Devil in Winter Page 47

“Sir,” Sebastian interrupted, stepping forward and resting a large hand on the clergyman’s shoulder. “I don’t think our friend Jenner would have minded.” He let a conspiratorial smile touch his lips as he added, “It’s French brandy, and an excellent year. Perhaps you will allow me to send a few bottles to your residence, to sample at your leisure?”

Mollified by the viscount’s abundant charm, the clergyman smiled back. “That is very kind, my lord. Thank you.”

Once most of the mourners had departed, Evie let her gaze travel over the shop fronts, the houses, and the blacking factory that surrounded the square. Her attention was suddenly caught by the face of a man standing by a lamppost on the other side of the square. Dressed in a dark coat and a dirty gray cap, he was not recognizable until a slow smile split his face.

It was Joss Bullard, she realized with a start of recognition. It seemed that he had wanted to pay his respects to Ivo Jenner, if only from a distance. However, he did not wear the expression of a man in mourning. He looked positively evil, his face twisted with a malice that sent a chill down her spine. Watching her steadily, he drew his finger across his throat in an unmistakable gesture that caused her to take an involuntary step backward.

Noticing the movement, Sebastian turned toward her, automatically taking her shoulders in his black-gloved hands. “Evie,” he murmured, staring down at her pale face with a touch of concern. “Are you all right?”

Evie nodded, letting her gaze flicker back to the lamppost. Bullard was gone. “I’m just a bit c-cold,” she replied, her teeth chattering as a gust of bitter wind swept the hood of her cloak back from her face.

Immediately Sebastian pulled the hood back into place and snuggled the cloak more closely around her neck. “I’m going to take you back to the club,” he said. “I’ll give a few coins to the feathermen and coachmen, and then we’ll leave.” Reaching into his greatcoat, he pulled out a small leather bag and went to the group of men waiting respectfully near the graveside.

Catching Evie’s anxious stare, Cam approached her, the gleam of a smudged tear track on his lean cheek. She caught at his sleeve and said under her breath, “I just saw Mr. Bullard. Over there, at the lamppost.”

His eyes widened slightly, and he nodded.

There was no opportunity to say anything further. Sebastian returned and put his arm around Evie’s shoulders. “The carriage is waiting,” he said.

“There was no need to have arranged for a carriage,” she protested. “I could have walked.”

“I had them fill the foot warmer,” he said, and a smile tugged at his lips as he saw the flicker of anticipation in her expression. He glanced at Cam. “Come to the carriage with us.”

“Thank you,” came the boy’s guarded reply, “but I would prefer to walk.”

“We’ll see you at the club, then.”

“Yes, my lord.”

As Evie accompanied Sebastian to the carriage, she steeled herself not to look back at Cam. She wondered if he would manage to find Bullard, and what might happen if he did. Stepping onto the movable stool, she climbed into the vehicle. She hurriedly arranged her skirts over the foot warmer and shuddered in pleasure as it sent wafts of heat up to her knees. Sebastian sat beside her, a faint smile on his lips.

Remembering their madcap journey to Gretna Green, which had not been all that long ago, Evie thought that it seemed as if an eternity had passed since then. She snuggled against Sebastian, gratified that he did not try to ease her away.

“You held up quite well, all things considered,” he said as the carriage began to move.

“It was the most elaborate funeral procession I’ve ever seen,” she replied. “My father would have adored it.”

Sebastian let out a huff of amusement. “When in doubt, I chose to err on the side of excess, hoping it would have suited him.” He hesitated before continuing. “Tomorrow I’m going to have your father’s apartments completely emptied and stripped,” he said. “We’ll never be rid of the sickroom smell otherwise.”

“I think that is an excellent idea.”

“The club will reopen the week after next. I’ll let you stay here until then, to have a little time to adjust to your father’s death. But when Jenner’s doors are open again, I want you to be comfortably settled in my town house.”

“What?” Startled by the statement, Evie drew away to look at him. “The one in Mayfair?”

“It’s well-appointed, and fully staffed. If it doesn’t please you, we’ll find something else. In the meantime, however, you’ll have to stay there.”

“Are you planning to…to live there with me?”

“No. I will continue to live at the club. It’s far more convenient to manage everything that way.”

Evie struggled to cope with his indifference. What was the reason for his sudden coolness? She had been no trouble to him…she had made few demands of him, even in her grief. Bewildered and angry, she stared down at her hands and made a knot of her gloved fingers.

“I want to stay,” she said in a low voice.

Sebastian shook his head. “There is no reason for you to remain there. You’re not needed. It will be better for all concerned if you live in a proper home, where you can receive your friends, and not be awakened at all hours of the night by the commotion downstairs.”

“I am a sound sleeper. That doesn’t bother me. And I can receive my friends at the club—”

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