"Where is he?" Amelia demanded as the Gypsy climbed inside.
"Not here. After Lord Ramsay went upstairs with one of the girls and, er … conducted the transaction … he left the brothel."
"Where did he go? Did you ask?
"He told them he was going to a tavern called the Hell and Bucket."
"Lovely," Amelia said shortly. "Do you know the way?"
Seating himself beside her, Rohan glanced at Merripen. "Follow St. James eastward, turn left after the third crossing."
Merripen flicked the ribbons, and the carriage rolled past a trio of prostitutes.
Amelia watched the women with undisguised interest. "How young some of them are," she said. "If only some charitable institution would help them find respectable employment."
"Most so-called respectable employment is just as bad," Rohan replied.
She looked at him indignantly. "You think a woman would be better off to work as a prostitute than to take an honest job that would allow her to live with dignity?"
"I didn't say that. My point is that some employers are far more brutal than pimps or brothel bawds. Servants have to endure all manner of abuse from their masters-female servants in particular. And if you think there is dignity in working at a mill or factory, you've never seen a girl who's lost a few fingers from cutting broom straw. Or someone whose lungs are so congested from breathing in fluff and dust at a carding mill, she won't live past the age of thirty."
Amelia opened her mouth to reply, then snapped it shut. No matter how much she wanted to continue the debate, proper women—even if they were spinsters—did not discuss prostitution.
She adopted an expression of cool indifference and looked out the window. Although she didn't spare a glance for Rohan, she sensed he was watching her. She was unbearably aware of him. He wore no cologne or pomade, but there was something alluring about his smell, something smoky and fresh, like green cloves.
"Your brother inherited the title quite recently," Rohan said.
"With all respect, Lord Ramsay doesn't seem entirely prepared for his new role."
Amelia couldn't restrain a rueful smile. "None of us are. It was a surprising turn of events for the Hathaways. There were at least three men in line for the title before Leo. But they all died in rapid succession, of varying causes. It seems that becoming Lord Ramsay causes one to become shortlived. And at this rate, my brother probably won't last any longer than his predecessors."
"One never knows what fate has in store."
Turning toward Rohan, Amelia discovered he was glancing over her in a slow inventory that spurred her heart into a faster beat. "I don't believe in fate," she said. "People are in control of their own destinies."
Rohan smiled. "Everyone, even the gods, are helpless in the hands of fate."
Amelia regarded him skeptically. "Surely you, being employed at a gaming club, know all about probability and odds. Which means you can't rationally give credence to luck or fate or anything of the sort."
"I know all about probability and odds," Rohan agreed. "Nevertheless, I believe in luck." He smiled with a quiet smolder in his eyes that caused her breath to catch. "I believe in magic and mystery, and dreams that reveal the future. And I believe some things are written in the stars … or even in the palm of your hand."
Mesmerized, Amelia was unable to look away from him. He was an extraordinarily beautiful man, his skin as dark as clover honey, his black hair falling over his forehead in a way that made her fingers twitch with the urge to push it back.
"Do you believe in fate too?" she asked Merripen.
A long hesitation. "I'm a Roma," he said.
Which meant yes. "Good Lord, Merripen. I've always thought of you as a sensible man."
Rohan laughed. "It's only sensible to allow for the possibility, Miss Hathaway. Just because you can't see or feel something doesn't mean it can't exist."
"There is no such thing as fate," Amelia insisted. "There is only action and consequence."
The carriage came to a halt, this time in a much shabbier place than St. James or King Street. There was a beer shop and three-penny lodging house on one side, and a large tavern on the other. The pedestrians on this street had the appearance of sham gentility, rubbing elbows with costers, pickpockets, and more prostitutes.
A brawl was in progress near the threshold of the tavern, a writhing mixture of arms, legs, flying hats, and bottles and canes. Anytime there was a fight, the greatest likelihood was that her brother had started it.
"Merripen," she said anxiously, "you know how Leo is when he's foxed. He's probably in the middle of the fray. If you would be so kind?
Before she had even finished, Merripen made to leave the carriage.
"Wait," Rohan said. "You'd better let me handle it."
Merripen gave him a cold glance. "You doubt my ability to fight?"
"This is a London rookery. I'm used to the kind of tricks they employ. If you? Rohan broke off as Merripen ignored him and left the carriage with a surly grunt. "So be it," Rohan said, exiting the carriage and standing beside it to watch. "They'll slice him open like a mackerel at a Covent Garden fish stand."
Amelia came out of the vehicle as well. "Merripen can handle himself quite well in a fight, I assure you."
Rohan looked down at her, his eyes shadowed and catlike. "You'll be safer inside the vehicle."