Devil in Winter Page 84

Glancing at the two of them with gloomy satisfaction, Egan added, “You’ll find him at Tottenham’s Hospital, if you wish to revenge yourself on a poor bedeviled lunatic. Take what satisfaction you can have, my lords—but if you ask me, Bullard’s maker has already contrived the worst punishment a body can endure.”


During the hours that Sebastian was gone, Evie occupied herself with menial tasks around the club; sorting money and receipts, answering correspondence, and finally attending to the pile of unread letters addressed to Sebastian. Naturally she had been unable to resist opening a few. They were filled with flirtatious nonsense and innuendo, two of them even hinting that by now Sebastian must have wearied of his new bride. Their intent was so obvious that Evie actually felt embarrassed for the sake of the letter writers. They also served to remind her of Sebastian’s promiscuous past, when his main occupation had been to indulge in games of amorous pursuit and conquest.

It wasn’t easy to place her trust in such a man without feeling like a naive fool. Especially in light of the certainty that Sebastian would always be admired and coveted by other women. But Evie felt that Sebastian deserved the chance to prove himself. It was in her power to give him a new beginning—and if her gamble proved successful, the rewards for both of them would be infinite. She could be strong enough to take the risk of loving him, to make demands of him, to have expectations that he might sometimes find difficult to meet. And Sebastian seemed to want to be treated like an ordinary man—to have someone look beyond the mortal beauty of his facade, and ask more of him than his erotic skills. Not, Evie thought with a private grin, that she wasn’t appreciative of his looks and skills.

After watching—with a twinge of satisfaction—the letters burn to ashes in the fireplace, Evie felt sleepy. She went to the master bedroom for a nap. In spite of her weariness, it was difficult to relax while she was worried about Sebastian. Her thoughts chased round and round, until her tired brain put an end to the useless fretting and she dropped off to sleep.

When she awakened an hour or so later, Sebastian was sitting on the bed beside her, a lock of her bright hair clasped loosely between a thumb and forefinger. He was watching her closely, his eyes the color of heaven at daybreak. She sat up and smiled self-consciously.

Gently Sebastian stroked back her tumbled hair. “You look like a little girl when you sleep,” he murmured. “It makes me want to guard you every minute.”

“Did you find Mr. Bullard?”

“Yes, and no. First tell me what you did while I was gone.”

“I helped Cam to arrange things in the office. And I burned all your letters from lovelorn ladies. The blaze was so large, I’m surprised no one sent for a fire brigade.”

His lips curved in a smile, but his gaze probed hers carefully. “Did you read any of them?”

Evie lifted a shoulder in a nonchalant half shrug. “A few. There were inquiries as to whether or not you’ve yet tired of your wife.”

“No.” Sebastian drew his palm along the line of her thigh. “I’m tired of countless evenings of repetitive gossip and tepid flirtation. I’m tired of meaningless encounters with women who bore me senseless. They’re all the same to me, you know. I’ve never given a damn about anyone but you.”

“I don’t blame them for wanting you,” Evie said, looping her arms around his neck. “But I’m not willing to share.”

“You won’t have to.” He cupped her face in his hands and pressed a swift kiss to her lips.

“Tell me about Mr. Bullard,” Evie urged, her hands coming up to caress his wrists.

She was silent as Sebastian described the encounter with Clive Egan, and the revelations about Joss Bullard and his mother. Her eyes became very wide, and she was filled with pity. Poor Joss Bullard could not help his origins, or the indifferent upbringing that had made him so resentful. “How strange,” she murmured. “I’d always wished and even hoped that Cam was my brother, but I never gave a thought to the possibility that Joss Bullard might be.”

Bullard had always been so unapproachable and belligerent…and yet how much of that might have been the result of Ivo Jenner’s repudiation? To feel unwanted, to be kept a shameful secret by the man who might have been his true father…surely that would make anyone bitter.

“We went to the Tottenham hospital,” Sebastian continued, “where he had been admitted to the ward of incurables. It’s a foul place, and in dire need of funding. There were women and children who—” He broke off with a slight grimace at the recollection. “I’d rather not describe it, actually. But an administrator at Tottenham said that Bullard had been admitted in the last stage of distemper.”

“I want to help him,” Evie said resolutely. “At the very least, we can have him sent to a better hospital—”

“No, sweet.” Sebastian traced his fingertips over the fine bones of her hand. “He died two days ago. They showed us to the plot where he and two other patients were buried in the same grave.”

Evie looked away, absorbing the information. She was surprised to feel her eyes moisten and her throat tighten. “The poor boy,” she said huskily. “I feel sorry for him.”

“I don’t,” Sebastian said flatly. “If he grew up without a parent’s affection, he was no different from countless other people who have to make their way in the world alone. He had an easier time of it than Rohan, whose Gypsy blood makes him an object of prejudice. Don’t cry, Evie. Bullard isn’t worth a single tear.”

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