The look on Elliot’s face made her stop. His eyes held pure carnality, raw need. He was a beautiful man, naked on his back, his tanned body spread for her on the sheets.
She had time for only one delicious glance before Elliot seized her under her arms and dragged her up his body. His mouth opened over hers, and his hands parted her legs.
Elliot lifted her hips a little, then sank her down onto him, his hardness entering her and rising high inside her. Juliana gasped, the position opening her, her body arching as more of him went into her.
Elliot’s hips were moving then, his hands strong on her waist. Juliana felt joy build within her, the tight spiraling where nothing was real but Elliot inside her and the feelings in her heart.
As cries escaped her lips, Elliot rolled her over, the mattress crackling, and drove down into her. His eyes were fixed with a determined, almost mad light as their bodies came together.
Juliana remembered crying out, then Elliot shouting, then both of them collapsing onto cool sheets.
Elliot landed next to her, pulling her back into his embrace. Lassitude and peace struck her, and Juliana fell into a pit of sleep.
Elliot jumped awake.
Nothing had moved. Nothing had changed. And yet…
Moonlight mixed with lingering twilight outside the window, keeping darkness at bay. The half-light made Juliana’s already pale skin white as marble.
Her quiet breathing hadn’t woken him. Nor had any shout in the corridor—not McGregor and Komal in one of their English-Punjabi arguments, not Hamish bellowing something down the hall. The house was silent, the frogs, crickets, and night birds outside filling the dusk with soothing music.
A clock in the hall, which Juliana had insisted be cleaned, wound, and set, chimed twelve times. Midnight. An enchanted hour.
Elliot rose noiselessly from the bed. He could move like a ghost, skills learned as a tracker and hunter settling on him without him having to think about it.
Juliana slept on, undisturbed. Elliot pulled on his shirt, wrapped his kilt around his waist, grabbed his boots, and went into the hall.
He donned his boots at the bottom of the stairs then walked quietly along the flagstones to the kitchen. He found the shotgun Mahindar had hidden in the butler’s pantry, and shells in a drawer high in a kitchen cupboard.
Mahindar was nowhere in sight, the family taking a well-deserved sleep. The likeliest person Elliot would encounter was McGregor, who sometimes wandered the house at night, but even he remained upstairs and quiet.
A cool breeze met Elliot when he stepped out the back door, but he didn’t bother fetching a coat. He could wrap up in his kilt if need be.
A fox called in the distance, followed by the noise of small animals scurrying for cover. At the end of the garden, just outside the gate, Elliot stopped and loaded the gun, tucking spare shells into his sporran, along with the tin of biscuits he’d found in the cupboard next to the shells. He kept the gun open, slung over his arm.
He started along the path that would take him to the footbridge that led over the river to Rossmoran land. He and Juliana had used this route to return to the house that evening.
As Elliot walked, he relived the tactile sensations of being with Juliana—he inside her, she squeezing down without knowing she did it, the cushion of her br**sts against his chest. He also remembered the delicious feeling of her tongue on his cock. Her hesitant little licks and kisses, growing bolder by the second, had him nearly crazed with need.
She was too innocent yet for the things he wanted to do with her. Her well-meaning stepmother had taught her that a man bedded his wife using one position, did his business quickly, and disappeared back to his club and his mistresses. Elliot would have to teach her that this was not necessarily so. Besides, he had no intention of spending days at a stifling club with hidebound men, nor did he intend taking a mistress. What idiot would, when he had Juliana?
Elliot reached the footbridge and the path that led to the steep hill where he and Juliana had climbed from the tunnels. He picked his way along, the moonlight giving him no need for a lantern.
The hill curved around into the fold of the valley, another hill rising beyond it. Elliot knew there must be more entrances to the tunnels—the McGregors of old would not have allowed themselves to be bottled inside if their enemies found and blocked one. He walked to the next hill, where trees began to rise around him again.
The woods went quiet, the watcher back.
Elliot snapped the shotgun closed and cocked it. “Come on out and face me,” he said, voice loud in the still air. “If I like what you say, I might not shoot you.”
Silence. An owl hooted far, far away.
Only one man in Elliot’s experience could track him in this way. But he was dead, gone, buried, forgotten by the world. Unfair that he was forgotten, because he’d been amazingly good at what he did, but the world was like that.
Stacy had to be dead. When Mahindar had told Elliot about the man’s death, Elliot had accepted the story as plausible, because Stacy had been volatile and tended to provoke people.
Equally plausible was that Stacy had provoked Elliot, and Elliot had throttled him. Mahindar could have invented the story of Stacy dying in Lahore to spare Elliot—Mahindar was forever trying to spare Elliot.
The fact that Elliot had no memory of murdering Stacy meant nothing. He had no memory of many things, and Elliot had learned so well to be an expert at killing.
The watcher displayed skills very familiar to Elliot—he’d taught Stacy most of them.
Elliot was being stalked by a dead man. Or a man who was supposed to be dead and was not. Elliot still lived some of his days sunk in confusion, but his instincts, honed by months of animal-like existence, told him truths that his reason could not grasp.