The heavy lashes lifted, and Rohan focused on him with effort. "Kev…"

"I'm here, little brother."

Rohan stared and blinked. He reached up and clutched the placket of Kev's open-necked shirt like a drowning man. "Blue," he whispered raggedly. "Everything… blue."

Kev slid his arm around Rohan's back and gripped him firmly. He glanced at the rom phuro, and tried desperately to think. He'd heard of such a symptom before, a blue haze over the vision. It was caused by taking too much of a potent heart medicine. "It could be digitalis," he murmured. "But I don't know what that derives from."

"Foxglove," the rom phuro said. His tone was matter-of-fact, but his face was taut with anxiety. "Quite lethal. Kills livestock."

"What's the antidote?" Kev asked sharply.

The leader's reply was soft. "I don't know. I don't even know if there is one."

Chapter Twenty-one

After dispatching a footman for the village doctor, Leo decided to go to the Gypsy camp and see how Rohan was faring. Leo couldn't stand the inactivity or suspense of waiting. And he was deeply troubled by the thought of anything happening to Rohan, who seemed to have become the linchpin of the entire family.

Rapidly navigating his way down the grand staircase, Leo had just reached the entrance hall when he was approached by Miss Marks. She had a housemaid in tow and was holding the hapless girl by the wrist. The maid was pale and red-eyed.

"My lord," Miss Marks said tersely, "I bid you to come with us to the parlor immediately. There is something you should-"

Advertisement..

"In your supposed knowledge of etiquette, Marks, you should know that no one bids the master of the house to do anything."

The governess's stern mouth twisted impatiently. "Devil take etiquette. This is important."

"Very well. Apparently you must be humored. But tell me here and now, as I've no time for parlor chitchat."

"The parlor," she insisted.

After a brief glance heavenward, Leo followed the governess and housemaid through the entrance hall. "I warn you, if this is about some trivial household matter, I'll have your head. I've got a pressing issue to deal with right now, and-"

"Yes," Marks cut him off as they walked swiftly to the parlor. "I know about that."

"You do? Hang it all, Mrs. Barnstable wasn't supposed to tell anyone."

"Secrets are rarely kept belowstairs, my lord."

As they went into the parlor, Leo stared at the governess's straight spine, and experienced the same sting of irritation he always felt in her presence. She was like one of those unreachable itches on one's back. It had something to do with the coil of light brown hair pinned so tightly at her nape. And the narrow torso and tiny corseted waist, and the dry, pristine paleness of her skin. He couldn't help thinking about what it would be like to unlace, unpin, and unloosen her. Remove her spectacles. Do things that would make her all pink and steamy and profoundly bothered.

Yes, that was it. He wanted to bother her.

Repeatedly.

Good God, what the bloody hell was wrong with him?

Once they were in the parlor, Miss Marks closed the door and patted the housemaid's arm with a slender white hand. "This is Sylvia," she told Leo. "She saw something untoward this morning and was afraid to tell anyone. But after learning of Mr. Rohan's illness, she came to me with this information."

"Why wait until now?" Leo asked impatiently. "Surely anything untoward should be reported at once."

Miss Marks answered with annoying calmness, "There are no protections for a servant who inadvertently sees something she shouldn't. And being a sensible girl, Sylvia doesn't want to be made a scapegoat. Do we have your assurance that Sylvia will suffer no ill consequences from what she is about to divulge?"

"You have my word," Leo said. "No matter what it is. Tell me, Sylvia."

The housemaid nodded and leaned against Miss Marks for support. Sylvia was so much heavier than the frail governess, it was a wonder they didn't both topple over. "My lord," the maid faltered, "I polished the fish forks this morning and brought them to the breakfast sideboard, for the sole fillets. But as I came into the morning room, I saw Mr. Merripen and Mr. Rohan out on the terrace, talking. And Dr. Harrow was in the room, watching them.…"

"And?" Leo prompted as the girl's lips trembled.

"And I thought I saw Dr. Harrow put something into Mr. Merripen's coffeepot. He reached for something in his pocket-it looked like one of those queer little glass tubes at the apothecary's. But it was so fast, I couldn't be sure what he'd done. And then he turned around and looked at me as I came into the room. I pretended not to see anything, my lord. I didn't want to make trouble."

"We think that perhaps Mr. Rohan drank the adulterated beverage," the governess said.

Leo shook his head. "Mr. Rohan doesn't take coffee."

"Isn't it possible that he might have made an exception this morning?"

The edge of sarcasm in her voice was unbearably annoying.

"It's possible. But it wouldn't be in character." Leo let out a harsh sigh. "Damn it all. I'll try to find out what, if anything, Harrow did. Thank you, Sylvia."

"Yes, my lord." The housemaid looked relieved.

As Leo strode from the room, he was exasperated to discover that Miss Marks was at his heels. "Do not come with me, Marks."