He didn’t make a conscious decision to feign slumber. It was nothing so calculating as that. But when her whispered words blew softly across his ear, something resentful woke up inside of him, and he didn’t want to answer her.
He just didn’t.
And then, after she made a sound of mild surprise and scooted herself into a more upright position, he started to feel an odd sense of power. She thought he was asleep.
She thought he was something he wasn’t.
It was the same thing she’d done to him, albeit on a much smaller scale. She had withheld the truth, and in doing so, she had possessed all the power.
And maybe he was feeling vengeful. Maybe he was feeling wronged. There was nothing particularly noble about his reaction, but he liked pulling one over on her, just as she had done to him.
“What am I going to do?” he heard her murmur. She rolled onto her side, facing away from him. But her body remained close.
And he still wanted her.
What would happen if he didn’t tell her he’d regained his memory? Eventually he’d have to reveal the truth, but there was no reason he had to do so immediately. Most of what he remembered had nothing to do with her, anyway. There was the journey to Connecticut, made on horseback in a miserable cold rain. The heart-stopping moment when a farmer by the name of McClellan had caught him skulking around the Norwalk waterfront. Edward had reached for his weapon, but when two more men emerged from the shadows—McClellan’s sons, as it happened—he quickly realized the futility of resistance. He’d been marched at gunpoint and pitchfork to the McClellans’ barn, where he’d been tied up and held for weeks.
That was where he’d found the cat—the one he’d told Cecilia he thought he remembered. The bedraggled little mop had been his only companion for about twenty-three hours of each day. The poor thing had been forced to listen to Edward’s complete life history.
But the cat must have enjoyed Edward’s storytelling prowess, because it’d rewarded him with a multitude of dead birds and mice. Edward tried to appreciate the gifts in the spirit they were given, and he always waited until the little fur ball wasn’t watching before he kicked the dead animals toward the barn door.
That Farmer McClellan stepped on no fewer than six mangled rodents was an added bonus. He’d proved oddly squeamish for a man who worked with animals all day, and indeed, his yelps and shrieks every time the tiny bones crunched under his boots were some of Edward’s few sources of entertainment.
But McClellan didn’t bother to check on him in the barn very often. Indeed, Edward never did figure out what he’d thought to do with him. Ransom, probably. McClellan and his sons didn’t seem overly devoted to Washington’s cause. And they certainly weren’t Loyalists.
War could make mercenaries of men, especially those who were greedy to begin with.
In the end it had been McClellan’s wife who had let Edward go. Not because of any great charm on Edward’s part, although he had gone out of his way to be courtly and polite to the females of the family. No, Mrs. McClellan told him she was sick and tired of sharing her family’s food. She’d borne nine children and not a one had bothered to die in infancy. It was too many mouths to feed.
Edward had not pointed out that not a whole lot of food had gone into his mouth during his stay. Not when she was loosening the ropes that bound his ankles.
“Wait until dark before you go,” she’d warned him. “And head east. The boys will all be in town.”
She didn’t tell him why they were all heading to the village center, and he didn’t ask. He’d done as she’d instructed, and he’d gone east, even though it was the exact opposite direction he needed to go. Traveling on foot and by night, the journey had taken a week. He’d crossed the sound to the Long Island and made it all the way to Williamsburg without incident. And then . . .
Edward frowned until he remembered he was still feigning sleep. But Cecilia didn’t notice; she was still facing away from him.
What had happened in Williamsburg? That was where his memory was still hazy. He’d traded his coat to a fisherman for passage across the river. He’d got into the boat . . .
The fisherman must have clobbered him over the head. To what end, Edward wasn’t sure. He’d had nothing worth stealing.
Not even a coat.
He supposed he should be grateful he’d been left on the shores of Kip’s Bay. The fisherman could have easily slid him over the edge of the dinghy and into a watery grave. No one would have ever known what had happened to him.
He wondered how long his family would have waited to declare him dead.
Then he berated himself for being so morbid. He was alive. He ought to be happy.
He would be, he decided. But probably not this morning. He’d earned that right.
Damn. His face must have been echoing the twisting journey of his thoughts. He opened his eyes.
“Good morning,” Cecilia said. But there was something slightly cautious about her tone. It wasn’t shyness, or at least he didn’t think so. He supposed it might stand to reason that she’d feel self-conscious and awkward now that they had slept together. By all rights she should have felt self-conscious and awkward the morning before. She probably would have done if he hadn’t left before she woke up.
“You were still asleep,” she said. She smiled, although just a little. “You never wake up after I do.”
He gave a little shrug. “I was tired.”
“I expect so,” she said softly. She looked down, and then away, and then she sighed and said, “I should get up.”
Her eyes made a few startled blinks, then she said, “I have things to do.”
“I—” She swallowed. “I must. I can’t . . . not.”
But what did she have to do if she wasn’t searching for Thomas? He was the only reason she’d come to New York.
Edward waited, and it cut his heart to watch her face begin to crumple as she realized that all the things she’d been doing, all the errands and tasks—they’d all been for the purpose of finding her brother.
And now that purpose was gone.
But, Edward reminded himself, she had also spent a great deal of time caring for him. Whatever her misdeeds, she had nursed him faithfully, both in hospital and out.
He probably owed her his life.
He couldn’t hate her. He wanted to, though.
Cecilia’s brow puckered. “Are you all right?”
“Why do you ask?”
“I don’t know. You had a funny expression.”
He didn’t doubt it.
Once it became obvious that he wasn’t going to comment, Cecilia let out a little sigh. It seemed to deflate her. “I should still get up. Even though I have nothing to do.”
Not nothing, he thought.
They were in bed. There were lots of things to do in bed.
“I can keep you busy,” he murmured.
But before she could get out more than a single word, he leaned over and kissed her.
He hadn’t thought about it. In fact, if he had stopped to think, he would have certainly told himself not to do it. That way lay madness, surely, and right then it felt like the only thing he still possessed was his sanity.
He kissed her because in that moment every instinct he possessed was crying for it. Some primitive part of him still thought she was his wife, that he had every right to touch her this way.
She’d told him they were married. She’d told him he’d said his vows.
Edward had attended enough wedding ceremonies to know the solemnization of marriage by heart. He knew what he would have said.
With my body I thee worship.
He wanted to worship her.
He wanted to worship her so damned much.
His hand wrapped around the back of her head, pulling her against him, holding her in place.
But she didn’t struggle. She didn’t try to escape. Instead, her arms came around him, and she kissed him back. She knew they weren’t married, he thought angrily, but she returned his passion with equal fervor. Her lips were eager, and she moaned with desire as her back arched, pressing her body even more tightly against his.
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