“I hope so,” Catherine said soberly. “I hope this isn’t a result of the Ramsay curse.”

“I don’t believe in curses, or spells, or anything of the sort. The only curse my brother faces is self-imposed.”

“You … you mean because of his grief over Laura Dillard?”

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Amelia’s blue eyes turned round. “He talked to you about her?”

Catherine nodded.

Amelia seemed caught off guard. Taking Catherine’s arm, she drew her further along the hallway, where there was less risk of being overheard. “What did he say?”

“That she liked to watercolor,” Catherine replied hesitantly. “That they were betrothed, and then she caught the scarlet fever, and died in his arms. And that … she haunted him for a time. Literally. But that couldn’t be true … could it?”

Amelia was silent for a good half minute. “I think it might be,” she said with remarkable calmness. “I wouldn’t admit that to many people—it makes me sound like a lunatic.” A wry smile crossed her lips. “However, you’ve lived with the Hathaways long enough to know of a certainty that we are indeed a pack of lunatics.” She paused. “Catherine.”

“Yes?”

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“My brother never discusses Laura Dillard with anyone. Ever.”

Catherine blinked. “He was in pain. He’d lost blood.”

“I don’t think that is why he confided in you.”

“What other reason could there have been?” Catherine asked with difficulty.

It must have shown in her face, how much she dreaded the answer.

Amelia stared at her closely, and then shrugged with a rueful smile. “I’ve already said too much. Forgive me. It’s only that I desire my brother’s happiness so greatly.” She paused before adding sincerely, “And yours.”

“I assure you, ma’am, one has nothing to do with the other.”

“Of course,” Amelia murmured, and went back to the doorway to wait.

Chapter Nine

After the wound had been cleaned and bandaged, Leo was left gray-faced and exhausted. He slept for the rest of the day, waking occasionally to find broth or fever tea being poured down his throat. The family was merciless in their efforts to take care of him.

As he had expected, the opiate sent him into nightmares, filled with creatures rising from the earth to claw and pull at him, tugging him down below the surface where red glowing eyes blinked at him in the dark. Trapped in a narcotic daze, Leo couldn’t fully awaken from the dreams, only struggled in the heat and misery, and subsided into more hallucinations. The only respite was when a cool cloth was applied to his forehead, and a gentle, comforting presence hovered beside him.

“Amelia? Win?” he mumbled in confusion.

“Shhhh…”

“Hot,” he said with an aching sigh.

“Lie still.”

He was vaguely aware of two or three other times when the cloth was changed … merciful coolness applied to his brow … a light hand curving against his cheek.

When he awoke in the morning, he was tired, feverish, and in the grip of a profound gloom. It was the usual aftermath of opium, of course, but the knowledge hardly helped to alleviate the overwhelming dreariness.

“You have a mild fever,” Cam told him in the morning. “You’ll need to drink more yarrow tea to bring it down. But there’s no sign of festering. Rest today, and I expect you’ll feel much better by tomorrow.”

“That tea tastes like ditch water,” Leo muttered. “And I’m not going to stay in bed all day.”

Cam looked sympathetic. “I understand, phral. You don’t feel ill enough to rest, but you’re not well enough to do anything. All the same, you have to give yourself a chance to heal, or—”

“I’m going downstairs for a proper breakfast.”

“Breakfast is done. They’ve already cleared the sideboard.”

Leo scowled and rubbed his face, wincing at the fiery pull of his shoulder. “Have Merripen come up here. I want to talk to him.”

“He is out with the tenants, drilling turnip seed.”

“Where is Amelia?”

“Taking care of the baby. He’s teething.”

“What about Win?”

“She’s with the housekeeper, taking inventory and ordering supplies. Beatrix is carrying baskets to elderly cottagers in town. And I have to visit a tenant who’s two months lacking in his rent. I’m afraid there is no one available to entertain you.”

Leo greeted this statement with surly silence. And then he brought himself to ask for the person he truly wanted. The person who hadn’t bothered to look in on him or ask after his welfare even after she’d promised to safeguard him. “Where’s Marks?”

“The last time I saw her, she was busy with needlework. It seems the mending has piled up, and—”

“She can do it here.”

Cam’s face was carefully blank. “You want Miss Marks to do the mending in your room?”

“Yes, send her up here.”

“I’ll ask if she’s willing,” Cam said, looking doubtful.

After Leo had washed and dragged on a dressing robe, he went back to bed. He was sore and infuriatingly unsteady. A housemaid brought a small tray with a solitary piece of toast and a cup of tea. Leo ate his breakfast while staring morosely at the empty doorway.

Where was Marks? Had Cam even bothered to tell her that she was wanted? If so, she had evidently decided to ignore the summons.

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