Devil in Winter Page 41

“It’s all right,” he said without looking at her, his icy gaze locked on Peregrine’s bullish form. “Go.”

Biting her lip, Evie took Cam’s arm and allowed him to draw her aside.

“How kind of you to pay us a call, Uncle,” came the biting lash of Sebastian’s voice. “Come to offer us felicitations, have you?”

“I’ve come to collect my niece,” Peregrine snarled. “She is promised to my son. Your illicit marriage will not stand!”

“She’s mine,” Sebastian snapped. “Surely you can’t be so dim-witted as to think I would simply let her go without a protest.”

“I will have the marriage annulled,” Peregrine assured him.

“That would only be possible if the marriage hasn’t been consummated. And I assure you, it has.”

“We have a physician who has promised to testify that her maidenhead is still intact.”

“Like hell,” Sebastian said with chilling pleasantness. “Do you know what kind of reflection that would have on me? I’ve worked too hard to cultivate my reputation—I’ll be damned if I’ll allow any suggestion of impotence to mar it.” He shrugged out of his coat and tossed it to Cam, who caught it in one fist. Sebastian’s lethal gaze never left Peregrine’s livid features. “Has it occurred to you that I may have made her pregnant by now?”

“If so, that will be remedied.”

Not fully comprehending what her uncle meant, Evie shrank back into Cam’s protective hold. His arms tightened, even as he regarded Peregrine with a rare flash of hatred in his golden eyes. “Don’t worry, sweetheart,” he whispered to Evie.

Sebastian’s color rose at Peregrine’s words, making his eyes appear like splintered glass. “Charming,” he said. “I would kill her myself before I’d let you have her.”

Appearing to lose all vestige of self-control, Peregrine lunged for him with a roar. “I’ll go through you if need be, you preening son of a whore!”

Evie inhaled sharply as Sebastian sidestepped her charging uncle and waited for him to come around. “Stupid,” she heard Cam mutter. “He should have tripped him.” The boy fell silent as Sebastian barely managed to block the drive of Peregrine’s massive fist, then delivered a swift right to the jaw. Forceful though the blow was, it appeared to have little effect on Evie’s hulking uncle. Horrified, Evie watched the pair of them exchange a series of swift jabs and punches. Although Sebastian was far more agile, Peregrine managed to land a few blows of bone-jarring might, causing Sebastian to reel backward from the impact.

Employees began to drift from the club, giving encouraging shouts to Sebastian, while passersby from the street hurried toward the source of the noise. A wide circle formed around the brawlers, the air filled with hoots and bellows.

Evie clung tightly to the arm around her middle. “Cam, do something,” she begged.

“I can’t.”

“You know how to fight. My father always said—”

“No,” Cam said grimly. “It’s his battle. If I were to jump in now, it would appear as if he couldn’t handle your uncle on his own.”

“But he can’t!” Evie flinched as Sebastian staggered back after another brutal combination from Peregrine.

“You’re underestimating him,” Cam said, watching as Sebastian moved forward again. “He—there’s a fellow. Grand right hook. Good on his feet too. Men his size can’t usually move that fast. Now if he would just—damn, there’s a missed opportunity—” He suddenly whooped with approval as Sebastian felled Peregrine with a hard left to the jaw. “There’s some pile-driving force!” he exclaimed. “He’s got power and accuracy…all that’s wanting is some decent instruction.”

Reduced to a groaning heap on the ground, Peregrine seemed oblivious to the hard-faced man who stood over him.

Realizing that the fight was over, the club employees ventured forward with approving cries and slaps on Sebastian’s back, assuring him that he was not quite the namby-pamby they had thought him to be. Sebastian received the dubious praise with a sardonic expression, and brusquely supervised the loading of his disabled opponent into the carriage.

Gently Cam turned Evie to face him. “Tell me how it started,” he said urgently. “Now, before your husband reaches us.”

Rapidly Evie explained how Bullard had deceived her into coming downstairs, and how he had literally handed her over to her relations in exchange for a sovereign. Her words came out in a jumbled stammer, but Cam managed to follow the disjointed explanation. “All right,” he murmured, his honey-skinned face wiped clean of expression. “I’ll deal with Bullard. You go take care of St. Vincent. He’ll need you. Men are always full of sap after a good fight.”

Evie shook her head in confusion. “Sap? What? I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Sudden amusement sparkled in his eyes. “You will.”

Before she could question him, Sebastian reached them. It seemed that the sight of Evie in Cam’s arms was not at all pleasing to him. His face took on a sullen cast. “I want to know what the hell happened,” he said furiously, snatching Evie back with possessive hands. “I leave for two hours on a peaceful Sunday morning, and I come back to find the damned place upside-down—”

“She’ll explain,” Cam interrupted, staring beyond Sebastian as his attention was caught by someone in the stable yard. “Pardon, I have to attend to something—” He vaulted lightly over the short railing and disappeared into the crowd.

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