Phoebe laughed, spirit skipping with happiness. “But your horse is named Sam. You cannot name our child after a horse.”

James met her gaze, eyes twinkling with good humor. “I resent that logic. My horse has more character than half of the people I know, and besides, Sam’s full name is not Samuel… it’s Sampson.”

Phoebe threaded her fingers through James’s hair, enjoying the intimacy and the ease of their conversation. “Sampson? Did you not once lecture me on the folly of giving horses uppity names?”

He lifted his head, gazing down at her with an irresistible grin. “Which is why I call him, Sam. No need for him to know he has an uppity name.”

Phoebe laughed again. Truly, she couldn’t remember the last time she’d laughed so much. Probably not since last spring when her romance with James had first budded.

He winked. “But now that you mention it. We’d best not name our children anything unusual. Perhaps we’ll name this one John.”

“Mm hm, and what if she is a girl.”


Phoebe tilted her head, surprised by how readily the name came to his lips. “You’ve really thought about this, haven’t you?”

He sobered, expression remaining soft. “Since the moment I learned of my impending fatherhood.”

Their eyes connected for a long moment. A warm flush crept through Phoebe. She believed him. He wanted to be with her… to make a family… He hadn’t walked away when given the chance.

“I was thinking,” he murmured, shifting so that he lay half on top of her. “There is no need to leave for my uncle’s estate this evening.” He dropped a kiss to the tender flesh where her throat met her jaw. “We could stay another night here.”

Little shivers glided along her spine as James skimmed his palm down her side and across her hip to the very edge of her shift. Her heart skipped a beat as his calloused fingers dipped beneath the hem and breezed over the bare flesh of her thigh. Excitement and desire flared to life in her blood. She remembered this… the exhilaration of his touch… the absolute bliss of being held in his lover’s embrace… In all the madness to follow their first forbidden encounter she’d all but forgotten how perfect it felt to lie with him. The perfection of simply being in his presence.

Phoebe took his face in her hands, searching his eyes. “I would be more than willing to stay here so long as we don’t leave this bed.”

James grinned roguishly before taking her mouth in a hungry kiss. “Make me an offer like that and we may not leave tomorrow either.”

* * * *

Late afternoon sunshine bathed the Viscount Huntington’s lovely manor house in golden rays, creating a picturesque view that left Phoebe itching to paint. Large leafy trees lined the road and beautiful flowering hedges decorated the yard. Excited, Phoebe slid her arm through James’s and glanced up at him. Their eyes connected and they shared a warm smile.

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