His voice was harsh with the tensity of passion, and the cry that struggled from her throat for utterance was smothered by his lips on hers. The burning kisses seemed to scorch her—consuming, overwhelming her. When at last he took his mouth from hers she tried unavailingly to free herself. But his clasp of her only tightened.
“Now you know how I love you,” he said grimly. He was breathing rather fast, but in some curious way he seemed to have regained his self-control. It was as though he had only slipped the leash of passion so that she might, as he said, comprehend his love for her. “Do you think I’ll give you up? I tell you I’d rather kill you than see you Quarrington’s wife.”
Once more she made an effort to release herself.
“Oh, you’re mad, you’re mad!” she cried. “Let me go, Davilof! At once!”
“No,” he said in a measured voice. “Don’t struggle. I’m not going to let you go. Not yet. I’ve reached my limit. You shall go when you promise to marry me. Me, not Quarrington.”
She had not been frightened by the storm of passion which had carried him headlong. That had merely roused her to anger. But this quiet, purposeful composure which had succeeded it filled her with an odd kind of misgiving.
“It’s absurd to talk like that,” she said, holding on desperately to her self-possession. “It’s silly—and melodramatic, and only makes me realise how glad I am I shall be Michael’s wife and not yours.”
“You will never be Quarrington’s wife.”
He spoke with conviction. Magda called up all her courage to defy him.
“And do you propose to prevent it?” she asked contemptuously.
“Yes.” Then, suddenly: “Adoree, don’t force me to do it! I don’t want to. Because it will hurt you horribly. And it will all be saved if you’ll promise to marry me.”
He spoke appealingly, with an earnestness that was unmistakable. But Magda’s nerve was gradually returning.
“You don’t seem to understand that you can’t prevent my marrying Michael—or anyone else,” she said coolly. “You haven’t the power.”
“I can prevent your marrying Michael”—doggedly.
She was silent a moment.
“I suppose,” she said at last, “you think that because he once thought badly of me you can make him think the same again. Well, you can’t. Michael and I trust each other—absolutely!”
Her face was transfigured. Michael trusted her now! Nothing could really hurt her while he believed in her. She could afford to laugh at Antoine’s threat.
“And now,” she said quietly, “will you please release me?”
Slowly, reluctantly Davilof’s hands dropped from her arms, revealing red weals where the grip of his fingers had crushed the soft, white flesh. He uttered a stifled exclamation as his eyes fell on the angry-looking marks.
“Mon dieu! I’ve hurt you—”