Her gaze moved over him, reveling in the freedom to look at him to her heart's content. He was splendid, truly splendid, she decided with wistful impartiality. In fact, she had not been entirely naive and foolish a year ago when she had likened him to Michelangelo's David.

Unaware of the tenderness of the gesture, Alexandra leaned down and carefully drew the sheet up over his shoulder, then she straightened, but she did not leave. She absently rubbed her arms as the memory of when he had said, Don't you want me? sent a thrill of pure tenderness through her.

She thought about the way he'd made love to her the first time tonight, with an urgency and need he couldn't hide, despite all his experience in lovemaking. That first time had been better for her than all the others, because it was the only time he seemed to lose control. A fresh surge of delight washed over her as she recalled his helpless apology… "I'm sorry, love. I can't wait." How joyously, gloriously good she had felt—to know that while he was able to make her body feel as if it was on fire for him, she had been able to make him burn as well.

He had made love to her repeatedly after that, throughout the night, but each time thereafterwards, he had exercised rigid control, touching and kissing her with the skill and expertise of a virtuoso playing a violin. He had enjoyed her, she knew that, but never again with the sweet abandon of the first time.

And yet, conversely, he had done his utmost to make her lose her control. But Alexandra was no longer the child who blurted out her undying love after one kiss—or one entire night of stormy lovemaking. She was no longer a reckless, naive, starry-eyed girl. She was cautious now, wiser.

She was also dangerously fascinated by this unexpected, vulnerable side of her enigmatic husband, she realized, and turned away from his sleeping profile. Returning to her own bedchamber, she softly closed the door behind her.

Chapter Twenty-Five

She awoke late in the morning and chafed under the ministrations of Marie, who insisted on brushing her hair until it gleamed before she was ready to discuss whether Alexandra ought to wear her lavender sprigged muslin or the flounced rose frock.

Alexandra, who could not completely suppress her eager curiosity to see how Jordan might treat her this morning, had to force herself to walk slowly and decorously down the steps. With feigned casualness, she walked by Jordan's study. Through the open door, she saw him at his desk talking to one of his bailiffs. He glanced up as she passed and their eyes met; he nodded a brief greeting at her, but there was something in his expression that hinted of displeasure.

Confused by this unexpected attitude, Alexandra politely returned his nod and continued past his study to the morning room, where she ate in thoughtful, somewhat dismal silence, while Penrose and Filbert hovered about, casting anxious, worried looks back and forth between them.

Wisely deciding that the next three months would pass much more quickly if she kept herself busy, she decided to begin paying duty calls on the cottagers, as well as resuming the reading and writing lessons she'd started before the family had gone to London.

She stopped at the stable to play with Henry, whose sociable nature made him prefer the atmosphere of the busy stable to the hushed emptiness of the house. It was late in the afternoon when she finally returned. Exhilarated from the blissful freedom of driving her own carriage through the picturesque winding lanes that meandered through Jordan's vast estate, Alexandra drove her horse at a smart trot past the house and straight to the stables.

Smarth came rushing forward to take the reins from her, his face wreathed in an overbright smile. Apparently eager to foster matrimonial harmony between Alexandra and her husband, he said, while beaming at her, "His grace has been here more'n an hour awaitin' for you—prowling back and forth, fair champin' at the bit with impatience to see you—"

Surprised and shamefully pleased, Alexandra smiled at Jordan as he strode out of the stables, but her smile abruptly faded when she saw that his face was as dark as a thundercloud.

"Don't ever leave the house without telling someone exactly where you're going, and exactly when you expect to return," he snapped, catching her none too gently at the waist and hauling her down from the carriage. "Furthermore, you are not to leave the grounds of this estate without a groom accompanying you. Olsen there"—he nodded toward a huge, muscular bear of a man who was standing in the doorway of the stable—"is your personal groom."

His anger seemed so unjustified, his orders so seemingly unreasonable, and his attitude so different from his compelling tenderness last night, that for a moment Alexandra just stared at him in wide-eyed astonishment, then she felt her temper begin to boil as Smarth hastily and wisely removed himself from earshot

"Are you quite finished?" Alexandra snapped, intending to leave him there and start for the house.

"No," Jordan bit out, looking angrier than ever. "There's one more thing—don't ever crawl out of my bed in the middle of the night when I'm asleep again, like a doxy returning to the wharves!"

"How dare you!" Alexandra exploded, so enraged she swung her hand to strike him before she realized what she was doing.

Jordan caught her wrist in midswing, his hand clamping around the slender bones like a vise, his eyes like shards of ice… and for one moment Alexandra actually thought he was going to strike her. Then without warning he dropped her arm, turned on his heel, and strode off toward the house.

"Now, my lady," Smarth soothed, coming to her side, "the master must be havin' a bad day, for I've not seen him in a temper like that in all his life." Despite his reassuring tone, Smarth's kindly old face was twisted with bewildered concern as he stared at Jordan's broad, retreating back.

In silence, Alexandra turned her head and stared at her old confidant, her eyes alive with anger and painful confusion as he continued. "Why, afore today, I never knew he had a temper—not one like that. I put him on his first pony, and I've known him since he was a boy, and there be no braver, finer—"

"Please!" Alexandra burst out, unable to endure another of the glowing stories she used to enjoy so much. "No more lies! You cannot make him gallant and fine to me, when he's alive and I can see perfectly well he's—he's an evil-tempered, heartless monster!"

"No, my lady, he's not. I knowed him since he was a boy, just as I knowed his father before him—"

"I'm sure his father was a monster, too!" Alexandra said, too hurt and angry to heed what she was saying. "I've no doubt they're exactly alike!"

Tags: Judith McNaught Sequels Billionaire Romance
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