"I met him once, actually," Dashiell said. "Two years ago, when he was still articled to Rowland Temple. Though your brother doesn't seem to recollect the meeting. I was very much impressed with him at the time—he was a pleasant and prepossessing man, full of plans."
Amelia lowered her gaze. "I'm sure he is greatly altered from the time you saw him last."
"He seems a different man altogether."
"He hasn't yet recovered from his fiancée's death." Amelia's voice dropped to a near-whisper as she confided, "Sometimes I fear he never will."
Dashiell stopped and turned her to face him. Compassion flickered in his eyes. "Ah. That is the price of love, I'm afraid—the pain one suffers from its loss. I'm not convinced it's worth it. Perhaps if one must love, one should do so in moderation."
That sounded sensible. But as Amelia opened her mouth to agree, the words stuck in her throat. And what finally came out was an unsteady laugh. "Moderation in love," she mused aloud. "It's not something that would inspire a poet, is it?"
"A poet's view of the world would make for an uncomfortable life, wouldn't it? Everyone at the mercy of his or her passions, all of us tearing our hair out for the sake of love…"
"Or riding off at midnight," Amelia said. "Living out one's dreams and fantasies?
"Exactly. It has all the makings of disaster."
"Or Romance," she said, hoping he didn't notice the slight catch in her voice.
"Spoken like a woman."
Amelia laughed. "Yes, Mr. Dashiell, I'll confess that I am not immune to the idea of Romance. I hope that doesn't lessen your opinion of me."
"Not in the slightest. In fact? His voice gentled. "I hope that I will be able to visit you as the work on Ramsay House progresses. I would greatly enjoy the company of such a charming and lovely woman, with an obviously sensible disposition."
'Thank you," Amelia said, the color in her cheeks rising. But as she stared at the well-dressed gentleman before her, her mind summoned the image of a handsome face with wicked golden eyes and the mouth of a fallen angel, his head silhouetted against a sky flooded with midnight stars. Exotic, unpredictable, a man who would never be quite tame.
You inside me, me inside you?"I would enjoy your company as well, sir," she heard herself say. She blushed as she added, "But you should know that I have an understanding with Mr. Rohan."
Thankfully, her companion was quick to grasp her meaning. He did not seem surprised. "I was afraid that might be the case. I couldn't help but notice Rohan's regard for you. He gives a decided impression of wanting you all to himself." Dashiell smiled ruefully. "One can hardly blame him."
Flattered, uncertain how to reply, Amelia returned her attention to the house. She was not accustomed to men making such comments about her. Her gaze traveled along the uneven roofline. The house looked so shipwrecked, so weary, the windows like wounds in the side of a fallen beast. The windows… she saw movement in one of them, a shimmer, something that looked like a tangle of moonbeams and shadows. A face.
She must have made a sound, for Mr. Dashiell looked at her closely, and his gaze followed hers to the house. "What is it?" he asked at once.
"I thought…" She found herself clutching a fold of his sleeve like a frightened child. Her thoughts were in chaos. "I thought I saw someone at the window."
"Perhaps it was Barksby."
But Mr. Barksby was coming round the corner of the house, and the face had been at a second-floor window.
"Shall I go in to have a look?" Dashiell asked quietly, his eyes narrowed with concern.
"No," Amelia said at once, managing a shallow smile. She let go of his sleeve. "It must have been a curtain moving. I'm sure no one is there."
After Dashiell and Mr. Barksby had departed for London, Cam returned to the study with Mr. Pym to discuss a few last items of business. Having had enough of estate management, Leo abandoned all pretense of interest in Pym's concerns, and disappeared up to his room. Although Cam had sardonically assured Amelia that she was welcome to participate in the meeting with Mr. Pym, she declined hastily, suspecting that she would not be able to endure the tedious discussion with any more grace than her brother had.
Instead, she went to find Win.
Her sister was in a private family parlor upstairs, curled in the corner of a settee with a book in her lap. Win turned a page without seeming to read it, looking up with evident relief as Amelia came to her.
"I've wanted to talk with you all day." Win moved her feet to make room for Amelia. "You seemed so distracted after the visit to Ramsay House. Was it seeing the house?… Did it make you melancholy? Or was it Mr. Dashiell? Did he try to flirt with you?"
"Heavens," Amelia said with a disconcerted laugh, "what could have given you the idea that he would want to flirt with me?"
Win smiled and shrugged a little. "He seems rather charmed by you."
Win's smile broadened until she looked like her old mischievous self, as she had been in the days before the scarlet fever. "You only say 'Pshaw' because you have Mr. Rohan on the string."
Amelia's eyes widened, and she looked around as if fearing someone might have overheard them. "Hush, Win! I don't have anyone on the string. What a horrid expression. I can't believe?