“Of course you’re precious to me, minx. You ought to know that.”
He showed her in every way he could.
Every way save one.
The most frightening.
There it was. For all that he was a fearsome, powerful man to most in the East End, the notion of making himself so vulnerable to his wife left him petrified nonetheless.
She cupped his cheek, caressing his jaw, and the last of the ice inside him melted. “Oh, Jasper. You have no notion of how much those words mean to me. You are precious to me as well.”
He swallowed a sudden knot in his throat and blinked at a sudden wetness in his eyes which was as perplexing as it was irritating. “There is something I’ve been thinking about.”
She gave him a wicked smile. “I do believe you think about it often.”
Ha! He would have laughed at her boldness had he been capable of mirth. But the emotions churning within him were similar to the ones which had presented themselves along with his daughters. A profound love mingled with awe and a dash of fright.
“I do think about that with an alarming frequency whenever you’re about,” he managed at last. “But in this instance, I was referring to this proposed gossip journal of yours.”
She froze, her eyes going wide. “Do you mean to say you have changed your mind about it?”
“Not entirely.” He turned his head to kiss her gloved palm before continuing. “I still think there is a very good chance you shall land yourself into all manner of difficulties by operating such a publication.”
Her disappointment was almost palpable, her frown hitting him in the heart with the efficiency of any barb. He knew he would do anything for this woman. Everything to make her happy. To show her how loved she was.
“But,” he continued, “I want you to do what pleases you, because you please me very much. And I… If it means starting your journal, I will do whatever I must to assist. Only promise me you shan’t be sneaking about the East End with nothing but a tiger for protection. Where you go, I or one of my men will follow. No putting yourself in danger. I could not bear it were any harm to befall you.”
“Oh, Jasper.” Her smile was as broad as it was beautiful. “You have no notion how happy this makes me. How happy you make me.”
The gratitude and tender emotion in her voice was almost his undoing. “I am glad of it, minx.”
Say something more. Say something. Tell her you love her, fool.
But he was all-a-mort. No more words forthcoming, tongue and mind utterly uncooperative.
She spoke next. “Jasper, I have fallen in love with you.”
She was stronger than he was, and the knowledge was his undoing.
He was about to respond, but before he could form his reply, her lips were on his, and the kiss was the sweetest she had given him yet. A heady mixture of tenderness and desire. And his heart was full of love for her, his hands were filled with the pleasing, womanly curves of her, and the carriage rocked on.
Taking them back to their new home.
Tonight, he decided as he escorted her along the pavements.
He would tell her tonight.
If only he had told me he loved me.
Stupid thought, dogging her with every step. Regardless of how many times she attempted to chase it, it lingered and remained. She had told Jasper she loved him, and he had…
Well, he had not offered the same in return.
Her disappointment was foolish, she knew. Her love for him had grown and blossomed on its own. His love was not a requirement, and neither had she spoken the words with the expectation he would repeat them back to her. Yet, she could not deny that, all these hours later, and with time and distance a painful separation between them, the significance of his failure to do so bit into her heart.
But then, it was likely also a product of his abrupt departure.
After spending such a wonderful, relaxed day with Jasper, Octavia found herself feeling wistful and alone in the library of the quiet townhome. She was quite dismayed that trouble at The Sinner’s Palace had him rushing to the gaming hell instead of remaining with her and the children for the evening as they had planned. Having him all to herself for an entire morning, day, and night was a luxury she had yet to experience.