Portia Roccanera gave the Major an arch smile. "So the heart of iron has finally been melted down into a steamy puddle."

"Humph," Klaus replied, scanning the ballroom for an escape. Social occasions were even worse now that he had to worry that she might turn up at one of them and bat her eyelashes at him.

She shook her perfectly coiffed head reprovingly, though her smile stayed wolfish. "Now, Major. Is that any way to talk to me, after I worked so hard to secure your happiness?"

"Why on earth did you take it into your perverse head to take an interest in my affairs of the heart, woman?" he snapped. The truth was, he'd been wondering about that for some time.

"How many times must I tell you, dear, it's Madame." She fitted a cigarette into a long ebony holder. With the automatic courtesy that had been drummed into him, he lit it for her, then lit one of his own.

"Answer my question, Madame," he insisted.

She regarded him with amusement, the cigarette holder poised at her lips. "It amused me."

"That is an idiotic reason for doing anything."

"The fact that you believe so is why Dorian and I had to plot against you to trick you into being happy, silly man," she purred. Before he could retort, her smile faded and her gaze grew searching. "Are you happy with Dorian?" she asked, almost seriously.

He looked away, swallowing. She smiled.

"I'm glad to hear it, Major darling," she said.

"There's just one thing I don't understand," he said, retreating from the sudden earnestness of the moment.

"What's that, darling?"

"Why you were so adamant that I should keep that sealskin in my safety-deposit box."