Read Beloved Beast Online

Authors: Lois Greiman

Beloved Beast

BOOK: Beloved Beast
5.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Beloved Beast

 

By Lois Greiman

 

Copyright 2011 Lois Greiman

 

Smashwords Edition

Praise for Lois Greiman

 

For a summer read, simple sexy sport may be just what the doctor ordered.

Publishers Weekly

 

Love and magic paired to perfection.
Romantic Times

 

This lovely treasure will make readers want more.
Coffee Time Romance

 

Lois Greiman writes mystical, intriguing historical romance.
Romancejunkies.com

 

Bravo! Well done.
Rendezvous

 

Lois Greiman is a natural storyteller. Victoria Alexander

 

What a marvelous book. Mary Janice Davidson

 

Lois Greiman delivers with incomparable style. Best selling author Cindy Gerard

 

Fast and fun. Enjoy the ride. Suzanne Enoch, U.S.A Today bestselling author

 

 

Beloved Beast

by Lois Greiman

 

Swift Torree smiled as she swung her beaded reticule in time to her lively stride. It was a braw day in New Town. The bluebells were just beginning to bloom, the apple blossoms smelled like a wee bit of heaven, and the sun had made a rare spring appearance, sparkling on Edinburgh like firelight on brilliants. Stilling her tiny purse so as to avoid striking any oncoming pedestrians, she tucked it tight between her arm and her well-dressed ribcage. Today she wore a walking gown of pink muslin decorated with intricate embroidered flowers she had stitched herself. It was, after all, the details that separated the middling pickpocket from the truly gifted. And
she
was gifted.

Her pert little sleeves were capped at her shoulders then hugged her arms all the way to her knuckles, making it frightfully simple to slip recently purloined items from her hand into hiding. Her straw chapeau was wide-brimmed enough to conceal her face, and her undergarments were nonexistent; she was all for keeping up appearances, but why bother with frills no mark would ever have a chance to appreciate.

Besides it was a warm April day and…

Ho there. A likely looking couple had just turned the corner onto Princes Street and was strolling toward her. The woman was small, plump and cute as a kitten. The man was tall and fit, which was rather a disappointment, for though Swift’s name was aptly given, it spoke more of her dexterity than fleetness of foot. Just then, however, the gentleman glanced into the lady’s upturned face, and in that instant Swift recognized his expression: Adoration. Fascination. And maybe…if her luck held…maybe a smidgen of obsession.

Swift smiled to herself. Fifteen feet separated her from them, and there was no easier mark in the world than a man in love. It addled his thinking, slowed his reflexes, lightened his mood.

And this one…this one kept his wallet in his breast pocket. How very kind of him. Oh, and the lady, paragon of generosity that she was, seemed to be wearing a diamond bracelet. What a big-hearted lass. That little bauble would go a far ways toward Tavis’s education.

Unfortunately the cobbled walkways were all but empty, making it impossible to appear to have been jostled from behind. Another tack, then, Swift thought, and gripped the little reticule in her right hand. Inside, the initials S.V.T. were embroidered, but that didn’t bother her. For all she knew her own name had contained just those letters. She’d pilfered the bonny bag from a manor house on Brunswick. Perhaps she should have taken the snuff box she’d seen there, too, but ‘twas wrong to be greedy. Blind Pete had instilled that thought into her consciousness from her earliest memory.

The couple was closing the gap between them. Just enough time to glance into the reticule’s empty interior. Just a second to bobble inattentively on the uneven stone. Just an instant to gasp and teeter and grapple for stability. But too late. Oh dear, she was already falling, hands splayed, skirts flying, and eyes wide with dismay as she lifted them toward the gentleman.

With the grace of a diving swallow, she collapsed five inches in front of him.
“Gracious!”
“Careful there!”

The pair took a guarded step to the rear. Swift knew that without glancing up, knew and realized she must do something quick. A little moan might turn the trick.

She emitted a soft sigh of misery, remained absolutely still and hoped to God her feet were tucked firmly beneath her beribboned skirt. Her gown may be Parisian in design, but her shoes were better suited for the mines…or a lively chase. Despite her eye for detail, she was no slave to fashion. Or anything else come to that.

“My dear?” The lady lisped a little as she crouched. “My dear, are you quite all right?”
“Yes. Yes,” Swift said and lifted her head as if disoriented.
“Here then, you’ve taken a nasty spill. Let me help you sit up.”

“Oh.” She looked into the woman’s eyes, catching her full attention as they clasped fingers. “I fear I am a dreadful clod. Murdoch always says as much.”

“You’re no such thing,” said the lady. “Is she, Henry?”

The man seemed late to the party, but rallied when he realized
he
was about to look the clod should he fail to show some sympathy posthaste. “Certainly not,” he said. “’Tis these damnable cobbles. Rough as the sea at midday. You didn’t twist your ankle did you?”

“No.”

“Better let me take a look. I’m a physician, you know, and-”

“No!” she repeated and jerked her feet more firmly beneath the lacy hem of her stolen skirt. If the damned thing had any more frippery, she’d be tripping for real and earnest. “I’m quite well. Not to worry.”

“Ahh, well, can I give you a hand up at the least?”

She caught his gaze with her own lavender eyes. He had a long, hooked nose, a narrow face, and sallow skin. While Swift was…well…today she had chosen to be almost plain. She’d made certain of that in the small shard of mirror she kept stowed beneath her bed.

“That’s ever so kind of you,” she said, and carefully keeping her homely footwear well hidden, shifted her feet beneath her. She was the best dipper in all of Edinburgh, but it was entirely possible that she’d have to be hot-footing it down Hanover Street in another few seconds. Reaching for his hands, she held his gaze as they rose in unison.

“My thanks, good sir,” she said and smiled tremulously into his eyes.

“'Twas nothing at all. Are you certain you’re quite all right?”

“Of course,” she said then let her eyes drift closed and bobbled as if about to faint.
He caught her about the waist. “Here now,” he crooned and drew her close to his chest… and his wallet.

“Oh my,” she said and lifted her hand to her heart as if to still its palpitations. It was just a matter of inches and nerve to his inside pocket. Inches, nerve, and the innate ability to appear to be what you are not. “Oh, my most abject apologies.” She stood with her back to the lady and steadied herself on the gentleman’s chest for a fraction of a second. If what Terrible Tull said was true, most things involving men took no longer than that.

“You’d best sit.”

“No, no,” she said and straightened resolutely. Her cheeks felt flushed. It was one of her most notable abilities. “I’ve inconvenienced you and your beautiful lady far too long already.” She stepped back, goods firmly stowed away. “Please, do be about your day,” she said, and, happy with her morning’s work, stepped carefully past them.

She hadn’t taken five full strides before a voice from her right startled her. “Nicely done, luv.” A man stepped out of an alleyway, lips twisted with derision. “Quite impressive.”

Her heart stopped dead in her chest. Indeed, she no longer cared if the couple behind her realized she’d robbed them or not. Knobby Hooks had seen her poaching birds in Cryton’s territory. And that was enough to strike terror in any dipper’s heart had she half a brain in her noggin. But she forced a cocky smile, curtsied prettily, and matched his harsh Glasgow accent. “My thanks, good sir. Praps you’ll give us a bob for the performance.”

“A bob is it?” He stepped forward. There was something in his eyes, uncertainty maybe. Could it be that he thought she actually hadn’t recognized him? She would remember Knobby Hooks till the day she died twitching on the gallows and probably long after.

“A bob ain’t nothing for a gent like you,” she said, edging her voice with just a sparkle of flirtation.
“And what would I get for my coin?” he asked and stepped up close.
“You want a wee sample, do ya?” she asked.
He shrugged, mouth tilted up, smug as hell.

She smiled as she reached for his shoulders, tilted her head prettily then slammed her knee into his crouch. But her aim was a little off. He jerked back. Her knee skimmed his thigh, just injuring him, but that was enough for her. Grabbing her skirts in both hands, she pivoted like a charger and bolted across the street. She could hear him rally before she’d reached the opposite side. He straightened with a growl. The feral sound raised the hair on the back of her neck, but it did nothing to slow her flight. She glanced over her shoulder. He was already giving chase. And he was fast, devouring the distance between them.

She dashed down Castle Street and careened onto Rose. One glance over her shoulder assured her she was not alone. Knobby was behind her and gaining. Up ahead, the market would be bustling with people. Maybe she could get lost in the crowd. Or maybe she’d get snatched by a constable. But there was little choice. Knobby was behind, crowds were ahead.

She turned the corner like a courser digging for the home stretch… and ran smack into a tall gentleman’s back.

She staggered, momentarily stunned. He bobbed forward a few steps then turned slowly. “I say, what goes on here?” His expression was stern, his tone the same, suggesting London roots. But she realized those truths in only a vague sort of way, for he was wealthy.

He was wearing a fob watch on his waistcoat, a black billycock on his head, and a sharp-cut ruby on his right ring finger. For a moment the entirety of Swift’s attention was riveted on those facts, but a squeal from behind brought her abruptly to her senses.

“My apologies, sir.” Her London accent was a tad bit rusty, but she pushed ahead. “I fear I’m in a terrible rush. I was to meet my dearest father at the…” Behind her, a man growled a warning. Feet scuffled. She imagined Knobby careening toward her. Her mind stalled, frozen in terror, but she kicked it impatiently back into gear, raised her gaze past the gentleman’s left ear and found inspiration in the small stone church at the end of the street. “At the chapel,” she finished breathlessly, “And I must away.”

It was all she could do to remain steady as she strode past the venders and hawkers that lined the boulevard. Behind her in the growing crush, a woman gasped and a man cursed. Reaching up with stiff fingers, she slipped the straw chapeau from her head. Every fiber in her ached to glance over her shoulder, but she resisted. Instead, she pulled the copper pins from her hair and dropped them into her reticule. Chestnut curls fell around her face and down her back as she shifted her eyes side to side, searching for relief. And then she saw it.

Two young men were watching the crowds from a dark alcove. One was tall and gawky, one near her own height. And now she did chance a glance over her shoulder. Knobby was not yet in sight.

“I’ve a proposition.” She joined them in the shadows. They straightened abruptly. Perhaps their cocky, devil-may-kill expressions should have scared her, but she knew nothing of these boys, and far too much of Knobby Hooks.

“A proposition?” said the gawky one and shifted his weight restlessly. “Might it involve you flat on your back with me-”
“It involves this hat,” she said, and kept herself from wasting precious time by listening to him jabber.
“Methinks I’m more interested in you.”

“How about in this?” she asked and held up a fob watch. She hadn’t really meant to take it from the gentleman she’d last bumped into, but if he didn’t want it filched why did he wear it right out in the open like that?

“You giving us a watch, Strawberry?” asked the shorter of the two.
“I shall,” she said, “if you’ll wear the hat and run through the crowds until you reach the square.”
They stared at her for a second then snorted in derision.
“Tell me this then, Strawberry, why don’t we just grab you and the watch all together?”

She took time to give them her most comely smile. She’d left plain behind some minutes ago. “Because I’ll knee you in the forbiddens and scream bloody murder. How long do you think you’ll last when that swell mob finds you molesting one of their own?”

BOOK: Beloved Beast
5.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Pumpkin Head Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner
No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
Monet Talks by Tamar Myers
The Heart of Lies by Debra Burroughs
Pathfinder's Way by T.A. White