And you’re prickly enough about being young.”She was amusing him. “More than ever, I feel as if I’ve robbed the cradle.”But she knew how to puncture his mirth. “You are very old,” she agreed demurely.He pushed her backward onto the grass.She laughed and fought him. Within minutes he had her arms trapped over her head, and he kissed her while the world whirled around them. “I win!” he said against her lips.“Only because you used brute force.”“It’s better than drugs in a glass of wine,” he retorted.“You would think so, since you hold the brute force.”He grinned down at her. “But I did win.”“Yes, yes, you won.” She dismissed his boasting as if it were of no consequence. “Are you ever going to forget that stupid manacle?”“No, I think I’ll be bringing it up at inconvenient moments for the rest of our lives.”At his ill-thought-out words, they both froze, their eyes wide with shock. The rest of their lives?Their gazes shifted away from each other.
Amy tossed in her bed, then froze as she heard Northcliff’s voice in her head. Do you know that when you rise in the morning, I hear your footsteps over my head? I imagine you slipping out of a worn nightgown, your body gleaming pale and sweet, and donning one of your ghastly gowns. At night, the floorboards creak as you ready yourself for bed, and I imagine you undressing. And all night long, every time you turn over in your virgin bed, I hear you. You have me imprisoned, but I am watching you.A shiver ran up her spine at the memory of Northcliff’s words, but it wasn’t fear. It was desire. She wanted to rise from her bed and go to him. She wanted to see him. Not just his face or the expanse of his chest, but all of him. Because while he said he had been imagining her, she had also been imagining him. In a motion so slow and cautious her ancient straw-stuffed mattress made no noise, Amy sat up and wrapped her arms around her knees.Northcliff was awake below. She knew it; she could feel his unswerving attention, the waves of his will beckoning her to him.
Jermyn’s breath stilled. He watched intently. So far, she had followed his instructions. Now he waited to see if she would follow his last, insistent direction.In the top drawer of my bedside table, there’s a small box. It contains everything we need to make our night pleasurable . . . leave everything else behind but bring that box.He bent his will on her.Amy, get the wooden box. Get it. If thoughts had power, then his directive would surely be followed.She gathered the clothes, wrapped them in a piece of brown paper and tied them like a package with a string. She thrust the package into a large cloth bag that hung by her belt and started toward the sitting room.In frustration, Jermyn wanted to stick his fist through the wall.Why couldn’t the girl just once do as she was told?At the doorway, she hesitated.Jermyn’s heart lifted. Do it, he mentally urged. Get it. She glanced toward the bedside table, then away. Jermyn could almost see the tug-of-war between her good sense and her yearning.Had he baited the trap with strong enough desire? Had he played the meek, willing male with enough sincerity? With a soft “blast!” she hurried to the bedside table. Opening the drawer, she pulled out the wooden box and stared at it as if it were a striking snake.With a glance around her, she placed it on the table and raised the lid. She lifted the small, gilt-and-blue bottle. Pulling the stopper, she sniffed.Jermyn preferred a combination of bayberry and spice, and he held his breath as he scrutinized her face, waiting for her reaction. If she didn’t savor the scent, he had no doubt she would put it back.But for a mere second, she closed her eyes. Pleasure placed a faint smile on her lips.She liked it.And he hoped she associated the scent with him, with the day she kidnapped him. That would be sweet justice indeed.Briskly she stoppered the bottle, replaced it in the box and slid the box in her pocket.Together the two men watched as she left the bedroom. Jermyn heard a click as the outer door closed. Guardedly he walked out, surveying the sitting room. Empty.Turning to the bewildered Biggers, Jermyn said, “Quickly, man. I need that bath!
Jermyn saw Amy strolling toward him, a seductive roll to her hips, discarding her clothing as she walked. She was smiling, teasing him as she stepped out of her petticoats and stood clad in her sheer chemise. Her nipples showed through the cream silk, puckered with desire for him—”Amy’s disagreeable tone shredded his fantasy. “My lord, you have been staring at the chessboard for a full five minutes. Would you like me to make your move for you?”He jumped like a lad with his fingers caught in the jam pot. The rickety chair beneath him groaned.“Now, Amy, you must be patient with His Lordship,” Miss Victorine chided. “He’s spent the day manacled by his ankle and he’s ready to snarl like a lion.”“More like a small, ill-tempered badger,” Amy muttered.Jermyn looked across the long length of the table at her. He sat on one end, she sat on the other. She wore the most contrary expression, and her eyes sparkled with irritation. She made it most difficult to indulge in a dream about her.
With great care, Amy opened the cellar door.With ladylike demeanor, she descended the stairs. And as her reward, she had the satisfaction of catching His Mighty Lordship sitting on the cot, his knee crooked sideways and his ankle pulled toward him, cursing at the manacle.“I got it out of your own castle,” she said.Northcliff jumped like a lad caught at a mischief. “My . . . castle?” At once he realized what she meant. “Here on the island, you mean. The old ancestral pile.”“Yes.” She strolled farther into the room. “I went down into the dungeons, crawled around in among the spider webs and the skeleton of your family’s enemies—”“Oh, come on.” He straightened his leg. “There aren’t any skeletons.”“No,” she admitted.“We had them removed years ago.”For one instant, she was shocked. So his family had been ruthless murderers! Then she realized he was smirking. The big, pompous jackass was making a jest of her labors. “If I could have found manacles that were in good shape I’d have locked both your legs to the wall.”“Why stop there? Why not my hands, too?” He moved his leg to make the chain clink loudly. “Think of your satisfaction at the image of my starving, naked body chained to the cold stone—”“Starving?” She cast a knowledgeable eye at the empty breakfast tray, then allowed her lips to curve into a sarcastic smile.“You’d love a look at my naked body, though, wouldn’t you?” He fixed his gaze on her, and for one second she thought she saw a lick of golden flame in his light brown eyes. “Isn’t that what this is all about?”“I beg your pardon.” She took a few steps closer to him—although she remained well out of range of his long arms. What are you talking about?”“I spurned you, didn’t I?”What? What What was he going on about?“You’re a girl from my past, an insignificant debutante I ignored at some cotillion or another. I didn’t dance with you.” He stretched out on the cot, the epitome of idle relaxation. “Or I did, but I didn’t talk to you. Or I forgot to offer you a lemonade, or—”“I don’t believe you.” She tottered to the rocking chair and sank down. “Are you saying you think this whole kidnapping was done because you, the almighty marquees of Northcliff, treated me like a wallflower?”“It seems unlikely I treated you as a wallflower. I have better taste than that.” He cast a critical glance up and down her workaday gown, then focused on her face. “You’re not in the common way, you must know that. With the proper gown and your hair swirled up in that style you women favor—” He twirled his fingers about his head—“you would be handsome. Perhaps even lovely.”She gripped the arms of the chair. Even his compliments sounded like insults! “We’ve never before met, my lord.”As if she had not spoken, he continued, “but I don’t remember you, so I must have ignored you and hurt your feelings—”“Damn!” Exploding out of the chair, she paced behind it, gripping the back hard enough to break the wood. His arrogance was amazing. Invulnerable! “Haven’t you heard a single word I’ve said to you? Are you so conceited you can’t conceive of a woman who isn’t interested in you as a suitor?”“It’s not conceit when it’s the truth.” He sounded quite convinced.
Let her go or I’ll shoot you.”“I’ve never met a woman who’d have the guts to shoot a man,” he sneered. All the women he knew were too kind. Too gentle.“I have the guts,” the girl said. “Better yet, I want to shoot you.”That shook him. The words, and the tone, a kind of flat, plain aversion the like of which he’d never met in all of his privileged life. What had he ever done to deserve this girl’s contempt? And why did he even care? “Which part of me will you shoot?” he mocked. “All that’s showing is my head—and you can’t be that good with a gun.”“I am,” the girl said. “On the count of three, I’ll shoot. One . . .”“You’d take the chance of hurting Miss Victorine?” he asked.“I won’t hurt her. Two . . .”“Amy, please, let him go!” Miss Victorine begged. “He was such a sweet boy.”“Three.” Amy’s eyes narrowed. Her finger began to squeeze the trigger.And he released Miss Victorine, spinning her away from him and into a cabinet.She landed with a thud and fell. The pistol roared.He dived to the floor.A shot whistled past the place where his head had been.“Damn, that was close. Good thing you surrendered, my lord!”“Don’t swear, dear, it’s not ladylike.
She glanced over her shoulder at him. “So until the wedding ceremony in your chapel, we’ll be chaste?”Her smile flirted and taunted, and he marveled at how quickly Amy had learned to entice. “There is an advantage with living in a building that was once an abbey.”“What is that, Jermyn?” She pulled on her tattered gloves.Biggers moaned softly. “The place is riddled with secret passages,” Jermyn told her.“But my lord! You’re not suggesting you’ll visit my bedchamber for a tryst?” She fluttered her eyelashes and tried to look shocked.With a straight face, he replied, “Absolutely not! You’ve already proved your skill at sneaking into my bedchamber, so I thought you would come to mine.”She burst into laughter, a full-bodied peal or merriment. Taking his arm, she scolded, “Layabout!”“Only with you, my bride, only with you.