"Very nice,phral" Cam said in admiration.
"We're leaving," Merripen informed him curtly. "Before more of them come."
"Let's go to a tavern," Cam said. "I need a drink."
Merripen mounted his bay without a word. For once, it seemed, Merripen and Cam were in agreement.
Taverns were often described as the busy man's recreation, the idle man's business, and the melancholy man's sanctuary. The Hell and Bucket, located in the more disreputable environs of London, could also have been called the criminal's covert and the drunkard's haven. It suited Cam and Kev's purposes quite well, being a place that would serve two Roma without blinking an eye. The ale was good quality, twelve-bushel strength, and although the barmaids were surly, they did an adequate job of keeping the tankard full and the floor swept.
Cam and Kev sat at a small table, lit by a turnip that had been carved into a candleholder, with tallow runneling over its purple-tinged sides. Kev drank half a tankard without stopping and set the vessel down. He rarely drank anything except wine, and that in moderation. He didn't like the loss of control that came with drinking.
Cam, however, drained his own tankard. He leaned back in his chair and surveyed Kev with a slight smile. "I've always been amused by your inability to hold your liquor," Cam remarked. "A Rom your size should be able to drink a quarter barrel to the pitching. But now to discover that you're half-Irish as well… it's inexcusable, phral. We'll have to work on your drinking skills."
"We're not going to tell this to anyone," Kev told him grimly.
"About the fact that we're brothers?" Cam seemed to enjoy Kev's visible wince. "It's not so bad, being half gadjo" he told Kev kindly, and snickered at his expression. "It certainly explains why both of us have found a stopping place, while most Roma choose to wander forever. It's the Irish in us that-"
"Not… one… word," Kev said. "Not even to the family."
Cam sobered a little. "I don't keep secrets from my wife.",
"Not even for her safety?"
Cam appeared to think that over, gazing through one of the narrow windows of the tavern. The streets thronged with costermongers, the wheels of their barrows rattling over the cobblestones. Their cries rose thick in the air as they tried to interest customers in bonnet boxes, toys, lucifer matches, umbrellas, and brooms. On the opposite side of the street, a butcher-shop window gleamed crimson and white with freshly cut meat.
"You think our father's family might still want to kill us?" Cam asked.
Absently Cam rubbed over his own sleeve, over the place where the pooka mark was located. "You realize that none of this: the tattoos, the secrets, splitting us apart, giving us different names, would have happened unless our father was a man of some worth. Because otherwise, the gadjos wouldn't give a damn about a pair of half-breed children. I wonder why he left our mother? I wonder-"
"I don't give a damn."
"I'm going to do a new search of parish birth records. Perhaps our father-"
"Don't. Let it lie."
"Let it lie?" Cam gave him an incredulous glance. "Do you actually want to ignore what we found out today? Ignore the kinship between us?"
Shaking his head slowly, Cam turned one of the gold rings on his fingers. "After today, Brother, I understand much more about you. The way you-"
"Don't call me that."
"I imagine being raised like a pit animal doesn't inspire many fond feelings for the human race. I'm sorry that you were the unlucky one, being sent to our uncle. But you can't let that stop you from leading a full life now. From finding out who you are."
"Finding out who I am won't get me what I want. Nothing will. So there's no point in it."
"What is it you want?" Cam asked softly.
Clamping his mouth shut, Kev glared at Cam.
"You can't even bring yourself to say it?" Cam prodded. When Kev remained obstinately silent, Cam reached over for his tankard. "Are you going to finish this?"
Cam drank the ale in a few expedient gulps. "You know," he remarked wryly, "it was a lot easier managing a club full of drunkards, gamblers, and assorted criminals than it is to deal with you and the Hathaways." He set the tankard down and waited a moment before asking quietly, "Did you suspect anything? Did you think the tie between us might be this close?"
"I think I did, deep down. I always knew I wasn't supposed to be alone."
Kev gave him a dour look. "This changes nothing. I'm not your family. There is no tie between us."
"Blood counts for something," Cam replied affably. "And since the rest of my tribe has disappeared, you're all I've got, phral. Just try and get rid of me."
Win descended the main staircase of the hotel while one of the Hathaways' footmen, Charles, followed closely. "Careful, Miss Hathaway," he cautioned. "One slip and you could break your neck on these stairs."
"Thank you, Charles," she said without moderating her speed. "But there's no need to worry." She was quite adept at stairs, having gone up and down long staircases at the clinic in France as part of her daily exercise. "I should warn you, Charles, that I will proceed at a vigorous pace."