Devil in Winter Page 42


Cam found Joss Bullard near the stable yard, and confronted him warily. Bullard breathed with flared nostrils, the whites of his eyes showing. They had never been friends. Their relationship had been more like that of warring siblings who had lived under the same roof, with Jenner as a parental figure. As boys, they had played and fought together. As adults, they had worked side by side. After the many small acts of kindness Jenner had showed to Bullard, Cam would never have expected him to behave like this. Confusion and fury tangled inside him, and he shook his head slowly as he stared at Bullard.

“I don’t know why you gave her over,” Cam began, “or what you thought you had to gain from it—”

“I got a sovereign for it,” Bullard shot back. “An’ well worv it to be rid of that idiot tangle-tongue.”

“Are you mad?” Cam demanded in a flare of rage. “What’s the matter with you? We’re talking about Jenner’s daughter. You shouldn’t have done it even if you’d been given a bloody fortune!”

“She’s never done nofing for Jenner,” Bullard interrupted harshly, “or nofing for the club. But she comes ‘ere at the very last to watch ‘im kick off, an’ then she takes everything. Bugger the ‘igh-kick bitch an’ ‘er sodding ‘usband!”

Cam listened closely, but he failed to grasp the reason for Bullard’s jealousy. A Gypsy rarely understood resentment of other’s material possessions. Money was good only for the temporary pleasure of spending it. In the wandering tribe that Cam had belonged to until the age of twelve, no one had ever thought of wishing for more than he needed. A man could only wear one suit of clothes or ride one horse at a time.

“She was Jenner’s only child,” Cam replied. “What he gave to her has nothing to do with you or me. But nothing is worse than breaking the trust of someone who depends on your protection. To betray her…to help someone take her away against her will…”

“I’d do it again!” Bullard said, and spat on the ground between them.

Cam stared intently at the other man, realizing that he didn’t look well at all. His complexion was pale and wormy, and his eyes were dull. “Are you ill?” Cam asked softly. “If so, tell me. I’ll go to St. Vincent on your behalf. Maybe I can get him to—”

“Pox on you! I’m well rid o’ you, ‘alf-bred Gypsy filth. Well rid o’ all o’ you.”

The violent hatred in Bullard’s tone left no room for doubt. There would be no turning back for him. The only question now was whether Cam should collar him and drag him to the club, or let him flee. Recalling the vicious gleam in St. Vincent’s gaze, Cam reflected that if given a chance, the viscount might actually kill Bullard, which would lead to a great deal of unpleasantness for everyone, especially Evie. No…better to allow Bullard to disappear.

Staring at the hatchet-faced young man whom he had known for so many years, Cam shook his head in angry puzzlement. Soul loss, his people called it…the essence of a man becoming trapped in some dark otherworld realm. But how had it happened to Bullard? And when?

“You had better stay away from the club,” Cam murmured. “If St. Vincent catches you—”

“St. Vincent can rot in ‘ell,” Bullard grunted, taking a hasty swipe at him.

Evading the tight arc of his fist with a startled reflex, Cam drew to the side of the stable yard. His eyes narrowed as he watched the other man turn and flee.

His attention was caught by the nervous nicker of a horse tethered to a nearby post, and Cam reached out a gentle hand and stroked the bay’s satiny neck. The gold rings on his fingers gleamed in the afternoon light. “He was a foolish man,” Cam told the horse mildly, calming the animal with his voice and touch. A sigh escaped him as he thought of something else. “Jenner left him a bequest…and I promised to make certain that he got it. Now what am I supposed to do?”

Sebastian pulled Evie inside the club, where the silence was startling after the tumult of the alley. She labored to keep pace with his ground-eating strides, her own breath coming fast by the time they reached the reading room on the main floor. The built-in mahogany shelves were filled with leather volumes. Against the walls, a multitude of papers and periodicals were draped over racks made with rows of clever movable dowels. Pushing Evie into the room, Sebastian closed them both inside with a decisive slam.

“Were you hurt?” he asked roughly.

“No.” Evie tried to hold back her next words, but they came out in a burst of resentment. “Why were you gone for so long? I needed you, and you weren’t here!”

“You had thirty employees to protect you. Why did you go downstairs in the first place? You should have stayed upstairs until you knew for certain who was outside.”

“Mr. Bullard told me that Annabelle Hunt was waiting for me. And then when I saw that it was my uncle, Bullard wouldn’t let me back inside the club. He pushed me right into my uncle’s arms.”

“My God.” Sebastian’s eyes widened. “I’m going to disembowel him, the gutter scum—”

“And while all that was happening,” Evie continued wrathfully, “you were in bed with a prostitute!” As the words left her lips, she realized that to her, this was the crux of the matter…even more important than Bullard’s betrayal, or her uncles’ assault, her emotions were roiling at the fact that Sebastian had betrayed her so soon with another woman.

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