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?”
“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?”