Amelia shook her head in exasperation. "Bother Leo. We'll look for him in the morning. I don't think any of us should go chasing after him tonight in the dark and cold. He probably went to the village tavern, in which case?
"I found this in his room." Poppy held out a slip of paper to her.
Frowning, Amelia read the note.
I don't expect you to understand. You 'II be better off this way.
There were another few words, scratched out.
I hope someday And at the bottom, once again,
There was no signature. No need for one.
Amelia was surprised by how calm her own voice sounded. "Go to bed, Poppy."
"But his note—I think it means?
"I know what it means. Go to bed, dear. Everything will be all right."
"Are you going to find him?"
"Yes, I'll find him."
Amelia's artificial composure vanished the moment the door closed. Cam was already yanking on his clothes, tugging his boots on, while Amelia lit the bedside lamp. She gave the note to him with trembling fingers. "It's not an empty gesture." She found it hard to breathe. "He means to do it. He may have already?
"Where is he most likely to go?" Cam interrupted. "Somewhere on the estate?"
Amelia thought of Laura's spectral face in the window. "He's at Ramsay House," she said through chattering teeth. "Take me there. Please."
"Of course. But first you may want to put on some clothes." Cam gave her a reassuring smile, stroking the side of her face with his hand. "I'll help you."
"Any man," she muttered, "who wanted to marry into the Hathaway family after this should be shut away to an institution."
"Marriage is an institution," he said reasonably, retrieving her gown from the floor.
They rode to Ramsay House on Cam's horse, whose long-stretching canter covered ground at near-frightening speed. It all seemed part of another nightmare, the rushing darkness and gnawing cold, the feeling of hurtling forward beyond her control. But there was Cam's steadfast form at her back, one arm locking her securely in place. She feared what they would find at Ramsay House. If the worst had already happened, she would have to accept it. But she was not alone. She was with the man who seemed to understand the very warp and weft of her soul.
As they approached the house, they saw a horse grazing disconsolately over patches of grass and gorse. It was a welcome sight. Leo was here, and they wouldn't have to go scouring through Hampshire to find him.
Helping Amelia to the ground, Cam took her hand in his. She held back, however, as he tried to pull her toward the front door. "Perhaps," she said tentatively, "you should wait here while I?
"Not a chance in hell."
"He may be more responsive if I approach him by myself, just at first?
"He's not in his right mind. You're not going to face him without me."
"He's my brother."
"And you're my romni."
"What is that?"
"I'll explain later." Cam stole a quick kiss and slid his arm around her, guiding her into the house. It was as still as a mausoleum, the chilled air scented of smoke and dust. Exploring the first floor silently, they found no sign of Leo. It was difficult to see in the darkness, but Cam made his way from room to room with the sureness of a cat.
There came a sound from overhead, the squeak of shifting floorboards. Amelia felt a quake of nervousness, and at the same time, relief. She hastened toward the stairs. Cam checked her, his hand tightening on her arm. Understanding that he wanted her to go slowly, she forced herself to relax.
They went to the staircase, Cam leading the way, testing each step before allowing Amelia to follow him. Accumulated grit scraped beneath their quiet feet. As they ascended, the air turned colder, and colder still, driving needles into her bones. It was an unholy chill, too bitter and ghastly to have come from a temporal source. A coldness that dried her lips and made her teeth ache. Her hand tightened inside Cam's, and she kept as close to him as possible without tripping him.
A feeble frosted glow came from a room near the end of an upstairs hallway. Amelia made a sound of distress as she realized where the lamplight was coming from. "The bee room."
"Bees don't fly at night," Cam murmured, his hand coming to the back of her neck, sliding across her nape. "But if you'd rather wait here?
"No." Summoning her courage, Amelia squared her shoulders and went with him down the hall. How like Leo, perverse wretch that he was, to hole up in a place that scared her witless.
They paused at the open doorway, Cam partially blocking Amelia from view.
Peering around his shoulder, she gasped.
It was not Leo, but Christopher Frost, his lean form gilded in lamplight as he stood before an open panel in the wall that contained the bee colony. The bees were subdued but far from quiet, millions of wings beating in a thick, ominous hum. The stench of exposed wood decay and fermented honey hung thick in the air. Shadows pooled on the floor like spilled ink, while the lamplight twisted and writhed at Christopher's feet.
At the swift intake of Amelia's breath, he swiveled and pulled something from his pocket. A pistol.
The three of them froze in a dark tableau, while a sting of shock ran over Amelia's skin.
"Christopher," she said in bewilderment. "What are you doing here?"
"Get back," Cam said harshly, trying to shove her behind him. But since she was no more eager to have Cam in front of the pistol than herself, she ducked beneath his arm and came up beside him.