Devil in Winter Page 66

“My lady—” he said gently.

“Evie,” she said, still cradling her husband’s hand against her face.

“Evie. I must ask…why did you approach St. Vincent, of all men, with an offer of marriage?”

Gently lowering St. Vincent’s hand, Evie smiled ruefully. “I needed a way to escape my family, legally and permanently. Marriage was the only answer. And as you were no doubt aware, suitors were hardly queuing up for my favors in Hampshire. When I learned what St. Vincent had done to Lillian, I was appalled…but it also occurred to me that…he was the only person I knew of who seemed as desperate as I was. Desperate enough to agree to anything.”

“Was it also part of your plan that he manage your father’s club?”

“No, he decided that, much to my surprise. In fact, he has surprised me at every turn since we married.”

“How so?”

“He has done everything possible to look after me—all the while proclaiming his indifference.” She stared into her husband’s unconscious face. “He’s not heartless, much as he tries to pretend otherwise.”

“No,” Westcliff agreed. “He’s not heartless—though I had my doubts until this evening.”


Although Cam and Westcliff were as careful as possible, the process of conveying Sebastian upstairs weakened him severely. Evie followed closely behind, filled with agonized concern as she saw the stark paleness of Sebastian’s face. Cam was distraught, though he kept his emotions battened down as he focused on doing what was necessary.

“I don’t know how he got in,” the boy muttered. Evie realized that he was referring to Bullard. “I know all the ways to enter and leave this place. I thought I had taken care of—”

“It’s not your fault, Cam,” Evie interrupted quietly.

“Someone must have let him in, even though I told the employees—”

“It’s not your fault,” she repeated, and the boy fell silent, though it was clear that he did not agree.

Westcliff was quiet save for a few murmured instructions as they turned a corner. He carried Sebastian’s upper half, while Cam held his legs. Although Sebastian was a large man, they were both quite fit, and carried him to the master bedroom without difficulty. The room had just been refurbished, the walls covered with a layer of cream-colored paint. The old bed had been discarded and replaced with a large, handsome one, moved from Sebastian’s town house. Little had anyone thought that this would turn into a sickroom once more, so soon after her father’s death.

At Evie’s direction, a pair of housemaids ran back and forth, fetching towels and water, and tearing linen into wide strips. Sebastian’s limp body was eased onto the bed, and Evie tugged his boots off while Cam and Westcliff worked to remove his bloodstained clothes. By tacit agreement, they left on his white linen drawers for the sake of modesty.

Dipping a clean rag into the warm water, Evie washed the bloodstains from her husband’s body, the smears turning rust-colored where they had dried amid the light golden fleece on his chest. How powerful yet defenseless he appeared, the elegant lines of his body trimmed to a new leanness, his muscles honed by constant physical activity and more than a few recent back-alley skirmishes.

Westcliff picked up a rag and gently blotted the oozing bullet wound to have a better look at it. “From the size of the hole, I would assume that Bullard used a fifty-caliber pistol.”

“I have the gun,” Cam said shortly. “Bullard dropped it on the second-floor gallery after he fired the shot.”

Westcliff’s eyes narrowed in interest. “Let me see it.”

The boy withdrew the pistol from the pocket of his coat and handed to him, butt first. Westcliff assessed it with the expert glance of a seasoned sportsman. “A dueling pistol,” he remarked. “With a nine-inch octagonal, sighted barrel…platinum safety vents, engraved breeches and lockplates…a costly weapon, and part of a matched set. Made by Manton and Son of Dover Street.” He looked more closely at the weapon. “Here’s a silver escutcheon plate…engraved with the owner’s name, I believe. Though it’s too tarnished to make out the letters.” He glanced at Cam and arched one brow as he slipped it into his pocket. “With your permission, I will retain this.”

Seeming to understand that his permission wasn’t really required, Cam replied dryly, “By all means, my lord.”

Further conversation was prevented by the arrival of Dr. Hammond, a kindly man of sterling reputation, who had attended her father in the past. Cam and Westcliff left the room while Hammond examined the patient, cleaned the wound, and covered it with a light dressing. “While no major organs have been damaged,” he told Evie, his bearded face wearing a grave expression, “it is a significant injury. The recovery will depend on the resilience of the individual, the quality of his care…and as always, divine grace. It is almost certain there will be fever, which will have to run its course. Most often in these cases I am compelled to bleed the patient to drain as much of the diseased blood as possible. I will visit daily to determine if or when that will be necessary. Meanwhile, keep him clean and rested, feed him water and beef tea, and administer medicine for his discomfort.”

Evie received a bottle of opiated syrup from him with murmured thanks. After the doctor departed, she covered Sebastian with a quilt, seeing that the effects of shock and blood loss were causing him to shiver uncontrollably.

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