Devil in Winter Page 46

Though Cam undoubtedly had a few opinions to offer on the matter, he kept them to himself. “Yes, my lord.” He left the room at once, while Sebastian glared after him.

Seeking to calm his seething temper, Evie ventured, “There is no need to take your anger out on Cam. He—”

“Don’t even try to excuse him,” Sebastian said darkly. “You and I both know that he could have caught that damned gutter rat had he wanted to. And I’ll be damned if I’ll tolerate your calling him by his first name—he is not your brother, nor is he a friend. He’s an employee, and you’ll refer to him as ‘Mr. Rohan’ from now on.”

“He is my friend,” Evie replied in outrage. “He has been for years!”

“Married women don’t have friendships with young unmarried men.”

“Y-you dare to insult my honor with the implication that…that…” Evie could hardly speak for the multitude of protests that jammed inside her. “I’ve done nothing to merit such a lack of tr-tr-trust!”

“I trust you. It’s everyone else that I hold in suspicion.”

Suspecting that he might be mocking her, Evie stared at him with a reproachful frown. “You’re carrying on as if I am being chased by hordes of men, when that is obviously not the case. At Stony Cross Park, men went out of their way to avoid my company—and you were one of them!”

The charge, though true, seemed to startle Sebastian. His face became taut, and he stared at her in stony silence. “You hardly made it easy for anyone to approach you,” he said after a moment. “A man’s vanity is more fragile than you might think. It’s easy for us to mistake shyness for coldness, and silence for indifference. You could have exerted yourself a bit, you know. One brief meeting between the two of us…one smile from you…was all the encouragement I would have needed to jump on you like a grouse on laurel.”

Evie stared at him with round eyes, having never considered things in that light before. Was it possible that she herself was partly responsible for her history as a perennial wallflower? “I suppose…” she said reflectively, “I could make more of an effort to overcome my shyness.”

“Do as you please. But when you’re with Rohan or any other man, you had better keep in mind that you belong completely to me.”

Trying to interpret the comment, Evie stared at him with astonishment. “Are you…is it possible…you’re jealous?”

Sudden bafflement flickered across his features. “Yes,” he said gruffly. “It would seem so.” And throwing Evie a glance of bewildered annoyance, he left the room.

The funeral was held the next morning. Sebastian had done a splendid job of arranging the event, somehow managing to achieve the perfect balance between total somber dignity and slightly theatrical pomp. It was the kind of procession that Ivo Jenner would have adored, so large that it took up the full breadth of St. James.

There was a black and gilded hearse drawn by four horses, two mourning coaches similarly drawn by fours, with all the bridles adorned with tall dyed ostrich plumes. The handsome oak coffin, adorned with brass nails and a gleaming inscription plate, was lined with lead and welded shut to prevent the intrusion of grave robbers, a common problem in London churchyards. Before the lid had closed over her father’s body, Evie had seen one of Cam’s gold rings on his finger, a parting gift that had touched her. What had touched her equally, however, had been the glimpse she’d caught of Sebastian smoothing her father’s faded red hair with a comb, when he’d thought no one was watching him.

It was bitterly cold. The biting wind penetrated Evie’s heavy wool cloak as she sat on horseback, with Sebastian walking beside her and holding the horse’s reins. Two dozen men serving as pages, feathermen, and coachmen walked at the end of the procession, their breaths blowing white in the early winter air. They were followed by a great crowd of mourners, a curious mingling of well-to-do people, merchants, flash gentry, and outright criminals. Friends and enemies alike were there. No matter what someone’s occupation or disposition, the tradition of mourning had to be observed.

It was expected that Evie would not attend the funeral, as ladies’ natures were considered too delicate to tolerate such harsh reality. However, Evie had insisted on participating. She found comfort in the ritual, as if it helped her to bid farewell to her father. Sebastian had been inclined to argue, until Cam had intervened.

“Jenner must be released from the fetters of his daughter’s grief,” the Gypsy had told Sebastian, just as the argument had become heated. “The Rom believe that if someone grieves too much for a loved one who has died, the deceased one will be forced to come back through the veil, to try to comfort the sorrowing one. If attending the funeral will help her to let him go…” He had stopped and shrugged prosaically.

Sebastian had given him a withering glance. “Ghosts again,” he said sourly. But he had let the matter drop and gave in to Evie’s wishes.

Having cried until it seemed that she had no more tears left, Evie managed to be stoic throughout the funeral, even when earth was shoveled over the coffin that had been lowered into the ground. A few salty drops did slip from the corners of her eyes, however, as the coffin was completely covered, and Cam stepped forward with a small silver flask. According to Romany tradition, he solemnly poured a drink of brandy onto the grave site.

Angered by the gesture, the elderly clergyman stepped forward, scolding, “Stop that! We’ll have none of your heathen practices! Soiling a sacred place with cheap spirits—”

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