Each time Caine left, Lyon stayed by her side. And every time he talked to her, the topic was always about his file. It was apparent he was concerned about someone else getting hold of it.

She suggested he steal his own file so that he could gain peace of mind. Lyon shook his head. He tried not to smile as he explained it wouldn't be ethical. There might also come a time, he added, when someone would question one of his missions. The file couldn't be destroyed or stolen, for the truth was his protection.

Jade didn't argue with him, but she decided the file would be much better protected in his home than in the War Office. She made the decision to take care of that little chore on her own.

By the time they reached the outskirts of London proper, the sun was setting. Jade was exhausted from the long ride. She didn't protest when Caine took her into his lap. She rode the rest of the distance with his arms wrapped around her.

And all the while she kept thinking to herself that Caine was such a solid, reliable man. A woman could depend on him.

She was just drifting off to sleep when they reached his town house. Caine went inside first, curtly dismissed his servants for the night, then took Jade into the library. The scent of smoke was still in the air, and most of the walls were still blackened from the fire, but the servants had done a good job righting the damage. The town house was sound enough to live in.

When Lyon and Richards joined Jade and Caine, Richards said, "We'll leave as soon as it goes completely dark."

"It would be safer if we waited until midnight," Jade interjected. "There are two guards until then."

"And what happens at midnight?" Sir Richards asked.

"Only one guard stays during the blackest hours of the night," she explained. "His name is Peter Kently and he's always half-sotted by the time he takes over the watch. Now, if we wait until half past, he'll have finished the last of his bottle, and he should be fast asleep."

Sir Richards was staring at her with his mouth gaping wide. "How did you . . . ?"

"Sir, one must always be prepared for any eventuality if one is going to be successful," she instructed.

While Sir Richards sputtered about the lack of morals in government workers, Lyon asked Jade about the locks. "The back door is a piece of work," she announced. Her eyes sparkled with merriment, for she was obviously warming to her topic.

"A piece of work?" Caine asked, smiling over her enthusiasm.

"Difficult," she qualified.

Sir Richards perked up considerably. "Well, thank God something's up to snuff."

She gave him a sympathetic look. "Difficult, Sir Richards, but not impossible. I did get inside, if you'll remember."

He looked so crestfallen, she hastened to add, "It took quite a long while that first time. Double locks are rather tricky."

"But not impossible," Lyon interjected. "Jade? Just how long did it take you that first time?"

"Oh, five . . . perhaps as many as six minutes."

Richards hid his face in his hands. Jade tried to comfort him. "There, there, Sir Richards. It isn't as bad as all that. Why, it took me almost an hour to get inside the inner sanctuary where the sealed files are kept."

The director didn't look as if he wanted to be comforted now. Jade left the men to their plans and went to the kitchens to find something to eat. She returned to the library with an assortment of food. They shared apples, cheese, cold mutton, day-old bread, and dark brown ale. Jade took her boots off, tucked her feet up under her, and fell asleep in the chair.

The men kept their voices low while they talked about the Tribunal. When Jade awakened several hours later, she saw Caine was rereading the letters she'd copied.

He had a puzzled look on his face, his concentration absolute, and when he suddenly smiled and leaned back in his chair, she thought he might have sorted through whatever problem he'd been contemplating. "Have you come to any conclusions, Caine?" she asked. "I'm getting there," Caine answered, sounding positively cheerful.

"You're being logical and methodical, aren't you?" she asked.

"Yes," he answered. "We take this one step at a time, Jade."

"He's a very logical man," she told Lyon and Sir Richards. Caine thought she sounded like she was making an excuse for a sorry flaw. "He cannot help himself," she added. "He's very trusting, too."

"Trusting?" Lyon snorted with laughter. "You can't be serious, Jade. Caine is one of the most cynical men in England."

"A trait I developed by running with you," Caine drawled out.

Jade was amazed by Lyon's comments. He sounded so certain. Sir Richards was nodding too. She turned to smile at Caine, then said, "I'm honored then that you trust me."

"Just as much as you trust me, sweetheart," he answered.

She frowned at him. "And just what is that supposed to mean?" she asked. "Are you being insulting?"

He grinned. Jade turned to Lyon. "Do you have any idea how maddening it is to be married to someone who's so damned logical all the time?"

Caine answered her. "I haven't the faintest idea."

She decided to quit the topic. She eased her feet to the floor, grimacing over the discomfort that movement caused her backside. If she'd been all alone, she would have let out a loud, unladylike groan. "I'm not at all accustomed to riding for such long hours," she admitted.

"You did well today," Lyon praised. He turned to look at Caine. "When this is finished, Christina and I will give a reception for the two of you."

"That would be fine," Caine interjected. "You know, Lyon, Jade and Christina are really quite alike."

"Is she a thief then?" Jade asked before she could stop herself. Her voice was filled with enthusiasm.

"We got along quite well right from the start. No wonder . . ."

"Sorry to disappoint you, love, but Christina isn't a thief," Caine said.

She looked crestfallen. Lyon laughed. "Christina isn't very logical either, Jade. She comes from a rather unusual family. She could teach you all sorts of things."

"God help us," Caine interjected, for he was very familiar with Lady Christina's unusual background. Lyon's wife had been raised in the wilderness of the Americas by one of the Dakota tribes.

Jade misunderstood Caine's reaction. "I'm certain I'm a quick study, Caine. If I apply myself, I could learn everything Christina would like to teach me."

She didn't give him time to argue with her. "I'm going to change my clothes. We must leave soon."

Caine, she noticed, was glaring at Lyon when she took her leave. Jade quickly changed into her black gown. She carried a cloak with her. The hood would shield her brightly colored hair in the lamplight.

They walked most of the way to the War Office. The building was across town, but they used the hired hack for only half the distance. When they reached the alley behind the building, Jade moved to Caine's side. She took hold of his hand while she stared up at the top floor of the brick structure.

"Something's wrong, Caine."

"What?" Sir Richards asked from behind her back. "Your instincts, my dear, or . .."

"There's a light in the third window on the right," she explained. "It shouldn't be showing any light."

"Perhaps the guard at the entrance . .."

"The entrance is on the other side," Jade interrupted. "That light comes from the inner office."

Caine turned to Lyon. "If someone's in there going through the files, he'll use the back door when he leaves."

"Let him pass when he does," Sir Richards directed. "I'll follow him."

"Do you want me to go with you?" Lyon asked. "If there's more than one . . ."

Richards shook his head. "I'll see who the leader is and follow that bloke. You're needed here. We'll meet back at Caine's, no matter what the hour."

They moved to the shadows a fair distance from the back door, then patiently waited. Caine put his arm around Jade's shoulders and held her close.

"You don't want me here with you, do you, Caine?" she whispered when his grip became almost painful.

"No, I don't want you to be here," he answered. "Jade, if there's trouble inside ..."

"Lyon will take care of it," she interjected before he could finish his thought. "If there's any killing done, God forbid, then Lyon should be the one doing it. He's used to it."

Lyon heard her announcement and raised an eyebrow in reaction. He wondered if she'd read Caine's file all the way through. It was a fact that Caine was every bit as capable as Lyon was.

Their whispers stopped as soon as the back door squeaked open. While they watched, two men scurried outside. In the moonlight, Jade could see their faces clearly. She couldn't contain her gasp. Caine clamped his hand over her mouth.

The second man out turned and locked the door. How had he secured the keys? Jade wondered. She held her silence until the men had turned the corner. Sir Richards left to follow them.

Then she turned to Caine. "The security is deplorable," she whispered.

"Yes," he agreed. "You recognized them, didn't you?"

She nodded. "They are two of the three men who waylaid Nathan's carriage. The bigger of the two is the one who hit me on the head."

The look on his face frightened her. She thought he might very well go after the two men then and there. "Caine, you must be logical now, please. You can't chase after them."

He looked exasperated with her. "I'll wait," he said. "But when this is over ..."

He didn't finish that statement, but took hold of her hand and led her over to the door. With the special tool Harry had given her for her tenth birthday, she was able to get the lock undone in quick time. The second latch took only a few minutes longer.

Lyon went inside first. Jade followed, with Caine taking up the rear. She nudged Lyon out of the way and took the lead. They went up to the third floor by way of the back steps. Jade remembered the squeak in the fourth rail on the second staircase, motioned for both men to avoid it, then felt Lyon's arms on her waist. He lifted her over the step and put her down. She turned to smile her appreciation before continuing on.

The guard wasn't sleeping at his post behind the desk in the outer office. He was dead. Jade saw the handle of the knife protruding from his shoulders. She took a quick step back. Caine's hand immediately covered her mouth again. He must have thought she was going to cry out.

Through the glass window of the door, they could see two shadows. Caine pulled Jade over into the corner, motioned for her to stay there, and then followed Lyon into the inner office. She was impressed by their silence. The two of them would make proper thieves, she decided.

They were taking too long, though. She stood there with her back pressed against the cold wall, wringing her hands together while she waited. If anything happened to Caine, she didn't know what she would do. Until she had to leave him, of course, she qualified in her mind . . . God help her, she needed him.

She didn't realize her eyes were squeezed shut until she felt Caine's hand on her shoulder. "Come on, we're alone now."

"What about the men inside?" she whispered. "And for heaven's sake, lower your voice. We're at work now."

He didn't answer her. Jade followed Caine inside the sanctuary, tossed her cloak on the nearest desk while Lyon added another candle to the lights.

She noticed the two men on the floor in the corner then. She couldn't contain her gasp. "Are they dead?" she asked.

She couldn't quit staring at the bodies sprawled atop each other. Caine moved to block her view. "No," he said.

Her relief was obvious. "Jade, didn't any of your men ever have to . . ."

"They most certainly did not," she interrupted. "I would have had their hides. Killing wasn't allowed. Now quit talking so much, Caine. You must hurry. If they wake up, they'll shout an alarm."

"They won't wake up for a long while," Caine said. He pulled out a chair, gently pushed her down into it. "You rest. This is going to take some time."

"Rest while I'm at work? Never." She sounded appalled by his suggestion.

"Terrance's file is missing," Lyon announced, drawing their attention. He was bent over the file drawer, smiling broadly. "Interesting, wouldn't you say?"

"The lamplighters probably think it's very interesting, too," Jade snapped. "Do keep your voice down, Lyon."

"Yes, it is interesting," Caine said quietly in answer to Lyon's remark.

"Then we can leave now?" Jade asked, glancing over at the two men on the floor once again.

"Jade, why are you so nervous?" Caine asked. "You've been in and out of this room several times before," he reminded her.

"I was working with professionals then," she announced.

Lyon and Caine shared a smile. "She's worried about us," Lyon said.

"No," Caine countered. "That would be insulting if she . . ."

She couldn't believe he was daring to tease her now. "Of course, I'm worried. You two aren't even proper apprentices. Even an imbecile would know that now isn't the time for idle chitchat. Do get on with it."

"She is insulting us," Lyon drawled out. He started to laugh, but her glare changed his mind.

The men turned serious then. They labored over certain files for two long hours. Jade didn't interrupt. She didn't dare rest, either, for she was determined to keep on her guard in case of intruders.

"All right, we're finished," Caine said as he slammed the last file shut.

Jade stood up and walked over to the drawer. She took the folder from Caine, turned, and put it back in its proper place. Her back was to the men and it didn't take her any time at all to remove both Caine's and Lyon's fat files.

She turned around, determined to have it out with them then and there if they offered one word of protest. Luck was on her side, however, for the men had already moved to the outer office.

"Aren't you going to go through their pockets?" she called out. She pointed to the sleeping men. "We already did," Caine answered. Jade wrapped the files in her cloak. She blew out the candles and followed the men downstairs. Since they were all alone inside the building, she guessed they didn't need to be quiet. Each was taking a turn muttering expletives. Caine's, she noticed, were every bit as colorful as Lyon's were.

readonlinefreebook.com Copyright 2016 - 2023