His hand covered her mouth. "If you tell me I love a princess, I'll—"
"You'll what?" Christina asked when he moved his hand away from her mouth.
"Be displeased," Lyon announced, giving her a lopsided grin.
Christina smiled at her husband. Lyon rolled to his side, then pulled her up against him. "Lyon?"
"Will I always feel as though my soul has merged with yours?"
"I hope so," Lyon answered. "Very few people are able to share what we've—"
"It's destiny," Christina said. She wiped her tears away with the back of her hand. "You may laugh at me if you want, but it was our destiny to be with each other. Besides, no other woman would have you."
Lyon chuckled. "Is that so?" he asked.
"Oh, yes. You're a scoundrel. Why, you ruined my reputation just to get your way."
"But you don't care what others say about you, do you, Christina?"
"Sometimes I do," she confessed. "It's a sorry trait, isn't it? I care what you think of me."
"I'm glad," Lyon answered.
Christina closed her eyes with a sigh. The last thing she remembered was Lyon pulling the covers up over them.
Lyon thought she looked like a contented kitten, curled up against him. He knew he wouldn't be able to sleep for very long, and the familiar tension settled in the pit of his stomach. The nightmares would certainly visit him again. He hadn't missed a night in over two years. His worry was for Christina, of course. He didn't want to frighten her. No, he knew he'd have to go downstairs and meet his past there, in the privacy of his library.
He closed his eyes for a moment, wanting to savor her warmth just a little longer.
It was his last thought until morning light.
The voyage to the colonies was very difficult. The ocean in winter was angry with giant swells. The bitterness of the frigid air kept me inside my cabin most of the time. I tied myself to my bed with rope the captain had supplied, for I would have been tossed around the room if I hadn't taken that precaution.
I wasn't sick in the mornings any longer, and my heart had softened toward you, Christina. I actually thought I'd be able to make a new beginning in the colonies.
I felt so free, so safe. Another ocean would soon separate me from Edward. You see, I didn't realize he'd come after me.
Journal entry October 3, 1795
Morning sun flooded the bedroom before Lyon awakened. His first thought was an astonishing one. For the first time in over two years, he'd actually slept through the night. The pleasant realization didn't last long, however. Lyon rolled to his side to take his wife into his arms, and only then he realized she wasn't there.
He bolted out of the bed, then thanked God and his quick reflexes, for he'd just missed stepping on her.
She'd obviously fallen out of bed, and in her sound sleep she hadn't awakened enough to climb back in.
Lyon knelt down next to Christina. He must have slept like an innocent, too, he decided, because he hadn't heard her fall. She'd dragged one of the blankets with her, and she did look comfortable. Her breathing was deep, even. No, he didn't think the fall had harmed her.
He gently eased her into his arms. When he stood up, she instinctively cuddled against his chest.
You trust me when you're sleeping, he thought with a grin as her hands slipped around his waist and he caught her contented sigh.
Lyon stood there holding her for long, peaceful minutes, then placed her in the center of his bed. Her breathing hadn't changed, and he really didn't think he'd awakened her, but when he tried to move her hands away from his waist her grip increased.
Christina suddenly opened her eyes and smiled at him.
He smiled back a bit sheepishly, for the way she was watching him made him feel as though he'd just been caught in the act of doing something forbidden.
"You fell out of bed, sweetheart," he told her.
She thought his comment was vastly amusing. When he questioned her about her laughter, she shook her head, told him he probably wouldn't understand, and asked why he didn't just make love to her again and quit frowning so ferociously.
Lyon fell into her arms, and into her plan wholeheartedly.
Christina proved to be just as uninhibited in the morning light as she was during the dark hours of the night. And he was just as satisfied.
He stayed in bed with his hands behind his head, watching his wife as she straightened the room and got dressed. He was amazed by her lack of shyness. She didn't seem to be the least embarrassed by her nudity. She was dressed all too soon for his liking, in a pretty violet-colored walking gown, and when she began to brush the tangles from her hair, Lyon noticed the length didn't reach her h*ps now. No, her hair was waist-length.
"Christina, did you cut your hair?"
"Why? I like it long," Lyon said.
She turned from the mirror to smile at him. "Don't pin it up on top of your head, either," Lyon ordered. "I like it down."
"It isn't fashionable," Christina quoted. "But I shall bend to my husband's dictates," she added with a mock curtsy. "Lyon, are we leaving for your country home today?"
Christina tied a ribbon around her hair at the back of her neck, a frown of concentration on her face. "How long will it take us?" she asked.
"About three hours, a little longer perhaps," Lyon answered.
Then came a sound of someone banging on the front door. "Now who do you suppose that could be?" Christina asked.
"Someone with bad manners," Lyon muttered. He reluctantly got out of bed, reached for his clothing, then quickened his actions when his wife hurried out of the room. "Christina, don't you open that door until you know who it is," he bellowed after her.
He stumbled on a piece of sharp metal, let out a curse over his awkwardness, then glanced down to see the handle of Christina's knife protruding from the edge of the blanket she'd pulled to the floor with her. Now what in heaven's name was her knife doing there? Lyon shook his head. He determined to question her just as soon as he got rid of their unwanted visitors.
Christina had requested names as Lyon instructed before she unlocked the chains and opened the door.
Misters Borton and Henderson, her grandfather's solicitors, stood on the front stoop. They both looked terribly uncomfortable. Aunt Patricia was standing between the two men. She looked furious.
Christina wasn't given time to greet her guests properly or to get out of her aunt's way. The Countess slapped Christina across her face so forcefully that Christina stumbled backwards.
She would have fallen if Mr. Borton hadn't grabbed hold of her arm to steady her. Both solicitors were shouting at the Countess, and Henderson endeavored to restrain the wily old woman when she tried to strike Christina again.
"You filthy whore," the Countess screeched. "Did you think I wouldn't hear the stories of the vile things you did while I was away? And now you've gone and married the bastard!"
Lyon's roar shook the walls. Borton and Henderson both took hesitant steps back. The Countess was too angry to show similar caution, however. She turned to glare up at the man who had ruined all her plans.
Christina also turned to look at her husband. The left side of her face was throbbing with pain, but she tried to smile at her husband, to tell him it was really all right.
Lyon was down the stairs and pulling Christina into his arms before she could begin her explanation. He tilted her face up for his scrutiny, then asked her in a voice chilled with his rage, "Who did this to you?"
She didn't have to answer. The solicitors interrupted each other as they hastened to explain that the Countess had struck her niece.
Lyon turned to Christina's aunt. "If you ever touch her again, you won't live to boast of it. Do you understand me?"
The aunt's eyes turned to slits, and her voice was filled with venom when she answered Lyon. "I know all about you. Yes, you would kill a defenseless woman, wouldn't you? Christina's going home with me now. This marriage will be annulled."
"It will not," Lyon answered.
"I'll go to the authorities," the Countess shouted, so forcefully that the veins stood out in the sides of her neck.
"Do that," Lyon answered, his voice soft. "And after you've spoken to them, I'll send your friend Splickler to tell them the rest of the story."
The Countess let out a shrill gasp. "You cannot prove—"
"Oh, but I already have," Lyon interjected. A smile that didn't quite reach his eyes changed his expression. "Splickler has conveniently written everything down on paper, Countess. If you want to make trouble, go right ahead."
"You can't believe I had anything to do with Splickler," the Countess said to Christina. "Why, I was visiting my friend in the country."
"You were staying all by yourself at the Platte Inn," Lyon answered.
"You had me followed?"
"I knew you'd lied to Christina," Lyon announced. "It's a fact you don't have any friends, Countess. I was immediately suspicious."
"Then you're the one who caused all the mishaps when I tried to return to London before the wedding. I would have stopped it. You knew that, didn't you, you—"
"Get out of here," Lyon commanded. "Say goodbye to your niece, Countess. You're never going to see her again. I'll see to it."
"Lyon," Christina whispered. She was about to soothe his anger. He gave her a gentle squeeze, however, and she assumed he didn't want her interference.
Christina wished he wouldn't get so upset on her behalf. It really wasn't necessary. She understood her aunt far better than Lyon did. She knew how greed motivated her aunt's every action.
"Christina, do you know you've married a cold-blooded murderer? Oh, yes," the Countess sneered. "England knighted him for his cold-blooded—"
"Madam, hold your tongue," Mr. Henderson said in a harsh whisper. "It was wartime," he added, with a sympathetic look at Christina.
Christina could feel the rage in her husband. His hold on her was rigid. She tried to think of a way to calm him and rid them of their uninvited guests. She slipped her hand under his jacket and began to stroke his back, trying to tell him without words that the angry comments didn't matter to her.
"Mr. Borton? Have you carried along the papers for me to sign?" she asked in a whisper.
"It is your husband who must sign the papers, my dear," Mr. Henderson answered. "My lord? If you would only give us a few minutes of your time, the funds will be handed over to you without further delay."
"Funds? What funds?" Lyon asked, shaking his head.
The Countess stomped on the floor. "Christina, if he doesn't give me my money, I'll make certain he never wants to touch you again. Yes, I'll tell him everything. Do you understand me?"
Christina's soothing strokes on Lyon's back weren't helping. She could feel his new fury. She gave him a squeeze.
Lyon had never harmed a woman, but he didn't think it was an odious thought to murder the evil woman defaming his wife. He was aching to throw her out the door.
"Did this woman come with you or does she have her own carriage?" Lyon asked the two gentlemen.
"Her conveyance is out front," Henderson answered with a nod.
Lyon turned back to the Countess. "If you aren't out of here in exactly thirty seconds, I'm going to throw you out."
"This isn't over," the Countess shouted at the Marquess. She glared at Christina. "No, this isn't over," she muttered again as she strode out the doorway.
Mr. Borton shut the door and sagged against the frame. Henderson poked at his collar. He held a satchel in his other hand. Suddenly he seemed to remember what his duty was, and he said, "Sir, I do apologize for rushing in on you this way, but the Countess was set on disrupting you."
"Who in God's name are you, man?" Lyon asked, his patience at an end.
"He is Mr. Henderson, Lyon, and the man holding up the door is Mr. Borton. They are my grandfather's solicitors. Let us get this over and done with, please, Lyon? If you'll take the gentlemen into the library, I shall fetch some soothing tea. My, it has been quite a morning, hasn't it, husband?"
Lyon stared down at his wife with an incredulous look on his face. She acted as though nothing upsetting had taken place. Then he decided her calm manner was deliberate. "Are you trying to placate me?" he asked.
"Soothing your temper," Christina corrected. She smiled at her husband, then grimaced against the sting of her swelling skin.
Lyon noticed her discomfort. His grip tightened around her waist. She felt his anger again, had to sigh over it. "I shall go and make the tea now."
It wasn't as easy for Lyon to let go of his anger. He was abrupt when he motioned the men into his study, then took great pleasure in slamming the door shut behind him. "This had better be worth the interruption," he told the men.
Christina deliberately took her time so that Lyon would hear the facts of her grandfather's will before she interrupted.
She could tell, when Mr. Borton opened the door to her knock and took the tray from her, that the meeting hadn't gone well. No, he was looking very nervous. Christina glanced over to look at her husband and immediately understood Borton's worry. Lyon was scowling.
"Why didn't you tell me, Christina? Damn, you have more money than I do."
"And that displeases you?" she asked. She poured the tea, handed him the first cup, then continued her task until the solicitors had both been served.
"I don't believe your wife understood the exact amount left to her by her grandfather," Mr. Henderson said.
"Is it important, Lyon? It all belongs to you now, doesn't it? That is what you said earlier, Mr. Borton," Christina said. "Of course, we must make an allowance for Aunt Patricia. It must be substantial, too."
Lyon leaned back in his chair. He closed his eyes and prayed for patience. "Do you really think I'm going to provide for that… that…"
"She cannot help what she is," Christina interjected. "She's old, Lyon, and for that reason alone we must provide for her. It isn't necessary that you like her."
Christina smiled at their visitors. "At first I believed that my aunt could come and live with us, but I see that wouldn't work. No, she would never get along with Lyon. Of course, if my husband doesn't agree to finance her, then I suppose she'll have to stay with us."