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Adam. He wore a pleasant expression, but he seemed tense, his smile forced. His wife was at his side,
her round white hand poised on his arm. Emma overheard a brief portion of their conversation as she
walked near them. Adam was attempting to tell a story.
 & friends of ours employed a rather haughty footman dressed in the most splendid blue livery 
 Black livery, dear, Charlotte interrupted gently.
Adam continued as if he hadn't heard her.   and we were walking in their garden, beside the yew
 They were fruit trees, darling, Charlotte corrected.
  when we heard the most frightful yelp, andsplash ! The footman had slipped and fallen into the fish
pond on his way to the carriage house. I've never laughed so much.
 It was quite vulgar, Charlotte added primly.
Emma felt a touch at her elbow and turned to find Tasia beside her. Tasia's face was soft with concern.
She indicated the Milbanks with a flicker of her gaze.  I see you have unexpected company, she said
Emma made a comical face and sighed.  When Nikolas sees them 
 Nikolas won't make a scene, Tasia assured her.  He has too much self-control.
 I hope so.
 Adam seems rather henpecked, Tasia observed.
 Yes, I noticed that. Adam was a sensitive man with touchy pride. Why had he married a woman like
Charlotte? Perhaps she was reacting out of insecurity, trying to assert herself by badgering him.  The
poor woman, Emma said suddenly.  I know what it's like, trying to hold onto an elusive man. I tried for
a long time, and finally recognized the folly of it.
 Whom are you referring to? Tasia asked.  Adam or Nikolas?
Emma smiled ruefully.  Both, I suppose. But Nikolas has changed, and Adam hasn't. I think Adam
thrives on keeping a woman slightly off-balance, never letting her feel that she can entirely depend on
 And you feel you can depend on Nikolas? came Tasia's soft question.
 Yes. Everything I've seen during the past few weeks has convinced me I must take that chance. I've
made up my mind to trust and believe in Nikolas, until he proves me wrong.
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Tasia's gaze was searching.  Have you come to care for him, Emma?
Emma hesitated, debating her answer. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Adam disentangle himself
from his wife and wander through the crowd, stopping at the French doors that opened onto the garden.
He turned and gazed directly at Emma.
Adam wanted to speak with her privately. Emma looked away from him, her brow marked with a
troubled frown. Soon she would slip away and join him.
 Are you certain that's wise? Tasia asked, reading the situation accurately.
 It may not be wise, but it's necessary. I must settle things between us, once and for all.
Nikolas returned to the drawing room with a sense of relief. The boys had delighted Jake with their
admiration of the pony. Stokehurst had been polite and even marginally friendly, murmuring that he would
like to talk with him over a snifter of brandy sometime soon. Nikolas had agreed dutifully, perceiving that
Emma had been correct her father did seem to want peace between them.
As he crossed the threshold of the drawing room, an unfamiliar woman approached him. She was small
and plump, with startlingly hawklike eyes set in her round face.
 Your Highness, she said in a deep voice.  I am Lady Charlotte Milbank. Your wife and my husband
both seem to be missing. Since I am unfamiliar with your estate, I must prevail on you to help me locate
The garden was dark and rustling with winter breezes. The ground was hard and the hedges laced with
frost. Emma's breath blew in ghost-puffs as she walked through the freezing night air.
The garden was the only place she and Adam could be guaranteed the privacy they needed. It seemed
appropriate that they should meet here, the last place they had truly been together before Nikolas had
intervened in their lives.
She found what she was looking for, a small clearing behind the border of Irish yews. Adam was waiting
there, his longish hair blowing gently around his face and neck. He seemed so much older, as if years
instead of months had gone by. Emma felt as if she had aged as well. How could it be that they had both
changed so greatly?
She no longer saw them as young and impetuous lovers, and she realized they were separated by more
than their marriages to other people. She had never really loved Adam. Real love was accepting people's
faults, and forgiving them when they failed. Understanding their weakness, and loving them better for it.
What she and Adam had shared was an illusion it had crumbled at the first real challenge they had
She stopped a few feet away from him. Her lips trembled from the cold.  Why did you come, Adam?
He held out his hand, his palm filled with the white gleam of pearls.  I wanted to give these to you.
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The earrings she had sent back to him. Emma shook her head and folded her arms across her middle.  I
can't accept them.
 Why not? Aren't they as fine as the jewels he gives you? His gaze dropped to the tiger brooch at her
Emma swallowed hard, uncomfortable at being alone with him.  What do you want from me? she
asked in a mixture of impatience and pleading.
 I want to go back to the night you and I were here in this garden. I would do it all differently. I wouldn't
let myself be intimidated into leaving you this time. I didn't realize until it was too late that you were my
only chance at happiness.
 That's not true.
 Isn't it? People say that Nikolas has changed, that marriage to you has made him into a better man. You
might have done that for me had I married you. You would have defied your family and the whole world
to become my wife. You would have loved me.
Once, this moment might have given Emma great pleasure, seeing how much Adam regretted having
abandoned her. But now she didn't want his regrets she wanted them both to find peace.  Adam, it
does neither of us any good to dwell on the past.
 What if I can't stop myself? he asked fiercely, casting the earrings at her feet with such force that one
of the loops shattered, sending pearls flying around her skirts.  I wanted to see you wearing these
tonight& wearing something of mine.
 You should have given them to your wife.
 I don't love her, Adam said, his eyes dark with intense misery.  After I gave you up, I sold my soul. I
thought Charlotte's fortune would be adequate consolation. Do you know what I learned? He laughed
bitterly.  My newfound wealth comes with obligations that turn my stomach. Charlotte treats me as if I'm
a trained monkey. She expects me to do her will, and she rewards me only when I please her. I've lost all
pride, all self-respect.
 Oh, Adam, Emma whispered sadly.  You mustn't tell me such things. I can't help you.
 But you can.
Emma had opened her mouth to argue when she heard the sound of footsteps on the hard ground and
the movement of someone brushing by the garden hedges. A few seconds later, Charlotte Milbank [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]