Devil in Winter Page 55

Glancing at Sebastian, Cam remarked sourly, “I’ve heard less noise from the hogs at slaughter time.”

There was a sudden suspicious tension around Sebastian’s jaw, as if he were fighting to suppress a grin. “Mrs. Hunt, Miss Bowman, this is Mr. Rohan. You must pardon his lack of tact, as he is…”

“A ruffian?” Daisy suggested innocently.

This time Sebastian could not prevent a smile. “I was going to say ‘unused to the presence of ladies at the club.’”

“Is that what they are?” Cam asked, casting a dubious glance at the visitors, his attention lingering for a moment on Daisy’s small face.

Pointedly ignoring Cam, Daisy spoke to Annabelle. “I’ve always heard that Gypsies are known for their charm. An unfounded myth, it seems.”

Cam’s golden eyes narrowed into tigerish slits. “We’re also known for carrying off gadji maidens.”

Before the exchange could continue, Evie interceded quickly. “My lord,” she said to Sebastian, “if you have no objections, I would like to speak in private to my friends.”

“Certainly,” he said with impeccable courtesy. “Shall I have a tea tray sent in, my sweet?”

“Yes, thank you.”

As the men departed and the doors closed behind them, Daisy burst out, “How can you speak to St. Vincent cordially after what he’s done?”

“Daisy,” Evie began apologetically, “I’m so s-sorry about what happened to Lillian, and I—”

“No, not just that,” Daisy interrupted hotly, “I mean after what he’s done to you! Taking advantage of you, forcing you to marry him, and then—”

“He didn’t force me.” Evie looked from Daisy’s indignant face to Annabelle’s concerned one. “Truly, he didn’t! I was the one who approached him. Here, let’s sit, and I’ll t-tell you everything…How have you two managed to come to the club?”

“Mr. Hunt is away on business,” Annabelle said with a crafty smile. “And I told the Bowmans that I was taking Daisy shopping with me on St. James Street. I’m her chaperone, you see.”

“And we did go shopping,” Daisy interjected slyly. “It’s only that we’ve taken this one little detour afterward…”

In the following minutes, they sat together in a cluster, with Annabelle and Evie on the settee, and Daisy in a nearby chair. Stammering slightly, Evie relayed the events that had transpired after she had left the Maybricks’ home. To her relief, her friends did not condemn her for her actions. Instead they were concerned and sympathetic, even though it was clear that they did not agree with the choices she had made.

“I’m sorry,” Evie said at one point, as she saw the frown that pleated the ivory smoothness of Annabelle’s forehead. “I know you don’t approve of my marriage to Lord St. Vincent.”

“It doesn’t matter if I approve,” Annabelle said gently. “I’ll stand your friend no matter what you do. I wouldn’t care if you had married the devil himself.”

“Who is undoubtedly close kin of St. Vincent,” Daisy remarked grimly.

“The point is,” Annabelle continued, giving Daisy a swift warning glance, “now that it’s a fait accompli, we want to find out how we can best help you.”

Evie smiled gratefully. “All I need is your friendship. I was so afraid you might withdraw it.”

“Never.” Annabelle glanced over her and reached out to smooth her tumbled red curls. “Dear, I hope this doesn’t seem presumptuous…but since you left your family’s home in haste, I’m sure you weren’t able to take many gowns with you. So I’ve brought some things for you to wear. I know you’re in mourning, and so I’ve brought only the browns and black and grays, and of course some nightgowns and gloves and other things…I’ll have them sent in from the carriage, if you are agreeable. We’re nearly the same height, and I think with a few alterations—”

“Oh Annabelle,” Evie exclaimed, throwing her arms around her friend, “how kind you are! But I don’t want you to s-sacrifice any part of your wedding trousseau for my sake—”

“It’s no sacrifice,” Annabelle informed her, drawing back and smiling. “Before long, I won’t be able to wear them at all.”

Swiftly Evie recalled that the previous month, Annabelle had confided her suspicions that she might be pregnant. “Of course, I…oh, Annabelle, I’ve been so pr-preoccupied with my own problems that I hadn’t even thought to ask how you were feeling! Is it true, then? The doctor confirmed it?”

“Yes,” Daisy interrupted, standing up and doing a little victory dance, as if it were impossible for her to stay still any longer. “The wallflowers are going to be aunts!”

Evie jumped up as well, and they cavorted in childish glee, while Annabelle remained sitting and watched them with amusement. “Heavens, look at the pair of you,” she said. “I wish Lillian were here—no doubt she would have some pithy comment about your savage romping.”

The mention of Lillian was enough to dampen Evie’s elation. She dropped back onto the settee, staring at Annabelle with kindling worry. “Will she forgive me, for m-marrying St. Vincent after what he did to her?”

“Of course,” Annabelle said gently. “You know how loyal she is—she would forgive you anything short of murder. Perhaps not even barring that. But I’m afraid that forgiving St. Vincent is another matter entirely.”

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