Devil in Winter Page 73

“Sebastian,” Evie said tenderly, “I have some medicine for you.”

He tried to turn away, but the effort caused pressure against his injured side, and the pain caused a violent reaction. Evie and Lillian both found themselves cleared from the bed with a swipe of his powerful arm. “Ouch!” Lillian muttered as they were knocked to the floor in a heap, with Evie just barely managing to preserve the contents of the glass.

Panting, groaning in delirium, Sebastian subsided on the bed, his large frame wracked with tremors. Although Evie was dismayed by his resistance, she was glad of the sign of remaining strength, which was far preferable to the deathlike stillness of before.

Lillian, however, did not seem to share her sentiments. “We’ll have to tie him down,” she said curtly. “We’ll never be able to hold him still while we treat the wound.”

“I don’t want—” Evie began, but Cam astonished her by agreeing.

“Lady Westcliff is right.”

Evie was silent as she struggled up from the floor. She reached down to Lillian, helped her to her feet, and stood looking at Sebastian’s trembling form. His eyes were closed once more, his fingers twitching convulsively, as if wanting to clench something other than air. It was incredible that such a vital man could have been reduced to this colorless, spare figure, his lips cracked, his eyes black-circled.

She would do whatever was necessary to help him. Resolutely she took up some clean rags and handed them to Cam over Sebastian’s half-exposed body.

The boy looked grim as he moved to each corner of the bed, deftly tying both of Sebastian’s arms and one leg to the iron bedstead. “Shall I give him the medicine?” he asked, glancing at Evie.

“I can do it,” she replied, climbing beside Sebastian once more. After wedging a pillow beneath his head to raise it, she clamped her fingers on his nose. As soon as Sebastian gasped for air, she poured the thick febrifuge down his throat. He choked and gagged, but to her satisfaction the medicine was downed with a minimum of fuss. Cam raised his brows as if impressed by her efficiency, while Sebastian cursed and yanked helplessly at his bonds. Bending over him, Evie stroked and soothed him, whispering endearments as his opium-laden breath wafted feebly against her face.

When he had finally subsided, Evie glanced up to find Lillian staring at them oddly. Her brown eyes were narrowed, and she shook her head slightly, as if she were amazed by the situation. Evie supposed that since Lillian had known Sebastian only as the arrogant, sartorially splendid rake who had sauntered about Westcliff’s estate, it was no less than astonishing to see him in these circumstances.

In the meanwhile, Westcliff had removed his coat and rolled up his shirtsleeves. He was stirring a concoction that sent a caustic reek throughout the room. Lillian, who was especially sensitive to smell, grimaced and shuddered. “That is the most beastly combination of odors I’ve ever encountered.”

“Spirit of turpentine, garlic, vinegar—and some other ingredients that the apothecary suggested, including rose oil,” Cam explained. “He also said to apply a honey poultice afterward, as it keeps wounds from turning putrid.”

Evie’s eyes widened as Cam opened a wooden box and withdrew a brass funnel and a cylindrical object with a handle at one end and a needlelike projection at the other. “What is th-that?” she asked.

“Also from the apothecary,” Cam said, holding the device up to squint at it critically. “A syringe. When we described what we were planning, he said that with a wound this deep, the only way to irrigate it thoroughly was to use this.”

He laid out a row of implements, containers of chemicals and a pile of folded rags and towels, then Westcliff paused at the bedside and glanced at the two women. “This is going to be rather unpleasant,” he said. “Therefore, if anyone has a weak stomach…” His gaze lingered meaningfully on Lillian, who grimaced.

“I do, as you well know,” she admitted. “But I can overcome it if necessary.”

A sudden smile appeared on the earl’s impassive face. “We’ll spare you for now, love. Would you like to go to another room?”

“I’ll sit by the window,” Lillian said, and sped gratefully away from the bed.

Westcliff glanced at Evie, a silent question in his eyes.

“Where shall I stand?” she asked.

“On my left. We’ll need a great many towels and rags, so if you would be willing to replace the soiled ones when necessary—”

“Yes, of course.” She took her place beside him, while Cam stood on his right. As Evie looked up at Westcliff’s bold, purposeful profile, she suddenly found it hard to believe that this powerful man, whom she had always found so intimidating, was willing to go to this extent to help a friend who had betrayed him. A rush of gratitude came over her, and she could not stop herself from tugging lightly at his shirtsleeve. “My lord…before we begin, I must tell you…”

Westcliff inclined his dark head. “Yes?”

Since he wasn’t as tall as Sebastian, it was a relatively easy matter for Evie to stand on her toes and kiss his lean cheek. “Thank you for helping him,” she said, staring into his surprised black eyes. “You’re the most honorable man I’ve ever known.” Her words caused a flush to rise beneath the sun-bronzed tan of his face, and for the first time in their acquaintance the earl seemed at a loss for words.

Lillian smiled as she watched them from across the room. “His motives are not completely heroic,” she said to Evie. “I’m sure he’s relishing the opportunity to literally pour salt on St. Vincent’s wounds.” Despite the facetious remark, Lillian went deadly pale and gripped the chair arms as Westcliff took a thin, gleaming lancet in hand and proceeded to gently open and drain the wound.

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