When Logan was naked, he pulled her to face him. “Touch me,” he said, kissing her, his hands tangling in her long hair. Madeline hesitated; his body had changed with arousal, far different than when she had seen him during his illness. Her hand shook with excitement as she reached down to him, grasping timidly, her fingers filled with silk and steel and scorching heat. Logan made a soft masculine sound and his hand closed over hers, guiding, pressing, showing her what pleased him.

He kissed her with delicious roughness, his tongue twisting and diving into her mouth. Madeline searched his body with her hands. She was hungry for the texture of his skin, so taut and smooth, his legs rough with wiry hair, his back rippled with hard muscle. She crushed and rubbed her face against his throat, inhaling his scent—crisp and masculine, almost like cinnamon. “Do you love me?” she heard him ask, and her voice broke as she replied.

“Always.”

He pushed her thighs apart and settled between them, and she felt the hard, heavy pressure of him at the entrance of her body. Cradling her in his arms, he thrust forward, and the discomfort turned into searing pain. Madeline writhed in protest at the invasion, her body stretched and burning.

Loan muttered against her ear. “God, Maddy, hold still—”

“It hurts,” she gasped.

“I'll make it better,” he said thickly. “Hold onto me.” His mouth traveled to her breasts, lips covering the taut peaks, sucking and stroking. Her desire began once more, flickering and blazing into life. She clasped his head to hold him closer, the soreness almost forgotten as he began a gentle rhythm inside her, barely moving at first, then increasing the depth of his thrusts. She clung to him, beginning to welcome the slow, repeated penetration. Each movement was luxurious, deliberate, exquisitely controlled.

“Maddy,” he said, his breath scraping in his throat, “you're so tight, so sweet—I've never felt—” He broke off, his brow creased as if in pain, his features veiled in sweat.

Locked in the twisting tangle of their bodies, she was overwhelmed with the need to lift her hips, to pull him tightly inside her. Seeming to understand, Logan pushed her legs up and whispered for her to wrap them around his waist. As he continued the slow driving rhythm, Madeline's mind went dark, and she was suddenly suspended in the white-hot center of intense pleasure. Waves of sensation rolled through her, leaving her limp and stunned in their aftermath.

A violent tremor shook Logan, and he held himself within her, releasing a groan from between his clenched teeth. For a moment his embrace was unbearably tight, and then he relaxed, his passion spent. Breathing hard, he held Madeline's slim body in the circle of his arms and rolled to the side to keep from crushing her.

The storm passed and quietness descended, broken only by the crackle of the small fire. They remained locked together, while Logan stroked Madeline's hair and touched his lips to her damp forehead. He had never felt so contented. For years he had guarded his heart so carefully—perhaps he was a fool for giving it to her so easily. He didn't care. Madeline was different from all the others…she was innocent, loving, honest. Feeling drunk with love, he lifted his head to look at her. Her eyes glittered with tears, as if from some secret grief.

“Regrets?” Logan asked quietly, guessing that many women experienced sadness when they passed from innocence to experience. He stroked her cheek with his fingertips, wanting to give her the reassurance she needed.

“No.”

“Sweet love…I'm going to make you happy. I'll give you whatever you want, whatever you need—”

“There's only one thing I want,” Madeline choked, burying her face in his shoulder.

“Tell me,” he insisted, but nothing would make her answer. Finally he lifted her na*ed body in his arms and carried her to the bedroom, settling her on the cold linen sheets. She shivered and bit her lip as he pressed a damp cloth between her thighs. Realizing that she was sore, he experienced a mixture of regret and elation. She had been a virgin—and she would never know another man's touch but his.

“Would you like a bath?” he asked, gathering her in his arms once more. “A glass of wine?”

“My nightgown…”

“Not tonight.” He rested his forehead on hers. “I want to feel your skin against mine.”

Madeline hesitated and then nodded, her head settling against his shoulder as they lay back together. “I didn't mean for this to happen,” she said, her hand resting on his stomach. “I planned to leave tomorrow without ever—” She stopped, her fingers curling into a small, hard fist.

“It's all right,” he soothed. “Sleep now.” He cuddled her and murmured softly until her breathing turned slow and regular, and her body became limp against his.

Sometime in the middle of the night, Madeline awakened in a fog of guilt and misery, wondering how she could have been so careless…so weak. She began to move away from the long body next to hers, and Logan murmured quietly, his hand curving over her hip. She could barely see him in the darkness, only the outline of his head and shoulders as he rose above her. Gently he touched her breast, and her traitorous body responded at once, the nipple contracting in anticipation. She felt the caress of his breath against her skin and his lips closing over the aching peak…the swirling pass of his tongue.

“You're everything a man could want,” Logan murmured. His hand slid between her thighs. “And you're mine.”

Madeline moaned softly as she felt his mouth moving to her other breast.

“I need you, Maddy.” He pressed her thighs open. “I would do anything for you.”

She tried to beg him not to say such things, but as he made love to her, all thought vanished. There was only Logan…his body possessing hers, his soft groan as he pushed himself within her. “I love you,” she whispered against his cheek, her arms wrapped around him. Desperately she wished that the moment would never end, and that morning would never come.

Eight

Logan blinked as a shaft of sunlight moved across his eyes, rousing him from the depths of sleep. Stirring and stretching, he found himself alone in his bed. The relaxed smile left his face as he wondered for an instant if he had dreamed the previous night. No, there were faint rust-colored smudges on the sheet…traces of Madeline's blood. A wave of tenderness went through him, and he was suddenly eager to hold her, tell her what pleasure she had given him, how much he loved her.

After rolling from the bed, he pulled on a robe and dragged his hands through his rumpled hair. “Maddy?” he said aloud, striding through the suite. Her discarded gown was gone from the private sitting room. Even the pins from her hair had been gathered from the carpet. Logan reacted with a puzzled smile. Perhaps Maddy had been embarrassed by the signs of their night together and hadn't wanted to cause gossip among the servants. But there was no need for such modesty…and furthermore, she wasn't to go about straightening up rooms like a housemaid. She was never to lift a finger again; from now on she would live like a queen.

Logan entered the room she had been using. It was oddly bare and pristine, as if she had never been there at all. Frowning, he went to the armoire and opened it. A few of her gowns were missing, as well as her shoes and bonnet.

He didn't like the suspicions that formed in his mind. Striding from the suite, he went barefoot to the great staircase. To his relief, he saw Madeline's small form in the hallway. She had paused to exchange a few words with the housekeeper. Mrs. Beecham wore a disturbed expression as she evidently tried to detain Maddy.

Maddy was dressed in her wool cloak and carrying a bag that must contain her belongings. She was trying to leave him.

Soundlessly he descended the stairs and approached Maddy from behind. Mrs. Beecham's perturbed gaze flew to his face. Sensing his presence, Maddy turned toward him.

“Good morning,” he said, his hands closing over her shoulders. He stared into her tense face, noting her pale cheeks and dark-circled eyes. She looked like she had been through hell. To his knowledge, no woman had ever worn such an expression after spending the night with him. It was hardly flattering.

Discarding false modesty, he knew he was a skilled lover. His partners had always purred with gratitude the morning after. It had been obvious that Maddy had enjoyed his lovemaking—he was too familiar with the signs of a woman's pleasure to doubt it. Why did she look so tormented?

Her lips parted and she began to say something, but he interrupted and spoke calmly to the housekeeper. “Mrs. Beecham, see to it that breakfast is prepared.”

“Yes, sir.” Understanding his desire for privacy, the housekeeper left at once.

“I won't stay—” Maddy began unhappily, and Logan silenced her with a long kiss.

She resisted at first, her body stiff in his arms, her mouth closed. Logan continued with loving determination, his lips twisting over hers until she shivered and sighed in surrender. Only when he was assured of her response did he lift his head. A touch of color had entered her cheeks, but she still wore the same stricken expression as before.

“Maddy,” he said softly, his thumb tracing the line of her jaw, “what the hell is going on?”

“I told you I was going to leave.”

Logan stared at her for a long time, while her gaze dropped to the floor. “You were going to sneak away without a word to me? After what happened last night?” His voice roughened. “Dammit, I've had enough of this.” Ignoring her protests, he took her wrist in a hard grip and pulled her to the nearby parlor. Closing the door behind them, he held her against his body, his fingers digging into the braids pinned at her nape. “Maddy,” he said urgently, “it's never easy for a woman the first time. I should have been more gentle with you last night—”

“No,” she said, her eyes glittering. “You…you were very gentle.”

“I'll make it better for you next time.” Gently he nudged her chin with his knuckle. “Come upstairs with me, and I'll show you how enjoyable it can be. I'll make you forget any pain you felt—”

“Just let me go,” she choked.

“Not until you tell me what's wrong.”

Maddy twisted free of him, backing away to the door. “I can't stand it when you look at me that way, when I know that soon you'll hate me…almost as much as I hate myself.”

Perplexed, Logan considered her words. “Is it that you're ashamed at the idea of being my mistress?” It was the only explanation that made sense. The self-loathing on her face, the misery in her eyes…it must be that she thought it immoral to give herself to a man outside the bonds of marriage. Filled with tenderness, he crossed the distance between them and cupped her face in his hands. “Sweet love, would it ease your conscience if we were married?”

Startled, she looked at him with wide eyes. “You would do that for me?”

Logan smiled slightly, his heart beating fast. He hated to put himself at risk—the very word “marriage” sent a chill of apprehension down his spine—but he was no coward. It had taken him long enough to find a woman he could love. He wouldn't shrink from any commitment she required. “God help me, I told you I'd give you whatever you wanted.”

An intensely bittersweet expression wrenched her features. “I wish…” she began, and stopped as if her throat had closed.

Before either of them could continue, there was a knock at the parlor door. “Ignore it,” Logan muttered, lowering his mouth to Maddy's. But the irritating staccato persisted, and Mrs. Beecham's voice drifted to them.

“Mr. Scott…”

Logan's head jerked up, and he looked at the closed door in disbelief. The housekeeper knew better than to interrupt him at such a time. “What is it?” he snapped.

“There is a… situation.”

“Unless the house is on fire, don't bother me with it now.”

“Sir…” Mrs. Beecham persisted uncomfortably.

Logan let go of Maddy with a curse and went to the door, flinging it open. “Is there something you'd like to tell me, Mrs. Beecham?”

The housekeeper squared her shoulders and studiously avoided looking at Maddy. “There is a gentleman waiting in the entrance hall.”

“I have no appointments for today.”

“Yes, sir, but he is in an extremely agitated condition.”

“I don't care if he has an apoplectic fit on my doorstep. Tell him to come back later.”

Mrs. Beecham looked strained. “Mr. Scott, the visitor identifies himself as Lord Matthews. He claims that he is trying to find his missing daughter. It is his belief that you have her.”

“That I…” Although Logan made no conscious movement, he must have turned to look at Madeline. Her face was in his line of vision…she looked horrified…her lips silently formed the word “no.”

The same word sprang to Logan's mind. No, not again…another time that he had found happiness, only to have it crumble. He didn't comprehend what was happening, or of what significance the visitor might be. All he knew was that the look on Madeline's face forbode an awful discovery, her paleness suddenly covered with the flush of shame. God, no, he thought desperately, let this be a mistake.

He summoned all his abilities to make his face impassive, while underneath his emotions seethed. Some rational part of his brain analyzed the situation. If Maddy was the daughter of Lord Matthews—whoever the hell he was—then she had lied to him, not once but repeatedly. The only thing left now was to find out just how deep her deception had gone, and for what reason.

“Send him in,” Logan said softly.

As the events unfolded, it seemed to Logan as if he were in some third-rate play. He had been cast as the villain of the piece, while Maddy was the helpless ingenue…and Lord Matthews, the aggrieved father.

Matthews came into the room as if fearing what he might see. He wore the expression of a man who had entered what he thought was a respectable dwelling, only to discover that it was a house of ill repute. He was a man in his early forties with an unremarkable face, too short in the chin and round on the sides, and dark hair that had receded far back on his head.

For a moment Logan experienced a twinge of relief at the sight of the man, thinking that he looked like no relation of Maddy's. However, both father and daughter wore identical expressions of mute accusation and dread as they stared at each other. There was no doubt of Maddy's identity.

“Madeline, what have you done?” Matthews murmured.

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