What had she done?
She was in her bed, with only a murky recollection of riding back when it was still dark, Cam carrying her, tucking the mass of the bedclothes around her as if she were a child. Close your eyes, he had murmured, his hand a comforting pressure on her skull. And she had slept and slept. Now as she squinted at the cheerfully ticking mantel clock, she saw that it was nearly noon.
Panic thrashed inside her, until she reminded herself that it was impractical to panic. Nevertheless, her heart pumped something that seemed too hot and light to be blood, and her breath turned choppy.
She would have liked to persuade herself that it had all been a dream, but her body was still imprinted with the invisible map he had drawn with his lips, tongue, teeth, hands.
Raising her fingertips to her lips, Amelia felt that they were puffier, smoother than usual... they had been licked and abraded by his mouth. Every inch of her body felt sensitive, tender places still harboring an ache of pleasure.
A decent woman should certainly have felt shame over her actions. Amelia felt none. The night had been so extraordinary, so rich and dark and sweet, she would hoard the memory forever. It had been an experience not to be missed, with a man unlike anyone she had ever known or would ever meet again.
But oh, how she hoped he was gone by now.
With any luck, Cam would have already left to take care of his business in London. Amelia wasn't at all certain she could face him after last night. And she certainly didn't need the distraction he presented, when there was so much to be decided.
As for the memories of the night with Cam, all of it so gently refracted as if he were a prism her feelings had traveled through ... now was not the time to think about any of that. There would be time later. Days, months, years.
Don't think about it, she told herself sternly, climbing out of bed. She rang for a maid, and fumbled to fasten her robe. In less than a minute, a sturdy light-haired maid with apple cheeks appeared.
"May I have some hot water?" Amelia asked.
"Aye, miss. I can bring some up, or if tha likes, I can draw a bath in the bathing room." The maid spoke in a broad, warm Yorkshire accent, the r's slightly rolled, the consonants adhering to the back of her throat.
Amelia nodded at the second suggestion, remembering the modern bath from the previous night. She followed the maid, who identified herself as Betty, out of the room and along the hallway. "How are my sisters and brothers? And Mr. Merripen?"
"Miss Winnifred, Miss Poppy, and Miss Beatrix have all gone downstairs for breakfast," the maid reported. "The two gentlemen are still abed."
"Are they ill? Does Mr. Merripen have a fever?"
"Mrs. Briarly, the housekeeper, is of the mind they're both fine, miss. Only resting."
"Thank goodness." Amelia resolved to check on Merripen as soon as she was presentable. Burn wounds were dangerous and unpredictable—she was still quite worried for his sake.
They entered a room with walls covered in pale blue tiling. There was a chaise longue in one corner and a large porcelain tub in another. A richly colored Oriental curtain hung from the ceiling to provide a secluded dressing area. The bathing room was warm, thanks to the fireplace, and a large open wardrobe displayed neatly folded stacks of bath linens, Turkish towels, and various soaps and toiletries. The bath water was heated in the room by some kind of gas apparatus, with taps for cold, hot, or tepid water, and pipes leading outside.
Betty opened the taps and adjusted the water temperature. She laid out bath linens across the chaise longue in a precise row. "Shall I attend while tha bathes, miss?"
"No, thank you," Amelia said at once. "I'll manage by myself. If you wouldn't mind bringing my clothes to the adjoining dressing room?
"Which dress, miss?"
That stopped Amelia cold. She realized she had come to Stony Cross Manor with no clothes whatsoever. "Oh, dear. I wonder if someone could be sent to Ramsay House to fetch my things?
"They're likely all clarity and full of smoke, miss. But Lady St. Vincent had some of her own dresses put in your room—she and thee are more of a size than Lady Westcliff, who's taller, so she?
"Oh, I can't wear Lady St. Vincent's clothes," Amelia said uncomfortably.
"Afraid there's no help for it, miss. There's a lovely red woolen—I'll fetch it for thee."
Since there appeared to be no possibility of retrieving any of her own gowns, Amelia nodded and murmured her thanks. She went behind the dressing screen and removed her robe, while the housemaid shut off the taps and left the bathing room.
As Amelia stripped away the nightgown and let it drop to the floor, she saw a flash of gold on her left forefinger. Startled, she lifted her hand and examined it. A small gold signet ring with an elaborate engraved initial. It was the one Cam always wore on his smallest finger. He must have put it on her last night, while she was sleeping. Had he meant it as a parting gift? Or did it have some other significance to him?
She tried to pull it off, and discovered it was firmly stuck. "Drat," she muttered, tugging at the thing in vain. She took a cake of soap from the wardrobe and brought it into the bath with her. The hot water soothed a myriad of small aches and stings, easing the soreness between her thighs.
Sighing deeply, Amelia soaped her hand and went to work on the ring. But no matter how she tried, it wouldn't budge. Soon the surface of the bathwater was covered with soap froth, and Amelia was cursing with frustration.
She couldn't let anyone see her wearing one of Cam's rings. How in God's name was she supposed to explain how and why she'd gotten it?