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Authors: Hazel Statham

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BOOK: Dominic
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“You play too wild, Do
m
i
nic;
you’re
reckless
in
your choice.”


W
hich, ad
m
it, usually pays off. You play like an old wo
m
an, John.”

“Your opinion of
m
e
is forever poor, I wonder you put up with
m
e,” sneered
hi
s lords
h
ip, not now in the best of hu
m
ors.
“Perhaps
it
would
be
better
if
I
relieved
you
of my co
m
pany?”

“Don’t put yourself in
to such a taking,” laughed the e
arl,
negligently
laying
his
hand
on
his
friend’s
shoulder as
t
h
ey
de
s
cended
the
stairs
to
the
hallway.
“You
ever were a hen-worrier, though truth be told, I need you at ti
m
es
to
keep
m
y
head
level.
Co
m
e;
cry tr
u
ce
a
n
d
we
will
m
ake what best we can of the re
m
ainder of the day.”

 

*****

 

Leaving
La
Belle’s
house
in t
h
e
early
ho
u
rs of the following
morning
it
was
seen
t
h
at
the
e
arl
was
not
at
all in
the
best
of
moods
and
ap
p
eared, by the slight rolling of his
g
a
it, to
b
e
so
m
ewhat
in
h
i
s
cups.
At
last
he
had
ended the
affair.
Assured
that
she
h
ad
already sec
u
red
a
new protector,
he
co
m
pletely
ignored her protestations of undying
love
and
devotion,
con
f
ir
m
ed
that
the
only
love
and
devotion
she
ever
felt
was
for
herself
alone.
He
was
no fool;
the
affair
had
run its
course.
There
re
m
ained
no novelty in her ploys and her char
m
s had
decidedly
waned. Indeed, he was a
m
azed that
h
e had ever found her worthy of any notice.

It did not help
m
atters that he had again lost heavily at the ga
m
i
ng tables, everyone e
x
claiming at his bad luck. It was rarely seen that
V
ale did not recoup, but on this occasion he
was
not
able
to
c
o
m
e
about,
a
fact
t
h
at
only
served to blacken his
m
ood.

Cursing his bad luck, he
m
ade his way through the di
m
ly-
lit streets toward his apartments, resolving to
evolve some fail-safe sche
m
e. He would not go to his father and he would be da
m
ned if he would start to issue notes
of
hand.
A
wager
he
was
sure
to
win
see
m
ed
his only chance, one that would not involve the laying out of any blunt—but what?

So engrossed was he in his
m
usings that, approaching the
steps
to his
apartments,
he
f
ailed
to
see
the
f
orm huddled in the shadows of the doorway and was
st
artled as it atte
m
pted to push past hi
m
.

“Ho,
young
sir,
what
are
you
at
?
” he
exclai
m
ed, grabbing
the
youth
by
the
throat as
he
would
retreat
and pushing him
back against the darkened doorframe.

Under Dominic’s scowling gaze, t
h
e lad attempted to pull his tricorn further over his face
and
replied
in
a
s
m
all gruff voice,
“I would beg your pardon, sir. I was but
seeking
some
means
of
shelter
from
the
elements
.”

He
incr
e
ased
his
e
ff
orts
to
wriggle
f
r
ee
f
r
om
the
ir
o
n-li
k
e
grip
that
pinioned
him
to
the
door,
but
to
no
avail.
Do
m
i
nic’s hand held him securely.

“You
do
not
fool
m
e
so
easily,
lad,”
scorned
Vale. “You
would
way-lay
m
e,
but
I tell
you
to
your
teeth,
you would be sadly disappointed if you knew the contents of
my
pockets
.”
W
ithout
releasing
his hold on the boy’s
neck,
with
one
hand,
he
turned out
his
pocket
linings
as proof.

Clawing at his
retaining
hand, the boy tried to kick his shins,
but
even
in
his
inebriated
s
t
ate,
the
e
arl de
m
onstrated a n
i
m
bleness his condition would have belied.
“Spitfire,”
he
exclai
m
ed,
but
then,
as
the
fitful moon
illuminated
the
half
of
the
boy’s
face
that
was visible
beneath
the
tricorn,
he
drew
in
his
breath
at
the cuts and bruising he saw there.

“I take that to be the
retaliation
of your previous victi
m
,
” he mocked, but he slackened
his
hold on the
boy’s throat and instead took hold of his shoulders, atte
m
pting
to
turn
him
more
f
ully
to
the
lig
h
t.
“How
old are
you
?

he
d
e
m
anded,
for
his
would-be
assailant
see
m
ed no
m
ore than a child.

“Eighteen,” ca
m
e the youth’s reply as he cal
m
ed slightly,
reasoning
that
if
this
m
an
had
intended
h
i
m any real har
m
, his body would have been in the gutter by now.

Exa
m
ining his face, the e
arl again drew his breath in sharply and, freeing one hand, sought out his key. As he opened the door he ignored the youth’s plea to be set free and
pushed
him
roughly
inside.
Once
inside
the
di
m
l
y-lit
hallway,
he
gained
access
to
his
ground
floor
roo
m
s
and
propelled
the
boy
inside.

The
y
outh,
having
no co
m
parable stren
g
th to
p
revent his actions
s
tumbled as he crossed
t
he
threshold,
catching
at
the
doorfr
a
m
e
for support, but Vale
prized
his fingers free.

“Stand
still;
don’t
m
ove,”
he commanded as he locked
the door behind him
.

W
ait now whilst I light the
candles
.

“Let
m
e go, sir, please let
m
e
go,” pleaded the youth. “I
truly meant
you
no harm
.
See
, I
don’t
even carry a
weapon.

Vale
was
s
urpri
s
ed
a
t
the
bo
y
’s
c
ultu
r
ed
to
ne
s.
Here was
no
ruffian,
and
unless
he
was
much
m
i
staken,
this was a gentle
m
an’s son. Taking a taper, he ignited it from the
la
m
p
le
f
t
f
or
his
use and
lit
the
candles
in
the
sconces set
about
the
roo
m
. He knew they would not be disturbed as his
m
an was under instru
c
tions not to wait up for him and slept as one turned to stone.

BOOK: Dominic
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