Devil in Winter





  Lisa KLEYPAS

  Devil in Winter

  Dedication

  To Christina, Connie, Liz, Mary and Terri,

  for friendship that makes my heart sing.

  Love always,

  L.K.

  * * *

  “It’s not a love match,” St. Vincent said in a clipped voice.

  “It’s a marriage of convenience, and there’s not enough warmth between us to light a birthday candle. Get on with it, if you please. Neither of us has had a proper sleep in two days.”

  Silence fell over the scene. Then the blacksmith’s heavy brows lowered over his eyes in a scowl. “I don’t like ye,” he announced.

  St. Vincent regarded him with exasperation. “Neither does my bride-to-be. But since that’s not going to stop her from marrying me, it shouldn’t stop you, either. Go on.”

  Evie fought to suppress a helpless titter of amusement. In spite of her fatigue—or perhaps because of it—she was beginning to take a perverse enjoyment in the sight of St. Vincent struggling to control his annoyance.

  At the moment, the unshaven, ill-tempered man beside her bore no resemblance to the smug aristocrat who had attended Lord Westcliff’s house party.

  * * *

  Contents

  Dedication

  Chapter 1

  As Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent, stared at the young woman who…

  Chapter 2

  As Lord St. Vincent left the room, Evie let out a…

  Chapter 3

  For Evie, who had been uncomfortable during the previous week’s…

  Chapter 4

  The rain had worsened by the time they left the…

  Chapter 5

  Sebastian left the bed and went to the washstand on…

  Chapter 6

  Although Sebastian was eager to reach London and take stock…

  Chapter 7

  The weather improved substantially during their journey back to London,…

  Chapter 8

  Sebastian was briefly tempted to leave Evie at the club…

  Chapter 9

  Evie never knew where her husband had slept that first…

  Chapter 10

  When Evie went back to her father’s room in the…

  Chapter 11

  Any friendly feeling that Evie had for her husband promptly…

  Chapter 12

  Cam found Joss Bullard near the stable yard, and confronted…

  Chapter 13

  Sebastian encountered Cam in the hallway outside the reading room.

  Chapter 14

  Evie was glad of the constant activity in the club…

  Chapter 15

  The following afternoon Sebastian came to the office to find…

  Chapter 16

  Although the clothes that Annabelle Hunt had brought were far…

  Chapter 17

  “You sent for me, my lord?” Evie came to stand…

  Chapter 18

  Although Cam and Westcliff were as careful as possible, the…

  Chapter 19

  Evie experienced a multitude of doubts about her decision not…

  Chapter 20

  Before a full week had passed, Sebastian had become the…

  Chapter 21

  While Westcliff went to talk with Sebastian, Evie retreated to…

  Chapter 22

  During the hours that Sebastian was gone, Evie occupied herself…

  Epilogue

  It was nearly the end of winter. Since Evie’s mourning…

  About the Author

  Other Books By Lisa Kleypas

  Copyright

  About the Publisher

  Chapter 1

  London, 1843

  As Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent, stared at the young woman who had just barged her way into his London residence, it occurred to him that he might have tried to abduct the wrong heiress last week at Stony Cross Park.

  Although kidnapping had not, until recently, been on Sebastian’s long list of villainous acts, he really should have been more clever about it.

  In retrospect Lillian Bowman had been a foolish choice, though at the time she had seemed the perfect solution to Sebastian’s dilemma. Her family was wealthy, whereas Sebastian was titled and in financial straits. And Lillian herself had promised to be an entertaining bed partner, with her dark-haired beauty and her fiery temperament. He should have chosen far less spirited prey. Lillian Bowman, a lively American heiress, had put up fierce resistance to his plan until she had been rescued by her fiancé, Lord Westcliff.

  Miss Evangeline Jenner, the lamblike creature who now stood before him, was as unlike Lillian Bowman as it was possible to be. Sebastian regarded her with veiled contempt, pondering what he knew of her. Evangeline was the only child of Ivo Jenner, the notorious London gambling club owner, and a mother who had run off with him—only to quickly realize her mistake. Though Evangeline’s mother had come from decent lineage, her father was little better than gutter scum. Despite the inglorious pedigree, Evangeline might have made a decent enough match if not for her crippling shyness, which resulted in a torturous stammer.

  Sebastian had heard men say grimly that they would wear a hair shirt until their skin was bloody rather than attempt a conversation with her. Naturally Sebastian had done his utmost to avoid her whenever possible. That had not been difficult. The timid Miss Jenner was wont to hide in corners. They had never actually spoken directly—a circumstance that had appeared to suit both of them quite well.

  But there was no avoiding her now. For some reason Miss Jenner had seen fit to come uninvited to Sebastian’s home at a scandalously late hour. To make the situation even more compromising, she was unaccompanied—and spending more than a half minute alone with Sebastian was sufficient to ruin any girl. He was debauched, amoral, and perversely proud of it. He excelled at his chosen occupation—that of degenerate seducer—and he had set a standard few rakes could aspire to.

  Relaxing in his chair, Sebastian watched with deceptive idleness as Evangeline Jenner approached. The library room was dark except for a small fire in the hearth, its flickering light playing gently over the young woman’s face. She didn’t look to be more than twenty, her complexion fresh, her eyes filled with the kind of innocence that never failed to arouse his disdain. Sebastian had never valued or admired innocence.

  Though the gentlemanly thing would have been for him to rise from his chair, there seemed little point in making polite gestures under the circumstances. Instead, he motioned to the other chair beside the hearth with a negligent wave of his hand.

  “Have a seat if you like,” he said. “Though I shouldn’t plan to stay long if I were you. I’m easily bored, and your reputation is hardly that of a scintillating conversationalist.”

  Evangeline didn’t flinch at his rudeness. Sebastian couldn’t help but wonder what kind of upbringing had inured her so thoroughly to insult, when any other girl would have flushed or burst into tears. Either she was a pea wit, or she had remarkable nerve.

  Removing her cloak, Evangeline draped it over one arm of the velvet-upholstered chair, and sat without grace or artifice. Wallflower, Sebastian thought, recalling that she was friends not only with Lillian Bowman, but also with Lillian’s younger sister, Daisy, and with Annabelle Hunt. The group of four young women had sat at the side of numerous balls and soirees all last season, a band of perpetual wallflowers. However, it seemed that their bad luck had changed, for Annabelle had finally managed to catch a husband, and Lillian had just brought Lord Westcliff up to scratch. Sebastian doubted that their good fortune would extend to this bumbling creature.

  Though he was tempted to demand her purpose in visiting him, Sebastian feared that might set off a round of prolonged stammering that