It was not war – it was murder

IMG_1175Bring out your dead!

Gotta luv Monty Python and The Holy Grail but the departed ones I write about didn’t die from a pestilence in the Dark Ages…

For years, I’ve been drawn to the American Civil War. As a historian, I see the war’s framework was established as the colonies were forming. Even before the Industrial Revolution, the colonies of the North leaned towards mercantile and commerce – shipping, fishing, lumber and craftsmanship – where the Southern remained agriculturally based in tobacco then cotton as the main exports. Both crops needing mass cultivation and labor, tedious and hard under the bright hot sun. The type of work that no one would do for a pittance offered, thus slavery came into being and flourished.  Differing cultures, differing commerce lead to economic upheavals resulting in the War of the Rebellion (the official name of the war by the US government).

1861-1865 turned into the bloodiest conflict in America’s history. Not even a century old, this land fought with Western Europe watching, many of its leaders, monarchies still, retained some hope we’d fail thus demonstrating how the concept of a “republic” could not work. After years of upheaval, mired in blood and destruction, we survived. And the men who fought over democracy, over the right for Southern Independence or for the Union (a harder sell in 19th century way of thought – an intangible objective for many who never left their home city and/or state but an idea Lincoln pushed, knowing the international attention the South drew) are heros through and through. The land they marched on, they fought on, they died for – this is Hallow Ground.

JEB Stuart gravesite, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA

JEB Stuart gravesite, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA

Last weekend, I joined my compatriots at the Civil War Trust to see, walk on and discuss these Hallow Grounds at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Courthouse. To stand on this land is to marvel and admire these men. The goal of this group is simple – save every acre we can before another Walmart, etc. steals it. Amazing to see expensive home built over lands our patriots bled for, or asphalt sealing it for roads or parking lots. With those sort of “monuments” to our soldiers, what will future generations have? What will we have?

For this War, the one that defined the US, made us stronger, I try to do more and bring it alive in my upcoming novel, The Wicked North, and its sequels, Unconditional Surrender and TBN.

A taste of what is to come, I salute both the Confederate and Union soldiers for their honor and courage. From Unconditional Surrender

Jack Fontaine has a visit from an old friend.

Louisiana, summer 1863 –

“Massa Jack, yuv got a lady here for ya.”

He glanced up at Tilly’s announcement. The slave still looked timid in his presence, even after all this time. He shook his head, trying to clear it. “Who, Tilly?”

The slave opened her mouth but a swath of blue silk washed past her.

“Why Jack Fontaine, since when do I need such protocol?” The sweet Southern drawl of the woman in blue asked as she pushed past the slave.

“Sarah Lawrence, what a surprise to see you,” he stated, standing to greet her.

She smiled in reply.

Sarah Lawrence, of Rienzi, Mississippi, was a sight for his poor eyes. The petite lady dressed in the latest of fashions, blue watered silk, white cuffs and collar, matching her blue and white bonnet so radically so much more than the women he’d seen lately. Two years into the war, in the blockaded South, led many to improvise their wardrobe. But he knew this fawn haired seductress had her own means, and it rubbed him wrong. Inhaling, he steeled himself for what he knew to be inevitable.

She gave her widest smile as she held her hand out for him to kiss. Her bare hand. Forward as always, he thought. Not the ways of a proper Southern belle but more along the lines of a former lover. He refused her. As she lowered her hand, her blue eyes sparkled and her smile never faded.

“Still angry, I do declare, Jack. I’d thought after all these years, you might be pleased to see me.”

He grunted and walked over to the sideboard, tilting his head in question as he picked up the wine decanter. Her smile was all he needed and he poured her a glass. He handed it to her and said, “Sarah, I’m married now.”

“Oh, tweedle tee dee, so I’ve heard, up and down the river.” She sipped her drink and closed her eyes. “Fontaine’s still keep the best.”

He said nothing but sat behind the desk, eyeing her carefully. Trusting her ended years ago. “There’s a war going on and I know this isn’t a social call. What do you want?”

“Is there no kindness for kin?” She fluttered her incredibly long, curled brown eyelashes at him, trying to look innocent. Too bad it was a hoax.

“Nice Southern accent, darlin’.”

Her lips drew a straight line. “I am a Southern girl.”

He laughed. “A lifetime ago…”

“Yes, sur, just as your sweet Lou’s’ana drawl returned to you.”

He glared at her. “Why are you here? In my house?”

She bent her head, her hands fidgeting with the gloves in her lap. “Perhaps I’m here to see Francois.”

“What a crock of piss and vinegar! Francis? You swore you’d never return here because of him.”

“Jacques,” she drawled the French pronunciation of his name out. “Maybe that wasn’t due to him but to you.”

This time, the laughter rolling from his lips was sincere. “Oh, dear, darlin’ Sarah, you didn’t run from me.”

She tilted her nose, giving him a look of superiority. “Truth be told, my dear sweet Jack, I’m here at the request of General Grant.”

The chair he had tipped back in slammed to all four legs on the floor. Damn! He downed the rest of the wine down, its bitter taste burning his throat but he refused to react to it. Instead, his gaze pinned hers. “Whatever would a busy general want with me?”

She pursed her lips, a smug expression in her face. “He wants to know when to expect your return to the fight. The “elephant awaits you,” I believe was his message.”

Jack sighed. He stood and walked to the window. “I can’t return to Union lines. Not now. Not for at least another,” he paused, counting. “Four or five months, considering.”

“Four or five months?”

He heard her questioning tone. And her southern drawl gone. “Why whatever for?”

 

Regency Male Courtesans – A Walk on the Wild Side

As a published author, one of the questions I get asked is how do I come up with story ideas? Every author has different methods and honestly, every story came from a different set of circumstances. Mostly they aren’t planned out but hit us like a freight train in the middle of another story or in a conversation or driving or just about anywhere.

For The Wicked Bargain, I’d been reading several Regency novels with the heroine as a courtesan. The stories of course are of redemption of these women – most in a circumstance that placed them as courtesans. They meet the hero, stay true to him (the old HQ rules in place) and he saves her forever. Good stories. But…

What if the high-price courtesan was male?

I always have wondered the strange set of rules in the ton – men could take courtesans or mistresses and the wife had the heir, maybe two, and gladly (sometimes) welcomed another woman servicing the man she’d married. But what of the wives? Research indicates a small amount (known at least) of ladies who took matters into their own hands and took lovers. And if they did, why not paid courtesans?

Thus was the birth of my upcoming release, The Wicked Bargain:

postcard-4inx6in-h-front Haunted by a past as a sex slave, nobleman Ethan Warth returns to England as a male courtesan for rich matrons and runs a brothel for wealthy lords. Arabella Covington appears on his door, trained in the medical arts but unable to practice because of her gender. He hires her to care for his ladies but her inquisitive nature and beauty make him desire to teach her the world of seduction.

Ethan, however, never counted on falling in love…

 

Excerpt from The Wicked Bargain

Ethan sat in the card room at White’s, holding a flush set in his hand.  He found it amusing that despite his lack of funds, familial ties of membership, held for generations, kept him a member. It worked to his advantage for its members often became his ladies’ clients. But to maintain the façade of being a nobleman, he had to present himself worthy of his peers. That involved expenditures he couldn’t afford like the card game he sat at. Gambling was easy for him and he had the uncanny knack to win but he never bet much. Just enough to keep him in the game, knowing lady luck was a fickle friend, having left him before in his life. Tonight, though, she was with him. Before him sat his current winnings, a windfall considering his mind wasn’t involved in the game.

“Warth,” Geoffrey Lanford, sitting to Ethan’s left, prodded amid laughter.

Edgar Maddock to his right, blew a puff cigar smoke at him to break his train of thought.

Ethan coughed, but it worked. He focused on his cards and the players. “All right, all right, gentlemen,” he said with a wry smile. “Mad, put that blasted thing out or set it over there. I can’t breathe.”

Edgar’s smile broadened as he moved the cigar. “Cards on the table, let’s see whatcha have, pup.”

Fanning his hand of cards, he laid them on the table.

The two other players across the table grunted, almost simultaneously and threw their cards on the table.

Ethan grinned as he pulled the pot to his pile.

“Thought you weren’t really with us,” Geoffrey commented drily.

Hoped was more like it, pup,” Edgar chimed in.

“Then, perhaps, you two should have left me in my dreams. I would have folded instead,” Ethan retorted.

Edgar and Geoffrey were two of his few friends that had staid steadfast through the years he was enslaved.  They had helped maintain his townhouse, particularly after his brother had died, leaving Ethan heir to the title and his father more adamant to get him freed. While he trusted them, he still kept some items strictly to himself. That included Arabella.

“Going to the crush at Wentworth’s?” Geoffrey prodded.

Ethan leaned back in his chair, an easy grin across his face as he took a sip of his brandy. “Perhaps, though I have another engagement planned.”

Edgar guffawed. “I be thinkin’ you need to change your strategies lad and train us poor sots how to keep the lovely women beckoning for us as they do for you.”

Ethan laughed. It was a hollow laugh but in his languid, confident stance, he drawled, “Ah, but that is my area of expertise and why would I knowingly give that up, particularly to the likes of you chaps?”

The trio burst into laughter.

“Blackmore!”

The three looked in the direction of the bellowing voice.

“Ethan, it does appear Knottingham needs a word or two with you,” Geoffrey smirked.

Ethan watched the middle aged and balding Viscount St. James approach, angry fumes of smoke appearing to spout out of his ears.  Looking in the man’s direction with half-closed eyes, Ethan chortled, “I take it his Countess isn’t home.

Edgar leaned slightly towards Ethan, his voice low and it had a tone of amusement to it. “Weren’t you fucking her at one point?”

Ethan smiled but didn’t answer. He kept his clients out of his conversation. Now, if they  touted their arrangement, he could do nothing other than be thankful. Notoriety helped his purse whether it was the lady singing his praises or the husband’s anger toward him. As the Viscount barreled closer, Ethan could only think what an idiot the man was. If he showed his wife half the emotion he displayed now, she wouldn’t look for a lover.

“Where the hell is my wife?” St. James fumed.

Ethan didn’t move off the chair nor straighten up. Raising his eyebrows at the man, he smiled dryly. “I have no idea Henry. Having problems with your memory, ole man? Can’t remember where you placed her?”

“How dare you! You conniving whoreson!”

Ethan rose from the chair, placing his brandy down on the table before him. “Henry, I think you should recall that last statement. Unless you wish to name seconds,” he threatened quietly.  He watched St. James’ face pale and he hoped the man continued his rampage so they could meet at dawn. Ethan’s temperament only helped him excel at the duels as he considered it an honor to dispatch another idiot to hell. And it was one of the few chances he had open to take revenge on the rank and file that condemned him to hell in Arabia.

“As you can see Henry,” he said quietly as the St. James stood before him. The man’s balding head beaded in perspiration. “She isn’t here.” Both of his friends laughed. No women were admitted to the club and Ethan knew the Viscount was aware of that. “I’d advise you to continue your search elsewhere.”

The man grounded his teeth as he glared at Ethan. He leaned across the table. “Stay away from my wife, Blackmore,” he hissed and stormed off.

“Thought you broke it off with her, pup,” Geoffrey said after the Viscount left.

Ethan slouched back down, extending his legs before him and his lips curving upward. “So, who is game for Wentworth’s?”

********

So tell me where your most unusual story idea came from & do post an excerpt for us.

Guest: Liza O’Connor & her crazy romance “Oh Stupid Heart”

1 Oh Stupid Heart Banner- Blog Tour 2nd

 

 

2. OSH Prizes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, I’d like to explain why Carrie is NOT happy with how their transformation is turning out.

Carrie OSH

 

 

Carrie doesn’t think Trent’s old fiancée, alleged HR expert, is doing a good job. Actually, she’s not even doing a mediocre one. Honestly, she’s the worst HR person ever!

 

 

 

 

Coco2

 

 

The only job she’s interested is become Mrs. Trent Lancaster.

 

 

 

trent 007

Trent was once engaged to her, but finally got her to break it off by being constantly bad. Now years later, unable to hook any other wealthy socialite, she’s returned. Her first and only act of business was to remove Carrie from her EA position and put in Grant.

 

 

Grant2 headshot

Pretty sure he majored in arrogance at college. And for some unknown reason, he thinks he’s God’s gift to women.

 

So Not!

 

 

Then Trent hired Angela against Coco’s wishes.

Angel

 

Not only is she Grant’s girlfriend, (Strike one) but she’s incredibly nosy-possibly a Gossep undercover reporter (strike two) and she advises Carrie to do what Grant wants, because he’s going somewhere.

Carrie go on

 

Also, Trent keeps calling her ANGEL instead of Angela.

So in essence, all Coco has managed to do is kick Carrie out of her job as EA and inserted a jerk in her place. Then Trent gives Grant a sex kitten to occupy his time.

 

 

No Systems Manager

No Sales Manager

No Finance Manager

No one of use.

 

Just a jerk and his sex kitten.

 

Seriously, as a trained change specialist, Carrie needs to take over. But to do that, she’ll need Trent’s support.

 

Will she get it?

Read the book and see.

 

Oh Stupid Heart_bookcover

 

Oh Stupid Heart

Book Two of: A Long Road To Love

Humorous Contemporary Disaster Romance

By

Liza O’Connor

Blurb:

Carrie Hanson is in love with a different species: Trent, a pampered, uber-rich socialite who’s also her boss. Everyone keeps telling her it’s a train wreck looking to happen, but her heart wants what it wants. So despite the billion and one reasons not to, Carrie commits to this inter-species relationship. But while she’s off being trained for her new job responsibilities, a beautiful ex fiancée is working hard to get Trent back and Carrie fired.

Excerpt:

Carrie glanced up at Trent. “Can I have one of your business cards?”

He handed one over, curious why Carrie wanted it. She flipped it over and wrote, These bills were given to Miss Claire as an act of charity. They are hers to spend.

She handed Trent the card. “Sign it, please.”

He signed the card and Carrie presented it to the old woman.

Her eyes rounded as she read it. “You know my name.”

“We’ve talked before.”

“Right. You’re the nice girl who pointed out how much cheaper it would be for me to buy a monthly card instead of paying the daily rate. I appreciated your advice. I’ve been able to buy better food and even had money saved up so, when I got sick, I could get well enough to keep working.” She patted Carrie’s arm. “I’m glad you got yourself a good man. You deserve it.”

Carrie glanced up at him and smiled. “He is a good man.”

She whispered in the old woman’s ear. Whatever she said cause the woman’s forehead to furrow.

She thrust the bills into Carrie’s hand. “I appreciate the thought, but I can’t take your money. But thank you both. You’re good people, and the world could use more like you.”

To his shock, Carrie didn’t argue. She only hugged the woman. “You are good people, too.”

Half the crowded train watched the fiasco. Great! Not only had the old woman rejected his act of charity, but a mob of commuters had witnessed his failed attempt at being a “good person.” His grandmother had to be thrashing in her grave.

BUY LINKS

for

A Long Road to Love

Book Two

Oh Stupid Heart

Coming Mid-September

Book One

Worst Week Ever

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Liza O’Connor

Author Bio:

Liza lives in Denville, NJ with her dog Jess. They hike in fabulous woods every day. Having an adventurous nature, she learned to fly small cessnas in NJ, hang-glide in New Zealand, kayak in Pennsylvania, ski in New York, scuba dive with great white sharks in Australia, dig up dinosaur bones in Montana, sky dive in Indiana, and raft a class four river in Tasmania. She’s an avid gardener, amateur photographer, and dabbler in watercolors and graphic arts. Yet through her entire life, her first love has and always will be writing novels. She loves to create interesting characters, set them loose, and scribe what happens.

 

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT

LIZA O’CONNOR &

SAVING CASEY:

Liza’s Blog and Website   Facebook   Twitter

                                   http://www.lizaoconnor.com/p/oh-stupid-heart.html

 Worst Week Ever Trailer

 

Other Books by Liza O’Connor

Saving Casey

Worst Week Ever

Coming Soon:

Oh Stupid Heart

Coming To Reason

Ghost Lover

Here are the Raftacopter info for the $25 Amazon Gift Card: http://www.lizaoconnor.com/p/oh-stupid-heart.html

 

 

 

 

 

What’s in your pocket?

What’s in your pocket? The Vikings on the Capital One credit card commercial will ask, their ‘pitch’ to us to make sure we have one. Right…

My question is to the writers – what’s in you head? Or more likely, who?

I had to write a short stint on how I came up with the idea for my debut novel. Interesting. Writers have different reasons, influences for their stories. A thought, a scene, a casual remark, whatever that gets us to stop, listen the voices inside our heads, which basically direct our hands on the keyboard.

Today, I’ll expose how I came up with the storyline for my Victorian novel, Great & Unfortunate Things. My agent at the time really likes stories set in England with lords and ladies and the hierarchy of English society. I’d just finished my Ancient Rome novel, not sure if I’d write the sequel right away so it was an opportune moment to suggest a novel. I wasn’t pulled back to Regency England but instead, a line from Sherlock Holmes where Robert Downey’s Holmes’ makes a comment about Watson’s service during the war in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan? In the 1800s? Hmmm…Yes, Watson was involved in the British Second Anglo-Afghan War, or The Great Game. Afghanistan was the battleground between Great Britain protecting her treasured India from the Russian Tsar who wanted to seize it. A game of espionage and intrigue prevailed and gave me matter for my story. My tortured hero, Tristan, was a soldier, a spy, in Afghanistan, forced to return home for a title he never wanted and as third son, shouldn’t have had to worry about getting.

The beginning of the story is the black moment, the defining set of circumstances that drive him through to the end. This is a dark Victorian romance with romantic suspense woven in. But how black can you go, right off the bat, and make the reader keep reading? Let me know & show me if you’ve set off one of your stories with an opening that would make a reader maybe not want more…

British Cavalry in Afghanistan c. 1870

British Cavalry in Afghanistan c. 1870

 

           

 

 Great & Unfortunate Things

 

 

Afghanistan, June 1868

The blade slid inside the skin with ease, like butter. Blood, deep red, seeped around the steel, spilling downward. The victim helped force the weapon into his own flesh but as the sword sliced through the skin and into the organs beneath, his hand dropped lazily. The muted gasp of pain, barely audible from the man kneeling before him, registered in the killer’s ears.

Tristan St. James stood, his hand on the hilt of the sword, every nerve inside him on fire. Appalled at what he had been forced to do, he fought against showing his anguish. If there was hell, it was here, on earth, right now in front of him. His vision blurred.

The man before him, Grifton Reynard, looked hard at him. As his robes turned crimson, he gagged and blood dripped from the corner of his mouth.

“Promise me you’ll take care of her,” he gritted out. “Promise me!”

“I promise. And I will find the bastard who did this,” Tristan hissed, his voice low and angry.

His friend gave a tense nod. He coughed, a rattling noise as he choked, blood spewing like a geyser from his mouth. It hit Tristan on his face, adding to the stream he bled from the face wound, and the front of his robes, staining the cream and maroon trimmed cotton. But it didn’t matter. He couldn’t move, his feet firmly glued to the hard dirt surface. Grifton fell backward, his body thudded against the ground, eyes opened but no longer seeing, his mouth askew, his lips and chin covered in his blood.

The sword fell free and hit the ground with a clank, as if it’d hit a rock.

His best friend, and his subordinate in this awful war of intrigue, lay dead before him. By Tristan’s hand. A pain, deep, gut wrenching and as violent as the act he’d just committed, seized his chest, strangling his heart. Swallowing hard, he shut his eyes for just a moment, an attempt to subdue the pain, to deaden it.

Unable to leave Grifton here, he bent and grabbed the man’s arms, yanked him up and threw him over his shoulder. The lifeless body hung like a sack of grain. Not that Tristan cared. No, his mind was assessing, reassessing and analyzing the material in his head. Like the cold-blooded killer they had made him, he narrowed the field of suspects who could orchestra this. Someone with everything to gain and more to lose if it failed.

No, he’d find out who had betrayed him and his men, the man responsible for their deaths – and kill him.

Our Wicked Bad Heros – What’s not to love?

The Wicked Bargain

 

Our heros. The men we spin our tales around – they’re tall, dark, handsome, rich in wit/money/clothes/etc. These men often find themselves needing a significant other, a girlfriend, fiancée, wife, but don’t know it on page 1. We know them, we love them and want them to succeed. Romance!

But how do you portray your hero and heroine? How real do you make them?

Romance stories are our escape from the real world. It is easy to fall for them basically because we know the equation: they find each other, deny it, fight against it, are torn from each other or separated some way, only to find they love each other, etc and live happily ever after. <sigh>

Many times, we as readers love the bad boy who realizes the error of his ways and must fight to win the love of heroine. But can we love a hero, despite his devilish looks and seductive ways, who is a male courtesan in Regency England? A damaged hero who finds himself unworthy of love? And to survive, he turns to the only ‘profession’ that can earn him the finances to live? To throw another wrench into the works, what if he must continue his “profession” after he’s met the heroine? Is he still likeable? I argue this type of man, this hero, is because it is the realities of life that force him into this lifestyle. It is the character development of him, his change that make us read, hoping for his success. Or can he redeem himself enough for the heroine to love him?

In a setting where seduction is the key to salvation, let me introduce you to Evan Warth, Marquis of Wrenworth  –

The Wicked Bargain (TBR June 2014)

England c 1815

Ethan pulled the emerald out of his top dresser drawer and held it carefully. The tear-drop stone glittered in the firelight but it was cold to his fingers. His other hand pulled the metal cuff it had been attached to those years ago.  The dark heavy ankle band weighed slightly above one pound, a lighter version of the one that he wore initially, weighing over twice the poundage.  The dark metal was smooth and its edges were rounded with a loop at one end, where the emerald stone hung.

Staring at the objects, his mind tumbled over the turn of events. He should have followed through and made the girl leave. This place was not for a good and pure. Sin poured out of the woodwork and corrupted the soul. Whatever persuaded him to relent? The answer angered him. She did. Those tears and her obvious terror tugged at some hidden part of him, compassion maybe? He’d laugh if that wasn’t so ironic. His compassion died tragically years ago in the sands…No, she ran from something. Or someone. He saw the fear in her eyes. But for her to remain ….

Toying with the emerald, his mind returned to her at a more base level. She was rather plain looking. Oh, her blonde hair was attractive, her sapphire blue eyes vivid but she was too thin, her face angular and gaunt, sickly pale and, well, common. Her legs, hidden underneath that hideous gown, must be long, he gathered, from her height, hopefully long enough to wrap around a man’s waist. No doubt her body lacked the padded curves to entice a man, her breasts, if there were any hidden behind the bodice, probably absent any flesh to hold. He grunted in disgust. It would take a lot of work to make her into one of his ladies.

What was he thinking? She was way too innocent and terrified in demeanor – obviously a sign she was not meant to fill the vacancies in his income. Besides, Edith sent her to him for her protection. He scoffed. As if that wasn’t a jest… Why did Edith send her to a male courtesan to present her to Society? And with no dowry to support her on the marriage mart, exactly what was he to do? Make her one of them, for a wealthy protector?

The feel of the anklet and jewel let his mind wandered beyond the problem of Arabella. Back to a time and place that was hard and demanding, a time of survival at all costs, even at the condemnation one’s soul.  Of a beautiful woman who owned his existence at the flip of her hand and of a life destroyed by his own deed… Oh, Zahrah….

“What are you doing?” Elizabeth stood in the doorway, watching him.

“Yes, Elizabeth, how may I help you?” He rolled his eyes. How did she always seem to know when melancholy of days past arrived?

“You met her?”

He dropped the anklet and emerald back into the drawer and closed it.

“Yes.” He walked to his washstand and pulled his cravat off the towel rack. Looking into the mirror above to tie it, his hands fumbled. He so hated the damn thing…

With a frustrated sound, she walked to him, turned him to face her and snatched the tie’s ends. “And what do you think, my luv?” she asked, quickly manipulating the fabric into the latest knot and fluffed the ends appropriately.

“She has potential,” he commented drily. “If she were amenable, she could earn quite a fortune.”

“Yes, probably enough to finish your debts and rebuild your estate,” she concluded with a smile.

He stepped away from her, anger building within him. Gazing out his window at the mews behind the house, his horse waited for him. He’d jump on his back and escape everything. He refocused. “You put her in that room last night.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“She needed a place to sleep, Ethan.” She came up behind him. “I couldn’t turn her out.”

“But you didn’t tell her what type of house this is, did you?” The question was cold, flat and blatant. He knew what her answer would be and it only made the girl more damaged.

“No, luv,” was her cool reply.

He shut his eyes, feeling the walls close in on him. “I followed your advice. I went out, arranged new interest for the girls, even a new contract for myself.”

“Fabulous!”

“So I had thought,” he turned to her, his voice tense. “I had company, Elizabeth. I didn’t know I had to worry about the next room.”

“Ah, so she came to see,” she surmised, but the grin on her face showed she wasn’t the least bit perturbed at his anger. She laughed. “I fail to see why you are so upset. Being watched isn’t new to you.”

“That’s not the point,” he argued. She never saw this from the perspective of a woman client. Jane might have turned furious and demanded a refund. He could not afford that. “It might have caused problems with the lady I was with, who thankfully, didn’t appear to notice.”

“See, you haven’t lost your touch,” she smiled.

He threw his head back. “Elizabeth, ladies do not come here looking for ordinary work and find I only employ high priced courtesans. But you let her stay and if she stays much longer, she may have no choice in the matter but to become one herself. Her reputation may already be beyond any repair.”

“I’m sure you can help her,” she said soothingly, her hands back on his shoulders as she reached up behind him and kissed the side of his neck, her hands stroking down his back and over his hips. She tried to deflect his anger. “Come, my luv, let us have one last time before I am committed to Clemson.”

He turned towards her, took her hands off him and forced her to take a step back.

“I think not, sweetling,” he said quietly, kissing her hands lightly.

She sighed. “You never seem to desire me any longer, luv.”

He looked into her eyes. “It is not that, my dear,” he commented quietly. “I just won’t because you’ve already signed the papers.”

“It has been years and I can’t help but worry.”
“Do not be upset,” he said. “I can’t.”

“You know, Zahrah’s no longer around. You won’t be “caught”. You’ve been freed now for two years.”

His smile disappeared, feeling his past lash out at him but he smothered it. “I know. Come. We have dinner with our new doctor.”

***So just how wicked are your heros??