Devil in Winter Page 65

His breath shivered between his clenched teeth. “Where’s Rohan?”

“I saw him in pursuit of Bullard, right after the shot was fired,” Westcliff replied. “As a matter of fact, Rohan climbed up a column to the second floor.”

“If he doesn’t catch the bastard,” Sebastian muttered, “I will. And then—”

“Shhh…” Evie soothed, her free hand slipping beneath the mound of coats to reach the bare surface of his chest. Her palm rested over the weak throb of his heart, and her fingertips traced over the thread of fine gold chain that hung around his neck. Following the chain, she discovered the Scottish-gold wedding band dangling from the end of it.

Sebastian had not wanted her to find out that he wore the ring beneath his clothes. Agitated, he whispered, “Means nothing. Just…wanted to keep it safe—”

“I understand,” Evie murmured, flattening her hand on his chest once more. He felt the brush of her lips against his forehead, and the soft caress of her breath. She smiled down at him. “You realize, of course,” she said, “that you’ve given me the perfect excuse to stay. I’m going to take care of you until you’re well enough to throw me out on your own.”

Sebastian could not return the smile. Anxiety flooded him as he realized that Evie wasn’t safe here or anywhere, until Bullard was caught. “Westcliff,” he rasped, “Someone has to…protect my wife…”

“Nothing will happen to her,” Westcliff assured him.

As Sebastian stared at his former friend, the only honorable man that he had ever known, he saw that Westcliff’s face was carefully impassive. They both understood what Evie was too inexperienced to gather…that although the bullet had not hit a vital organ, the wound was likely to suppurate. Sebastian would not die of blood loss, but it was likely that he could succumb to a fatal fever. And if so, Evie would be alone and undefended in a world filled with predators. Men like himself.

Trembling with cold and shock, Sebastian forced out a few desperate words, finding that it took several thready breaths to get them out. “Westcliff…what I did before…sorry. Forgive…forgive…” He felt his eyes begin to roll back in his head, and he fought to stay conscious. “Evie…keep her safe. Please…” He sank into an ocean of bright sparks, deeper and deeper, until the fluttering lights had faded and he was lost in blackness.

“Sebastian,” Evie whispered, bringing his lax hand to her cheek. She kissed the backs of his fingers while tears trickled down her face.

“It’s all right,” Westcliff reassured her. “He’s just fainted. He’ll come to in a moment.”

She let out a small, gasping sob before regaining control. “He deliberately put himself in front of me,” she said after a moment. “He took the shot for me.”

“So it would seem.” Westcliff watched her speculatively, thinking, among other things, that some interesting changes had occurred in both Sebastian and his unlikely bride since their elopement.

When Lillian had learned that St. Vincent had married Evangeline Jenner, she had gone into a fury, terrified about what harm might have befallen her friend.

“That monster!” Lillian had cried upon their return to London from Italy. “For him to do this to Evie, of all people…oh, you can’t know how fragile she is. He’ll have been cruel to her…she has no defenses, and she is so innocent…My God, I’ll kill him!”

“Your sister said that she did not appear to have been ill-used,” Westcliff pointed out rationally, though he too had been concerned by the idea of someone as helpless as Evangeline Jenner at St. Vincent’s mercy.

“She was likely too afraid to admit anything,” Lillian had said, her dark eyes snapping as she paced back and forth. “He probably raped her. Threatened her. Perhaps even beat her—”

“No, no,” Westcliff had soothed, gathering her stiff body into his arms. “According to Daisy and Annabelle, there was ample opportunity for her to tell them if she had been abused. But she did not. If it will ease your worries, I’ll go to the club and offer her refuge. She can stay with us in Hampshire if she desires.”

“For how long?” Lillian had mumbled, nestling deeper into his embrace.

“Indefinitely, of course.”

“Oh, Marcus…” Her brown eyes had sparkled with sudden moisture. “You would do that for me?”

“Anything, love,” he had told her gently. “Anything at all to make you happy.”

And so Westcliff had come to Jenner’s this evening to ascertain if Evangeline was an unwilling captive. Contrary to all expectations, he had found a woman who seemed eager to stay, who bore obvious affection for St. Vincent.

As for St. Vincent, so eternally aloof and indifferent…it was difficult to believe that the man who treated women with such cavalier cruelty could be the same one who had just risked his life. To receive an apology from a man who had never expressed a single regret about anything, and then to hear him practically beg for his wife’s protection, led to an inescapable conclusion. St. Vincent had, against all odds, learned to care more for someone else than he did for himself.

The situation was extraordinary. How someone like Evangeline Jenner could have wrought such a change in St. Vincent, the most worldly of men, was difficult to understand. However, Westcliff had learned that the mysteries of attraction could not always be explained through logic. Sometimes the fractures in two separate souls became the very hinges that held them together.

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