Meet My Love at Midnight, book 5
Midnight Meetings series
Independent Lady Isabella is maddening. She doesn’t need Bow Street’s best until one Christmas Eve in a dark alley…
***Please note: This is a short story about 30 pages long***
A man in want of a woman ought to avoid dark alleys— especially Christmas Eve in Queenhithe. Nothing good lurked late at night here, but a woman’s voice teased his ear from the shadows. Educated. Irked. A touch imperious.
“Unhand me you ridiculous excuse of a man.”
Jack Emerson stopped his horse, an ear angled to figure out which alley.
“Whot’s this? Is that a toy ye got?” Night air carried a male voice. A St. Giles man definitely, mildly sotted.
Jack dismounted, landing on the balls of his feet. He pulled a blade from his boot, the metal’s ping whisper soft. Eyes adjusting to the stygian road, he scanned warehouses crowded together. Narrow pathways cut between brick walls. A hack lay sideways in the street, one wheel spinning a lazy circuit, no horse or driver in sight.
“This is a Queen Anne pocket pistol,” the woman said. “And though it’s small, I assure you, it will do damage.”
Jack bolted to the fallen hack, his run light-footed. Dogs barking the next street over masked the sound of his approach.
“When I pull the trigger, pressure will build behind the lead ball thus creating higher velocity in the muzzle,” the woman’s words echoed in the high-walled alley. “This close, I won’t miss.”
That voice. Lady Isabella Foster?
A male snort and, “Yer a crazy piece. But I figure ye have one chance to land a clear shot, and I got nimble feet.”
The lady was a vague silhouette. The St. Giles man filled the alley, a hulking brute in a soiled, scarlet regimental coat with trim dangling from a sleeve. Probably pilfered it off a dead soldier.
“Nimble or not, I don’t think the lady cares about your feet.” Jack stepped quietly forward.
The bully’s head swung around. Lank hair hung loose over his collar. He was thick-jowled with a look of the docks about him.
Pebble-small eyes narrowed on Emerson. “Plenty other skirts in the Red Swan. This one’s mine.”
“You’re full of rot. That’s Mr. Jack Emerson, Bow Street’s finest thief-taker. The only thing you’ll get is a meeting with the magistrate.”
Definitely Lady Foster.
“Such fine praise, milady.” Jack grinned like a school boy. “Didn’t think you noticed.”
Moonlight touched glossy black curls piled on her head.
“Our noticing has been quite mutual, I think.”
What a saucy piece.
Chuckling, he ambled forward, crushing a shoe underfoot. A burgundy brocade frippery with black silk ties. He picked up the shoe still warm inside to the touch. Lady Isabella Foster was pure temptress. Confident. Unafraid. Refinement with an edge of grit. Yet, she’d never been forward with him in all the times they crossed paths.
There was a story to this woman. He’d start with rescuing her and then see her safely home. They’d shared quips in the past when he’d patrolled St. James on horseback. He enjoyed their verbal sparring matches, a contrast to other ladies who showed a surprising lack of delicacy. Bored wives and bold widows practically drew a map to their bed chamber windows. Never Lady Foster.
Jack held up her shoe, its black silk ties fluttering over his hand. He whistled at the gold imprint embossed on the inside heel.
“Waverly & Sons. London’s best shoemaker.”
“Necessary for an evening of quality entertainment, don’t you think?” She was a swish of velvet skirts.
With any other woman, he would dispatch the criminal post haste and tend to legalities. Lady Foster stimulated things. She made a chilly night…fun.
He dropped the shoe into his pocket. “I will see it back on your foot, milady.”
“Are we done with tea and acquaintance?” The criminal whined, his thumb pushing the brim of a ragged tricorn high off his forehead. “I’m tryin’ to rob the woman, if ye don’t mind.”
Jack took another step. There were twelve to fifteen paces between him and the man. At ten, he’d hit his mark.
“Not without her shoe. She’ll need it for the ball…or whatever it is she’s off to.”
The St. Giles man cocked his head. “Yer an odd one…’bout as peculiar as she is. But I’ve got this—” a raw-skinned fist waggled a club “—and all ye got is that sewing needle in yer hand.”
The weapon looked to be a woolder stick from a rope making top. The man probably worked every task on the docks, from spinning hemp into ropes to hauling crates and barrels. He was a tough blighter with nothing to lose.
One backward swing of that club at Lady Foster would do serious damage.
Jack sauntered forward. “Let me offer you a Christmas Eve gift. Drop your weapon where you stand and put this nasty business of crime behind you. Live the rest of your days an honest man.”
“And if I don’t?” he spat.