He knew exactly what she was doing. A slow smile pushed his frown away. His gentle little wife had a pure heart, and a mind worthy of a diplomat. She was manipulating him now, hinting at the ridiculous possibility that the Countess would have to live with them if he didn't provide for her.

At that moment though, with her smiling so innocently at him, he decided he didn't want to deny her anything.

"Henderson, if you've the stomach for it, I would like to put you and Borton in charge of the Countess's account. Let me know what is needed to keep Christina's aunt content enough to leave us alone."

While Christina patiently waited, the details were worked out. She then saw the gentlemen out the door and hurried back into the library.

"Thank you, husband, for being so understanding," she said as she walked over to stand beside him.

Lyon pulled her down into his lap. "You knew damn well I'd do anything to keep that old bat away from you. God's truth, I'd even quit the country if I had to."

"Thank you for not calling my aunt an old bat in front of our guests," Christina said.

"I was about to," Lyon answered, grinning. "You knew that, of course. It's the reason you interrupted me, wasn't it?"

Christina wrapped her arms around Lyon's neck. "Yes," she whispered. She leaned forward to nuzzle the base of his throat. "You are such a shrewd man."

Lyon's hand rested on her thigh. His other hand was busy pulling the ribbon out of her hair. "Christina, what weapon does the Countess hold over you?"

The softly spoken question caught her unprepared. "I don't understand your meaning, Lyon. My aunt doesn't have any weapons."

"Christina, I saw the fear in your eyes when the Countess said she'd tell me everything. What did she mean?"

He felt the sudden tension in her, knew then she understood exactly what the threat was. "You're going to have to tell me the truth, Christina. I can't protect you unless I know whatever secrets there are."

"I don't want to talk about it now, Lyon," she announced. She started to nibble on her husband's ear, hoping to distract him. "We are newly married, after all, and I'd rather be kissing you."

He told himself he wouldn't let her waylay his topic, tried to ignore the surge of desire hardening his loins when Christina moved against his arousal, but when she boldly whispered into his ear how much she wanted him to touch her he decided to give in to her demand before asking her any more questions.

His mouth had never felt as wonderful to Christina. The fear of his rejection when he learned all her secrets made her feel almost desperate to take and to give as much as she could now, before the truth was turned against her.

His kiss was magical, soon robbing her of all her frightening thoughts. Yes, it was magic, for Lyon made her feel so desirable, so loved.

The kiss exploded into raw passion. His breathing was harsh when he pulled away from her. "Let's go back upstairs," he rasped.

"Why?"

"Because I want to make love to you," Lyon answered, trying to smile over her innocent question. He was literally shaking with his need for her.

"I want to make love to you, too," Christina whispered between fervent kisses along his jaw. "Do we have to go back upstairs? I don't want to wait that long."

His laughter confused her until he lifted her off his lap and started undressing her. Then she decided he was pleased by her idea.

They came together in wild abandon, fell to the floor in one fluid motion.

Christina was stretched out on top of Lyon, her legs tangled with his. Her hair fell to the floor, on the sides of Lyon's profile, acting as a shield against the outside world.

She was content to stare into her husband's eyes for a long moment, to savor the anticipation of the splendor only he could give her. Lyon's hands stroked shivers down her spine. The heat of his arousal warmed her belly, and the hairs on his chest tickled her ni**les into hardening.

"I'm shameless, for I can't seem to get enough of you," she whispered.

Lyon cupped her soft, rounded bottom in his hands. "I wouldn't want you any other way," he told her. "Kiss me, wife. Christina, all you have to do is look at me and I start throbbing."

Christina kissed his chin while she slowly, deliberately rubbed her br**sts and her thighs against him.

He groaned with pleasure. His hands moved to the back of her head. He forced her mouth upward to seal it with his own. His tongue plunged hungrily inside to taste again the intoxicating sweetness she offered him.

Christina was more impatient than he was. She moved to straddle him, then slowly lowered herself until he was completely inside her. She leaned back, tossing her hair over her shoulder in an utterly wanton motion. Lyon pulled his legs up until his knees pressed against her smooth back. His hands fell to cup the sides of her hips. "Don't let me hurt you," he ground out. "Slow down, love. I won't be able to stop."

He quit his protests when he felt her tighten around him, knew she was about to find her own release. His hand slid into the silky triangle of curls nestled against him. His fingers stroked her there until the fire consumed her and she turned into liquid gold in his arms.

He spilled his seed into her with a harsh groan of blissful surrender, then pulled her down to cover his chest, to hold her close, to share the rapture.

It bad never been this good. It kept getting better, too, Lyon realized when his mind could form a logical thought again. "You're a wild tigress," he whispered to Christina in a voice that sounded thoroughly satisfied.

Christina propped her chin on her hands and stared down at her husband. "No, I am your lioness," she whispered.

He didn't dare laugh. Christina had sounded so terribly serious, as if what she'd just told him was of high importance. He nodded, giving her his agreement while his fingers combed through the tumble of luxuriant curls covering her back. He lifted and then rearranged the strands in an absentminded fashion as he stared into his wife's magnificent blue eyes.

"Do you know, when you look at me like that I immediately lose my concentration," he told her.

"I'll take that as a compliment," Christina announced. She leaned down to kiss him again. "You feel so good inside me," she whispered against his mouth. "And now you must give me the soft words, Lyon."

He wasn't sure what she meant by soft words, but she looked serious again. She'd stacked her hands under her chin and was staring down at him with an expectant look on her face.

"What are soft words, Christina? Tell me and I'll give them to you."

"You must tell me what is inside your heart," she instructed.

"Ah," Lyon drawled. His eyes took on a tender look when he added, "I love you, Christina."

"And?"

"And what?" Lyon asked, exasperated. "Christina, I never thought I'd be able to love again. And to actually get married… you've made me change all my old ways. I do not tell you I love you on a whim, Christina."

"But I already know you love me," Christina answered. "I didn't want you to, but I do admit it still pleases me. Now you must praise me, Lyon. It's the way it's done."

"I don't understand," Lyon said. "That doesn't surprise me," he added with a wink. He looked around the room and saw the chaos their hastily discarded clothing had made. The fact that he was stretched out on the carpet in his library with his uninhibited wife draped over him, trying to have a logical conversation, vastly amused him. "Do you think you're always going to be so shameless, my sweet?"

"Do not change this topic, Lyon. You must tell me I'm as beautiful as a flower in spring, as soft and delicate as a flower's petal. And why is that amusing to you? A woman must feel as desirable after loving as before, Lyon." He quit smiling when he realized she was about to cry. Lyon understood what she needed now. He could see the vulnerability in her eyes. He cupped the sides of her face and leaned up to kiss her. It was a soft, tender caress meant to remove her worry, her tears.

And then he wrapped his arms around her waist and gave her all the soft words she longed to hear.

Chapter Twelve

It wasn't a very joyful reunion with my sister. Patricia acted just like Father. She was happy to see me until she realized Edward wasn't with me. Patricia's husband, Alfred, was as kind as 1 remembered, and he made my stay as pleasant as he could. Patricia told me they'd broken all their engagements to stay home with me, but after a while I realized they didn't have any friends at all. Patricia hated the people of Boston, and I believed the feeling was reciprocated.

My sister longed to go back to England. She fashioned a ridiculous plan. Once she was convinced I meant to stay in the colonies and never return to my husband, she announced that I must give her my baby. She would pass the child off as her own.

She tried to make me believe she wanted to be a mother, that her life wouldn't be filled until she had a child to call her own. I knew the truth, of course. Patricia hadn't changed over the time we'd been separated. No, she wanted a grandchild to give our father. An heir, father would forgive her transgressions; he'd want to provide well for his only grandchild.

I was vehemently against this deception, Christina. I knew greed was my sister's only reason. I told her I'd never give my child away. Patricia ignored my protests. I saw her destroy a letter I'd given her husband to post to London for me. I was able to get one letter past her scrutiny, though, and I was also secure in the knowledge that my father would find the missive I'd left behind in his winter chest.

Albert kept me supplied with the daily papers to keep my mind occupied while I awaited your birth, and it was quite by chance that I came upon an article about the frontier people.

Journal entry October 5, 1795

Lyon and Christina set out for his country manor shortly after a picnic luncheon Christina had insisted upon. They ate crusty bread, cheese, sliced mutton, and plump apple tarts. The fare was spread out on a soft blanket Christina had dragged down from upstairs. Lyon had instinctively reached for his pants, thinking to get dressed first, but his wife had laughed at his modesty, and he'd been easily convinced there really wasn't any need to be in such a hurry.

They were both covered with a layer of dust by the time they arrived at their destination, thanks to Christina's plea to ride in an open carriage and Lyon's agreement to let her have her way.

During the journey he tried to bring up the subject of her father several times, but Christina easily evaded his questions. And once they'd put the city behind them, the beauty of the surrounding wilderness kept Christina fully occupied. Her amazement was obvious. It didn't take Lyon long to realize she had believed all of England was like London.

"Why would you ever want to go into the city when you could stay in such splendor?" Christina asked him.

Splendor? Lyon hadn't thought of the countryside in such a way. Yet the pleasure he could see in his wife's expression made him open his mind to the raw beauty around him.

"We take for granted what is familiar to us," Lyon excused.

"Look around you, Lyon. See God's gifts," Christina instructed.

"Will you promise me something, Christina?" Lyon asked.

"If I am able," she answered.

"Never change," he whispered.

He'd meant it as a compliment and was therefore confused by her reaction. Christina clasped her hands in her lap and bowed her head for a long minute. When she finally looked up at him again, she was frowning.

"My dear, I haven't asked you how to settle England's debts," Lyon remarked. "And my question was irrelevant anyway. I'll make certain you don't change."

"How will you do that?" Christina asked.

"Remove all temptations," Lyon announced with a nod.

"Temptations?"

"Never mind, my sweet. Quit frowning. It will be all right."

"Did Lettie change?"

She knew he didn't like her question. That irritated her, of course, for it was the very first question about his past she'd ever put to him. "Did you love your wife very much, Lyon?" she asked.

"Lettie's dead, Christina. You're all that matters to me now."

"Why is it quite all right for you to prod me about my past and not acceptable for me to ask you questions? Your scowl won't work with me, Lyon. Please answer me. Did you love Lettie?"

"It was a long time ago," Lyon said. "I thought I did… in the beginning…"

"Before she changed," Christina whispered. "She wasn't what you thought she should be, isn't that the way of it?"

"No, she wasn't." His voice had taken on the familiar chill.

"You still haven't forgiven her, have you, Lyon? Whatever did she do to hurt you so?"

"You're being fanciful," Lyon announced. "How in God's name did we get on this topic?"

"I'm trying to understand," Christina answered. "Your sister told me you loved Lettie. Is it so painful you cannot even speak her name?"

"Christina, would you prefer that I act like my mother? All she'll talk of is James," he added.

"Lyon, I'd like our time together to be filled with joy. If I knew how Lettie changed, perhaps I wouldn't make the same mistakes."

"I love you just the way you are. And I'm damned tired of hearing our marriage is only for a short duration. Get this through your head, woman. We're married until death separates us."

"Or until I change like Lettie did," Christina answered. Her voice was just as loud, just as angry as his had been.

"You aren't going to change."

Lyon suddenly realized he was shouting at her. "This is a ridiculous conversation. I love you."

"You love a princess."

"I don't give a damn if you're a princess or not. I love you."

"Ha."

"What in God's name is that supposed to mean?" Lyon reached out to pull her into his arms. "I cannot believe we're yelling at each other like this."

"Lyon, I'm not a princess."

She'd whispered the confession against his shoulder. Lord, she sounded so forlorn. Lyon's anger evaporated. "Good," he whispered.

"Why is it good?" Christina asked.

"Because now you can't tell me I love a princess," he reasoned with a smile in his voice. "I didn't marry you because of your title."



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