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The wind blew off the sea, moaning and wild, buffeting the man pacing the cliffs.
Hidden by a wall of rock, Emma Whiteside shielded her eyes against the bite of salt spray and continued to watch him, as she did every dawn.
Today, she thought. Today she would approach him at last. Confront him. Give him the royal tongue-lashing he deserved. She had nothing left to lose, after all. And she might not have the opportunity tomorrow. Or ever again.
The things I will say to you, Riverton, will peel the skin from your bones and lay you lower than anything Napoleon's Grande Armée had to offer.
A small voice nagged Emma from within, the advice reasonable considering her current dire circumstances. Better to seek the man's aid than chide him. But she snapped her mind closed against the unwanted counsel. The viscount was the last man on earth she'd ever ask for help.
Grief chilled her, numbed her heart, deadened the tender feelings she'd once had for him. Only her need for vengeance broke through her frozen emotions now. She longed to set Riverton in his place, however little effect her words might have on a man so impervious to remorse.
But once again Emma could neither confront him nor beseech him. The evidence of his stiff-necked prideand her owncontinued to hold her back with as much force as if an unseen hand pressed down upon her shoulder. She glared in the man's direction, as if it were his hand oppressing her.
Fierce gusts punished him, impeding his tortured progress. Pain twisted his handsome features but he confronted the gale without flinching. A tiny chip splintered off from the ice sheath encasing Emma's heart.
How do you bear it, Riverton? Are you made of stone?
She knew he was not. She saw the agony against which he fought, the stalwart way he pushed himself onward, despite the uneven gait that hampered his progress.
A cold blast of wind whistled past, ripping the hood of Emma's cloak aside, whipping her hair against her neck. The frigid current stung her eyes, wringing reluctant tears. She blinked the moisture away and rubbed the damp trail from her cheeks.
No tears, she instructed herself. Not for him. Never for him.
Riverton wore no coat or cravat. His linen flapped about him, white shirttails torn from his trousers-an unlikely flag of surrender when he refused to give quarter.
Did you stand so against the French?
Emma could think of no oath dark enough to curse a man so remarkably stoic. She envisioned him in her mind's eye, saber raised, hastening up and down the lines, shouting at his men to hold: Major Adam Caldwell, Viscount Riverton, at his most courageous.
She shuddered, conjuring the brutal attack that haunted her grimmest moments, the scene clouded by smoke and thunder, blurred by the limits of her grief and imagination. The battle where her twin had fallen, belly pierced by an enemy bayonet.
Michael admired you so, Riverton. I will never stop blaming you. 'Tis time you knew it.
Anger burned within her breast, bright as her love for the viscount once had.
And yet...her gaze swept him again, lingering on the trousers that molded his muscular thighs, the loose shirt that emphasized the breadth of his shoulders. 'Twas but the vicious wind that stole her breath, she told herself.