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Chapter 4

Firea current of wild, scorching flamecascaded through Olympia. She was at once stunned and exhilarated.

Jared's mouth was hot, persuasive, and demanding. He coaxed and conquered, cajoled and stole. Olympia trembled with reaction as his lips moved on hers.

She could feel the heat of his body and the strength of his hands. He was overwhelming her senses, but she felt no fear, only a boundless, thrilling delight. She wrapped her arms more tightly around his neck and held on for dear life as he plunged her into a sea of sensation.

Jared groaned when she opened her mouth under his in response to his gentle insistence.

"I cannot wait to hear your song, my sweet siren," he muttered against her lips and then he was inside.

The feel of his tongue touching hers startled Olympia. Instinctively she tried to retreat.

"Not yet," Jared whispered. "I want to taste you."

Olympia was captivated by the words. "Taste me?"

"Like this." Jared took her mouth again, savoring her with great thoroughness. "And this. My God, you are more intoxicating than the finest brandy."

Olympia's head fell back and her eyes closed. With joyous delight, she abandoned herself to the experience of being kissed by Jared.

She felt his arms shift, sliding under her knees and around her shoulders. She drew in a quick, startled breath when he lifted her and carried her across the room.

Olympia opened her eyes and looked up at Jared as he settled her onto the velvet cushions of the sofa. She saw the enthralling hunger in his stark expression and felt something deep inside her respond. She had never felt more gloriously alive.

"This is all very strange." She touched the side of his face with a sense of deep wonder. "I feel as if I have begun a mysterious voyage to an unknown land."

"It is the same for me." Jared's smile was slow and achingly sensual. He went down on one knee beside the sofa. "We shall make this journey together, my lovely siren."

Bereft of words, Olympia caught hold of his hand and drew it to her lips. She kissed his palm with a sense of blossoming joy.

"My God, you do not know what you are doing to me." Jared put his other hand on her throat and slowly, deliberately drew his fingers downward until his palm rested on her breast.

Olympia looked up at him from beneath her lashes. "This is passion, is it not, Jared?"

"Yes, Olympia. This is passion."

"I did not know it was so powerful a force," she whispered. "Now I understand why it lies at the heart of so many legends." She reached up to pull his mouth back down to hers.

Jared gently explored the shape of her breast with his cupped palm as he kissed her. Olympia's whole body throbbed with a strange eagerness. She stirred on the sofa, seeking even greater intimacy.

Jared sucked in his breath and began to undo the tapes of Olympia's gown. His powerful fingers trembled a little.

"Jared? Are you feeling as warm as I am?"

"I am not merely warm, my sweet siren. I burn."

"Oh, Jared. It is the same for me."

"I fear that the farther one travels on this voyage, the harder it is to turn back." Jared slipped her bodice down to her waist.

Olympia shivered from head to toe as he took her nipple into his mouth. "I do not ever want to turn back."

"Nor do I." Jared lifted his head to look very steadily down into her eyes. "But as much as I want you, I do not want to take you further than you would willingly go. If you would have me stop, tell me now while I am still able to do so."

"I'm five-and-twenty, Jared." Olympia caressed his cheek. "And I am a woman of the world, not a green girl fresh out of the schoolroom. I was taught to make my own decisions and not to be bound by ordinary notions of propriety."

He smiled slowly. "I was told that you were a most unusual female." He looked down at her bared breasts. "You are also a very beautiful one."

Olympia trembled in anticipation. She was torn between a desperate need to shield herself from his gaze and a fierce delight that he found her attractive. She had never thought of herself as beautiful but with Jared looking at her like this she felt glorious.

"Do you know how much I want you?" Jared stroked her nipple with his finger. "Can you even begin to guess?"

"I am glad, so very glad, that you want me, Jared." Olympia arched herself against his hand. She felt her breast swell and tighten. The peaks seemed unbearably sensitive to his touch.

"You are going to drive me to madness and I shall revel in the journey." Jared slid his hand down to her ankle and eased his palm up under the skirts of her gown.

Olympia felt his fingers on the inside of her leg and something deep within her start to throb. Liquid heat filled her. She suddenly needed to touch him and explore him just as he was touching and exploring her.

She fumbled with the fastenings of his shirt and finally got the garment parted. The sight of the dark, curling hair on his chest fascinated her. She flattened her hand against his skin and felt the taut, hard muscles beneath it.

"I knew that you would feel like this," she breathed in awed wonder. "So warm. So strong. So powerful."

"Olympia My siren"

Jared's hand tightened around her upper thigh just above her garter. He kissed the valley between her breasts.

A short, thin cry of fear and anguish pierced the shimmering cloud of passion that enveloped Olympia. She froze as if she had been dropped into a cold stream.

Jared's head came up swiftly. "What in God's name was that?"

"It's Hugh." Olympia struggled to sit up. Her fingers trembled as she attempted to refasten her gown. "I told you that he still occasionally suffers from bad dreams. I must go to him at once."

Jared got slowly to his feet. He stared down at her as she tried to set her gown to rights. "Allow me."

Grateful for the help, Olympia whirled about and stood impatiently as he adjusted the bodice of her muslin dress. "Please hurry. He gets so frightened."

" 'Tis done." Jared stepped back.

Olympia rushed toward the door, flung it open, and hurried across the hall to the staircase. She was aware that Jared was following her. When she glanced over her shoulder she saw that he was methodically refastening his shirt and stuffing it back into the waistband of his trousers.

When she reached the landing she ran down the hall toward Hugh's bedchamber. The door on the left opened as she went past. Robert appeared in his nightshirt.

"Aunt Olympia?" Robert rubbed the sleep from his eyes. "I thought I heard Hugh."

"You did," Olympia paused briefly to touch his shoulder. "Another nightmare, no doubt. Go back to bed, Robert. I'll tend to him."

Robert nodded and started to close the door. He stopped when he caught sight of Jared. "Mr. Chillhurst. What are you doing here, sir?"

"I was with your aunt when she heard Hugh cry out."

"Oh. Hugh gets scared, you know."

"Why?" Jared asked.

Robert shrugged. "He's afraid we'll be sent off any day to the next relation who will not want us. Ethan's just as frightened. I have told them that they must be brave about it, but they're still quite young, you see. It's hard for them to understand."

"No one is going to be packed off, Robert," Olympia said firmly. "I have told you that."

"Yes, Aunt Olympia," Robert said with a rare, ominous politeness.

Olympia sighed. She knew Robert did not entirely believe her yet, even though she had been reassuring him for the past six months. But there was no time to go over it all again tonight. She had Hugh to deal with first.

She went down the hall to Hugh's bedchamber. The boy's muffled sobs were audible through the door.

Olympia opened the door softly and walked into the shadowed room. In the pale moonlight that came through the window she could see the pathetic, huddled shape beneath the quilt.

"Hugh? Hugh, it's Aunt Olympia." She went over to the bed and sat down beside the little quivering mound. She pulled back the covers and put her hand on Hugh's shaking shoulders. "It's all right, my dear. Everything is all right. I'm here."

"Aunt Olympia." Hugh sat up slowly and stared at her with wide, terrified eyes. Then he threw himself against her, sobbing. "I had the dream again."

"I know, dear. But that's all it was, just a dream." Olympia hugged him close and rocked him gently. "You're safe here with me. No one's going to send you away. This is your home now."

There was a soft scratching sound in the darkness. Light flared as Jared lit a candle. Hugh raised his head quickly from Olympia's shoulder.

"Mr. Chillhurst." Hugh blinked and ducked his head, clearly embarrassed to be caught with the evidence of tears on his face. "I didn't know you were still here."

"I was downstairs in the library when you had your dream," Jared said calmly. "Feeling better now?"

"Yes, sir." Hugh wiped his eyes with the back of his sleeve. "Ethan says I'm nothing but a bloody watering pot."

"Is that right?" Jared's brow rose. "I seem to recall Ethan watering a few daisies himself yesterday when he fell out of that tree."

Hugh brightened. "Yes, he did, didn't he?"

Olympia looked at Jared. "No one told me that Ethan fell out of a tree."

"There was no great harm done," Jared said easily. "A scraped knee was the extent of the damage."

"Mr. Chillhurst said there was no need to tell you about it," Hugh explained. "He said females are easily overset by the sight of blood."

"Did he, indeed?" Olympia shot Jared a reproving look. "Well, that only goes to show how much Mr. Chillhurst knows about females."

Jared's smile was dangerously amused. "Are you implying that my knowledge of the female of the species is deficient in some ways, Miss Wingfield?"

"That is precisely my implication, Mr. Chillhurst."

"Then perhaps I should endeavor to study the subject more closely. I am, after all, committed to the loftiest ideals of education and instruction. I will need a serviceable specimen for my studies, of course. Would you care to volunteer?"

Olympia was thrown into a strange confusion. She knew he was teasing her but she did not know what the teasing signified. Did he think less of her now that she had lain half-naked in his arms, she wondered.

Aunt Sophy and Aunt Ida had warned her that many men secretly disapproved of free-thinking women of the world even though those same men were quite content to become intimate with such females.

For a heart-stopping moment Olympia wondered if she had sadly misjudged Jared. Perhaps he was not the man she had believed him to be. Perhaps he was no different than Reginald Draycott or any of the other men of Upper Tudway. She felt herself turn hot and then cold and was grateful that only one candle illuminated the bedchamber.

"Are you all right, Aunt Olympia?" Hugh asked with a frown of concern.

Flustered, Olympia turned her attention back to him. "Of course. What about you?"

"Yes." He wiped his nose on the back of his sleeve. "I'm sorry I alarmed you."

"Everyone has nightmares now and again, Hugh," Jared said.

Hugh blinked. "Even you?"

"Even me."

"What kind of nightmares do you have?" Hugh demanded with keen interest.

Jared watched Olympia's averted profile. "I have one particular dream that has come back often during my life. In it I am on an uncharted island. I can see the distant sails of a ship in the harbor."

"What happens to you in the dream?" Hugh asked, wide-eyed.

"I know that the ship is about to sail and I know that I must be on it or I shall be left behind. But I cannot get to the ship. I keep looking at my watch but I know that no matter what I do, I will not be able to reach the vessel on my own. If someone does not rescue me, I will be left alone on my island."

Olympia looked up quickly. "I have had dreams like that," she whispered. "One knows one will be alone forever and one can hardly bear the knowledge."

"Yes. Very unpleasant." Jared stared down at her. For an unguarded instant a remote loneliness as well as a deep, raging hunger gleamed in his shadowed gaze.

Olympia knew in that moment that she had not misjudged him after all. She and Jared shared a bond that could not yet be translated into words. She wondered if he understood that as clearly as she did.

"But it is only a dream, Aunt Olympia," Hugh assured her.

Olympia shook off the enthrallment that had descended on her and smiled at Hugh. "Quite right. Mere dreams. Now then, I believe that is quite enough discussion on the subject." She rose from the bed. "If you are certain that you will be able to go back to sleep, Hugh, we shall take our leave."

"I shall be fine, Aunt Olympia." Hugh snuggled down beneath the covers.

"Very well, then." Olympia bent down to kiss his forehead. Hugh grimaced as he always did, but he did not turn away. "We shall see you at breakfast."

Hugh waited until Olympia had put out the candle and started toward the door. "Aunt Olympia?"

"Yes, dear?" She turned to look at him.

"Robert says Ethan and I must be brave because you will likely grow tired of us eventually and decide to send us off to our relatives in Yorkshire. I was wondering how long you think it will be before you do grow tired of having us about the place."

Olympia's throat tightened. "I shall never grow tired of having you about the place. Indeed, I do not know how I got along before you came here to live with me."

"Is that true?" Hugh demanded eagerly.

"Oh, yes, Hugh," Olympia said with grave honesty. "It's true. Life was extremely dull around here before you and your brothers arrived. I can think of nothing that would dampen my spirits more than to have you three leave."

"Are you certain?" Hugh asked anxiously.

"I vow, if you and Ethan and Robert were to go away, I would quickly turn into a very odd bluestocking who would have to be content to find all her excitement in her books."

"That's not true," Hugh said with startling vehemence. "You are not odd. Charles Bristow said you were and I hit him because it's not true. It's not. You are very nice, Aunt Olympia."

Olympia was shocked. "Is that why you got into a fight with Charles Bristow? Because he said I was odd?"

Hugh's suddenly abashed glance slid to Jared. "I did not mean to tell you. Mr. Chillhurst said I was right not to discuss it with you when it happened."

"Quite right," Jared said. "A gentleman who engages in a duel to defend a lady's honor does not discuss the fight with her either before or after the occasion."

"Good grief." Olympia was outraged, "I will not tolerate anyone getting into a fight on my behalf. Is that quite clear?"

Hugh sighed. "It does not matter. I lost. But Mr. Chillhurst says he will teach me some tricks that will help me do a better job of it next time."

Olympia glared at Jared. "Did he, indeed?"

"Do not concern yourself, Miss Wingfield," Jared said.

"You keep saying that, but I am beginning to wonder if I had not better pay much closer attention to the lessons you are teaching to my nephews."

Jared arched a brow. "Perhaps it would be best if we discussed this alone, Miss Wingfield. Good night, Hugh."

"Good night, sir."

Olympia stepped stiffly out into the hall. Jared followed and quietly closed the door of the bedchamber.

"Really, Mr. Chillhurst," Olympia said in a low voice, "I cannot allow you to encourage my nephews to get into brawls."

"I have no intention of doing any such thing. You must trust me, Miss Wingfield. It is my unshakable conviction that an intelligent man seeks nonviolent remedies for resolving confrontations whenever possible."

She peered at him. "Are you certain of that?"

"Quite certain. But the world is sometimes a less than peaceful place and a man must be able to defend himself."


"And a woman's honor," Jared concluded gently.

"That is an old-fashioned notion of which I do not approve," Olympia said grimly. "Aunt Sophy and Aunt Ida taught me that a woman must take care of her own honor."

"Nevertheless, I hope you will continue to place your faith in my instructional methods." Jared caught hold of her hand and drew her to a halt. "And in me."

She studied his face in the light of the mirrored sconce. Her anger faded. "I do trust you, Mr. Chillhurst."

Jared's mouth curved slightly. "Excellent. Then I shall bid you good night, Miss Wingfield." He bent his head and kissed her, very hard, full on her mouth.

Before Olympia could even begin to respond to the kiss, it was over. Jared let her go. He went down the stairs without another word and let himself out the front door.

Olympia moved down the stairs slowly. She tried to identify the array of emotions that swirled about inside her but it was a wasted effort. There was too much that was new and strange and wondrous. It was dazzling and disquieting and, perhaps, a little dangerous.

She felt as though she had walked into the heart of a legend that had been written just for her.

With a dreamy, thoughtful smile, she slid the front door's big iron bolt home. Then she went into the library and picked up the Lightbourne diary. She stood in the center of the room for a few minutes savoring the memory of Jared's embrace. It was entirely appropriate that he had kissed her for the first time here in this very special place.

Olympia remembered her first glimpse of the library. It had been on that dark, rainy day when she had been left with Aunt Sophy and Aunt Ida. She had been cold and terrified and desperately determined not to reveal her fears as she was deposited on the doorstep of yet another anonymous relative.

The two years of being shuffled from one branch of the family to the other had left their marks. At the age of ten, Olympia had been too thin, too quiet, overly anxious, and prone to nightmares.

Some of the nightmares had taken human guise. There had been Uncle Dunstan, for example, who had watched her with a strange, glittering look in his eyes. One day he had followed her into a room and closed the door. He had started talking to her, telling her how pretty she was and then he had reached for her with his great, sweaty hands.

Olympia had screamed. Uncle Dunstan had released her at once and pleaded with her to stop screaming, but Olympia could not stop. She had screamed until Aunt Lilian had opened the door. Aunt Lilian had taken in the situation in a glance. She had said nothing, but the next morning, Olympia had found herself on her way to the next relative on the list.

And then there had been her cousin Elmer, a malicious boy three years older than Olympia. He had taken great delight in terrifying Olympia at every opportunity. He had leaped, screaming, out of dark nooks in the hall whenever she went past. He had set fire to the only doll she owned. He had threatened to lock her in the cellar. Within weeks Olympia had become fearful of every small movement. She had started at every shadow. The doctor had diagnosed her as having a nervous disease and she had promptly been dispatched to yet another relative.

The next relative in line had been Aunt Sophy. She and Aunt Ida had taken Olympia into the library that first day. They had given her hot chocolate and told her that she had a permanent home. Olympia had not believed them at first, of course, but she had tried to be polite about it.

Aunt Sophy had exchanged a knowing glance with Aunt Ida and then she had taken Olympia by the hand and led her over to the huge globe.

"You may come into the library any time you wish, Olympia," Aunt Sophy had said gently. "In this room you are free. Free to explore strange lands. Free to dream any dream that you care to dream. There is a whole world in this room, Olympia, and it is yours."

It had taken time, months, in fact, before Olympia had begun to blossom beneath the gentle nurturing she had received from Aunt Sophy and Aunt Ida. But blossom she had. And as she had grown more cheerful and more secure in her new home, she had spent endless hours in the library.

The library had quickly become her favorite place. It was her own, private world, a place where anything could happen. A place where even a legend might become real. It was a place where being alone did not matter quite so much.

It had been the perfect place to experience a pirate's kiss.

With the diary tucked under her arm, Olympia walked slowly back through the house. She checked the latches on the windows and put out the candles and then she went up the stairs to her bedchamber.

It was a fine evening. Jared could not recall a more pleasant night. The temperature was balmy, the moon was full, and the scents of late spring filled the air. It seemed to him that if he listened very carefully he might even hear faerie music in the meadow.

It was the sort of night that caused a man to be fully aware of his manhood, a night made for soft murmurs and the sweet sighs of desire. It was a night on which anything could happen.

A night when a man could seduce a siren.

Indeed, if young Hugh had not shattered the magic a short while earlier, Jared thought wryly, Olympia would have been his by now.

The vision of Olympia in the throes of passionate surrender caused his whole body to tighten once more. She had been so lovely lying there in the firelight, he thought. He ached with the memory.

Her hair had been a river of flame as it spilled across the sofa cushions. Her breasts had been firm and high, beautifully curved and tipped with plump nipples the color of pink coral. Her warm skin had been as soft as silk. Her mouth had been all honey and spice. The scent of her still filled Jared's head.

And she had wanted him, responded to him, abandoned herself to him.

A rush of hot satisfaction poured through Jared. It was the first time in his life that he had known for certain that a woman desired him simply because of himself. As far as Miss Olympia Wingfield was aware, after all, she had been seduced by her nephews' tutor.

Jared smiled. She found him exciting. She melted at his touch. Her gaze had reflected her sweet, honest passion.

There had been no coldness in her as there had been in Demetria. And Jared was almost certain that there was no other lover in Olympia's life, at least not at the moment.

He could not be certain of the past because Olympia claimed to be a woman of the world. The implication was that she was not a virgin. But Jared did not think that she had ever known the depth of passion she had experienced tonight, even if she had lain with another man.

He had seen the surprise and wonder in her eyes, felt it in her touch. And he had known that he was the first man to arouse her to such a pitch of emotion. Even if there had been another man before him, Jared thought with sudden, soaring confidence, he could make her forget him.

Unlike Demetria.

Beware the Guardian's deadly kiss when you peer into its heart to find the key.

Olympia frowned over the phrase she had painstakingly pieced together. She did not understand it, but she was confident that she had just discovered the first clue in the diary.

She yawned as she scratched the words onto a sheet of foolscap. It was very late, nearly two in the morning. The candle had burned low beside the bed. She had been unable to sleep after Jared had left so she had attacked the diary with renewed vigor.

Beware the Guardian's deadly kiss when you peer into its heart to find the key.

Olympia had no notion of what the words meant but she sensed that they were important. She started to turn the page. A muffled bark from the vicinity of the kitchen made her pause.

Something had awakened Minotaur.

Alarmed, Olympia put down the diary and flung back the covers. She got out of the high bed, crossed the bedchamber to the fireplace, and grabbed an iron poker. Then she put on her wrapper.

She went to the door and opened itcautiously.Silence flowed up from the first floor in a great wave. Minotaur had stopped barking. Whatever had disturbed him was gone, Olympia realized. Perhaps he had been awakened by a cat or a small animal that had come nosing around the kitchen door in search of scraps.

Nevertheless, she could not shake off the feeling that something was very wrong.

Clutching the poker, Olympia lifted the hem of her wrapper and went slowly down the stairs. Cool, night-scented air greeted her at the foot of the staircase. It seemed to be coming from the library.

Olympia went toward the library door which was still partially ajar, just as she had left it earlier. She used the poker to edge it fully open.

The strong smell of brandy made her wrinkle her nose. Frowning, she walked slowly into the room.

There was just enough light to see the drapes rippling slightly on the soft, evening breeze. Olympia shivered. She was very certain she had not left the window open. She was always careful to lock the ground floor doors and windows at night.

Of course, she reminded herself, tonight had not been a normal sort of night. Her mind had been whirling with thoughts of Jared when she had gone upstairs earlier. She could easily have forgotten to check the library windows.

The smell of brandy grew stronger as she walked toward the window. It was not until her bare feet touched the wet spot on the carpet that Olympia realized the truth.

Fear lanced through her. She fought it back and hurried over to the desk. She fumbled with the oil lamp and finally got it lit. The reassuring glow revealed that the room was empty.

It also showed very clearly that the damp spot on the carpet had been caused by the brandy that had spilled from the overturned decanter.

Olympia caught her breath. Someone had been prowling about in her library only a few minutes earlier.

Chapter 3 | Deception | Chapter 5