Devil in Winter Page 32

“Yes, Papa.”

Evie exchanged a covert glance with the chambermaid, narrowing her eyes in warning to prevent the girl from volunteering further information. Understanding the silent command, the chambermaid nodded.

“You’re not so tangled in the gob as you were,” Jenner remarked. “Why is that, carrot pate?”

Evie considered the question thoughtfully, knowing that her stammer had indeed improved during the last week. “I’m not certain. I think perhaps being away from the Maybricks has helped me to feel…calmer. I noticed it soon after we left London…” She gave him an expurgated version of their journey to Gretna Green and back, even provoking a few chuckles that caused him to cough into his handkerchief. As they conversed, she saw the relaxing of his face, betraying the pain-easing effect of the morphine. She ate a piece of his untouched toast, drank a cup of tea, and set the breakfast tray by the door.

“Papa,” she said evenly, “before you go to sleep, I’ll help you to wash and shave.”

“No need,” he replied, his eyes glazed from the effects of morphine.

“Let me take care of you,” she insisted, going to the washstand, where a ewer of hot water had been left by the housemaid. “You’ll sleep better afterward, I think.”

He seemed too listless to argue, only sighed and coughed, and watched as she brought a porcelain bowl and his shaving implements to the bedside. She tucked a length of toweling over his chest and around the base of his throat. Having never shaved a man before, Evie picked up the shaving brush, dipped it into the water, and dabbed it tentatively into the mug of soap.

“An ‘ot towel first, tibby,” Jenner murmured. “That softens the whiskers.”

Following his directions, Evie soaked and wrung out another towel, and laid it gently over his jaw and throat. After a minute, she lifted the towel and used the shaving brush to spread the soap over one side of his jaw. Deciding to shave his face one section at a time, she opened the razor, regarded it dubiously, and cautiously leaned over her father. Before the razor touched his face, a sardonic voice came from the doorway.

“Good God.” Glancing over her shoulder, Evie beheld Sebastian. He spoke not to her, but to her father. “I don’t know whether to commend your bravery or to ask if you’ve taken leave of your senses, allowing her near you with a blade.” He approached the bed in a few leisurely strides and extended his hand. “Give me that, love. The next time your father coughs, you’re going to cut his nose off.”

Evie surrendered the razor without a qualm. Regardless of her husband’s lack of sleep, he seemed far more refreshed today. He was immaculately shaven, his hair washed and combed into gleaming clipped layers. His lean body was clad in a precisely tailored suit of clothes, the coat made of a dark charcoal fabric that set off his golden coloring beautifully. And as she had noticed last evening, a sense of vital energy clung to him, as if he were animated somehow merely by being in the club. The contrast between the two men, one so old and ill, the other so large and healthy, was startling. As Sebastian drew closer to her father, Evie experienced an instinctive urge to put herself between them. Her husband resembled nothing so much as a predator moving in to finish its helpless prey.

“Fetch the strop, pet,” Sebastian told her, his lips curved in a faint smile.

She went to obey, and when she returned from the washstand, he had taken her place at the bedside. “Always sharpen the razor before and after a shave,” Sebastian murmured, running the open blade along the strop, back and forth.

“It looks sharp enough already,” Evie said doubtfully.

“It can never be too sharp, sweet. Lather his entire face before you begin. The soap will soften the beard.” He moved back while she applied soap to her father’s face, then nudged her aside to half sit on the mattress. Razor in hand, he asked Jenner, “May I?”

To Evie’s amazement, her father nodded, seeming to have no qualms about letting Sebastian give him a shave. Evie went to the other side of the bed for a clearer view.

“Let the razor do the work,” Sebastian said, “rather than use the pressure of your hand. Shave with the grain, in the direction the hair grows…like this. And take care never to draw the blade in a parallel stroke. Start with the sides of the face…then the cheeks…then the sides of the neck, like so…” As Sebastian spoke, he scraped the blade over the grizzled beard, removing it in neat strokes. “And rinse the blade often.” His long-fingered hands were gentle on her father’s face, varying the angle, stretching sections of skin taut as he shaved. The motions were light and clever, accomplished with skillful economy. Evie shook her head slightly, unable to believe that she was watching Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent, shave her father with the expertise of a seasoned valet.

Finishing the masculine ritual, Sebastian wiped the residue of soap from Jenner’s gleaming-smooth face. There was only one tiny nick on the edge of his jaw. Pressing the towel to it, Sebastian murmured, “The soap needs more glycerin. My valet makes far better shaving soap than this…I’ll have him bring some later today.”

“Thank you,” Evie replied, aware of a ticklish warmth inside her breast as she watched him.

Sebastian’s gaze strayed to her face, and whatever he saw in her expression seemed to fascinate him. “The bedsheets need changing,” he said. “I’ll help.”

Evie shook her head, recoiling from the idea of him seeing her father’s wasted form. She knew that her father would feel very much at a disadvantage with him afterward. “Thank you but no,” she said firmly. “I will ring for the maid.”

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies