"You need me."

"Go somewhere and knit something. Conjugate a verb. Whatever it is governesses do."


"I would," she said acerbically, "had I any confidence in your ability to handle the situation. But from what I've seen of your skills, I highly doubt you'll accomplish anything without my help."

Leo wondered if other governesses dared to talk to the master this way. He didn't think so. Why the devil couldn't his sisters have chosen a quiet, pleasant woman instead of this little wasp? "I have skills you'll never be fortunate enough to see or experience, Marks."

She made a scornful humph and continued to follow him.

Reaching Harrow 's room, Leo gave a perfunctory knock and went inside. The wardrobe was empty, and there was an open trunk by the bed. "Do excuse the intrusion, Harrow," Leo said with only the shallowest pretense of politeness. "But a situation has arisen."

"Oh?" The doctor looked remarkably incurious.

"Someone has been taken ill."

"That is unfortunate. I wish I could be of assistance, but if I am to reach London before midnight, I must leave shortly. You'll have to find another doctor."

"Surely you have an ethical obligation to help someone who needs it," Miss Marks said incredulously. "What about the oath of Hippocrates?"

"The oath is not obligatory. And in light of recent events, I have every right to decline. You will have to find another doctor to treat him."

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Leo didn't have to look at Miss Marks to know that she, too, had caught the slip. He decided to keep Harrow talking. "Merripen won my sister fairly, old fellow. And what brought them together was set in motion long before you entered the scene. It's not sporting to blame them."

"I do not blame them," Harrow said curtly. "I blame you."

"Me? " Leo was indignant. "What for? I had nothing to do with this."

"You have so little regard for your sisters that you would allow not one but two Gypsies to be brought into your family."

Out of the corner of his eye, Leo saw Dodger the ferret creeping across the carpeted floor. The inquisitive creature reached a chair over which a dark coat had been draped. Standing on his hind legs, he rummaged in the coat pockets.

Miss Marks was speaking crisply. "Mr. Merripen and Mr. Rohan are men of excellent character, Dr. Harrow. One may fault Lord Ramsay for many other things, but not for that."

"They're Gypsies," Harrow said scornfully.

Leo began to speak, but he was cut off as Miss Marks continued her lecture. "A man must be judged by what he makes of himself, Dr. Harrow. By what he does when no one else is looking. And having lived in proximity to Mr. Merripen and Mr. Rohan, I can state with certainty that they are both fine, honorable men."

Dodger extracted an object from the coat pocket and wriggled in triumph. He began to lope slowly around the edge of the room, watching Harrow warily.

"Forgive me if I don't accept assurances of character from a woman such as you," Harrow said to Miss Marks. "But according to rumor, you've been in rather too much proximity with certain gentlemen in your past."

The governess turned white with outrage. "How dare you?"

"I find that remark entirely inappropriate," Leo said to Harrow. "It's obvious that no sane man would ever attempt something scandalous with Marks." Seeing that Dodger had made it to the doorway, Leo reached for the governess's rigid arm. "Come, Marks. Let's leave the doctor to his packing."

At the same moment, Harrow caught sight of the ferret, who was carrying a slim glass vial in his mouth. Harrow 's eyes bulged, and he went pale. "Give that to me!" he cried, and launched toward the ferret. "That's mine!"

Leo leaped on the doctor and brought him to the floor. Harrow surprised him with a sharp right hook, but Leo's jaw had been hardened from many a tavern fight. He traded blow for blow, rolling across the floor with the doctor as they struggled for supremacy.

"What the devil"-Leo granted-"did you put into that coffee?"

"Nothing." The doctor's strong hands clamped on his throat. "Don't know what you're talking about-"

Leo bashed him in the side with a closed fist until the doctor's grip weakened. "The hell you don't," Leo gasped, and kneed him in the groin. It was a dirty trick Leo had picked up from one of his more colorful escapades in London.

Harrow collapsed to his side, groaning. "Gentleman… wouldn't… do that.…"

"Gentlemen don't poison people, either." Leo seized him. "Tell me what it was, damn you!"

Despite his pain, Harrow 's lips curved in an evil grin. "Merripen will get no help from me."

"Merripen didn't drink the filthy stuff, you idiot! Rohan did. Now tell me what you put in that coffee or I'll rip your throat out."

The doctor looked stunned. He clamped his mouth shut and refused to speak. Leo struck him with a right and then a left, but the bastard remained silent.

Miss Marks's voice broke through the boiling fury. "My lord, stop it. This instant. I need your assistance in retrieving the vial."

Hauling Harrow upward, Leo dragged him to the empty wardrobe and closed him inside. Leo locked the door and turned to face Miss Marks, his face sweating and his chest heaving.

Their gazes locked for a split second. Her eyes turned as round as her spectacle lenses. But the peculiar awareness between them was immediately punctured by Dodger's triumphant chatter.

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