"You've come for it, too, I see." Christopher sounded astonishingly calm, his gaze flicking to Cam's face and then Amelia's. The pistol was steady in his hand. He did not lower it.
"Come for what?" Bewildered, Amelia stared at the gaping hole in the wall, a rectangular space at least five feet tall. "Why have you made that opening in the wall?"
"It's a sliding panel," Cam said tersely, not taking his gaze from Christopher. "Made to conceal a hiding place."
Wondering why they both seemed to know something about Ramsay House that she didn't, Amelia asked blankly, "A hiding place for what?"
"It was designed long ago," Christopher replied, "as a place for persecuted Catholic priests to conceal themselves." Her bewildered mind tried to make sense of things. She had read about such places. Long ago Roman Catholics had been hunted and executed by law in England. Some of them had escaped by hiding in the homes of Catholic sympathizers. She had never suspected, however, that such a place had been incorporated in Ramsay House.
"How did you know about…" Finding it difficult to speak, she gestured stiffly to the cavity in the wall.
"It was referenced in the private journals of the architect, William Bissel. The notes are now in the possession of Rowland Temple."
And now, Amelia thought, after two centuries, this hiding place had been revealed… with a colony of bees in residence. "Why did Mr. Temple tell you about it? What are you hoping to find?"
Christopher glanced at her with amused contempt. "Are you pretending ignorance, or do you really have no idea?"
"I can guess," Cam said. "It probably has something to do with a bit of local lore concerning hidden treasure at Ramsay House." He shrugged a little at their curious glances. "Westcliff mentioned it once in passing."
"Treasure? Here?" Amelia scowled in disgruntlement. "Why has no one mentioned it to me before?"
"It's nothing but unfounded rumor. And the origins of the supposed treasure aren't usually mentioned in polite company." Cam sent Christopher a cold glance. "Put the gun away. We've no intention of interfering."
"Yes we do!" Amelia said irritably. "If there is some kind of treasure at Ramsay House, it belongs to Leo. And why are the origins of it so unmentionable?"
Frost answered, the gun still trained on Cam. "Because it consists of tokens and jewels given by King James to his lover back in the sixteenth century. Someone in the Ramsay family."
"The king had an affair with Lady Ramsay?"
"With Lord Ramsay, actually."
Amelia's jaw slackened. "Oh." She frowned and rubbed her frozen arms through her sleeves in a futile effort to warm them. "So you think this treasure is here in one of Bissel's hiding places. And all this time you've been trying to find it. Your offer of friendship—your regret for having abandoned me—that was all a sham! For the sake of some wild-goose chase."
"It wasn't all a sham." Christopher gave her a scornful, vaguely pitying glance. "My interest in renewing our relationship was genuine, until I realized you had taken up with a Gypsy. I don't accept soiled goods."
Infuriated, Amelia started for him with her fingers curled into claws. "You aren't fit to lick his boots!" she cried, struggling as Cam hauled her backward.
"Don't," Cam muttered, his hands like iron clamps on her body. "It's not worth it. Calm yourself."
Amelia subsided, glaring at Christopher, while increasing cold chills rippled through the air. "Even if the treasure were here, you wouldn't be able to retrieve it," she snapped. "The wall is filled with a hive containing at least two hundred thousand bees."
"That's where your arrival turns fortuitous." The pistol was trained directly at her chest. He spoke to Cam. "You're going to get it for me… or I'll put a bullet in her."
"Don't you dare," Amelia said to Cam, gripping one of his arms in both of hers. "He's bluffing."
"Are you going to risk her life on the possibility, Rohan?" Christopher inquired almost diffidently.
Amelia struggled to hold on to Cam as he disengaged his arm from her grasp. "Don't do it!"
"Easy, monisha." Cam gripped her shoulders and gave her a little shake. "Hush. You're not helping." He looted at Christopher. "Let her leave," he said evenly. "I'll do whatever you ask."
Christopher shook his head. "Her presence provides an excellent incentive for you to cooperate." He gestured with the pistol. "Get over there and start looking."
"You've gone mad," Amelia said. "Hidden treasure and pistols and skulking about at midn? She stopped as she saw a shimmer of movement, of silvery whiteness, in the air. A rush of biting cold swept through the room, while the shadows congealed around them.
Christopher seemed not to notice the abrupt drop in temperature, or the dance of translucent paleness between them. "Now, Rohan."
"Hush." He touched the side of Amelia's face and gave her an unfathomable glance.
"But the bees?
"It's all right." Cam went to pick up the lamp from the floor. Carrying it to the open panel, he held it inside the hollow space and leaned in. Bees began to settle and crawl over his arm, shoulders, and head. Staring at him fixedly, Amelia saw his arm twitch, and she realized he'd been stung. Panic tightened around her lungs, making her breathing quick and shallow.