The room grew even colder, if that were possible, the windows rattling, the lamplight flickering. Alarmed by the taut vibrations in the air, the unseen presence circling them, Amelia huddled against Cam's back.
"Of course I do," Leo said. "I should have died when she did. I never wanted to be left behind. You don't know what it's like. The thought of finally ending this is a bloody relief."
"But that's not what she wants."
Hostility flared in the light eyes. "How the hell would you know?"
"If your situations were reversed, would you choose this for her?" Cam gestured to the gun in his hand. "I wouldn't ask that sacrifice of someone I love."
"You have no bloody idea what you're talking about."
"I do," Cam said. "I understand. And I'm telling you to stop being selfish. You grieve too much, my phral. You've forced her to come back to comfort you. You have to let her go. Not for your sake, but hers."
"I can't." But emotion had begun to spread across Leo's face like cracks in an eggshell. Blue light danced through the room, while a frigid wind lifted a few locks of Leo"s hair like invisible fingers.
"Let her be at peace," Cam said, more quietly now. "If you take your own life, you'll end up condemning her, as well as yourself, to an eternity of wandering. It's not fair to her."
Leo gave a wordless shake of his bent head, cradling his folded knees in a posture that reminded Amelia of the boy he'd once been. And she understood his grief with a thoroughness that had been impossible for her before.
What if Cam were taken from her without warning? She could never again know the feel of his hair in her hands or the caress of his lips against hers. No consummation of all she had begun to feel, the promises, smiles, tears, hopes, all ripped from her grasp. Forever. How much she would miss. How much could never be replaced by anyone else.
Aching with compassion, she watched as Cam moved to her brother. Leo hid his face and jerked a hand up, fingers spread, palm lacing out in a broken, helpless gesture. 'i can't let her go," he choked.
The lamp blew out, and a pane of glass shattered, while a freezing blast of air struck them. Energy crackled through the room, tiny snaps of light appearing around them.
"You can do it for her," Cam said, putting his arms around her brother in the way he might have comforted a lost child. ''You can.'
Leo began to cry harder, each breath a burst of angry despair. "Oh, God," he groaned. "Laura, don't leave me."
But as he wept, the atmosphere seemed to settle, glacier-cold and calm, and the blue light, like the afterglow of a distant dying star, began to fade. There was a quiet drone of wings—a few bees venturing from the hive, then flying back to settle for the night.
Cam was murmuring something now, holding Leo in a firm protective grasp. He spoke in Romany, the words drifting into the thinning air. A promise, a compact, offered to a fading, formless spirit.
Until all that was left were three people sitting among shattered glass in the darkness, a discarded weapon on the floor.
"She's gone," Cam said softly. "She's free."
Leo nodded, his face hidden. He was damaged but still alive. Broken, but not beyond the hope of repair.
And reconciled to life, at last.
Chapter Twenty Two
After they had taken Leo back to Stony Cross Manor and put him to bed, Amelia stood outside his room with Cam. Her emotions were brimming so high and strong, it took all her strength to contain them. "I'm going to tell Poppy that he's all right," she whispered.
Cam nodded, silent and somewhat distracted. Their fingers tangled briefly.
They parted company, and Amelia went to find her sister.
Poppy was in bed, lying on her side, her eyes fully open. "You found Leo," she murmured as Amelia came to her.
"He's fine. I think? Amelia sat on the edge of the mattress and smiled down at her. "I think he'll be better from now on."
"Like the old Leo?"
"I don't know."
Poppy yawned. "Amelia … will you be grumpy if I ask something?"
"I'm too tired to be grumpy. Ask away."
"Are you going to marry Mr. Rohan?"
The question filled Amelia with dizzying delight. "Should I?"
"Oh, yes. You've been compromised, you know. Besides, he's a good influence on you. You're not nearly so much of a porcupine when he's around."
"Delightful child," Amelia observed to the room in general, and grinned at her sister. "I'll tell you in the morning, dear. Go to sleep."
She walked through the somber stillness of the hallway, feeling as nervous as a bride as she went to find Cam. It was time to be open, honest, trusting, as she had never been before, not even in their most intimate moments. Her heartbeat resounded everywhere, even in the tips of her ringers and toes. She went to Cam's room, where lamplight seeped through the fissure of the partially opened door.
Cam was sitting on the bed, still clothed. His head was lowered, hands braced on his knees in the posture of a man who was deep in thought. He glanced up as she came into the room and closed the door.
"What's the matter, love?"
"I…" Amelia approached him hesitantly. "I'm afraid you won't let me have what I want."
His slow smile robbed her of breath. "I have yet to refuse you anything. I'm not likely to start now."