Devil in Winter Page 35

“What?” Evie squirmed away from him and gave him an incredulous glance. “So that the tiny invisible creatures won’t fly into my lungs?” she asked sarcastically.

His eyes narrowed. “Don’t try me, Evie. I’m close to forbidding you visit him at all.”

“I’ll feel ridiculous, wearing a handkerchief on my face,” she protested. “And it will hurt my father’s feelings.”

“I don’t give a damn. Bear in mind that if you disobey me, you won’t see him.”

Evie jerked away from him as a surge of new anger filled her. “You’re no better than the Maybricks,” she said bitterly. “I married you to gain my freedom. And instead I’ve exchanged one set of jailers for another.”

“None of us have complete freedom, child. Not even me.”

Closing her hands into fists, she glared at him. “At least you have the right to make choices for yourself.”

“And for you,” he mocked, seeming to enjoy the flare of temper he had provoked in her. “Good Lord, what a display. All that tempestuous defiance…it makes me want to bed you.”

“Don’t touch me again,” she snapped. “Ever!”

Maddeningly, he began to laugh as he went to the door.


When Evie went back to her father’s room in the evening, she knew at once that it was his time. His color was waxen and skull white, his lips turning blue as his tortured lungs were no longer able to draw in sufficient oxygen. She wished that she could breathe for him. Taking his cool hand in hers, she chafed his fingers as if she could warm them, and she stared into his face with a fixed smile. “Papa,” she murmured, smoothing his faded hair. “Tell me what to do. Tell me what you want.”

He regarded her with a mild, affectionate gaze, while his lips, shrunken in his wrinkled face, tilted in an answering smile. “Cam,” he whispered.

“Yes, I’ll send for him.” Evie let her agitated fingers stroke over his hair. “Papa,” she asked softly, “is Cam my brother?”

“Ahhhh,” he sighed, his eyes crinkling. “No, tibby. Would’ve liked that. Good lad…”

Evie leaned over and kissed one of his wasted hands, and left the bed. Hurrying to the bellpull, she yanked it several times, and a housemaid appeared with unusual alacrity. “Yes, milady?”

“Get Mr. Rohan,” Evie said, her voice shaking only a little. She paused and considered sending for Sebastian as well…but her father had not asked for him. And the thought of Sebastian’s cool, cerebral presence providing such a jarring contrast to her own emotions…no. There were some ways in which she might lean on him, but this was not one of them. “Go quickly,” she murmured to the housemaid, and went back to her father.

Some of her fear must have shone through her effort to maintain a reassuring facade, for her father took one of her hands and exerted a feeble tug to bring her closer to him. “Evie,” came his faint whisper, “I’m going to your mother, y’see…she’s got ‘em to leave a back door open…so I can steal into ‘eaven.”

She laughed quietly even as a few hot tears spilled from her eyes.

Soon Cam entered the room. His jet-black hair was tousled and his clothes were uncharacteristically rumpled, as if he had dressed in haste. Although he was calm and self-possessed, his golden eyes held a soft liquid glitter as he beheld Evie. She stood and backed away, finding it necessary to swallow several times before she could speak. “You have to bend low to hear him,” she said huskily.

Cam leaned over the bedside, clasping Jenner’s hands in his just as Evie had done. “Father of my heart,” the young Gypsy said softly, “be at peace with every soul you leave behind. And know that God will open your way in the new life.”

As Jenner whispered to him, the boy inclined his head and rubbed the old man’s hands soothingly. “Yes,” Cam said readily, though Evie sensed from the tension of his broad shoulders that he had not liked whatever it was that her father had asked of him. “I will see that it is done.”

After that, Jenner relaxed and closed his eyes. Cam eased away from the bedside and drew Evie forward. “It’s all right,” the boy murmured as he felt her trembling. “My grandmother always told me, ‘Never try to turn back on a new road—you don’t know what adventures await you.’”

Evie tried to take comfort in the words, but her eyes blurred and her throat hurt. Sitting beside her father, she curled an arm around his head and laid a gentle hand on his chest. His rattling breath quieted, and he made a slight sound as if he welcomed her touch. As she felt the life gradually passing from him, she felt Cam’s large hand slide around her upper arm in a gentle grip.

It was painfully quiet in the room. Evie’s heart thudded almost audibly. She had never encountered death before, and to have to confront it now, and lose the one person who had ever loved her, filled her with the cold pressure of fear. Throwing a watery glance to the doorway, she found Sebastian’s tall form standing there, his face unreadable, and she realized suddenly that she did need him to be there after all. As he stared at her with his bright moonstone eyes, something in his gaze helped to steady her.

The softest of exhalations left Ivo Jenner’s lips…and then there was nothing more.

Realizing that it was finally over, Evie pressed her cheek to his head and closed her brimming eyes. “Good-bye,” she whispered, tears slipping into the locks of his once-ruddy hair.

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