Colin could see that Caine's patience was wearing thin. His brother was leaning forward in his chair with

a grim look on his face. "Bear with us, Caine. This isn't a pleasant memory for us."

Nathan nodded. "It was just past sunset," he began. "I could still see their fins though," Colin interjected. Caine was sitting on the edge of his chair. He now understood the reason for Jade's nightmares. She dreamed about sharks. My God, the terror she must have endured made his heart pound.

"Pagan told Tommy to fetch a boat, then she took his knife and came into the waters after us. The men who'd put us there were sure we were done for and had already left. Pagan ... I mean, Jade, got to me first. I was closer, I guess. Anyway, she pulled me toward the boat. A shark got a fair nibble out of my leg when they were hauling me in. Tommy lost his balance and fell overboard. He never resurfaced."

When Colin paused and turned to Nathan, his friend took up the telling.

"I still don't understand why, but the sharks kept away from me. They were in a frenzy and Tommy

had become their target. Jade had gotten Colin into the boat by then."

"I tried to help," Colin whispered. His voice was hoarse. "But I passed out. The next time I opened my eyes, I was on the Emerald. The oddest-looking man I'd ever seen was trying to press me into a game of chess. Honest to God, Caine, I wasn't sure if I was in heaven or hell. Then I saw Nathan sleeping on the cot next to me. I saw his sister, too, and I suddenly remembered everything. It seemed to me that it had all just happened, but I found out I'd been ill for quite some time."

Caine leaned back in his chair in an attempt to ease the tension in his shoulders. He took several deep breaths, then noticed Colin and Nathan were doing the same thing.

"Did she know . . . when she went into the water, did she know there were sharks?"

"Oh, yes," Nathan whispered. "She knew."

"My God, the courage that must have taken . . ."

"She won't talk about it," Colin interjected.

"She dreams about it."

"What?" Nathan asked.

"She has nightmares," Caine explained.

Nathan's brother slowly nodded.

"Matthew and Jimbo wanted to go after the bastards who'd tried to kill us, of course," Colin said. "Jade wouldn't let them. She had good reason, though. She wanted the men to report back to their superior that we were both dead. Jade felt it was the only way to keep us safe. It was the right decision, I think. Nathan and I are content to stay dead for a while longer, until we find out who in hell is behind this treachery."

"Hell, Caine, we were sanctioned by our own government," Nathan muttered.

"No," Caine countered. "Your government didn't even know you worked for them. Did you ever report to Richards or his superiors? Were you ever acknowledged . . ."

"Go ahead and say it," Colin interrupted.

"All right," Caine replied. "You worked for the Tribunal."

"I knew you were going to say that," Colin whispered.

"You can't be certain," Nathan argued.

"Richards didn't know until he was informed of your deaths that you worked for the department, Nathan. He's investigating now."

"Then he'll be killed," Nathan predicted.

"He's quietly investigating," Caine qualified.

"Damn, I know I've made mistakes," Nathan muttered. "I almost got you killed, Colin. I never should have involved you in this."

Colin shook his head. "We're partners, remember?" He turned back to his brother and said, "Do you really believe Richards can be trusted?"

"I trust him with my life. Jade's going to have to give him the letters as soon as possible, or recite the contents to him."

"We can write copies," Colin suggested. "That way, the originals stay safe. No one will find the Emerald."

"The ship was named for her, wasn't it?" Caine asked. There was a hint of a smile on his face now. "I should have guessed that sooner. Her eyes are the color of emeralds, especially when she's angry."

"Yes, Harry named the ship after her," Colin said. "Can you understand now why you became the target?"

Caine nodded. "Yes. I was searching for Pagan. The Tribunal couldn't take the risk of me finding the pirate and gaining the truth."

"You're still at risk, Caine," Colin reminded him.

"But not for long," Caine countered. "I have a plan."

Colin grinned at Nathan. "I told you he'd have a plan." He couldn't keep the relief out of his voice.

Jade walked back into the room. She looked much calmer now, almost serene. She wouldn't look at him, Caine noticed, didn't spare him a single glance as she made her way back over to the chair in front of the hearth and sat down.

"Sterns has ordered two rooms made ready for you and Nathan," she told Colin. "As soon as yours is ready, you must go upstairs and rest."

"Are you certain we should stay here?" Nathan asked. He nudged Colin in his side. "My country home is in a very remote area. I just finished the remodeling before our last assignment," he added with a glance

in Caine's direction. "We'd be very comfortable there."

Colin grinned. "I've heard so much about this palace of yours I know each room by heart. That's all you ever talked about."

"Well, then, you have to agree with me. I have to say, Caine, that it's the most beautiful house in all of England now . .. Jade, why are you shaking your head at me? You don't think my house is grand?"

She gave him a quick smile. "Oh, yes, Nathan, your house was very grand."

Nathan looked startled. "Was, you say?"

"I'm afraid I have some disappointing news, Nathan."

Her brother leaned forward. "How disappointing?" he asked.

"You see, there was this fire .. ."

"A fire?" He sounded as if he were choking on something. Colin resisted the urge to slap him on his back.

"It was a rather large fire, Nathan."

Her voice reeked with sympathy. Nathan winced. "How large, Jade?"

"Your grand house was burned to the cellars."

She turned to Caine while Nathan muttered several obscenities. "I told you he'd be disappointed."

Nathan looked a little more than just disappointed, Caine decided. Jade's brother looked as though he wanted to kill someone. Since Caine had felt much the same reaction when his new stables were destroyed, he found himself in sympathy with Nathan.

Nathan took a deep breath, then turned to Colin. He sounded as if he were whining when he said, "I'd just finished the last damned room."

"Yes, he had," Jade interjected, giving her brother her full support. "The very last damned room."

Caine closed his eyes. "Jade, I thought it was all a lie."

"What was all a lie?" Colin asked.

"I didn't lie about everything," Jade interjected at the same moment.

"Exactly what didn't you lie about?" Caine demanded.

"You needn't take that tone with me, sir," she countered. "I only lied about witnessing a murder," she added with a nod. "It was the best I could come up with on the spur of the moment. At least, I think that's all I lied about. If I think of anything else, I'll mention it, all right? Now please quit your scowling, Caine. This isn't the time to be critical."

"Will you two save your arguing for later?" Nathan demanded. "Jade? Tell me how the fire started.

Was someone careless with ..."

"It was deliberate, not careless," Jade explained. "Whoever set out to burn your home, well, they certainly knew what they were about. They were very thorough. Even the wine cellar was destroyed, Nathan."

"Hell, not the wine cellar!" Nathan cried.

"I believe they were trying to destroy the letters," Jade said. "Since they couldn't find them when they pillaged the house, they . . ."

"They pillaged my house?" Nathan asked. "When?"

"The day before they burned it down," she answered. "Oh, dear, I just remembered," she added with a glance in Caine's direction. "I lied about falling down the stairs, too. Yes, I ..."

Nathan let out a sigh, drawing her attention back to him. "When this is over, I will rebuild," he said. "What about the stables, Jade? Were they left intact?"

"Oh, yes, the stables were left untouched, Nathan. You needn't worry about that."

Caine was watching Jade. The worry in her gaze was so obvious, he wondered why Nathan hadn't noticed she hadn't finished giving him his disappointments yet.

"It's too bad about your house," Colin said.

"Yes," Nathan answered. "But the stables are all right. Colin, you should see my stock. There's one horse in particular, a fine Arabian stallion I paid a fortune for, but he was well worth the money. I

named him Lightning."

"Lightning?" Colin asked, grinning over the absurd name. "Sounds like Harry had a hand in choosing that name."

"He did," Nathan admitted with a grin. "Still, it's fitting for the steed. He runs as fast as the wind. Only Jade and I can seat him. Wait until you see him . . ." Nathan quit his boasting when he noticed Jade was shaking her head at him again.

"What, Jade? Are you disagreeing that Lightning isn't as fast as the wind?"

"Oh, yes, Nathan, Lightning was as fast as the wind."

Nathan looked ready to weep. "Was?"

"I'm afraid I have a little more disappointing news for you, Nathan. There was this mishap and your fine horse was shot between his lovely brown eyes."

Caine had leaned forward in his chair again. The ramifications of what she was telling her brother had just hit him full force. "You mean to say you weren't lying about that, either?"

She shook her head again.

"What the hell!" Nathan shouted. "Who shot Lightning?"

She glared at Caine. "I told you he was going to be disappointed," she muttered.

"That sure as certain isn't my fault," Caine muttered. "So you can quit glaring at me so intently."

"Did Caine shoot him?" Nathan roared.

"No," Jade rushed out. "He just didn't believe you'd be so disappointed. I hadn't even met Caine then."

Her brother fell back against the cushions and threw his hand over his eyes. "Is nothing sacred?" he bellowed.

"Apparently Lightning wasn't," Caine interjected dryly.

Nathan glared at him. "He was a damned fine horse."

"I'm sure he was," Caine said before turning back to Jade. "If you're telling me the truth about this, then it can only mean . . ."

"I really would appreciate it if you'd quit insulting me, Caine," she snapped.

"Jade always tells the truth," Nathan defended.

"Really?" Caine drawled out. "I haven't seen that side of her yet. From the moment I met her, she's done nothing but lie. Haven't you, sweet? All that's going to change now though, isn't it?"

She refused to answer him.

"Sweetheart, why don't you give Nathan the rest of the bad news?"

"The rest? My God, there's more?"

"Just a little bit more," she answered. "Do you remember your lovely new carriage?"

"Not my carriage, Jade," Nathan protested with a low groan.

She turned to Colin while Nathan went through his list of expletives again. "You should have seen it, Colin. It was splendid. The interior was so large and comfortable. Nathan had the backs of the seats

done in such soft leather."

Colin was trying to look sympathetic. "Was?" he asked.

"Someone torched it," Jade announced.

"Now why would anyone want to destroy a perfectly good vehicle?"

Caine answered that question. "Your sister has left out an important detail," he stated. "She happened

to be inside when it was set on fire."

Colin was the first to react to that statement. "My God, Jade. Tell us what happened."

"Caine just did tell you," she said.

"No, tell us exactly how it happened," Colin insisted. "You could have been killed."

"That was their intent," she said, her voice tinged with exasperation. "They meant to kill me. After your house was destroyed, the carriage was made ready and I set out for London. I wanted to find you, Nathan . . ."

"How many men went with you?" Caine interrupted to ask.

"Hudson sent two men with me," she answered.

Caine shook his head. "I thought you told me you'd only been back in England two weeks," he said.

"Well, actually, it was a little longer," she hedged.

"How long?"

"Two months," she admitted. "I did have to lie about that."

"You could have told me the truth."

He was getting angry. She was too irritated to care. "Oh? And would you have believed me if I'd said

I was Pagan and that I had just snatched Winters, given him to Nathan, and was now trying to ... Oh, what's the use. You wouldn't have listened to me."

"Wait a minute," Nathan interrupted. "Who is Hudson, Jade? You said Hudson sent two men with you, remember?"

"He's the butler Lady Briars hired for you."

Nathan nodded. "And then what happened?" he asked.

"We were just outside London when those same three men trapped us. They'd blocked the road with fat tree branches. I leaned out the window to see what was going on when I heard the shouting. Someone

hit me then, Nathan, on the side of my head. It fairly knocked the wind out of me. I must have fainted, though I'm embarrassed to admit to that possibility." She turned to look at Caine. "It isn't at all in my nature to swoon."

"Jade, you're digressing," Caine reminded her.

She gave him a disgruntled look, then turned back to her brother. "The interior of the carriage was ripped to shreds. They'd used their knives on the fine leather. I smelled smoke and of course got right out."

"They were hunting the letters?" Colin asked.

"You just opened the door and climbed out?" Nathan asked at the very same moment. Copyright 2016 - 2024