Devil in Winter Page 82

“White elephant?” Evie asked.

A new voice came from the doorway, belonging to Lord Westcliff. “A white elephant is a rare animal,” the earl replied, smiling, “that is not only expensive but difficult to maintain. Historically, when an ancient king wished to ruin someone he would gift him with a white elephant.” Stepping into the office, Westcliff bowed over Evie’s hand and spoke to Sebastian. “Your assessment of the proposed bazaar is correct, in my opinion. I was approached with the same investment opportunity not long ago, and I rejected it on the same grounds.”

“No doubt we’ll both be proven wrong,” Sebastian said wryly. “One should never try to predict anything regarding women and their shopping.” He stood to shake the earl’s hand. “My wife and I are just about to partake of some breakfast. I hope you will join us.”

“I’ll take some coffee,” Westcliff said with a nod. “Forgive my unexpected call, but I have some news to share.”

Sebastian, Evie, and Cam all stared at the earl intently as he continued, “I was finally able to meet with Lord Belworth this morning. He admitted that he was the original owner of the pistol used to shoot St. Vincent. He went on to relate in confidence that approximately three years ago, he had given the set of dueling pistols to Mr. Clive Egan, along with some family jewelry and other trifles, as a bribe to allow him more time to settle his financial debts to the club.

Evie blinked in surprise at the mention of the former club manager. “Then Mr. Egan is harboring Mr. Bullard?”


“But why? Does this mean that Mr. Egan may have engaged Mr. Bullard to make an attempt on my life?”

“We’ll find out,” Sebastian said, his face set. “I intend to pay a call to Egan today.”

“I’ll accompany you,” Westcliff said evenly. “I have resources who were able to obtain Egan’s address. It’s not far from here, actually.”

Sebastian shook his head. “Thank you for your help, but I won’t have you inconvenienced by any further involvement. I doubt your wife would appreciate my allowing you to be put at risk. I’ll take Rohan with me.”

Evie began to object, knowing that in this situation, Sebastian would be safer in Westcliff’s company. Sebastian had barely begun to recover from his injury. And if he took it in his head to do something foolish, it would not be easy for Cam to restrain him. Cam was, after all, his employee, and he was at least eight years younger. Westcliff knew Sebastian far better, and had infinitely more power to influence him.

Before Evie could say a word, however, Westcliff replied. “Rohan is indeed a capable lad,” the earl agreed smoothly, “which is why he should be entrusted with Evie’s safety, and remain here with her.”

Sebastian’s gaze narrowed as he prepared to argue. The words halted on his lips as Evie curled her hand around his arm, and leaned against him with light, confiding pressure. “I would prefer that,” she said.

As Sebastian glanced into her upturned face, his expression softened, giving her the heady feeling that he would do whatever was in his power to please her. “All right,” he murmured reluctantly. “If Rohan’s presence would put you at ease, so be it.”

Part of Sebastian’s objection to taking Westcliff with him to see Clive Egan was the residual awkwardness between them. It wasn’t exactly comfortable to spend time in the company of a man whose wife you had once kidnapped. The beating Westcliff had given him afterward had cleared the air somewhat, and Sebastian’s subsequent apology had also helped. And it seemed as if Sebastian’s marriage to Evie, and his willingness to sacrifice himself for her, had inclined the earl to view him with a cautious approval that might, in time, rekindle their friendship. However, their relationship had been cast in a new form that might never fully recapture their previous ease.

For a man who had once dedicated himself to living without regrets, Sebastian was having quite a few unwanted second thoughts about his past behaviors. His actions regarding Lillian Bowman had been a mistake on many levels. What an idiot he had been, willing to sacrifice a friendship for the sake of a woman he had never really wanted in the first place. Had he bothered to consider his alternatives, he might have discovered Evie, who had been there right beneath his nose.

To Sebastian’s relief, the conversation with Westcliff was amiable as the carriage traveled through the west side of London to the outskirts where fashionable middle-class developments were being built on greenfield sites. Clive Egan’s address was one of a man who possessed solid means. Reflecting sourly on how much money Egan had gained from years of skimming and pinching the club’s profits, Sebastian told Westcliff everything he knew about the former manager. The subject led to the current condition of the club’s finances, and the necessary restructuring of investments. It was a pleasure to confide in Westcliff, who had one of ablest financial minds in the country, and offered a knowledgeable perspective on business issues. And it did not escape either of them that the discussion was a drastic departure from the past, when Sebastian had prattled about scandals and affairs, which had always resulted in rather patronizing lectures from Westcliff.

The carriage stopped at a new residential square, with tiny paved yards set behind them. All the houses were three stories tall and exceedingly narrow, none being wider than approximately fourteen feet across. An old and worn-looking cook-maid opened the door and stepped aside with a low grumble as they barged inside. The house seemed to be one of the indifferently decorated, ready-furnished variety, often let to middle-class professional men who had not yet married.

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