Excerpt from Pretender's Game

   
     Silently cursing whoever had forced his hand, James said coolly, "What do you think those plans might be?"
     Turning away from the window, Thea went toward the hearth. There she prodded the fire with an iron poker, almost as if she would prefer to be poking him instead, James thought ruefully. "Since you force the issue, sir, I will tell you what you should have told me in the first place. Your plans, I believe, include leaving Edinburgh for some benighted spot in the mountains."
     James suppressed his annoyance over her description of his beloved Glenmuir. "You don't approve of our removal to the Highlands."
     Thea tossed down the poker, then swept him a graceful, mocking curtsy. "I go where my husband commands. It is not mine to approve or disapprove."
     James said mildly, "You would do well to remember that, madam."
     Rising to her full height, Thea's angry brown eyes challenged him. "When we've reached Glenmuir, Mr. MacLonan, do you intend to tell others all of those unimportant little details that a husband usually tells his wife? Will I be the last to know if you decide to visit one of your other properties, only finding out when you don't sit down to dinner with me?"
     "That is unfair, Thea."
     She made a little sound that seethed with frustration. "Was it fair of you to tell my parents that we would be living in Glenmuir before you told me?"
     "So that is what this is all about," James breathed softly. He suspected that his father had decided that the Tilton family deserved to know that their daughter would not be living in Edinburgh, and so he'd mentioned the issue to General Tilton—in confidence, most likely, James thought cynically—Tilton had then told his wife, who had told Thea. The result was the righteous fury that was driving Thea now.
     "I expected better of you, sir!"
     "Thea, have done! I did not deliberately set out to slight you."
     "But it happened!"
     "Yes, it did."
     Her eyes blazing, she hurried to the door in a rustle of silken skirts. There she paused, dramatically outlined in the opening. "We both know the reasons for our marriage, James MacLonan. I do not expect affection from you, but I do expect respect. Next time you have an order to give which concerns me, pray consider informing me before any other."
     "That sounds remarkably like a threat."
     Thea opened her eyes in a wide, guileless expression. "Would I threaten my husband? I merely ask to be accorded the civilities any married woman is owed by her mate."
     She was giving him fair warning that she would not allow herself to be treated as anything other than his equal. Very well, he was willing to accept that, but there were some matters in which he refused to concede his power over his wife. A slow lazy smile touched James's mouth as he caught Thea before she could fully enter the hallway. Gently he drew her back into the room. "I think," he said softly, touching her cheek, "I begin to understand you."
     Though she did not struggle, she turned her face away, refusing to meet his eyes. He bent and kissed her lightly along her elegant jawline. She shuddered. He took advantage of the moment to slip his arm around her waist and draw her to him. "I promise you, Thea, you have my respect and more."
     "James... the servants."
     He shut the door and turned her face so that he could kiss her on the lips. "The servants are an excuse. Kiss me, Thea."
     He had the great satisfaction of feeling his fierce, willful wife surrender to the pleasure of his touch.
 
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