St. Vincent scratched out a figure and set the pen back on its stand. "No, I insist on discussing sexual habits. It's so much more entertaining than work." He relaxed in his chair with a deceptive air of laziness. "Discreet as you are, Rohan, one can't help but notice how ardently you are pursued. It seems you hold quite an appeal for the ladies of London. And from all appearances, you've taken full advantage of what's been offered."
Cam stared at him without expression. "Pardon, but are you leading to an actual point, my lord?"
Leaning back in his chair, St. Vincent made a temple of his elegant hands and regarded Cam steadily. "Since you've had no problem with lack of desire in the past, I can only assume that, as happens with other appetites, yours has been sated with an overabundance of sameness. A bit of novelty may be just the thing."
Considering the statement, which actually made sense, Cam wondered if the notorious former rake had ever been tempted to stray.
Having known Evie since childhood, when she had come to visit her widowed father at the club from time to time, Cam felt as protective of her as if she'd been his younger sister. No one would have paired the gentle-natured Evie with such a libertine. And perhaps no one had been as surprised as St. Vincent himself to discover their marriage of convenience had turned into a passionate love match.
"What of married life?" Cam asked softly. "Does it eventually become an overabundance of sameness?"
St. Vincent's expression changed, the light blue eyes warming at the thought of his wife. "It has become clear to me that with the right woman, one can never have enough. I would welcome an overabundance of such bliss—but I doubt such a thing is mortally possible." Closing the account book with a decisive thud, he stood from the desk. If you'll excuse me, Rohan, I'll bid you good night."
"What about finishing the accounting?"
"I'll leave the rest in your capable hands." At Cam's scowl, St. Vincent shrugged innocently. "Rohan, one of us is an unmarried man with superior mathematical abilities and no prospects for the evening. The other is a confirmed lecher in an amorous mood, with a willing and nubile young wife waiting at home. Who do you think should do the damned account books?" And, with a nonchalant wave, St. Vincent had left the office.
"Novelty" had been St. Vincent's recommendation?well, that word certainly applied to Miss Hathaway. Cam had always preferred experienced women who regarded seduction as a game and knew better than to confuse pleasure with emotion. He had never cast himself in the role of tutor to an innocent. In fact, the prospect of initiating a virgin was distinctly off-putting. Nothing but pain for her, and the appalling possibility of tears and regrets afterward. He recoiled from the idea. No, there would be no pursuit of novelty with Miss Hathaway.
Hastening his pace. Cam went up the stairs to the room where the woman waited with the dark-faced chal. Merripen was a common Romany name. Yet the man was in a most uncommon position. It appeared he was acting as the woman's servant, a bizarre and repugnant situation for a freedom-loving Roma. So the two of them, Cam and Merripen, had something in common. Both of them worked for gadjos instead of roaming the earth freely as God intended.
A Roma didn't belong indoors, enclosed by walls. Living in boxes, as all rooms and houses were, shut away from the sky and wind and sun and stars. Breathing in stale air scented with food and floor polish. For the first time in years Cam felt a surge of mild panic. He fought it back and focused on the task at hand—getting rid of the peculiar pair in the receiving room.
Tagging at his collar to loosen it, he pushed at the half-open door and entered the room.
Miss Hathaway stood near the doorway, waiting with tightly leashed impatience, while Merripen remained a dark presence in the corner. As Cam approached and looked into her upturned face, the panic dissolved in a curious rush of heat. Her blue eyes were smudged with faint lavender shadows, and her soft-looking lips were pressed into a tight seam. Her hair had been pulled back and pinned, dark and shining against her head.
That scraped-back hair, the modest restrictive clothing advertised her as a woman of inhibitions. A proper spinster. But nothing could have concealed her radiant will. She was … delicious. He wanted to unwrap her like a long-awaited gift. He wanted her vulnerable and na**d beneath him, that soft mouth swollen from hard, deep kisses, her pale body flushed with desire. Startled by her effect on him, Cam made his expression blank as he studied her.
"Well?" Amelia demanded, clearly unaware of the turn of his thoughts. Which was a good thing, as they likely would have sent her screaming from the room. "Have you discovered anything about my brother's whereabouts?"
"Lord Ramsay visited earlier this evening, lost some money at the hazard table?
"Thank God he's alive," Amelia exclaimed. "—and apparently decided to console himself by visiting a nearby brothel."
"Brothel?" She shot Merripen an exasperated glance. '1 swear it, Merripen, he'll die at my hands tonight." She looked back at Cam. "How much did he lose at the hazard table?"
"Approximately five hundred pounds." The pretty blue eyes widened in outrage. "He'll die slowly at my hands. Which brothel?"
Amelia reached for her bonnet. "Come, Merripen. We're going there to collect him."
Both Merripen and Cam replied at the same time. "No."