"I have still to speak to Mr. Bleak," Christina said. "Unhand me, Lyon," she added, trying to jerk her hand away.

"Perhaps you didn't get it after all," Lyon remarked over his shoulder. "I just told you that a wife goes where her husband—"

"Lyon? I'm ready to kill with curiosity," Bryan interposed. He'd caught the irritation in his friend's voice and was trying to intervene before another conflict started. "I would like to know why your wife came here," he added with an embarrassed stammer.

Lyon paused at the door. "Tell him," he ordered Christina.

She wished she could deny his command so that he would realize she'd meant every word of what she'd said to him, but Rhone's well-being was at issue, so she put her pride aside. "Rhone is having a party tonight," she began. "I wanted to ask you if you could find some good men to act as mischief makers and—"

Christina never finished her explanation. Lyon dragged her out the door in the middle of her sentence. They walked halfway around the block before his carriage came into view. No wonder she hadn't known he was visiting Bryan, she thought to herself. The man had hidden his vehicle a good distance away.

She didn't understand his reason, yet she wasn't about to question him. Her voice might betray her. Christina knew she was close to weeping. She didn't think she'd ever been this angry in all her life.

Neither said a word to the other until they were home. Lyon used the time to try to calm down. It was a difficult endeavor. He couldn't quit thinking about what could have happened to Christina. The unwanted images fueled his temper. God help him, his knees had nearly buckled under him when he'd first spotted Christina in the tavern.

She was playing cards with the worst thugs in London. She hadn't realized her jeopardy, of course; she couldn't have. She wouldn't have looked so pleased with herself if she had. And she had smiled at him. Lyon didn't think he'd ever been so furious… or so frightened.

"You're too damned innocent for your own good," he muttered after he'd jerked the door to the carriage open.

Christina wouldn't look at him. She kept her gaze directed on her lap, and when he made his unkind remark she merely shrugged her shoulders in indifference.

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He offered her his hand when she climbed out of the vehicle. She ignored it.

It wasn't until she'd raced on ahead of him that he realized she'd cut a portion of her hair. The curls ended in the middle of her back now.

Brown met them at the door. After giving his butler instructions to watch over his wife, he chased after Christina. She was halfway up the staircase when he stopped her. "When I'm not too angry to speak of this matter, I will explain to you why—"

"I don't wish to hear your reasons," Christina interrupted.

Lyon closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Don't you dare venture out again until tomorrow morning," he told her. "I have to go to Rhone's now."

"I see."

"No, I don't think you do see," Lyon muttered. "Christina, you went to Bryan to ask his help in finding men to masquerade as Jack and his friends, didn't you?"

She nodded.

"Wife, you have little faith in me," Lyon whispered, shaking his head.

Christina believed his comment was ridiculous. "Faith has nothing to do with my errand. I didn't know you'd been informed of Rhone's terror."

"Terror?"

"He's been barred inside his house," Christina explained. "Since he is your friend, I thought of a most cunning plan. You ruined it," she added.

"No, you would have ruined it," Lyon announced. "I've already taken care of the problem, Christina. Now give me your word that you'll stay inside."

"I have no other errands to take care of," Christina answered.

When he let go of her arm, Christina turned and rushed up the rest of the steps. Lyon was just walking out the front door when she called out to him.

"Lyon?"

"Yes."

"You're going to have to apologize. Will you do it now or when you return from Rhone's house?"

"Apologize?"

He'd shouted the word at her. Christina concluded he wasn't contrite. "Then you're going to have to start all over," she shouted back.

"What are you talking about? I don't have time for riddles," Lyon announced. "If anyone's going to apologize…"

He didn't bother to finish his demand, for his wife had turned her back on him and disappeared down the hallway.

She'd just dismissed him again. Lyon didn't think he was ever going to get used to that action.

He wasn't ever going to understand her, either. She had a devious mind. She'd come up with the same plan he had to help Rhone. He couldn't help being impressed.

Lord, the task ahead of him would certainly prove exhausting. He was going to have to go to great lengths to keep Christina safe. She'd get into quick trouble if he wasn't always by her side, watching over her. Christina didn't seem to understand caution. Hell, she didn't even know enough to be afraid of him when his temper exploded.

No woman had ever raised her voice to him… nor had many men, Lyon realized. Yet Christina certainly had. When he shouted at her, he got equal measure in return.

She was his equal in all things. Her passion matched his own, and in his heart, he knew she loved him just as much.

Yes, the next twenty years, God willing, were going to be exhausting.

And very, very satisfying.

Chapter Fifteen

I didn't want any more innocent people to die because of me. Edward would come after us. I knew I'd only been given a temporary stay of execution.

When dawn arrived, I'd only made it to the first peak. The wagon train was waking up. Would they send searchers out to find me?

I saw the Indians pouring down the hill then and thought to scream a warning, but I knew they wouldn't be able to hear me. Then another scream came from behind me. It was a woman's voice. Edward! He was there, I believed. Another innocent would die because of me. I grabbed the knife Jacob kept in his saddle pocket and ran toward the sound.

The sight that met me when I rushed through the trees broke through my cowardice, my fear. I saw a little boy, so battered, so bloody, crumbled like a fallen leaf on the ground. The woman who'd screamed was silent now. Her hands and feet had been bound.

Mother and child… like you and me, Christina… the attacker became Edward in my mind. I don't remember putting you down on the ground, don't know if I made a sound as I ran forward and plunged my knife into his back.

The knife must have pierced his heart, for the attacker didn't struggle.

I made certain he was dead, then turned to help the little boy. His whimpers of agony tore at me. I gently lifted the child into my arms to give him what little comfort I could. When I began to croon to him, his breathing deepened.

I suddenly felt someone watching me. I turned and saw that the Indian woman was staring at me.

Her name was Merry.

Journal entry November 1, 1795

Lyon didn't return to his townhouse until the early hours of the morning. It had been a thoroughly satisfying evening all around. The look on Rhone's face when he was being robbed by the man pretending to be Jack would live in Lyon's memory a good long while.

Yes, it had all been worth his efforts. The charges against Rhone would be dropped by tomorrow at the latest. Everyone now believed Rhone's story that he'd injured his wrist by accident when he'd fallen on a piece of jagged glass.

Wellingham had been made to look like a fool. That thought pleased Lyon. He wasn't through with that bastard—or the other three, for that matter—but Lyon knew he'd have to wait before making their lives as miserable as he had planned. Rhone's father would be avenged. The four thieves were going to regret the day they'd decided to make Rhone's family their target. Lyon would see to it.

Christina was sound asleep on the floor next to his side of the bed. Lyon undressed quickly, then lifted his wife into his arms, careful to avoid being pricked by the knife under her blanket. Put her where she belonged—in his bed. He wrapped his arms around her until she was snuggled against his chest.

He'd have to do something about the soft mattresses, he supposed. He smiled as he remembered Christina telling him on their wedding night that the bed was trying to swallow her up.

She hadn't fallen out of bed. No wonder she'd laughed when he'd announced that she had. Lyon fervently hoped she'd get used to the bed. He didn't relish the idea of bedding down on the ground, but he would do it, he realized with a sigh, if it was the only way he could hold her.

Compromise. The word whispered through his mind. It was a foreign concept to him. Until Christina. Perhaps now, he decided, it was time to practice it.

Lyon was eager for morning to come. After explaining his reason for being so angry with her when he'd found her at Bryan's tavern, he'd ease into the issue of her safety. He'd make her understand he only had her best interests at heart, and that she couldn't go flitting about town without proper escort.

And she would learn to compromise.

Lyon wasn't able to lecture his wife the following morning. She wasn't there to listen to him.

He didn't wake up until noon—an amazing fact, for he rarely slept more than three hours at a stretch. He felt rested, ready to take on the world. More exactly, he was ready to take on his wife, and he hurried in his dress so that he could go downstairs to begin her instruction.

Lyon had jumped to the erroneous conclusion that Christina would actually be waiting for him.

"What do you mean? She can't be gone!"

His bellow frightened the timid servant. "The Marchioness left several hours ago, my lord," he stammered out. "With Brown and the other men. Have you forgotten your orders to your wife? I heard the Marchioness tell Brown you had insisted she return to Lyonwood immediately."

"Yes, I did forget," Lyon muttered. He lied to his servant, of course. He hadn't given any such instructions. Yet he wasn't about to let a member of his staff know Christina wasn't telling the truth. It wasn't her character he was protecting but his own. Lyon didn't want anyone to know the lack of control he had over her.

It was humiliating. Lyon grumbled about that sorry fact until a sudden thought made him cheer up a bit. Christina must have been nervous to leave so quickly. Perhaps she'd realized the significance of her actions yesterday.

Lyon at first thought to go to Lyonwood immediately, then decided to let Christina stew in her own worries for most of the day. By the time he arrived home she might even be contrite.

Yes, time and silence were his allies. He hoped he'd have her apology by nightfall.

Lyon spent an hour going over estate details, then decided to stop by his mother's townhouse to tell Diana about Rhone. He was given a surprise when he barged into the drawing room and found Rhone sitting on the settee with his arm draped around Diana.

"Am I interrupting?" he drawled.

His entrance didn't seem to bother either one of them. Diana's head continued to rest on Rhone's shoulder, and his friend didn't even glance up.

"Here's Lyon now, sweetling. Quit crying. He'll know what's to be done."

Lyon barked orders as he strode over to the fireplace. "Rhone, get your arm off my sister. Diana, sit up and behave with a little decorum, for God's sake. What are you crying about?"

His sister tried to comply with his command, but as soon as she straightened up Rhone pulled her back, forcing the side of her cheek onto his shoulder again.

"You stay right there. I'm comforting her, damn it, Lyon, and that's that."

Lyon decided he'd have to deal with his friend later. "Tell me why you're crying, Diana. Now. I'm in a hurry," he added.

"You don't need to raise your voice to her, Lyon." Rhone glared at his friend. "She's had an upset."

"Will one of you please tell me what the hell the upset was?"

"Mama." Diana wailed. She pulled away from Rhone to dab at her eyes with her lace handkerchief. "Christina took her."

"She what?" Lyon asked, shaking his head in confusion.

"Your wife took your mother to Lyonwood with her," Rhone said.

"And that's why Diana's crying?" Lyon asked, trying to get to the bottom of the matter.

Rhone was trying not to laugh. His eyes sparkled with merriment. "It is," he said as he patted Diana's shoulder.

Lyon sat down across from his sister and waited for her to get hold of herself. She looked like a butterfly, he thought, dressed in a yellow gown with brown trim. Her tears were making a mess of the gown.

"Diana," he said in what he hoped was a soothing voice, "You needn't be afraid that I'm angry because my wife took our mother with her. That's why you're crying, isn't it?"

"No."

"You wanted Mother to stay here?"

When she shook her head and continued to sob, Lyon's patience wore out. "Well?"

"Mama didn't want to go," Diana cried. "Rhone, you tell him. You saw what happened. I just don't know what to think. And Aunt Harriett laughing like a loon the whole time. Oh, I didn't know what—"

"Rhone, do you care about Diana?"

"I do. Very much."

"Then I suggest you quiet her down before I strangle her. Diana, stop that snorting."

"I'll explain, my sweet," Rhone told Diana in a tender, soothing voice.

Lyon hid his exasperation. Rhone was acting like a lovesick puppy.

"Your mama denied Christina's request to go along with her to Lyonwood, you see. And that's when the fireworks began."

Rhone couldn't control his smile. Diana was weeping into his jacket now, so he felt safe grinning. "Your wife was very determined to take your mother with her. So determined, in fact, that she… well, she dragged your mother out of bed."

"You're jesting."

"Mama didn't want to go."

"Obviously," Lyon drawled. "Did Christina explain her reasons for being so forceful?"

A smile pulled at the corners of his mouth, but his sister was watching him intently, and he didn't want to upset her further by letting her see his amusement.

Rhone didn't help his determination to shield his sister's feelings. "You should have seen it, Lyon. Your mother is a strong woman. I never realized that fact. I thought she'd been languishing these past years, but she did put up quite a fight. Of course, that was only after…"