"What about your being arrogant and dismissive?"
"That's part of my aristocratic charm," Leo protested.
"It would appear your aristocratic charm is lost on Miss Marks." Kev arched a brow as he saw Leo's scowl. "Why should it matter? You have no personal interest in her, do you?"
"Of course not," Leo said indignantly. "I'd sooner climb into bed with Bea's pet hedgehog. Imagine those pointy little elbows and knees. All those sharp angles. A man could do fatal harm to himself, tangling with Marks.…" He stirred the plaster with new vigor, evidently preoccupied with the myriad dangers in bedding the governess.
A bit too preoccupied, Kev thought.
It was a shame, Cam mused as he walked through a green meadow with his hands tucked in his pockets, that being part of a close-knit family meant one could never enjoy his own good fortune when someone else was having problems.
There was much for Cam to take pleasure in at the moment… the benediction of sunshine on the spring-roughened landscape, and all the waking, droning, vibrant activity of plants pushing from the damp earth. The promising tang of smoke from a Romany campfire floated on a breeze. Perhaps today he might finally find someone from his old tribe. On a day like this, anything seemed possible.
He had a beautiful wife who was carrying his child. He loved Amelia more than life. And he had so much to lose. But Cam wouldn't let fear cripple him, or prevent him from loving her with all his soul. Fear… He slowed his pace, perplexed by the sudden rapid escalation of his heartbeat. As if he'd been running for miles without stopping. Glancing across the field, he saw that the grass was unnaturally green.
The thump of his heart became painful, as if someone were kicking him repeatedly. Bewildered, Cam tensed like a man held at knifepoint, putting a hand to his chest. Jesus, the sun was bright, boring through his eyes until they watered. He blotted the moisture with his sleeve, and was abruptly surprised to find himself on the ground, on his knees.
He waited for the pain to subside, for his heart to slow as it surely must, but it only got worse. He struggled to breathe, tried to stand. His body would not obey. A slow boneless collapse, the green grass stabbing harshly into his cheek. More pain, and more, his heart threatening to explode from the extraordinary force of its beats.
Cam realized with a kind of wonder that he was dying. He couldn't think why it was happening, or how, only that no one would take care of Amelia and she needed him, he couldn't leave her. Someone had to watch over her; she needed someone to rub her feet when she was tired. So tired. He couldn't lift his head or arm, or move his legs, but muscles in his body were jumping independently, tremors jerking him like a puppet on strings. Amelia. I don't want to go away from you. God, don't let me die; it's too soon. And yet the pain kept pouring over him, drowning him, smothering every breath and heartbeat.
Amelia. He wanted to say her name, and he couldn't. It was an unfathomable cruelty that he couldn't leave the world with those last precious syllables on his lips.
After an hour of nailing up screeds and testing various mixtures of lime, gypsum, and hairy clay, Kev and Leo and the workmen had settled on the right proportions.
Leo had taken an unexpected interest in the process, even devising an improvement on the three-coat plas-terwork by improving the base layer, or scratch coat. "Put more hair in this layer," he had suggested, "and rough it up with a darby tool, and that will give more of a clinch to the next coat."
It was clear to Kev that although Leo had little interest in the financial aspects of running the estate, his love of architecture and all related matters of construction was more keenly developed than ever.
As Leo was climbing down from the scaffolding, the housekeeper, Mrs. Barnstable, came to the doorway with a boy in tow. Kev regarded him with sharp interest. The boy appeared to be about eleven or twelve years of age. Even if he hadn't been dressed in colorful clothes, his bold features and coppery complexion would have identified him as a Rom.
"Sir," the housekeeper said to Kev apologetically, "I beg your pardon for interrupting your work. But this lad came to the doorstep speaking gibberish, and he refuses to be chased away. We thought you might be able to understand him."
The gibberish turned out to be perfectly articulate Romany.
"Droboy tume Romale," the boy said politely.
Kev acknowledged the greeting with a nod. "Mishto avilanV He continued the conversation in Romany. "Are you from the vitsa by the river?"
"Yes, kako. I was sent by the rom phuro to tell you that we found a Rom lying in the field. He's dressed like a gadjo. We thought he might belong to someone here."
"Lying in the field," Kev repeated, while a cold, biting urgency rose inside him. He knew at once that something very bad had happened. With an effort, he kept his tone patient. "Was he resting?"
The boy shook his head. "He is ill and out of his head. And he shakes like this-" He mimicked a tremor with his hands.
"Did he tell you his name?" Kev asked. "Did he say anything?" Although they were still speaking in Romany, Leo and Mrs. Barnstable stared at Kev intently, gathering that some emergency was taking place.
"What is it?" Leo asked, frowning.
The boy answered Kev, "No, kako, he can't say much of anything. And his heart-" The boy hit his own chest with a small fist, in a few emphatic thumps.
"Take me to him." There was no doubt in Kev's mind that the situation was dire. Cam Rohan was never ill, and he was in superb physical condition. Whatever had befallen him, it was outside the category of ordinary maladies.