Devil in Winter Page 75

“I will never be able to thank you enough for taking care of him,” Evie said fervently.

Standing from the bed, Lillian stretched and shrugged. “Think nothing of it,” came her cheerful reply. “It was worth it, if only to have St. Vincent in my debt. He’ll never be able to look at me without the humiliating recollection that I’ve seen him na**d and unconscious in his sickbed.”

“You saw him naked?” Evie asked, feeling her brows rise up to her hairline.

“Oh,” Lillian said airily, going to the door, “I caught a glimpse now and then. It was impossible not to, considering the location of the wound.” Pausing in the doorway, she gave Evie a sly glance. “I must admit, regarding that rumor that one occasionally hears…it doesn’t begin to do him justice.”

“What rumor?” Evie asked blankly, and Lillian left the room with a low laugh.


Before a full week had passed, Sebastian had become the worst patient imaginable. He was healing at a remarkable rate, though not quickly enough for his satisfaction, and he frustrated himself, as well as everyone else, by pushing every conceivable limit. He wanted to wear his regular clothes, to have real food…he insisted on leaving his bed and hobbling around the apartments and the upper gallery, stubbornly ignoring Evie’s exasperated protests. Even knowing that he could not force his strength to return, that it would require time and patience, Sebastian couldn’t help himself.

He had never had to rely on anyone…and now, to owe his life to Westcliff, Lillian, Cam, and most of all, Evie…he was swamped with the unfamiliar feelings of gratitude and shame. He couldn’t look any of them in the eyes, and so his only recourse was to take refuge in surly arrogance.

The worst moments were when he was alone with Evie. Every time she entered the room, he experienced a frightening connection, a surge of unfamiliar emotion, and he fought it until the internal battle left him drained. It would have helped if he could have provoked an argument with her, anything to establish a necessary distance. But that was impossible when she countered his every demand with patience and infinite concern. He couldn’t accuse her of expecting gratitude when she had never once hinted that it was owed. He couldn’t accuse her of hovering over him when she took care of him with gentle efficiency and tactfully left him alone unless he rang for her.

He, who had never feared anything, was terrified of the power she had over him. And he was afraid of his own desire to have her with him every minute of the day, to stare at her, to hear her voice. He craved her touch. His skin seemed to drink in every caress of her fingers, as if the sensation of her could be woven into the human fabric of his body. It was different from mere sexual need…it was some kind of pathetic, full-blown addiction for which there seemed to be no remedy.

Sebastian was further tormented by the knowledge that Joss Bullard had tried to kill Evie, and his reaction came from some primitive place in himself that would not be tamed by reason. He wanted Bullard’s blood. He wanted to tear the bastard to pieces. The fact that he was helpless in his sickbed while Bullard was roaming freely in London was enough to drive him mad. He was not at all pacified by assurances from the police inspector who had been assigned to the case, that everything possible was being done to find Bullard. Therefore, Sebastian had summoned Cam to his room and had directed him to hire more private investigators, including an ex–Bow Street Runner, to conduct an intensive search. In the meanwhile, there was nothing else that Sebastian could do, and he stewed in his enforced inactivity.

Five days after his fever had broken, Evie sent for a slipper tub to be brought to his room. Relishing the opportunity for a tub bath, Sebastian relaxed in the steaming water while Evie shaved him and helped to wash his hair. When he was clean and dry, he returned to his newly made bed and allowed Evie to bandage his wound. The bullet hole was healing so quickly that they had ceased packing it with moss, and now simply covered it with a light layer of linen for the sake of cleanliness. It was still a source of frequent twinges and mild pain, but Sebastian knew that in another day or two, he would be able to resume most of his normal activities. Except for his favorite one, which, by virtue of his infernal bargain with Evie, was still forbidden.

Since the entire front of Evie’s dress had been drenched from the bath, she had gone to change her clothes. Out of sheer perversity, Sebastian rang the silver bell at his bedside approximately two minutes after she had left.

Evie returned quickly to his room in her dressing gown. “What is it?” she asked with obvious worry. “Has something happened?”


“Is it your wound? Does it hurt?”


Her expression changed, concern replaced by relief. Approaching the bed, she gently took the bell from Sebastian’s hand and replaced it on the night table. “You know,” she said conversationally, “the tang of that bell will be removed unless you learn to use it more judiciously.”

“I rang because I needed you,” Sebastian said testily.

“Yes?” she asked with exquisite patience.

“The curtains. I want them opened wider.”

“You couldn’t have waited for that?”

“It’s too dark in here. I need more light.”

Evie went to the window, tugged the velvet panels far apart, and stood silhouetted in the wash of pale winter sunlight. With her hair loose, the soft red curls hanging nearly to her waist, she looked like a figure in a Titian painting. “Anything else?”

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