She broke off as Merripen moved with astonishing swiftness, seizing her by the upper arms, bringing her up against the wall. His snarling face descended close to hers. "If you understood anything, you wouldn't expect me to give you a baby that will kill you."

Rigid and trembling, she stared into his eyes until she was drowning in darkness. She gulped a deep breath before managing to say stubbornly, "I'll see as many doctors as you like. We'll gather a full variety of opinions, and you can calculate the odds. But no one can predict of a certainty what will happen. And none of it will change how I intend to spend the rest of my life. I will live it on my terms. And you… you can have all of me or nothing. I won't be an invalid any longer. Not even if it means losing you."


"I don't take ultimatums," he said, giving her a little shake. "Least of all from a woman."

Win's eyes went blurry, and she damned the rising tears. She wondered in furious despair why fate seemed determined to withhold from her the ordinary life that other people took for granted. "You arrogant Rom," she said hoarsely. "It's not your choice; it's mine. My body. My risk. And it may already be too late. I may have already conceived-"

"No." He gripped her head and pressed his forehead to hers, his breath striking her lips in bursts of heat. "I can't do this," he said raggedly. "I won't be forced into hurting you."

"Just love me." Win wasn't aware that she was crying until she felt his mouth on her face, his throat vibrating with low growls as he licked at her tears. He kissed her desperately, savaging her mouth with a wildness that made her quiver from head to toe. As he crushed his body against hers, she felt the prodding of his arousal even through the bunched layers of their clothes. It sent a shock of response through all her veins, and she felt her intimate flesh prickling, turning wet. She wanted him inside her, to pull him deep and close, to pleasure him until his ferocity was soothed.

She reached down to the stiff length of him, kneading and gripping until he groaned into her mouth.

She pulled her lips free long enough to gasp, "Take me to bed, Kev. Take me.…"

But he shoved away from her with a vicious curse.


A scalding glance, and he left the room, the door trembling on its hinges from the abrupt slam.

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Chapter Twenty

The early-morning air was fresh and heavy with the promise of rain, a cool breeze sweeping through the half-open window of Cam and Amelia's room. Cam awakened slowly as he felt his wife's voluptuous body snuggling close to his. She always slept in a nightgown made of modest white cambric, with infinite numbers of tucks and tiny ruffles. It never failed to stir him, knowing what splendid curves were concealed beneath the demure garment.

The nightgown had ridden up to her knees during the night. One of her bare legs was hooked over his, her knee resting near his groin. The slight roundness of her stomach pressed against his side. Pregnancy had made her feminine form more ample and delicious. There was a glow about her these days, a burgeoning vulnerability that filled him with an overwhelming urge to protect her. And knowing that the changes in her were caused by his seed, a part of him growing inside her… that was undeniably arousing.

He wouldn't have expected to be this enthralled by Amelia's condition. In the eyes of the Rom, childbirth and all related issues were considered mahrime, polluting events. And since the Irish were notoriously suspicious and prudish when it came to matters of reproduction, there wasn't much on either side of his lineage to justify his delight in his wife's pregnancy. But he couldn't help it. She was the most beautiful and fascinating creature he had ever encountered.

As he patted her hip drowsily, the urge to make love to her was too much to resist. He inched her gown upward and caressed her bare bottom. He kissed her lips, her chin, savoring the fine texture of her skin.

Amelia stirred. " Cam," she murmured sleepily. Her legs parted, inviting more of the gentle exploration.

Cam smiled against her cheek. "What a good little wife you are," he whispered in Romany. She stretched and gave a pleasured sigh as his hands slipped over her warm body. He arranged her limbs carefully, stroking and praising her, kissing her br**sts. His fingers played between her thighs, teasing wickedly until she began to breathe in quiet moans. Her hands clutched at his back as he mounted her, his body hungry for the warm, wet welcome of her-

A tap at the door. A muffled voice. "Amelia?"

They both froze.

The soft feminine voice tried again. "Amelia?"

"One of my sisters," Amelia whispered.

Cam muttered a curse that explicitly described what he had been about to do, and was apparently not going to be able to finish. "Your family-," he began in a dark tone.

"I know." She flipped back the bedclothes. "I'm sorry. I-" She broke off as she saw the extent of his arousal and said weakly, "Oh dear."

Although he was usually tolerant when it came to the Hathaways' multitude of quirks and issues, Cam was currently in no mood to be understanding.

"Get rid of whoever it is," he said, "and come back here."

"Yes. I'll try." She pulled a dressing robe over her nightgown and hastily fastened the top three buttons. As she hurried into the adjoining sitting room, the thin white dressing robe flapped behind her like the mainsail of a schooner.

Cam remained on his side, listening intently. There was the sound of the door to the hallway opening, and someone coming into the little sitting room. There was also the calm lilt of Amelia's questioning voice, and the anxious response of one of her sisters. Win, he guessed, since Poppy and Beatrix would only awaken this early in the event of some major catastrophe.