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Page 114

Daniel looked up at Violet in dismay. “What are you still doing here?” His voice rasped. “Simon, you’re sacked.”

“Shut up, Daniel,” Violet said. “I love you. Do you hear me? I love you. I’m going to keep telling you that, every day if I have to, all right?”

Daniel could barely move his mouth to smile, but the look in his eyes was enough. “Fine by me.”

Cameron stroked Daniel’s hair, his tears still falling. “Be quiet, Danny,” he said. “Just rest now.”

“I still want to know what you’re doing here.” Daniel could barely speak as he glared at his father, but he kept talking. Bloody stubborn man. “But later.” He closed his fingers weakly around Violet’s. “Stay with me, Vi, all right? Now and always.”

Violet’s tears came again, but they were cleansing. She nodded. “Now and always.”

Daniel squeezed her hand, then his fingers loosened, too weak. “Good. Love you, sweet Violet. Damn, but I love you.”

Violet lifted his hand to her chest, holding it tight. “Stop talking now. You need a surgeon.”

“Mmm.” Daniel’s eyes slid closed, but his fingers remained firmly around hers. “That’s my Violet. Ever practical.”

Daniel woke again, flat on his back in his Parisian hotel room, hurting all over. But it wasn’t so bad, because Violet lay next to him, clad in a thick dressing gown, her hair in a long braid. She was asleep, her lashes dark against her face, her breathing soft and even.

Images and sensations swirled back at him—Jacobi, the fight, pain, Violet’s voice as she told him she loved him.

She was beautiful when she slept. And when she was awake. When she was naked and when she was clothed—but especially when she was naked.

Daniel lifted his hand—after a moment of trying to remember how that worked—and smoothed Violet’s hair.

Her eyes flew open, and she half sat up. “Daniel.”

“That’s me.” Daniel put his hand to his head. “I think. What the devil happened? Did we get the papers back from Jacobi? The solicitors keep copies, but I need him to sign . . .”

Violet’s fingers on his lips stopped his flow of words. “Jacobi is dead. Buried already. The papers are no longer necessary.”

Daniel stared. “Dead and buried? Dear God, how long have I been asleep?”

He vaguely remembered Simon’s voice saying that Violet was now a widow, but everything after the gunshot was a bit fuzzy. Except Violet’s repeated declaration that she loved him. That he remembered.

“The surgeon sewed you up a week ago. Your father found the best in Paris and dragged him to you. The best nurses too.”

“Kind of him.” Daniel remembered his surprise at hearing Mac’s voice, seeing Ian and Cameron in Jacobi’s house. “What is Dad even doing here? And my uncles? Was there a spontaneous gathering of Scotsmen in Paris?”

Violet’s sudden smile was like June sunshine. “My mother had one of her visions.”

Daniel rubbed his forehead, which was aching. “You mean she saw me fighting eight men at a small house in Montmartre?”

“She saw both of us fighting for our lives. She said it was a confusion of fighting, gunshots, blood, you falling dead. She grew so alarmed she demanded to be taken to Paris to make sure we were all right. Your aunt Eleanor decided it was best she come.”

Daniel hurt too much to laugh. “You win, love. I’ll never cast doubt on your mother’s gift again. And I suppose my entire family, who can’t keep themselves to themselves, had to traipse after her?”

“Ainsley offered to come with my mother alone, but your father wouldn’t let her go without him. Then Ian insisted on coming too, and Beth refused to remain behind if he did. Mac and Isabella grew worried enough to abandon their soirees and come over with them. Everyone is here, except the duke and duchess, who stayed behind to watch over the children.”

“All right, so they came to Paris.” Daniel tried to sort his thoughts. “But how did they know exactly where to find us, if your mother’s vision wasn’t precise?”

“One of the pugilists you borrowed from Mr. Sutton returned to the hotel to make sure Jacobi hadn’t sent men to waylay us here. He found your family waiting in your rooms and told them where you’d gone. The ladies stayed put—after a great deal of argument, I hear—and your uncles and father came.” Violet paused. “Your father has been very upset. He cares a great deal about you.”

“Dad?” Daniel nodded quietly. “Aye, I know. He’s awkward about showing it, but I know.” Cameron had always been gruff, and slow to show affection, but Daniel had always known love was there, even in the frustrating times.

“He wasn’t awkward when we thought you were dead,” Violet said. “He cried.”

“Poor man. And then I lived.”

“Don’t make fun. He thought he’d lost you. So did I.” Violet’s voice broke, her eyes filling with tears.

Daniel touched her cheek. “I told you before, love, I’m resilient. I stayed alive so I could be with you.”

“You had a fever, a terrible fever. The surgeon thought you wouldn’t survive. I was so afraid.”

“Don’t fret, my sweet. I’m very good at recovering.” Daniel caressed her cheek again, thumb brushing away tears. “You know, if Jacobi is dead, you truly are free now.”

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