By the time they reached the top, Lillian, Lady Westcliff, was there, her dark gaze chasing over Amelia with concern. "You look as if you're about to cast up your crumpets," she said without preamble. "What's the matter?"
"I proposed to her," Cam said shortly. Lillian's eyebrows lifted.
"I'm fine," Amelia told her. "I'm just a bit hungry."
Lillian accompanied them as Cam took Amelia to her sisters' table. "Did she accept?" she asked Cam.
"Well, I'm not surprised. A woman can't possibly consider a marriage proposal on an empty stomach." Lillian watched Amelia with concern. "You're very pale, dear. Shall I take you inside to lie down somewhere?"
Amelia shook her head. "Thank you, no. I'm sorry to make a scene."
"Oh, you're not making a scene," Lillian said. "Believe me, this is nothing compared to the usual goings-on here." She smiled reassuringly. "If there is anything you need, Amelia, you have only to ask."
Cam led Amelia to her sisters. She sank gratefully into a chair, in front of a plate heaped with sliced ham, chicken, various salads, and a plate of bread. To her astonishment, Cam took the chair beside hers, cut a bite of something on the plate, and speared it with a fork.
He held the morsel up to her lips. "Start with this."
She scowled. "I'm perfectly capable of feeding mys?
The fork was pushed into her mouth. Amelia continued to glare at him as she chewed. When she swallowed, she could only manage a few words?Give me that"—before he shoved another bite in.
"If you're going to do such a poor job taking care of yourself," Cam informed her, "someone else will do it for you."
Amelia picked up a piece of bread and bit deeply into .it. Although she longed to tell him that it was his fault she'd gotten so little sleep and missed breakfast in the bargain, she couldn't say a word with her sisters present. As she ate, she felt the color returning to her cheeks. She was aware of conversation taking place around her, the younger Hathaway sisters asking Cam about the condition of Ramsay House, and what was left of it. A chorus of groans greeted the revelation that the bee room had been left intact, and the hive was still busy and thriving.
"I suppose we'll never be rid of those dratted bees,"
"Yes we will," Cam said. His hand lowered to Amelia's arm, which was resting on the table. His thumb found the delicate blue veins on the underside of her wrist and stroked the agitated throb of her pulse. "I'll see that every last one of them is removed."
Amelia didn't look at him. She picked up a cup of tea with her free hand and took a careful sip.
"Mr. Rohan," she heard Beatrix ask, "are you going to marry my sister?"
Amelia choked on her tea and set the cup down. She sputtered and coughed into her napkin.
"Hush, Beatrix," Win murmured.
"But she's wearing his ring?
Poppy clamped her hand over Beatrix's mouth.
"I might," Cam replied. His eyes sparkled with mischief as he continued. "I find your sister a bit lacking in humor. And she doesn't seem particularly obedient. On the other hand?
One set of French doors flew open, accompanied by the sound of breaking glass. Everyone on the back terrace looked up in startlement, the men rising from their chairs.
"No," came Win's soft cry.
Merripen stood there, having dragged himself from his sickbed. He was bandaged and disheveled, but he looked far from helpless. He looked like a maddened bull, his dark head lowered, his hands clenched into massive fists. And his stare, promising death, was firmly fixed on Cam.
There was no mistaking the bloodlust of a Roma whose kinswoman had been dishonored.
"Oh, God," Amelia muttered.
Cam, who stood beside her chair, glanced down at her questioningly. "Did you say something to him?"
Amelia turned red as she recalled her blood-spotted nightgown and the maid's expression. "It must have been servants' talk."
Cam stared at the enraged giant with resignation. "You may be in luck," he said to Amelia. "It looks as if our betrothal is going to end prematurely."
She made to stand beside him, but he pressed her back into the chair. "Stay out of this. I don't want you hurt in the fray."
"He won't hurt me," Amelia said curtly. "It's you he wants to slaughter."
Holding Merripen's gaze, Cam moved slowly away from the table. "Is there something you'd like to discuss, chal?" he asked with admirable self-possession.
Merripen replied in Romany. Although no one save Cam understood what he said, it was clearly not encouraging.
"I'm going to marry her," Cam said, as if to pacify him.
"That's even worse!" Merripen moved forward, murder in his eyes.
Lord St. Vincent swiftly interceded, stepping between the pair. Like Cam, he'd had his share of putting down fights at the gambling club. He lifted his hands in a staying gesture and spoke smoothly. "Easy, large fellow. I'm sure you can find a way to resolve your differences in a reasonable fashion."
"Get out of my way," Merripen growled, putting an end to the notion of civilized discourse.
St. Vincent's pleasant expression didn't change. "You have a point. There's nothing so tiresome as being reasonable. I myself avoid it whenever possible. Still, I'm afraid you can't brawl when there are ladies present. It might give them ideas."