"Right now?" she asked in bewilderment, "But... where are you going?"
His expression changed. "To find your brother." Amelia stared at him with mingled gratitude and concern. "Perhaps you should rest first. You traveled all night. It may take a long tune to find him."
"No it won't." His eyes glinted with irony. "Your brother is hardly one to cover his tracks."
Approximately six hours after his search for Leo had begun, Cam knocked at the front door of a prosperous manor farm. A piece of tavern gossip had led to someone who had seen Ramsay with someone else, and they had gone to another place, where their plans had been overheard, and so forth, until finally the trait had led to this place.
The large Tudor house, with the date 1620 inscribed over the door, was located almost ten miles from Stony Cross Park. From the information Cam had gathered, the farm had once belonged to a noble Hampshire family, but had been sold out of necessity to a London merchant. It served as a retreat for the merchant's dissipated sons and their playmates.
Hardly a surprise that Leo had been drawn to such company.
The door was opened, and a trout-faced butler appeared. His lips twisted disdainfully as he saw Cam.
"Your kind isn't welcome here."
"That's fortunate, since I don't intend to stay long. I've come to collect Lord Ramsay."
"There is no Ramsay here." The butler began to close the door, but Cam braced a hand on it.
"Tall. Light eyes. Ruddy-complexioned. Probably reeking of spirits?
"I have seen no one of that description."
"Then let me speak to your master."
"He is not al home."
"Look," Cam said irritably, "I'm here on behalf of Lord Ramsay's family. They want him back. God knows why. Give him to me, and I'll leave you in peace."
"If they want him," the butler said frostily, "let them send a proper servant. Not a filthy Gypsy."
Cam rubbed the corners of his eyes with his free hand and sighed. "We can do this the easy way or the hard way. Frankly, I'd rather not go through unnecessary exertion. All I ask is that you allow me five minutes to find the bastard and take him off your hands."
"Begone with you!"
After another foiled attempt to close the door, the butler reached for a silver bell on the hall table. A few seconds later, two burly footmen appeared.
"Show this vermin out at once," the butler commanded. Cam removed his coat and tossed it onto one of the built-in benches lining the entrance hall.
The first footman charged him. In a few practiced movements, Cam landed a right cross on his jaw, flipped him, and sent him to a groaning heap on the floor.
The second footman approached Cam with considerably more caution than the first.
"Which is your dominant arm?" Cam asked. The footman looked startled. "Why do you want to know?"
"I'd prefer to break the one you don't use as often."
The footman's eyes bulged, and he retreated, giving the butler a pleading glance.
The butler glared at Cam. "You have five minutes. Retrieve your master and go."
"Ramsay isn't my master," Cam muttered. "He's a pain in my arse."
'They've been in the same room for days," the footman, whose name was George, told Cam as they ascended a flight of carpeted stairs. "Food sent in, whores coming and going, empty wine bottles everywhere... and the stench of opium smoke all through the entire upper floor. You'll want to cover your eyes when you enter the room, sir."
"Because of the smoke?"
"That, and?well, the goings-on would make the devil blush."
"I'm from London," Cam said. "I don't blush." Even if George hadn't been willing to lead Cam to the room of iniquity, he could have easily found it from the smell.
The door was ajar. Cam nudged it open and stepped into the hazy atmosphere. There were four men and two women, all young, all in various stages of undress. Although only one opium pipe was in evidence, it could have been argued that the entire room served as a huge pipe, so thick was the sweet smoke. Cam's arrival was greeted with remarkable unconcern, the men listlessly draped across upholstered furniture, one coiled on cushions in the corner. Their complexions were cadaverous, their eyes filmy with narcotic dullness. A side table was littered with spoons and pins and a dish filled with what looked like black treacle.
One of the women, who was entirely naked, paused in the act of lifting a pipe to a man's slack mouth.
"Look," she said to the other woman, "here's a new one." A drowsy giggle. "Good, we need him. They're all at half-mast. The only stiff thing left is the pipe." She twisted to look at Cam. "Gor, what a pretty man."
"Oh, let me have him first," the other one said. She petted herself invitingly. "C'mere, love, I'll give you a?
"No, thank you." Cam was beginning to feel slightly dizzy from the smoke. He went to the nearest window, opened it, and let a cold breeze into the room. A few curses and protests greeted his actions.
Identifying the one in the corner as Leo, Cam went to the quiescent figure, lifted the head by the hair, and stared into his future brother-in-law's puffy face. "Haven't you inhaled enough smoke lately?" he asked.
Leo scowled. "Sod off"
"You sound like Merripen," Cam said. "Who, in case you're interested, may be dead by the time we return to Stony Cross Manor."