Taming Natasha Page 38

Perhaps he did love her. If she believed it, she could allow herself time to let it strengthen. If she believed it, she would have to tell him everything. It was that, even more than her own fears that still held her back.

She needed time for that, as he did.

But tonight was for celebrating.

She knocked and tried a sober smile for Vera. “Good evening.”

“Miss.” With this noncommital greeting, Vera opened the door wider. She kept her thoughts on Natasha very much to herself. True, the woman made the señor happy and seemed very fond of Freddie. But after more than three years of having them to herself, Vera was very cautious of sharing. “Dr. Kimball is in the music room with Freddie.”

“Thank you. I brought some wine.”

“I will take it.”

With only a little sigh, Natasha watched Vera walk away. The more the housekeeper held firm, the more determined Natasha was to win her over.

She heard Freddie’s giggles as she approached the music room. And others, she realized. When she reached the door, she spotted Freddie and JoBeth clinging to each other and squealing. And why not? Natasha thought with a grin. Spence was wearing a ridiculous helmet and aiming a cardboard spool like a weapon.

“Stowaways aboard my ship are fed to the Beta Monster,” he warned them. “He has six-foot teeth and bad breath.”

“No!” Eyes wide, heart pounding with delight and dread, Freddie scrambled for cover. “Not the Beta Monster.”

“He likes little girls best.” With an evil laugh, he scooped the squealing JoBeth under one arm. “He swallows little boys whole, but he chews and chews and chews when I feed him girls.”

“That’s gross.” JoBeth covered her mouth with both hands.

“You bet.” So saying, Spence made a dive and came up with a squirming Freddie. “Say your prayers, you’re about to be the main course.” Then with a muffled “Oomph,” he tumbled onto the couch with both of them.

“We vanquished you!” Freddie announced, climbing over him. “The Wonder Sisters vanquished you.”

“This time, but next time it’s the Beta Monster.” As he blew the hair out of his eyes, he spotted Natasha in the doorway. “Hi.” She thought his smile was adorably sheepish. “I’m a space pirate.”

“Oh. Well, that explains it.” Before she could step into the room, both girls deserted the space pirate to launch themselves at her.

“We always beat him,” Freddie told her. “Always, always.”

“I’m glad to hear it. I wouldn’t want anyone I know to be eaten by the Beta Monster.”

“He just made it up,” JoBeth said wisely. “Dr. Kimball makes things up real good.”

“Yes, I know.”

“JoBeth’s going to stay for dinner, too. You’re going to be Daddy’s guest and she’s going to be mine. You get to have seconds first.”

“That’s very polite.” She bent to kiss Freddie’s cheeks, then JoBeth’s. “How is your mama?”

“She’s going to have a baby.” JoBeth screwed up her face and shrugged her shoulders.

“I heard.” Natasha smoothed JoBeth’s hair. “Are you taking care of her?”

“She doesn’t get sick in the mornings anymore, but Daddy says she’ll be fat soon.”

Miserably envious, Freddie shifted from one foot to the other. “Let’s go up to my room,” she told JoBeth. “We can play with the kittens.”

“You will wash your hands and faces,” Vera told them as she came in with the ice bucket and glasses. “Then you will come down to dinner, walking like ladies, not running like elephants.” She nodded to Spence. “Miss Stanislaski brought champagne.”

“Thank you, Vera.” Belatedly he remembered to remove his helmet.

“Dinner in fifteen minutes,” she stated, then went out.

“Now she knows I have designs on you,” Natasha muttered. “And is certain I’m after your great wealth.”

With a laugh, he pried the cork free. “That’s all right, I know you’re only after my body.” Wine frothed to the lip of the glasses, then receded.

“I like it very much. Your body.” With a smile she accepted the flute of champagne.

“Then maybe you’d like to enjoy it later.” He touched the rim of his glass to hers. “Freddie twisted my arm and got me to agree to a sleep-over at the Rileys’. So I don’t feel left out, maybe I can stay with you tonight. All night.”

Natasha took her first sip of wine, letting the taste explode on her tongue. “Yes,” she said, and smiled at him.


Natasha watched the shadows dancing from the lights the candles tossed around the room. Soothing, they played over the curtains, the top rung of the old ladder-back chair in the corner, over the coxcomb she had impulsively slipped into an empty milk bottle and set on her dresser. Her room, she thought. It had always been very much hers. Until…

With a half sigh she let her hand rest on Spence’s heart.

It was no longer quiet; the wind had risen to toss a late, cold rain against the panes. Outside it was a chilled, gusty night that promised a chilled, frosty morning. Winter often came early to the little town snuggled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. But she was warm, beautifully warm, in Spence’s arms.

The silence between them was easy, as the loving had been. Curled close, they lay still, content to let the hours pass, one lazy second at a time. Each of them quietly celebrated the knowledge that in the morning they wouldn’t wake alone. His hand skimmed over her thigh, her hip, until it linked with hers.

There was music playing inside her head—the song he had given her that morning. She knew she would remember each note, each chord, for the rest of her life. And it was only the beginning for him, or a new beginning. The idea of that delighted her. In the years to come she would hear his music and remember the time they had had together. On hearing it she would celebrate again, even if his music took him away.

Still, she had to ask.

“Will you go back to New York?”

He brushed his lips through her hair. “Why?”

“You’re composing again.” She could imagine him there, in evening dress, attending the opening of his own symphony.

“I don’t need to be in New York to compose. And if I did, there are more reasons to stay here.”

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