Scandalous Desires(6)

By: Elizabeth Hoyt

“Ah, ah.” He shook his head with amusement. Did she think he’d toddled into St. Giles yesterday? “The lass stays here with me. Ye can take two o’ me men with ye to bring back whatever ye’d like.”

She must’ve known she was pushing the matter. She merely pursed her pretty lips, nodded, and bent to kiss the oblivious baby on the top of the head. “I’ll be right back, sweetheart.”

Then she turned to stalk to the door.

Mick admired the outraged sway of her hips for a second before jerking his head at Harry to follow the little widow. Harry touched his forehead and hurried after her. He’d get his cohort, Bert, and between the two of them guard Mrs. Hollingbrook to and from the home.

There was a squeak somewhere around the level of his knees. Mick glanced down and saw the babe’s face turn a bright shade of beet red as she watched Mrs. Hollingbrook leave the throne room. It was his only warning.

And then all hell broke loose.

“YOU DON’T HAVE to escort me all the way back to the home,” Silence muttered irritably some moments later.

“ ’Imself says we do, and so we do,” Harry said somewhat obscurely.

He took one step for every two of hers and might’ve been out for a late afternoon stroll. The buttons of his frayed brown coat strained over his barrel chest and he wore a bright red scarf wound around his neck, the ends flung debonairly over his shoulders. The scarf was at odds with his battered face and massive broken nose—Harry looked like a pugilist who had lost one too many rounds. The early spring wind was chill with a nasty edge of damp, but Harry didn’t seem to notice as he stumped along, his old cocked hat at a jaunty angle.

The same couldn’t be said for his companion.

“And ’oos mindin’ the palace, is what I’d like to know,” grumped Bert. He was half a head shorter than Harry and was hunched inside the collar of his bottle-green coat like a turtle. A huge gray scarf wrapped around and over both his face and the seedy wig he wore, making his head look disproportionately swollen. “Sendin’ us off in the middle o’ the day with a wench!”

“There’s a dozen o’ the crew at the palace,” Harry pointed out. “And Bob.”

“Bob! Jaysus, Bob,” Bert said in disgust. “Couldn’t guard a kitten, could Bob.”

“When ’e’s not three sheets to the wind ’e can,” Harry said judiciously.

“ ’E’s always fuckin’ drunk!”

“Watch yer tongue,” Harry said, and then as an aside to Silence, “ ’E’s missin’ ’is afternoon tea is Bert, and it makes ’im tetchy like. Normally the most placid o’ men is our Bert.”

Silence, watched as “our Bert” spat through his missing two front teeth, almost hitting a passing mongrel. She was rather doubtful that the man was ever in a good mood, tea or no tea, but she wisely decided not to share this thought. For whatever reason Harry seemed to have taken a liking to her, and she was loath to spoil their accord.

If she was to live with Charming Mickey O’Connor she would need a friendly face.

Dear God. Only now as she walked the grimy streets of St. Giles, did the full impact of her decision hit her. She’d pledged to live in the same house as the most notorious man in St. Giles—a man she’d spent over a year hating and fearing. Whatever shreds of respectability she’d been able to pull together over her battered reputation in the last year would be truly torn asunder now. But what choice did she have? One look at Mary Darling’s face and she would’ve walked through fire.

Silence shivered and pulled her cloak more firmly about her person. Mickey O’Connor had never actually hurt her—not physically anyway—and she had Harry as an ally. She would draw on her own strength, keep to herself, and avoid the company of Charming Mickey and his men as much as possible until his enemies were defeated and she could go home.

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