"Beneath me," Amelia repeated dazedly, backing away from him until her shoulders flattened against the wall. "How?"
"There's no need for me to explain, is there?"
"Yes," she said, "I think there is."
"Rohan's a Gypsy, Amelia. They're lazy, rootless wanderers."
"You can say all that when you never lift a finger?"
"I'm not supposed to work. I'm a peer now. I earn three thousand pounds a year just by existing."
Clearly there was no headway to be made in an argument when one's opponent was insane.
"Until this moment, I had no intention of marrying him," Amelia said. "But now I'm seriously considering the merits of having at least one rational man in the household."
Amelia almost enjoyed the look on his face. "I suppose Merripen forgot to mention that minor detail. Yes, Cam has proposed to me. And he's rich, Leo. Rich, rich, which means even if you decide to go jump in the lake and drown yourself, the girls and I would be taken care of. Nice, isn't it, that someone's concerned about our future?"
"I forbid it."
She gave him a scornful glance. "Forgive me if I'm less than impressed by your authority, Leo. Perhaps you should practice on someone else."
And she left him in the gallery, while the thunder rumbled and rain cascaded down the windows.
Cam stopped the driver on the way to London, wanting another look at Ramsay House before he departed Hampshire. He was in something of a quandary as to what should be done with the place. Certainly it would have to be restored. As part of an aristocratic entailment, the estate had to be maintained in a decent condition. And Cam liked the place. There were possibilities in it. If the slopes of the surrounding grounds were altered and landscaped, and the building itself was properly redesigned and rebuilt, the Ramsay estate would be a jewel.
But it was doubtful that the Ramsay title, and its entailments, would remain in the Hathaways' possession much longer. Not if everything depended on Leo, whose health and future existence were very much in question.
Considering the problem of his soon-to-be brother-in-law, Cam bid the driver to wait, and went into the ramshackle house, heedless of the rain that dampened his hair and coat. It didn't especially matter to him if Leo lived or died, but Amelia's feelings mattered very much indeed. Cam would do whatever was necessary to spare her grief or worry. If that meant helping to preserve her brother's worthless life, so be it.
The interior of the house was smoke-filmed and sagging like a once-jaunty creature that had been beaten into submission. He wondered what a builder would make of the place, and how much of the structure could be preserved. Cam imagined what it might look like when it was fully restored and painted. Bright, charming, a touch eccentric. Like his Hathaways.
A smile tugged at the corners of his lips at the thought of Amelia's sisters. He could easily become fond of them. Strange, how the idea of settling on this land, becoming part of a family, had become attractive. He was feeling rather… clannish. Perhaps Westcliff had been right—he couldn't ignore his Irish half forever.
Cam stopped at the side of the entrance hall as he heard a noise from upstairs. A thump, a tapping, as if someone were hammering at wood. The nape of his neck crawled. Who the hell could be here? Superstition struggled with reason as he wondered if the intruder were mortal or spectral. He made his way up the stairs with extreme care, his feet swift and silent.
Pausing at the top of the stairs, he listened intently. The sound came again, from one of the bedrooms. He made his way to a half-open door and looked inside.
The presence in the room was most definitely human. Cam's eyes narrowed as he recognized Christopher Frost.
It appeared Frost was trying to pry a piece of paneling from the wall, using an iron pry bar. The wood defied his efforts, and after a few seconds of exertion, Frost dropped the pry bar and swore.
"Need some help?" Cam asked.
Frost nearly leaped out of his shoes. "What the devil? He whirled around, his eyes huge. ''Damnation! What are you doing there?"
"I was going to ask you the same question." Leaning against the doorjamb, Cam folded his arms and stared at the other man speculatively. "I decided to stop here on my way to London. What's behind the panel?"
"Nothing," the architect snapped.
"Then why are you trying to remove it?"
Collecting himself, Frost bent to retrieve the pry bar. He held it casually, but with the slightest change in his grip, the iron bar could easily be turned into a weapon. Cam kept his posture relaxed, not taking his eyes from Frost's face.
"How much do you know about construction and design?" Frost asked.
"Not much. I've done some woodworking now and then."
"Yes. Your people sometimes work as tinkers and bodgers. Perhaps even roofing. But never building. You would never stay long enough to complete the project, would you?"
Cam kept his tone immaculately polite. "Are you asking about me specifically, or the Rom in general?"
Frost approached him, the pry bar firmly in his grasp. "It doesn't matter. To answer your previous question—I am inspecting the house to make an estimate of the damage, and to develop ideas for the new design. On behalf of Miss Hathaway."
"Did she ask you to inspect the house?"
"As an old friend of the family—and particularly Miss Hathaway—I've taken it upon myself to help them."