The Magic of You Page 35

No matter how she thought it over, she knew she'd played her last card. She was flat out of ideas, and very nearly out of hope. Instincts be damned, hers had obviously gone haywire somewhere along the way.

The worst part was, she doubted she'd ever see him again. He'd sail away, back to America, without even coming 'round to say good-bye to her. And she was going to let him this time. She wasn't going to try to stop him, or seek him out. And never again those unwanted seductions, no matter how nicely they'd worked out toward the end.

She had to face it, she couldn't keep carrying on this courtship by herself. And Warren had made himself perfectly clear, so just how many rejections was she supposed to take before she smartened up?

But it hurt to be smart, it really did.

Chapter 43

James stopped by the mansion on Grosvenor Square on his way to his club, but his brother was attending to business elsewhere, Charlotte was out making morning calls, and Amy was indisposed to visitors.

He chuckled as he returned to his carriage. The butler's exact words, "indisposed to visitors," and he had no doubt she'd expressly told the man to say just that. The girl carried honesty to extremes, indeed she did.

He was just stepping into his carriage when another pulled up behind his. He wouldn't even have noticed if Warren hadn't jumped out immediately and started toward the house. James turned around and

intercepted him.

"You're out of luck," James told him.

"She's not receiving today." 437

"She'll see me," Warren replied curtly and stepped around his brother-in-law.

"Hold on, Yank. You're not here to ask her to marry you, are you?"

"No."

"Glad to hear it," James couldn't resist goading. "I was afraid you might, after proving last night that you're in love with the girl."

Warren stiffened. "Addington had it coming."

"'Course he did, dear boy. And you sailed all the way back here just to see that he got it, eh?"

"Maybe you'd like some yourself?"

"Feeling lucky after your victory, are you? Well, come along, then. This is long overdue."

They took a moment to remove their coats and square off in the center of the walkway. James, as usual, got in the first punch. Warren staggered back several feet.

"You should have been more diligent at your lessons," James taunted.

Warren didn't lose his temper. He said, "Actually, why don't you try that again?"

He was ready this time, and James ended up

flying over his shoulder. "You were saying?" Warren did some taunting of his own.

There was no more talk after that, and this was no easy fight like he'd had yesterday. Warren hadn't

learned nearly enough from Taishi, and certainly nothing of offense. But he was able to defend against James and throw him off-balance more than once, getting in some solid punches before James recovered, and keeping out of the path of James's fists when he needed recovering himself. It was still a brutal contest for all of ten long minutes. Almost at the same moment, they reached the same conclusion. There wasn't going to be a winner.

"A bloody draw," James said in disgust. "I don't believe it."

Warren picked up his coat. "I don't know about you, Malory, but I'll take what I can get, and a draw satisfies me for the time being."

"For the time being," James grunted, then gave Warren a narrow-eyed look. "Tony didn't teach you those moves."

"My new cabin boy did."

"Cabin boy? Very funny, Yank."

Warren thought so. But his humor didn't last any longer than James's departure, the temper that had brought him there returning with the 439 butler's staunch refusal to allow him entrance-- at least until Warren threatened to break the door down.

Now he paced in the parlor, wondering if the man had gone to inform Amy of his presence, or gone for additional help to throw him out. His cheek throbbed, his knuckles burned, his stomach felt like he still had a sledgehammer imbedded in it. He hoped to hell James was going to enjoy his black eye and split lip as much.

Amy was breathless when she reached the parlor, having run down the stairs. She wouldn't believe someone wasn't playing a joke on her until she saw him with her own eyes. And there he was-- good God, she could have sworn Steven hadn't laid a hand on him yesterday.

Without a word of greeting, he came purposely toward her, causing her heart to start tripping. And having reached her, he shut the door, grabbed her hand, and pulled her toward the sofa. That was fine with her--until he sat down and yanked her across his lap, facedown.

"Wait!" she shrieked. "What are you doing? No, you're supposed to give me warning--

Warren!"

The first whack sounded with a resounding smack. "This is for deliberately trying to make me jealous,"

he told her.

"What if it wasn't deliberate?" she wailed.

"Then this is because it wasn't." Another whack. "I should have done this"--one more--"on the ship"--again --"when you tricked Taishi into letting you come to my cabin."

That was the wrong thing to say, bringing with it a wealth of memories of that night of shared bliss. His hand didn't fall again. He groaned instead and turned her over.

"Stop that racket," he said gruffly. "We both know I didn't hurt you."

The noise Amy was making cut off abruptly. She glared at him. "You could have."

"No, I couldn't."

The door burst open. They both turned to the butler and said at once, "Get out!"

"But, Lady Amy--was

"It was a bloody mouse," she cut in with a perfectly straight face. "It's already disappeared, but you can see I'm taking no chances."

She wiggled her feet up on the sofa 441 to show what precautions she'd taken. "And close the door on your way out."

Wide-eyed with bemusement, the butler did as ordered. Amy turned back to Warren to find him frowning at her.

"Do you always lie with such innocence?"

"That's not something you'll ever have to wonder about, since I've sworn that I will always be honest with you. But I don't expect you to believe that, skeptic that you are. Did you only come to heat my posterior?"

"No, I've come to tell you I'm sailing tomorrow."

Arrows through the heart, cruelly accurate. She moved off his lap. She wished he would have tried to stop her, but he didn't.

"I figured it would be soon," she said.

"You aren't going to try to change my mind?"

Amy heard the question rather than the statement. "Would you like me to?"

"It won't do any good," he insisted.

"I'm aware of that. I've been deluding myself. And Ihaven't exactly been fair to you, not once taking your feelings into account. Rather

self-centered of me, wasn't it?"

That wasn't exactly what he was expecting to hear, and the words had a strange, wrenching effect on him. "What are you saying, Amy? That you're giving up?"

She turned away before she burst into tears. This was really too painful. "What choice do I have?"

He was behind her suddenly, swinging her around, his fingers biting into her shoulders. "Dammit, you can't give up on me!"

"What?"

He hadn't meant to say that. In fact, he couldn't imagine where those words had come from. "I didn't mean--was

"Oh, no, you don't," she cut in quickly and locked her arms behind his neck. "You're not taking that back, Warren Anderson. You've fixed yourself but good, and now I want to hear you say it."

He looked chagrined for a moment. Anger had brought him here, but that was only an excuse, and it was time he admitted it. She was smiling at him, waiting, every promise she'd ever made him there in her

eyes, laughter, happiness, love--which he could no longer deny he wanted, just as much as he wanted her.

The words he'd never thought to say 443 weren't so hard after all. "We're getting married."

She surprised him by shaking her head. "Not until you ask me, we're not."

"Amy!"

"Count your blessings that I'm not going to make you get on your knees for this," she added sternly.

"Well?"

"Will you marry me?"

She drew in her breath sharply to finally hear it, but she wasn't letting up on him yet. "What else?"

"I don't know how you did it, but you've invaded my heart, my mind, I fear even my soul." And it was absolutely true. She saw it in his eyes and in the breathtakingly beautiful smile he bestowed on her before he added softly, almost reverently, "I'm in love with you, Amy. In fact, I don't think I can bear another day without you."

Her tone softened as her body moved in closer to his, and his arms gathered her closer still. "Was that so hard?"

"Christ, yes." He sighed, but it wasn't,

not really.

"It will get easier, I promise you."

He had no doubt of that now, but after everything he'd put her through, it was no wonder he held his breath after asking, "What's your answer?"

Amy was too happy and too full of her love for him to tease him anymore. "You had it months ago, you stubborn man. You just weren't ready to hear it."

Warren's relief came out in a joyful laugh, a tighter squeeze, and then a kiss meant to sear her toes,

which did just that and more.

Chapter 44

Charlotte gave a dinner party for family and friends to officially announce the engagement, but the family had already been apprised of the happy news. Which was why both Anthony and James had to be browbeaten by their wives to make an appearance.

But once there, they put a good face on it for outsiders. Anthony was even seen shaking Warren's hand in congratulations, though what he said to make Warren burst out laughing was anyone's guess. 445

Jeremy cornered Amy three times during the evening to ask if she was sure, positive, absolutely certain that she wasn't pregnant. She was going to take pity on him the day of her wedding and tell him she hadn't been serious about that bet of theirs. Then again, she might not. A month of abstinence wouldn't hurt that young scamp, might even help him devote some time to his studies, which he most certainly needed to do--if he could manage not to get kicked out of school this next term.

Drew teased her outrageously for not choosing him instead, and he did it deliberately, just to provoke Warren. But Warren's temper was conspicuously absent these days, and Drew finally gave it up when he realized he wasn't going to get a rise out of his brother.

When Amy finally found a moment alone with Warren, she asked, "How are you surviving your welcome into the Malory clan?"

"It's a good thing I'm a tolerant man."

She laughed delightedly at his wry expression. "What did Uncle Tony say to you earlier?"

"After admiring his brother's black eye, he wants to take lessons from me now."

She'd noted that black eye herself. "You aren't going to be fighting with Uncle James anymore, are you?"

"Wouldn't think of it. Now that he's going to be my uncle, too, I've decided to show him nothing but respect."

"Good God, he'll murder you."

Warren laughed and pulled her back against him. She sighed and wrapped her arms over his. She wondered if a person could get much happier than she was now.

Looking out over the room filled with her family, she said, "This reminds me of the night I first saw you and fell in love. You didn't even notice me that night."

"I noticed, but you were too young--was

"We aren't going to start that again, are we?"

He chuckled. "Absolutely not."

She leaned into him to whisper, "I'm not going to be able to wait, you know."

"For what?"

"To make lust with you again. You know I can't be this near you without wanting you."

He went stiff behind her, his whole 447 body reacting to those words. Softly, he corrected her.

"That's make love."

"Ah, so you've got it right at last," she teased.

"Leave your window open tonight."

"You'd climb up?"

"Absolutely."

"How romantic--but that won't do a'tall. I'm not going to risk your falling and breaking your neck. I'll meet you in the garden."

"To make love in a rose bed? You won't like it."

Amy remembered that outrageous conversation with his sister about flowers and grinned. "How about under a pu**y willow, on a fur mantle, with strawberries and--was

"Keep that up, and I'm dragging you out of here right now," Warren growled in her ear.

Amy giggled. "You don't want to do that. My uncles might get the wrong idea and come charging to the rescue. That would really put a damper on things, don't you think?"

Chagrined, he asked quite seriously, "How does abduction sound to you?"

"Actually ... it sounds delicious. But is that you abducting me, or me abducting you?"

He burst out laughing.

James, watching them from across the room, said to his wife, "Good God, what's she done to the poor man?"

Georgina smiled at the complete change in her brother. "He's happy. She said she'd do it."

"That's disgusting, George."

She patted his cheek with a loving hand. "Put a lid on it, James."

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