Chapter 9

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"Who knew sex was so powerful?" Breath racing to calm, their laughter lingered in the dark dining room.

"We combusted and killed the electricity. Completely worth it," he responded and fastened the last of the buttons on his jeans.

Working to straighten clothes and hair in the pitch-black room, neither said a word. Emerson took the still moments to find her voice, to speak the questions on her mind as thoughts returned. "Why did you bring me here? You clearly have your pick of women if all you want is sex. Actually you have your pick of women regardless of what you want. So why go to all the trouble?"

Because she couldn't see his face, she couldn't judge his silence. In negotiations with business partners, silence was potent and open for interpretation. But in the dark, there was nothing to read, nothing to perceive.

She stood still, ready to return to the others who were likely huddled around the fireplace for warmth and light, and found the quiet unsettling by comparison.

"I have a different answer now than I did when I sent for you."

Irritation breathed on her neck making her inner independence twitch. "This is the twenty-first century. You don't send for women. You did however trick me into coming here under false pretenses which is completely different than sending for someone."

She exhaled at his silence.

"You really are quick on the trigger, aren't you?"

"You can evaluate my shots after you've answered the question."

"Feisty," he stated with a hint of a smile in his voice. "I like it. And I like you, Emerson."

She waited for more, and when none came, she offered sarcasm, "Well, that explains it."

"I wasn't finished yet. Are you always this impatient?"



"I have a lot to juggle in my life and my productivity is directly correlated to my ability to be impatient enough to cut through the crap."

"You think what I'm saying is crap?"

"I wouldn't know, you haven't said much." She heard herself, she heard her tone and, given that it was impossible to see one another, she took the moment to roll her eyes at herself.

He exhaled into the silent darkness—annoyed with and appreciating her snappy impatience.

"When I met you in New Orleans years ago, you were full of life and passion and your presence stuck with me. I've carried it with me, and every now and then it sneaks up and I think of you. I love adventure, I loved that you were so adventurous and vivacious. I thought of you then saw your picture in the trades and figured it was my second chance.

"I brought you here because I wanted adventure. But..." He pulled in a deep inhale then let it out. "I find myself wanting you to stay because I like you."

His hand reached hers in the dark and startled her, her pulse dancing under his grip in response.

"I like you and I want to know more of you. I want to know if you're stubborn for the sake of it, or if you're just used to doing everything on your own. I want to know what you're like when you're in love." He swallowed hard at his use of the foreign word. "I want to know what's in your heart."

Spinning like a dervish, her mind grabbed for words. "Have you? Ever been in love?"

He pulled her in to tuck against him. "I've cared deeply for women I've been with but mostly it's just been adventure."

Bodies pressed together in the dark, the quiet in the castle dining room, the cool whispers of air surrounding, and the heat of each other warming.

"My brother is going to have surgery again soon." He continued. "Just waiting for the call on the date and time." Liam's steady voice shook and he took a moment to calm.

"His wife's been by his side every step of the way. And it's... I don't know, beautiful, I guess, that they have each other. And that's been missing for me, in my life. It's been missing and I thought of you. So I brought you here. Tricked you. Whatever you want to call it. I just wanted to see you.

"You're a spirited woman with a beautiful heart, Emerson Brown, and I like you."    

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