Midnight Bayou Page 85

"The bedroom's fine, but I've only got an hour. Then I've got to go in to work.”

"I've got an hour in me," he replied, then tapped a finger to his lips and crept up the stairs. "Ever roll around naked in bed with a houseful of women scrubbing floors outside the room?”

"No, and that's not on the schedule for this morning.”


"Declan. No, leave the doors open. No, just hold on-was "That's what I'm doing," he said when he'd locked her in his arms. "Holding on. And God, God, it feels good. I've missed you," he murmured, and understood it was Abby as much as himself who held close.

A circle, nearly forged again, he thought. And this time, it wouldn't break.

She's losing, he realized. Josephine. It was all slipping out of her hands.

"I've got things to say to you.”

"I'm done with talking." He laid his lips on hers in a soft, sumptuous kiss. "Lie down with me, Lena. Just lie down with me. I've really missed holding you.”

"I need to do this standing up." She eased away and stood in the spill of sunlight. "I've done things my way up till now, and that's worked out just fine for me. You've complicated things, confused things, irritated me, and turned my life upside down with what was, what is, what might be. I've never cared much for might be's, Declan.”

"How about will be's?”

"That's your hard head talking. I love that about you. I love so many things about you, I've lost count. So here I am stuck with some damn rich Yankee.”

Everything inside him swelled, then went bright as the sun. "Angelina.”

"You just wait till I'm finished." She sighed, paused until she was certain she could speak calmly. "I've got a lot of friends who care about me, maybe even love me the way friends do. I had my grandpapa, who made me the light of his life. I've got Grandmama. But nobody ever loved me just like you do. And the hell of it is, I never loved anybody the way I love you. S.”

She lifted her arms, unclasped the chain around her neck. She held it out to him, the little key dangling. "This is yours now, and has been for some time, I guess. You're the key, cher. You always were.”

He took it, then delighted her by clasping it around his own neck. "I'm going to make you so happy.”

"You damn well better. We getting married or what?”

"You better believe it." With a laugh, he scooped her off her feet, spun her around in circles. "Do you feel it?”

"Feel what? My head's spinning.”

"The house is ours now. Only ours." He set her on her feet. "No more ghosts. No more lives but ours. And we're just beginning.”

She slid her arms around him, lifted her mouth to his. "Welcome home.”

Still holding close, she drew out the pocket watch, turned it faceup. They watched time move on.