And I won't disturb your privacy, Madeline thought, but held her tongue. “That is very considerate,” she murmured, standing up. Logan stood as well, every inch the courteous host.

“Naturally I reserve the right to visit you from time to time,” he remarked.

Madeline nodded with hard-won composure. “What about tonight?” she asked, her voice shaking a little.

His blue eyes held no expression as they gleamed through a thin haze of smoke. “Come to my room when you're ready for bed.”

Madeline swallowed hard. “Very well.”

Logan occupied his chair again as soon as she reached the threshold. Madeline felt his gaze on her even after she was out of sight, as if the heat of it had left a brand on the middle of her back.

The extra bedroom in Logan's private suite had been enlarged, one wall having been removed to double its size. Gleaming white and gold brocade covered the walls, while oil paintings framed in gold had been hung in artful groupings. There was a scene of children at play, and several others of women and children in domestic settings.

Taking pleasure in the feminine decor, Madeline wandered about the room, noting every change, including the gold clock on the fireplace mantel, the intricate lace on the cream silk counterpane, and the sewing workbox in the corner, inlaid with mother of pearl.

Although she hadn't yet rung for a maid, one appeared to help her change out of her wedding gown. Madeline sat before the dressing table in her high-necked nightgown, lost in her thoughts as the servant brushed her long golden-brown locks.

The maid said something, and Madeline looked up with a flustered smile. “What?” she asked. “I'm afraid I wasn't paying attention.”

“I asked if there was anything else you needed, Mrs. Scott.”

“Mrs. Scott,” Madeline repeated with a faltering smile. “You're the first one who's called me that.”

The housemaid returned her smile and bobbed a curtsy before leaving the room.

Madeline stared at her own ashen complexion and automatically pinched and patted her cheeks to bring color to them. Surely there was no reason to be afraid of Logan. He wouldn't harm her, if for no other reason than her carrying his child. On the other hand, he could make things very unpleasant for her. He was her husband now, and she was completely at his mercy. No one would intervene on her behalf, whether he chose to be cruel or kind.

Madeline stood and checked the long row of buttons that fastened the front of her white linen robe. Lifting her chin resolutely, she left her room.

Logan's room was only a few doors away, filled with the flickering light from the fireplace. He was half-reclining on the bed, leaning against the headboard with his hands clasped behind his dark head. He was na*ed beneath the sheet, every angle of his aroused body clearly defined. The fireglow made his face gleam like freshly cast metal. Approaching the bed, Madeline stopped a few yards away as she heard the deep rumble of his voice.

“Take off your robe.”

She looked at him in confusion.

“Go on,” he murmured, his eyes glittering like those of a stalking beast.

Understanding what he wanted, Madeline tried to comply, but her fingers were stiff. Logan waited with unnatural patience, silent and watchful. Madeline fumbled with the long row of tiny buttons, freeing them from the silk loops. When the task was completed, she drew her arms from the long sleeves and let the robe drop to the floor. She was dressed only in her thin gown. Her skin seemed to burn as she realized that the light from the fire shone through the garment, illuminating every detail of her body.

“The rest,” Logan said inexorably.

She stared at his taut face and reached for the fastenings at the back of her neck. The sense of being a possession, an object on display, was overwhelming. If Logan meant to humiliate her, he was succeeding. Grasping handfuls of the delicate fabric, she began to lift it over her head and hesitated. She couldn't.

“Now,” came her husband's suddenly thick voice.

Holding her breath, Madeline obeyed in a decisive motion, lifting off the nightgown and casting it to the floor! The cold air seemed to penetrate every inch of her skin, raising goosebumps on her na*ed flesh and shrinking her ni**les into hard points. Dry-mouthed, she stood before him with her hands clenched at her sides, while he stared at her.

“I…I'm cold,” she whispered desperately, longing for something, anything, that she could use to cover herself.

“So I see,” Logan replied, his gaze lingering at her breasts. Unfolding his hands from behind his head, he turned back the sheet and gestured for her to come to him.

Madeline couldn't keep from covering herself as she walked toward him, one arm clasped across her breasts, the other hand protecting the shadowed place between her thighs.

The gesture seemed to amuse Logan, his breath deepening audibly as she reached the bed.

“There's no need for modesty, my sweet. You'll have no secrets left before the night is through.”

Her teeth chattered as she crawled onto the mattress and lay on the smooth, slick linen. Every muscle in her body was tightly bunched. Logan's huge, warm hand slid over her hip, his touch making her flinch. Contrary to her fears, he was very gentle, almost impersonal, as he pulled her against him. He traced the lines of her body with the expertise of a sculptor, his fingertips light and gentle.

But there was a detached quality in the way he touched her, and Madeline realized that the impassioned lover she remembered from before had been replaced by a calculating stranger. He made love to her in a purely physical sense, with his emotions locked firmly away. If only she could be similarly unaffected…but she couldn't hold back a whimper of pleasure as his mouth found the aching tip of her breast, while at the same time his hand slid between her thighs. His fingers delved through a thatch of silken curls, parted the tender lips and skimmed through gathering moisture.

Madeline writhed beneath his caress, arching her breast up to the persistent tugging of his mouth while the sensations climbed higher and higher. Words trembled on the edge of her lips, and it took all her power to keep them from spilling out…I love you…love you…but he didn't want her love.

Just as the piercing ecstasy began to sweep over her, Logan pulled away. Filled with an intolerable ache, Madeline gasped out a protest and reached for him, only to find herself being pushed back to the mattress. She saw the outline of his head and shoulders above her, and for a moment she feared that he intended to leave her like this, shamed and trembling with need. “Please—” she began, her voice not sounding like her own.

“Hush.” He touched her lips with fingers that carried her own intimate scent.

Madeline bit her lip and lay still, her lungs rising and falling rapidly. She jerked as she felt Logan's warm mouth just below her breasts, drifting to her stomach Unsteadily she touched his head, her fingers curling in his rich dark locks. Logan pushed her hand away and continued his path across her body, investigating with lips, teeth, and tongue…finding the sensitive hollow of her navel…the rise of her hip…the tender crease of her inner thigh.

“No,” she gasped as he reached that sensitive area, and she twisted away with a shudder. She had never imagined that he would do such a thing. “No—”

But Logan caught her and pinned her in place, his grip tight on her wrists. “Don't ever say that word to me again,” he said, his voice steely. “Not in bed, or out of it.”

The statement shocked her. She understood that she had hurt him, and that this was the form of his revenge, to inflict his will on her. “You mustn't,” she managed to say, her wrists straining in his grasp. “I don't want that.”

Logan laughed, the sound mocking her as he bent his head once more. Madeline's eyes pricked with tears of fury and shame, and she felt his mouth on her, there where she had never imagined it, never thought it possible. Although she tried to close her thighs, her traitorous body disobeyed, spreading wide to receive him. His lips were hot, burning her, his tongue a sleek invasion that made her groan and cry out in mortifying pleasure. She ceased to be herself, reduced to a wanton creature who clung and arched with frantic need until a great rolling wave of cl**ax came over her, leaving her limp and weak in its aftermath.

Before the glow of sensation had faded, Logan moved his body over hers. She felt him enter her, and she tried to protest the massive intrusion, pushing feebly at his chest. He forced himself inside her swollen depths until she groaned in surrender and opened to him. The rhythm began, a slow, steady thrusting that sent her beleaguered senses whirling out of control once again.

Madeline turned her face into the hard curve of his neck and shoulder, feeling somehow that this act had made her his in a way that their other time had not. Then, Logan had been a partner, a teacher, a beloved friend. This time he was her master, dominating her body and soul.

The pleasure overtook her once again, like fire dissolving inside her, and she gasped against his taut throat. Logan drove inside her one final time, burying himself deeply, his large body shuddering in release. The perspiration from his skin sealed them together, arms and legs wrapped in a tight embrace. Somehow it reassured Madeline to feel Logan tremble slightly, to feel his breath strike her skin and his heart pound in his chest. No matter how he tried, he wasn't able to stay indifferent to her. He relaxed over her, and she welcomed his heavy weight until he rolled away with a sigh.

She wished that he would kiss her, caress her, even hold her hand for a moment, but he refrained from touching her. Abruptly the room was chilly again. Madeline reached for the sheet and covers, pulling them up to her shoulders. Perplexed, she wondered if he wanted her to leave.

“Shall I go now?” she asked.

Logan took a long time to answer. “No. I may have need of you again tonight.”

Her mouth compressed at the arrogant command, but she rested back against the pillows. Be patient with him, Julia had advised…well, it was certainly worth the effort. She would try to atone for the past—she owed that to him. She turned on her side to watch his profile in the firelight. Logan's eyes were closed, but she sensed that it took a long time for him to fall asleep, and she could only guess at the thoughts that occupied him.

In the decade since Logan had started the Capital Theatre, lovingly reconstructing and refurbishing the old set of buildings; assembled a company of actors, musicians, painters, carpenters, costumiers, sceneshifters, property men, stage managers, and the like; and trained the lot of them to his satisfaction…he had never been late to rehearsal. Until this morning.

He usually awoke easily, but this morning he had been drowsy and dream-fogged…and when he had seen Madeline sleeping beside him, he hadn't been able to stop himself from reaching for her. He had made love to her while she had yawned and purred like a sleepy kitten. Only afterward had he realized how late it was.

Cursing and scowling, Logan had dressed with lightning speed and raced in his carriage to reach the theater as quickly as possible. However, he arrived a full forty-five minutes after the designated hour, and he winced as he strode through the back entrance and headed to the greenroom. The company would doubtless mutter and grumble about his lateness. They were entitled to complain. He had never hesitated to fine any of them for the same offense.

The greenroom was empty save for Jeff, the shopboy. “Mr. Scott!” he exclaimed. “We all wondered if you were coming today—”

“Where is everyone?” Logan interrupted, a scowl pulling at his face.

“Onstage, sir. The duchess took it on herself to rehearse 'em, seeing as how you weren't here.”

Logan nodded shortly and went through the door leading to the backstage area. He was aware of a ripple of hasty mutters, and a bit of scuffling as he approached the stage. Squaring his shoulders, he came out of the wing—and stopped short as he saw the entire company waiting in a semicircle with glasses and cups in their hands. There was the sound of corks popping, and the crew grinned like idiots as they confronted him. “Congratulations!” someone shouted, while at the same time another voice laughingly accused, “You're late!”

The scene erupted into a chorus of laughter and cheers, and glasses clinked busily as frothy champagne was poured. A cup of champagne was pressed into Logan's hand, and he felt his mouth pulling into a crooked smile. “Are we celebrating my tardiness or my wedding?” he asked.

Julia came forward as she replied, her lovely face wreathed in amusement. “Let's say that both have been a long time in coming. Take care, Mr. Scott—or we all might begin to think that you're human.”

“I believe we can all agree on that point,” Logan replied. “And I want it understood that I intend to fine myself for being late.”

“Oh, that's all right,” Arlyss Barry said cheekily, “we used the cashbox in your office to pay for the champagne.”

The crew laughed gustily, and Logan shook his head, the smile remaining on his lips.

“To the Capital Theatre Company!” one of them cried merrily. “A bunch of thieving drunkards.”

Amid the general round of amusement, Logan raised his own glass. “To Mrs. Scott,” he said, and they all drank and agreed vociferously.

“Hear! Hear!”

“God bless Mrs. Scott!”

“Lord take pity on her!” someone added, and the revelers chuckled into their champagne.

Twelve

Perhaps it had been the champagne, or the will generated by news of his wedding, or merely Logan's own grudging good mood, but the atmosphere at the Capital Theatre was a hundred times improved. Logan couldn't recall when a rehearsal had gone so well. The actors were alert and responsive, and the crew performed their jobs with energy and close attention to detail. As for himself…it was as if some vital essence had been restored.

The knowledge that Madeline was waiting at home, that he was free to touch her, see her, make love to her whenever he wished, filled him with a satisfaction that he was hard-pressed to conceal. Not that he was prepared to admit any hint of love or forgiveness…he wasn't nearly ready for that. But he was fully aware that her presence in his life was necessary to his very existence. Last night, and today, had been proof of that. In the space of twenty-four hours he had returned to his old self, able once more to take the reins at the Capital with ease.

“Excellent,” Julia had said to him during rehearsal—she, who never praised his abilities because she claimed there was no need to inflate his self-opinion any further. They were rehearsing a new piece entitled The Rose, the story of an old man reliving the memories of his tumultuous life. “You nearly brought tears to my eyes during your monologue about remembering how it feels to be young,” she told him.

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