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Come on, you bastards. Come and get me.
Miles Edward Thomas Christian, Marquess of Wynter, staggered down the dimly lit London street not, far from Covent Garden. Weaving exaggeratedly and reeking of gin, he gave the appearance of being hopelessly drunk.
Which he wasn't. Not in the slightest.
His keen eyes watched the shadows, searching out his quarry. He clutched an open bottle of cheap gin in sang at the top of his lungs in a rusty baritone.
"Oh, it'sthe size of her melons that be the cause of me swellin' and makin' me trousers so tight. But the face that I seen, shriveled me beannnnnn..."
As his deep voice cracked on the sour high note, a dog howled in the distance.
"...I wish I had snuffed out the light!"
They were there, watching him. He could feel their canine stares; he could almost feel their breath on his neck. The ennui he had been suffering from these past few months faded before his mounting anticipation.
He had been studying these thieves he knew their tastes and their habits. At this moment, they were no doubt salivating over the plumpness of his purse, which did not contain the gold they hoped for. Instead it contained thin slices of tin worthless, but it made a lovely tinkling sound as he walked.
Miles's prey were also cautious. Taking down a gentleman of his stature would be a daunting task, but not if the thieves believed he was as jug-bitten as he pretended to be.
C'mon, boys. Easy pickings.
Miles searched his memory for another naughty lyric. He knew only a handful, and he hoped hisrepertoire didn't deplete itself before he lured the thieves out of their hiding spot.
He tightened his grip on the bottle and began to sway He knew from experience that fallen quarry was practically irresistible to predators. With any luck, the thieves would pounce and he would turn their own trap against them.
He could see them. Edging out of the shadows like rats, the thieves were moving in for the attack. Adrenaline coursed through Miles's veins. Soon, he would have them.
Toppling into a forgotten cart that smelled suspicously of manure, he fell heavily onto the rotting boards, smashing his hip on what felt like a pair of boots.
"Oof!" The contents of the bottle emptied all over his clothing and splattered on his face. He sputtered as gin splashed up his nose. Damnation, but the Home Office had better appreciate what he was doing!
"Bloody hell!" yelled a voice near his ear.
Miles winced as the boots he had landed on or rather, the person wearing the boots kicked him in the small of his back. Above his own muffled curse he heard muted voices and the sounds of several pairs of feet running away. The thieves were escaping!
He tried to give chase, but he was hopelessly entangled with the drunk, who smelled as if he had just fallen off a fish wagon.
"Get yer own bloody cart!" the man shoving at him yelled, his breath strong enough to knock out a bull.
"Apologies, my good man." Miles groaned, wiping his wet face with his sleeve as he hauled himself to his feet His back and left side hurt like the devil, and it would only be worse in the morning.
He passed the half-empty bottle to the man. "Here. You need this more than I."
"Thankee, guv'nor." The drunk accepted the bottle as if it were made of gold.
Grimacing, Miles bowed stiffly. "Think nothing of it." slowly, he turned to walk away.
Wouldn't Carny have a good laugh at this. Despite their friendship, Carny liked nothing better than to see Miles make a fool of himself. He claimed it made up for the fact that Miles was better-looking, was taller, and possessed a richer title. Miles was more inclined to believe that his friend just liked to have a chuckle at his expense.
One thing Carny wouldn't find amusing, however, was that the thieves had eluded capture once again. The gang was becoming increasingly brazen with their attacks, even violent. They had to be stopped before someone was seriously injured or, God forbid, killed.
Miles had agreed to be used as a decoy for the thieves after one of his friends had fallen victim to their greed. Fitz was still laid up from the attack, his left leg having been seriously sprained. The regent was terrified the violence would worsen, and Miles felt compelled by his position as a peer of the realm. to help put a stop to it. Since returning from the war, Miles had plunged himself into a dangerous variety of new duties.
Wiping at the gin-soaked wool of his coat with a damp glove, Miles wrinkled his nose and started off in the direction of his hired coach. He smelled like a drunken sheep with poor sanitary habits.
He hadn't even made it three steps when he heard it the subtle click of a pistol being cocked. Ever so slowly, he turned his head to glance over his right shoulder.
Standing in the pale light from a street lamp was a slender, hooded figure clad entirely in black.
Now what? "Who the bloody hell are you?" he demanded. Could this night possibly get any worse?
A pistol glinted in the flickering light and Miles caught his breath, cursing himself silently for not having the good sense to reach for his own weapon first.
"I shall assume that you weren't so stupid as to wander into this part of London without a weapon," the stranger said silkily "I would ask that you hand it over to me now, my lord."
Whoever his attacker was, it wasn't an Englishman. However, it was definitely a female who held the pistol trained at his throat.
"Listen, love..." He paused, turning to fully face her. Her features were completely concealed by the mask she wore, giving not even a hint of the face beneath. "If it's blunt you're after, you've come to the wrong man. I haven't a shilling on me."
"It's not your money I'm interested in, Lord Wynter," she replied, leveling the gun at his broad chest.