The head of his shaft brushed the wet entrance of her body. She couldn't help cocking her h*ps upward, inviting more. She strained back into the satiny pressure as he gripped his sex and used it to tease her, circling, crossing, entering briefly and sliding back, until the beech bark was wet beneath her bare palm, and all she could do was wait, trembling, with her head lowered. She didn't dare speak for fear she would cry out like one of the wild creatures he had spoken of. But a groan did leave her as he finally pushed forward in a long, aggressive slide, filling her exquisitely.

Cam's hand slid to her front, between her thighs, and he played with her as he thrust steadily, rooting out spasms of white-hot delight. She sensed the wild hunger in him, but he disciplined it for her, for her pleasure, and her body responded with violent throbbing convulsions. Pulling out with a groan, he urged his slick length against the smooth skin of her bu**ocks, letting the hot fluid spill.


Amelia wanted him inside her. She had wanted to pull him as deep as possible in that final moment. Instead she lay passively over the beech wood. Her legs were so weak, she doubted they would take her all the way back to the manor. Cam restored her clothing slowly, his strong hands lifting her from the beech. Crushing her close, he muttered something incomprehensible against her hair. Another spell to bind her, she thought hazily, her cheek pressed to his smooth, hard chest. "You're speaking in Romany," she mumbled.

Cam switched to English. "Amelia, I? He stopped, as if the right words eluded him. "I can't stop myself from being jealous, any more than I can stop being half Roma. But I'll try not to be overbearing. Just say you'll be my wife."

"Please," Amelia whispered, her wits still scattered, "let me answer later. When I can think clearly."

"You do too much thinking." He kissed the top of her head. "I can't promise you a perfect life. But 1 can promise that no matter what happens, I'll give you everything I have. We'll be together. You inside me ... me inside you." He held her close and sighed shortly. "All right. Give me an answer later. But remember... a dragon has only so much patience."

Mr. Dashiell and his assistant stayed in Hampshire one more day, visiting Ramsay House to make additional sketches of the structure and the surrounding land. The assistant, Mr. Barksby, would take initial survey measurements and gather information. At Dashiell's invitation, Amelia accompanied them, pleased by the opportunity to watch them work.

Cam, meanwhile, was forced to remain at the manor to meet with an estate manager, Mr. Gerald Pym. The manager worked for a Portsmouth firm that held a longstanding contract to supervise the Ramsay estate. Pym had been hastily dispatched after news of the fire to compile an initial report of the damage and take stock of the situation. Rents, repairs, and development of the estate land would be discussed, as well as the contracts with John Dashiell. Much would have to be decided in short order, to keep the few existing Ramsay tenants from fleeing. Hopefully in the future, with good management, more tenants might be attracted to the estate, providing badly needed income for the Hathaways.

All of that was conditional, of course, on how long Leo would remain alive.

Since meeting with Mr. Pym was the responsibility of the current Lord Ramsay, Cam bullied Leo into attending the meeting with him. Not because Leo would have anything sensible to contribute, but merely as a symbolic gesture.

"Besides," Cam had told Amelia grimly, "if I have to be bored witless talking about gadjo affairs, there's no reason Leo should be spared." He had swept a proprietary glance over her, taking in the green wool walking dress and fur-trimmed black cloak. "I shouldn't let you go with Dashiell and Barksby," he said. "You'll be the only woman there. I don't like it."

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"Oh, it's all very circumspect. They're both gentlemen, and I'm?

"Spoken for," he had said curtly. "By me."

Her heart beat a little faster. "Yes, I know," she admitted without looking at him.

The small concession seemed to please him. He pushed the door closed with his foot, and reached beneath her cloak with importunate hands. He kissed her as if he could breathe her in. Fierce kisses, hard ones, teasingly articulate ones, soft enticing ones, kisses to light bonfires and fill the sky and hold the stars aloft.

When Cam finally relented and eased her away from the door to open it, he said one word in her scarlet ear before she fled. The word went down to the marrow of her bones.


Walking around the ragged exterior of Ramsay House, Amelia talked animatedly with John Dashiell, asking about his past projects, his ambitions, and whether there were difficulties in working with one's brother.

"We knock heads quite often, I'm afraid," Dashiell replied, squinting against the afternoon sun. A quick grin illuminated his face. "We both hate to compromise. I accuse him of being set in his ways, and he accuses me of arrogance. The pity of it is, we're both right." Amelia laughed. "But the job gets done."

"Yes, we're inspired to reach a compromise by the necessity of paying the bills. Here, take my arm. The ground is uneven."

His arm was firm and steady beneath her gloved hand. She felt a rush of liking for him. "I'm very glad you came to Hampshire, Mr. Dashiell. I know Lord Ramsay appreciates your efforts on our behalf."

"Does he?"

"Oh, yes. I'm sure he would have said so, except that he's had a great deal hanging on his mind of late."

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