She'd been inside the beautiful townhouse once before, when she'd visited Lady Diana by request, and for that reason the sight of such luxury didn't quite take her breath away.
The entrance blazed with candlelight. The receiving room was on the left. It was a good three times the size of all the others Christina had seen. The dining room was on the right. A long, narrow table took up most of the room, polished to such a sheen one could actually see his face in the reflection. There were sixteen chairs lining each side.
Christina assumed there were that many relatives living with Lyon's mother. Lyon had provided well for his family. There were servants rushing around, fetching and carrying. Aunt Harriett had told her that Lyon paid for it all.
Lady Diana rushed down the steps to greet Christina. "Lyon is waiting for you upstairs in the library," she announced, tugging on Christina's arm. "Oh, you do look lovely in pink, Christina. It's such a soft color," she added. "Do you know, I wish I were as delicate in stature as you are. Why, I feel like an elephant when I'm standing next to you."