Her hands shot to his muscle-banked shoulders. "Mr. Rohan, you mustn't?

"This is how to kiss, Amelia." He cradled her head in his palms, deftly tilting it to the side. "Noses go here." Another disorienting brush of his mouth, a wash of sensual heat. "You taste like sugar and tea."


"I already know how to kiss!"

"Do you?" His thumb passed over her kiss-heated lips, urging them to part. "Then show me," he whispered. "Let me in, Amelia."

Never in her life had she thought a man would say something so outrageous to her. And if the words were improper, the gleam in his eyes was positively immolating.

"I... I'm a spinster." She offered the word as if it were a talisman. Everyone knew that rakish gentlemen were supposed to leave spinsters alone. But it appeared no one had told Cam Rohan.

A covert smile deepened the corners of his mouth. 'That's not going to keep you safe from me." She tried to turn away from him, but his hands guided her face back to his. "I can't seem to leave you alone. In fact, I'm reconsidering my entire policy on spinsters."

Before she could ask what his policy was, his mouth possessed hers again, while his fingers caressed the taut edge of her jaw, coaxing her to relax. Even in her most ardent moments with Christopher Frost, he had never kissed her like this, as if he were consuming her slowly. His lips rubbed over hers until they caught and sealed warmly, and his tongue found hers. He played with her, stroking and reaching, while his hands gathered her closer. He caressed her back and shoulders, while his lips broke from hers to explore the soft slope of her neck. He found a place that made her writhe, teasing gently until a helpless moan slipped from her throat.

Rohan's head lifted. His eyes glowed as if brimstone were contained within the dark-rimmed irises. He spoke slowly, as if he were collecting words like fallen leaves. "This is probably a bad idea."

Amelia nodded shakily. "Yes, Mr. Rohan."

His fingertips teased a fresh surge of color to the surface of her cheeks. "My name is Cam."

-- Advertisement --

"I can't call you that."

"Why not?"

"You know why," came her unsteady reproach. A long breath was neatly rifted as she felt his mouth descend to her cheek, exploring the rosy skin. "What does it mean?"

"My name? It's the Romany word for 'sun.'"

Amelia could scarcely think. "As in ... the offspring of a father, or in the sky?"

"Sky." He moved to the arch of her eyebrow, kissing the outward tip. "Did you know a Gypsy has three names?"

She shook her head slowly, while his mouth slid across her forehead. He pressed a warm veil of words against her skin. "The first is a secret name a mother whispers into her child's ear at birth. The second is a tribal name used only by other Gypsies. The third is the name we use with non-Roma."

His scent was all around her, spare and fresh and delicious. "What is your tribal name?"

He smiled slightly, the shape of his mouth a burning motif against her cheek. "I can't tell you. I don't know you well enough yet."

Yet. The tantalizing promise embedded in that word shortened her breath. "Let me go," she whispered. "Please, we mustn't? But the words were lost as he bent and took her mouth hungrily.

Suffused with pleasure, Amelia groped for his hair, finding acute satisfaction in the slide of heavy silk through her fingers. As he felt her touch him, he gave a low mutter of encouragement. The pattern of his breath changed, roughened, his kisses turning hard and languorous.

He took what she offered—more—sinking his tongue deeper, gathering sensation. And she responded until her soul was scorched at the edges, and her thoughts had vanished like sparks leaping from a bonfire. 

Abruptly Rohan took his mouth from hers and held her tightly, too tightly, against his body. She felt herself straining in a subtle pendulum sway, needing friction, pressure, release. He kept her still, holding her close while she trembled and ached.

Rohan's grip eased. She was released by gradual degrees until he was finally able to push her away completely.

"Pardon," he eventually said. She saw the daze of heat in his eyes. "I don't usually have such a difficult time stopping."

Amelia nodded blindly and wrapped her arms around herself. She wasn't aware of her foot's nervous tapping until Rohan came to her and slid one of his feet beneath her skirts to still her drumming toes.

"Hummingbird," he whispered. "You'd better go now. If you don't, I'll end up compromising you in ways you never knew were possible."

Amelia was never quite certain how she returned to the parlor without getting lost. She moved as if through the layers of a dream.

Reaching the settee where Poppy sat, Amelia accepted another cup of tea and smiled at little Merritt, who was fishing around in her own cup for a chunk of dropped sugar biscuit, and responded noncommittally to Lillian's suggestion that the entire Hathaway family join them on a picnic at week's end.

"I do wish we could have accepted her invitation," Poppy said wistfully on the way home. "But I suppose that would be asking for trouble, since Leo would probably be objectionable and Beatrix would steal something."

"And there's far too much for us to do at Ramsay House," Amelia added, feeling distracted and distant.

Only one thought was clear in her mind. Cam Rohan would return to London soon. For her own sake—and perhaps his as well—she would have to avoid Stony Cross Park until he was gone.