He wanted to pull her down with him and cover her body with his. It had been four years since he had come to live with the Hathaways. Now he was finding it more and more difficult to control his feelings for Win.
"What are you thinking when you look at me like that?" she asked softly.
"I can't say."
Kev felt the smile hovering on his lips again, this time edged with wryness. "It would frighten you."
"Merripen," she said decisively, "nothing you could ever do or say would frighten me." She frowned. "Are you ever going to tell me your first name?"
"You will. I'll make you." She pretended to beai against his chest with her fists.
Kev caught her slim wrists in his hands, restraining her easily. His body followed the motion, rolling to trap her beneath him. It was wrong, but he couldn't stop himself. And as he pinned her with his weight, felt her wriggle instinctively to accommodate him, he was almost paralyzed by the primal pleasure of it. He expected her to struggle, to fight him, but instead she went passive in his hold, smiling up at him.
Dimly Kev remembered one of the mythology stories the Hathaways were so fond of… the Greek one about Hades, the god of the underworld, kidnapping the maiden Persephone in a flowery field and dragging her down through an opening in the earth. Down to his dark, private world where he could possess her. Although the Hathaway daughters had all been indignant about Persephone's fate, Kev's sympathies had privately been on Hades' side. Romany culture tended to romanticize the idea of kidnapping a woman for one's bride, even mimicking it during their courtship rituals.
"I don't see why eating a mere half-dozen pomegranate seeds should have condemned Persephone to stay with Hades part of every year," Poppy had said in outrage. "No one toid her the rules. It wasn't fair. I'm certain she would never have touched a thing, had she known what would happen."
"And it wasn't a very filling snack," Beatrix had added, perturbed. "If I'd been there, I would have asked for a pudding or a jam pasty, at least."
"Perhaps she wasn't altogether unhappy, having to stay," Win had suggested, her eyes twinkling. "After all, Hades did make her his queen. And the story says he possessed 'the riches of the earth.'"
"A rich husband," Amelia had said, "doesn't change the fact that Persephone's main residence is in an undesirable location with no view whatsoever. Just think of the difficulties in leasing it out during the off-months."
They had all agreed that Hades was a complete villain.
But Kev had understood exactly why the underworld god had stolen Persephone for his bride. He had wanted a little bit of sunshine, of warmth, for himself, down in the cheerless gloom of his dark palace.
"So your tribe members who left you for dead…," Win said, bringing Kev's thoughts back to the present, "… they're allowed to know your name, but I'm not?"
"That's right." Kev watched the brindling of sun and leaf shadows on her face. He wondered how it would feel to press his lips to that soft light-tricked skin.
A delectable notch appeared between Win's tawny brows. "Why? Why can't I know?"
"Because you're a gadji." His tone was more tender than he had meant it to be.
At this foray into dangerous territory, Kev felt his heart contract painfully. She wasn't his, nor could she ever be. Except in his heart.
He rolled off her, rising to his feet. "It's time to go back," he said curtly. He reached down for her, gripped her small extended hand, and hauled her upward. She didn't check the momentum but instead let herself fall naturally against him. Her skirts fluttered around his legs, and the slim feminine shape of her body pressed all along his front. Desperately he searched for the strength, the will, to push her away.
"Will you ever try to find them, Merripen?" she asked. "Will you ever go away from me?"
Never, he thought in a flash of ardent need. But instead he said, "I don't know."
"If you did, I would follow you. And I would bring you back home."
"I doubt the man you marry would allow that."
Win smiled as if the statement were ridiculous. She eased herself away and let go of his hand. They began the walk back to Hampshire House in silence. "Tobar?" she suggested after a moment. "Garridan? Palo?"
"Cooper?… Stanley?…" "No."
To the pride of the entire Hathaway family, Leo was accepted at the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he studied art and architecture for two years. So promising was Leo's talent that part of his tuition was assumed by the renowned London architect Rowland Temple, who said that Leo could repay him by working as his draughtsman upon returning.
Few would have argued that Leo had matured into a steady and good-natured young man, with a keen wit and a ready laugh. And in light of his talent and ambition, there was the promise of even more attainment. Upon his return to England, Leo took up residence in London to fulfill his obligation to Temple, but he also came frequently to visit his family at Primrose Place. And to court a pretty, dark-haired village girl named Laura Dillard.
During Leo's absence, Kev had done his best to take care of the Hathaways. And Mr. Hathaway had tried on more than one occasion to help Kev plan a future for himself. Such conversations turned out to be an exercise in frustration for them both.