She wasn’t his wife—that bit of reality had worn down the more he’d rolled it around in his mind, became less of an issue. He was the only one who knew, besides her and her sister. Rosemary wasn’t a concern to him. Their marriage wasn’t real. Never had been. To him it was even more nonexistent than it had been before. What he’d focused on the last few hours was the fact that Millie didn’t want a divorce—had said so herself. Any number of things could have happened out there tonight and she would have never known how he really felt.
He wasn’t going to take that chance again.
Seth entered quietly and removed his coat and hat, and after one step, when his boot heels echoed in the silence, he removed his footwear, as well. Then he crossed the room and knelt down next to the sofa, where she was curled on her side, both hands folded beneath one cheek.
Beautiful didn’t start to describe her. Her glorious hair, her fine and delicate features, were exquisite, but her loveliness went beneath that. He’d seen inside her the past weeks, and that’s where her true beauty emerged from.
“Sweetheart,” he whispered, brushing his fingers over the silky skin of her forehead.
Her eyes opened slowly and a smile formed as she blinked. “I like it when you call me that,” she answered sleepily, and her lids closed again.
“Then that’s all I will call you,” he said, nuzzling her hair with the tip of his nose. “Sweetheart.” It was the perfect name. He couldn’t call her by her given name, wouldn’t call her by her sister’s name. Someday he’d have to admit to knowing who she was, get to the reason she was here, but right now, it didn’t matter.
He leaned over and blew out the light. “It’s time for bed,” he whispered, easing his hands beneath her.
She stiffened and her eyes popped open. “You’re home.”
“Yes, I’m home.” He lifted her into his arms.
Hers wrapped around his neck and she snuggled against him. “I missed you.”
“I missed you, too.”
“I knew you’d be back.”
“And I knew you’d be here.”
“Always,” she said, tightening her hold.
His hold tightened, too, as he started up the stairs. He’d never held anything more precious. More perfect. “Always,” he repeated.
No part of him suggested he take her to her room, yet once they’d entered his, and he arrived at the bed, a flash of uncertainty had him wondering what to do next. The way her hands roamed his neck, shoulders, chest and back said she was now fully conscious, and there wasn’t a single thing about him that wasn’t wide-awake.
“You’re all right?” she asked.
Wondering about his answer, he said, “Yes.”
“You weren’t hurt, were you?”
He eased his arm from beneath her knees, lowered her feet to the floor, so they ended up standing with their arms around each other and their gazes locked. “Not so much as a scratch,” he answered.
“I knew you would be fine.” She lifted her face, and he accepted the invitation, thrilled beyond coherent thoughts. The kiss went from soft and sweet to hot and needy within seconds. When their lips parted and they’d both inhaled, she whispered, “I want to be a wife you can be proud of.”
His heart doubled in size. “I am proud of you,” he said, running a single fingertip down the side of her face.
“I’m very proud of you, too,” she whispered.
Their next kiss lasted twice as long and had him losing control of how much longer he could wait. He’d never wanted a woman the way he wanted her. Fully. Completely. “I think it’s time we take this thing off.” Digging beneath the ruffles of lace on her housecoat, he added, “If I can find the buttons.”
She giggled, that sweet lifting laugh that made the world a bright and amazing place.
“They’re too big to miss,” she insisted, pushing his hands aside. “Here, let me.” She folded back the lace and slipped three huge buttons through their holes. Then slowly, one after the other, she shrugged her arms out, and let the gown fall to the floor. “How’s that?”
He raised a brow while running his fingertip along the neckline of a thinner, but just as concealing gown. “Better, but I don’t believe we need this one, either.”
Watching his fingers tug on the pink ribbon tied just above her breasts, she asked demurely, “But what will I sleep in?”