“You shouldn’t have come to bed in a red nightgown, then.”
Biting back a grin, Cassandra turned to gaze at the stunning view of St. Aubin’s Bay, with its long stretches of clean white sand and intensely blue water. A rocky islet at the end of the bay featured the ruins of a Tudor castle, which the hotel concierge had said they could visit at low tide.
Last night she’d dared to put on a scandalous garment Helen had given her for the honeymoon. It couldn’t really be called a nightgown—in fact, there was hardly enough of it to qualify even as a chemise. It was made of pomegranate-red silk and gauze, fastening in the front with a few coquettish ribbon ties. Helen had used a French word for it … negligée … and had assured her it was exactly the kind of thing husbands liked.
After one look at his wife dressed in nothing but a few scraps of silk and a blush, Tom had tossed aside the novel in his hands and pounced on her. He’d spent a long time caressing and fondling her over the thin fabric, licking her skin through the gauze. His mouth and hands had charted the sensitive terrain of her body, exploring by millimeters.
Gently, ruthlessly, he had teased her into a state of erotic frustration until she’d felt like an overwound watch. But he hadn’t taken her fully, whispering that she was too sore, that they would have to wait until tomorrow.
She had moaned and pressed herself against him, struggling for the elusive pleasure, while he’d laughed softly at her impatience. He’d untied the little ribbon fastenings of the negligée with his teeth, and had worked his tongue down between her thighs. The delicate prodding and stroking had gone on until her over-stimulated nerves had ignited in a deep and wracking release. He’d caressed her for a long time afterward, his touch as light as eiderdown, until it had seemed as if the darkness itself had been moving over her, slipping tenderly between her thighs, feathering the tips of her breasts.
Now, recalling her own wanton enjoyment of the intimate acts they’d shared, Cassandra felt pleased but shy in the light of day. She adjusted the belt of her velvet robe and didn’t quite meet his gaze as she suggested brightly, “Shall we ring for breakfast? And then go out to explore the island?”
He grinned at her studied casualness. “By all means.”
A simple but well-prepared breakfast was brought up and arranged on a table near one of the wide plate-glass windows. There were poached eggs, broiled grapefruit halves, a rasher of bacon, and a basket of small oblong cakes that appeared to have been twisted and turned partially inside out before they had been deep-fried to golden brown.
“What are these?” Cassandra asked the waiter.
“Those are called Jersey Wonders, milady. They’ve been made on the island since before I was a boy.”
After the waiter had finished setting out the food and left, Cassandra picked up one of the cakes and took a bite. The outside was lightly crisp, the inside soft and flavored with ginger and nutmeg. “Mmm.”
Tom chuckled. He came to seat her at the table, and bent to kiss her temple. “A cake that’s shaped like a shoe,” he murmured. “How perfect for you.”
“Have a taste,” she urged, lifting it to his mouth.
He shook his head. “I’m not fond of sweets.”
“Try it,” she commanded.
Relenting, Tom took a small bite. Meeting her expectant gaze, he said a touch apologetically, “It’s like a fried washing-up sponge.”
“Bother,” she exclaimed, laughing. “Is there any kind of sweet you like?”
His face was just over hers, his eyes smiling. “You,” he said, and stole a quick kiss.
THEY WENT ON a walk along the esplanade, enjoying the sun and the snap of cool sea air. Next, they headed inland to the town of St. Helier, with its proliferation of shops and cafés. Cassandra bought a few gifts to bring back to England, among them some figurines carved of local pink and white granite, and a walking stick for Lady Berwick, made from the stem of a giant Jersey cabbage, which had been dried and varnished.
While the shop owner wrapped the items, which would be conveyed to La Sirène later in the afternoon, Tom browsed over some merchandise displayed on shelves and tables. He brought a small object to the counter, a wooden toy boat with a carved sailor figure holding an oar. “Will this float upright in the bath?” he asked.
“Yes, sir,” the shopkeeper replied with a grin. “The local toymaker weights it to make sure. Can’t have a boat from Jersey floating sideways!”
Tom handed it to him, to wrap up with the rest.
After they had left the shop, Cassandra asked, “Is that for Bazzle?”
“It might be.”
Smiling, Cassandra paused in front of the next shop window, filled with displays of perfume and eau de cologne. She affected interest in the gold and filigree bottles. “Do you think I should try a new scent?” she asked idly. “Jasmine, or lily of the valley?”
“No.” Tom stood behind her and spoke softly near her ear, as if imparting some highly confidential information. “There’s nothing better in the world than the scent of roses on your skin.”
Their shared reflection in the plate glass blurred as she leaned back against the hard support of his body. They stood together, breathed together, for a few hazy moments before continuing on.
At the corner of a narrow granite-paved street branching off Royal Square, Cassandra stopped at a handsome stone house. “A date stone,” she exclaimed, staring at the lintel over the door, formed of chiseled granite blocks. “I read about these in the guidebook in our suite.”
“What is it?”
“It’s an ancient Jersey Island tradition that when a couple marries, they chisel their initials in granite, along with the date the household was established, and set it over the door. Sometimes they join their initials with a symbol, such as a pair of entwined hearts, or a Christian cross.”
Together they scrutinized the stonework on the lintel.
J.M. 8 G.R.P.
“I wonder why there’s a number eight between their names?” Cassandra asked, puzzled.
Tom shrugged. “It must have had personal significance to them.”
“They might have had eight children,” she suggested.
“Or eight shillings left after they built the house.”
Cassandra laughed. “Maybe they had eight Jersey Wonders for breakfast every morning.”
Tom drew closer to the lintel, staring intently at the masonry work. After a moment, he commented, “Look at the pattern of the granite. Vein-cut, with horizontal stripes running across the surface. But on the center block with the number eight, the stripes are vertical, and the mortar is newer. Someone repaired it and put it back the wrong way.”
“You’re right,” Cassandra said, examining the masonry. “But that would mean it was originally a sideways number eight. That makes no sense at all. Unless …” She paused as understanding dawned. “You think it was the symbol for infinity?”
“Yes, but not the usual one. A special variant. Do you see how one line doesn’t fully connect in the middle? That’s Euler’s infinity symbol. Absolutus infinitus.”
“How is it different from the usual one?”
“Back in the eighteenth century, there were certain mathematical calculations no one could perform because they involved series of infinite numbers. The problem with infinity, of course, is that you can’t come up with a final answer when the numbers keep increasing forever. But a mathematician named Leonhard Euler found a way to treat infinity as if it were a finite number—and that allowed him to do things in mathematical analysis that had never been done before.” Tom inclined his head toward the date stone. “My guess is, whoever chiseled that symbol was a mathematician or scientist.”