"Did you have to lie to him?"
A tentative nod. "It was the easiest thing I've ever done. You see??I'm not such a saint after all."
"Yes you are," Amelia returned, and hugged her fiercely. "You are."
Even Lord Westcliff 's well-trained servants were inclined to complain when Cam returned with two jars of live bees and brought them to the kitchen. The scullery maids ran shrieking to the servants' hall, the housekeeper retreated to her room to compose an indignant letter to the earl and countess, and the butler told the head groomsman that if this was the kind of houseguest Lord Westcliff expected him to attend, he was thinking seriously of retiring.
As the only person in the household who dared go into the kitchen, Beatrix stayed with Cam, helped in the boiling, straining, and mixing, and later reported to her revolted sisters that it had been great fun crushing bees.
Eventually Cam brought what appeared to be a warlock's brew up to Merripen's room. Amelia waited for him there, having laid out clean knives, scissors, tweezers, fresh water, and a pile of clean white bandages.
Poppy and Beatrix were commanded to leave the room, much to their disgruntlement, while Win closed the door firmly behind them. She took an apron from Amelia, tied it around her narrow waist, and went to the bedside. Placing her ringers at the side of Merripen's throat, Win said tensely, "His pulse is weak and slow. It's the morphine."
"Bee venom stimulates the heart," Cam replied, rolling up his shirtsleeves. "Believe me, it will be racing in a minute or two."
"Shall I remove his bandage?" Amelia asked.
Cam nodded. "The shirt, too." He went to the washstand and soaped his hands.
Win and Amelia removed the linen shirt from Merripen's prostrate form. His back was still heavily muscled, but he had lost a great deal of weight. The sides of his ribs jutted in ledges beneath the swarthy skin.
As Win went to discard the crumpled shirt, Amelia untucked the end of the bandage and began to pry it loose. She paused as she noticed a curious mark on his other shoulder. Leaning over him, she stared more closely at the black ink design. A chill of astonishment ran through her. "A tattoo," was all she could manage to say.
"Yes, I noticed it a few days ago," Win remarked, coming back to the bed. "It's odd that he never mentioned it, isn't it? No wonder he was always drawing pookas and making up stories about them when he was younger. It must have some significance to?
"What did you say?" Cam's voice was quiet, but it reverberated with such intensity, he might as well have been shouting.
"Merripen has a tattoo of a pooka on his shoulder," Win replied, staring at him questioningly as he reached the bed in three strides. "We've never known about it until now. It's a very unique design—I've never seen anything quite like? She stopped with a gasp as Cam held his forearm next to Merripen's shoulder.
The black winged horses with the yellow eyes were identical.
Amelia lifted her gaze from the astonishing sight to Cam's blank face. "What does it mean?"
Cam couldn't seem to take his gaze from Merripen's tattoo. ''I don't know."
"Have you ever known anyone else who?
"No." Cam stepped back. "Sweet Jesus." Slowly he paced around the foot of the bed, staring at Merripen's motionless figure as it he were a variety of exotic creature he had never seen before. He picked up a pair of scissors from the tray of supplies.
Instinctively Win moved closer to the sleeping man's side. Noticing her protectiveness, Cam murmured, "It's all right, little sister. I'm just going to cut away the dead skin."
He leaned over the wound and worked intently. After a minute of watching him clean and debride the wound, Win went to a nearby chair and sat abruptly as if her knees had been unbuckled.
Amelia stood beside him, feeling a sting of nausea in her throat. Cam, on the other hand, was as detached as if he were repairing the intricate mechanism of a clock rather than treating festering human flesh. At his direction, Amelia fetched the bowl of poultice liquid, which smelled astringent but curiously sweet'.
"Don't let it splash into your eyes," Cam said, rinsing the wound with salt solution.
"It smells like fruit."
"That's the venom." Cam cut a square of cloth and pushed it into the bowl. Fishing it out gingerly, he laid the dripping cloth over the wound. Even in the depths of his sleep, Merripen jerked in reaction and groaned.
"Easy, chal." Cam laid a hand on his back, keeping him in place. When he was assured Merripen was still again, he bandaged the poultice firmly in place. "We'll replace it every time we clean the wound," he said. "Don't tip the bowl over. I'd hate to have to go back for more bees."
"How will we know if it's working?" Amelia asked.
"The fever should go down gradually, and by this time tomorrow we should see a nice leathery scab forming." He felt the side of Merripen's throat and told Win, "His pulse is stronger."
"What about the pain?" Win asked anxiously.
"That should improve quickly." Cam smiled at her as he quoted a Latin phrase, "Pro medicina est dolor, dolorem qui necat"
"The pain that kills pain acts as medicine," Win translated.
"That would make sense only to a Roma," Amelia said, and Cam grinned.
He took her shoulders in his hands. "You're in charge now, hummingbird. I'm leaving for a little while."