night terrors that stalked his own sleep. Nightmares, alive with demons. Hellish fiends with cloven hooves and membranous wings, who laughed with menace when he tried to evade their talons.
"Check, Caitlin." His son's voice from inside the chamber dispelled these morose thoughts. Andrew sounded confident, but in no way triumphant. Adam nodded approvingly as he drew closer. Andrew had told him he was teaching Caitlin to play. His father had approved, while reminding him to behave courteously. "A gentleman accepts his losses with good grace and never crows over his wins," he'd told him. It remained to see if Andrew remembered this instruction, should his check lead to a checkmate.
"Ach!" Caitlin's voice. "Ye're far too deft at this game, boyo, and—wait a minute. There, now. What d'ye say t' that, lad?"
His son groaned, but he sounded good-humored. "Dash it, Caitlin, you just made the bestest move you could to save yourself! See? Now both kings are trapped. It's a stalemate."
"It is? D'ye mean t' say ye've not beaten me for once?"
"Papa!" Andrew exclaimed as his father came through the door. "Caitlin's coming it frightfully clever at chess. Course, she hasn't won yet, but she's not been at it very long. And this time—look! We're stalemated."
Caitlin blushed, darting a glance at her employer. Discovering his eyes on her, she quickly lowered her gaze to the board.
"So you are," Adam said, charmed by that blush. "And you've been playing together ... what? Less than a week?" He grinned as the blush deepened. Caitlin's fair complexion was a dead giveaway. Her milky, translucent skin fell easy prey to the telltale rosy glow. He saw it climb even to the tips of her ears, for her shiny auburn hair was drawn up and wound into a loose knot upon her head. Tiny wisps and tendrils had escaped its confines to grace her heart-shaped face. And that, too, he found charming.
"Six days," Caitlin managed to reply, not an easy thing with the marquis flashing that devilish grin. She avoided his eyes, which seemed to be studying her with uncommon interest, and focused on the child. "What amazes me, Andrew, is that ye knew 'twas a stalemate the instant I moved me knight."
"That's 'cause a good player thinks ahead and antici—antic—what's that word, Papa?"
"Anticipates," Adam said with a smile. "Well done, both of you." He scrutinized the board. "A lively game, I collect."
"Aye, and a long one," said Caitlin, glancing at the mantel clock. " 'Tis past yer bedtime, lad."
"I know," the child replied around a yawn. Darting a glance at his father, he gave her a sleepy grin. "But this way I got to see Papa 'fore I fell asleep."
Point taken, son . Adam resolved, then and there, to amend his habits. He wasn't gammoning Appleby when he said he wished to nurture his son. And that meant being there for him, for all the times a child found meaningful. All the times he hadn't been, before. "Andrew ... ," he said carefully, feeling his way over unfamiliar terrain, "suppose that, in future, I endeavor to come by in time for us to say our good nights before you fall asleep. Would you like that?"
"Oh, yes, Papa—ever so much!"
"Then, so I shall." He bent and kissed the child's brow. "Good night, son."
Caitlin began to tuck the child in, and Adam took it upon himself to put away the game. The array of fallen pieces as well as the positions of those remaining on the board told his experienced eye the two were closely matched. He eyed Caitlin appraisingly. Andrew played well for his age, but the little governess was learning fast. She showed excellent promise, in fact, and—
"Have ye said yer prayers, lad?" Caitlin asked, and Adam froze.
His son sighed, and murmured he'd forgotten.
Without even being aware how he'd come there, Adam found himself outside in the hallway. Through the open doorway came his son's sleepy murmur: "God bless Papa, God bless Caitlin, God bless ..."
Sweat beaded Adam's brow. Guilt and anger battered at