Seduce Me at Sunrise (Page 86)
Cam was shaking his head ruefully. “I'll bet half of London has seen my tattoo. It's a wonder Lord Cavan never caught wind of it.”
Noah frowned. “I told you to keep it covered.”
“No, you didn't.”
“I did,” Noah insisted, and put his hand on his forehead. “Ah, Moshto, you were never good at listening.”
Win sat quietly beside Merripen. She listened as the men talked, but she was also busy taking in her surroundings. The vardo was old but scrupulously maintained, the interior clean and tidy. A faint, crisp scent of smoke seemed to emanate from the walls, the boards seasoned by thousands of meals that had been prepared in the vehicle. Children played outside, laughing and quarreling. It was odd to think that this caravan was a family's only refuge from the outside world. The lack of sheltered space compelled the tribe to live mostly out-of-doors. As foreign as that idea was, there was a kind of freedom in it.
It was possible to imagine Cam taking to this way of life, adapting to it, but not Kev. There would always be something in him that would drive him to control and master his surroundings. To build, to organize. Having lived with her kind for so long, he had come to understand them. And in understanding them, he had become more like them.
She wondered how he felt at having his Romany past finally uncovered, the mysteries explained. He seemed perfectly calm and controlled, but it would be unsettling for anyone to experience this.
“… with all the time that has passed,” Cam was saying, “I wonder if there's still danger to us? And is our father still alive?”
“It would be easy enough to find out,” Merripen replied, and added darkly, “He probably wouldn't be happy to find out that we were still alive.”
“You're more or less safe as long as you remain Roma,” Noah said. “But if Kev reveals himself as the Cavan heir and tries to claim the title, there could be trouble.”
Merripen looked scornful. “Why would I do that?”
Noah shrugged. “No Rom would. But you are half gadjo.”
“I don't want the title or what comes with it,” Merripen said firmly. “And I want nothing to do with the Coles, Lord Cavan, or anything Irish.”
“And ignore half of yourself?” Cam asked.
“I've spent most of life not knowing about my Irish half. It will be no problem to ignore it now.”
A Romany boy came to the vardo to let them know that the sling had been finished.
“Good,” Merripen said decisively. “I'll help him outside, and he-“
“Oh no,” Cam said, scowling. “There is no possible way I'm going to let myself be carried in a sling to Ramsay House.”
Merripen gave him a sardonic glance. “How are you planning to get there?”
Merripen's brows lowered. “You're in no condition to ride. You'll fall and break your neck.”
“I can do it,” Cam insisted stubbornly. “It's not far.” “You'll fall off the horse!”
“I'm not going in the bloody sling. It would frighten Amelia.”
“You're not worried about Amelia nearly so much as your own pride. You'll be carried, and that's final.”
“Bugger you,” Cam snapped.
Win and Noah exchanged a worried glance. The brothers seemed ready to come to blows.
“As the tribe leader, I may be able to help settle the dispute-,” Noah began diplomatically.
Merripen and Cam answered at the same time, '”No.”
“Kev,” Win murmured, “could he ride with me? He could sit behind me and hold on to me for balance.”
“All right,” Cam said immediately. “We'll do that.”
Merripen scowled at them both.
“I'll go as well,” Noah said with a slight smile. “On my own horse. I'll tell my son to saddle him.” He paused. “Can you stay a few minutes more? You have many Romany cousins to meet. And I have a wife and children I want to show to you, and-“
“Later,” Merripen said. “I need to take my brother to his wife without delay.”
After Noah had gone outside, Cam stared absently into the dregs of his tea.
“What are you thinking?” Merripen asked.
“I'm wondering if our father had children by his second wife. And if so, how many? Are there half brothers and half sisters we don't know about?”
Merripen's eyes narrowed. “What does it matter?”
“They're our family.”
Merripen smacked his forehead with his hand in an uncharacteristically dramatic gesture. “We've got the Hathaways, and we've got more than a dozen Roma running around outside, who are all apparently cousins. How much more damned family do you want?”
Cam only smiled.
Not surprisingly, Ramsay House was in an uproar. The Hathaways, Miss Marks, the servants, the parish constable, and a doctor were crowded in the entrance hall. Since the short ride had depleted Cam 's strength, he was forced to lean on Merripen as they went inside.
They were immediately surrounded by the family, with Amelia pushing her way to Cam. She gave a sob of relief as she reached him, fighting tears as she ran frantic hands over his chest and face. Letting go of Merripen, Cam wrapped his arms around Amelia, his head lowering nearly to her shoulder. They were quiet amid the tumult, breathing in measured sighs. One of her hands crept up to his hair, fingers closing in the dark layers. Cam murmured something against her ear, some soft and private reassurance. And he swayed, causing Amelia to grip him more tightly, while Kev took his shoulders to steady him.