"Don't look at him," he ordered.

"Is he dead?"


"Did you mean to kill him?"

"Hell, yes."

She leaned into his side. Colin could feel her trembling. "It's over now, sweetheart. He can't hurt anyone else."

"You're sure he's dead?" Her voice shivered with worry.

"I'm sure," he answered, his voice still harsh with anger.

"Why do you sound so angry?"

Colin took a deep, cleansing breath before he answered her. "It's just a reaction," he said. "The bastard had some grand plans, Alesandra. If you had been sleeping in your chamber…"

He couldn't go on. The thought of what could have happened to her was too terrifying for him to think about.

Alesandra took hold of her husband's hand and led him over to the bed. She gently pushed against his shoulders so he would sit down. "But nothing happened to me because of your instincts. You heard him in the other room, didn't you?"

Her voice was a soothing whisper. Colin had to shake his head. His wife was actually comforting him… and, damn it all, he actually needed it.

"Put your robe on, sweetheart," he told her. "I don't want you to get chilled. Are you all right?"

He pulled her onto his lap when he asked her that question. "Yes," she answered, "Are you all right?"

"Alesandra, if anything ever happened to you, I don't know what in God's name I would do. I can't imagine life without you."

"I love you, too, Colin."

Her declaration soothed him. He grunted his pleasure while he lifted her off his lap to sit on the bed beside him.

He took another deep breath, then stood up. "I'm going to wake Flannaghan and send him over to Richards. Sit here until…"

He quit his order when she bounded to her feet. "I'm going with you. I don't want to stay here with… him."

"All right, love." He draped his arm around her shoulders and started for the door.

She was shivering again. Colin didn't want the fear to catch hold of her again.

"Didn't you say you thought Morgan was a real charmer?"

She let out a gasp. "I certainly did not say such a thing. Catherine thought he was charming. I never thought so."

Colin didn't contradict her. He didn't think now was the time to remind her she'd added Morgan's name to her list of marriage candidates. She'd just get more upset.

He'd made the remark to take her attention away from the dead man they had to walk around to get out of the room. The ploy worked. Alesandra barely spared Morgan a glance. She was fully occupied frowning up at her husband. The color had come back into her face, too.

"I was suspicious of Morgan from the moment I met him," she announced. "Well, almost from the moment I met him," she added when Colin looked incredulous.

He didn't argue with her. They reached the hallway before he realized he wasn't wearing any clothes. He went back inside, put on a pair of pants, then pulled a cover off the top of the wardrobe and tossed it over Morgan. He didn't want Alesandra to see the bastard's face again. He didn't particularly want to look at him either.

Flannaghan wasn't in his room. They found him sprawled out on the steps near the foyer. Alesandra was far more upset over her butler's condition than she had been over Morgan's demise. She burst into tears and clung to Flannaghan's hand until Colin convinced her that the servant had just been knocked into a deep sleep. When Flannaghan let out a low groan, she was able to gain control of herself.

An hour later the town house was filled with visitors. Colin had flagged down a passing hack and sent the driver to fetch Sir Richards, Caine, and Nathan. The three men arrived a scant five minutes apart.

Richards questioned Flannaghan first, then sent him up to bed. Alesandra sat on the settee, flanked by Nathan on one side and Caine on the other. The two men were competing with one another in their bid to comfort her. She thought their concern was terribly sweet and therefore put up with Nathan's awkward, stinging pats and Caine's sporadic words of sympathy that didn't make much sense.

Colin walked into the salon and had to shake his head in vexation when he saw the trio. He could barely find his wife. Caine and Nathan had literally pinned her to the settee with their wide shoulders.

"Nathan, my wife can't breathe. Move. You, too, Caine."

"We're comforting her in her time of need," Caine announced.

"Damn right we are," Nathan agreed.

"It must have been quite a fright for you, Princess."

Sir Richards made that evaluation from the doorway. He hurried across the room and sat down in the chair across from her.

The director was barely put together. He'd obviously been in bed when the summons came, for his hair stood on end and his shirt was only partially tucked into his pants. His shoes didn't match, either. They were both black, but only one had the Wellington tassel. The other was bare.

"Of course it was a fright," Caine announced.

Nathan patted her on her knee again in a bid to soothe her. Alesandra looked at Colin. The sparkle in her eyes told him she was close to laughing. He thought she might be smiling, but couldn't tell, for the lower part of her face was hidden behind Caine's and Nathan's shoulders.

"Get up, Nathan. I want to sit next to my wife."

Nathan gave her one last whack before he moved to another chair. Colin immediately sat down and hauled her close to his side.

"How did you kill him?" Nathan asked then.

Caine motioned to Alesandra and shook his head at his brother-in-law. She missed that action. Since no one else seemed inclined to answer Nathan, she decided to. "One clean shot, directly through the left temple," she said.

"Colin has always been extremely accurate," Sir Richards praised.

"Were you surprised it was Morgan, Sir Richards?" she asked.

The director nodded. "I never would have thought he was capable of such foulness. Lord, I put him to work for my department. The way he bungled the one assignment he was given told me he didn't have the instincts. A sister and brother were killed because of his ineptness."

"Maybe it wasn't ineptness at all," Colin said. "Richards, you told me the sister accidentally got in the way. Now I'm wondering if Morgan deliberately killed her. He did file the report, didn't he?"

Richards leaned forward. "I'll ferret out the truth," he announced. "By God I will. What set him off tonight I wonder? Why did he suddenly come out in the open to get Alesandra. He lured the other women to a secluded spot, but came here to get her. Perhaps he'd just become bolder," he added.

"Catherine is probably the reason he took the risk," Caine interjected. "She must have told Morgan that Alesandra tried to stop her from going riding with him. Catherine does like to tell everything she knows. Perhaps Morgan jumped to the conclusion we were suspicious of him."

Nathan shook his head. "The bastard was demented."

Colin agreed with that assessment. "The sounds he made when he came running into the bedroom makes me think he was out of his mind."

"He'd taken a real liking to it."

Caine made that statement in an emphatic tone of voice.

Alesandra was appalled at the very idea that anyone could gain pleasure from another person's pain.

"We might not have ever found out the truth if he hadn't come after Alesandra tonight," Nathan said. "Neil could have gone to the gallows for two crimes he didn't commit."

"What was Morgan's connection with Lady Roberta? Was he involved with her or was she chosen at random?" Alesandra asked.

No one had a quick answer to her question. Richards decided to speculate. "It was common knowledge the viscount and his wife were having difficulties. Perhaps Morgan pounced on Roberta's vulnerability. Notes and gifts from a secret admirer were probably flattering to her."

"We would have caught Morgan eventually," Caine said. "He would have made more mistakes. He was out of control."

"Catherine thought he was charming."

Nathan made that remark with a dark scowl. Caine nodded.

"Yeah," Colin drawled out. "He was a real lady killer."

Chapter 16

Three months had passed since Morgan's death, and Alesandra still thought about the horrible man at least once a day. The mother superior had taught her to pray for the souls of sinners, for they needed prayers far more than saints did, but Alesandra couldn't quite make herself pray for Morgan yet. She tried to put the horror of that night behind her. She never wanted to forget Victoria, though, and did say a prayer for her soul every night before she went to bed. She prayed for Roberta, too. She wanted to believe that both women had suffered their purgatory while on earth and in Morgan's cruel hands and that they were now at peace with their Maker in heaven.

Nathan and Sara were preparing for their journey back to their island home. Caine had invited Alesandra and Colin over to their town house for a farewell dinner with the rest of the family. The food was elegant but also quite rich, and Jade turned green by the time the second course was served. She suddenly bolted from the table and ran out of the dining room. Caine didn't show much sympathy over his wife's obvious distress. He actually grinned with male arrogance.

It wasn't like Caine to be so insensitive, and when Alesandra asked him why he wasn't a bit more concerned about his wife's health, his grin widened into a full-fledged smile. Jade, he explained, was pregnant again, ana while she was thrilled over her condition, she disliked her husband hovering over her while she went through the ritualistic morning and evening sickness.

There was a good deal of pounding done to Caine's shoulders. Toasts were given as well, and then Nathan and Colin, with their wives at their sides, went into the salon.

Sara was called above the stairs by Sterns to feed her impatient daughter. Alesandra sat next to her husband and listened to the talk of business between the partners. The topic of the large entry into the company's banking account came up. Nathan wanted to know where in thunder the money had come from. Colin was surprised by the anger in his friend's tone of voice. Alesandra understood Nathan's reaction. She knew he believed Colin had gone back to work for the director.

Colin explained Alesandra's feelings about her inheritance and how she had felt slighted because they had been willing to use Sara's money but not hers.

"The entry is the exact amount Sara would have received if our greedy ruler hadn't decided to keep it for himself," Colin remarked.

Nathan shook his head. "Alesandra, your gift for Joanna was quite enough," he argued. He glanced up to look at the beautiful golden replica of his favorite ship, the Emerald, sitting in the center of the mantel.

Colin also looked up at the treasure. He smiled because Nathan had placed the gift there. "It is beautiful, isn't it?"

"You can quit lusting after it," Nathan countered with a grin. "We're taking it home with us."

"I'm pleased you like it," Alesandra said. She turned to her husband to offer the suggestion that she ask the craftsman to fashion another ship for him, but Nathan interrupted her thought when he told her neither he nor Colin needed any money from her inheritance now. They were financially sound enough.

"Put the money into the town house Colin purchased for you," he suggested.

She shook her head. "My husband used the money he received from the insurance contract for a hefty payment, Nathan, and the castle needs very little work. I wish you could see the inside before you leave. It's only a block away from our rental and it's so large and roomy."

Colin turned his attention back from the ship to look at his wife. "It isn't a castle, sweetheart."

"Oh, but it is," she argued. "It's our home, Colin, and therefore our castle."

He couldn't fault that confusing bit of logic. "So I now have two castles," he said with a laugh. "And a princess."

He stretched his legs out and put his arm around his wife. Nathan wanted to continue to argue about the money, but it didn't take him long to realize Alesandra wasn't going to bend on the issue.

He finally accepted defeat. "Hell," he muttered.

"What now?" Colin asked.

"If I'd known about the gift from your wife's inheritance I never would have suggested we sell stock. Have you found out who owns the shares yet? Maybe we could buy them back."

Colin shook his head. "Dreyson isn't telling," he explained. "He says it would be breaking his client's trust."

"Let me talk to him," Nathan suggested. "Just give me five minutes alone with Dreyson and I promise you he'll tell us."

Alesandra immediately tried to soothe Nathan's temper. "Dreyson's extremely ethical. My father never would have done business with him if he hadn't believed he was honorable. I'm my father's daughter, Nathan, and I therefore follow in his footsteps. I also have complete confidence in his integrity. I would wager every coin I have that you would never be able to get him to break a confidence. You might as well give up."

"Colin and I have a right to know who the owner is," Nathan argued.

Colin closed his eyes and let out a loud yawn while he listened to the conversation. A comment his wife had just made suddenly gained his full attention.

She was her father's daughter. Colin opened his eyes and slowly turned to look at the ship again.

He was reminded of the castle perched on his father's mantel… and the bit of trickery Alesandra's father had played when he tucked the notes inside.

And then he knew. She was her father's daughter, all right. The stock certificates were hidden inside the ship. Colin was astonished by the revelation. The expression on his face when he turned to his wife showed his surprise.

"Is something the matter, Colin?"

"You wouldn't lie to me, would you, sweetheart?"

"No, of course not."

"How did you do it?"

"Do what?"

"You don't own the stocks. I asked Dreyson and he told me you weren't the owner. You also told me you didn't own them."

"I don't. Why in heaven's name…"

She stopped when Colin pointed to the ship. She knew then her husband had finally guessed the truth.

She was well into her sixth month of confinement and getting more awkward every day, but she was still quick when she needed to be. She hastily stood up and started for the doorway. "I believe I'll see how Sara's doing. I do so love to hold little Joanna. She has the most delightful smile."

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