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Page 115

“Yes.”

“And yet, you’re still here.”

Violet’s lips curved into her smile. “Yes.”

“I’ll see if I can’t make ye stay, Mrs. Mackenzie.”

“I’m not . . .”

“Not yet. But you will be.”

Violet bit her lip, the light in her eyes dying. “Daniel, I killed him. I had the gun in my hands, and I turned it around and fired it at him.” She closed her eyes for a moment. “Mac told the police that Ian and Simon struggled with Jacobi for the gun after he shot me, and the gun went off. Simon corroborated, and Ian . . . just said nothing.”

“That’s Ian. Has trouble lying, so he shuts up.” Daniel scowled. “Wait. Shot you?”

Violet moved aside a fold of her dressing gown to show a thick bandage around her thigh. “The surgeon said it was clean and did little damage. It just needs to knit. Same with Ian’s arm.”

Daniel’s anger surged, which made his head pound. “Bloody hell, woman. Ye were supposed to go with Simon back to the hotel. Not run in after me to get yourself shot.”

Her blue eyes sparkled. “If I hadn’t stayed, Simon wouldn’t have been there to save your life.”

“But if you had died, love, I wouldn’t have wanted to live.”

Violet stilled. Daniel caressed her face again, his heart pounding and making him sick. If he’d lost her . . .

He cupped his hand around the back of her neck, pulled her down to him, and kissed her. The kiss grew long, warming, seeking.

“I almost lost you,” Violet whispered. “Don’t ever do that to me again.”

“Never.” Daniel kissed her softly again. “Marry me, Violet Devereaux.”

Violet caught her breath. “Marry . . . ?”

Daniel attempted a shrug, flinched from the wash of pain the movement brought, and stilled until it receded. “We’ve been pretending to be man and wife. Why not make it real?”

Her look turned cautious. “I’m not the sort of woman a man like you marries. It would be a misalliance.”

Daniel stopped smiling. “Listen to me, love. The Mackenzies are aristocrats only because one of our ancestors saved the life of a king in 1300 and something. The king was grateful, so he called that Mackenzie a duke. Queen Vicki decided she’d show how much she loved the Scots by making my grandfather duke in the English peerage about fifty years ago. But we’re Scottish, not English, and we’re not obsessed with titles. The great Hart Mackenzie, Duke of Kilmorgan, isn’t even clan leader. Oh no, Hart bends his knee and pledges fealty to The Mackenzie at every clan gathering, and he’s not ashamed to do it. My family would be far happier if I married you, an intelligent woman with the fortitude to stand up to me, than if I married someone like Lady Victoria Whatsit, a wisp of a girl who only wants a rich husband. They’d have to have dinner with her, you see, and your conversation is so much more interesting.”

Violet was laughing. “Daniel.”

“Therefore, you should marry me, Violet. It’s the only reasonable solution.”

“I’m older than you.”

“I prefer it that way. I grew up fast, and I have no patience with girls fresh out of the schoolroom.”

“And I’m a fraud. You knew that the moment you met me. I’ve been so many different people.”

“And now you’ll be Violet Mackenzie.” He touched the tip of her nose. “I know exactly who you are. And so do you.”

“Yes.”

Daniel’s heart beat faster. “Yes, you know who you are?”

“Yes, I’ll marry you.” Violet’s smile broke through, the look in her eyes telling him all he needed to know.

“Vi.” Daniel closed his eyes. The emotions pouring through him made his body ache like hell, but the pain was a small price to pay. He opened his eyes again. “Vi, you’re . . .” Daniel gave up and pulled her down to him. “Don’t ever go,” he said, voice harsh. “Without you, my life would be . . . just going through the motions.”

Words died as Daniel held her. Violet rested her forehead against his, her tears falling to his cheeks. “I can’t go back to being without you,” she said. “I can’t.”

“Then we won’t ever be apart.” Daniel slid his hand beneath her hair. “We won’t ever.”

“I love you, Daniel Mackenzie.”

“I love you Violet . . . Whoever you might be today.”

“Mackenzie,” she said, and her smile filled his world. “I will always be Violet Mackenzie.”

“The best name I’ve ever heard,” Daniel said, and lost himself in her kiss.

Chapter 32

The next several months were a whirlwind. Daniel recovered, then recruited Simon to help him finish the last task he wanted to accomplish before he left France.

Daniel fairly quickly ran the red-bearded man to earth. Jacobi had given him the name Edmund Collard, who, it turned out, owned several bistros and gambling establishments in Paris. Collard also loaned money to gentlemen at high rates of return—usually to use at his roulette tables—then threatened dire fates if the men couldn’t pay him back.

Daniel had spent his convalescence learning much about Collard’s day-to-day routines, and he entered one of Collard’s bistros one night when he knew the man would be there.

Collard sat at a private table in a corner, a few gentlemen with him. His finely tailored suit, well-made gloves, and neatly trimmed beard and side whiskers made him look like any other respectable Parisian businessman. He held a thick cigar in one hand, a glass of tawny port in the other as he spoke to the gentlemen at his table.

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