Devil in Winter Page 70

With the help of Cam and the housemaids, Evie covered the bed with a waterproof cloth and packed muslin bags filled with ice around his body. Sebastian remained motionless and silent through it all. Evie’s hopes were briefly raised when the fever seemed to abate, but it soon resumed its relentless climb.

Cam, who had assumed Sebastian’s duties at the club as well as his own, looked nearly as exhausted as Evie. Still dressed in his evening clothes, a gray necktie hanging loose on either side of his throat, he wandered to the bedside where Evie sat.

She had never felt real despair until now. Even during the worst of times with the Maybricks, she had always had hope. But if Sebastian did not live, she felt that she would never take pleasure in anything again.

Sebastian had been the first man to reach through her prison of shyness. And from the very beginning, he had taken care of her as no one ever had. Thinking of the first hot brick he had tucked against her feet during the hellish carriage ride to Scotland, she smiled bleakly. She spoke to Cam with her gaze fastened on her husband’s waxen face. “I don’t know what to do for him,” she whispered. “Any doctor I send for will want to bleed him, and I promised him that I wouldn’t allow it.”

Reaching out a lean hand, Cam smoothed back the wild locks of Evie’s unwashed hair. “My grandmother was a healer,” he said thoughtfully. “I remember that she used to flood wounds with salt water, and pack them with dried bog moss. And when I had a fever, she would make me chew the tubers of the four o’clock plant.”

“Four o’clock plant,” Evie repeated blankly. “I’ve never heard of that.”

He tucked a straggle of her hair behind her ear. “It grows on the moors.”

Evie moved her head away from his hand, embarrassed by her unwashed state, especially knowing the great importance Gypsies placed on personal cleanliness. Contrary to popular belief, there were any number of Romany rituals connected to washing and cleansing. “Do you think you could find some?”

“Four o’clock plant?”

“And the moss.”

“I suppose I could, given enough time.”

“I don’t think he has much time left,” Evie said, and her voice broke. Terrified that she might lose control of her emotions, she straightened in the chair, and shrugged away Cam’s consoling touch. “No…I’m all right. Just…find whatever you think will help.”

“I will return soon,” she heard him say softly, and in an instant, he was gone.

Evie continued to sit by the bedside in a state of exhausted indecision, aware that she should probably make some concession to the needs of her own body for sleep, for food, for some marginal care…but she was afraid to leave Sebastian even for a few minutes. She didn’t want to come back and find that he had slipped away while she was not there.

She tried to clear away the fog of weariness long enough to make a decision, but the mechanics of her brain seemed to have been disabled. Hunched in the chair, she stared at her dying husband. Her spirit and body had become so weighted that no action or thought was possible. She was not aware of anyone entering the room, or of any movement other than the minimal, nearly undetectable rise and fall of Sebastian’s chest. But gradually she became aware of a man standing beside her chair, his presence emanating a vitality and contained force that was startling in the somnolent atmosphere of the sickroom. Blearily she looked up into the concerned face of Lord Westcliff.

Without a word Westcliff reached down and pulled her to her feet, steadying her as she wobbled. “I’ve brought someone for you,” he said quietly. Evie’s gaze careened across the room until she managed to focus on the other visitor.

It was Lillian Bowman—now Lady Westcliff—dashing and radiant in a wine-red gown. Her fair complexion was lightly glazed with color from the southern Italian sun, and her black hair was caught fashionably at the nape of her neck with a beaded silk-cord net. Lillian was tall and slender, the kind of raffish girl one could envision as captaining her own pirate ship…a girl clearly made for dangerous and unconventional pursuits. Though not as romantically beautiful as Annabelle Hunt, Lillian possessed a striking, clean-featured appeal that proclaimed her Americanness even before one heard her distinctly NewYork accent.

Of their circle of friends, Lillian was the one that Evie felt the least close to. Lillian did not possess Annabelle’s maternal softness, or Daisy’s sparkling optimism…she had always intimidated Evie with her sharp tongue and prickly impatience. However, Lillian could always be counted on in times of trouble. And after one glance at Evie’s haggard countenance, Lillian came to her without hesitation, and wrapped her long arms around her.

“Evie,” she murmured fondly, “what have you gotten yourself into?”

The surprise and relief of being held so securely by a friend she had not expected to see overwhelmed Evie completely. She felt the pain in her eyes and throat sharpen, until she could no longer hold back her sobs. Lillian tightened her embrace. “You should have seen my reaction when Annabelle and Daisy told me what you had done,” she said, patting Evie’s back firmly. “I nearly dropped to the floor, and then I called down all sorts of curses on St. Vincent’s head for taking advantage of you. I was tempted to come here and shoot him myself. But it appears that someone else spared me the trouble.”

“I love him,” Evie whispered between sobs.

“You can’t,” Lillian said flatly.

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