"Because if you are, then one of your charges is most definitely Miss Beatrix Hathaway."
She scowled. "How do you know that?"
"My sister is the only person I know of who would bring a garter-stealing ferret to the Rutledge Hotel."
He smiled into her astonished face. "Lord Ramsay, at your service. And you are Miss Marks, the governess?"
"Yes," she muttered, ignoring the hand he reached down for her. She rose to her feet unassisted.
Leo felt an irresistible urge to provoke her. "How gratifying. I've always wanted a family governess to harass."
The comment seemed to incense her beyond all expectation. "I am aware of your reputation as a skirt-chaser, my lord. I find no cause for humor in it."
Leo didn't think she found cause for humor in much of anything. "My reputation has lasted in spite of a two-year absence?" he asked, affecting a tone of pleased surprise.
"You're proud of it?"
"Well, of course. It's easy to have a good reputation- you merely have to do nothing. But earning a bad reputation… well, that takes some effort."
A contemptuous stare burned through the spectacle lenses. "I despise you," she announced. Turning on her heel, she walked away from him.
Leo followed, carrying the ferret. "We've only just met. You can't despise me until you really get to know me."
She ignored him as he followed her to the Hathaway suite. She ignored him as he knocked at the door, and she ignored him as they were welcomed inside by the maid.
There was some kind of commotion going on in the suite, which shouldn't have been a surprise considering it was his family's suite. The air was filled with cursing, exclamations, and grunts of physical combat.
"Leo?" Beatrix appeared from the main receiving room and hurried over to them.
"Beatrix, darling!" Leo was amazed by the difference the past two and a half years had made in his youngest sister. "How you've grown-"
"Yes, never mind that," she said impatiently, snatching the ferret from him. "Go in there and help Mr. Rohan!"
"Help him with what?"
"He's trying to stop Merripen from killing Dr. Harrow."
"Already?" Leo asked blankly, and rushed into the receiving room.
After attempting to sleep on a bed that had turned into a torture rack, Kev had awoken with a heavy heart. And other, more urgent discomforts.
He'd been plagued with stimulating dreams in which Win's na**d body had been writhing against him, beneath him. All the desires he kept at bay in the daylight hours had expressed themselves in those dreams.… He had been holding Win, thrusting inside her, and taking her cries into his mouth… kissing her from head to toe and back again. And in those same dreams she had behaved in a most un-Win-like manner, delicately feasting on him with a wanton mouth, exploring him with inquisitive little hands.
Washing in frigid water had helped his condition marginally, but Kev was still aware of the heat burning far too close to the surface.
He was going to have to face Win today and converse with her in front of everyone, as if everything were ordinary. He was going to have to look at her and not think about the softness between her thighs, and how she had cradled him as he had thrust against her, and how he had felt her warmth even through the layers of their clothes. And how he had lied to her and made her cry.
Feeling wretched and explosive, Kev dressed in the town clothes that the family insisted he wear when in London. "You know how much value gadje place on appearance," Rohan had told him, dragging him to Savile Row. "You have to look respectable, or it will reflect badly on your sisters to be seen with you."
Rohan's former employer, Lord St. Vincent, had recommended a shop that specialized in bespoke tailoring. You won't get anything decent in made-to-measure, St. Vincent had said, flicking an assessing glance over Kev. No pattern would fit him.
Kev had submitted to the indignity of having measurements taken, being draped with countless fabrics, and going for endless fittings. Rohan and the Hathaway sisters had all seemed pleased with the results, but Kev couldn't see any difference between his new attire and the old. Clothes were clothes, something that covered the body to protect it from the elements.
Scowling, Kev donned a white pleated shirt and black cravat, a vest with a notched collar, and narrow-legged trousers. He pulled on a wool town coat with front flap pockets and a split at the back. (Despite his disdain for gadjo clothing, he had to admit it was a fine, comfortable coat.)
As was his habit, Kev went to the Hathaway suite for breakfast. He kept his face expressionless, even though his gut was twisting and his pulse was rampaging. All at the thought of seeing Win. But he would manage the situation adeptly. He would be calm and quiet, and Win would be her usual composed self, and they would get past this first unholy awkward meeting.
All his intentions, however, vanished as he entered the suite, went to the receiving room, and saw Win on the floor. In her underclothes.
She was lying prostrate on her stomach, trying to push upward, while a man leaned over her. Touching her.
The sight exploded inside Kev.
With a bloodthirsty roar, he reached Win in a flash, snatching her up in possessive arms.
"Wait," she gasped. "What are you-oh, don't! Let me expl-no!"
He deposited her unceremoniously on a sofa behind him, and turned to face the other man. The only thought in Kev's mind was swift and effective dismemberment, starting by ripping the bastard's head off.