Home > Winter's Woman

Winter's Woman
Author: Scarlett Scott

 

Chapter One

 

 

London 1814

Her twin sister’s mind had turned to pudding.

That was the only reasonable explanation for the words that had just emerged from Lady Adele Winter’s mouth.

Lady Evangeline Saltisford stared at her sister, doing her utmost to ignore the hulking monster lurking in the corner of the drawing room.

“You cannot be serious, Addy.” Her eyes flicked to the glowering giant.

He was seated in a chair two sizes too small for him, and he looked ridiculous, surrounded by sleekly polished mahogany and all that gilt and silk. His eyes were a piercing shade of blue. Quite like the summer sky. Her stomach did a queer little flip as their gazes met and held. His bold lips tightened to a disapproving slash. She jerked her attention back to her sister, heat rising in her cheeks.

Addy shook her head, her expression mournful. “I am afraid this is no joking matter, Evie. Someone took a shot at you and Lord Denton while you were driving in the park.”

“The shot in question likely originated from a pair of drunkards engaged in a duel,” Evie dismissed. “It had nothing to do with me.”

The beast in the corner of the chamber grumbled something beneath his breath.

Evie cast another glance in his direction. There was something riveting about his face, and she did not like it. More heat curled through her. Her reaction to him was most odd. He could not be more different from her handsome betrothed, Lord Denton, who was golden-haired and slim, with patrician features and elegant hands.

Likely, it was the novelty of such a man. Like Addy’s husband Mr. Dominic Winter, the man glaring at her hailed from the rookeries of the East End. Devil Winter was tall, broad, and feral with dark hair worn too long and massive fists, his handsome features set in a perpetual scowl. Everything about him screamed impropriety and the illicit.

And bedchamber romps.

What? No!

She was aghast at herself. Hastily, she dashed the errant thought away.

“Devil is right,” Addy was saying, snatching Evie’s attention back once more. “We cannot be sure you were not the intended target. Until we know more, you will be safer with him watching over you.”

Evie raised a brow. “He said all that? Odd. I could have sworn I heard nothing more than a growl.”

Devil Winter grunted.

She ignored him, tamping down the unsettled sensation trying to rise within her. Most unwanted. Unnecessary as well. She was happy with Lord Denton. Soon, she would be his wife. He was everything she had ever wanted in a husband. All she had to do was persuade her well-intentioned sister that having an ill-tempered man torn from the rookeries hanging about would be disastrous for Evie’s impeccable reputation.

“Do be nice, Evie,” Addy cautioned, frowning at her. “Devil is being quite generous, agreeing to keep you safe.”

“Father will have an apoplectic fit when he discovers what you intend to do,” she warned her sister in turn.

Their father, the Duke of Linross, had been called away from London to one of his country estates. He had only allowed Evie to remain in London because of her looming nuptials with Lord Denton, a much-needed answer to the scandal Addy had brought to the family with her marriage.

With their mother still in Cornwall and their sister Hannah approaching her lying in, Evie had unceremoniously found herself being chaperoned by her twin sister, who was married to one of London’s greatest rogues. The potential scandal was bad enough, but her sister’s suggestion a hulking man who went by the name Devil ought to offer her protection… Why, it was ludicrous.

“Our father will be grateful I have taken the threat to you seriously and done my sisterly duty.” Addy smiled.

“Lord Denton will not like it,” she tried next, knowing her betrothed would disapprove most heartily.

Denton adhered to propriety above all else. He had not even attempted to kiss her yet, much to Evie’s dismay.

A low growl emanated from the corner of the drawing room, followed by a deep, booming baritone. “Then Denton can go fu—”

“Yes, you are right, Devil,” Addy interrupted brightly. “Lord Denton need not know. When you are here at home, Devil will never be far from your side. When you are in public, he will follow you discreetly. Is that not right, Devil?”

He grunted once more.

“No,” Evie said mulishly. “I do not want him at my side. Nor do I require protection.”

“It is necessary, Evie, for your wellbeing.” Addy was stern. Insistent.

Evie frowned. “He is menacing, Addy.” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “I do not like him.”

“Heard that,” he growled. “Feeling’s mutual.”

Evie’s gaze returned to him. Their stares clashed, the connection sending a visceral jolt through her. She could not seem to look away. The certain knowledge that Devil Winter was going to cause her a great deal of trouble lodged in her heart like a thorn.

 

Fucking, fucking, fuck.

Why had he agreed to his half brother Dom’s bloody asinine request?

Lady Evangeline Saltisford was a golden, saucy bit of baggage. She was the sort of lady who was beautiful and she knew it. The kind who could have any man in London on his knees, ready to lick the soles of her slippers. A duke’s daughter. Born to wealth and privilege. One of the quality, she was. The sort of petticoat who would swoon if she ever spied a rat, let alone have to catch one and eat it as her dinner.

She was the sort of woman Devil despised.

And she looked at him now, darting glances of disapproval in his direction every few moments as if he were a rat himself. Speaking about him as if he hadn’t a pair of ears to hear or the sawdust betwixt them to understand her speech.

“I do not like him,” she told Dom’s wife, Lady Adele—her twin—mayhap supposing her dulcet voice could not carry to him.

It could.

“Heard that,” he growled. “Feeling’s mutual.”

For twins, the two of them had not one damned thing in common. Lady Adele was kind and sweet as sugar while her counterpart was lovely as a gem and coldhearted as a lump of coal. Lady Adele’s dark-haired loveliness was a distinct contrast to Lady Evangeline’s blonde beauty.

Why the devil had he sat in this bleeding chair? It was two sizes too small and pinching his arse.

“I beg your pardon?”

The question broke through his thoughts. Feminine and cutting. As if he had been the one to insult her first.

The quality.

Fuck them all. Except Lady Adele, he added grudgingly. She was not half-bad, and she was in love with his ill-tempered brother, so that was saying something. Dom deserved happiness more than anyone Devil knew.

“You don’t like me, my lady,” he said, his voice feeling rusty. He did not care much for conversing. “Fine. I don’t like you neither.”

“Either,” she snapped, her eyes locking with his.

His lip curled. “I beg your pardon?”

She cleared her throat primly. “The correct manner of speech is to say I do not like you either, Mr. Winter. Not I don’t like you neither. That is most improper form, but do not fear. A hint of correction is good for the constitution, now and then.”

He growled. This supercilious chit could go to Hades.

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