Seduce Me at Sunrise (Page 85)

Kev scowled at him. “Never mind about that. Rohan has spent years looking for you. Looking for answers. You tell him the truth now, about why he was sent away from the tribe, and what that cursed tattoo means. And don't leave anything out.”

Noah looked mildly taken aback by Kev's autocratic manner. As the leader of the vitsa, Noah wasn't used to taking orders from anyone.

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“He's always like this,” Cam told Noah. “You get used to it.”

Reaching beneath the berth, Noah pulled out a wooden box and began to rummage through its contents.

“What do you know about our Irish blood?” Kev demanded. “What was our father's name?”

“There is much I don't know,” Noah admitted. Finding what he had evidently been looking for, he pulled it from the box and looked at Cam. “But our grandmother told me as much as she could on her deathbed. And she gave me this-“

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He raised a tarnished silver knife.

In a lightning-swift reflex, Kev seized his cousin's wrist in a crushing grip. Win gave a startled cry, while Cam tried unsuccessfully to lift up on his elbows.

Noah stared hard into Kev's eyes. “Peace, Cousin. I would never harm Camlo.” He let his hand open. “Take it from me. It belongs to you; it was your father's. His name was Brian Cole.”

Kev took the knife and slowly released Noah's wrist. He stared at the object, a boot knife with a double-edged fixed blade approximately four inches long. The handle was silver, with engraving on the bolsters. It looked old and costly. But what amazed Kev was the engraving on the flat of the handle… a perfect stylized symbol of the Irish pooka.

He showed it to Cam, who stopped breathing for a moment.

“You are Cameron and Kevin Cole,” Noah said. That horse symbol was the mark of your family.… It was in their crest. When we separated the two of you, it was decided to put the mark on both of you. Not only to identify you, but also as an appeal to the second son of Moshto, to preserve and protect you.”

“Who is Moshto?” Win asked softly.

“A Romany deity,” Kev said, hearing his own dazed voice as if it belonged to someone else. “The god of all things good.”

“I looked…” Cam began, still staring at the knife, and shook his head as if the effort to explain was too much.

Kev spoke for him. “My brother hired heraldic experts and researchers to go through books of Irish family crests, and they never found this symbol.”

“I believe the Coles removed the pooka from the crest about three hundred years ago, when the English king declared himself the head of the Church of Ireland. The pooka was a pagan symbol. No doubt they thought it might threaten their standing in the reformed Church. But the Coles still had a fondness for it. I remember your father wore a big silver ring engraved with the pooka.”

Glancing at his brother, Kev sensed that Cam felt just as he did, that it was like having been in a closed room all his life and suddenly having a door opened.

“Your father, Brian,” Noah continued, “was the son of Lord Cavan, an Irish representative peer in the British House of Lords. Brian was his only heir. But your father made a mistake-he fell in love with a Romany girl named Sonya. Quite beautiful. He married her in defiance of his family, and hers. They lived away from everyone long enough for Sonya to have two sons. She died in her childbed when Cam was born.”

“I always thought my mother died having me,” Kev said softly. “I never knew about a younger brother.”

“It was after the second son that she went to God.” Noah looked pensive. “I was old enough to remember the day Cole brought the two of you to our grandmother. He told Mami it had been a misery trying to live in both worlds, and he wanted to go back where he belonged. So he left his children with the tribe and never returned.”

“Why did you separate us?” Cam asked, still looking exhausted but far more like his usual self.

Noah stood in an easy movement and went to the corner near the stove. As he replied, he made tea with deft assurance, measuring out dried leaves into a little pot of steaming water. “After a few years, your father remarried. And then other vitsas told us that some gadjos had come looking for the boys, offering money for information and doing violence when the Rom wouldn't tell them anything. We realized your father wanted to get rid of his half-breed sons, who were the legitimate heirs to the title. He had a new wife, who would bear him white children.”

“And we were in the way,” Kev said grimly.

“It would seem so.” Noah strained the tea into a pot. He poured a cup, added sugar, and brought it to Cam. “Have some, Camlo. You need to wash the poison out.”

Cam sat up and leaned his back against the wall. He took the cup in a wobbling grip and sipped the hot brew carefully. “So to reduce the chances of both of us being found,” he said, “you kept me and gave Kev to our uncle.”

“Yes, to Uncle Pov.” Noah frowned and averted his gaze from Kev. “Sonya was his favorite sister. We thought he would be a good protector. No one expected that he would blame her children for her death.”

“He hated the gadje” Kev said in a low voice. “That was something else he held against me.”

Noah made an effort to look at him. “After we heard that you had died, we thought it too dangerous to keep Cam. So I brought him to London, and helped him find work.”

“In a gaming club?” Cam said, a note of questioning skepticism in his voice.

“Sometimes the best hiding places are in plain sight,” came Noah's prosaic reply.

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