Amelia opened her mouth to say something to Leo, but Cam caught her gaze and shook his head, warning her to be silent. To his surprise, she actually obeyed and swallowed back the sharp words. She reached out for Leo's coat. "I'll take that," she said in a subdued tone. "Thank you." Both avoided looking at each other. "We've just finished supper," Amelia muttered. "The stew is still hot. Will you have some?" Leo shook his head.
Beatrix, missing the seething undercurrents in the air, launched herself at Leo and wrapped her arms around his thick waist. "You were gone so long! So many things have happened—Merripen is ill, and I helped make a potion for him, and? She stopped, making a face. "You smell bad. What?
"Tell me how you made the potion," Leo said gruffly, making his way to the stairs. Beatrix chattered without stopping as she accompanied him.
Cam looked over Amelia carefully, not missing a detail. She was disheveled, her hair cascading down her back, her eyes tired. She needed to rest.
"Thank you for finding him," she said. "Where was he?"
"At a private home with some friends."
She drew closer to him, sniffing gingerly. "That smell… it's on both of you …"
"Opium smoke. Your brother's taken up an expensive new habit."
"We couldn't afford the old ones." Amelia scowled, her foot beginning a restless staccato beneath her skirts. She was so small and fierce and adorable that Cam could barely restrain himself from snatching her up and kissing her senseless. "The only reason I didn't murder him just now," Amelia continued, "is because he looked too numb to feel it. But when he sobers I'm going to?
"How is Merripen?" Cam interrupted, running a gentle hand from her shoulder to her elbow.
The tapping stopped. "Still feverish, but better. Win's with him. We changed his poultice… the wound looks a bit less disgusting than before. Is that a good sign?"
"It's a good sign."
Her concerned gaze chased over him. "Shall I get you something to eat?"
Smiling, Cam shook his head. "Not before I have a good, thorough wash." There were many things they needed to discuss, but it could all wait. "Go to bed, monisha—you look weary."
"So do you," Amelia said, standing on her toes. Cam held very still as she pressed her lips to his cheek. A long hesitation, and then she asked tentatively, "Will you come to me tonight?"
The shy invitation nearly undid him. Here was an opening—a sign of acceptance—but he cared too much about her to take advantage when she was obviously tired. "No." He took her into his arms. "You need to sleep more than you need my groping and fondling."
She flushed a little, and leaned harder against him. "I don't mind your groping and fondling."
Cam laughed. "What a testament to my lovemaking skills."
"Come to me," she whispered. "Hold me while we sleep."
"Hummingbird," he returned, his lips brushing her brow, "if I hold you, I don't trust myself not to make love to you. So we'll sleep in separate beds." He looked down at her with a smile. "Just for tonight."
It took three soapings and rinsings for Cam to remove the taint of opium from his skin and hair. After toweling his hair dry, he donned a black silk robe and walked through the darkened hallway to his room. It was storming outside, the rain and thunder sweeping in on an easterly, battering the windows and roof.
The hearth in his room had been replenished, the blaze shedding warmth and light. Cam's eyes narrowed in curiosity as he saw a small shape beneath the covers.
Amelia's head lifted from the pillow. "I'm cold," she said, as if that were a perfectly reasonable explanation for her presence.
"My bed is no warmer than yours." Cam approached her slowly, trying not to feel like a predator, trying to ignore the heat that had ignited in his blood. His body had gone hard beneath the black silk, all his muscles tightening in anticipation. He knew what she wanted from him… and he would be more than happy to provide it.
"It would be warmer if you were in it," she said.
Her hair fell over her shoulders in dark ripples down to her hips. Sitting close beside her, Cam touched one of the shining locks, following it over her chest, the tip of her breast, down to the end. Amelia drew in a quick breath. He wondered if the blush on her face had spread to the skin he couldn't see.
Restraining his urgent need, Cam held still as she reached out to him with hesitant fingers, stroking the black silk that covered his shoulders. She rose to her knees and impulsively kissed his ear, the one with the diamond stud, and touched the damp, slightly curling locks of his hair.
"You're not like any man I've ever known," she said. "You're not even someone I could have dreamed. You're like someone from a fairy story written in a language I don't even know."
"The prince, I hope."
"No, you're the dragon, a beautiful wicked dragon." Her voice turned wistful. "How could anyone have a normal everyday life with you?"
Cam took her in a safe, firm grip and lowered her to the mattress. "Maybe you'll be a civilizing influence on me." He bent over the slope of her breast, kissing it through the muslin veil of her gown. "Or maybe you'll get a taste for the dragon." He found the bud of her nipple, wet the cotton with his mouth, until the tender flesh pricked up against his tongue.