Chapter 21

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Jacob felt like someone had poured a bucket of ice cold water onto his head and without a warning, at that.

"He took it in exchange for settling a debt?" he asked, needing to be sure if he'd heard her right.

She nodded, her eyes pitying. He didn't know what to say.

He took the necklace dangling from her hands–his mother's necklace and motioned her to turn around. He put it against her neck, the opal resting between the valley of her bosom.

"It belongs to you now," he said. He knew without doubt that if there was any woman who deserved to wear it after his mother, it was this one.

After the treasure hunt had ended, Jacob had used the hours of being away from her to think. And he'd decided that he'd marry her. It was quite simple, really. He wanted her in his life until he took his last breaths. If there was only one way to achieve that and that was marriage, so be it. Olivia had been right. He wanted the marriage his parents had, only he'd make sure this one never ended.

Seeing her moist eyed, the ache in his chest dissolved a bit. If he could affect her, surely he meant something to her? Surely she'd agree to be his?

"I can't..." she shook her head slightly and made to undo the clasp but he held her arms, rendering them motionless.

"I want you to have it," he said firmly, his voice brooking no argument. But she still opened her mouth to protest so he quickly covered her mouth with his.

***

The next morning, Jacob felt a spark of renewed hope. Yes, he'd callously thought to ruin her for his own gain and yes, he had ended up ruining her anyway but he knew it wasn't too late.

He could still make amends and he would.

He couldn't go back to living in the hell he'd surrounded himself with after experiencing what heaven must be like with her, he thought, brushing her chocolaty curls away from her face.

When she saw him next, she'd see him on his knees with a ring in his hand. If he had to make amends with her bastard of a father to marry her, he'd bloody well do it.

Jacob left her sleeping form on the bed and walked up to her dressing table after dressing. He picked up the opal pendant and pocketed it in his coat. He'd ask the jeweller to show him something similar to this. He felt like a ring like that would mean more to Olivia than a customary diamond or gold band. Oh he'd get her those too—for the wedding perhaps. But when he proposed to her, he wanted it to be special, memorable.

If he left for London now, he could come back in a day. And so he did, leaving a note for Olivia, saying he'd be back in a day. He didn't tell anyone where he was going except for Lord Remington so he didn't get worried at his absence.

Upon reaching London, however, he discovered that his uncle was here as well, the picture of health with Lady Melissa on his side.

"How have you been, Uncle?" Jacob didn't hesitate before hugging him this time.

His uncle hugged him back and chuckled, "never been better."

"I see Lady Melissa has made you very happy."

"Oh but she has," his uncle winked with a grin and Jacob let out a choked laugh at that. "I could say the same about Lady Olivia and you, hmm?"

"Yes, well—about that, I want to marry her, Uncle George. I know her father is your sworn enemy but—"

"But what? If you want to marry that woman, you're bloody well going to marry her-my enmity with Cavendish be damned," his uncle cut him off. "The Prince regent himself cannot stop the union!" his uncle thundered. "You must ask Melissa first though," his uncle added a little sheepishly.

Jacob laughed and nodded, although he didn't relish the idea much. He approached Lady Melissa—his new aunt in a few days. She was alone in the parlour, reading a magazine, munching on biscuits.

"Would you mind if I join you, my lady?" he bowed.

"Oh, not at all. Do come in, Jacob. And you must tell me, how is my niece?" she directed him to the sofa next to hers.

"She's fine," he said shortly. She's the most wonderful woman on this planet, he wanted to say.

Melissa nodded, pleased with his response. "Was there anything else?" she asked in that way of hers that he'd soon become familiar with.

It was suspicion mixed with a bit of curiosity. And Jacob found that he had come to adore that as well.

"As a matter of fact, there is. I wish to marry Olivia," he said just as she bit into a biscuit.

She began to cough, choking on the biscuit. Jacob grimaced and quickly poured her a cup of tea. He patted her back soothingly as her coughs subsided.

"I'm fine now," she held him off. "What did you just say?"

"I wish to marry your niece," he repeated.

"Have you ruined her?"

Jacob nodded solemnly.

"Then there's no way around it, is there?" she shrugged, no censure in her tone.

Jacob actually gaped. "That's it?"

"I was sort of hoping this would happen," she shrugged again. Jacob raised his brows. "Not the ruining, of course. Just that you two marry," she clarified.

"Why?"

"Well she's never shown so much interest in any other man before and I've discovered that you're not that bad," she grinned cheekily.

"You never fail to surprise me, my lady," he chuckled.

She just winked.

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