“Today, she didn’t. Next time might be different.”
Juliana waved her hands in exasperation. “Anyway, because I didn’t see Mrs. Rossmoran, we went right on to the Terrells, and I need to tell you what happened there. The Terrells have some friends named Dalrymple, and I’m afraid they believe you killed Mr. Stacy.”
He didn’t look at her. The only indication that Elliot had heard her came from a faint twitch of brows.
“Who knows?” he said slowly. “I might have.”
Juliana had opened her mouth to agree with him that it was absurd, and the words got tangled up. “I know…she could not…What? But you said yourself that Mr. Stacy had disappeared when you went back to your plantation, and you never saw him again.”
“Never saw him again that I remember,” he corrected. “Mahindar told me he’d been reported dead in Lahore, but that was when I was very ill, and I have little memory of anything I did during that time.”
“But Mahindar would know,” Juliana said. “He nursed you, didn’t he? He’s been with you through everything. Perhaps you ought to tell me exactly what happened to you.”
Elliot paused, but when Juliana thought he would begin pouring out the whole tale, he only said, “Have Mahindar tell you. He will be more coherent.”
“But if you had done such a dreadful thing, even if you didn’t remember, Mahindar would know about it. And he’d have told you.”
Elliot shook his head. “Mahindar might have kept it from me. From everyone.”
“Why on earth would he do that?”
“To protect me. If I don’t know what I’ve done, I won’t rush out and turn myself in to the police.”
He was far, far too calm about this. “Well, I refuse to believe it,” Juliana said. “What reason would you have for killing Mr. Stacy?”
Elliot’s shoulders went up in a small shrug. “Maybe I was taking my revenge on him.”
“This is all absurd. I will ask Mahindar to tell me the truth.”
“He lies for me very well. And to me.”
Juliana lifted her chin. “Not to me, he won’t. But we must do something about the Dalrymples. We cannot have the police rushing up here to arrest you.”
Elliot’s eyes narrowed as he at last looked at Juliana fully. “I agree. I’ve never heard of these Dalrymples.”
“They claim they lived in India and were great friends of Mr. Stacy. And that they’d met you at least once.”
“Stacy never mentioned them. And I never met them.”
“Interesting.” Juliana tapped her lip. “I believe we should learn more about them, and I believe I know who to ask. Now then, you said, before you dragged me through the caves, that you remembered why you’d come down to them this morning. What did you mean?”
“I’m not sure now. I had an idea, but…”
Juliana folded her hands. “I’d be ever so interested to learn, now that I’ve climbed through all the caves and am dirty and scratched.”
Elliot turned and looked straight at her, all interest in Mr. Stacy, the Dalrymples, and their horrible accusation gone. “But I’d rather go back to talking about children.” His focus was entirely on her again, penetrating any barrier Juliana might have raised, bypassing any stray thought. “I want children, and I want them with you. Do you want them with me?”
His look was heart-stopping. Juliana’s body warmed, the breeze in the shadows becoming nothing.
“Yes,” she said. “I do.”
The little smile she gave him when she answered, half coy, half innocent, made his blood incandescent.
He did not want Juliana involved in his past, did not want it to touch her. Juliana was his now, his future.
Elliot turned to face her as she leaned against the boulder, one of his knees going between her legs, leaned down, and kissed her.
She tasted of dust and the wind of the late afternoon. Her skin was damp with perspiration, cheeks streaked with dirt. She was achingly beautiful.
Elliot hadn’t bothered with breeches beneath his kilt, the weather being so warm. Juliana’s comment on his naked state below the tartan had twisted heat through him. She liked to look at him, had no embarrassment about her husband’s naked body. He’d always known she wasn’t a vaporish miss, and he loved her for it now. His c**k bumped Juliana’s skirt through his plaid, wanting to be inside her, wanting them to be naked on the ground on this quiet, wild hill.
Dangerous. But he knew the watcher was gone, the noises of the countryside normal. Birds flitted in the brush and rabbits rustled, not worried about Elliot and Juliana.
Juliana’s mouth held warmth, her lips more skilled at kissing him now. She shaped them to his, and her tongue flicked across Elliot’s without him having to coax.
His c**k tightened even more. He wanted her tongue on it, her lips closing around him while he skimmed his hands through her hair and thrust gently into her mouth. But that was the skill of a courtesan. Elliot would teach it to her, but not here, not yet.
Elliot broke the kiss, liking how Juliana kept her hands clasped behind his neck, her eyes half closed, as though not wanting to let him go. Her mouth was moist and red, and Elliot kissed it again.
Then he gently untwined her grip and sank down to kneel in front of her. Elliot bunched her skirt in his hands, the hem damp and muddy now, and pushed it upward.