“I. Am. A. Viscount!”
Andrew Marsham, Lord Newry, had been shouting for at least a quarter-hour, since this… lackey from Bow Street appeared at the door. When told the viscount was Not At Home, the lout forced his way past the butler, calling out through the halls and opening doors like he had a right to be in the house. Eventually, he had found Drew in his study, making himself quietly drunk.
Red face perspiring, veins in his neck and forehead distended and twitching, the viscount insists, at a continued loud volume, “You cannot keep me here! You cannot lock me in my own house and treat me like a criminal!”
“You may as well sit, Newry.”
“Lord Newry to you, Sirrah!”
“Call you anything I like, and if you’re lucky I won’t call you a molly.”
“This. Is. Preposterous!”
The man points with his quill to a chair and says, his voice a bit tired, having been awake since the small hours when he dragged Drew and Solomon from a shared bed, “Sit, Newry. This can get a lot worse for you. And it might be preposterous if I hadn’t seen you in bed with a man with my own eyes. Can you explain how you came to be there?”
The volume dropped as he stumbled a bit over his words. “We… we were both… bosky, and there was only one bed. I was hardly going to sleep on the floor, nor ask the room’s resident to vacate his own chamber.” Donning a viscount’s display of indignation, he added, “I cannot imagine why that would necessitate imprisonment.”
“If you had been clothed, I might be more inclined to believe you. The only reason you are here and not in Newgate is the gentleman speaking for you. Marquess of something-or-other. Outranks the earl who—”
“Marquess of what?” he demanded. “Who is speaking on my behalf? And to which earl are you reporting? I am a peer of the realm, Sir, and require you provide me the information without delay!”
“I cannot provide you information I do not have. God’s bollocks! Will you sit, man?”
Lord Newry splashes brandy into a glass and downs it quickly, as he has done twice already since the interrogation began. Pouring another, he finally lowers himself into a chair, worry beginning to take its toll. There was no chance he could ask about Solly’s whereabouts, but the thought of him sitting in Newgate, rotting away for who knows how long, is enough to make Drew cast up his accounts. Were he not a disciplined man, he might have done already.
Then, a thought occurs that turns his weak stomach into a strong knot. Solly will surely want nothing to do with him after this, no matter how much Drew pays as a quarterly stipend. He is already distrustful of the nobility, given his prior experiences with gentlemen seeking brief, anonymous paid entertainment with a desperate man, but never, in those encounters, had he been followed by the newspapers and tossed into Newgate. And, it must be said, Sol hadn’t been entirely dependent on them. He hadn’t been forced to trust them, which made this situation much worse.
Sol had no reason to stay; his pocket watch alone—the one Drew had had engraved—would keep him for a year.
Unfortunately, asking about Solly’s whereabouts or his condition was no way to convince this functionary of the innocence of their association. He hopes Sol is suffering only in pride, not person.
“So, you say he’s your secretary.”
“Because he is my secretary.”
“What kind of work does he do, then?”
Lord Newry’s nostrils flare. “The same sort of work as every other secretary in England. Estate matters, correspondence, appointments…”
“Can anyone verify that he’s responded to a letter or scheduled a meeting? Does his writing appear in your dairy?”
“His writing—?” Lord Newry stands again, pacing to the hearth, where he tosses a log into the fire. His observation was slightly less bellicose now: “This is preposterous!”
“Just answer the question, please.”
Drew was well aware Solly’s hand appeared nowhere in his diary, nor in his ledgers or correspondence or estate reports. Solly’s hand appeared nowhere but on Drew’s… well. It was critical this horrid little man not get his hooks into anything in the study or estate office. Especially not the more personal missives Drew would have burned, had they not so heated his blood.
“How am I to know to where he has written every note?”
The man looks up, eyeing Lord Newry with more interest now. “You don’t keep track of your own secretary? What if he should cheat you?”
“He has been in my employ almost three years. If he were going to cheat me, he would have done it and disappeared long before now. And I am hardly the only man in London who doesn’t stand over the shoulder of his man-of-business.”
Making a note in his book, eyes on the paper and ink, the man asks, “You pay his rent?”
If the man knew who paid the rent, it meant he might already have access to the account books. Drew was now unsure in what instances he could lie.
“As part of his remuneration, I pay the lease and maintenance of his rooms. He was in a sorry state when I found him, and it seemed the honorable thing to do. I could hardly have a man representing me in tattered clothes, living in a cheap room in Saffron Hill.”
“Most peers would have hired a man more suited to the position.”
“Most peers have no compassion for the downtrodden.”
“That is certainly true.” Shuffling through papers, the man asks, “The rooms you pay for… the building is owned by the same woman who owns the Masala Rajah whorehouse. Most of those apartments are rented out to the demimonde.” He laughs as he corrects himself, “The dark-skinned demimonde. Any reason you have your secretary housed in the same building as other men keep their mistresses?”
“I cannot be held responsible for what goes on in every building whose threshold I cross. The rooms were clean and inexpensive.”
My man just raises a brow. Perhaps inexpensive had been a bit too much of a falsehood. “Any truth to the rumor you are keeping the woman across the hall from him?” He checked a note. “Kali Matai? A dancer of some sort?”
Of course! Kali! How could he have forgotten Kali? “Miss Matai and I have… an arrangement.”
“What sort of arrangement?”
“Do you honestly believe me to have so little honor I would give you details of my relations with my mistress?”
The man shrugs and shuts the portfolio of papers before him and stands. Drew looks up, having expected the interrogation to last longer. He had been spinning lies in his head that might have lasted all week.
“You cannot leave the house, New—Lord Newry. There are guards posted. I will return if I have any further questions. Your friends hold more influence than I, and likely, at this moment, more than you. Perhaps they can keep it quiet and out of The Lords. Were I in your shoes, I would trust in them.”
Find out what happens to Lord Newry in La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess.
Sired by a British peer, born of a paramour to Indian royalty, Kali Matai has been destined from birth to enthrall England’s most powerful noblemen—though she hadn’t counted on becoming their pawn. Finding herself under the control of ruthless men, who will not be moved by her legendary allure, she has no choice but to use her beauty toward their malicious and clandestine ends.
When those she holds most dear are placed in peril by backroom political dealings, she enlists some of the most formidable lords in England to thwart her enemies. But even with the help of the prominent gentlemen she has captivated, securing Kali’s freedom, her family, and the man she loves, will require her protectors stop at nothing to fulfill her desires.