The Wild Adventure of Jasper Renn
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But he just might risk it for her.
He rubbed his hands over his face. He was tired in addition to being hungry. He should go inside and go to bed and try not to dream about Cat. She’d be leaving in probably the next twelve hours or so.
Oh, this was more useless than teats on a bull. With a frustrated sigh, he sat up—and realized he wasn’t alone.
“Hey,” she said, skirts rustling as she walked.
“Hey.” Was this a dream? He gave his forearm a little pinch just to be certain. No, sir. Not a dream.
She came forward until she could simply drop onto the blanket beside him. She was still wearing her gown, still looking gorgeous.
“Mind if I join you?”
He shrugged. “Guess not.”
Gracefully, she lowered herself to the blanket, arranging her skirts in the process. “So, I’ve been thinking.”
Out of all the things he might have imagined her saying, that was not one of them. “Why?”
“Well, since I’m going to be staying in London for a while, I thought it might be a good idea to find a house or a flat rather than stay in a hotel.”
Any pretense of trying to play cool and remote evaporated like a puff of smoke. He sat up—they were only inches apart. “If this is a joke, it’s a mean one.”
“No joke.” She smiled faintly. “Sparrow wants to stay and I think I will, too.”
“Sparrow. Right.” Not for him, then. Had he really expected her to give up her life for him?
“It’s not like there’s anything left for me in New York. I left the gang, and Five Points is going to be razed. Sparrow pointed out that London might be a good place to start fresh.”
“Family trait,” she replied with a grin. “How would you feel if I stayed?”
He shrugged. “Fine.”
She cupped his face, holding his head still so he had to look at her, just as he had done to her. “Jasper Renn, I’m telling you that I think I might stay in this city for a reason—because I want to know if you’d like to be with me.”
“I always like being with you.”
“No.” She gently knocked her forehead against his. “With me—and only me. I’m askin’ you to be my fella. What do you say?”
What did he say? God, he wanted to shout yes from the very rooftop. “Are you sure?”
She kissed him. “I’ve never been more sure. Finding Sparrow was only part of the reason I came to London. I can admit it now. I came for you, because I haven’t been able to stop thinking of you.”
Since she was being honest, he figured he could do the same. “I can’t stop thinking about you, either.”
Her feline gaze bore into him, as though she could peer into his very soul. “I love you.”
Jasper went completely still, except for the feverish pounding of his heart. “You do?”
God, she looked so nervous and brave. “I do. And I would like to be with you.”
He brought his hands up to cup her face, as well. “I love you, and I—” The rest of his speech was cut off when she covered his lips with her own. He came up on his knees, as well, so it was easier to hold her. His fingers curved against the back of her skull as her hand slid between them and up his torso to settle over his heart. He dropped his right hand to her chest, and felt the beat of hers against his palm. Their hearts beat in unison.
Looked as though he didn’t need to say anything else, after all.
“Are you certain you wouldn’t rather be out looking for Emily?” Jealous as she might sometimes be of the girl Jasper thought of so highly, Cat also knew that Jasper was loyal to a fault and she didn’t want to keep him from his friends.
“I was out looking earlier today, following up a lead I had in Brighton. It was nothing.”
She turned her head to look at him. They were lying on her bed at the Continental, where she was going to stay for another day or two until she heard back about a flat she’d looked at. “You’ve been to Brighton and back? It’s only noon.”
Jasper grinned. “There are some things I can do very quickly.”
She smiled coyly. “Lucky for me you do other things very slowly.”
“Like what?” he asked, inching closer.
“Like explaining to me why you’re here and not with Sam or Griffin.”
“Because you’re prettier than they are. Because I told Sam a few days ago that I was helping you with an issue. I even told him about the automatons we saw, in case it tied into whatever happened to Em. I don’t think he’s impressed with me, but I wanted to be with you and look for Emily. I couldn’t do both. It’s not the most honorable of reasons, but it’s all I’ve got.”
She was more important to him than his friends. The realization made her dizzy. It also made her uncomfortable a little. “You can’t toss them over for me, boyo.”
“I’m not tossing them over. I’m just being selfish for a bit.” It was sweet, but she didn’t feel right about it, and she could tell he didn’t, either. But he didn’t have to choose between them and her. Her whole life had been about being either black or white, Irish or African. Seemed as though someone had always been wanting her to pick one, when she just wanted to be herself.