99+ Devil in Winter Quotes & Sayings with Wallpapers & Posters - Quotes.Pub

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Taking the ring from her, Sebastian slid it onto his own hand. His hands were so much larger that the circlet would only fit the tip of his smallest finger. Grasping her chin in an intractable hold, he glared into her eyes. “I’ll take your bet,” he said grimly. “I’m going to win it. And in three months, I’m going to put this back on your finger, and take you to bed, and do things to you that are outlawed in the civilized world.” Evie’s resolve did not shield her from the heart-thumping alarm that any rational woman would feel upon hearing such an ominous statement. Nor did it prevent her knees from turning to jelly as he jerked her against his body and fitted his mouth to hers. Her hands, suspended in mid-air, went to his head in a trembling butterfly descent. The texture of his hair, the locks so cool and thick on the surface, so warm and damp at the roots, was too alluring to resist. She slid her fingers into the gleaming golden layers and pulled him even closer, helplessly reveling in the urgent pressure of his mouth. Their tongues mated, slid, stroked, and with each slippery-sweet caress inside the joined cavern of their mouths, she felt a hot coiling deep in her belly… no, deeper than that… in the tightening, liquefying core where she had once taken his invading flesh. It shocked her to realize how much she wanted him there again. She whimpered as he pulled away from her, while frustration washed over them both. “You didn’t say that I couldn’t kiss you,” Sebastian said, his eyes bright with devil-fire. “I’m going to kiss you as long and as often as I like, and you’re not to utter a word of protest. That’s the concession you’ll give in return for my celibacy. Damn you.” Giving her no time either to agree or to object, he released her and strode to the door. “And now, if you’ll excuse me… I’m going to go kill Joss Bullard.
Sebastian encountered Cam in the hallway outside the reading room. “Where is he?” he demanded without preamble. Stopping before him with an expressionless face, Cam said shortly, “He’s gone.” “Why didn’t you follow him?” White-hot fury blazed in Sebastian’s eyes. This news, added to the frustration of his vow of celibacy, was the last straw. Cam, who had been exposed to years of Ivo Jenner’s volcanic temper, remained unruffled. “It was unnecessary in my judgment,” he said. “He won’t return.” “I don’t pay you to act on your own damned judgment. I pay you to act on mine! You should have dragged him here by the throat and then let me decide what was to be done with the bastard.” Cam remained silent, sliding a quick, subtle glance at Evie, who was inwardly relieved by the turn of events. They were both aware that had Cam brought Bullard back to the club, there was a distinct possibility that Sebastian might actually have killed him— and the last thing Evie wanted was a murder charge on her husband’s head. “I want him found,” Sebastian said vehemently, pacing back and forth across the reading room. “I want at least two men hired to look for him day and night until he is brought to me. I swear he’ll serve as an example to anyone who even thinks of lifting a finger against my wife.” He raised his arm and pointed to the doorway. “Bring me a list of names within the hour. The best detectives available— private ones. I don’t want some idiot from the New Police, who’ll foul this up as they do everything else. Go.” Though Cam undoubtedly had a few opinions to offer on the matter, he kept them to himself. “Yes, my lord.” He left the room at once, while Sebastian glared after him. Seeking to calm his seething temper, Evie ventured, “There is no need to take your anger out on Cam. He—” “Don’t even try to excuse him,” Sebastian said darkly. “You and I both know that he could have caught that damned gutter rat had he wanted to. And I’ll be damned if I’ll tolerate your calling him by his first name— he is not your brother, nor is he a friend. He’s an employee, and you’ll refer to him as ‘Mr. Rohan’ from now on.” “He is my friend,” Evie replied in outrage. “He has been for years!” “Married women don’t have friendships with young unmarried men.” “Y-you dare to insult my honor with the implication that… that…” Evie could hardly speak for the multitude of protests that jammed inside her. “I’ve done nothing to merit such a lack of tr-tr-trust!” “I trust you. It’s everyone else that I hold in suspicion.
After Evie had finished her plate, Sebastian tugged her to the billiards table and handed her a cue stick with a leather tip. Ignoring her attempts to refuse him, he proceeded to instruct her in the basics of the game. “Don’t try to claim this is too scandalous for you,” he told her with mock severity. “After running off with me to Gretna Green, nothing is beyond you. Certainly not one little billiards game. Bend over the table.” She complied awkwardly, flushing as she felt him lean over her, his body forming an exciting masculine cage as his hands arranged hers on the cue stick. “Now,” she heard him say, “curl your index finger around the tip of the shaft. That’s right. Don’t grip so tightly, sweet…let your hand relax. Perfect.” His head was close to hers, the light scent of sandalwood cologne rising from his warm skin. “Try to imagine a path between the cue ball—that’s the white one—and the colored ball. You’ll want to strike right about there”—he pointed to a place just above center on the cue ball—“to send the object ball into the side pocket. It’s a straight-on shot, you see? Lower your head a bit. Draw the cue stick back and try to strike in a smooth motion.” Attempting the shot, Evie felt the tip of the cue stick fail to make proper contact with the white ball, sending it spinning clumsily off to the side of the table. “A miscue,” Sebastian remarked, deftly catching the cue ball in his hand and repositioning it. “Whenever that happens, reach for more chalk, and apply it to the tip of the cue stick while looking thoughtful. Always imply that your equipment is to blame, rather than your skills.” Evie felt a smile rising to her lips, and she leaned over the table once more. Perhaps it was wrong, with her father having passed away so recently, but for the first time in a long while, she was having fun. Sebastian covered her from behind again, sliding his hands over hers. “Let me show you the proper motion of the cue stick—keep it level—like this.” Together they concentrated on the steady, even slide of the cue stick through the little circle Evie had made of her fingers. The sexual entendre of the motion could hardly escape her, and she felt a flush rise up from the neck of her gown. “Shame on you,” she heard him murmur. “No proper young woman would have such thoughts.” A helpless giggle escaped Evie’s lips, and Sebastian moved to the side, watching her with a lazy smile. “Try again.
Evie…” His whisper stirred the tiny wisps at her hairline. “I want to make love to you.” Her blood turned to boiling honey. Eventually she managed a stammering reply. “I-I thought y-you never called it that.” His hands lifted to her face, his fingertips exploring delicately. She remained docile beneath his caress while the scent of his skin, fresh and clove-like, drugged her like some narcotic incense. Reaching to his own throat, Sebastian fumbled beneath his shirt and extracted the wedding band on the fine chain. He tugged it, breaking the fragile links, and let the chain drop to the floor. Evie’s breathing hastened as he reached for her left hand and slid the gold band onto her fourth finger. Their hands matched together, palm to palm, wrist to wrist, just as they had been bound during their wedding ceremony. His forehead lowered to hers, and he whispered, “I want to fill every part of you…breathe the air from your lungs…leave my handprints on your soul. I want to give you more pleasure than you can bear. I want to make love to you, Evie, as I have never done with anyone before.” She was now trembling so violently that she could hardly stand. “Your w-wound—we have to be careful—” “You let me worry about that.” His mouth took hers in a soft, smoldering kiss. Releasing her hand, he gathered her body closer, applying explicit pressure against her shoulders, back, hips, until she was molded completely against him. Evie wanted him with a desperation that almost frightened her. She tried to catch his gently shifting mouth with her own, and pulled at his clothes with a fumbling urgency that made him laugh softly. “Slowly,” he murmured. “The night is just beginning…and I’m going to love you for a long time.
It’s your fault that I’ve been reduced to such behavior,” he continued. “I assure you, I myself find it appalling that the only pleasure I obtain these days is chasing after you like an adolescent lordling with a housemaid.” “Did you chase after the housemaids when you were a boy?” “Good God, of course not. How could you ask such a thing?” Sebastian looked indignant. Just as she felt a twinge of guilt and began to apologize, he said smugly, “They chased after me.” Evie raised a cue stick as if to crown him with it. He caught her wrist easily in one hand and pried the stick from her fingers. “Easy, firebrand. You’ll knock out the few wits I have left—and then of what use would I be to you?” “You would be purely ornamental,” Evie replied, giggling.“Ah, well, I suppose there’s some value in that. God help me if I should ever lose my looks.” “I wouldn’t mind.” He gave her a quizzical smile. “What?” “If…” Evie paused, suddenly embarrassed. “If anything happened to your looks…if you became…less handsome. Your appearance wouldn’t matter to me. I would still…” She paused and finished hesitantly, “…want you as my husband.” Sebastian’s smile faded slowly. He gave her a long, intent stare, her wrist still clasped in his hand. Something strange crossed his expression…an undefinable emotion wrought of heat and vulnerability. When he answered, his voice was strained from the effort to sound cavalier. “Without a doubt, you’re the first one who’s ever said that to me. I hope you won’t be such a pea goose as to endow me with characteristics that I don’t have.” “No, you’re endowed enough as it is,” Evie replied, before the double meaning of the statement occurred to her. She burned a brilliant scarlet. “Th-that is…I didn’t mean…” But Sebastian was laughing quietly, the odd tension passing, and he pulled her against him. As she responded to him eagerly, his amusement dissolved like sugar in hot liquid. He kissed her longer, harder, his breath striking her cheek in rapid drives. “Evie,” he whispered, “you’re so warm, so lovely…oh, hell. I’ve got two months, thirteen days and six hours before I can take you to my bed. Little she-devil. This is going to be the death of me.
Entering the office, Evie found Sebastian and Cam on opposite sides of the desk. They both mulled over account ledgers, scratching out some entries with freshly inked pens, and making notations beside the long columns. Both men looked up as she crossed the threshold. Evie met Sebastian’s gaze only briefly; she found it hard to maintain her composure around him after the intimacy of the previous night. He paused in mid-sentence as he stared at her, seeming to forget what he had been saying to Cam. It seemed that neither of them was yet comfortable with feelings that were still too new and powerful. Murmuring good morning to them both, she bid them to remain seated, and she went to stand beside Sebastian’s chair. “Have you breakfasted yet, my lord?” she asked. Sebastian shook his head, a smile glinting in his eyes. “Not yet.” “I’ll go to the kitchen and see what is to be had.” “Stay a moment,” he urged. “We’re almost finished.” As the two men discussed a few last points of business, which pertained to a potential investment in a proposed shopping bazaar to be constructed on St. James Street, Sebastian picked up Evie’s hand, which was resting on the desk. Absently he drew the backs of her fingers against the edge of his jaw and his ear while contemplating the written proposal on the desk before him. Although Sebastian was not aware of what the casual familiarity of the gesture revealed, Evie felt her color rise as she met Cam’s gaze over her husband’s downbent head. The boy sent her a glance of mock reproof, like that of a nursemaid who had caught two children playing a kissing game, and he grinned as her blush heightened further. Oblivious to the byplay, Sebastian handed the proposal to Cam, who sobered instantly. “I don’t like the looks of this,” Sebastian commented. “It’s doubtful there will be enough business in the area to sustain an entire bazaar, especially at those rents. I suspect within a year it will turn into a white elephant.” “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.
Evie shook her head in confusion, staring from her husband’s wrathful countenance to Gully’s carefully blank one. “I don’t understand—” “Call it a rite of passage,” Sebastian snapped, and left her with long strides that quickly broke into a run. Picking up her skirts, Evie hurried after him. Rite of passage? What did he mean? And why wasn’t Cam willing to do something about the brawl? Unable to match Sebastian’s reckless pace, she trailed behind, taking care not to trip over her skirts as she descended the flight of stairs. The noise grew louder as she approached a small crowd that had congregated around the coffee room, shouts and exclamations renting the air. She saw Sebastian strip off his coat and thrust it at someone, and then he was shouldering his way into the melee. In a small clearing, three milling figures swung their fists and clumsily attempted to push and shove one another while the onlookers roared with excitement. Sebastian strategically attacked the man who seemed the most unsteady on his feet, spinning him around, jabbing and hooking with a few deft blows until the dazed fellow tottered forward and collapsed to the carpeted floor. The remaining pair turned in tandem and rushed at Sebastian, one of them attempting to pin his arms while the other came at him with churning fists. Evie let out a cry of alarm, which somehow reached Sebastian’s ears through the thunder of the crowd. Distracted, he glanced in her direction, and he was instantly seized in a mauling clinch, with his neck caught in the vise of his opponent’s arm while his head was battered with heavy blows. “No,” Evie gasped, and started forward, only to be hauled back by a steely arm that clamped around her waist. “Wait,” came a familiar voice in her ear. “Give him a chance.” “Cam!” She twisted around wildly, her panicked gaze finding his exotic but familiar face with its elevated cheekbones and thick-lashed golden eyes. “They’ll hurt him,” she said, clutching at the lapels of his coat. “Go help him— Cam, you have to—” “He’s already broken free,” Cam observed mildly, turning her around with inexorable hands. “Watch— he’s not doing badly.” One of Sebastian’s opponents let loose with a mighty swing of his arm. Sebastian ducked and came back with a swift jab. “Cam, why the d-devil aren’t you doing anything to help him?” “I can’t.” “Yes, you can! You’re used to fighting, far more than he—” “He has to,” Cam said, his voice quiet and firm in her ear. “He’ll have no authority here otherwise. The men who work at the club have a notion of leadership that requires action as well as words. St. Vincent can’t ask them to do anything that he wouldn’t be willing to do himself. And he knows that. Otherwise he wouldn’t be doing this right now.” Evie covered her eyes as one opponent endeavored to close in on her husband from behind while the other engaged him with a flurry of blows. “They’ll be loyal to him only if he is w-willing to use his fists in a pointless display of brute force?” “Basically, yes.
Spearing a quail egg with her fork, Evie popped it into her mouth. “What is to be done about Mr. Egan?” His shoulders lifted in a graceful shrug. “As soon as he is sober enough to walk, he’ll be dismissed.” Evie brushed away a stray lock of hair that had fallen over her cheek. “There is no one to replace him.” “Yes, there is. Until a suitable manager can be found, I’ll run the club.” The quail egg seemed to stick in her throat, and Evie choked a little. Hastily she reached for her wine, washed it down, and regarded him with bulging eyes. How could he say something so preposterous? “You can’t.” “I can hardly do worse than Egan. He hasn’t managed a damned thing in months… before long, this place will be falling down around our ears.” “You said you hated work!” “So I did. But I feel that I should try it at least once, just to be certain.” She began to stammer in her anxiety. “You’ll pl-play at this for a few days, and then you’ll tire of it.” “I can’t afford to tire of it, my love. Although the club is still profitable, its value is in decline. Your father has a load of outstanding debt that must be settled. If the people who owe him can’t muster the cash, we’ll have to take property, jewelry, artwork… whatever they can manage. Having a good idea of the value of things, I can negotiate some acceptable settlements. And there are other problems I haven’t yet mentioned… Jenner has a string of failing Thoroughbreds that have lost a fortune at Newmarket. And he’s made some insane investments— ten thousand pounds he put into an alleged gold mine in Flintshire— a swindle that even a child should have seen through.” “Oh God,” Evie murmured, rubbing her forehead. “He’s been ill— people have taken advantage—” “Yes. And now, even if we wanted to sell the club, we couldn’t without first putting it in order. If there were an alternative, believe me, I would find it. But this place is a sieve, with no one who is capable or willing to stop the holes. Except for me.” “You know nothing about filling holes!” she cried, appalled by his arrogance. Sebastian responded with a bland smile and the slightest arch of one brow. Before he could open his mouth to reply, she clapped her hands over her ears. "Oh, don't say it, don't!" When she saw that he was obligingly holding his silence-though a devilish gleam remained in his eyes-she lowered her hands cautiously.
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.
Cam let go of Evie and approached Sebastian as the room emptied. “You fight like a gentleman, my lord,” he commented. Sebastian gave him a sardonic glance. “Why doesn’t that sound like a compliment?” Sliding his hands into his pockets, Cam observed mildly, “You do well enough against a pair of drunken sots—” “There were three to start with,” Sebastian growled. “Three drunken sots, then. But the next time you may not be so fortunate.” “The next time? If you think I’m going to make a habit of this—” “Jenner did,” Cam countered softly. “Egan did. Nearly every night there is some to-do in the alley, the stable yard, or the card rooms, after the guests have had hours of stimulation from gaming, spirits, and women. We all take turns dealing with it. And unless you care to get the stuffing knocked out of you on a weekly basis, you’ll need to learn a few tricks to put down a fight quickly. It causes less damage to you and the patrons, and keeps the police away.” “If you’re referring to the kind of tactics used in rookery brawls, and quarrels over back-alley bobtails—” “You’re not going for a half hour of light exercise at the pugilistic club,” Cam said acidly. Sebastian opened his mouth to argue, but as he saw Evie drawing closer something changed in his face. It was a response to the anxiety that she couldn’t manage to hide. For some reason her concern gently undermined his hostility, and softened him. Looking from one to the other, Cam observed the subtle interplay with astute interest. “Have you been hurt?” Evie asked, looking over him closely. To her relief, Sebastian appeared disheveled and riled, but free of significant damage. He shook his head, holding still as she reached up to push back a few damp amber locks that were nearly hanging in his eyes. “I’m fine,” he muttered. “Compared to the drubbing I received from Westcliff, this was nothing.” Cam interrupted firmly. “There are more drubbings in store, milord, if you won’t take a few pointers on how to fight.” Without waiting for Sebastian’s assent, he went to the doorway and called, “Dawson! Come back here for a minute. No, not for work. We need you to come take a few swings at St. Vincent.” He glanced back at Sebastian and remarked innocently, “Well, that got him. He’s hurrying over here.
The surprise and relief of being held so securely by a friend she had not expected to see overwhelmed Evie completely. She felt the pain in her eyes and throat sharpen, until she could no longer hold back her sobs. Lillian tightened her embrace. “You should have seen my reaction when Annabelle and Daisy told me what you had done,” she said, patting Evie’s back firmly. “I nearly dropped to the floor, and then I called down all sorts of curses on St. Vincent’s head for taking advantage of you. I was tempted to come here and shoot him myself. But it appears that someone else spared me the trouble.” “I love him,” Evie whispered between sobs. “You can’t,” Lillian said flatly. “Yes, I love him, and I’m going to lose him just as I did my father. I can’t bear it…I’ll go mad.” Lillian sighed and muttered, “Only you could love such a vile, selfish peacock, Evie. Oh, I’ll admit, he has his attractions…but you would do better to fix your affections on someone who could actually love you back.” “Lillian,” came Evie’s watery protest. “Oh, all right, I suppose it’s not sporting to disparage a man when he’s bedridden. I’ll hold my tongue for the time being.” She drew back and looked into Evie’s splotched face. “The others wanted to come, of course. But Daisy is unmarried and therefore can’t even sneeze without a chaperone, and Annabelle tires easily because of her condition. Westcliff and I are here, however, and we’re going to make everything all right.”“You can’t,” Evie sniffled. “His wound…he’s so ill…he’s fallen into a c-coma, I think…” Keeping her arm around Evie, Lillian turned to the earl and asked in a strong voice that was entirely inappropriate for a sickroom, “Is he in a coma, Westcliff?”The earl, who was bending over Sebastian’s prone form, threw her a wry glance. “I doubt anyone could be, with the noise the pair of you are making. No, if it were a coma, he couldn’t be roused. And he definitely stirred just now when you shouted.” “I didn’t shout, I called out,” Lillian corrected. “There is a difference.” “Is there?” Westcliff asked mildly, pulling the covers down to Sebastian’s hips. “You raise your voice so often, I can’t tell.” A laugh rustled in Lillian’s throat, and she released Evie.
Lifting a goblet of wine to her lips, Evie glanced at him over the rim as she drank. “What is in that ledger?” “A lesson in creative record keeping. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that Egan has been draining the club’s accounts. He shaves away increments here and there, in small enough quantities that the thefts have gone unnoticed. But over time, it totals up to a considerable sum. God knows how many years he’s been doing it. So far, every account book I’ve looked at contains deliberate inaccuracies.” “How can you be certain that they’re deliberate?” “There is a clear pattern.” He flipped open a ledger and nudged it over to her. “The club made a profit of approximately twenty thousand pounds last Tuesday. If you cross-check the numbers with the record of loans, bank deposits, and cash outlays, you’ll see the discrepancies.” Evie followed the trail of his finger as he ran it along the notes he had made in the margin. “You see?” he murmured. “These are what the proper amounts should be. He’s padded the expenses liberally. The cost of ivory dice, for example. Even allowing for the fact that the dice are only used for one night and then never again, the annual charge should be no more than two thousand pounds, according to Rohan.” The practice of using fresh dice every night was standard for any gaming club, to ward off any question that they might be loaded. “But here it says that almost three thousand pounds was spent on dice,” Evie murmured. “Exactly.” Sebastian leaned back in his chair and smiled lazily. “I deceived my father the same way in my depraved youth, when he paid my monthly upkeep and I had need of more ready coin than he was willing to provide.” “What did you need it for?” Evie could not resist asking. The smile tarried on his lips. “I’m afraid the explanation would require a host of words to which you would take strong exception.
You’re just going to throw the h-house wenches out into the streets?” she asked with forced calm. “They’ll be dismissed with generous parting sums as a reward for their labors on the club’s behalf.” “Do you intend to hire new ones?” Sebastian shook his head. “While I have no moral aversion to the concept of prostitution— in fact, I’m all for it— I’m damned if I’ll become known as a pimp.” “A what?” “A pimp. A cock bawd. A male procurer. For God’s sake, did you have cotton wool stuffed in your ears as a child? Did you never hear anything, or wonder why badly dressed women were parading up and down the club staircase at all hours?” “I always visited in the daytime,” Evie said with great dignity. “I rarely saw them working. And later, when I was old enough to understand what they were doing, my father began to curtail my visits.” “That was probably one of the few kind things he ever did for you.” Sebastian waved away the subject impatiently. “Back to the subject at hand… not only do I not want the responsibility of maintaining mediocre whores, but we don’t have the room to accommodate them. On any given night, when all the beds are occupied, the club members are forced to take their pleasures out in the stables.” “They are? They do?” “And it’s damned scratchy and drafty in that stable. Take my word for it.” “You—” “However, there is an excellent brothel two streets over. I have every expectation that we can come to an arrangement with its proprietress, Madame Bradshaw. When one of our club members desires female companionship, he can walk to Bradshaw’s, receive their services at a discounted price, and return here when he’s refreshed.” He raised his brows significantly, as if he expected her to praise the idea. “What do you think?” “I think you would still be a cock bawd,” Evie said. “Only by stealth.” “Morality is only for the middle classes, sweet. The lower class can’t afford it, and the upper classes have entirely too much leisure time to fill.
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.
Just as Cam left Ivo Jenner’s apartments, St. Vincent met him in the hall. There was a scowl on the blond man’s face, and a vein of chilling arrogance in his tone. “If my wife finds comfort in trite Gypsy homilies, I have no objection to your offering them. However, if you ever kiss her again, no matter how platonic the fashion, I’ll make a eunuch of you.” The fact that St. Vincent could stoop to petty jealousy when Ivo Jenner was not yet cold in his bed might have outraged some men. Cam, however, regarded the autocratic viscount with speculative interest. Deliberately calibrating his reply to test the other man, Cam said softly, “Had I ever wanted her that way, I would have had her by now.” There it was— a flash of warning in St. Vincent’s ice-blue eyes that revealed a depth of feeling he would not admit to. Cam had never seen anything like the mute longing that St. Vincent felt for his own wife. No one could fail to observe that whenever Evie entered the room, St.Vincent practically vibrated like a tuning fork. “It is possible to care about a woman without wanting to bed her,” Cam pointed out. “But it appears that you don’t agree. Or are you so obsessed with her that you can’t fathom how anyone else could fail to feel the same?” “I’m not obsessed with her,” St. Vincent snapped. Leaning a shoulder against the wall, Cam stared into the man’s hard eyes, his usual reserve of patience nearly depleted. “Of course you are. Anyone could see it.” St. Vincent gave him a warning glance. “Another word,” he said thickly, “and you’ll go the way of Egan.” Cam raised his hands in a mocking gesture of self-defense. “Warning taken.
How kind of you to pay us a call, Uncle,” came the biting lash of Sebastian’s voice. “Come to offer us felicitations, have you?” “I’ve come to collect my niece,” Peregrine snarled. “She is promised to my son. Your illicit marriage will not stand!” “She’s mine,” Sebastian snapped. “Surely you can’t be so dim-witted as to think I would simply let her go without a protest.” “I will have the marriage annulled,” Peregrine assured him. “That would only be possible if the marriage hasn’t been consummated. And I assure you, it has.” “We have a physician who has promised to testify that her maidenhead is still intact.” “Like hell,” Sebastian said with chilling pleasantness. “Do you know what kind of reflection that would have on me? I’ve worked too hard to cultivate my reputation— I’ll be damned if I’ll allow any suggestion of impotence to mar it.” He shrugged out of his coat and tossed it to Cam, who caught it in one fist. Sebastian’s lethal gaze never left Peregrine’s livid features. “Has it occurred to you that I may have made her pregnant by now?” “If so, that will be remedied.” Not fully comprehending what her uncle meant, Evie shrank back into Cam’s protective hold. His arms tightened, even as he regarded Peregrine with a rare flash of hatred in his golden eyes. “Don’t worry, sweetheart,” he whispered to Evie. Sebastian’s color rose at Peregrine’s words, making his eyes appear like splintered glass. “Charming,” he said. “I would kill her myself before I’d let you have her.
Evie stayed, however, the silence spinning out until it seemed that the pounding of his heart must be audible. “Do you want to know what I think, Sebastian?” she finally asked. It took every particle of his will to keep his voice controlled. “Not particularly.” “I think that if I leave this room, you’re going to ring that bell again. But no matter how many times you ring, or how often I come running, you’ll never bring yourself to tell me what you really want.” Sebastian slitted his eyes open…a mistake. Her face was very close, her soft mouth only inches from his. “At the moment, all I want is some peace,” he grumbled. “So if you don’t mind—” Her lips touched his, warm silk and sweetness, and he felt the dizzying brush of her tongue. A floodgate of desire opened, and he was drowning in undiluted pleasure, more powerful than anything he had known before. He lifted his hands as if to push her head away, but instead his trembling fingers curved around her skull, holding her to him. The fiery curls of her hair were compressed beneath his palms as he kissed her with ravenous urgency, his tongue searching the winsome delight of her mouth. Sebastian was mortified to discover that he was gasping like an untried boy when Evie ended the kiss. Her lips were rosy and damp, her freckles gleaming like gold dust against the deep pink of her cheeks. “I also think,” she said unevenly, “that you’re going to lose our bet.” Recalled to sanity by a flash of indignation, Sebastian scowled. “Do you think I’m in any condition to pursue other women? Unless you intend to bring someone to my bed, I’m hardly going to—” “You’re not going to lose the bet by sleeping with another woman,” Evie said. There was a glitter of deviltry in her eyes as she reached up to the neckline of her gown and deliberately began to unfasten the row of buttons. Her hands trembled just a little. “You’re going to lose it with me.” Sebastian watched incredulously as she stood and shed the dressing gown. She was naked, the tips of her breasts pointed and rosy in the cool air. She had lost weight, but her breasts were still round and lovely, and her hips still flared generously from the neat inward curves of her waist. As his gaze swept to the triangle of red hair between her thighs, a swell of acute lust rolled through him. He sounded shaken, even to his own ears. “You can’t make me lose the bet. That’s cheating.” “I never promised not to cheat,” Evie said cheerfully, shivering as she slipped beneath the covers with him. “Damn it, I’m not going to cooperate. I—” His breath hissed between his teeth as he felt the tender length of her body press against his side, the springy brush of her private curls on his hip as she slid one of her legs between his. He jerked his head away as she tried to kiss him. “I can’t…Evie…” His mind searched cagily for a way to dissuade her. “I’m too weak.” Ardent and determined, Evie grasped his head and turned his face to hers. “Poor darling,” she murmured, smiling. “Don’t worry. I’ll be gentle with you.” “Evie,” he said hoarsely, aroused and infuriated and pleading, “I have to prove that I can last three months without—no, don’t do that. Damn you, Evie—