"What? Amelia gasped as she heard the pounding of heavy hooves and saw a huge black form rushing toward them like something from a nightmare. Alarm darted through her, and she burrowed against Cam, her face hidden against his chest. His arm went around her, tucking her close.
When the thundering stopped, Amelia risked a glance at the apparition. It was a horse. A huge black horse, with puffing breaths that rose like wraiths in the raw air.
"Is this really happening?" she asked.
Cam reached in his pocket and fed the horse a sugar lump, and ran his hand over the sleek midnight neck. "Have you ever had a dream like this?"
"Then it must be happening."
"You actually have a horse who comes when you whistle?"
"Yes, I trained him."
"What is his name?"
His smile gleamed white in the darkness. "Can't you guess?"
Amelia thought for a moment. "Pooka?" The horse turned his head to look at her as if he understood. "Pooka," she repeated with a faint smile. "Do you have wings, by any chance?"
At Cam's subtle gesture, the horse shook his head in an emphatic no, and Amelia laughed shakily.
Walking to Pooka's side, Cam swung up onto the pack-saddle in a graceful movement. He sidled close to the step on which Amelia was standing and reached down to her. She took his hand, managing to gain a foothold on the stirrup. She was lifted easily onto the saddle in front of him. Momentum carried her a little too far, but Cam's arm locked around her, keeping her in place. , Amelia leaned back into the hard cradle of his chest and arm. Her nostrils were filled with the scents of autumn, damp earth, horse and man and midnight.
"You knew I'd come with you, didn't you?" she asked.
Cam leaned over her, kissing her temple. "I only hoped." His thighs tightened, setting the horse to a gallop, and then a smooth canter. And when Amelia closed her eyes, she could have sworn they were flying.
Cam rode to the abandoned river encampment where the Gypsy tribe had stayed. The remains of the camp were still there; the ruts left by the wheels of the vardos, circles of grass eaten where the cobs had been tethered, the shallow fire pit filled with ash. And everywhere there was the sound of the sloshing, rushing river, pushing at the banks, soaking the yielding earth.
He dismounted and helped Amelia to the ground. At his direction, she sat on a fallen birch log while he set up a makeshift camp. She waited with her hands folded neatly in her lap, watching his every movement as he pulled a bundle of blankets from the packsaddle. In a few minutes he had made a fire in the stone-circled pit and laid out a pallet beside it.
Amelia hurried to the pile of blankets and burrowed beneath the layers of wool and quilted cotton. "Is it safe out here?" she asked, her voice muffled.
"You're safe from everything but me." Smiling, Cam lowered himself beside her. After removing his boots, he joined her beneath the blankets and pulled her against him. Reminding himself of the rewards to be gained by patience, he cuddled her close and waited.
As one second melted into the next, Amelia's body nestled more tightly against his. It felt so extraordinary just to hold her that he did nothing for a long time. He listened to the flow of her breathing, and felt the cold night air move over them, while the warmth of their bodies collected beneath the blankets. They descended into the heart of a still, quiet pleasure Cam had never known before. His pulse began a hard, rolling drum, the heat thickening between every beat. He felt her h*ps pressing tentatively against his, cradling the rigid shape of his arousal, bundling closer. But still he didn't move, only let her cuddle and brush against him until he was tense and fiercely aroused.
The fire flicked and snapped its yellow ribbons, lapping at broken birch and oak. Hot... he had never been so hot in his life. As he considered removing his shirt, he felt Amelia's hands creeping under the loose hem. The small, cool fingers roamed over his steaming skin. Wherever she touched, the muscles rippled and tightened, and it felt so good that Cam let out a faint groan against her hair. She grasped loose handfuls of his shirt and tugged upward. Without hesitation he sat up, stripped the garment off and tossed it aside.
She crawled into his lap, her long hair streaming over his na**d chest and shoulders in a silken net. Entranced, Cam held still as she pressed her mouth to his chest, his shoulders, the base of his throat, in a delicate frolic of kisses.
"Amelia? His hands came to her head, stilling her. The warm ripples of her hair slid over his arms, raising gooseflesh.
"Monisha," he whispered, "I won't do anything you don't want. I only want to give you pleasure."
Her face was glowing in the firelight, her lips the color of red currants. "What does that word mean?"
"Monisha? An endearment." He could hardly think straight. "A Roma says it to a woman he's intimate with."
Her hands came to his, fingers slipping into the spaces between his fingers. They held each other, their lips forming soundless words, mouths grazing and catching with damp heat.
Cam lowered her to the blankets, in the pool of dancing firelight. And he whispered in the old language, telling her that he wanted to chase her as the sun chased the moon across the sky, he wanted to fill her until they were corthu, one being, joined. He was only half aware of what he was saying, drunk on the scent of her and the heat rising from her body.
He opened her robe and gown, dreamily pulling the soft fabric away from the deep curves of her br**sts and waist. She was so beautifully made, lush and firm, the pale skin burnished with light. Voluptuous shadows dipped into places he yearned to touch and taste. He followed her spreading blush with his mouth, pursuing the wash of color. She shivered beneath him, her hands gripping the bulging muscles of his upper arms.