"I want to see for myself if he's all right," she said calmly. "I very much doubt he is." She gave Merripen a frosty stare. "I'm not returning home without Leo."
Half amused, half alarmed by her force of will, Cam asked Merripen, "Am I dealing with stubbornness, idiocy, or some combination of the two?"
Amelia replied before Merripen had the opportunity. "Stubbornness, on my part. The idiocy may be attributed entirely to my brother." She settled the bonnet on her head and tied its ribbons beneath her chin.
Cherry-red ribbons, Cam saw in bemusement. That frivolous splash of red amid her otherwise sober attire was an incongruous note. Becoming more and more fascinated, Cam heard himself say, "You can't go to Bradshaw's. Reasons of morality and safety aside, you don't even know where the hell it is."
Amelia didn't flinch at the profanity. "I assume a great deal of business is sent back and forth between your establishment and Bradshaw's. You say the place is nearby, which means all I have to do is follow the foot traffic from here to there. Goodbye, Mr. Rohan. I appreciate your help."
Cam moved to block her path. "All you'll accomplish is making a fool of yourself, Miss Hathaway. You won't get past the front door. A brothel like Bradshaw's doesn't take strangers off the street."
"How I manage to retrieve my brother, sir, is no concern of yours."
She was correct. It wasn't. But Cam hadn't been this entertained in a long time. No sensual depravities, no skilled courtesan, not even a room full of unclothed women, could have interested him half as much as Miss Amelia Hathaway and her red ribbons.
"I'm going with you," he said.
She frowned. "No, thank you."
"I don't need your services, Mr. Rohan."
Cam could think of a number of services she was clearly in need of, most of which would be a pleasure for him to provide. "Obviously it will be to everyone's benefit for you to retrieve Ramsay and leave London as quickly as possible. I consider it my civic duty to hasten your departure."
Although they could have reached the brothel on foot, Amelia, Merripen, and Rohan went to Bradshaw's in the ancient barouche. They stopped before a plain Georgian-style building. For Amelia, whose imaginings of such a place were framed with lurid extravagance, the brothel's facade was disappointingly discreet.
"Stay inside the carriage," Rohan said. "I'll go inside and inquire as to Ramsay's whereabouts." He gave Merripen a hard look. "Don't leave Miss Hathaway unattended even for a second. It's dangerous at this time of night."
"It's early evening," Amelia protested. "And we're in the West End, amid crowds of well-dressed gentlemen. How dangerous could it be?"
"I've seen those well-dressed gentlemen do things that would make you faint to hear of them."
"I never faint," Amelia said indignantly.
Rohan's smile was a flash of white in the shadowed interior of the carriage. He left the vehicle and dissolved into the night as if he were part of it, blending seamlessly except for the ebony glimmer of his hair and the sparkle of the diamond at his ear.
Amelia stared after him in wonder. What category did one put such a man in? He was not a gentleman, nor a lord, nor a common workingman, nor even fully a Gypsy. A shiver chased beneath her corset stays as she recalled the moment he had helped her up into the carriage. Her hand had been gloved, but his had been bare, and she had felt the heat and strength of his fingers. And there had been the gleam of a thick gold band on his thumb. She had never seen such a thing before.
"Merripen, what does it mean when a man wears a thumb ring? Is it a Gypsy custom?"
Seeming uncomfortable with the question, Merripen looked through the window into the damp night. A group of young men passed the vehicle, wearing fine coats and tall hats, laughing among themselves. A pair of them stopped to speak with a gaudily dressed woman. Still frowning, Merripen replied to Amelia's question. "It signifies independence and freedom of thought. Also a certain separateness. In wearing it, he reminds himself he doesn't belong where he is."
"Why would Mr. Rohan want to remind himself something like that?"
"Because the ways of your kind are seductive," Merripen said darkly. "It's difficult to resist them."
"Why must you resist them? I fail to see what is so terrible about living in a proper house and securing a steady income, and enjoying things like nice dishes and upholstered chairs."
"Gadji," he murmured in resignation, making Amelia grin briefly. It was the word for a non-Gypsy woman.
She relaxed back against the worn upholstered seat. "I never thought I would be hoping so desperately to find my brother inside a house of ill repute. But between a brothel or floating facedown in the Thames? She broke off and pressed the knuckles of her clenched fist against her lips.
"He's not dead." Merripen's voice was low and gentle.
Amelia was trying very hard to believe that. "We must get Leo away from London. He'll be safer out in the country… won't he?"
Merripen gave a noncommittal shrug, his dark eyes revealing nothing of his thoughts.
"There's far less to do in the country," Amelia pointed out. "And definitely less trouble for Leo to get into."
"A man who wants trouble can find it anywhere."
After minutes of unbearable waiting, Rohan returned to the brougham and tugged the door open.