A feeling of dread settled in Caine's bones. "Hell, Harry, she isn't upstairs?"
Harry shook his head.
"Where is she?"
"No need to shout, son," Harry answered. "Can't tell you where she is either," he added. He waved his men away when they started toward him, then said, "It would be disloyal."
"My God, don't you . . ."
"I'm wondering to meself why you haven't noticed both Matthew and Jimbo are missing," he interrupted. "That's telling, ain't it?"
"She's still in danger."
"She'll do all right."
"Tell me where she is," Caine demanded.
"She's running from you, I imagine."
Caine didn't want to waste any more time arguing with Harry. He turned around and almost ripped the hinges off the door as he pulled it open.
"Where you going, boy?" Harry called out.
There was more than a thread of amusement in the old man's voice. Caine wanted to kill him.
"You any good at it?"
Caine didn't bother to answer that question.
"She's led you a merry chase with her little deception, now hasn't she? I'd have to say she did a fair job
of impressing you," Harry called out at Caine's back.
Caine turned around. "What's the point, Harry?"
"Well now, I'm thinking to meself it's about time you did a little impressing of your own, assuming, of course, that you're up to it."
Caine took the steps to his bedroom two at a time. He was pulling his shirt over his head by the time Nathan caught up with him.
"What's happening now?" Nathan demanded.
"Damn," Nathan muttered. "You going after her?"
"I'll go with you."
"You could use my help."
"No," Caine snapped. "I'll find her."
Nathan reluctantly nodded. "You any good at tracking?"
Caine nodded. "I'm good."
"She left you a message."
"I saw it."
Nathan strolled over to the side of Caine's bed and lifted the long-stemmed white rose from the pillow.
He inhaled the sweet fragrance, then walked over to the window to look outside.
"Is she in love with you?" Nathan asked.
"She is," Caine answered. His voice lost its brittle edge. "She just doesn't know it yet."
Nathan tossed the rose back on the bed. "I'd say Jade was telling you goodbye when she left you the rose."
"She might be reminding you who she is, Caine."
"That's part of it," Caine said. He completed his change of clothes, stomped into his boots, and started
for the door.
"Then what's the rest?" Nathan asked as he trailed after him.
"Harry's right," Caine muttered.
"She's trying to impress me."
Nathan laughed. "That, too," he agreed.
Caine bellowed for Sterns as he bounded down the stairs. The servant appeared at the doorway to the drawing room. "Lyon will find Richards for us," Caine said. "When the two arrive, make them wait until
I get back, no matter how long it takes."
"What if your friend can't find Richards?" Nathan asked.
"He'll find him," Caine answered. "I probably won't be back before tomorrow morning," he said. "Take care of things while I'm gone, Sterns. You know what to do."
"Meaning the guards, mi'lord?"
Caine nodded. He started for the door, but Sterns' question stopped him.
"Where are you going, mi'lord?"
The door slammed shut.
Matthew and Jimbo appeared to be as weary as Jade was by the time they reached their destination. It had been decided that they would spend the night in the isolated inn Harry frequented when he was on the run. Jade had insisted they take a roundabout way there, adding two more hours' travel, just as an added precaution against being followed.
The innkeeper was a friend of Black Harry's, a little on the disreputable side as well, and therefore never asked unnecessary questions. If he thought it odd a finely dressed young lady was traveling with two
men who looked like they'd cut a man's throat for two pence, he certainly didn't remark upon it.
Jade was given the center bedchamber above the stairs. Jimbo and Matthew took the rooms on either
side of her. Since the walls were paper-thin, neither man worried that anyone would be able to breach their temporary fortress. The steps were so old and rickety, a mouse would have made noise.
Jade soaked in a hot bath, then wrapped herself in Caine's robe. She was stiff and out of sorts by the time she went to bed. Her injury from the pistol shot was almost completely healed now, but it still itched something fierce.
Jade fell asleep saying a prayer that the nightmare would not visit her tonight, worrying she might cry
out and cause Matthew and Jimbo alarm.
The air turned chilly during the night. Jade burrowed under the covers. She never felt Caine climb into
the bed beside her. When he put his arm around her and gently pulled her up against his side, she let
out a soft sigh and snuggled closer to his familiar warmth.
Moonlight filtered through the small window. He smiled when he saw she was wearing his robe. Then
he slowly slipped the garment off her. That task completed, he removed her knife from under the pillow, then began to nibble on the side of her neck.
She was slow to wake up. "Caine?" she whispered, her voice a sleepy blur.
"Yes, love?" he whispered in her ear before his tongue swept inside to tease. She started shivering. It
was just the reaction he wanted.
His hand moved down her chest, circled her navel, then trailed a hot path to one of her breasts.
She sighed again. He was so warm, smelled so wonderful, and oh, how he was making the cold disappear.
Caine continued to stroke her while he waited for her to realize where she was. He was ready to silence her if she tried to call out.
The awakening came like a bolt of lightning. The palm of his hand cut off her gasp. "Now, sweetheart, if you yell, I'll have to hurt Matthew and Jimbo when they come charging in here," he whispered. He rolled her onto her back, then covered her with his body. "You wouldn't want that, would you?"
She shook her head. Caine slowly eased his hand away from her mouth.
"So are you," he whispered back. "Convenient, isn't it?"
"Yes," he answered. "And it feels good, doesn't it?"
It felt marvelous. She couldn't admit that, however. "How did you get in here?"
He kissed her chin in answer to that question. Jade prodded his shoulder. "Caine, what are you doing here?"
"Impressing you, sweetheart."
"Keep your voice down, love," he cautioned. "You don't want to wake up the boys."
"They aren't boys," she stammered out. She sounded breathless. The hair on his chest was tickling her breasts, making her ni**les hard. She didn't want him to move away from her, though, and that honest admission made her frown. Lord, she was confused. "Impressing me, Caine?" she whispered. "I don't understand what you mean."
"Of course you do, sweet," he answered. He kissed the bridge of her nose. "God, I love your freckles," he said with a low groan. He kissed her long, hard, and when he was finished, she was clinging to his shoulders.
She recovered much quicker than he did. "Have you come to say goodbye then?" she asked him in a ragged whisper.
Her question was meant to rile him. The defenses again, he thought to himself. "No, I didn't come to say goodbye," he answered, determined not to get angry. "I came to make love to you."
He grinned after making that promise. Jade's heart started pounding. It was the damned dimple, she told herself. It was too irresistible to ignore . . . and so appeal-ingly boyish. He didn't feel like a boy, though. No, he had the body of a fit man, a warrior with sleek iron-hard muscles. She couldn't stop herself from rubbing her toes against his legs.
"Someday, my love, you're going to understand just how much I care for you. You're my light, my warmth, my other half. I only feel alive when I'm with you. I love you."
He kissed her again, then whispered, "One day, you'll tell me you love me, too. For now I'll be content
to hear you say you want me."
She shook her head. Caine could see the fear in her eyes, the confusion. His smile was filled with tenderness when he pushed her legs apart and settled himself between her silky thighs. He rubbed his
hard arousal against her softness. "You do want me, love."
She closed her eyes with a telling sigh. Caine nibbled at her lips, tugging on her lower lip until she finally opened for him, then thrust his tongue inside to duel with hers.
"Caine, what are you . . ."
He silenced her with another long kiss, then whispered, "It's called pillaging, Jade."
"Harry would be proud," he drawled out. His mouth was now placing wet kisses on the smooth, sensitive skin below her chin. She couldn't quit trembling.
"You're mine, Jade. The sooner you understand that, the better it will be for you."
"And then what, Caine?" she asked.
He lifted his head to stare down into her eyes. He could see the fear there, and the vulnerability. "You learn to trust me," he whispered. "And then we live happily ever after."
"No one lives happily ever after."
She shook her head. "Get off me, Caine. You're . . ."
"Solid, love," he interrupted. "Steadfast, too. I won't leave you."
The promise was given in a fervent whisper. She pretended not to understand. "Of course you won't leave me. I'm leaving you."
"I love you, Jade."
Her eyes filled with tears. "You'll get tired of me. I won't change, not for you, not for anyone."
Her eyes widened. "All right?"
He nodded. "If you want to stay a thief, so be it. I won't get tired of you, no matter what you do. And I'll never leave you."
"You won't be able to help it."
Caine kissed her brow, then said, "I can see it's going to take a little time for me to convince you. Will you give me at least two months?"
"Caine, I don't think . . ."
"You owe me, Jade."
"I what?" She sounded outraged. "Why would you believe I owe you anything?"
"Because you deceived me," he explained. "You caused me endless worry, too. And there I was, minding my own affairs that night in the tavern when you . . ."
"I also saved your brother," she interrupted.
"Then there's the issue of my wounded pride, of course," he drawled out. "A man shouldn't be made to feel he's been manipulated."
"Caine, for heaven's sake."
"Promise me you'll stay with me for two more months or I'm going to make so much noise when I
pillage you, both Matthew and Jimbo will come running."
That odious threat got her full attention. The determined look in his eyes told her he meant what he threatened, too. "You should be ashamed of yourself."
"Promise me, Jade. Now."
His voice had risen and she clamped her hand over his mouth in retaliation. "Will you explain how you settled on two months instead of one, or three, or . . ."
He shrugged. She feigned irritation. "And during those two months you'll probably be dragging me to your bed every single night, won't you?"
"I will," he answered with a grin. "Do you know, whenever I look at you, I get hard?" He shifted positions and pressed against her. "Can you feel how much I want you? You make me ache to be inside you."
His honesty made her blush. "You shouldn't say things like that," she whispered. "And I shouldn't listen."
"You like it," Caine told her. His mouth covered hers and his tongue slid inside to taste her again. Jade didn't protest. She wanted him too much to stop now. She moved against him, then froze when the bed made such a loud, squeaky noise.
"We can't. . ." The denial came out with a groan.
"We can," he said, his voice a husky caress.
He silenced her worries with another kiss while he stoked the fire in her. Jade forgot all about Matthew and Jimbo. Caine was making her burn and all she could concentrate on was finding release from the sweet agony.
His fingers drove her wild. She was wet, hot, ready, knew she was going to die from the pressure building inside her. Her nails dug into his shoulder blades. She would have shouted for him to come to her if his mouth hadn't covered hers. Caine kept the torment up until she took him in her hands and tried to bring him inside her. He threw the coverlet off the bed, then followed it down to the floor with Jade protected in his arms. He cushioned the fall, taking most of the force on his back. Jade was sprawled on top of him. She tried to roll to her side, but Caine held her tight. "Take me inside you now, love," he whispered as he pushed her thighs apart to straddle him.
She was trembling too much to help. Caine took over. He held her by the sides of her h*ps and slowly eased into her. He let out a low groan of raw pleasure. She whimpered at the same moment.
When he was deep within her, he twisted her hair around his hands and pulled her down for another hot kiss.
The mating rhythm took over. Caine's discipline deserted him. His thrusts became more powerful, more determined. "Take me to heaven again, Jade," he whispered when he was about to spill his hot seed
inside her. "I'll keep you safe."
Jade found her release seconds later. She arched against Caine, squeezed him tight, biting her lip to keep herself from crying out, and then collapsed on top of him.
Her face was buried in the crook of his neck. They were both covered with a sheen of perspiration.
Jade tasted his skin with the tip of her tongue while she waited for her heart to slow down. She was too exhausted, too content, to move. Caine held her close. She could feel his heart pounding against her own.