"You always say that," he mumbled, closing his eyes. "Maybe someday it'll be true." And he fell asleep with startling quickness.
Hearing a noise at the door, Amelia looked up to see the housekeeper carrying a tray laden with brown glass bottles and bundles of dried herbs. The elderly woman was accompanied by Cam Rohan, who carried a small open kettle filled with steaming water.
Rohan had not yet washed the smoke from his clothes and hair and skin. Although he must have been tired from the night's exertions, he showed no signs of it. He took Amelia in with an all-encompassing glance, his eyes glowing like brimstone in his smudged, sweat-streaked face.
"The steam will help Lord Ramsay breathe more comfortably during the night," the housekeeper explained. She proceeded to light the candles beneath a bedside holder, onto which the kettle was placed.
As steam dispersed through the air, a strong, not unpleasant fragrance drifted to Amelia's nostrils. "What is it?" she asked in a hushed voice.
"Chamomile, thyme, and licorice," Rohan said, "along with slippery elm and horsetail leaves for the swelling in his throat."
"We've also brought morphine to help him sleep," the housekeeper said. "I'll leave it by the bedside, and if he awakens later?
"No," Amelia said quickly. The last thing Leo needed was unsupervised access to a large bottle of morphine. "That won't be necessary."
"Yes, miss." The housekeeper departed with a quiet murmur for her to ring if anything was needed.
Cam remained in the room, casually leaning a shoulder against one towering bedpost. He watched as Amelia went to investigate the contents of the steam kettle. She averted her gaze from his vibrant dark presence, the searching eyes, the quizzical cast of his mouth.
"You must be exhausted," she said, picking up a sprig of dried leaves. She brought the crackly fragrant herbs to her nose and sniffed experimentally. "It's very late."
"I've spent most of my life in a gaming club—by now I'm more or less nocturnal." A brief pause. "You should go to bed."
Amelia shook her head. Somewhere beneath the clamor of her pulse and the raffle of worries in her mind, there was a great ache of weariness. But any attempt to sleep would be useless—she would simply lie there and stare at the ceiling. "My head is spinning like a carousel. The thought of sleep…" She shook her head.
"Would it help," he asked gently, "to have a shoulder to cry on?"
She fought to conceal how much the question unnerved her. "Thank you, but no." Carefully she dropped the herbs into the kettle. "Crying is a waste of time."
" 'To weep is to make less the depth of grief.'"
"Is that a Romany saying?"
"Shakespeare." He studied her, seeing too much, reading what simmered beneath the forced calm. "You have friends to help you through this, Amelia. And I'm one of them."
Amelia was terrified that he might see her as an object of pity. She would avoid that at all cost. She couldn't lean on him, or anyone. If she did, she might never be able to stand on her own again. She moved away from him, around him, her hands fluttering as if to bat away any attempt to reach her. "You mustn't trouble yourself about the Hathaways. We'll manage. We always have."
"Not this time." Rohan watched her steadily. "Your brother is beyond helping anyone, including himself. Your sisters are too young, except for Winnifred. And now even Merripen is bedridden."
"I'll take care of them. I don't need help." She reached for a length of toweling draped at the foot of the bed, and folded it neatly. "You're leaving for London in the morning, aren't you? You should probably take your own advice and go to bed."
The light eyes turned flinty. "Damn it, why do you have to be so stubborn?"
"I'm not being stubborn. It's just that I don't want anything from you. And you deserve to find the freedom you've been deprived of for so long."
"Are you concerned about my freedom, or are you terrified of admitting you need someone?"
He was right—but she would rather have died than admit it. "I don't need anyone, least of all you."
His voice was no less blistering for being soft. "You don't know how easy it would be to prove you wrong." He began to reach for her, checked the movement, and looked at her as if he wanted to throttle her, kiss her, or both.
"Maybe next lifetime," she whispered, somehow managing a crooked smile. "Please go. Please, Cam."
She waited until he had left the room, and her shoulders sagged with relief.
Needing to escape the smothering confines of the house, Cam went outside. The night threaded weak moonlight through a weft of infinite darkness. He wandered to the ironstone wall that edged a bluff overlooking the river. Hoisting himself easily to the top of the wall, he sat with his feet dangling over the edge, and listened to the water and the night sounds. Smoke hung in the air, mingling with the scents of earth and forest.
Cam tried to sort through a tangle of emotions. He had never known jealousy before, but when he had seen Amelia and Christopher Frost embracing earlier, Cam had experienced a violent urge to strangle the bastard. Every instinct raged that Amelia was his, his alone to protect and comfort. But he had no rights to her.
If Frost decided to pursue her, it was best that Cam not interfere. Amelia would be better off with her own kind, rather than a half-bred Roma. Cam would be better off, too. Good God, was he actually contemplating spending the rest of his life as a gadjo, bound in domesticity?