Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(24) by Lorraine Heath
Sykes scoffed. “You know everything about everybody. You know where she be or how to get word to her. Tell her to leave my boys be. She can take as many of the others as she wants, but not mine.”
Feagan wiped his roughened hand over his cracked lips. “I’ll tell ’er.”
“See that you do. I’d hate for anything unpleasant to happen to her.”
Before Feagan could issue his own dire warning, the man was gone. Feagan peered into his glass. “Ah, Frannie, Frannie, Frannie. What kind of trouble are ye getting into now?”
Bringing the hood of her cloak up over her head, Frannie walked through the streets of her youth. It was early enough that revelers were still about, late enough that the prowlers and prostitutes were beginning to poke around. She wondered what Greystone would think of her if she brought him here, if she showed him exactly from whence she’d come.
“How about a quick bump in the alley?” a gentleman asked, blocking her way.
“No, thank you.” Touching the hidden dagger for comfort, she shouldered her way by him.
“You’re not from here,” he said, moving to once again stop her.
“Actually I am.”
“You sound like a lady of quality.”
“I’m meeting a rather large fellow with big hands that are very good at squeezing things, such as your neck, so you might want to let me pass.”
“Haven’t seen him, but I’d be happy—”
“Ah, there he is. Excuse me.” She hurried on, but the man didn’t follow, nor was there any large fellow waiting to meet with her. The largest fellow she knew was Bob Sykes, and she certainly had no desire to cross paths with him.
Wending her way through the crowd, she stayed alert, always conscious of nimble fingers. She carried nothing of any value when she came to this part of London.
She felt bony—yet surprisingly strong—fingers tug her into the alleyway. She had her knife halfway out of its scabbard when she recognized her abductor. “Feagan.”
“ ’ello, Frannie darling.”
“You startled me. What are you doing here?”
“I got something fer ye.” He dragged a small, spindly lad forward. “Master Charley Byerly.”
She hadn’t seen Feagan in years. Seventeen, to be precise. His hair was no longer the vibrant red of hers. His face was more wrinkled. Somehow she’d expected him to always remain the same. She darted her gaze between the two. She despised that she didn’t trust Feagan. His looks may have changed, but she was fairly certain that his character was carved in stone, never to be altered. “How did you know I was in search of orphan boys?”
“I ’ear things.”
Frannie crouched in front of the lad. “Hello, Charley. I’m Frannie. I’m going to give you a home.”
“Don’t need no home.”
Feagan slapped the boy’s head. “Wot I’d tell ye, boy? Mind yer manners.”
The boy gave Feagan a mulish look.
“Have you a mother or a father?” she asked.
“I wouldn’t ’ave brought ’im to ye if ’e did,” Feagan protested.
“Charley?” Frannie prodded.
“Got nobody. Don’t need nobody.”
Frannie took the lad’s hand. She didn’t want to stay in this area any longer than necessary. “What do I owe you, Feagan?”
“Awe, Frannie darling, why would ye go and spoil our reunion like that. Why think I’d expect anything at all?”
“Because with you there is always an expected payment in some form. You are not charitable by nature.”
“Blimey, but ye’ve turned into a hard lass.”
She reached into a hidden pocket. “I have only a crown.”
“Ew, that’ll do just fine, thank ye very much.”
She dropped the coin into his outstretched hand.
“Spend it wisely, Feagan.”
“I always do.”
As she turned to go, he grabbed her arm and whispered, “Sykes come to see me. Ye gotta leave his boys alone.”
“I take boys where I find them. I don’t ask who they answer to.”
“Frannie darling, ye’d be a fool to mess with Sykes. He’s done nuthin’ but grow meaner over the years. Leave his boys be.”
Even in the darkness of the alley, she could see the worry in his eyes, eyes as green as hers. Leaning over, she pressed a kiss to his forehead. “I’ll not provoke him on purpose.”
He gave her a crooked grin. “Good gel.”
But as she walked away, Charley Byerly in tow, she also swore to herself that she wouldn’t not take a boy in simply because he was unfortunate enough to have an association with Sykes.
Sterling had mistakenly believed—since the last ball of the Season had been held and many of his peers had already escaped to the country—that the Great Exhibition would be far less crowded. Throughout the summer he’d heard all about the astonishing number of people who’d visited the wondrous exhibits. But with his diminishing vision, he didn’t do well in crowds, so he’d waited until he’d determined a more favorable environ would be awaiting him. He’d judged dreadfully wrong.
But he possessed a stubborn streak, and once he’d arrived and seen the crowds lined up to enter the Crystal Palace, he wasn’t about to tell his driver to return him home. It was one thing not to confront the enemy and another entirely to retreat once the confrontation was made. His vision was not yet to the point that he would give in, turn tail, and run.
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