The Magic of You Page 32

Warren was thinking the same thing, and suddenly remembering what Georgina had done with this vase when she'd returned from England. He held it in his hands, turning it slowly from side to side. And then he looked over at Liang and said with dead seriousness, "It'd be a shame if I suddenly dropped this, wouldn't it?"

The Chinaman turned quite pale. "You would die instantly," he promised.

"That was the plan anyway, wasn't it?" Warren replied, and then without looking at her, he said, "Amy, go into that room over there behind Mac and lock yourself in. Go!" And to Liang, who started to stop her: "Forget about her. She was never a factor in this, except that my sister is rather fond of her. You're getting the vase, but we'll return to the docks without the girl."

Which was what they did. And Amy, who'd shut herself up in a closet that had no lock on the door or anything in it with which to create a barricade--she was sure Warren had known that would be the case, had only been bluffing to get her out of the way--was furious for having jumped to do his bidding without thinking about it first.

Mac opened the door behind her. "Ye can come out now, lassie."

"I was just going to do that," Amy replied. "And don't just stand there, man. Fetch a gun, more if you have them. We have to return to the docks to make sure they don't try anything at the last moment."

"Warren wouldna like that, I'm thinking," Mac said doubtfully.

"And I'm thinking I don't care what he would like at the moment. Stick me in a closet indeed," she added on a grumble, then: "What are you waiting for? Let's go."

Chapter 38

As it happened, Amy and Mac were too late to be of any help, but no help had been needed. They arrived at The Amphitrite just in time to see Warren leaving her. The Portuguese ship had wasted no time in departing, was already 399 swallowed up by the darkness beyond the harbor lights.

Amy wasn't the least bit disappointed that her assistance wasn't necessary. She threw herself straight into Warren's arms to share his relief that it was over. She didn't notice that he didn't return her hug.

Over the top of her head, Warren asked Mac, "What's she doing here?"

"She's as bossy as yer sister, I dinna mind telling ye," was Mac's surly reply.

Amy moved back from Warren to glare indignantly at the redheaded Scotsman. "I most certainly am not, and what if I am? He could have needed our assistance, and if he did, how would he have got it if we weren't here to give it? Tell me that, why don't you?"

"Never mind, Mac." Warren sighed. "You don't want to try to understand that, believe me." And to Amy, he said, "Come along and we'll get you to bed. It's over. Tomorrow we'll find you a ship home."

She was mollified only because he'd mentioned "bed," and she was under the assumption that she'd still be sharing his. As for finding a ship tomorrow, she'd talk him out of that quickly enough. She'd like to see something of his hometown before they returned to England.

As she fell into step beside him, she asked, "So what happened? Li actually fell for your bluff about shooting them out of the water?"

"That was no bluff, Amy."

"Oh," she said, somewhat surprised.

"And as long as I retained the vase," Warren continued, "they weren't going to risk trying to take it away from me. We got back here and I merely asked Mr. Cates if the guns were primed and ready. When he said they were, I tossed the vase to Liang."

"Tossed it?" she gasped. "You didn't."

"I damn well did, and his expression before he caught it almost made this entire incident worthwhile."

"I can think of a few other things that have made it worthwhile."

"Don't," was all he said to that.

He picked up his pace then, so she had a hard time continuing any conversation while trying to keep up with him. Nothing she wasn't familiar with. She wondered at his mood, though. She put it down to anticlimax, and the fact that he hadn't

gotten anything out of this situation, had in 401 fact lost a priceless antique. He'd gotten her, but she didn't think he'd count that, especially since she'd already been available to him for the asking.

At his house, he very briefly introduced her to his housekeeper, who'd had to be roused from bed to get Amy settled. She was shown to Georgina's old room and given some of her nightclothes. There were some old dresses she could try on in the morning.

When asked if she wanted something to eat before retiring, Amy said anything would do, as long as it wasn't rice. She didn't bother to explain, especially since a hot bath had been arranged for her, and all she could think about was getting into it.

But once she was prepared for bed, she had no thought of climbing into it, at least not alone. She was waiting for Warren to join her, and she had a bloody long wait ahead of her, because he had no intention of doing so. When she finally figured that out for herself, she managed to come up with a few excuses for his absence, but none of them held up to close scrutiny, so she went in search of him. The third bedroom she checked turned out to be his.

He wasn't in bed yet either. He was sitting in a chair with a bottle of whiskey cradled in his crossed arms, staring at a cold fireplace. He hadn't heard her enter, and she hesitated to draw attention to herself,

because it hit home that he really hadn't intended to come to her tonight. She didn't know what to think about that, but she certainly didn't think it was going to be a permanent arrangement. That never entered her mind.

She finally said, "Warren?" determined to find out what was wrong.

He merely turned his head to locate her. "What are you doing in here?"

"Looking for you."

"Well, now you've found me, take yourself back to your bed. It's over, Amy."

"The unpleasantness is, yes, but we're not."

"Yes, we are."

"You can't mean that."

He shot out of the chair to face her. He didn't sway. Not much was missing from that bottle. He'd been too busy brooding to drink it.

"Damn it," he nearly shouted now. "When are you going to stop hoping for something that isn't going to come?"

Amy stiffened at the sudden attack. 403 "If you're referring to marriage, I can live without it if you can."

"Sure you can," he sneered. "And so can your blasted family."

He was right, of course. She'd never get away with living in sin with him.

"Then we'll go on as lovers," she suggested, though it was rather hard to settle for that at the moment.

"No one will have to know."

"Pay attention for once, Amy," he said slowly, precisely. "I've had enough of you, quite enough. I don't need what you have to offer anymore."

He was being deliberately cruel, as he'd been many times before. Only this time it infuriated her, and she retaliated by remembering what Jeremy had once told her.

"Is that so?" she said as she shrugged out of the robe she was wearing and let it slip to the floor. She heard his sharply indrawn breath with satisfaction. "Then have your last look, Warren Anderson, so you'll remember exactly what you're giving up."

She was, of course, quite na**d. And he was quite

done in by it. He took a step toward her, stumbled actually, and dropped to his knees in front of her. His arms went around her hips; his face pressed into her belly. His groan was heartfelt.

Amy quickly forgot about retribution. Warren quickly forgot his resolutions. There was only the fire that ignited each time they touched. Regrets could be sifted through tomorrow.

They were both going to have some, though not, unfortunately, for the reasons they might have expected.

Chapter 39

"Looks like we're too late," Connie remarked.

"Well, don't look at me," Anthony said. "I'm not the one who got us into that storm that blew us halfway to Greenland. My dear brother has that honor."

"You'd best put a lid on it, puppy. Your dear brother is about to commit mayhem."

That wasn't quite true, but it was a close thing. James stood on the other side of the bed, looking down at the sleeping couple, and wished 405 to hell that storm hadn't come between him and his prey.

It had taken all of two weeks to close the gap again, but he was still about eight hours in their wake, which was why his ship hadn't docked until this morning, and why there was no sign of the other ship. So much for his plans to corner the wily bastards.

He hadn't assumed that the Nereus might have arrived first. He assumed correctly that Warren had managed to deal successfully with the Chinese and could now be found in his home. The two brothers and Connie had gone there straightaway, unable to relax their concern until they were certain Amy was all right. The Andersons' housekeeper assured them of that, and that the captain and his guest were still sleeping.

She'd gone off to fetch breakfast for them. They'd gone straight upstairs to find the missing pair. They hadn't expected to find them together.

Now James was beside himself with fury, but well aware that he couldn't very well kill the man for taking Amy's innocence when he himself had done the same to Georgina, Warren's own sister, and got her with child in the bargain. What was infuriating him beyond endurance was that this clinched it. The bounder was going

to have to be welcomed into the family now, and not just as a brother-in-law who could be barely tolerated and ignored, if it came down to it, but as James's nephew-by-marriage. His nephew! Bloody everlasting hell.

"We could be generous, I suppose, and assume that they've married," Anthony said, but the suggestion got him two quick, disgusted looks. "Well, it's not that farfetched."

Connie moved back to get out of the way before saying, "Why don't you ask him?"

"Don't mind if I do."

But it was no gentle nudge he gave Warren. Being closest to him, Anthony leaned over and casually backhanded him to get his attention. He got it fast enough. And with that kind of inducement, Warren woke up swinging.

Anthony had already stepped out of the path of damage, but he was the first one Warren saw. "Where the hell did you come from?"

"I've got a better one for you, old boy," Anthony replied. "Are you married?"

"What the hell kind of question--?was

"A pertinent one at the moment. Ah, I see you remember now that you're not sleeping alone.

So?" 407

"I haven't married her," Warren bit out.

Anthony clucked his tongue. "Should've lied, Yank, or at least added `yet` to that statement. Bloody stupid of you not to realize that."

"Whoever said he was smart?"

Warren swung about, catching sight of Connie at the foot of the bed, then his brother-in-law, who'd just been heard from. "Christ," he hissed as he dropped back against his pillow. "Tell me I'm dreaming."

It was Amy who answered, her shoulder having been nudged by Warren's, enough to finally rouse her.

"What--was

"We've got company," Warren cut in, his voice dripping disgust.

"The devil we--was But she paused upon spotting her uncle Tony standing beside the bed, and, eyes flaring wide, ended on an appalled note. "D."

"Glad to see you're all right, puss," Anthony said, only to add, "At least for the most part."

Amy groaned and buried her face in

Warren's shoulder. But the nightmare got worse.

"No need for that, dear girl," James said to her back. "We know who's to blame here."

"It's a dream," she assured Warren. "They'll go away just as soon as we wake up."

He merely sighed. "For once I wish you weren't deluding yourself, Amy."

"Oh, that's nice." She leaned up to glare at him. "That's just splendid. And don't think I don't remember that you tried to put me off last night. Over, are we? Who's deluding who?"

"Shoulders the blame rather well, don't she?" Anthony remarked.

"Sort of reminds me of Regan and her penchant for manipulating every little situation," Connie observed.

"And they've got the same atrocious taste in men, unfortunately," James concluded.

"Very amusing, gentlemen," Warren said. "But for the lady's sake, why don't you get the hell out of here so we can dress before we continue this?"

"You wouldn't think of crawling out windows, would you?" Anthony replied first.

"On the second floor?" Warren shot

back. "I don't care to break my 409 neck, thank you."

"That's rich, Yank." Anthony chuckled. "Your neck is the least of your worries just now."

"That's enough, Tony," James said. And to Warren, he stated with clear meaning, "As I recall, the study was the preferred room for such discussions. Don't be long."

Warren shot off the bed the second the door had closed and began to yank on his clothes. Amy sat up more slowly, holding the sheet to her breasts. The color hadn't left her cheeks yet. She didn't think it ever would.

She couldn't have been more mortified if her own parents had found her. Talking about seducing a man was one thing, being caught at it another entirely. She didn't want to face her uncles again, not ever. She had no choice.

"If I didn't know better, I'd think you had planned this," Warren said as he shrugged into his coat.

Amy stiffened against the bitter intonations she heard. She couldn't handle one of his attacks now, she really couldn't.

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