Devil in Winter Page 28

Her thoughts were interrupted by a tap on the doorjamb. She glanced up to see Cam at the threshold. His arms were loosely folded over his chest, his body arranged in a posture of deceptive leisure. Evie gave him a tired imitation of a smile. “I s-suppose he has sent you to collect me?”

There was, of course, no need to define who “he” was. “He wants you to eat with him in one of the private dining rooms.”

Evie shook her head slightly, her smile turning wry. “I hear and obey,” she muttered in a parody of an obedient wife. Standing, she paused to straighten the blankets over her sleeping father’s shoulders.

Cam didn’t move from the doorway as she approached him. He was taller than the average man, though not quite so much as Sebastian. “How did you end up wedded to Lord St. Vincent?” he asked. “I know of his financial problems—we were nearly at the point of refusing him credit the last time he was here. Did he come to you with the idea of a marriage bargain?”

“How do you know it isn’t a love match?” Evie parried.

He gave her a wry glance. “The only love match is between St. Vincent and himself.”

The pressure of a real smile worked up to Evie’s lips, and she made a stern effort to hold it back. “I w-went to him, actually. It was the only way I could think of to escape the Maybricks for good.” Her smile vanished at the thought of her relations. “Did they come here after I went missing, Cam?”

He nodded. “Both your uncles. We had to let them search the club themselves before they were satisfied that you weren’t hiding here.”

“Drat,” Evie muttered, borrowing Daisy Bowman’s favorite curse word. “They’ll have gone next to my fr-friends, I suspect. The Hunts, and the Bowmans. The news that I’ve gone missing will worry them.” However, learning the truth of what she had done would worry them far more. Distractedly she smoothed back the straggles of her hair and wrapped her arms around herself. She would have to send word to Annabelle and Daisy that she was all right. Since Lillian was traveling on the continent, she would not have heard the news of Evie’s disappearance.

Tomorrow, she thought. Tomorrow she would deal with the repercussions of her soon-to-be-infamous elopement. She wondered if she dared send someone to the Maybrick home to fetch the rest of her clothes…or if there was any chance that they would let her have them. Probably not. More things for her ever-lengthening list of things to be done…she would have to have some day dresses and shoes made in short order.

“Once m-my relations discover that I’m here,” she said, “they’ll come to take me back. They may try to annul the marriage. I…” She paused to steady her voice. “I very much fear what might happen to me if I am forced to go with them.”

“Won’t St. Vincent stop them?” Cam asked, reaching out to settle a calming hand on her shoulder. It was an innocuous point of contact, just the light weight of his palm resting on the fragile curve of her shoulder bone, but she took reassurance from it.

“If he is here at the time. If he’s sober. If he’s able.” She gave him a humorless smile. “If and if…”

“I’ll be here,” Cam murmured. “I’ll be sober, and able. Why don’t you think St. Vincent will be?”

“It’s a marriage of convenience. I don’t expect that we shall see very much of him once he collects my dowry. He told me that he has far better things to do than sit in a second-rate gambling club and wait for…for…” Hesitating, she glanced over her shoulder at her father’s bed.

“He may have changed his mind about that,” Cam remarked sardonically. “Once I let him have the key to the office, he pulled out every ledger and started poring over them page by page. By the time he’s finished, he’ll have gone through the entire club with a flea comb.”

Evie’s eyes widened at the information. “What could he be looking for?” she asked, more to herself than to him. Sebastian was behaving oddly. There was no reason for him to dive into the club’s financial records with such urgency when they had just arrived from a long journey. Nothing would change between now and tomorrow. She thought of the compulsive quality of his gaze as they had watched the activity on the main floor, and his murmur…“I’m going to go over every inch of this place. I’m going to know all its secrets…” As if it were something more than a mere building filled with faded carpets and hazard tables.

Puzzled, Evie went with Cam through a series of back halls and passageways that provided the most direct route to the downstairs dining rooms. Like most gaming clubs, Jenner’s had its share of secret places for hiding, for observing, for smuggling people and objects. Cam showed her to a small private room, held the door for her, and bowed as she turned to thank him.

Advancing farther into the room, Evie heard the door close quietly behind her. Sebastian was sprawled in a heavy armchair with the relaxed confidence of Lucifer on his throne, using a pencil lead to make notations in the margin of an account ledger. He sat at a table that was laden with plates from the sideboard in the main dining room.

Tearing his gaze from the ledger, Sebastian nudged it aside and stood, pulling the second chair away from the table. “How is your father?”

Evie replied cautiously as she allowed him to seat her. “He woke for just a moment. He seemed to think that I was a little girl again.” Seeing a platter piled with cuts of roast fowl, and another filled with hothouse peaches and grapes, she reached out to serve herself. Her overwhelming hunger, paired with weariness, caused her hands to tremble. Seeing her difficulty, Sebastian silently transferred choice tidbits onto her empty plate; tiny boiled quail eggs, a spoonful of creamed vegetable marrow, a slice of cheese, cold cuts and fish and soft bread.

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