At Any CostbyAMY_Monaco©
Author's Note: I know I've left two other stories hanging; I am still working on them. Meanwhile, I got an itch to write another Regency tale, and so, here it is. Enjoy!
The room smelled heavily of perfume covering the faint hint of sex. Around him, the furnishings were very feminine, with frills of silk and lace in various shades of red. Silk damask covered the walls and lush drapes over the windows. A small table was set with two glasses and a decanter of fine brandy.
Mrs. Winslow's brothel catered to the upper class and any who were willing to pay a ridiculous sum for a night with one of her girls. And therein lay the reason why many men went bankrupt just for spending a few hours in one of these rooms. Mrs. Winslow's girls were reputed to be the most talented prostitutes in all of London.
Derek had no complaints. In the three years of coming here, he could truthfully say that so far, none compared to Mrs. Winslow's establishment.
He stood shirtless before the table, pouring himself a liberal amount of the brandy and lifting the glass to his lips. He had requested the pretty blond named Margie, who knew exactly what to do with that pouting mouth of hers.
Tonight, all he wanted to do was forget.
But even as he tried, his thoughts turned to the grim memories, the dark things he'd seen in his short lifetime. He was only twenty-nine, but until only four years ago, he'd spent most of his life scaling the underworld of crime and smuggling. He'd dealt with the lowliest sort, the type of men who didn't hesitate to kill on the spot for a wrong word said. He managed to dodge the law until one day, betrayed by another crime lord, Derek was caught.
Thinking he was to end his life at the end of a rope, he was surprised when the chief magistrate presented him with a deal. Become a Bow Street runner or hang.
Naturally, Derek chose the former. The magistrate thought him to completely reform, especially because of his privileged beginnings, but could a crime lord really completely reform?
Derek smirked and drank again.
All he wished to do tonight was drink, spend himself in a woman and forget.
In a room not so far away, Vivian Locke dressed quickly in a scandalously designed dress. The neckline dipped too low to be considered fashionable and barely covered the tops of her nipples. As the gown was white, the fabric was so sheer one could see the outline of her long limbs underneath as she walked.
Mrs. Winslow said the client she was to entertain would want a virgin tonight. There had been a secret smile on the brothel owner's face when she said this.
Vivian willed her hands to stop shaking. She swallowed, fortifying herself with her reason for being here. Vivian Locke, the only daughter of the respectable late Mr. Frederick Locke was here to save her future.
How ironic it was that she needed to be ruined in order to save herself, she thought. As requested, she pinned a few locks of dark blond hair up, leaving the rest of it to cascade down her narrow shoulders. If only her cousin wouldn't force her to marry that horrid man twice her age.
Vivian shuddered the think of ever being married to Lord Garner. The man was a temperamental imbecile, one who wanted a meek wife with no opinion. Having lost two wives already with no issue, Lord Garner had gone to Vivian's cousin Wendell for permission to marry her. And her loathsome cousin had agreed.
Curse his greed, she thought. It did not matter to Wendell that Lord Garner was a humorless, cruel person, as long as Wendell got the sum Lord Garner had promised, he was satisfied.
Pleading with Wendell had gained no results. As her only guardian, he could do with her life as he chose. Her only option was to ruin her reputation.
Lord Garner had requested she be pure on their wedding night; perhaps it was what drew him to her, because of her sheltered life growing up. He needed to be assured any children born would be his, he had mentioned in a brief conversation they shared upon the announcement of their betrothal. He was blunt about the fact that she remained sheltered until their wedding. He wanted her uninformed and untouched, all the more easier to mold into the ideal woman. No bride of his was going to fill her head with politics and female rights. Men ruled this world. Women needed to be protected as if they were breakable glass objects on a narrow shelf.
Thinking of that conversation only made Vivian angrier. And in this anger, she found courage to move toward the door.
Once she was ruined, Lord Garner won't want her. With the little money she had saved, she could always find employment. Perhaps, she could even become a governess to a well to-do family someplace far away, a town where they won't have heard of the scandal.
The hall she walked through was carpeted richly and lit with oil lamps. She glanced at the numbered doors, heard faint sounds of lovemaking and laughing behind each. One particular door elicited a loud crashing sound, followed by a moan and very male grunt of pleasure.
Such noises made Vivian's face flush with embarrassment. She almost regretted choosing such a way to be ruined. She could have just had the footman do it. But it was too late to turn back now. At number seven, she knocked softly and without waiting for a response, she turned the brass knob.
Her eyes darted around the room, searching for the client she was to entertain. She was met with the tanned, smooth back of a shirtless man. Gasping softly, she closed the door behind her with a click. She'd never seen a man naked before and her gaze curiously followed the contours of the man's broad shoulders, down his bulging arms to his waist.
The man turned just then, his dark gaze sweeping over her quickly. He cursed out loud.
"You aren't Margie."
Had he been expecting someone else? Embarrassment crept up her neck. She must have entered the wrong room.
"You are not Lord Trentham?"
He was not narrow of build like most of the men she knew. In fact, his great size made him look almost bullish, his large hands fisting at his sides as if he were ready to run her over. As he moved, the muscles on his chest and waist moved and caught the light from fireplace. In no way was he considered fat, but neither was he to be labeled a dandy or weak.
The hard lines of his face suggested that he was one who'd seen more things in his lifetime than any other and his brooding dark eyes seemed to penetrate her soul-deep.
"I am." He answered, his voice rough. "I requested Margie." He said, as if his first response wasn't indication enough of his preference.
She somehow managed to find her voice as he approached her, realizing he was much taller than she had thought. She lifted her head up to meet his gaze.
"Mrs. Winslow said I was to come to you."
"Did she?" The corner of his mouth lifted sardonically. "Francesca has an odd sense of humor, it seems." He murmured.
His nearly black eyes slowly caressed its way down her body, making her squirm against the door, which she had her back pressed against.
With one large hand lifted, he flicked at the sleeves of her white gown. "How virginal. Did Francesca tell you I prefer innocents?"
His hand crept up her shoulder until he let it rest over her collarbone, his tanned fingers curving around the base of her neck. Her heart beat rapidly underneath the pad of his thumb.
His eyes narrowed. "Well, I don't."
He turned abruptly and went to the small table with the decanter. "Leave and fetch Margie. I'm in no mood for Francesca's games tonight."
Vivian let out a slow breath. "I don't understand why she sent me here then, if you never requested for me."
"As I said, she has an odd sense of humor."
She remained where she was. She had come this far, she couldn't turn back now.
"Why are you still here? Are you deaf?"
"Please," she implored him. "Do not send me back."
He turned his head to her, his sable colored hair brushing over his forehead. "Afraid you will be reprimanded? I'll pay you for whatever you usually charge your clients."
She shook her head. "I've...I've never had other customers."
His expression was guarded as he stared back at her. "I don't tolerate liars."
"I'm not lying. I've never done this before."
His expression turned cynical. "Then you're in the wrong place. Take my advice, Francesca may be fair, but such a life she offers isn't worth it. Get out of here and marry some nice chap in the country."
"You don't understand, Lord Trentham, I need to be here."
He smirked into his snifter of brandy. "Lusty creature," he commented, before he downed the rest of his drink. "Need a man between your thighs that bad, eh?"
Vivian flinched at his crude remark. She never intended to tell anyone of her circumstance. But her very life depended on tonight. She knew she hadn't very long to stay hidden. Wendell was bound to find her one of these days, for he had people searching for her every waking moment.
She walked into the room, finally leaving the doorway. "Don't send me back, Lord Trentham. I need to be...I need to be ruined. Tonight."
She couldn't seem to finish her explanation, and she looked away. Her father would turn in his grave if he knew what she was begging this man to do to her.
Derek caught the fear in the woman's eyes before she looked away. He set the snifter down and walked to her, lifting her delicate chin up so their eyes met.
The depths of her blue eyes were mesmerizing. If he were in the right mood, he would have taken her up on her offer, virgin or not. But he couldn't tonight. Tonight, he wanted uninhibited sex. He wanted to lose himself inside a woman without checking his control. He didn't have the patience to initiate a virgin into lovemaking, if she was one.
This thought piqued him. He doubted she was innocent, for Francesca rarely took them in. She preferred well-trained ladies. Yet there was something entirely beguiling in this woman's eyes that suggested she was very much a virgin.
"Running from a husband?" He asked. "Was he too ardent on your wedding night that you ran? Here to make him jealous?"
She shook her head, her gaze never wavering from his. This furthered his guessing.
"Rebelling against family then, because papa wouldn't buy you that pretty gown you wanted?"
Anger flashed in her eyes. This was an emotion he could relate to and was relieved to see it. Her vulnerability seemed to unhinge him.
"My cousin seeks to wed me to Lord Garner soon and I am here to blacken my character."
He recognized the name. Searching his mind, Derek soon came up with an image of a man aging in body and mind. Suddenly an image of Garner taking this woman to bed, seeing her writhe beneath Garner's thin body as he thrust into her...
Derek bent down to kiss her, crushing his mouth to her soft one. In surprise, she gasped into his mouth, and this offered him the perfect opportunity to slide his tongue in. Exploring her mouth slowly, he happily discovered that she tasted sweet, of a woman who hadn't yet unleashed her passion.
One large arm wrapped around her waist, arching her against his body until she was pressed against his obvious arousal. He cupped the back of her head, holding her to him.
Suddenly, there was a loud banging against the locked door. Derek dragged his mouth away and stared at the door. He felt the woman's hands squeeze his arms.
"I have clients here, sir." He heard Francesca's protest on the other side of the door, followed by the response of a very angry man.
"My men inform me my cousin has entered your establishment. If you do not release her..."
More banging pursued and this time, Vivian jumped. Derek turned to her, his expression one of confusion.
"It's my cousin." She whispered. "Please, I'll do anything. Just do not let him take me to Lord Garner. I couldn't bear it."
He shouldn't have cared. These trifling matters should be left to the woman and her cousin.
But the taste of her lingered on his lips and he realized he could not simply turn her in.
Derek pushed her onto the bed and she landed in a heap of blankets and skirts. As she pushed onto her elbows, she watched in horror as Lord Trentham quickly shed his breeches and started for her.
"What are you doing?"
The banging grew louder as other voices began to join in the shouting, many from angry clients interrupted from their play.
Derek pulled at the hem of her dress and laid one hand on her thigh. She instinctively tried to lock her knees together, but he pulled them apart.
"You have a choice. Be ruined now or I turn you in to your cousin." He said in a hard voice.
His erection rested on her inner thigh and his breath came in deep pants. He could take her right now if he wished.
"But..." Her intent to lose her virginity seemed to have fled.
He moved over her, lowering himself between her legs. She felt the bluntness of his sex against her moist opening. Vivian tensed.
"Moan, sweeting." He ordered, as he nuzzled her neck.
"What?" She felt him start to rub against her and arched.
"Good, keep doing that. Moan, louder."
She expected him to enter her, but instead, she felt his length slide over her sex. The friction caused a delicious sort of sensation through her body. Her arms wrapped around his neck as he moved over her.
The door burst open.
Her body went tense, but she could not help the little moan that escaped her as Lord Trentham moved against her, bumping into a particular sensitive spot between her legs. Lord Trentham continued to do this until – and she had to admit, he was a talented actor – he realized they were not alone.
Breathing hard, he moved so that his head turned to see who had interrupted them, yet keeping their bodies touching so it gave the illusion he was still inside her.
"Sir, I really must ask you to leave. This establishment prides itself in discreet business and I will not have you interrupting my clients." Francesca Winslow said in a voice so regal it would have put queens to shame.
Vivian managed to lift her head to see Wendell turn beet red.
"You, madam have housed a woman of good breeding and the fiancée of Lord Garner. That woman," He pointed to Vivian. "Is not who she says she is."
Francesca lifted an eyebrow. "I believe what my girls tell me."
Derek slowly got up from the bed, gracefully moving so that he pulled the skirt down to cover Vivian. Unabashed of his own nakedness he turned to his audience. Vivian's cousin looked even more embarrassed and Francesca looked high amused.
"Mind telling me why you come barging into my room?" Derek demanded.
Wendell Locke frowned. "Do cover yourself, sir."
"He is Lord Trentham." Francesca said.
"Do you have any idea who she is, my lord?" Wendell asked.
"Don't usually care. Only matters if she satisfies me or not." Derek replied cavalierly.
"She, my lord, is my cousin, Vivian Locke, and is the betrothed of Lord Garner."
Derek rubbed his hair roughened chin lazily, and glanced back at Vivian. She was curled up on the bed, panting and watched them wide-eyed. He could see the silent pleading in her eyes.
"Is she now?"
Wendell was trying very hard to check his anger, for on hearing of Derek's title, he realized he could ill afford him as an enemy.
"My lord, I must take her away from this place. Lord Garner is already furious that she's run away and her family are worried about her."
"You cannot take me back, Wendell. I'm ruined." Vivian spoke.
"You shouldn't have done that, Vivian." Wendell said. "Garner will be furious to hear this."
"Good. I don't wish to marry him."
Wendell started toward her, but Derek caught him easily by the arm. His vice-like grip caused the young man to grimace.
"How do I know this isn't some sort of trick? She could have hired you to act like you've ruined her."
At this, Derek abruptly let the young man go, laughing dryly.
"If you seek proof of her lost virginity, then you are too late. I took her once before not two days past."
Wendell looked like he was nearing apoplexy.
"You will be sorry for this. Garner will make sure of it." Wendell said. He glanced at his cousin. "Garner may still want you. Even if you've whored yourself to Lord Trentham."
Derek frowned. "That cannot happen, for I plan on keeping her for myself a bit longer."
"Garner will pay well for his bride, my lord."
Derek dismissed the young man by turning his back on him. He started for the bed. "Then tell Garner he has a problem with me, not the lady. Now leave us."
Vivian watched Wendell leave, while Francesca regarded Lord Trentham's back a second longer before leaving herself. At the sound of the door closing, Derek sat on the bed instead of mounting her again.
His offhanded mood melted away to soberness. He still didn't bother to cover himself.
"I need to leave." She said, started for the edge of the bed. But his hand clamped around her wrist, preventing her.
"You aren't leaving until I work this out."
"There is nothing to work out." She frowned, tugging at her hand. Hers looked like the size of a child's beside his.
He tugged her further until she was straddling him. He kept her there securely with his arms. Before she knew it, he pulled at her dress until she felt his aroused sex against her wet slit.
"I still want to finish what I started."
"I thought you wanted Margie." She whispered.
"That was before I had you underneath me." He murmured, pulling her head down to kiss her. He thrust his hips upward so his erection rubbed against her. She moaned huskily and pressed down on him, matching his rhythm.
Derek had never met a woman like her before. She was untried yet she moved against him like a skilled whore. The vulnerability he'd seen in her eyes had done something to him. it occurred to him that she may actually need him.
All his life, no one had ever actually needed him. He'd grown up an only child, and very much alone when his parents died too soon. His career in the underworld had been violent and cold. There had been few people he could trust.
Never had there been anyone who depended on him, needed him. He could see now that Vivian needed him. Or perhaps he wanted to think she did. He desperately wanted to believe it.
It was that moment Vivian saw something flash in his dark eyes. For that brief, unguarded moment, Lord Trentham looked so desolate and wounded. Then, as if it was never there, his eyes took on that guarded, controlled look again.
He was no longer kissing her or moving beneath her. Instead, he held still and just stared back at her.
"Do you intend to stay here?"
"No," she whispered. "I was going to try to find employment."
"No one will want a tainted woman working for them."
His blunt reply gave her pause.
"I could take care of you."
His comment surprised them both.
She blinked. He was offering to become her protector. Years ago, the thought of being someone's mistress would have repelled her. Now, it was practically a godsend. She knew that as a man's mistress, she would receive gifts and a generous allowance if she pleased her protector. With enough money put away, she could eventually quit being his mistress and live comfortable in the country for the rest of her days.
Vivian was about to speak when he began to nuzzle her chest, burying his face into the low dip of her neckline where her flesh practically spilled.
"Let me take care of you." He murmured. She felt the head of his cock press into her once again, only this time he was intent on taking her. Roughly, he pulled her neckline down, exposing her breasts. His mouth latched onto one nipple, sucking on it until it hardened beneath his tongue.
With his cock positioned at her wet entrance he pulled her down swiftly. Vivian cried out as he stretched her, filling her to the hilt. Lifting her, he slid almost all the way out and pulled her down again.