Thursday, May 1, 2014

Sneak Peek
Treasure of the Emerald Isle

London, England, 1863

This takes place after Samuel’s plans have backfired on him and all but one of his disguises has been blown. Struggling to watch over the wayward spinster, and the woman he loves, Samuel just keeps digging himself deeper. He has already been through a few costume changes as this night has progressed-hence the pantaloons. This is about midway through the book when things have escalated out of his control. Constance has been abducted from the masquerade ball and Samuel, Alec, and Genevieve have followed the abductors to the Boars Head . . . the gaming hell and house of ill-repute where Treasure of Egypt begins.

Chapter 15

Constance struggled against the large man who held her tight.
“I can walk on my own,” she said as he pushed her into a dark room.
He smiled at her when she turned to face him. “Don’t think about cryin' out neither,” he warned turned his attention to a small gas lamp on the table.
The light did little to brighten up the room and Constance looked around the room with a bed as the main feature and large mirror which hung from the ceiling above it with a grimace.
“In this place ye just might get the kind of help ye don’t want, if ye get my drift. Besides,” he nodded to the door, “I’ll be right outside if ye need me.”
Constance watched as the large buffoon closed the door leaving her in the dimly lit bedroom. She’d used the tunnels below this brothel many times to evade unwanted attention, but she’d never been inside. She looked around calmly as she listened to the lock click into place. Other than the four poster bed in the room where she highly doubted anyone slept, there was a large wardrobe on one wall and a gilt-framed dressing screen in the corner.
Peeking behind the screen she found a small table with a washbasin. Drawn by curiosity to the assortment of artifice scattered across the surface she stepped closer and picked up a well of rouge and sniffed it curiously, then studied a glass of brushes and another pot of charcoal.
Hearing a noise she left the small dressing area and went across the room where the sound had come from. She pressed her ear against the wall where the large full-length mirror hung. All quiet now, she wondered at the noise, but decided the walls were decidedly thin and who knew what was going on in the next room.
Trying not to dwell on that thought she turned to study the large armoire next. Lifting the handle, she found it locked. Having her search come to a close she turned back to the room to wait. With a sigh, she seated herself on the tiniest corner of the bed and gazed up at a large mirror, which hung over it on the ceiling.
So far so good, she thought, she could now meet the man behind this and get some answers, and with some luck, her map and necklace back, too. Just as she was thinking that, the wardrobe popped open and the footman from the ball spilled out, rolling onto the floor.
“What is the meaning of this?” She demanded standing up.
“I’m here to rescue you,” Samuel whispered as he came to his knees.
“Rescue me?” She almost wanted to scream in frustration as she recognized the Rogue. “You!” she accused.
“Yes, it’s me,” Samuel said as he stood the rest of the way up. “Let’s go.” He took her arm.
“No!” She shrugged away from him. “You’re going to ruin this!”
“Ruin it?”
“Yes, ruin it. . . . Again!”
“What’s goin' on in there?” the buffoon asked from the other side of the door.
“Nothing,” Constance called out before turning back to Samuel. “Go back to where you came from!” She pointed to the wardrobe while glaring at him.
Incredulous, Samuel stared at her. “You wanted this to happen?”
“You’re not too bright are you?” she returned his stare with equal fervor.
They stood facing one another until the sound of the key turning in the lock reached them. “Hide!” She pointed to the closet.
Samuel hit the floor and rolled underneath the bed just as the man opened the door. Constance stood before the open wardrobe looking rather guilty.
“I might have known ye’d be up te somethin'.” The buffoon came into the room, leaving another man guarding the door. “How’d ye get these open?” he asked looking into the wardrobe.
“What do you mean?” Constance asked instead. “It’s not as if they were locked.”
“I checked them myself.” He turned to look at her with suspicion.
When he looked like he might search the room she changed her tactics. “Hairpin?” she suggested.
“Aye, they said ye were a tricky one,” he said as he relocked the cabinet and turned to face her once again. “Let me see yer hands.” He took a rope from his pocket.
“This is not necessary.” Constance balked.
“We can do this the easy way . . . or the hard way,” he warned.
“Fine,” she sighed, holding out her hands.
He still looked doubtful of her motives as he took a cord and tied her hands together, securing her to the bedpost. “Now you just wait here, nice like . . . or else next time, I’ll not be so understandin'.”
Samuel waited until the lock clicked into place once more before he scooted out from under the bed and stood. “Is this about the map?” He came closer.
“I’ll not answer your questions.” She put her chin up. “Just go.”
“I’ve come to help you.”
“Can you not see that you are not helping?” she whispered, lifting her hands to imply that her new position was because of him.
“It was me. I have the map,” he confessed, watching as a wave of emotions swept across her features.
“You stole it?” Her question was more an accusation.
He sighed . . . It didn’t take a genius to see that she was incensed. “I didn’t say I stole it,” Samuel evaded the answer. “It just happened to come into my possession.” He continued becoming deeply concerned by the look of growing outrage on her face.
“You stole it!” She repeated, looking both hurt and horrified as she stared up at him.
He evaded looking into her eyes by looking up at the ceiling. “By whatever means it came to me,” he twisted to study the mirror curiously and then a slow seductive smile spread across his lips, “is not the point.”
She was not amused or enticed by it and narrowed her eyes on him instead.
He cleared his throat. “The point is that there is no reason to be here,” he continued reasonably, reminding himself that he had some leverage in their conversation since she was tied up and forced to listen to him.
“You think that’s why I’m here? That this is over the map?” She shook her head.
“Aren’t you?” Samuel asked.
“The map was only a means of getting what I really wanted,” Constance said.
“And what is that?” he asked.
“My mother,” she said. “And now because of you.”
“But your mother is dead.”
“No,” she said in a whisper, “I received a note that said that if I wanted information of her whereabouts I needed to turn the map over to the Rogue.”
“I think you’ve been played,” he said.
“Get out!” she spat. “The only one who has played me is you.”
“Shh!” He quickly covered her mouth with his hands while pressing a finger to his own lips. “Damn, but you are the most unreasonable woman I’ve ever known.”
“And you,” Constance mumbled beneath his hand, “are a loathsome toad!”
“Aye.” Samuel nodded sadly as he looked deeply into her eyes as she glared at him. “Help me,” Samuel finally whispered as he slowly lifted his hand in a carress that left his thumb passing over her cheek and beneath her lips.
He stared at her lips before looking deeply into her eyes. “Help me save the woman I love.”
“I—” she stammered, watching as his head came closer, the longing in his eyes searing her soul. He kissed her lips gently then pulled away.
Her expression was incredulous. How could he play with her like this. . . ? Lie to her just to manipulate her. “Oh, but you are a devil!” she finally breathed.
“So I’ve been told.” He lifted a brow and nodded.
“How could you use me like this?” She accused him, not for one moment believing his words.
“That was not my intention.”
“What was your intention?” she asked. “Why are you here?”
“As I said,” Samuel tried to explain. “It has been my duty to protect you.”
“Your duty?” She snorted in disbelief.
“I was assigned to protect you.”
“Ah, now at least I see the truth of it . . . I’m just an assignment to you.” she said, narrowing her eyes on him.
“No—well, perhaps in the beginning,” he amended. She cast him a hurt-filled glance. “If I could make it different I would.” He stepped away.
“Who sent you? The only people I can think of that would be so cruel as to send a manipulative liar like you to watch me would be the Lords of Hell,” she spat.
Samuel shook his head and reached out to touch her cheek once again.
“No, don’t,” she hissed as he dropped his hand and cut her free from her ropes instead. “I told you to leave!”
The door opened suddenly, leaving them both exposed. “I told ye if ye yelled, ye’d most likely not enjoy the help ye received,” the buffoon said as he entered, holding a gun in his hand.
Devon McGregor’s frame filled the door behind the larger man. The room felt dwarfed in size by the two men. “Lucky it is that we came in te save ye, Connie luv,” he said as he came forward.
Samuel stepped in front of Constance as three more men dressed as Knights entered the room. One sported a black-eye, no doubt a gift from Alec earlier in the streets.
“That’ll be close enough,” the buffoon warned as Samuel approached his boss.
“Devon McGregor,” Constance challenged, coming around the side. “I might have known you had something to do with this.”
“Is that any way te talk te me now?” McGregor smiled. “And after I went te all this trouble te arrange for ye te meet the real Rogue.” He paused, watching her. “That is if ye still want te go?”
Constance considered him thoughtfully a moment before casting a brief glance toward Samuel.
“You can’t trust this man?” Samuel said.
“Hmm?” Devon smiled. “Interesting choice te make, isn’t it Connie love, my word over Lord St. Clair’s or better yet, your new butler Higgins?”
Constance’s eyes grew in size only to narrow even more as she stared at Samuel.
“It’s true,” Samuel said in the face of her silent accusation. “I have been many men to you but I’ve tried to protect you as all of them.”
“Are you goin' te continue to listen te this man’s lies and let him jeopardize discoverin' the truth ye’ve been seekin' fer years?” Devon asked.
“Please,” Samuel pleaded softly, “don’t listen to him.”
“Are you ready?” Devon asked, looking at Constance.
She nodded in answer, having a difficult time finding her voice, now that she’d decided.
“Bloody hell! Samuel stepped forward. The big man that stood beside him cuffed him upside the head with his free hand, and jabbed a gun in his ribs with the other.
Constance, not daring to look Samuel’s way again, walked to the door in answer.
McGregor stepped to one side to let her pass. “Escort the lady out the tunnels, there’s eyes on the street,” he addressed another man in the hallway.
“What do ye want me te do with this one?” the big buffoon that held the gun in Samuel’s ribs asked after Constance had left with the rest of the men. “Should I rough him up afore we feed 'im to the fishes?”
McGregor shook his head. “I’ve a better evenin' in store for this'n.” He stepped closer. “Lucky for yew we still need ye.” He glanced at the mirror. “Ye should know rooms like this have eyes an' ears.”
Samuel glanced over to the large glass mirror.
“That’s right, been watchin' ye for a while.” McGregor chuckled. “The Rogue said te give ye a message,” he sneered.
“What is it?” Samuel asked.
“He says te tell ye te bring the map te the white house in Mistress’ Court if you want to see her alive again.” He smiled before stepping away. “Strip him down and tie him to the bed,” he ordered. “Now you’re going to pay for what you did to Donovan.”
“I left Donavan alive,” Samuel said.
McGregor spit, missing the spittoon and hitting the floor. “Somebody had to pay for the mess ye caused, and ye made me a laughing stock.” McGregor paused on his way out the door, “And now it’s yer turn.” He smiled. “I’ll always return the favor.”
After McGregor took his leave the big buffoon grinned widely as he ordered Samuel to shed his jacket, shirt and pants. “Ah now that’s rich.” The man laughed as he kept the gun trained on Samuel while he stripped down to his skivvy’s, or in this case, a pair of frilly ladies pantaloons. “I’d not have taken ye for the sort,” he chortled with glee while Samuel had to grin-and-bare the discomfort of it.
“Hope ye enjoy the night’s entertainment,” the big man said as Samuel’s arms were stretched across the bed frame and each hand secured to a post by the Knights. With a wink the large man left with the others and closed the door leaving him alone. Samuel could hear the other men howl with laughter out in the hall.
“That went rather well,” Samuel said to his own reflection as he glanced up at the mirror above him. He sighed. The look in Constance’s eyes had told him volumes about the pain his deceit had caused. He looked over at his wrists and tugged on the rope that fastened it to the bed. Wrapping his fingers around the ropes, he pulled hard to one side.
He had put her in harm’s way with his lies. Never had he so loathed himself for what he’d had to do more. Samuel yanked on the rope fastening his other wrist. This time there was some popping in the wood as he leaned all his weight against the headboard. The door opened as he strained against the rope and a masked blonde woman in black, stepped inside the room.
“I am the Mistress of the Whip,” she announced cracking the strip of leather in her hand, “an' I’ve heard you’ve been a naughty boy.”
Samuel’s eyes widened as she closed the door and clicked the lock into place.
Alec peered out the spy hole he’d found in the panel located in yet another corridor within the passage. His vision was met with the red wall covering and a tawdry painting, which hung on the opposite side. The ornate golden frame glimmered in the light of the gas lamp next to it as he watched. “I think we’ve finally found a way out of here,” he whispered, moving the lever.
“Thank heavens,” Genevieve sighed from her vantage point behind him.
Other than a loud click, nothing else happened as he slid the panel open a crack. As he peeked out into the hall a group of the knight’s men appeared around the corner near the end. Darting back inside, he carefully moved the panel back, holding it closed with his fingers to avoid making any noise.
Genevieve looked through the crack that ran along the seam where the two panels met while Alec returned to stare out the peep-hole. They could hear the men’s laughter as they approached. . . . They stood stock still, both silently praying that the men would pass by the hidden entrance.
“She’ll whip him inte shape, she will,” the smallest of the group of costumed Knights said as they stopped before the false door. Alec wanted to swear as he recognized them. The other two men howled with laughter over the comment. “I’d love te be able te stay and see that show!” the biggest one snorted as he reached out for the panel that Alec held. A door nearby opened as Alec held on. Several ladies in cancan dresses came into view.
“You boys goin te watch the show?” One of the girls asked, running her finger along the middle sized one’s sleeve as she passed. She glanced over his frame from head to foot. “How’d ye know it was me fantasy te be with a Knight.” The ladies all giggled as they left going down the stairway to the left.
“I’m a Knight,” the short man pointed out hopefully as the ladies disappeared.
Alec noticed that one man carried what looked suspiciously like Samuel’s clothing. The light blue uniform in his arms stood out from the costume he wore as he turned back to the entrance of the hidden passage.
“Let’s take the stage exit,” the largest one of the group suggested as he turned to follow in the wake of the women.
Alec slowly exhaled. “Now, that was close,” he whispered after they had gone.
“A little too close,” Genevieve agreed. “Wasn’t that Samuel’s clothing?”
“Yes . . . yes it was,” Alec sighed, as he opened the door once again, making sure this time the coast was clear. He stepped out, assisting his wife over the threshold.
“We need to save him,” Genevieve whispered as Alec shut the hidden panel. They heard a click as the door re-latched.
“It does have that appearance doesn’t it?” Alec said as he took her hand and headed in the direction the men had come from.
Just as they rounded the corner another door opened further down the hall. This time a man and woman stepped out together.
“Ginny,” Alec whispered the endearment as he wrapped her in his arms and kissed her, hiding both their faces. The couple passed without giving them a second glance.
“Is what you said the truth?” she asked when he’d ended the kiss and they were once again alone. “Did you have nothing to do with any of the women here?”
“Absolutely nothing,” Alec said.
“I believe you.” She smiled up at him.
“Genevieve,” Alec said. “I cannot lie and say there weren’t women before you, but I can promise that there will not be any after. You are the only woman for me.” He could only hope that this night would fade in her memory.
She reached up and touched his cheek. “I feel the same.”
W-what other’s was she implying? Was she playing with him now? “Did you have a love amongst the Bedouins?” He asked.
“Which one do you think he’s in?” Genevieve asked instead, avoiding an answer as she skirted under his arm and started down the long hall. Several doors on each side lined the corridor. She placed her ear against the first door on the left . . . all was quiet on the other side of it.
Alec followed suit on the right side of the hall listening briefly, he peeked inside only to shake his head and move further down the corridor. He watched her move to the next one and started to turn theknob. “Genevieve,” he whispered, stopping her, his expression clearly one of concern. “This might be something. . . .” He sighed, ringing a hand through his hair. “Maybe you shouldn’t.”
“Shouldn’t what?” She looked up at him coyly, grinning mischievously before opening the door and looking inside the room.
Alec breathed a sigh of relief when it too was empty and she left going on to the next door where she bent her head to listen. “I think I hear something.”
Thump, thump, thump!
Her eyes widened with alarm as she looked over at her husband. The noise becoming so loud he could hear it from where he stood now.
Thump, thump, thump!
Samuel yanked on the bedposts with renewed vigor.
Thump, thump, thump!
“Augh! Ye are a naughty boy.” The leather whip the woman held snaked out, striking the pillow next to him. “Shame on ye for trying to escape me.” The tip of the whip struck again, this time on the other side of him.
The room was filled with a sea of floating feathers, which had escaped the confines of their cases as Samuel continued to thrash back and forth, vigorously pulling on the ropes. The bed springs strained with the effort as he yanked again and again.
Thump, thump, thump!
The post crackled and popped as the wood worked its way loose of the joint.
In frustration the woman came closer. Leaning over him she tried to pry his fingers from the post.
Samuel kept his eye on the pommel of the whip as she leaned over him. . . . She was just close enough . . . if he could just. . . .
Surprising her with a thrust of his hips, he captured her with his legs when she fell into him and took hold of the end of her crop with his fingertips.
Genevieve’s eyes flared when a woman’s voice on the other side of the door yelled out, “Give it te me!”
Was there anything worse than being in a whorehouse with your wife? Alec wondered as he looked over at his lovely bride. For all her bravado, her cheeks flamed and despite her earlier remark, she looked shocked by the sounds coming from the other side of the door.
“Maybe we should try the next one?” Alec whispered when they heard a moan over the creaking and thumping of the headboard.
Thump, thump, thump. . . . Bam!
The crash of the bed hitting the floor echoed loudly. The vibration could be felt through the floor. Alec and Genevieve both looked at each other in alarm as the woman on the other side of the door squealed. “Help me!”
Alec tried the handle. It was locked. Putting his shoulder to it, the door popped open, revealing a disheveled woman tumbled across the bed with feathers, legs, and ruffles flying. “Cor Blimey, but ye are a naughty boy!” the woman screeched as Samuel wrestled with her.
Samuel’s head peek above her voluminous skirt for a moment catching sight of Alec standing in the doorway.
“Just look at what you’ve done to me bed!” The woman yelled as she tried to wrest the whip from his grasp. “Ooh, you just wait!”
“Am I intruding?” Alec asked.
“Hemme!” Samuel called out behind the gag, his expression suggesting his predicament.
Alec took one look at the writhing hellcat and sighed. “How much can I pay you this evening to let him go?”
She stopped struggling and turned in surprise to see the tall handsome man in the doorway. “Well 'ello luv.” She smiled coyly up at him.
Bloody Hell! Alec couldn’t believe it as he recognized the voice of the woman behind the wig and mask. Was his luck so terrible tonight? He wondered as he looked at the woman who’d helped him to escape through the passage to avoid the raid months ago. Maybe that was her normal welcome. Alec hoped as he stood in front of her, silently wishing he were still wearing the mask he’d stuffed into his pocket earlier.
“I’ve been expectin' ye back for a tumble.” She winked, dashing any hopes he’d had to remain anonymous . . . or gain his wife’s forgiveness for that matter. “Just give me a moment more te finish up here.”
Damn! Alec wanted to groan as he cast a brief glance over his shoulder at his wife who stood behind him. “No,” he cleared his throat, praying that his wife would still remain understanding after what was sure to come. “I was asking how much for you to stop, now.”
“Always in a hurry aren’t we?” She sat up, adjusting her bodice to better display her wares. “I suppose 'tis better than last time when ye left without a proper sendoff.”
“Actually I’m here for him.” Alec replied, glad that at least her words redeemed him somewhat.
“Well now, is that how 'tis? Why did ye not say that in the first place?” The woman moved to get up. Samuel grabbed her, pulling her back with his free arm for modesty’s sake.
Samuel yanked the gag down and took a deep breath. “I need clothes.”
Alec lifted the corner of the sheet speculatively. “You could be Julius Caesar next.”
“A toga,” Samuel said, looking speculatively at the woman’s dress. “No! I need clothes I can blend in with.”
“Are you really under the impression that you’ve been blending in?” Alec asked.
“Just get the clothes.” Samuel removed the rest of his ropes that had tied him to the bed and tossed them as he spoke.
“Can you help us out?” Alec smiled encouragingly toward his former rescuer. When it appeared she might refuse, he added, “I would of course reward you handsomely.”
“But I’ve only the clothes on me back here.”
“They’ll do.” Samuel interjected.
“Really?” Alec raised a brow. “You think you’ll blend in in those?”
“When in Rome,” Samuel quipped.
“I don’t know,” the woman cast a worried glance toward the mirror. “They said I was te keep 'im occupied for a bit.”
“And who is they?” Alec asked.
“It was Donovan and his group,” Samuel answered for her in disgust when she didn’t. “They told me that if I wanted to see her again, I needed to bring the map to the white house, and to do that, I need clothes.” Samuel looked pointedly at her.
“I don’t think it’d be wise for me health te cross 'em,” the woman said worriedly.
“We’ll tie you to the bed so that you can tell them we overpowered you,” Alec offered.
“I don’t know,” she looked undecided. “I’ve a show te do.”
“It’s not as if you really have a choice.” Genevieve interrupted as she stepped forward with a sweet smile on her face and a small revolver in her hand.
“Tying me up will cost you extra.” The woman’s eyes flew from the gun to Alec’s face.
“Of course,” Alec answered diplomatically, stepping forward he gave Samuel the edge of the bed covering. With his hand extended toward the screen, he invited the girl to step behind it. “Would you mind? We are in a bit of a hurry.”
“Do ye want me under things as well?” She asked as she flounced off the bed. “They’ll be extra.”
Samuel scrambled to cover himself when she left. He shook his head, wearing a grimace on his face, as she went behind the dressing screen.
“Oh, that’s right, ye came with yer own,” she called out as she held her hand over the top of the wooden divider for payment.
Alec laid a note on top of her outstretched palm, which she kept there until he’d added three more on top. Finally, with a snort of satisfaction, she stripped off the outer clothing and tossed it over the top.
“If ye want the petty coats and stockings they’ll be more,” she wagered.
Alec cast Samuel a baleful glance before reaching into his pockets. Samuel threw up his hands in mute dismay, indicating his own lack of funds at the moment.
With a sigh, Alec emptied his pockets of any spare change and deposited them into the Mistress’s palm, grabbed the dress, and tossed it to Samuel.
Realizing that Samuel needed some privacy, Genevieve moved closer to the door. “I believe I’ll step outside and keep an eye on the hallway,” she whispered.
“We shouldn’t be much longer.” Alec smiled at her apologetically. She gave him a slight half-smile followed by a glance that spoke of things to be discussed later, and then ducked out the door.
“Well, that has to be awkward.” Samuel remarked as flipped the covers off revealing the frilly pantaloons he wore.
Alec pinned him with a look of extreme irritation as he watched him slip the dress over his head.
When his face again immerged, Samuel he did a double take at the expression that Alec still wore. “What?”
“What indeed,” Alec shook his head. “Unbelievable!”
“Now let’s discuss the payment of the mask,” the woman said from behind the screen.
Alec again looked incensed when Samuel nodded and gestured toward the divider. “Fine,” he grumbled as he slipped off his boot, robbing it of its hidden wealth as well.
Purchasing both the mask and the feather in her hair, Alec handed them over and watched while Samuel settled the footman’s white wig on his head and rearranged the curls before clipping the feather in place. Looking down at his bare feet he said, “Hopefully they didn’t take my shoes.”
He fished the shoes out from where he’d kicked them beneath the bed and put them on, smiling triumphantly. He took the ripped feather pillow and tore it in two, stuffing the pieces down his front. “Perfect.” He stood up straight.
Alec shook his head. “That is so far from perfect I dare not comment.”
“Then don’t,” Samuel responded as the woman came out from behind the screen wearing nothing but her corset and bloomers.
“What about payment for ruinin' me bed?” she held out her hand.
Samuel went briefly behind the screen, helping himself to the rouge and coal, he blackened his eyes and then adjusted the black eye mask around his face and picked up the whip, he then looked at the screen with a wicked gleam in his eye. “Would you mind giving me a moment with, the Mistress of the Whip, here?”
“Of course,” Alec stood. “I’ll wait outside, but don’t be long.”
Alec stepped out into the hall to find his wife in conversation with a burly man who had his back to him.
“I’m new here,” Genevieve was saying as Alec slowly crept forward, “That’s why you don’t recognize me.”
“I like to get to know all the girls,” the man took a step closer to her, “personally.”
Alec picked up a figurine off a side table as he passed it. “I’m sure you do.” Alec replied crisply. Before the man could react, Alec knocked him over the head. He fell in a heap on the floor at their feet.
“Augh,” Genevieve sighed in disgust as she looked down at the unconscious man. “I thought you’d never get out here.”
“I’m sorry my dear,” Alec said apologetically. “It took us longer than expected.”
Samuel came up to stand beside them as Alec spoke. “Hmm.” He took the figurine of Venus from Alec’s hand, weighing it in his own before placing it back on the table. “It looks like the goddess of love is getting a bit of use tonight.”
“We probably shouldn’t leave him in the hall,” Alec whispered as he rolled the unconscious man over. He recognized him immediately. “Bloody Hell!” he swore.
“Cheeky damned fellow’s been playin' both sides of the fence,” Samuel said looking down at O’Malley, the constable who they first met at the Frenchman’s townhouse, and who the agency had also placed in charge of the investigation of his death. “No wonder we’ve not been getting any real answers.” He looked up. “Well, this night has been—“
“Most enlightening,” Genevieve finished for him.
“Indeed.” Alec gave her his most winsome smile as he tried to charm her after the most recent events. He really had no idea how she would view him in light of the Mistress of the Whip’s confessions.
Samuel reached down and picked up the constables’ ankles. “Help me get him back to the room.”
“I’ll stay here and watch out for anyone else,” Genevieve said. “Just hurry.”
Alec picked up his hands and they half carried-half dragged the man back to the room they had just departed. “You’re in luck my dear,” Samuel said as he opened the door, “we’ve brought you a bed fellow.”
The mistress groaned, “Aw, not 'im!” She lifted her own hands, which were tied to the bedpost and shook them at him, “This is goin' te cost ye extra!”
“I imagine it will. . . . I shall pay up when next we meet, my dear.” Samuel smiled at her. “Until then.” He blew her a kiss and shut the door. He turned to Alec. “Donavon said they’d take her out through the tunnels.” He looked down toward the end of the hall. “Don’t suppose you know the way?”
“For your information, this is the first time I’ve been on the upper floors and only the one time out through the hidden door. Kindly remember that.” Alec replied crisply.
“Right.” Samuel said as he followed behind.
“We did, however,” Alex said as they joined back up with his wife. “exit from a secret passage just down the hall.” Walking towards it he paused before the secret panel and tried to move it. “Damn,” he whispered when it wouldn’t budge.
“Why don’t we use the stairs the ladies in cancan dresses used earlier?” Genevieve suggested. Two more Cancan dancers walked out of the dressing room next and headed down the stair as she spoke.

Chapter 16

“Let me go first since I blend in.” Samuel whispered pointedly as he motioned for Alec and Genevieve to follow him down the stair. Just as they alighted, the door to the dressing room across from the backstage entrance burst open. A man dressed in a huge flesh colored sausage costume walked out.
“Hey, Mistress,” he said, noticing Samuel right behind him. “Maybe later, eh?” the man offered as he ambled forward.
“I told you I’d blend in,” Samuel whispered over his shoulder to Alec while almost colliding with a small fuzzy ball who’d exited the room behind the sausage. The fellow was soon joined by another round ball in a matching costume. The ensemble represented the complete male package, their awkward steps in the costumes made laughable by the exaggerated manly swagger of the bollocks and the tall one’s forced baby-steps, due to the length of his costume which came down past his knees.
“Was that . . . ?” Genevieve gasped as they followed them a few steps.
“What’s the matter?” A man wearing a little bow-peeps costume spoke up as he exited the dressing room behind the trio. “Ye never seen a giant wanker?” he asked, talking around the large stogie wedged in the corner of his mouth as he passed them.
“Oh my!” Genevieve covered her mouth, her eyes widening even further as he walked away. The costume he wore exposed his hairy shoulders and back where the lacings couldn’t come together over his large torso.
“I’m sure it’s two lambs and a wolf.” Alec hoped she’d accept that over the audience’s howls of laughter as the new act arrived on stage.
“Is that all?” Samuel asked. “I’d hate to see what comes next.” He glanced into the room that was filled with cancan dancers as they passed. “Especially since making an arse of themselves is a given . . . excuse the pun,” he apologized with a wink at Genevieve.
“I’m sorry you had to witness that my dear,” Alec said as he looked over at his bride, noting the suppressed laughter sparkling in her eyes. He grinned back at her.
“Oh, there ye are.” A heavyset man came from around the curtain backstage and took Samuel by the arm. “I like the wig. Adds a bit o' mystery, he said. “Yer up next and I hope you’ve improved since last night’s performance. Those men out there are expectin' a tiger. Remember that! You’re the Mistress of the Whip, not a pussy cat,” the man said in a pep-talk meant to inspire while he whisked Samuel away, pulling him along as he entered the back stage. “You just call on yer, Big Da', here if ye run inte trouble.”
Samuel looked back over his shoulder, motioning for Alec to go ahead without him.
Alec hadn’t taken three steps toward the rear when the Knights who had Samuel’s clothes earlier walked back inside through the back entrance. Alec turned around, pulling Genevieve with him into the darkened area of the backstage.
They waited behind the curtains for the men to pass. . . . When they didn’t, Alec peeked around the corner.
“Well?” Genevieve asked in a whisper as he ducted back in.
“Well, there is good and bad news.” Alec answered her in a hushed voice.
“And what might that be?” Genevieve asked.
Alec shook his head slightly, noting her amusement over their predicament. “The good news is that they didn’t see us.”
“And the bad?” She asked, looking up at him.
“The bad is that they now appear to be guarding the door.”
Spying through the curtain in the other direction Alec could see the trio on stage jumping through the hoops, which were held by Little Bo-Peep. It was while the shepherdess was using her staff to capture the taller portion of the alliance on stage that Samuel darted into the area where they were hiding.
“Oh good, I thought I’d lost you.” He started for the hall.
“Wait.” Alec whispered, pulling him back. “We can’t go that way. The men from the alley are guarding the door and will recognize us.”
“I could try to distract them,” Samuel said. At Alec’s scowl he continued, “Or we could go back across the stage. I saw a door on the other side.” Samuel indicated the way he had come from.
“After you,” Alec swept his hand back, gesturing that Samuel should go first.
Samuel accepted the invitation, doing a double take when he glanced at the stage. He watched as the man in the stuffed sausage suit jumped through the hoops, his arms trapped to his side by the costume, flailed in the air as he teetered while the little furry bollocks did flips in the air on either side. “I’ve heard of jumping through hoops, but that is just wrong,” Samuel muttered before disappearing into the black maze behind the curtain.
Alec glanced at his wife, who was trying not to laugh at the spectacle. “I really had no idea what type of entertainment was to be had in a den of iniquity,” she whispered.
“And now that you know?” Alec prompted.
“Promise you will never come here again without me.”
“That is easy.” He grinned. Just over her shoulder he could see the stage where Bo Peep had captured the errant sausage and held him in a strangle hold. “Shall we?” Alec asked, shielding his wife from the outrageous performance as they skirted past and into the black curtains that lined the stage.
They heard the cheering applause of the crowd as the last act came to its climactic ending. Making their way through the maze they threaded themselves through the curtains, until they met up with Samuel on the other side.
“Hurry,” Samuel mouthed just as a large hand clamped over his shoulder and spun him around.
“Yer up!” Big Da' said, pulling a reluctant Samuel with him toward the opening in the curtain.
Alec and Genevieve remained hidden behind the dark veil, watching as the man pointed to the stage. “Now don’t think about the stage fright. Remember . . . you’re a tiger.” The man clawed the air with his hand to enforce the image before swatting Samuel on the behind with enough force to push the reluctant Mistress of the Whip out on stage.
The crowd went wild when Samuel appeared. His tentative steps, accompanied by a single note of music, made some in the fickle crowd boo. He glanced back over his shoulder where Big Da' stood firm, gesturing with his hand to continue. “A tiger!” The man clawed the air again.
With a sigh, Samuel turned back to the crowd, eyeing the faces of the men beyond the gas lamps that lit the front of the stage. He watched as a woman wearing a bright yellow dress swept over the crowd on a swing. “What’s the matter Mistress? Cat got yer tongue?” she called out from her high perch.
The audience cheered the woman’s remark as she set back in the swing and laughed showing more than just her ankle. Samuel took a step back only to have it noted again by the pianist. . . . He only hoped he wasn’t expected to sing.
Someone from the crowd hurtled a rotten cabbage at him. It hit the floor just in front of him and rolled past as he sidestepped it. The piano again played as he moved while the drums witnessed the part of the tumbling vegetation.
“It’s a wonder no one asks for an encore,” the woman on the swing heckled him, “here or upstairs,” she chortled.
The crowd burst into laughter over the slight that the little bird on the swing had just delivered. Samuel had had just about enough when another cabbage hit the stage.
“Use the whip!” the stage manager called.
Finally! Samuel thought. Some direction as to what the hell he was supposed to be doing. Flicking his wrist, he unfurled the whip he carried. Sashaying up to the front the music beating in time he cracked it with a resounding snap.
“Ah, that’s my girl!” The stage manager beamed proudly as he stood cheering on the act.
Alec could see the other door that Samuel said lead to the outside from where he stood. Unfortunately, it also appeared that the stage manager was there for the duration of the show. He listened as the crowd went wild over another crack of the whip.
The music began to play in earnest with the string instruments joining in as Samuel flicked his whip, lashing it out above the heads of the crowd assembled before him. The action, causing the young lady swinging on a perch out over the crowd to squeal in fright as the tip came close to her. Even the stage manager moved for a better view, leaving a path toward the door if they could just sneak behind him.
Taking Genevieve’s hand, Alec slowly moved toward it. They had taken only a few steps when it opened, allowing the next act to enter. A large black bear in a pink tutu lumbered in with its owner. The man faced the bear stepping back as he lead the beast inside. “C’mon, Delilah,” the trainer beckoned as both Alec and Genevieve once again scrambled for the safety of the curtain.
Alec glanced down at his wife, whose expression alone was enough to convey her relief that they hadn’t actually made it out that way.
“Now what?” Genevieve asked in a hushed whisper when they once again concealed in a fold of the curtain.
“Let’s try going toward the front and blend with the crowd,” Alec suggested. The narrow space behind the curtain was now blocked by a table that hadn’t been there before. He bumped into it in, watching the candelabra teeter back and forth. As he steadied it, the curtain began to rise, allowing a crack of light to show beneath it. “Bloody hell!” Alec swore softly. “This isn’t good.”
Out on stage, Samuel brought the whip even closer over the heads of the assembled crowd, daring the next person to throw rubbish at him.
“What’s a matter lil' dove,” someone called from the audience to the woman perched on the swing, “Has the cat got yer tongue now?”
The little yellow canary squealed as she swung toward the Mistress of the Whip.
Snapping the whip again, Samuel unfurled the black leather strap over the crowd. The resounding crack elicited a strange silence over the audience as they watched in fascination.
Backstage another drama was unfolding altogether. “Can you get around the table, my dear?” Alec asked as the curtain rose higher exposing their feet.
Genevieve tried to squeeze past the table and the wall behind her. “Not with this skirt,” she whispered.
Alec pushed the table forward a little, the bulge in the curtain attracting the attention of the audience. “How about now?” he asked.
Genevieve tried again. “There still isn’t enough room. Blasted thing!”
Alec glanced down as the curtain rose even higher and shoved the table out onto the stage. His action made the curtain drag the tablecloth up revealing the gears and the small man who’d been sitting beneath it to the crowd in front.
“Hey!” the little man, still dressed in his costume from the last act, called out. With his hiding place exposed, the man crawled out from beneath the table, leaving a trail of blistering curses floating in the air as he stood. “What’d ye do that for?” the little bundle of testosterone growled.
“We’re very sorry,” Genevieve said softly as she pushed past the table, only to be blocked by the rest of the participants in the last act. The temperamental fuzz ball on stage took the opportunity to run forward and attack Alec from behind.
“Bloody Hell!” Alec swore as he hopped on one foot and then the other while the curtain rose to waist level. “It looks like we are about to join the act.”
The audience became more enthralled by the back stage development than even the Mistress of the Whip could compete with. Samuel took it as his cue and attempted to leave the stage.
Alec planted one hand on the top of the man’s head, dancing from foot-to-foot to avoid the attack while he pulled his mask out of his pocket with his other. In this predicament the best he could hope for was to remain unidentified.
The feisty bollock was soon joined by his counterpart, creating a matching set of aggressive goolies and while Alec attempted to mask his identity the next punch the newcomer delivered left him bowled over and gasping for breath.
The crowd roared their approval and by the time the curtain was up the estranged sausage was back to defend his own as well. Alec went behind the table, and taking his wife’s hand, he tried to make a dash for it. Little-Bo-Peep, however, blocked their escape. The kettle drums took up an ominous beat as the turgid trio once again advanced towards the couple delighting the audience further.
Trapped, Alec stared down his small but ferocious opponents, not quite sure how to fight against such an ensemble. He moved to stand before his wife. “I believe, I would rather have fought the bear,” he said just before he was tackled by the tumbling bollocks and the giant wanker. He rolled to the side and tried to get up. The fur balls clung to his legs making it difficult to dodge the bullet as the human sausage dove on top of him and rolled from side to side, flattening him.
Samuel’s own escape was hindered by the stage director who turned him back. “Go on then,” Da’ said as he shooed the Mistress of the Whip back onto the stage. “Tame this unruly crowd or I will.” He hit his fist into his palm for emphasis.
Turning back, Samuel snapped the whip, distracting the trio as Alec spun from his position on the floor and flipped the sausage casting him off with enough force that he nearly rolled off the stage.
Alec scrambled to his feet and went to the aid of his wife who was being threatened by the shepherdess’s staff that Li'l Bo-Peep wielded. Alec grabbed hold of Genevieve’s hand just as Bo-Peep hooked her gown in a voluminous gather of fabric. A brief tug of war ensued as the shepherdess pulled her back like a wayward lamb. You could hear the fabric tear as they each tugged in opposite directions, the crowd cheering all the more at the sound of the struggle.
The bollocks once again attacked while Alec fought to keep hold of his wife. The first wrapped his legs around Alec’s calf and started biting him. The other fuzz ball climbed the table and took a flying leap, jumping on Alec’s back. He let go of Genevieve’s hand as he fell against the table.
Left to her own devices, Genevieve turned toward Bo-Peep and slapped the hairy sheepherder. He reeled back in surprise, raising his own hand in retaliation. Genevieve shifted her weight and twisted, allowing the blow to pass. Taking his wrist she pulled it further using the hairy buffoon’s own momentum against him. She trapped his foot with her shin, flipping him arse over elbow, much to the delight of the cheering crowd and then delicately stepped away, straightening her dress.
When the music changed to that of a charging bull, Alec turned to see the giant wanker running toward him. The man was bent forward once again trying to ram his head into Alec’s stomach.
Despite the fact that the formidable fuzz balls still clung to him, kicking his shins, Alec stepped out of the way, sending the sausage reeling toward Bo-Peep who was still trying to stand. Bo–Peep turned around when the bratwurst landed at his feet and with an angry growl, Li'l bo picked up his staff. Wielding it like a rapier, he started toward Alec. The music changed into a frenzied version of Mary had a Little Lamb as he advanced.
Alec picked up the candelabra and held it as a shield, blocking the thrust of the staff the angry sheep-herder, as Bo-Peep advanced. Trapping the staff between the prongs, Alec twisted it, gaining some leverage in another tug-of-war over the staff.
Samuel struck out with the whip slicing the tips of the candles off with one deft flick. Alec did a double take, looking from the candles and then back to Samuel, as if to ask which side he was on.
Samuel shrugged apologetically as the audience clapped over the feat, then howled with laughter when the whip-wielding madam caught the hairy character in the rear with her whip. Bo-Peep grabbed his behind, glaring back at the Mistress of the Whip as he fingered the tear in the garment.
The stage manager called out, “Show em’ whose boss, Mistress.”
“Mistress . . . Mistress,” the audience chanted as the tall man made a break for it.
With a flick of his wrist, Samuel corralled the wayward sausage, bringing the ensemble to a semi-state of restraint. The crowd howled with laughter as Samuel made the giant wanker hop back several feet.
“Imposter!” O’Malley thundered onto the stage and yelled, pointing at Samuel. The constable’s arrival was met with boo’s from the crowd as they heckled him, causing his ruddy complexion, to turn a darker shade of red.
“That is not the real Mistress of the Whip! O’Malley yelled over the noise.
“No wonder, she’s so much improved,” said the canary as if it now made sense.
O’Malley pointed his finger at Samuel and called out,“Seize him!”
Him? Everyone in the audience gawked as they turned from the angry constable to look at Samuel, who grinned widely, lifting his hands in a gesture that suggested you can’t win them all.
The first to take umbrage at Samuel’s disguise were the fuzzy balls that ran towards him. Samuel lashed out with the whip snagging a chair near the stage exit and pulled it towards him. It connected with the first round ball of fur as it skidded across the stage, knocking him sideways into the other bollock as they ran toward Samuel.
The first fuzz ball rolled off the stage, falling into the audience, followed closely by the second who cannon balled his way over the edge. The crowd caught the errant spheres and passed them over the top of their heads in a unique juggling game.
The Brat-worst charged at Samuel next, his torso getting ahead of his little steps as he ran. Samuel swept his skirt out to the side, evading the tumbling toreador like a matador would a charging bull. The bratwurst teetered on the edge of the stage, tiptoeing in a dance to rival that of a prima ballerina, before he side stepped one of the gas lamps lighting the stage to avoid being roasted. He spun in a dizzying dance, his arms flapping at his sides as he toppled off of the side where he too was caught by the crowd and passed around in an impromptu game of toss the todger.
The constable charged next, taking a swipe at Samuel’s head with a fist. The crowd gasped as the Mistress of the Whip dodged the blow and planted one of her own that made the paddy reel backward several feet and tumble backward into the curtain.
Half the curtain came down as he fell exposing the next act. Angrily, the constable straightened himself using the remnants of tattered fabric in his hands to rise. Delilah, the dancing bear stood and pawed the air dancing in circles behind him, gaining everyone’s attention when she roared.
O’Malley glanced back and stumbled away from her, running off the stage in his attempt to escape and landed on four other patrons below. There was a struggle, but he came up fighting, throwing another punch at a man in the audience who ducked. The constable’s fist found the face of the man standing behind his intended target.
Concerned about the pandemonium that could break out, Big Da' sent the dancing bear out the back door, and motioned for the music to start playing for the dance that all the men in the audience had all come to see. Several cancan dancers took the stage twirling their skirts amid the chaos, but it was far far too late to contain it.
Bo-Peep turned from Alec and charged after Samuel. Instead of lashing out at him, Samuel captured the swinging perch with the bullwhip and leapt over the edge. The young girl in yellow squealed once again as they both swooped over the heads of the crowd. Samuel landed on the bar on the other side of the room and had to jump out of the way as the giant sausage came sliding down its polished wooden surface, clearing it of its many beverages as he went. Samuel danced down the top in his wake.
With a growl Bo-Peep jumped for the swing as it came back towards the stage. His fingers grazed the bar as he jumped in an effort to follow. He slipped off, falling into the crowd. His last glimpse of the Mistress, as he attempted to fight his way out of the crowd, was when Samuel turned and blew him a kiss before waltzing out the front door.
“C’mon,” Alec took his wife’s hand amidst the chaos and twirling skirts of the screaming dancers. He watched as the men dressed as knights who’d been guarding the back door joined the fray. “I think we can make it out the back door now.”

 Coming Soon!

If you haven't yet started the adventure of Treasure of the Ancients. It begins with Treasure of Egypt
Available now on Amazon

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