Prudently the man had rushed behind a heavy chair, placing it between them. "You must be Merripen," he said. "And I'm-"

"A dead man," Kev growled, starting for him.


"He's my doctor!" Win cried. "He's Dr. Harrow, and-Merripen, don't you dare hurt him!"

Ignoring her, Kev went forward about two strides before he felt a leg hook around his, sending him hurtling to the floor. It was Cam Rohan, who pounced on him, knelt on his arms, and gripped the back of his neck.

"Merripen, you idiot," Rohan said, struggling to keep him down, "he's the damned doctor. What do you think you're doing?"

"Killing… him Kev grunted, lurching upward despite Rohan's restraining weight.

"Bloody hell!" Rohan exclaimed. "Leo, help me hold him! Now."

Leo rushed over to help. It took both of them to keep Merripen down.

"I love our family gatherings," he heard Leo say. "Merripen, what the devil is your problem?"

"Win is in her underclothes, and that man-"

"These are not my underclothes," came Win's exasperated voice. "This is an exercise costume!"

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Merripen twisted to look in her direction. Since Rohan and Leo were still pinning him down, he couldn't look all the way up. But he saw that Win was clad in loose-fitting drawers and a bodice with bare arms. "I know underclothes when I see them," he snapped.

"These are Turkish trousers, and a perfectly respectable bodice. Every woman at the clinic wears this same costume. Exercising is necessary for my health, and I am certainly not going to do it in a gown and cors-"

"He was touching you!" Kev interrupted harshly.

"He was making certain that I had the correct form."

The doctor approached with caution. There was a flicker of humor in his alert gray eyes. "It's a Hindu exercise, actually. It's part of a strength-training system I've developed. All my patients have incorporated it into their daily schedules. Please believe that my attentions to Miss Hathaway were entirely respectful." He paused and asked wryly, "Am I safe now?"

Leo and Cam, still struggling with Kev, both answered simultaneously, "No."

By this time, Poppy, Beatrix, and Miss Marks had hurried into the room.

"Merripen," Poppy said, "Dr. Harrow wasn't hurting Win a bit, and-"

"He's really very nice, Merripen," Beatrix chimed in. "Even my animals like him."

"Easy," Rohan said quietly to Kev, speaking in Romany so that no one else could understand. "This is no good for anyone."

Kev went still. "He was touching her," he replied in the old language, even though he hated using it.

And he knew Rohan understood that a Rom found it difficult, even impossible, to tolerate any other man putting a hand on his woman, for any reason.

"She's not yours, phral" Rohan said in Romany, not without sympathy.

Slowly Kev forced himself to relax.

"May I get off him now?" Leo asked. "There's only one kind of exertion I enjoy before breakfast. And this is not it."

Rohan allowed Kev to stand but kept one arm twisted behind his back.

Win went to stand beside Harrow. The sight of her wearing so little, being so near another man, caused muscles to twitch all over Kev's body. He could see the shape of her h*ps and legs. The entire family had gone insane, letting her dress that way in front of an outsider and acting as though it were appropriate. Turkish trousers… as if giving them such a name made them anything but underdrawers.

"I insist that you apologize," Win said. "You've been very rude to my guest, Merripen."

Her guest? Kev stared at her in outrage.

"No need," Harrow said hastily. "I know how it must have appeared."

Win glared at Kev. "He has made me well again, and this is the way you repay him?" she demanded.

"You made yourself well," Harrow said. "It was a result of your own efforts, Miss Hathaway."

Win's expression softened as she glanced at the doctor. "Thank you." But when she looked back at Kev, the frown returned. "Are you going to apologize, Merripen?"

Rohan twisted his arm a bit more tighdy. "Do it, damn you," Rohan muttered. "For the sake of the family."

Glaring at the doctor, Kev spoke in Romany. "Ka xlia ma pe tute." (I'm going to shit on you.)

"Which means," Rohan said hastily, " 'Please forgive the misunderstanding; let's part as friends.'"

"Te malavel les i menkiva," Kev added for good measure. (May you die of a malignant wasting disease.)

"Roughly translated," Rohan said, "that means, 'May your garden be filled with fine, fat hedgehogs.' Which, I may add, is considered quite a blessing among the Rom. "

Harrow looked skeptical. But he murmured, "I accept your apology. No harm done."

"Excuse us," Rohan said pleasantly, still twisting Kev's arm. "Go on with breakfast, please… We have some errands to accomplish. Please tell Amelia when she rises that I'll return at approximately midday." And he steered Kev from the room, with Leo at their heels.

As soon as they were out of the suite and in the hallway, Rohan released Kev's arm and turned to face him. Raking his hand through his hair, Rohan asked with mild exasperation, "What did you hope to get out of killing Win's doctor?"

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