Looking at the woman he’d loved for so long, the impish look on her face made him
long to grab her in his arms and kiss that distracting impudence away. Instead, he froze
his features and held out his hand to assist her into the carriage. He sprang in, but not
beside her. Rather he sat opposite her.
“I trust you are comfortable, my dear. If not please tell me what I can do to make you
Valanna snorted. “You can sit beside me, my lord. I could then make a fist and smack
you someplace on your perfect nose. Hard.”
Marcus couldn’t mask his start of astonishment. Val, his Val, threatening to hit him?
He couldn’t quite cover the grin turning up the corners of his lips.
Furious at his disregard for her feelings, plus her frustration at hiding her love for him
made her reckless.
“You’re an idiot, my lord. A blind, opinionated ass. How you ever became noted for
your bravery I’ll never know. You’re afraid to face up to your own emotions.”
Marcus growled, low in his throat. No one, but no one could accuse him of
cowardice. He’d faced more than anyone could ever understand of pain and torture. Yet
this one slight girl could look him in the eye and call him names he’d kill a man for even
thinking of voicing. He moved so fast Valanna gasped, and was beside her, grabbing
both her fists in his strong hands.
“I may be many despicable things, but I’m no coward. Not even you, my love, can call
His furious eyes glared at her, but all she seemed to hear were the two words, ‘my
“Oh, Marcus.” Her lips were only a breath away from his. “If you only know how I’ve
longed to hear you say that. Just that. You’ve been my love for so long.”
She moved to kiss him, and almost succeeded, but he suddenly caught her hands
and shoved her from him.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Valanna. You’ve confused whatever you think you heard. Of
course I love you, but as a dear, very dear sister. You belong with a man who will treasure
you, and you have him in Lance. We had better return. He isn’t that indisposed. He’s
probably waiting for you.”
He moved abruptly back to the facing seat. Ignoring the tears running down her
cheeks, he looked out the window all the way home. He thought he’d known everything
there was to know about pain and agony. Nothing he’d endured compared to the
knowledge he could win Val if he’d been a completely well man. A small part of him want
to dwell on her sweet words as she’d as good as said she loved him, but the pain of not
being able to accept her love nearly doubled him up into helpless agony.
He tried not to listen as she valiantly stifled her sobs. Pray god they would both be
able to present an unruffled countenance to Lance. His good and worthy friend.