Devil in Winter Page 7

“One can only hope.” His light, glittering eyes narrowed thoughtfully. Evie noticed that his lashes, indecently long for a man, were several shades darker than his hair. Despite his size and broad-shouldered build, there was a feline quality about him…he was like a lazy but potentially deadly tiger. “What is the nature of your father’s illness?” he asked. “I’ve heard rumors, but nothing of a certainty.”

“He has consumption,” Evie murmured. “He was diagnosed with it six months ago—I haven’t seen him since. It’s the l-longest period I’ve ever gone without visiting him. The Maybricks used to allow me to go to the club to see him, as they saw no harm in it. But last year Aunt Florence decided that my chances of finding a husband were being harmed by my association with my father, and therefore I should distance myself from him. They want me to pretend he doesn’t exist.”

“How surprising,” he murmured sardonically, and crossed his legs. “Why the sudden passion to hover over his deathbed? Want to ensure your place in his will, do you?”

Ignoring the hint of malice that was embedded in his question, Evie thought over her reply, and spoke coolly. “When I was a little girl, I was allowed to see him often. We were close. He was—and is—the only man who has ever cared for me. I love him. And I don’t want him to die alone. You may m-mock me for it, if it amuses you. I don’t care. Your opinion means nothing to me.”

“Easy, pet.” His voice was laced with soft amusement. “I detect evidence of a temper, which I’ve no doubt you inherited from the old man. I’ve seen his eyes flash just that way when his dander is up over some trifle.”

“You know my father?” she asked with surprise.

“Of course. All men of pleasure have been to Jenner’s for one kind of stimulation or another. Your father is a decent fellow, for all that he’s as stable as a tinderbox. I can’t help but ask—how in God’s name did a Maybrick marry a cockney?”

“I think that, among other things, my mother must have regarded him as a means of escaping her family.”

“Just as in our situation,” St. Vincent commented blandly. “There’s a certain symmetry in that, isn’t there?”

“I h-hope the symmetry ends there,” Evie replied. “Because I was conceived not long after they were married, and then my mother died in childbirth.”

“I won’t make you belly-full, if you don’t wish it,” he said agreeably. “It’s easy enough to avoid pregnancy…sheaths, sponges, douches, not to mention the most clever little silver charms that one can—” He stopped at her expression, and laughed suddenly. “My God, your eyes are like saucers. Have I alarmed you? Don’t tell me that you’ve never heard of such things from your married friends.”

Evie shook her head slowly. Although Annabelle Hunt was, on occasion, willing to explain some of the mysteries of the marital relationship, she had certainly never mentioned any devices to prevent pregnancy. “I doubt they’ve ever heard of them either,” she said, and he laughed again.

“I’ll be more than willing to enlighten you when we finally reach Scotland.” His lips curved in the smile that the Bowman sisters had once found so utterly charming…but they must have missed the calculating gleam in his eyes. “My love, have you considered the possibility that you might enjoy our consummation sufficiently to want it more than once?”

How easily endearments seem to trip from his tongue. “No,” Evie said firmly. “I won’t.”

“Mmm…” A sound almost like a cat’s purr left his throat. “I like a challenge.”

“I m-might enjoy going to bed with you,” Evie told him, staring at him steadily, refusing to look away even though the prolonged shared gaze made her flush with discomfort. “I rather hope I will. But that won’t change my decision. Because I know you for what you are—and I know what you’re capable of.”

“My dear…” he said almost tenderly, “you haven’t begun to learn the worst of me.”


For Evie, who had been uncomfortable during the previous week’s twelve-hour drive from Westcliff’s Hampshire estate, the forty-eight-hour journey to Scotland was nothing short of torture. Had their pace been more moderate, it would have been much easier. However, at Evie’s own insistence they went straight through to Gretna Green, stopping only to change drivers and horse teams at three-hour intervals. Evie feared that if her relations had managed to discover what she was doing, they would be in close pursuit. And considering the outcome of St. Vincent’s battle with Lord Westcliff, Evie had little hope that he could win in a physical standoff against her uncle Peregrine.

Well-sprung and equipped though the carriage was, traveling at such relentless speed caused the vehicle to jolt and sway until Evie began to feel nauseated. She was exhausted and could find no comfortable position in which to sleep. Her head bumped constantly against the wall. It seemed that whenever she did manage to nod off, only a few minutes passed before she was awakened.

St. Vincent was less obviously miserable than Evie, though he too had acquired a rumpled, travel-worn appearance. Any attempts at conversation had long since dwindled, and they rode together in stoic silence. Surprisingly, St. Vincent did not utter a word of protest about this grim exercise in endurance. Evie realized that he felt the same urgency that she did to reach Scotland. It was in his best interests, even more than hers, to see that they were legally married as soon as possible.

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