He wasn't insulted by her abrupt answer. In truth, he was close to laughing. "Care to tell me why not?"
"He hates the whites. Doesn't trust them."
"That's why you have such a suspicious nature, isn't it?"
She rested the side of her face against Lyon's shoulder.
"You're still a little suspicious of me, too, aren't you?"
"I don't know," she admitted with a sigh.
"I trust you, my sweet. Completely."
She didn't show any reaction.
"Christina, I want equal measure. I will have your trust. And not just for a day or two. Those are my terms."
She slowly lifted her head to stare at Lyon. "And if I'm unable to meet your terms?" she asked.
He saw the worry in her eyes. "You tell me," he whispered.
"You'll set me aside," she whispered.
He shook his head. "No."
"No? Then what?"
He wanted to kiss her frown away. "I'll wait. I'll still love you. In your heart you really don't believe me, do you? You think you'll do something to displease me and I'll quit loving you. It won't happen, Christina."
She was humbled by his fervent words. "I worry." Her confession was whispered in a forlorn voice. "There are times when I don't think I shall ever fit in. I'm like a circle trying to squeeze into a square."
"Everyone feels like that at times," Lyon told her, smiling over her absurd analogy. "You're vulnerable. Are there times when you still want to go home?"
His hands caressed her shoulders while he waited for her answer. "I couldn't leave you," she answered. "And I couldn't take you back with me. You're my family now, Lyon." Her frown intensified. "It really isn't going to be easy for you, living with me."
"Marriage is never easy in the beginning," he answered. "We both have to learn to compromise. In time we'll understand each other's needs."
"Your family and your staff will think me odd."
"They already do."
Her frown was forced now, and a sparkle appeared in her eyes. "That was unkind of you to say," she told him.
"No, it was an honest admission. They think I'm odd, too. Do you care so much what others think of you, Christina?"
She shook her head. "Only you, Lyon. I care what you think."
He showed her how pleased he was to hear her admission by kissing her.
"I also care what you think," Lyon whispered. "Will my shoes be lining the steps outside again?"
"The old ways are familiar to me," Christina explained. "I was so angry with you. It was all I could think to do to make you realize how unhappy you'd made me."
"Thank God you didn't try to leave me."
"You know I'd chase you down and drag you back where you belong."
"Yes, I knew you would. You are a warrior, after all."
Lyon moved Christina to his side, determined to finish their conversation before making love to her again. Her hand moved to his thigh. It was a distraction. Lyon captured both her hands and gave her a gentle squeeze. "Christina? Did you ever love another man? Was there someone back home who captured your heart?"
Her head was tucked under his chin. Christina smiled, knowing Lyon couldn't see her reaction. He'd tensed against her after he'd asked the question. He hadn't been able to keep the worry out of his voice.
He was letting her see his vulnerability. "When I was very young, I thought I'd grow up and marry White Eagle. Then, when I was seven summers or so, I put those silly thoughts aside. He was my brother, after all."
"Was there anyone else?"
"No. Father wouldn't let any of the warriors walk with me. He knew I had to return to the whites. My destiny had already been decided."
"Who decided your destiny?" Lyon asked.
Christina waited for his next question, but after a minute or two, when she realized he wasn't going to ask her to explain, she decided to tell him anyway.
She wanted him to understand.
The story of the shaman's journey to the top of the mountain to seek his vision captured Lyon's full attention.
The dream made him smile. "If your mother hadn't called you a lioness, would the shaman ever have—"
"He would have sorted it all out," Christina interrupted. "I had white-blond hair and blue eyes, just like the lion in his dream. Yes, he would have sorted it out. Do you understand now how confused I was when Sir Reynolds called you Lyon? I knew in that moment that I had found my mate."
The logical part of Lyon's mind saw all the flaws in the dream, the superstitions of the rituals. Yet he easily pushed reason aside. He didn't care if it didn't make sense. "I knew in that moment, too, that you'd belong to me."
"Both of us fought it, didn't we, Lyon?"
"That we did, love."
Christina laughed. "You never stood a fair chance, husband. Your fate had already been decided."
Lyon nodded. "Now it's your turn to ask me questions. Would you like me to tell you about Lettie?"
Christina tried to look up at Lyon, but he wouldn't let her move. "Do you want to tell me about her?" she asked, her voice hesitant.
"Yes, I do. Now ask me your questions," he commanded, his voice soft.
"Did you love her?"
"Not in the same way I love you. I was never… content. I was too young for marriage. I realize that now."
"What was she like?"
"The complete opposite of you," Lyon answered. "Lettie enjoyed the social whirl of the ton. She hated this house, the countryside. Lettie loved intrigue. I was working with Richards then. The war was coming, and I was away from home quite a lot. My brother, James, escorted Lettie to various events. While I was away, he took her to his bed."
Her indrawn breath told him she understood. Lyon had wanted to tell Christina about his first wife so that she would see how much he trusted her. Yet now that the telling had begun, the anger he'd held inside him for so long began to fade. That realization surprised him. His explanation wasn't hesitant now. "Lettie died in childbirth. The babe also. It wasn't my child, Christina. James was the father. I remember how I sat next to my wife, trying to give her comfort. God, she was in terrible pain. I pray you'll never have to endure it. Lettie wasn't aware that I was there. She kept screaming for her lover."
Christina felt like weeping. The pain of his brother's betrayal must have been unbearable. She didn't understand. How could a wife shame her husband in such a way?
She hugged Lyon but decided against offering him additional sympathy. He was a proud man. "Were you and your brother close to each other before his betrayal?" she asked.
Christina scooted away from Lyon so she could see his expression. His gaze showed only his puzzlement over her question. Lettie's sin no longer affected him, she decided.
"You never gave Lettie your heart," she announced. "It's your brother you've yet to forgive, isn't it, Lyon?"
He was amazed by her perception. "Were you close to James?" she asked again.
"No. We were very competitive when we were younger. I grew out of that nonsense, but my brother obviously didn't."
"I wonder if James wasn't like Lancelot," she whispered, "from the story of Camelot."
"And Lettie was my Guinevere?" he asked, his smile gentle.
"Perhaps," Christina answered. "Would it make his deception easier to bear if you believed it wasn't a deliberate sin?"
"It wouldn't be the truth. James wasn't Lancelot. My brother took what he wanted, when he wanted it, regardless of the consequences. He never really grew up," Lyon ended.
She ignored the harshness in his voice. "Perhaps your mama wouldn't let him," she said.
"Speaking of my mother," Lyon began with a sigh, "you have a plan to keep her here?"
"Hell. How long?"
"Quit frowning. She'll stay with us until she wishes to leave. Of course, we have to make her want to stay first," she qualified. "I have a plan to help her, Lyon. Together we'll draw her back into the family. Your mama feels responsible for your brother's death."
"Why do you say that?" Lyon asked.
"She kept him tied to her skirts," Christina answered. "Diana said your mother protected both of you from your father's cruel temper."
"How could Diana know? She was only a baby when Father died."
"Aunt Harriett told her," Christina explained. "I questioned both your sister and your aunt, Lyon. I wanted to know all about your mama so that I could help her."
"How long will this take? I don't have the patience to sit through meals listening to her talk of James."
"We aren't going to let her speak of James," Christina said. "Your mama's very determined." She kissed Lyon on his chin, then said, "But I'm far more determined. Do I have your complete support in this undertaking?"
"Will you be taking her out into the wilderness to find a place for her to die?" he asked. He chuckled over the picture of Christina dragging his mother outdoors before adding, "Diana's worried you really will do just that."
Christina sighed in exasperation. "Your sister is very naive. I was only bluffing. Would you like for me to explain my plans for your mama?"
"I'd rather be surprised," Lyon answered. "I just thought of another question to ask you."
"That doesn't surprise me. You're full of questions."
He ignored her rebuke and her disgruntled expression. "Do you realize you sometimes lapse into speaking French? Especially when you're upset. Is that the language your family spoke?"
Twin dimples appeared in her cheeks. Lyon thought she looked like an angel. She wasn't acting much like one, however, for her hand suddenly reached down to capture his arousal.
Lyon groaned, then pulled her hand away. "Answer me first," he commanded in a husky voice.
She let him see her disappointment before she answered him. "Father captured Mr. Deavenrue to teach me the language of the whites. If Mother had been allowed to speak to the man, she would have told him that I was going to return to England. Father didn't think that was significant. He didn't understand that there were different white languages. Deavenrue told me later, when we became friends, that he was very frightened of my father. I remember being amused by that fact," she added. "It was an unkind reaction, but I was only ten or eleven then, so I can excuse my attitude. Deavenrue was very young, too. He taught me the language of the whites… his whites."
Lyon's laughter interrupted her story. She waited until he'd calmed down before continuing. "For two long years I suffered through that language. Day in and day out. Mother was never allowed near Deavenrue. He was a handsome man, for a white," she qualified. "In fact, everyone stayed away from him. He was there to complete a task, not to befriend."
"Then it was only the two of you working together?" Lyon asked.
"Of course not. I wasn't allowed to be alone with him either. There were always at least two old women with me. In time, however, I really came to like Deavenrue, and I was able to persuade my father into being a little friendlier to him."
"When did Deavenrue realize he wasn't teaching you the correct language? And how did he converse with your father?"
"Deavenrue spoke our language," Christina answered. "When my mother was finally allowed to visit Deavenrue's tipi, and she heard me reciting my lessons, she knew immediately that it wasn't the same language she'd been taught when she was a little girl."
"Was there an uproar?" Lyon asked, trying not to laugh again.
"Oh, yes. Mother caught Father alone and let him see her displeasure. If he hadn't been so stubborn in keeping her away from the missionary, two years wouldn't have been wasted. Father was just as angry. He wanted to kill Deavenrue, but Mother wouldn't let him."
Lyon laughed. "Why didn't your mother teach you?"
"Her English wasn't very good. She decided Deavenrue's English was better."
"Why do you prefer to speak French?"
"It's easier at times."
"Tell me you love me in your family's language."
"I love you."
"The language of my family now," Christina said. She then repeated her vow of love in the language of the Dakota.
Lyon thought the sound was lyrical.
"Now I will show you how much I love you," Christina whispered. Her hands slid down his chest. She thought to stroke him into wanting her but found that he was already throbbing with desire.
"No, I'm going to show you first," Lyon commanded.
He rolled his wife onto her back and proceeded to do just that.
A long while later husband and wife fell asleep, wrapped in each other's arms. They were both exhausted, and both thoroughly content.
Lyon awakened during the night. He immediately reached for his wife. As soon as he realized she wasn't in bed with him, he rolled to his side and looked on the floor.
Christina wasn't there either. Lyon's mind immediately cleared of sleep. He started to get out of bed to go in search of his wife when he realized the candles were burning on the bedside table. He remembered quite specifically that he'd put out all three flames.
It didn't make sense until he saw the black book in the center of the light.
The leather binding was scarred with age. When Lyon picked up the book and opened it, a musty smell permeated the air around him. The pages were brittle. He used infinite care as he slowly lifted the first pages of the gift Christina had given him.
He didn't know how long he sat there, his head bent to the light as he read Jessica's diary. An hour might have passed, perhaps two. When he finished the account of Jessica's nightmare, his hands shook.
Lyon stood up, stretched his muscles awake, then walked over to the hearth. He was chilled but didn't know if it was the temperature in the room or Jessica's diary that was the cause.
He was adding a second log to the fire he'd just started when he heard the door open behind him. Lyon finished his task before he turned around. He knelt on one knee, his arms braced on the other, and stared at his lovely wife a long minute.