Eve turned slowly, taking in the room around her. Lit by candles and a roaring fire it was small, but the furniture was well made, even sumptuous. Leather seats and carved wood tables. She had once more changed locations and, it appeared, finances. This was a wealthy man’s retreat.
“My lady, I thought to never see you again.”
The voice was strangely familiar, but without the Scottish burr and urgency. The fleeing Jacobite…
A man’s bowed head and extended hand met her gaze. His red hair was cropped short, fashionable for her time, but not here. Now men wore wigs. His shirt was fine lawn with ruffles down the front. Instead of feminine, the design was very masculine with the front open to his chest and showing auburn hairs curled enticingly against flat muscles. Would his abs be ripped? Very likely. Plain brown pantaloons hugged his lean hips and white stockings showed powerful calves displayed to perfection by his ‘perfect leg’. A man worth returning to.
She put her hand in his. “My lord, am I in France?” His lips brushed her skin, sending tremors up her arm. Now she understood why the gallant gesture was so popular. It was touching that created sensation, yet did not flaunt the conventions.
He released her and straightened, standing a good four inches taller, even though she still wore her spiked heels. “Nay. You are in a different room, but still in the Meryngham
Castle. I am a guest, a distant cousin of the current
Earl and his soon to deliver wife.” A
smile twisted his fine, full lips. “With
luck, she bears the heir.”
“Your heir,” Eve murmured.
Sadness darkened his eyes, turning them to the grey of a stormy sea. “’Tis better this way. My loyalties have always been over the water.” He shook himself. “But enough of this. A birthing is no time for melancholy. Particularly this one.”
She nodded. “As you wish.”
“What I wish for, Lady in Green, is another kiss. I have never forgotten the last, though it be ten years ago.” His gaze ran over her as he moved in. “I knew last time you were indecently dressed, but I never imagined this.” His voice ended on a raspy note as his hands grasped her shoulders and pulled her to him.
Eve gasped just as his mouth took hers. His tongue invaded, bringing a taste of finest Scotch and mint. She shivered as her body responded. With a sigh of pleasure her fingers tangled in the fine lace ruffles at his nape.
But enough! She wasn’t here to dally with him. With another sigh, only regret this time, she pushed against his hard chest. He let her go, but his heated perusal did nothing to calm the fire that flared between them.
“As tempting as your kiss is, I am here for another reason-”
“The missing emeralds.” He reached out and one finger traced her collar bone where the emeralds once rested. “I wondered.”
She took a deep breath and tried to bury her reaction to his touch. She loved Sebastian. “What do you mean?”
He turned away and moved to a coat lying over the back of a chair. He dug in one of the copious pockets. Coming back to her, he held out his hand.
“Oh!” Eve stared at the jewelry nestled in his palm. Emeralds, diamonds and gold winked and sparked in the flickering light.
“Aye. ‘Twas given to me for services rendered. I brought with me, intending to give it to the mother-to-be, but now I think it belongs to you.”
She took it from him. “It’s the centrepiece of the necklace, but now it’s a brooch.” She held it up. “But much fine jewelry is made up of various pieces that can be worn in several ways.”
He nodded. “I do not know what has happened, but my gut says the necklace must be found. I am only sorry I have only this piece. I would give you all if I could.”
She saw the need in his eyes, an emotion she couldn’t see in the dark of her last visit. “Will you be all right?”
He nodded, his attention never wavering from her face, as though he stored every feature, every emotion. “I am a chevalier of France now. Not as exalted as an English Earl, but better than it might have been.”
“What year is this?” Sudden fear curdled her stomach.
“Seventeen fifty-six.” He grimaced. “It took me awhile to earn my place, I know-“
She reached out and grabbed his arm, feeling the muscles flex beneath her fingers. “Please, please be careful. Never make France your permanent home. Promise me.”
He stared at her. “Do you know something?”
Eve bit her lip. Should she tell him? Would it matter? Sparkles danced around him, as though her decision called them into being.