Seduce Me at Sunrise (Page 83)
“What are you doing?” Leo demanded, wondering if she had lost her wits entirely. “He doesn't need a lamp, Win.”
Ignoring him, Win removed the glass fount and tossed it to the bed. She did the same with the brass wick burner, exposing the oil reservoir. Without hesitation, she poured the lamp oil over the front of the wardrobe. The pungent odor of highly flammable paraffin spread through the room.
“Have you lost your mind?” Leo demanded, astonished not only by her actions, but also by her calm demeanor.
“I have a matchbox, Julian,” she said. “Tell me what to give Mr. Rohan, or I'll set the wardrobe on fire.”
“You wouldn't dare,” Harrow cried.
“Win,” Leo said, “you'll burn the entire damned house down, just after it's been rebuilt. Give me the bloody matchbox.”
She shook her head resolutely.
“Are we starting a new springtime ritual?” Leo demanded. “The annual buming-of-the-manse? Come to your senses, Win.”
Win turned from him and glared at the wardrobe door. “I was told, Julian, that you killed your first wife. Possibly by poison. And now knowing what you have done to my brother-in-law, I believe it. And if you don't help us, I'm going to roast you like a piece of Welsh rarebit.” She opened the matchbox.
Realizing she couldn't possibly be serious, Leo decided to back her bluff. “I'm begging you, Win,” he said theatrically, “don't do this. There's no need to- Christl”
This last as Win struck a match and set the wardrobe on fire.
It wasn't a bluff, Leo thought dazedly. She actually intended to broil the b*****d.
At the first bright, curling blossom of flame, there was a terrified cry from inside the wardrobe. “All right! Let me out! Let me out! It's tannic acid. Tannic acid. It's in my medical case; let me out!”
“Very well, Leo,” Win said, a bit breathless. “You may extinguish the fire.”
In spite of the panic that raced through his veins, Leo couldn't suppress a choked laugh. She spoke as if she'd asked him to snuff a candle, not put out a large flaming piece of furniture. Tearing off his coat, he rushed forward and beat wildly at the wardrobe door. “You're a madwoman,” he told Win as he passed her.
“He wouldn't have told us otherwise,” Win said.
Alerted by all the commotion, a few servants appeared, one of them a footman who removed his own coat and hastened to assist Leo. Meanwhile, the women were rummaging for Harrow 's black leather medical case.
“Isn't tannic acid the same as tea?” Amelia asked, her hands shaking as she fumbled with the latch.
“No, Mrs. Rohan,” the governess said. “I believe the doctor was referring to tannic acid from oak leaves, not the tannins from tea.” She reached out quickly as Amelia nearly overturned the case. “Careful, don't knock it over. He doesn't label his vials.” Opening the hard-sided case, they found rows of neatly arranged glass tubes containing powders and liquids. Although the vials themselves were not marked, the slots they fit in had been identified with inked letters. Poring over the vials, Miss Marks extracted one filled with pale yellow-brown powder. “This one.”
Win took it from her. “Let me take it to them,” she said. “I know where the campsite is. And Leo's busy putting out the wardrobe.”
“I'll take the vial to Cam,” Amelia said vehemently. “He's my husband.”
“Yes. And you're carrying his child. If you fell while riding at a breakneck pace, he would never forgive you for risking the baby.”
Amelia gave her an anguished glance, her mouth trembling. She nodded and croaked, “Hurry, Win.”
“Can you fashion a sling with canvas and poles?” Merripen asked the rom phuro. “I must get him back to Ramsay House.”
The tribe leader nodded at once. He called out to a small group waiting near the entrance of the vardo, gave a few instructions, and they disappeared instantly. Turning back to Merripen, he murmured, “We'll have something put together in a few minutes.”
Kev nodded, staring down at Cam 's ashen face. He wasn't well by any means, but at least the threat of convulsions and heart failure had been temporarily staved off. Robbed of his usual expressiveness, Cam looked young and defenseless.
It was peculiar to think that they were brothers and yet had spent their lives never knowing about each other. Kev had occupied his self-imposed solitude for so long, but lately it seemed to be wearing away, like a threadbare suit of clothes that was falling apart at the seams. He wanted to know more about Cam, to exchange memories with him. He wanted a brother. I always knew I wasn't supposed to be alone, Cam had told him on the day they discovered their blood ties. Kev had felt the same. He just hadn't been able to say it.
Taking up a cloth, he blotted the film of sweat from Cam 's face. A quiet whimper escaped Cam 's lips, as if he were a child having a nightmare.
“It's all right, phral,” Kev murmured, putting a hand on Cam 's chest, testing the slow and lurching heartbeat. “You'll be well soon. I won't leave you.”
“You are close to your brother,” the rom phuro said softly. “That is good. Do you have other family?”
“We live with gadje,” Kev said, his gaze daring the man to disapprove. The tribe leader's expression remained friendly and interested. “One of them is his wife.”
“I hope she's not pretty,” the rom phuro commented.