A key popped into the lock and the door opened with a creak. A turnkey stood guard in the narrow entrance, as if he was afraid Mark would escape.
Mark almost laughed. They’d put him in the heavy shackles they reserved for those who had escaped and been recaptured. It was Harry who was the escape artist, but Mark wouldn’t correct them. It was good that they thought he was a threat.
The turnkey carried a lantern bright enough for Mark to see his shining eyes and a shit-eating grin. “Someone likes you,” he said.
Mark rolled his eyes. “You tell Tilly that there’s not enough bread in Christendom—”
He trailed off as he saw a slender white hand emerge from the shadows of the hall to drop a coin into the turnkey’s palm. “For his shackles,” said a girl’s voice in a coarse accent he didn’t recognize.
“You want them on or off?”
“Off!” she snapped.
Mark raised an eyebrow. “You’ve got the wrong cell, mate. I’m not expecting anyone.”
The turnkey leered. “Can I keep her, then?”
“Can you hell!” the girl protested. “I was sent for Mister Mark Virtue only. Bought and paid for. Hands off!”
The girl stepped into the light. The thin cloak she wore over it was for warmth more than modesty; a man would have to be blind not to see the body beneath it. Her lush curves were cinched into a scandalously low-cut dress the color of burnished gold, her flawless skin glowing in the warm light of the lantern. A yard or so of shining auburn hair spilled out of the hood that shadowed her face. Even had she kept it covered, he would have known her from the way his blood sang in her presence.
She glanced up at him from beneath the hood and he saw it.
The glint of steel in her eyes.
“This is only a shilling,” said the turnkey. “That’ll get you the hands or the feet. Not both.”
She arched an eyebrow at Mark. “Which is it? Hands or feet?”
Mark didn’t take his eyes off of her as the turnkey bent to unlock the shackles around his ankles.
“The lantern’s extra,” he said as he stood.
“Don’t need it,” Mark dismissed, rubbing his ankles.
“That’s a shame. She’s a treat! I’ll come get her later then. Wish I had friends like yours, Mark.” He closed the door behind him, and Mark heard the bolt slide into the lock with a heavy click.
He was locked in a cell in near perfect darkness with Jane Ramsey.
“It’s not my birthday.” He smiled.
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