Cam turned to face him, the torchlight gleaming in his eyes and over the black layers of his hair. “She’s part of my tribe,” he said, beginning to circle him. “You’ll go back without her, unless you can find a way to make her want you.”
Harry circled as well, the chaos of his thoughts settling as he focused on his opponent. “No rules?” he asked gruffly.
Harry threw the first punch, and Cam dodged easily. Adjusting, calculating, Harry retreated as Cam threw a right. A pivot, and then Harry connected with a left cross. Cam had reacted a fraction too late, deflecting some of the blow’s force, but not all.
A quiet curse, a rueful grin, and Cam renewed his guard. “Hard and fast,” he said approvingly. “Where did you learn to fight?”
Cam lunged forward and flipped him to the ground. “West London,” he returned.
Tucking into a roll, Harry gained his footing instantly. As he came up, he used his elbow in a backward jab into Cam’s midriff.
Cam grunted. Grabbing Harry’s arm, he hooked a foot around his ankle and took him down again. They rolled once, twice, until Harry sprang away and retreated a few steps.
Breathing hard, he watched as Cam leapt to his feet.
“You could have put a forearm to my throat,” Cam pointed out, shaking a swath of hair from his forehead.
“I didn’t want to crush your windpipe,” Harry said acidly, “before I made you tell me where my wife is.”
Cam grinned. Before he could reply, however, there was a commotion as all the Hathaways poured from the conservatory. Leo, Amelia, Win, Beatrix, Merripen, and Catherine Marks. Everyone except Poppy, Harry noted bleakly. Where the hell was she?
“Is this the after-dinner entertainment?” Leo asked sardonically, emerging from the group. “Someone might have asked me—I would have preferred cards.”
“You’re next, Ramsay,” Harry said with a scowl. “After I finish with Rohan, I’m going to flatten you for taking my wife away from London.”
“No,” Merripen said with deadly calm, stepping forward, “I’m next. And I’m going to flatten you for taking advantage of my kinswoman.”
Leo glanced from Merripen’s grim face to Harry’s, and rolled his eyes. “Forget it, then,” he said, going back into the conservatory. “After Merripen’s done, there won’t be anything left of him.” Pausing beside his sisters, he spoke quietly to Win out of the side of his mouth. “You’d better do something.”
“Because Cam only wants to knock a bit of sense into him. But Merripen actually intends to kill him, which I don’t think Poppy would appreciate.”
“Why don’t you do something to stop him, Leo?” Amelia suggested acidly.
“Because I’m a peer. We aristocrats always try to get someone else to do something before we have to do it ourselves.” He gave her a superior look. “It’s called noblesse oblige.”
Miss Marks’s brows lowered. “That’s not the definition of noblesse oblige.”
“It’s my definition,” Leo said, seeming to enjoy her annoyance.
“Kev,” Win said calmly, stepping forward, “I would like to talk to you about something.”
Merripen, attentive as always to his wife, gave her a frowning glance. “Now?”
“Can’t it wait?”
“No,” Win said equably. At his continued hesitation, she said, “I’m expecting.”
Merripen blinked. “Expecting what?”
They all watched as Merripen’s face turned ashen. “But how . . .” he asked dazedly, nearly staggering as he headed to Win.
“How?” Leo repeated. “Merripen, don’t you remember that special talk we had before your wedding night?” He grinned as Merripen gave him a warning glance. Bending to Win’s ear, Leo murmured, “Well done. But what are you going to tell him when he discovers it was only a ploy?”
“It’s not a ploy,” Win said cheerfully.
Leo’s smile vanished, and he clapped a hand to his forehead. “Christ,” he muttered. “Where’s my brandy?” And he disappeared into the house.
“I’m sure he meant to say ‘congratulations,’ ” Beatrix remarked brightly, following the group as they all went inside.
Cam and Harry were left alone.
“I should probably explain,” Cam said to Harry, looking somewhat apologetic. “Win used to be an invalid, and although she’s recovered, Merripen is still afraid that childbirth may be difficult for her.” He paused. “We all are,” he admitted. “But Win is determined to have children—and God help anyone who tries to say no to a Hathaway.”
Harry shook his head in bemusement. “Your family—”
“I know,” Cam said. “You’ll get used to us eventually.” A pause, and then he asked in a matter-of-fact tone, “Do you want to take up the fight again, or shall we dispense with the rest of it and go have a brandy with Ramsay?”
One thing was clear to Harry: His in-laws were not normal people.
One of the loveliest aspects of Hampshire summers was that even when the days were sun drenched and warm, most evenings were cool enough for a fire. Alone in the caretaker’s house, Poppy snuggled by the small, crackling hearth and read a book by lamplight. She read the same page repeatedly, unable to concentrate as she waited for Harry. She had seen his carriage pass the cottage on the way to Ramsay House, and she knew it was only a matter of time before they sent him to her. “You won’t see him,” Cam had told her, “until I’ve decided that his temper has cooled sufficiently.”