He opened his mouth, but she shook her head. “That’s what it amounted to. I thought I would feel safe if I could just wear silk every day.”
She dropped a kiss on his cheek. “I had no idea that the only currency that mattered was love. You haven’t kissed me in hours,” she said, her voice an aching whisper. “I haven’t felt safe.”
Slowly, slowly he bent his head to hers and their lips touched. It was like all their kisses: the sweetness was there, but the wildness too, the sense that they had only just stopped kissing and now they were continuing the same kiss they’d first shared in April. Two seconds later, he was devouring her, pouring his soul and his love into the kiss. And she was kissing him back…she was, she was.
Ewan came back to himself to find he was babbling of love, worse than any poet.
“You’re becoming a romantic!” Annabel teased, but he could hear the joy in her voice.
“And you’re not?” he said. “You love me, Annabel,” he said. “You promised me that you did, and I’m going to hold you to that promise for another seventy years. You’re in love with me.” He kissed her eyes. “You’re deliriously in love,” he said, kissing her nose. “You’re beside yourself in love,” and he’d reached her mouth.
“Yes,” she said, winding her arms around his neck. “Oh, yes, Ewan. Yes.”
“I’m even more in love with you,” he whispered.
Sometime later the fire was tumbling in on itself, sending just a wavering spark now and then into the darkening chimney. The great huge castle was quiet, even with Scotsmen tucked into every bedroom and cranny of the place.
Ewan was thinking about taking Annabel upstairs. After all, they had a perfectly comfortable bed waiting for them, and although this couch was very nice, it wasn’t quite long enough. Of course, they weren’t quite married yet, but first thing in the morning—
“Ewan,” she said. She was pulling off his cravat, which really meant that he should pick up his betrothed and make their way upstairs before they were discovered and caused a scandal that would put the English one to shame. “Do you remember the coney’s kiss?” she whispered into his neck. Her hands were making their way under his shirt now.
“And you the one of us with a decent memory. I suppose I’ll have to give you a demonstration.”
“Do you remember when I asked you what its mate might be?” Her eyes were sparkling in the last glow of the fire.
“Its mate?” he asked, but her hands were at his waistline. “No!”
“What’s sauce for the goose is fit for the gander,” she said severely, and started to kiss a line down his chest.
Ewan looked down at her curls and made one last attempt at gentlemanly behavior. “You needn’t,” he gasped.
“Of course I needn’t,” she said, looking up at him for a moment. “I want to.” She smiled. “I locked the door behind us.”
“Wouldn’t you like me to?”
He blinked at her. No decent gentlewoman—He couldn’t think how to phrase it.
“Ewan,” she said. “An honest answer. Wouldn’t you like me to?”
There was no way to answer that but with honesty. They’d hewed that between them, with all their question games on their trip here. Anytime one of them mentioned honesty in the same breath with a question…
“Aye,” he said at last, “I’d love nothing better.”
She smiled at him brilliantly. “In that case…”
Some months later
“How was practice today?” Annabel asked.
“It’s the most annoying thing,” Josie said, with the readiness of a sixteen-year-old to discuss herself at any moment. “I simply can’t dance. I don’t understand it!” She looked stunned.Annabel laughed. “What do you mean, you can’t dance? I thought you were just having trouble counting the beats in your head.”
“I’m terrible,” Josie pronounced. “Monsieur Jaumont despairs of me. And here’s the worst of it—Gregory is flawless!”
“That is a cruel twist of fate,” Annabel said, grinning. Josie had decided to winter with them in Scotland. She and Gregory were just apart enough in age so that she wished to govern him in everything, and he wished for the same of her.
“He glides about the floor as if he knew instinctively what to do next,” Josie said, her mouth turning down at the corners. “Whereas I try to think about what’s coming next, and I get twisted up, and then I panic—and then it’s all over and Monsieur Jaumont is shrieking again.” She sighed. “I’d better go back to the schoolroom. Miss Flecknoe is all fidgety because of the snow, and it puts her in a terrible temper. We were supposed to go see Rosy and all the babies, but there’s too much snow.”
Rosy was living happily in an orphanage just an hour’s drive down the road. Ewan had built a little house for her on the grounds, and she and her nurse spent their days playing with the babies. The children never minded that Rosy said only a word or two; and since men rarely ventured onto the premises, she was quite happy.
But of course winter was settling into the Highlands now, and they wouldn’t be able to visit Rosy as much as they had in the fall. It was midway through October and they were having an early snowstorm. Annabel lay on the chaise longue in her bedchamber, lazily looking out the window. At first the snow had danced from the sky, but now it was starting to hurtle down, darkening the window and weighing down the vines that climbed around her window.
Perhaps it was time for a nap…She curled on her side, her hand caressing her stomach. The baby was moving inside her, quickening into life, as they called it. At the moment she felt as if it were dancing with the snowflakes. Smiling, Annabel pulled a light cover over herself and drifted off to sleep.
It had been a long fortnight since Ewan last saw his wife. He’d gone to Glasgow on business, but an agreement that was supposed to be quickly settled had stretched into a long and tedious affair, made all the more so because he chafed so much at being away.
He turned the doorknob and opened the door. Annabel was lying on her side, facing him, her cheek resting peacefully on her hand. Her hair was bundled in a shining heap of curls on top of her head. He woke her with a kiss.
Even half asleep her arms went around his neck and his lips came down hard on hers.
“I taste you, and I am hopelessly drunk,” he whispered finally, kissing her closed eyes.
Annabel smiled but she had that little frown again. “What is it, sweetheart?” he whispered, kissing her eyebrows.
“Are you sure you desire me?”
Surprised, he pulled back and looked at her. His wife had a face like a delicate triangle, delicate eyebrows, tip-tilted blue eyes, lips that looked kissable even when she was scowling at him. She was the most desirable, beautiful woman in the world. “Of course I do,” he said, tilting her face so that his lips could touch hers. “How can you doubt it?”
Annabel hesitated, but she had to say it. “I’m so fat! I’m not desirable at all anymore!”
He grinned at that. “You’ve gone blind, darling.”