Devil in Winter Page 49

“Devil take the filthy bitch!”

Cam shook his head slightly, unable to understand where such hostility had come from, or why Bullard harbored such mad wrath toward Evie.

Hearing a scraping sound behind him, he ducked and turned, just as the whistling arc of a board swung through the air where his head had been. The attacker was not Bullard, but a tosher, a scavenger who had impulsively decided to try his luck at back-alley robbery. He had the peculiar young-old look of someone who had lived in the streets since birth. Cam dispatched him in a few efficient movements, sending him to the ground in a groaning heap. A few more toshers appeared at the other end of the court, apparently deciding it was best to attack in numbers. Realizing that he would soon be overrun, Cam retreated to the archway, while Bullard’s voice followed him.

“I’ll get ‘er, I will.”

“You’ll never touch her,” Cam retorted, filled with a flare of impotent anger as he cast a last glance into Hangman’s Court. “I’ll send you to hell before you ever lay a finger on her!”

“I’ll bring you with me, then,” came Bullard’s gloating reply, and he laughed again as Cam strode away from the court.

Later in the day, Cam sought out Evie. Sebastian was occupied with a group of carpenters who were repairing the intricate parquet work of the wooden flooring in the main dining room. Finding Evie in the empty hazard room, sorting absently through baskets of gaming chips and separating them into neat stacks, Cam approached her with a noiseless tread.

She started a little at the light touch on her arm, and smiled with quick relief as she looked up into his face. It was rare for him to appear visibly troubled. A young man of his prosaic nature was not given to hand wringing or anxiety. Cam met each moment as it came, living as much as possible in the present. However, the events of the day had left their mark, imparting a stark tension that temporarily aged him.

“I couldn’t reach him,” Cam said softly. “He disappeared into a rookery, and spoke to me from the shadows. Nothing he said made sense. He harbors an evil feeling against you, gadji, though I don’t understand why. He’s never been what anyone would call a cheerful sort, but this is different. A kind of madness. I have to tell St. Vincent.”

“No, don’t,” came Evie’s instant reply. “It would only worry and anger him. He has enough to deal with at present.”

“But if Bullard tries to harm you—”

“I’m safe here, am I not? He wouldn’t dare come to the club with the price that my husband has put on his head.”

“There are hidden ways into the building.”

“Can you seal them? Lock them?”

Cam considered the questions with a frown. “Most of them. But it’s not a matter of traipsing back and forth with a set of keys—”

“I understand. Do what you can.” She drew her fingers through a pile of discarded chips and added morosely, “It doesn’t really matter, since I’ll be gone soon. St. Vincent wants me to leave after next week. He doesn’t think I should live at the club, now that my father…” She trailed off into disconsolate silence.

“Perhaps he’s right,” Cam offered, his tone deftly stripped of pity. “This isn’t the safest place for you.”

“He’s not doing it for reasons of safety.” Her fingers curled around a black chip, and then she sent it spinning like a top on the surface of the hazard table. “He’s doing it to keep distance between us.” She was both frustrated and heartened by the faint smile that touched his lips.

“Patience,” Cam counseled in a soft murmur, and left her to watch the chip spinning until its momentum had dwindled to stillness.


Evie was glad of the constant activity in the club during the next fortnight, as it helped to distract her from her grief. When she told Sebastian that she wished to be of use, she was promptly assigned to the office, where correspondence and account books lay in great disorganized piles. She was also called upon to direct painters, decorators, carpenters, and masons to their various tasks, a responsibility that would have terrified her long ago. Speaking to so many strangers was a nerve-wracking effort at first, and for the first few days she struggled with her stammer. However, the more often she did it, the easier it became. It helped that the workers all listened to her with a mixture of patience and respect that had never been accorded her before.

The first thing that Sebastian did after Ivo Jenner’s funeral was to arrange a meeting with the commissioner of police regarding the recent tightening of gaming laws. With persuasive charm, Sebastian made the case that Jenner’s was a social club, as opposed to being specifically a gaming club. Therefore, it was not the kind of place that should be subjected to police raids, as its members were, as Sebastian solemnly put it, “men of the highest integrity.” Swayed by Sebastian’s artful reasoning, the commissioner promised that there would be no raids on Jenner’s, as long as it maintained an appearance of respectability.

Upon learning of Sebastian’s success with the commissioner, Cam Rohan remarked admiringly, “That was a spruce trick, my lord. I’m beginning to think you can persuade anyone to do nearly anything.”

Sebastian grinned and glanced at Evie, who was sitting nearby. “I should think Lady St. Vincent is proof of that,” he said.

It seemed that Sebastian and Cam had decided to form a tentative alliance for the purposes of getting the club back on its feet. Their interactions were not precisely friendly, but neither were they hostile. Cam had certainly taken note of Sebastian’s leadership abilities, which were greatly needed in the days after Ivo Jenner’s demise. Sebastian had discarded his air of upper-class indolence, and had taken over the running of the club with decisiveness and authority.

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