Devil in Winter Page 44

Drawing back, Sebastian regarded her with amused exasperation, his color still high. “Do you object to the word itself, or the sentiment behind it?”

Relieved to see that he had regained at least a modicum of sanity, Evie wriggled out from between his body and the wall. “I object to the fact that you want me only because I’m unavailable, and therefore a novelty—”

“That’s not the reason,” he interrupted swiftly.

Evie sent him a disbelieving glance. “F-furthermore, I will not be part of a stable of women whom you visit at random.”

Suddenly Sebastian was quiet, looking away from her. Evie waited, nearly choking on her impatience as she waited for him to admit that she was right. She waited until his gaze slowly lifted, and his winter-blue eyes stared into hers.

“All right,” Sebastian said huskily. “I agree to your terms. I’ll be…monogamous.” He seemed to have a bit of difficulty with the last word, as if he were trying to speak a foreign language.

“I don’t believe you.”

“Good God, Evie! Do you know how many women have tried to obtain such a promise from me? And now, the first time I’m willing to take a stab at fidelity, you throw it back in my face. I admit that I’ve had a prolific history with women—”

“Promiscuous,” Evie corrected.

He gave an impatient snort. “Promiscuous, debauched—whatever you want to call it. I’ve had a hell of a good time, and I’ll be damned if I say I’m sorry for it. I’ve never bedded an unwilling woman. Nor, to my knowledge, did I leave anyone unsatisfied.”

“That’s not the point.” A frown creased her forehead. “I don’t blame you for your past…or, at least…I’m not trying to punish you for it.” Ignoring his skeptical snort, she continued, “But it doesn’t make you an especially good candidate for fidelity, does it?”

His tone was surly as he replied. “What do you want of me? An apology for being a man? A vow of celibacy until you’ve decided that I’m worthy of your favors?”

Struck by the question, Evie stared at him.

Women had always come far too easily to Sebastian. If she made him wait for her, would he lose interest? Or was it just possible that they might come to know each other, understand each other, in an entirely new way? She longed to find out if he could come to value her in ways beyond the physical. She wanted the chance to be something more than a mere bed partner to him.

“Sebastian…” she asked carefully, “have you ever made a sacrifice for a woman?”

He looked like a sullen angel as he turned to face her, leaning his broad shoulders against the wall, one knee slightly bent. “What kind of sacrifice?”

That drew a wry glance from her. “Any kind at all.”


“What is the longest period of time you’ve ever gone without…without…” She floundered for an acceptable phrase. “…making love?”

“I never call it that,” he said. “Love has nothing to do with it.”

“How long?” she persisted.

“A month, perhaps.”

She thought for a moment. “Then…if you would forswear intercourse with all women for six months…I would sleep with you afterward.”

“Six months?” Sebastian’s eyes widened, and then he threw her a scornful glance. “Sweetheart, what gives you the idea that you’re worth a half-year of celibacy?”

“I may not be,” Evie said. “You’re the only one who can answer that.”

It was obvious that Sebastian would have loved to have informed her that she wasn’t worth waiting for. However, as his gaze traveled over her from head to toe, Evie saw the unmistakable glow of lust in his eyes. He wanted her badly.

“It’s impossible,” he snapped.


“Because I’m Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent. I can’t be celibate. Everyone knows that.”

He was so arrogant, and so indignant, that Evie suddenly had to gnaw on the insides of her lips to keep from laughing. She struggled to master her amusement, and finally managed to say calmly, “Surely it wouldn’t harm you to try.”

“Oh, yes it would!” His jaw hardened as he labored to explain. “You’re too inexperienced to understand, but…some men are possessed of a far greater sexual drive than others. I happen to be one of them. I can’t go for long periods of time without—” He broke off impatiently as he saw her expression. “Damn it, Evie, it’s unhealthy for a man not to release his seed regularly.”

“Three months,” she said, “and that’s my final offer.”


“Then go find another woman,” she said flatly.

“I want you. Only you. The devil knows why.” Sebastian glared at her, his eyes narrowing into hot, brilliant slits. “I should force you. You have no legal right to refuse me your bed.”

Suddenly Evie’s heart stopped, and she felt herself blanch. But she would not shrink from him. Something inside demanded that she stand up to him as an equal. “Go on, then,” she challenged coolly. “Force me.” She saw the flicker of surprise in his eyes. His throat worked, but he remained silent. And then…she understood. “You can’t,” she said in wonder. “You would never have raped Lillian. You were only bluffing. You could never force a woman.” A faint smile rose to her lips. “She was never in a moment’s danger, was she? You’re not nearly the villain you pretend to be.”

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