The world had become this quiet shadowed room, the slender body in his arms, the breath that filtered softly in and out of her lungs. He followed that rhythm with his own breath, his own heartbeat. Leaning back against the bed, he fell into a dark trance as he waited for their shared fate.
Unaware of how much time passed, he rested with her until a movement in the doorway and a glow of light awakened him.
"Merripen." Amelia's husky voice. She held a candle at the threshold.
Kev felt blindly for Win's cheek, laid his hand along the side of her face, and felt a thrill of panic as his fingers met cool skin. He felt for the pulse in her throat.
"Leo's fever has broken," Amelia said. Kev could barely hear her over the blood rush in his ears. "He's going to be well."
A weak but steady throb lay beneath Kev's searching fingertips. Win's heartbeat… the pulse that sustained his universe.
The addition of Cam Rohan to the Hathaway family had set the table for a new company. It was puzzling, how one person could change everything. Not to mention infuriating.
But then, everything was infuriating to Kev now. Win had gone to France, and there was no reason for him to be pleasant or even civil. Her absence had put him in the prowling fury of a wild creature deprived of its mate. He was always aware of his need for her, and the unendurable knowledge that she was somewhere far away and he couldn't reach her.
Kev had forgotten how this felt, this black hatred of the world and all its occupants. It was an unwelcome reminder of his boyhood, when he'd known nothing but violence and misery. And yet the Hathaways all seemed to expect him to behave as usual, to take part in the family routine, to pretend the Earth had gone on spinning.
The only thing that kept him sane was the knowledge of what she would want him to do. She would want him to take care of her sisters. And refrain from killing her new brother-in-law.
Kev could hardly stand the bastard.
The rest of them adored him. Cam Rohan had come and swept Amelia, a determined spinster, completely off her feet. Seduced her, as a matter of fact, which Kev still hadn't forgiven him for. But Amelia was entirely happy with her husband, even though he was half Rom.
None of them had ever met anyone quite like Rohan, whose origins were as mysterious as Kev's own. For most of his life, Rohan had worked at a gentlemen's gaming club, Jenner's, eventually becoming a factotum and then owning a small interest in the highly lucrative business. Burdened with a growing fortune, he had invested it as badly as possible to spare himself the supreme embarrassment of being a Gypsy with money. It hadn't worked. The money kept coming, every foolish investment returning miraculous dividends. Rohan sheepishly called it his good-luck curse.
But as it turned out, Rohan's curse was useful, since taking care of the Hathaways was an expensive proposition. Their family estate in Hampshire, which Leo had inherited last year along with his title, had burned down recently and was being rebuilt. And Poppy needed clothes for her London season, and Beatrix wanted to go to finishing school. On top of that, there were Win's clinic bills. As Rohan had pointed out to Kev, he was in a position to do a great deal for the Hathaways and that should be reason enough for Kev to tolerate him.
Therefore, Kev tolerated him.
"Good morning," Rohan said cheerfully, coming into the dining area of the family's suite at the Rutledge Hotel. They were already halfway through breakfast. Unlike the rest of them, Rohan was not an early riser, having spent most of his life in a gambling club where there was activity at all hours of the night. A town Gypsy, Kev thought with contempt.
Freshly washed and dressed in gadjo clothes, Rohan was exotically handsome, with dark hair worn a shade too long and a diamond stud sparkling in one ear. He was lean and supple, with an easy way of moving. Before taking the chair next to Amelia, he leaned down to kiss her head, an open display of affection that caused her to color. There had been a time in the not-too-distant past when Amelia would have disapproved of such demonstrations. Now she merely blushed and looked bemused.
Kev scowled down at his half-finished plate.
"Are you still sleepy?" he heard Amelia ask Rohan.
"At this rate, I won't be fully awake until noon."
"You should try some coffee."
"No, thank you. I can't abide the stuff."
Beatrix spoke then. "Merripen drinks lots of coffee. He loves it."
"Of course he does," Rohan said. "It's dark and bitter." He grinned as Kev gave him a warning glance. "How are you faring this morning, phral"
"Don't call me that." Although Kev didn't raise his voice, there was a savage note in it that gave everyone pause.
After a moment, Amelia spoke to Rohan in a deliberately light tone. "We're going to the dressmaker's today, Poppy and Beatrix and I. We'll probably be gone till supper." While Amelia went on to describe the gowns and hats and fripperies they would need, Kev felt Beatrix's small hand creep over his.
"It's all right," Beatrix whispered. "I miss them, too."
At sixteen, the youngest Hathaway sibling was at that vulnerable age between childhood and adulthood. A sweet-natured little scamp, she was as inquisitive as one of the many pets she had accumulated. Since Amelia's marriage to Rohan, Beatrix had been begging to go to finishing school. Kev suspected she had read one too many novels featuring heroines who acquired airs and graces at "academies for young ladies." He was doubtful that finishing school would turn out well for the free-spirited Beatrix.