"I dropped Sara at her mother's so she could show off the baby."

"Are you staying with her family while you're in London?" Caine asked.

"Hell, no," Nathan answered. There was a true shudder in his voice. "They would drive me daft and I'd probably kill one of them. We're staying with you."

Caine nodded. He smiled, too. How like Nathan to instruct instead of ask. Jade clasped her hands together with joy. She was obviously thrilled with the news.

"Where is your wife?" Nathan asked Colin.

"Flannaghan went upstairs to get her. She'll be down in a minute."

One minute turned into ten. Alesandra had already taken off her ink-stained gown and put on a pretty violet-colored dress. She was sitting at her writing table, absorbed in her fanciful task of making a list of duties for Colin. She would never show the list to her husband, of course, because none of the orders were appropriate. Wives, she was learning, did better to suggest to their husbands. Most, including Colin, didn't like being ordered to do anything.

Still, it was quite all right to pretend, and it did make her feel better to write down her expectations. She put Colin's name at the top of the paper. The list of orders followed.

First, he should listen to his wife explain her concerns about the alarming coincidences involving Victoria and a man who called himself a secret admirer. In brackets she wrote Catherine's name.

Second, Colin should do something about his attitude toward her inheritance. In brackets she added the words too stubborn.

Third, Colin shouldn't wait five years to realize he loved her. He should realize it now, and tell her so.

Fourth, he should try to be happy he was going to become a father. He shouldn't blame her for interfering with his schedule.

Alesandra read over her list and let out a loud sigh. She was so thrilled she was going to have Colin's baby and so afraid he would be unhappy, she wanted to weep and shout at the same time.

She let out a long sigh. It wasn't like her to be so disorganized or so emotional.

She added a question to her list: "Can pregnant wives become nuns?"

She wasn't quite finished and added one more sentence: "Mother Superior loves me."

There—that important reminder made her feel a little better. She nodded, calmer now, and lifted the sheet of paper in her hands with the intent of tearing it up.

Flannaghan interrupted her. He knocked on her door and when she bid him enter he rushed inside.

He was relieved to see his princess had quit weeping. Her eyes still looked a bit swollen, but he didn't mention her condition and neither did she."

"Princess, we have…"

She didn't let him finish. "Pray forgive me for interrupting, but I don't want to forget my question to you. Has Cook been able to talk to anyone in the viscount's household yet? I know I've been pestering you with this matter and I do apologize, but I have sound reasons for wanting to know my answers, Flannaghan. Please be patient with me."

"She still hasn't run into any of the staff at market," Flannaghan replied. "May I offer a suggestion?"

"Yes, of course."

"Why not send her over to the viscount's town house? If she goes to the back door, the viscount won't know she called. I don't believe the staff would mention it to him."

She immediately nodded agreement. "That's a fine idea," she said in praise. "This is too important to put off any longer. Please ask Cook to go now. She can use our carriage."

"Oh, no, Princess, she wouldn't wish to ride in the carriage. It wouldn't be proper. The viscount's residence is just a stone's throw away," he exaggerated. "She'll enjoy the brisk walk."

"If you're certain," Alesandra replied. "Now what was it you wanted to speak to be about before I interrupted you?"

"We have company," Flannaghan explained. "Your husband's partner is here. Milord's brother and his wife are with him."

She started to stand up, then changed her mind. "Wait just a minute and I'll follow you down. I've made a fresh list for you."

Flannaghan smiled in anticipation. He'd learned to love her lists, because in his heart he knew she cared about him enough to help him become organized. She always included little bits of praise along with her suggestions for tasks she believed he would wish to complete for the day. His princess was always most appreciative, too, and gracious with her compliments.

He watched as she sorted through her pile. Alesandra finally found the sheet of paper with Flannaghan's name on it and handed it to him.

He tucked the list in his pocket and escorted her down the stairs. He spotted the package on the table in the foyer and only then remembered he was supposed to give it to her.

"That box arrived a few minutes ago," he told her. "Would you like to open it now or wait until later?"

"Later, please," she answered. "I'm most curious to meet Colin's partner first."

Colin was about to get up and go after his wife when she walked into the salon. The men immediately stood up. Alesandra went over to Jade, took hold of her hand, and told her how pleased she was to see her again.

"Damn, but you did all right, Colin."

Nathan whispered that praise. Alesandra didn't hear his remark. She finally gained enough courage to walk over to the huge man and smile up at him.

"Do I bow my head to a princess?" Nathan asked.

"If you do, I'll be able to kiss your cheek in appreciation. I'll need a ladder otherwise."

Nathan laughed. He leaned down, received a kiss on his cheek, and then straightened up again. "Now explain what you meant by appreciation," he ordered.

Lord, he was a handsome devil. Terribly soft-spoken too. "In appreciation for putting up with Colin, of course. I understand how your partnership works so well now. Colin's the stubborn one, and you're surely the peacemaker in the company."

Colin threw back his head and laughed heartily. Nathan looked a little sheepish.

"You've got it backwards, Alesandra," Caine explained. "Nathan's the stubborn one and Colin's the peacemaker."

"She calls me a dragon," Colin announced.

Alesandra frowned at her husband for giving away that secret, then walked over to sit on the settee next to him.

"Caine, quit glaring at your wife," Colin ordered.

"He's extremely upset with me," Jade explained. "And that's ridiculous, of course. I didn't encourage the attraction."

"I never said you did," Caine argued.

Jade turned to Colin. "He threw out the flowers. Can you imagine?"

Colin shrugged. He put his arm around Alesandra's shoulders and stretched out his legs in front of him. "I haven't the faintest idea what you're talking about."

"You had better get this argument settled before I bring Sara and Joanna into your home. Daughters need a peaceful environment."

Nathan made that announcement. Caine and Colin turned to stare at him. They both looked incredulous. Nathan ignored them.

"Were you pleased when you found out you were going to become a father?" Alesandra tried to sound very nonchalant when she asked Nathan that question. She gripped her hands together in her lap.

If Nathan thought her question odd, he didn't remark on it. "Yes, I was very pleased."

"But what about your five-year schedule?" Alesandra asked.

"What about it?" Nathan countered, his confusion obvious.

"Didn't the baby interfere with your company plans?"


She didn't believe him. Nathan never would have sold company stock if it weren't for the baby. Colin had told her he wanted to purchase a home for his family.

She wasn't about to bring up that tender topic, however. "I see," she said. "You made allowances for such an eventuality in your schedule."

"Colin, what is your wife talking about?"

"When I first met Alesandra, I explained I wasn't going to get married for five years."

"Or have a family," she interjected with a nod.

"Or have a family," he repeated just to please her.

Caine and Jade shared a look. "How organized of you," Caine told his brother.

Alesandra believed Colin's brother had just given a compliment. "Yes, he is very organized," she enthusiastically agreed.

"Plans have a way of changing," Jade said. She was looking at Alesandra when she made that remark. Her expression was filled with sympathy. Alesandra was suddenly looking quite miserable. Jade believed she knew why.

"A baby is a blessing," she blurted out.

"Yes," Nathan agreed. "Jade's correct, too, when she says plans have a way of changing," he added with a nod. "Colin and I were counting on my wife's inheritance from the king to strengthen the company funds, but the prince regent decided to keep the money and we had to turn our minds to finding other solutions."

"Hence the five-year schedule," Colin explained.

Alesandra looked like she was about to burst into tears. Caine felt like throttling his brother. If Colin would only look at her face, he would know something was terribly wrong. His brother obviously didn't have a clue, however, and Caine didn't believe he should interfere… yet.

Alesandra was caught up in her own thoughts. She could feel herself getting angry over Nathan's casually given remark. He had made it quite clear that neither he nor Colin had any qualms about using Sara's inheritance. Why, then, was Colin so stubbornly resistant to using some of hers?

Colin drew her attention when he spoke again. "Caine, will you quit scowling at your wife."

"He blames me," Jade announced.

"I do not blame you," Caine argued.

"Blames you for what?" Colin asked.

"I received a bundle of flowers this morning. There wasn't a note, just a signature."

Nathan and Colin frowned in unison.

"You received flowers from another man?" Nathan asked, his astonishment clear.


Nathan turned to glare at his brother-in-law. "You damn well better do something about this, Caine. She's your wife. You can't allow another man to send her flowers. Why the hell haven't you killed the bastard?"

Caine was thankful Nathan had taken his side. "I'm damn well going to kill him just as soon as I find out who he is."

Colin shook his head. "You can't kill anyone," he announced in exasperation. "You're going to have to be reasonable about this, Caine. Sending flowers isn't a crime. He's probably just some young pup caught up in an infatuation."

"It's fine for you to be reasonable, Colin. Jade isn't your wife."

"I would still be reasonable if the flowers had been sent to Alesandra," Colin argued.

Caine shook his head.

"Tell us his name, Jade," Nathan demanded.

No one was paying any attention to Alesandra. She was thankful for their inattention. Her mind raced with speculations. She'd shaken her head when Colin had guessed it was just a young man caught up in an infatuation.

"Yes," Colin asked Jade then. "Who sent them?"

"He signs all his cards Your Secret Admirer," said Alesandra.

Everyone turned in unison to stare at her. Jade's mouth dropped open.

"Isn't that right, Jade?"

Her sister-in-law nodded. "How did you know?"

Nathan leaned back in his chair. "There's more to this than admiration, isn't there?"

No one said a word for a long minute. Alesandra suddenly remembered the package Flannaghan had told her had been delivered. She tried to go and get it. Colin wouldn't let her move. He tightened his hold on her shoulder.

"I believe the man might have sent something to me," she explained. "There's a package in the foyer."

"The hell he did. Flannaghan!"

Colin roared the summons. Alesandra's ears started ringing. Flannaghan came running. He had the package in his hands, indicating he'd been listening to the conversation. He all but tossed the thing to Colin.

Alesandra reached for the package. Colin's glare changed her mind. She leaned back against the settee and folded her hands. Colin leaned forward to attack the box. He ripped the bow off, muttering under his breath, then tore the lid free and looked inside. Alesandra peeked around her husband's shoulder to see what was there. She got a glimpse of the ornately painted fan before Colin slammed the lid back down on the box.

"Son of a bitch!" Colin roared. He repeated the shameful blasphemy a second time. Nathan, Alesandra noticed, nodded each time the foul words were said. Apparently those were his sentiments as well.

Colin held the notecard in his hand and glared at it.

"Aren't you going to be reasonable about this?" Caine challenged.

"Hell, no."

"Exactly," Caine muttered.

"One more and you'll have enough for a lynch mob," Jade announced. "Will you look at our husbands, Alesandra? They're blowing this all out of proportion. Such jealousy is unfounded," she added.

She expected Alesandra's agreement and was therefore surprised when her sister-in-law shook her head.

"Colin and Caine shouldn't be jealous," Alesandra whispered. "But they should be worried."

"How did you know what was signed on the card?" Nathan asked. "Have you received other gifts?"

Colin turned to look at her. His expression was chilling. So was his tone of voice when he said, "You would have told me if you'd received any other gifts. Isn't that right, Alesandra?"

She was thankful she could agree with him. Colin's fury was actually a little frightening. "Yes, I would have told you, and no, I haven't received any other gifts."

Colin nodded. He leaned back, put his arm around her shoulders again, and hauled her up tight against his side. She found his possessiveness a comfort now and didn't mind at all that he was inadvertently squeezing the breath right out of her.

"You know more than you're telling," Nathan announced.

Alesandra nodded. "Yes," she answered. "And I've been trying to get someone to listen to me for a good long while. I even asked Sir Richards for help."

She turned to frown at her husband. "Are you ready to hear what I have to say?"

Colin was a bit surprised by his wife's comments, of course, but he was astonished by her angry tone of voice.

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