“Not so fast,” he murmured, his eyes lit with tender amusement, “or all those bubbles will bring on the hiccups.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Helen told him, gesturing extravagantly to the woman across the counter. “Dr. Gibson can cure anything.”

“Regrettably,” the doctor said with a smile, picking up her walking stick by its curved handle, “the cure for hiccups has so far eluded me.”

After Rhys had replaced the bottle in the stand, Helen slid her arms around his waist, which she knew distantly was a rather shocking thing to do, but it seemed the only way to keep herself upright. “Have you ever noticed,” she asked him earnestly, “that hiccups rhymes with snickups?”

Carefully Rhys eased her head to his chest. “Dr. Gibson,” he said, “as you leave, please find one of the sales assistants and discreetly tell her to run up to the dressmaker and reschedule Lady Helen’s appointment for another day.”

“She’ll really be quite fine in another few minutes—” the doctor began.

“I don’t want her to begin planning her wedding dress like this. God knows what she would end up with.”

“A rainbow dress,” Helen said dreamily against his coat. “And unicorn shoes.”

Rhys gave the doctor a speaking glance.

“Right,” Dr. Gibson said briskly. “Good evening to the both of you.”

Helen tilted her head back to look up at Rhys. “I was joking about the unicorn shoes.”

Rhys was holding her with both arms now, the corners of his mouth deepening. Oh, he was wonderfully large and sturdy. And so very handsome. “Were you?” he asked gently. “Because I’ll catch a unicorn for you. There’s sure to be enough of him for a matching valise.”

“No, don’t make him into luggage, let him go free.”

“All right, cariad.”

She reached up to trace the firm, tempting curve of his lips with her fingertip. “I’m back to myself now,” she told him. “I’m not going to be silly anymore.”

As Rhys glanced down at her quizzically, she tried to look solemn, but she couldn’t help breaking into giggles. “I’m s-serious,” she insisted.

He didn’t argue, only began to kiss her nose and cheeks and throat.

Helen squirmed, more giggles slipping out. “That tickles.” Her fingers slid into his beautiful hair, the locks thick and vibrant, like heavy black satin. His lips lingered at a tender place beneath her jaw until the nerves thrummed with excitement. Clumsily she guided his head, maneuvering his mouth to hers, and he obliged her with lazy, sensuous patience. She relaxed, moving easily with him as he turned to set his back against the counter, his arms wrapped safely around her.

His head moved over hers, one of his hands coming up to support the back of her neck, massaging even though there was no more pain or tension, and she arched against him, purring in her enjoyment. It was heavenly to be clasped in the embrace of her magnificent lover . . . who didn’t know that he would soon stop loving her.

That last thought made everything seem just a little less magical.

Sensing the change in her, Rhys lifted his mouth.

Helen kept her eyes closed. Her lips felt swollen, craving more friction and silky pressure. “Do other men kiss the way you do?” she whispered.

Rhys made a sound of amusement, his peppermint-laced breath wafting against her nostrils. “I don’t know, my treasure. And you’ll never find out.” He took a quick taste of her, a flirting tug. “Open your eyes.”

Helen looked at him while he appraised her condition.

“How do you feel now?” he asked, cautiously letting her stand on her own.

“Steadier,” she said, turning in a small circle to test her balance. She was no longer giddy. The migraine was leashed and held firmly at bay. “And quite energetic. Dr. Gibson was right: I am well enough to go to the dressmaker.”

“We’ll see. If you’re still feeling up to it in a half-hour, I’ll take you to her. In the meantime, I want to show you something. Do you think you could manage stairs?”

“I could run up a thousand of them.”

“Four flights will be sufficient.”

A small inner voice warned Helen that being alone with him wasn’t a good idea—she would make a mistake and say something she shouldn’t. But she took his arm anyway, accompanying him to a wide staircase of travertine marble.

“I didn’t think of asking the elevator operator to stay late,” Rhys said apologetically as they ascended the steps. “I know the basics of how to operate it, but I wouldn’t want to try it for the first time with you in the car.”

“I don’t ever want to ride an elevator,” Helen said. “If the cable snaps—” she broke off and shuddered. Although the store’s elevator was of modern hydraulic design, reputedly safer than steam-powered models, the idea of being hoisted up and down in a tiny closed room was terrifying.

“There’s no danger. It has three extra safety cables, as well as an automatic mechanism under the car that grips the side rails in case all the cables broke.”

“I would still rather climb stairs.”

Rhys smiled and kept her hand in his. As they finished the first flight and began on the second, he asked casually, “What have you done for the past few days?”

Trying to sound offhand, Helen said, “We went to the British Museum on Friday. And Lady Berwick has been receiving social visits from her friends.”

“How was the museum?”


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