Devil in Winter Page 39

Now that the house wenches were gone it was imperative that something should be done so that when the club reopened, the members would have access to female companionship. To Evie’s disgruntlement, Cam had agreed with Sebastian that an arrangement with Madame Bradshaw would be an excellent solution to the problem. And naturally, Sebastian had taken it upon himself to make a proposition to the notorious madam. Knowing of her husband’s infamous sexual appetite, Evie was certain that his visit to Madame Bradshaw’s would include far more than a mere business negotiation. Sebastian had not slept with anyone since their sojourn to Gretna Green. No doubt he was primed and eager to indulge himself with some willing female.

Evie told herself repeatedly that she didn’t care. He could sleep with ten women…a hundred…a thousand…and she would not care. She would be an idiot if she did. Sebastian was no more capable of loyalty than a stray tom who wandered the alleys, mating with every she-cat he encountered.

Fuming beneath her stoic facade, Evie brushed and pinned her hair in an intricate plaited coil. Turning away from the small looking glass that sat atop the dresser, Evie set down her brush. As the gleam of her gold wedding ring caught her eye, the engraved Gaelic words seemed to mock her. “My love is upon you,” she whispered bitterly, and tugged it off. There was no point in wearing a wedding ring for a sham of a marriage.

She started to set it on the dresser, thought better of it, and slipped it into her pocket, deciding she would ask Cam to store it in the club’s safe. Just as she made to leave the room, there was a rap at the door. It couldn’t have been Sebastian, who never bothered to knock. Opening the door, Evie beheld Joss Bullard’s heavy features.

While Bullard was not actively disliked by the other employees, it was obvious that his popularity did not begin to approach Cam’s. It was unfortunate for Bullard that since he and Cam Rohan were of an age, they were often measured against each other. It would have been unfair to compare most men to the darkly beautiful Cam, whose sly charm and dry humor made him a favorite among employees and club patrons. To make matters worse, Bullard was a humorless man, dissatisfied with his lot in life and jealous of all those whom he perceived had been given more. Sensing that he found it difficult even to be civil to her, Evie treated him with guarded politeness.

Bullard’s hard, flat eyes stared into hers. “Visitor at the back entrance what’s askin’ for you, milady.”

“A visitor?” Evie frowned, feeling her stomach turn hollow at the suspicion that her uncles had finally learned of her whereabouts. The news of Jenner’s death, the temporary closure of the club, and her own presence there must have traveled swiftly through London. “Who? Wh-what name did he give?”

“I was bid to tell you it was Mrs. ‘Unt, milady.”

Annabelle. The sound of her dear friend’s name caused Evie’s heart to quicken with relief and eagerness, though she could scarcely credit that Annabelle would dare to come to a gaming club. “That is good news,” she exclaimed. “Please bring her upstairs to my father’s receiving room.”

“I was bid to say that you mus’ come down to the back step, milady.”

“Oh.” But that wouldn’t do. A girl of Annabelle’s sheltered background should not be allowed to wait at the back of the club. Filled with concern, Evie crossed the threshold and strode from the room, thinking only of reaching Annabelle as quickly as possible. With Bullard at her heels, she descended the two long flights in a rush, grasping the railing at measured intervals. By the time she reached the bottom, her heart was thumping with exertion. Struggling a little with the heavy door, she pushed it open—

—and reared back in startled surprise as she saw not Annabelle Hunt’s trim figure, but the hulking form of her uncle Peregrine.

Evie’s mind went blank. She gave him a shocked stare that lasted for a mere fraction of a second, then reared back as terror suffused her. Peregrine had always been more than willing to use his fists to force her into compliance. It didn’t matter that she was now Lady St. Vincent, and therefore legally out of his reach. Her uncle would take his revenge in any manner possible, beginning with a harsh beating.

Blindly Evie turned to flee, but to her amazement, Bullard moved to block her way.

“‘E paid me a sovereign to fetch you,” Bullard muttered. “That’s as much as I make in a month.”

“No,” she gasped, shoving at his chest. “Don’t—I’ll give you anything—don’t let him take me!”

“Jenner made you stay wiv them, all those years,” the young man sneered. “‘E didn’t want you ‘ere. No one does.”

As she screamed in protest, Bullard shoved her inexorably toward her uncle, whose broad features were mottled with furious triumph. “There, I did as you asked,” Bullard said brusquely to the man just behind Peregrine, whom Evie recognized in a flash—her uncle Brook. “Now post the cole.”

Looking uncomfortable and vaguely shamed by the transaction, Brook handed him the sovereign.

Peregrine seized Evie in a hard grip, rendering her as helpless as a rabbit caught by the scruff of the neck. His big, square face was florid with rage. “You stupid, worthless girl!” he cried, shaking her hard. “If you weren’t still of some use, I would dispose of you like so much rubbish. How long did you think you could hide from us? There’ll be hell to pay, I promise you!”

“Bullard, stop him, please,” Evie screamed, fighting and arching as Peregrine dragged her toward a waiting carriage. “No!”

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