Love and Other Wicked Games (A Wicked Game Novel)

BOOK: Love and Other Wicked Games (A Wicked Game Novel)
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Love and Other Wicked Games

by Olivia Fuller

This is an original work of fiction by

Olivia A. Fuller

All rights reserved

Copyright © 2013 Olivia A. Fuller

Cover design: Mae I Design

v.1.1

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Epilogue

About the Author

For Nick. My Cal.

The Wicked Game Series

The Wicked Game

Something Wicked

Love and Other Wicked Games

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Chapter 1

Manchester, spring 1840

 

When Ellie imagined her first kiss, she always pictured it happening shortly after the words “I love you,” not shortly before the words “who are you.”

But it was a minor point to know the person she was kissing.

Wasn’t it?

Ellie didn’t know this man from Cain but maybe he knew her. Perhaps he was an old friend of the family, a distant cousin, or a secret promised fiancé from her parents’ long forgotten days in high society.

It was probably something like that, wasn’t it?

And kissing, it was just the touching of lips. Skin really. It was pressing together skin. People did it every day. They touched when they exchanged goods in the marketplace as coin and product changed hands, or when they worked their way through the crowded Manchester streets sometimes having to push and shove, or when they sat by each other in a carriage that bumped along over the cobblestones, swaying to and fro. Sometimes the touches were avoidable and sometimes they were not. But that was of no matter. It was all the same in the end.

Just person touching person. Just skin touching skin. Just an everyday occurrence.

Except this time, that everyday occurrence left Ellie all warm and sweaty and confused.

Maybe this happened to other people—all people. Maybe touching skin always caused this rush of feelings. Or maybe it was supposed to and Ellie had just never noticed it.

She thought to her day-to-day life. The connections she made and the people she connected with. The brush of a knuckle while looking over fabric choices with the patrons, a light touch on the arm as they spoke. But none of that stood out. No rush of feelings. Nothing exciting or special. It was all perfectly ordinary. And normal.

But no one had ever accused Ellie of being normal, after all. It was Ellie the Flustered, Ellie the Anxious, Ellie the Eccentric—not Ellie the Average. So maybe what she’d always felt was the exception, and maybe what she felt now—this euphoria and lightness—was the rule. Maybe this was something that people were supposed to experience when they connected.

Or maybe she was wrong entirely and kissing had rules all its own...

But there was something more pressing to consider than whether or not these feelings were normal. There was a question literally lingering on her lips.

With great effort Ellie pushed away from him, breaking their kiss, and breathed out the words, “Who are you?”

His lashes fluttered and his emerald eyes darted around frantically from left to right. “Well, bloody hell… It didn’t work…”

“It didn’t?” Ellie inhaled sharply and pressed her hand against her breastbone as she too looked around and tried to center herself.

The sights and smells around her hadn’t been part of her first kiss fantasy either. Mud and smoke and people shoving past, vendors pushing nearly rotten produce. She scrunched her nose and covered her face with her hand. She couldn’t pinpoint the source, almost as if it was hidden somewhere just out of sight, but everything smelled like decay. These acrid fumes and filthy, city surroundings were enough to make her momentarily forget the handsome stranger who had just kissed her.

A cart wheel splashed through a small puddle near an alleyway, kicking up little bits of refuse and stale, brown water. A scraggly pig ran over and desperately drank from it, as another pig did his business nearby. Ellie’s stomach churned realizing that this pig wasn’t the first to make a contribution to the sewage and that it probably would not be the last.

She scrunched her nose again.

Sewage. That was the smell. Sewage and death. But that one puddle could not possibly be the only source of such putridness.

Was it just the old food?
she wondered. This wasn’t a pleasant thought, but it stung less than the alternative: that the workers’ neighborhoods were worse the farther they sat from the main roads.

This area of the city and the way people lived here was difficult to stomach, even for someone like Ellie who held sympathies for the mill workers’ plight and knew some about their way of life. But it was always quite different to see it all with her own eyes. Ellie was feeling overwhelmed. Not only by the sights and the smells and the sounds, but by the very weight of the air. Yes, the air felt heavier here and the immense sadness was making its way deep inside of Ellie and taking root in her bones.

Everything felt so hopeless in this area of Manchester, as if every ounce of faith, hope, and happiness had long since been excised from both the people and their surroundings. Ellie watched one of the pigs wrestle a crust of bread away from the other as it snapped and snarled loudly. Even the animals here were desperate and hungry.

Ellie instinctively put her hand to her belly. She’d skipped breakfast this morning and now she felt guilty. She’d never eaten the most expensive cuisine, but she’d always eaten and she’d never had to go hungry. She was sure that many of the people from this area could not say the same.

She wished she could do something, anything, to improve their working and living conditions, but she was just a seamstress in a dress shop herself.

And now she would be late returning to work from her errand.

Oddly though, it was because of the mill workers that she was here, in this section of the city, in the first place. They were protesting in the streets again, for the second time in as many weeks, and as usual she’d been forced to take another road. But there was something else very unusual about today’s protest. The workers weren’t just blocking any old road—they were blocking portions of the main thoroughfare that cut through the city. This forced everyone to pass through the workers’ neighborhoods in the ring around the central commercial district where their plight and way off life was nearly impossible to ignore.

It was a brilliant plan, she’d thought, though sadly she was unsure how effective it would be. She’d noticed in life that most people had a keen ability to ignore even the most savage of truths so long as they didn’t have to face them. They were facing them now but Ellie feared—or rather she knew—that most people would put today’s events behind them the moment they left this portion of the city.

Ellie didn’t have that ability to forget or to stop feeling anything. And she wouldn’t have wanted it even if she could.

What she did want was to make her way back to the dress shop, away from this place and the helplessness that surrounded it, but for the second time today an obstacle was changing her plans. She looked back to the stranger and remembered.

If only she hadn’t stopped to smell those apples, or thank God she had—she couldn’t decide—because that was the moment when she laid eyes on him for the first time, half hidden in the shadows of an alley entrance, and found that his eyes were already resting on her.

But that was alright. His eyes were like the soft grass she used to lay in as a child when she wanted to hide from the world. Forgiving, comforting, and true. She felt like she could fall right into them and wrap herself up in their warmth like she’d done in the fields. And the strangest part was that she wanted to. She wanted to lose herself in those eyes, fall in, and sink into their shimmering depths. Happy and comfortable forever.

Leisurely she bit into the apple she was holding, felt the crunch and sucked in her lips at the tartness. She wiped her mouth on the wrist of the hand that held the apple and then turned her body slightly away from him, but not before catching him smirk. Just a gentle twitch at the corner of his mouth where the raven hair peppered his skin—the smirk was amused, smart, and wicked. And it made her tingle. A quick glance over her shoulder told her that he was still looking at her—staring was a more appropriate description—and damn it all, he could tell she was staring as well.

She nervously bit the apple again, chewing quickly.

“That will be a halfpenny, miss.”

“Oh… oh my…” Ellie put her left hand into her pocket and found exactly what she suspected: an empty vessel. “Oh no.”

She ran her hand along her dress, searching for a forgotten coin hidden away for just such an instance, but all she found was disappointment. “Oh no…”

“Miss, that’ll be a penny.”

She dropped her hands to her side. “But you just said a halfpenny…”

“And you’ve already taken a bite of my produce…” The man looked her up and down in a way that made her skin crawl. “I’ll be getting my payment one way or another.”

“Oh no…” She patted her hand on her dress once more for good measure and darted her eyes to the side. The handsome man was no longer there.

Thank God.
She was already nervous and embarrassed enough by her mistake. The last thing she needed was for someone else to witness it.

Ellie pushed her breath through her lips as her heartbeat quickened. “I’m sorry but I—”

Ah ha!
Her hand met its mark. A solid coin hidden away in the folds of her concealed pocket. But as Ellie reached out her arm towards the vendor, another arm crossed in front of her from her right side and dropped two shiny coins in the vendor’s hand.

“Here’s two pence. For your trouble.”

“Are you mad?” Ellie sputtered out as she turned. “It was just an apple!” But when she set her eyes on the man next to her she immediately felt less rambunctious. “Oh.”

Standing beside her, with a grin so wide that her eyes ached from the smugness, was the man with the soft, green eyes.

“No. Take that back.” Ellie reached towards the vendor’s hand but he promptly snatched it away.

“Oh no you don’t. I told you I’d get my payment somehow.”

“But that’s four times the amount you’re charging!”

“Actually it’s eight. A farthing for an apple.”

“But you said a halfpenny!”

“And you’d already taken a bite!”

“And now you’ve been paid much more than it’s worth, by several definitions.” Green eyes tipped his head to the vendor as he pulled Ellie away. “Good day, sir.”

Ellie felt the words bubbling up inside of her along with her emotions. “But I don’t need you to—no,
I don’t want you to
—”

“It’s done with now.”

“No.” She shook her head. “It’s not. I’ll repay you. Here’s a portion.” She held out her hand in his direction, the halfpenny still tucked in her damp palm, but he wasn’t even paying attention. Instead he gripped her shoulders with his hands and leaned over her right shoulder. She gasped as his fingers dug into her and their bodies pressed together. She breathed in earth and sweat. She shivered.

He leaned back, holding her out in front of him as his eyes darted around again.

“Are you alright?” she asked.

“Of course. Why?”

“What are you looking at?”

“Nothing.” His eyes darted around again.


What
are you looking for?” She followed his line of sight as it continued to move around. “
Who
are you looking for?”

“No one.”

“Oh.” She snorted as she crossed her arms in front of her chest, breaking his hold but not adding any distance between them. “You’re not very good at this.”

He looked back at her with a curious, raised brow. “I’m not very good at what?”

“Lying.”

“What?”

“Lying.”

He whistled. “Just my luck…”

“Excuse me?” Ellie shot back, but her stomach instantly tightened with guilt over what she had said. She did this sometimes, when she was all worked up. The words just came out, forcefully and loudly. But this wasn’t her. Most of the time she was softer spoken and kinder. Most of the time she was thoughtful and reserved. But sometimes, she couldn’t help herself. Someone or something, would push at her buttons and the reaction would be immediate. She’d become nervous and flustered and she’d babble. She always regretted it in the end.

BOOK: Love and Other Wicked Games (A Wicked Game Novel)
12.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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