Devil in Winter Page 78

Though Sebastian had nearly choked on the words, he had forced out a repentant speech to both Westcliff and Lillian before they had left the club. He had subsequently discovered that the only thing worse than making an apology for something was being forgiven for it. But he had deliberately apologized at a time when Evie hadn’t been present.

“Lillian told me,” Evie said, as if reading his thoughts. She lifted her head with a sleepy grin. “I wonder what your new forfeit should be?”

“No doubt you’ll think of something,” he said darkly, and within seconds of closing his eyes, he fell into a deep, healing sleep.

Westcliff came to the club the next evening, registering surprise when he learned that Sebastian had gone to the main hazard room for the first time since the shooting. “A bit soon, isn’t it?” he asked as Evie walked with him from their private apartments to the second-floor gallery. They were watched carefully by an employee whom Cam had stationed at the gallery, as one of the increased security measures at the club. Until Bullard was caught, all guests were monitored with discreet attention.

“He’s pushing himself,” Evie replied with a frown. “He can’t abide the idea of appearing helpless—and he doesn’t think anything can be done correctly without his supervision.”

A smile glimmered in Westcliff’s dark eyes. “St. Vincent’s interest in this place seems quite genuine. I confess, I would not have expected him to undertake such responsibility willingly. For years he has been aimless and idle—a complete waste of his considerable intelligence. But it appears that all he needed was a suitable outlet for his talents.”

Coming to the balcony, they both rested their elbows on the railing and looked down into the main room, which was filled wall-to-wall with patrons. Evie saw the antique-gold gleam of Sebastian’s hair as he half sat on the desk in the corner, relaxed and smiling as he conversed with the crowd of men around him. His actions of ten days ago in saving Evie’s life had excited a great deal of public admiration and sympathy, especially after an article in the Times had portrayed him in a heroic light. That, and the perception that his friendship with the powerful Westcliff had renewed, were all it had taken for Sebastian to gain immediate and profound popularity. Piles of invitations arrived at the club daily, requesting the attendance of Lord and Lady St. Vincent at balls, soirees, and other social events, which they declined for reasons of mourning.

There were letters as well, heavily perfumed and written by feminine hands. Evie had not ventured to open any of them, nor had she asked about the senders. The letters had accumulated in a pile in the office, remaining sealed and untouched, until Evie had finally been moved to say something to him earlier that morning. “You have a large pile of unread correspondence,” she had told him, as they had taken breakfast together in his room. “It’s occupying half the space in the office. What shall we do with all the letters?” An impish smile rose to her lips as she added. “Shall I read them to you while you rest?”

His eyes narrowed. “Dispose of them. Or better yet, return them unopened.”

His response had caused a thrill of satisfaction, though Evie had tried to conceal it. “I wouldn’t object if you corresponded with other women,” she said. “Most men do, with no impropriety attached—”

“I don’t.” Sebastian had looked into her eyes with a long, deliberate stare, as if to make certain that she understood him completely. “Not now.”

Standing elbow to elbow with Westcliff, Evie watched her husband with possessive pleasure. Sebastian was still too lean, though his appetite had returned in full measure, and his elegant evening clothes hung a bit too loosely. But his shoulders were broad and his color was healthy, and the lost weight only served to highlight the spectacular bone structure of his face. Even though he moved with obvious care, he still possessed the predatory grace that women admired and men tried in vain to emulate.

“Thank you for saving him,” Evie heard herself say to Westcliff, still staring at her husband.

The earl slid her a sideways glance. “You saved him, Evie, on the night you offered to marry him. Which is evidence, I suppose, that moments of lunacy can occasionally lead to positive results. If you don’t mind, I want to go downstairs and inform St. Vincent about the latest developments regarding the search for Mr. Bullard.”

“Has he been found?”

“Not yet. But soon. After I cleaned the escutcheon plates on the pistol that Bullard used, it was still impossible to make out the engraved name on the weapon. Therefore, I brought it to Manton and Son’s, and asked them to provide information on the original commission. It turns out that the pistol is ten years old, which entailed a lengthy search through many boxes of old records. They told me today with certainty that the gun had been made for Lord Belworth, who happens to be returning to London this evening, for some parliamentary business. I intend to call on him in the morning and ask into the matter. If we can discover how Mr. Bullard came into possession of Belworth’s pistol, it may help us to locate him.”

Evie frowned in worry. “It seems impossible to find one man hiding in a city populated by more than a million people.”

“Nearly two million,” Westcliff said. “However, I have no doubt that he will be found. We have resources and the will to accomplish it.”

Despite her concern, Evie could not prevent a smile as she reflected that he sounded very much like Lillian, who never accepted defeat. Seeing that Westcliff’s brows had quirked slightly at the sight of her smile, she explained, “I was just thinking what a perfect match you are for a strong-willed woman like Lillian.”

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