"Nervous?" Cam asked softly, approaching her.
"Oh no, not in the slightest; it's an ordinary circumstance, and only to be expected after-" Amelia broke off with a little gasp as he sat beside her and pulled her into his arms. "Yes, I'm a bit nervous. I wish… I wish I could talk to my mother. I'm not exactly certain how to do this."
Of course. Amelia liked to manage everything, to be authoritative and competent no matter what she did. But the entire process of childbearing would be one of increasing dependence and helplessness, until the final stage, when nature took over entirely.
Cam pressed his lips into her gleaming dark hair, which smelled like sweetbriar. He began to rub her back in the way he knew she liked best. "We'll find some experienced women for you to talk to. Lady Westcliff, perhaps. You like her, and God knows she would be forthright. And regarding what you're going to do… you'll let me take care of you, and spoil you, and give you anything you want." He felt her relax a little. "Amelia, love," he murmured, "I've wanted this for so long."
"Have you?" She smiled and snuggled tightly against him. "So have I. Although I had hoped it would happen at a more convenient time, when Ramsay House was finished, and Poppy was betrothed, and the family was settled-"
"Trust me, with your family there will never be a convenient time." Cam eased her back to lie on the bed with him. "What a pretty little mother you'll be," he whispered, cuddling her. "With your blue eyes, and your pink cheeks, and your belly all round with my child…"
"When I grow large, I hope you won't strut and swagger, and point to me as an example of your virility."
"I do that already, monisha."
Amelia looked up into his smiling eyes. "I can't imagine how this happened."
"Didn't I explain that on our wedding night?"
She chuckled and put her arms around his neck. "I was referring to the fact that I've been taking preventative measures. All those cups of nasty-tasting tea. And I still ended up conceiving."
"Rom," he said by way of explanation, and kissed her passionately.
When Amelia felt well enough to join the other women for tea in the receiving room, the men went downstairs to the Rutledge's gentlemen's room. Although the room was ostensibly for the use of hotel guests, it had become a favorite haunt of the peerage, who wished to share the company of the Rutledge's many notable foreign visitors.
The ceilings were comfortably dark and low, paneled in glowing rosewood, the floors covered in thick Wilton carpeting. The gentlemen's room was cornered with large, deep apses that provided private spaces for reading, drinking, and conversing. The main space was furnished with velvet-upholstered chairs and tables laden with cigar boxes and newspapers. Servants moved unobtrusively through the room, bringing snifters of warmed brandy and glasses of port.
Settling in one of the unoccupied octagonal apses, Kev requested brandy for the table. "Yes, Mr. Merripen," the servant said, hastening to comply.
"What well-trained staff," Dr. Harrow remarked. "I find it commendable that they give impartial service to all the guests."
Kev slanted him a questioning glance. "Why wouldn't they?"
"I imagine that a gentleman of your origins does not receive service at every establishment you frequent."
"I find that most establishments pay more attention to the quality of a man's clothes than the shade of his complexion," Kev replied evenly. "Usually it doesn't matter that I'm a Rom, so long as I can afford their wares."
"Of course." Harrow looked uncomfortable. "My apologies. I'm not usually so tactless, Merripen."
Kev gave him a short nod to indicate that no offense had been taken.
Harrow turned to Cam, seeking to change the subject. "I hope you'll allow me to recommend a colleague to attend Mrs. Rohan during the remainder of your stay in London. I'm acquainted with many excellent physicians here."
"I would appreciate that," Cam said, accepting a brandy from a servant. "Although I suspect we won't remain in London much longer."
"Miss Winnifred seems to have a great fondness for children," Harrow mused. "In light of her condition, it's fortunate that she will have nieces and nephews to dote on."
The other three men looked at him sharply. Cam had paused in the act of lifting the brandy to his lips. "Condition?" he asked.
"Her inability to have children of her own," Harrow clarified.
"What the devil do you mean, Harrow?" Leo asked. "Haven't we all been trumpeting about my sister's miraculous recovery, due to your stellar efforts?"
"She has indeed recovered, my lord." Harrow frowned thoughtfully as he stared into his brandy snifter. "But she will always be somewhat fragile. In my opinion, she should never try to conceive. In all likelihood the process would result in her death."
A heavy silence followed this pronouncement. Even Leo, who usually affected an air of insouciance, couldn't manage to conceal his reaction. "Have you made my sister aware of this?" he asked. "Because she has given me the impression that she fully expects to marry and have her own family someday."
"I have discussed it with her, of course," Harrow replied. "I have told her that if she marries, her husband would have to agree that it would be a childless union." He paused. "However, Miss Hathaway is not yet ready to accept the idea. In time, I hope to persuade her to adjust her expectations." He smiled slightly. "Motherhood, after all, is not necessary for every woman's happiness, much as society glorifies the notion."