“You must eat!” she said, wiggling to get free of his weight.

But he pushed forward one of his legs, trapping her more firmly beneath him. “Fred will bring breakfast any minute.”

“You must be starving,” India said, her breath catching at his expression. “You must regain your strength.”

“Peace, my little whirlwind,” he said, lowering his head enough to brush her lips with his again. “There’s something I want far more than an egg.”

She stilled, her heart melting.

Their kiss made up for days of fear. It was a heart-piercing kiss that seared promises into the bone.

“You are mine,” Thorn said fiercely, raising his head.

Another kiss, but India pulled back when it turned slow and erotic. “You must eat,” she repeated.

He pushed her hair back from her forehead. “Have I told you how much I love you?”

Her lips trembled. “What if you only love me because I rushed to your side, like the mother you never knew? Or because Vander claimed to marry me?”

Thorn’s hand cupped her cheek. “Oh ye of little faith,” he said, giving her lips a tiny bite. “I loved you before Vander arrived at the house; I simply didn’t realize it. I think I probably fell in love with you the moment you told me I had a shortfall.” His eyes gleamed with amusement.

India did not laugh. “But you want to marry a woman like Lala. I can understand. I truly can. I know I’m not sweet.”

Thorn’s hands gripped her shoulders. “Don’t ever say that again, India. You are sweet—but you’re much more. You’re the other half of my heart, and there’s nothing docile and childlike inside me. It’s not what I want in my wife, my partner.”

India managed a wobbly smile.

“I almost came back within five minutes of leaving you, but I wanted to bring you a gift when I next returned,” Thorn said. “It was idiotic, and you can tell me that every day of my life. I had talked myself into believing that I could not come to you again without this.” He reached over and took a purple velvet pouch from the bedside table that hadn’t been there when India had lain down to sleep beside him the night before.

Velvet pouches rarely, if ever, contained anything other than jewelry, but like the diamond ring, she didn’t care. She wanted more than gems. She wanted him, his heart . . . his promise. She didn’t take her eyes from his. “Are you saying that you—you planned to come back to me, even after . . . even after I told you that I deserved better?”

“Always,” he said, his voice deep and true.

“You,” she said, her voice cracking, “you deserve better than me, Thorn.”

“There is no one better than you. You were made for me,” he said. The pouch fell to the side as he drew India into his arms, devouring her, convincing her without words that he had no interest in another woman.

Minutes—or hours—later India heard a noise in the corridor and flew off the bed, pulling on her wrapper to welcome Fred, who was carrying a laden tray. Then she climbed back on the bed and sank back in front of Thorn, uncovering the dishes.

“Start with this,” she said, holding out a piece of fruit. “You must start slowly. You had no nourishment for two whole days.” Thorn ate it, mock-nipping at her fingers. But she ignored him until he had put away two eggs and three toast fingers dripping with butter, and drunk a nourishing cup of broth.

Only when she was satisfied that he had eaten enough for the moment did she send the plates away and curl up beside him again.

“What shall we do now?” Thorn asked. Contrary to every expectation, he looked bright-eyed and energetic.

“You are not leaving this bed,” she said severely. “You must rest.”

“I will stay in bed if you stay with me,” he said, giving her a devilish grin.

“None of that! Your body has endured a terrible shock.”

His smile deepened and he picked up her hand, placing it below his waist. “Does it seem to you that my body is tired?”

Her fingers curled instinctively around that vital, male part of him. “You should be tired,” she told him.

“I’ve been sleeping for two days. There are things I need more than sleep.”

India felt color rising in her cheeks. “This is—we shouldn’t.” She pulled her hand away, rather reluctantly.

“Whether we should or shouldn’t is irrelevant,” Thorn stated. “You are mine, India, and you are going to be my wife, just as soon as I can get another special license.”

Joy filled her heart, but she laughed. “Is this your third proposal?”

“I suppose I should be on my knees,” Thorn said, his fingers weaving through her hair. “But that would mean I’d have to move. And I don’t want to leave this bed.”

She looped her arms around his neck. “I’ll pretend you’re on your knees.”

“In that case, Lady Xenobia India St. Clair, may I have the honor of your hand in marriage?”

Tears fell down her cheeks. Xenobia India St. Clair was rarely speechless, but emotion caught her throat and she couldn’t answer.

“You needn’t answer, because you’ve already said yes,” he said, his lips brushing hers tenderly.


“Every time you smiled at me, it was a yes. And when you arrived here determined to save my life, that was another yes. And when you shouted at me, and forced me to wake up, that was a third yes.”

The love deep in his eyes threatened to overwhelm her, and their lips met in a kiss that was irrational in its passion, sinful in its sensuality, raw in its pleasure.

Sometime later, India’s robe fell off the bed to the floor and her chemise tore down the middle, the remnants tossed aside. When Thorn’s scarred body met hers, she felt as if her heart danced in her rib cage, pounding to a tempo that only the two of them knew.

No one would have believed that mere hours before, Thorn had lain caught in dreamless sleep. He was all tongue and bites and strokes of his hand that drove India from pleasure to pleasure until they were both shuddering, and broken pleas tumbled from her lips. His touch made her head fall back and her mind whirl into a shameless, sensual storm of feeling.

Finally, finally, Thorn poised himself above her. “I think I would like you to say yes just one more time,” he whispered, lips just above hers. “Will you be mine, India? Will you keep me, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, as long as we both shall live?”

One tear ran down India’s cheek from the pure beauty of it. “In sickness and in health,” she repeated, her voice husky, “forsaking all others, as long as we both shall live.”

Then he claimed her with a single thrust.

Chapter Forty-one

Quite some time later, Thorn returned the velvet bag to India’s lap, insisting that she humor him and open it.

Her mother’s necklace and earrings fell into her lap. The settings were tarnished, but there was a flash of diamond, the gleam of old gold. . . .

India’s hands flew to her mouth, and a little scream broke from her lips.

“Where did you—” She turned to him, horrified. “You risked your life to salvage my mother’s jewels for me?”

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