The Devil to Pay
Pocket Star Books, January 2005
|Excerpt from the novel The Devil to Pay|
In which Our Hero Meets an Angel
The Anchor was an old riverside inn frequented by pirates, smugglers, thieves, and the occasional nob out on a lark. Opium, untaxed brandy, sex of any sort; all could be had at the Anchor. Devellyn noticed the fancy piece in the red velvet dress the moment she entered the room. One could scarcely miss the way her hand—a surprisingly clean, long-fingered hand—slid caressingly over Sir Alasdair MacLachlan’s shoulder.
Alasdair, of course, did not notice. He had fifty guineas on the table, and was holding a fistful of cards which were quivering with excitement. Warming the sheets with some wench was the furthest thing from his mind.
It should have been far from Devellyn’s. But he was losing, and looking for a little distraction. He was also foxed. He watched the tart lean against the bar and order a glass of gin. Gin? Good Lord. She certainly wasn’t his type.
She was also tall and lush, with a bosom that was about to burst from her dress, which was cut right down to the nipples. Her hair was a garish shade of red which clashed so violently with her velvet dress the vision could have stopped a mail coach. She had one elbow propped on the bar, and was boldly surveying the noisy room. In short, she looked like just what she was, a dockside dolly-mop with big breasts and abysmal taste.
But her eyes. Now there was something odd. She had quick, intelligent eyes. They did not seem to belong with the rest of her body. Devellyn kept glancing surreptitiously at them, wishing he could make out the color. Her cheeks were oddly high, giving her a bit of a tight, rabbity look about the face. The mouth, though, was not bad. She had a small mole just at one corner, and something about it tormented him. Yet the woman kept lowering her lashes and looking at Alasdair. That was beginning to annoy him.
Once, her tongue came out, and teased lightly at the corner of her mouth, almost touching the mole. Devellyn ordered another bottle of brandy, and hunkered down with his hand. Then again, a man who’d drunk as much as he had probably oughtn’t be playing cards. But Alasdair had insisted. Well, of course he had. His luck was in tonight. Devellyn’s, unfortunately, was not. He tossed down his hand and admitted it.
Again, the woman strolled through the room. Again, that hungry, sidelong look at Alasdair. Her hip brushed against his chair, but Alasdair held a handful of spades—enough to clear the table if he kept his wits, which he likely would. Alasdair was the consummate gambler. Devellyn pulled away from his friend’s shoulder and began to debate with himself over what to do.
He wanted to tumble the tart in the red dress, dash it. He didn’t know why. He just did. It was probably just the perversity of her behavior. She hadn’t looked at him once all night, which was odd. Women always looked at him, if for no other reason than to take in his size. Perhaps she meant to tease him. Or perhaps he wasn’t her type. On the other hand, perhaps he was? With a curt goodnight to his friends, he shoved back his chair, took what was left of his money, and ambled off to find out.
Apparently, he was her type.
“Wot, a big, strapping buck like you?” She grinned and dropped her eyes to his crotch. “Might ought’er charge you extra, I’m thinking.”
Devellyn grabbed her by the arm, and pulled her toward the stairs. “You might just find yourself so grateful you give my money back,” he growled. Then halfway up, he stopped. He’d forgotten something, blister it. In the darkened stairwell, he pulled her around to face him. “What’s your name, girl?”
She dropped her gaze suggestively. “Ruby.” Despite her horrid Cockney accent and oddly grating voice, the word came out silky, sending a chill down his spine. “Ruby Black.”
He let his eyes drift down the tawdry red dress again. Ruby Black looked like she knew what she was doing. Devellyn was suddenly grateful. He was in no mood to tutor a virgin, or anything remotely near it. And he was in no mood for a quick rutting, either. Camelia’s leaving him had left him feeling bereft, and severely sexually frustrated. He was in the mood for a woman that could take it hard, and take it for a good long while. He stopped, and jerked her around again.
“How much, Ruby, for the whole night?”
“Coo!” said Ruby. But she named her price. He gladly agreed.
Ruby tucked the money away, then looked up at him through her thick, dark lashes.
“I’m Devellyn,” he grunted by way of introduction.
Her room was narrow and squalid, barely lit by one sputtering, stinking tallow candle. The furnishings were threadbare, the floor just rough planking, but the narrow oak poster bed looked as though it could bear his weight. What did he care for ambiance? He wanted sex.
Ruby ran her hands down his chest, then brushed one teasingly over his belly. “Oh, yer something, Mr. Devellyn, ain’t you?” she said, her nostrils delicately flaring. She leaned into him, her thigh brushing his already jutting erection, and in the gloom, he saw her eyes widen. “Gawd,” she whispered. “I’d hate ter see that one when yer stone-cold sober.”
He was flattered. He shouldn’t have been, and he knew it. He was half cup-shot, and she was just bought accommodation, and it was all artifice and show. But there was something, he thought, in her face. A hunger. A yearning. Suddenly, he wished he could be certain. “Damn it,” he said. “Why is it so infernal dark in here?”
Ruby looked suddenly injured. “I make me livin’ on me back, gov’nor,” she said. “And candles are a penny apiece at the Anchor.”
He started to pull away, but she slid her hands between his legs, cupping his ballocks in her small, warm palm. “Oh, gawd, don’t go now,” she whispered, sounding a little desperate. Desperate was good. Devellyn liked his women desperate.
Then he jerked himself up short. She wasn’t his woman. She was a riverside strumpet, for pity’s sake. But at the moment, he was having trouble remembering that. Lord, he’d best keep his wits about him. He snared her wrist, and pulled her against him. “Look here, girl,” he grumbled. “You’d best be clean.”
Her eyes drifted insolently over him. “I ain’t gonna tip you the token, me fine gent,” she said. “If that’s wot yer thinking.”
“Good,” he said, snarling a little. “The last bloody thing I need just now is a bad case of the clap.”
She jerked her wrist away and stepped back. “Look ’er, Mr. Devellyn,” she said. “There’s plenty o’ warm coves’ll pay ready money for wot I’m sellin’. If you don’t want it, no ’ard feelings. Just move on, awright?”
Damn it all, he didn’t want to move on. The woman—Ruby—seemed to possess something special. He didn’t know what it was. Hell, he hadn’t even gotten a good look at her yet. But he wanted her badly, and he couldn’t say why. She seemed to ooze carnal hunger. He thought he could smell the lust on her skin. And she had a lot of skin.
Suddenly, he was eager to see more. His hand went to her breast, which was warm and heavy. He moved to tug the cheap velvet down so that he might fill his mouth with it, but she pulled his hand away, and pushed it back.
“Wot’s yer hurry, gov?”
“I’m paying you,” he said. “What do you care?”
She pulled a little away. “You’re a big man, Mr. Devellyn,” she whispered. “P’raps I ought’er be afraid o’ you?”
He tried to smile. “I think not.”
She fluttered her lashes suggestively. “But I am a little,” she confessed, her voice growing husky. “I think a great big buck like you needs ter be managed a bit.”
“Managed?” he asked.
“Made ter go slow,” she whispered. “Made ter take his time wiv ’is business.”
He chuckled softly. “And how do you propose to do that?”
“Oh, I have me ways,” said Ruby, her voice provocative. “Me specialty, you might say.”
He couldn’t help but be intrigued. “And just what sort of specialty would that be, my girl?”
She paused for a moment. “I can make you beg for it, Devellyn.”
“I don’t think so,” he answered. “I’m a straightforward sort of fellow, Ruby. I don’t fancy anything unusual. Just a good, hard ride will do.”
In the dim light, he could see her mouth form an amazingly pretty pout. She was not really afraid of him, he didn’t think—though he’d come across one or two women who were. But Ruby, he decided, just wanted to toy with him a bit. And what was the harm? He was tired of cards, tired of trawling from one hell to the next with his friends in search of something he hadn’t already seen, had, or tasted. Tired of life, really.
Certainly he was too tired to go looking for a mistress to replace Camelia. Then he’d seen the redhead and realized he couldn’t completely do without, either. But her lush bottom lip was quivering now, and she was looking disappointed. That seemed to be his specialty, disappointing women. Suddenly, and very foolishly, he decided not to disappoint this one.
He reached around and filled his hand with her arse. “All right, Ruby,” he whispered, crudely lifting her pelvis against the erection which strained at his trousers. “Have your way with me. I’ve got all bloody night to get what I want from you.”
Ruby smiled, and slid her hands up his chest beneath his coat, pushing it off his shoulders. Devellyn let go of his luscious handful, and allowed the coat to slide into the floor.
She made a sound of satisfaction in her throat. “Not an ounce o’ padding on you, is there?” Her voice was thick as he urged his cock against her. “And that’s a reg’lar tipstaff shoved down yer trousers.”
He gave a wry smile, and watched her slender fingers brush his flesh through the wool. It felt wicked. Wonderful. He gave a little moan of pleasure. “Tell me something, gov’nor,” she rasped, her hands going to his waistcoat. “You said yer wanted it slow. Do you?”
Devellyn watched the buttons slip free. “That depends,” he said. “How do you like it, Ruby?”
She lowered her lashes, and wouldn’t look him in the eyes. “I likes it slow, Mr. Devellyn,” she whispered. “Real slow. And I like my man to beg a little. Nothing gets a girl’s blood up like a hot, sweating stallion of a man straining at the bit.”
It sounded oddly tempting to him. She pushed his waistcoat off. Cool air breezed up the back of his shirt. “Perhaps you’d best tell me what your game is, Ruby,” he murmured.
The pout reappeared. “No need ter play, Mr. Devellyn, if you’ve no interest.”
He set his hands on her shoulders. “Just answer the damned question,” he growled. “That tipstaff down my trousers is interest enough, isn’t it?”
Ruby held his gaze for a moment. “It’s just that you look ter me like a real fine gent, Mr. Devellyn,” she answered. “You got any notion how many o’ them we get over in Southwark?”
He snorted. “Not many.”
“Not many is right,” she agreed. “But I got me some aspirations.”
“Aspirations?” He tried not to laugh.
She slowly nodded. “I’m good,” she said. “Real good at what I do. And I’m tired o’ working the South Bank. I want ter go uptown. Ter be kept in style a bit. I want me a proper place, somewhere snug and warm. And I want me some fine clothes.”
He grabbed her hands, and held them still a moment. “Sorry to dash your hopes, Ruby,” he answered. “But I’m just here to rub a little rust off my pipe. I’m not looking for a permanent arrangement.”
She fluttered her lashes at him. “Oh, I knows that, gov’nor,” she said. “But you knows other proper gents, don’t you? Like them two chaps downstairs? P’raps you could pass me name around, if I give satisfaction? That pretty bloke w’the yellow hair—I fancied the look o’ him, I did.”
Alasdair? The woman was still thinking of Alasdair? What a bloody damned insult!
Suddenly, something in him snapped. “To hell with this,” he said. “You aren’t getting paid to talk.” He jerked her hard against him, and crushed her mouth beneath his. He kissed her crudely, forcing her head back as he pushed her mouth wide and thrust his tongue deep. Oh, Lord. She tasted good. Like ripe fruit. Like cheap gin and red-hot sin, and something he craved but couldn’t name.
She tried to pull away, but he wouldn’t let her go. Instead, he kept kissing her, kept thrusting deep into her mouth with his tongue. Trapped against his body, Ruby began to struggle, shoving at his shoulders with her palms. Even then, he almost didn’t stop. Lust and frustration surged through his body anew. He wanted to be inside her, wanted to keep kissing her so she wouldn’t speak of things he didn’t want to hear.
She was beating him with the heels of her hands now.
Good God, he had to get a grip on himself. Gasping for breath, he tore his mouth away and stared down at her. Suddenly, despite the darkness, he thought he saw real fear sketch across her face.
“Oh, Lord,” he gasped. “I’m sorry.”
She was still shaking. He really had frightened her. Roughly, he dragged a hand through his hair. Perhaps Ruby did not have as much experience as he’d thought? And whatever else she might be, she was a human being. He shut his eyes, and felt the shame wash over him. “I’m sorry,” he said again. “I just haven’t . . . haven’t had . . . oh, hell, I’m sorry.”
She turned her face away, and said nothing. But he could sense her fighting down fear.
He opened his eyes. “Look, let’s just get this over with, Ruby,” he said more gently. “Just take off your clothes and lie down on the bed, all right? Just let me have a quick pump, and I’ll be on my way. I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
“I am not frightened,” she said, her voice so firm her Cockney accent almost vanished. “I am not afraid of you, Devellyn.”
He took her chin in his hand, and turned her face into his, cursing the darkness that almost blinded him. But indeed, she did not look frightened. If she had been, she had reined it under control.
“I don’t want to frighten you,” he said, dropping his hands. He no longer touched her in any way. “I’m not that sort of man, Ruby. That’s not how I take my pleasure.”
“Awright,” she said, her voice soft. Then she leaned into him, and set her hands on his chest. “That’s a posh lookin’ crumpler, gov.” Her tone was light again. Stronger. “Let’s ’ave it orf, hmm? P’raps we’ll think of a better use for it.”
He looked down to see her grinning unapologetically at him. Oh, what the hell? “Yes, perhaps we will,” he agreed.
She untied the elaborate knot with no difficulty. She unwound half the cloth from his neck, circled it around her own, and drew their faces together. She kissed the corner of his mouth, then ran her tongue across his bottom lip.
“Umm,” she moaned, then she drew the swell of his lip between her small teeth, and bit, none to gently, either. A sudden, fierce craving shot through him, making his balls contract and his cock quiver. Inside, his stomach seemed to bottom out.
“Good Lord, girl,” he whispered as her mouth traveled down his throat. Her tongue traced a line of fire along his collar, and he realized she was already unbuttoning his trousers. He wasn’t sure just what he was supposed to do, didn’t want to bollix things up again, so he stood, still and stoic as she touched him.
It seemed to be just what she wanted. She drew the cravat away and tossed it onto the bed pillow. Then, with another little sound of satisfaction, she went down on her knees to pull off his boots. That done, she tugged off his stockings with impatient little jerks, Devellyn clutching the bedpost for balance.
It was odd, but he couldn’t recall ever having been undressed by a woman, other than the unfastening of a few token buttons, or the untying of his cravat. He rather liked watching her do it.
He rather liked Ruby, too. He liked her lush figure and narrow shoulders. He liked her strange, raspy voice. And he especially liked how she looked on her knees. She was rough around the edges, and certainly not his type. But strangely, he found himself toying with doing just as she wanted. Letting her have her way with him. Letting her make him beg. Then keeping her someplace snug and warm, and buying her some fancy clothes.
Good Lord, he’d be the laughingstock of all his friends. But he didn’t give a damn. Ruby started to stand, and abruptly, he set one hand on her shoulder and urged her back down again. “Wait,” he said, the other hand fumbling at his trousers. He freed the last button and impatiently shoved the fabric down. His cock sprang free, so hot and hard he feared he might shoot wild before she got it in her mouth. He watched in satisfaction as Ruby’s eyes widened.
“Take it,” he rasped, touching himself. “Take it, Ruby. Please. Please. I’m begging you.”
Devellyn had forgotten he was the one in control. He had forgotten he was paying her, and that the word please need not enter into the transaction. Ruby looked uncertain, but she slid a tentative hand back and forth along his length. Devellyn felt his whole body begin to shudder almost uncontrollably, as if he were a schoolboy again. His hand lashed out, grabbing for the bedpost.
Abruptly, Ruby released him and stood up slowly, letting her body rub over his as she rose. “Are you eager, Devellyn?” she whispered, leaning in so that her lips brushed his neck just below his ear. “Are you?”
He tried to nod. “Eager enou—”
He sucked in his breath on a gasp when her cool hands slid up his belly. He felt his muscles tighten and shiver beneath her touch. She pushed his shirt up as she went. Devellyn let go of the bedpost, and stripped it off over his head with one hand.
“Coo,” murmured Ruby at the sight of his chest. “Built like a side o’ lean beef, you are.”
“What do you want, Ruby?” he asked through clenched teeth. “Whatever it is, for pity’s sake, girl, get on with it before I explode.”
Ruby leaned forward, and ran her tongue around one of his nipples making his breath seize. “Not so fast, you fine, big buck,” she whispered. As she licked him, her hands went to his waist, pushing down his drawers and trousers. They fell to his ankles, and he realized vaguely that he was bare-arsed naked, while she was still fully clothed.
His hands went to her bodice. “Take it off, Ruby,” he whispered. “Now. Please?”
She made a purring sound in her throat, and pushed him toward the bed. “Lie down, Devellyn,” she ordered, slipping off her shoes. “Lie down on the bed, love, and I swear, I’ll give you just wot you deserve.”
His every fiber alive with desire, he did as she asked. And he had to admit, his desire was heightening. She probably would have him begging before it was over with.
Ruby watched him, her eyes aflame as they ran down his naked body. Then she set one foot on the lumpy mattress, hiking up her skirts so high he could see her garter and then some. The woman had long, flawless calves, and thighs which looked slender and tight beneath her cotton drawers.
“Is this wot yer wantin’, Devellyn?” she rasped, rolling her garter to her ankle. “Do you want this leg wrapped round yer waist?” With slow, erotic motions, she pulled the stocking off. “Or would you rather ’ave me ankle hooked round yer neck?”
He swallowed hard. “Both, please,” he said, choking out the words.
“Please,” she softly echoed. “Ooh, I do like the sound o’ that. Now you just lie there real still, Devellyn. Let me play me little game, lovey, and I promise you’ll be screamin’ afore I’m done wiv you.”
“Christ Jesus,” he whispered.
She tossed the stocking somewhere near his head, and proceeded to do the same with the opposite leg. Devellyn did as she asked. He lay still on the bed, simply watching her and wanting her, his cock twitching insistently.
“The dress now, Ruby,” he pleaded, reaching out for her. “Take it off and let me see everything. Your breasts. Your belly. Everything. Oh, God, have mercy and hurry up.”
Ruby smiled impishly, hiked up her skirts, and mounted him with her legs spread wide.
“Oh, God!” he cried as her warm weight straddled his cock. “Do you want me to beg, Ruby? Is that it? Please, then. Please. For pity’s sake, take me.”
He no longer cared about getting her clothes off. It seemed unimportant now. The scent of woman surrounded him, was drowning him. She smelled surprisingly clean and sweet. He groaned deep in his chest, dragging in air.
In response, Ruby leaned forward and kissed him, hot and open-mouthed, and roughly, he shoved one hand between them, intent on finding the slit in her drawers, or just ripping them off altogether.
But Ruby, it seemed, had other ideas. Her slender fingers encircled his wrist and pushed his hand back over his head. “Go slow, lovey,” she whispered against his mouth. “Let’s go real slow, awright? I want ter tease you a bit. Get me mount in a real lather, so ter speak.”
He realized what she meant when he felt her slip the stocking round his wrist. But Ruby was still straddling him, and kissing him again, thrusting inside his mouth now, and making sweet, urgent noises. He heard the rustle of fabric, felt the stocking go tight around his flesh, and felt a strange little thrill run through him.
He knew of men who were sexually excited by such things and worse. Apparently, he was one of them. Despite the vast quantity of alcohol he’d consumed tonight, his cock was hard as a doorknocker, and throbbing with his every heartbeat. She shifted a little, and he almost lost control.
“Hurry,” he whispered, as her lips slid over his.
Ruby let her teeth rake down his throat. The pain was sharp. Exquisite. “Hurry up,” he choked.
“Wot’s the rush, lovey?” she asked, encircling his opposite wrist with his own cravat.
He turned his head, and tore his mouth from hers just as the second knot slipped tight. “Take me inside, Ruby,” he begged. “Now.”
“Ooo, Mr. Devellyn,” she whispered. “I’m getting ready to give it to you real good.”
“Ruby, you don’t understand!” he rasped, squeezing his eyes shut and praying for control. “I’m going to—I just can’t—can’t wait—”
The knot jerked fast, drawing his wrist firmly against the wooden bedpost.
“’Fraid you’ll have to, gov’nor,” she said, her voice suddenly cool.
He felt her weight shift, and he opened his eyes “Ruby?” he said. “Wha—?”
She had the second stocking stuffed in his mouth so fast, he couldn’t draw breath. For a moment, he was dazed. Confused. Then sudden knowledge slammed into him.
God damn her.
The bitch was on her feet now, rummaging through his pockets like a squirrel. Purse. Watch. Keys. Loose coins. Everything he carried she took.
“Ah mm ghmm mmm!” he said.
“Oh, keep it stuffed, Devellyn,” she said.
An open valise sat on the night table, and she unceremoniously dumped the contents of his pockets into it. Then she jerked out a length of rope, and snapped the valise shut. He twisted his torso, and swung one leg off the bed, almost catching her round the waist, but the little jade danced away, the valise in hand.
“Oh, Devellyn, you bloody idiot,” she said, swiftly tying the bag to her body with the rope. “I wish you could see yourself now.”
She took the key from the door lock, and pitched it out the window, then snatched a gray cloak from a peg on the wall, and threw it over her shoulders. Her every movement was quick and efficient. By God, she’d done this before. For that, he was going to strangle her. Twice. He tried to tell her so.
“Amm ggnn kigg uggh!” he said, chewing furiously at the stocking.
Ruby just smiled, and pushed open the casement window. “Ta, lovey.”
“Lawks, yes, I almost forgot!” She stepped a little nearer the bed. “Promised you a peek at me dumplings, didn’t I?”
The bitch. Rage ran blood-red through his brain. He shoved at the wad of stocking with his tongue, thrashing so hard the bed moved.
“Now, don’t cut up so, Devellyn,” said Ruby, as she worked down one side of her bodice. “Not unless yer wants an audience up here.” She laughed as the creamy flesh spilled forth, not quite baring her nipple. And then he saw it. In the poor light, it was hard to make out, and she didn’t dare come closer. But he could guess at what it was.
A black angel. She had a little black angel tattooed on the far side of her left breast.
Devellyn got his tongue wedged under the stocking, and spat for all he was worth. The stocking burst from his mouth and rolled down his chest, as limp as his now-lifeless cock. “You bitch!” he roared. “You vile, sneaking, cheating little strumpet! You don’t know what you’ve done, do you?”
She lifted one delicate eyebrow. “Coo! Don’t I? P’raps you’d best explain it ter me.”
“You’ve picked the wrong pocket this time, my angel!” he roared. “And this time, you’ll have the devil to pay, do you hear?”
Ruby Black had one foot on the windowsill now, her hands braced wide on the iron frame. “Good night, my lord,” she said sweetly. “Sorry about yer shriveled tipstaff.”
“The devil to pay, bitch!” he bellowed. “I am coming after you.”
Then the Black Angel laughed, and literally leapt into the gloom.