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    Arching a brow, Christopher asked, “Only a tiny bit smug?”

    “Oh, very well. Enormously smug.” She began to play with his hair. “Now that all this medal business is done with, I have something to discuss with you.”

    Closing his eyes, Christopher enjoyed the sensation of her fingers stroking his scalp. “What is it?”

    “What would you say to adding a new member to the family?”

    This was not an unusual question. Since they had established a household at Riverton, Beatrix had increased the size of her menagerie, and was constantly occupied with animal-related charities and concerns. She had also compiled a report for the newly established natural history society in London. For some reason it had not been at all difficult to convince the group of elderly entomologists, ornithologists, and other naturalists to include a pretty young woman in their midst. Especially when it became clear that Beatrix could talk for hours about migration patterns, plant cycles, and other matters relating to animal habitats and behavior. There was even discussion of Beatrix’s joining a board to form a new natural history museum, to provide a lady’s perspective on various aspects of the project.

    Keeping his eyes closed, Christopher smiled lazily. “Fur, feathers, or scales?” he asked in response to her earlier question.

    “None of those.”

    “God. Something exotic. Very well, where will this creature come from? Will we have to go to Australia to collect it? Iceland? Brazil?”

    A tremor of laughter went through her. “It’s already here, actually. But you won’t be able to view it for, say . . . eight more months.”

    Christopher’s eyes flew open. Beatrix was smiling down at him, looking shy and eager and more than a little pleased with herself.

    “Beatrix.” He turned carefully so that she was underneath him. His hand came to cradle the side of her face. “You’re sure?”

    She nodded.

    Overwhelmed, Christopher covered her mouth with his, kissing her fiercely. “My love . . . precious girl . . .”

    “It’s what you wanted, then?” she asked between kisses, already knowing the answer.

    Christopher looked down at her through a bright sheen of joy that made everything blurred and radiant. “More than I ever dreamed. And certainly more than I deserve.”

    Beatrix’s arms slid around his neck. “I’ll show you what you deserve,” she informed him, and pulled his head down to hers again.

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