Reckless Wager: A Whitechapel Wagers Novel

BOOK: Reckless Wager: A Whitechapel Wagers Novel
5.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


A Whitechapel Wagers Series Novel


Christy Carlyle


Reckless Wager
Copyright: Christy Carlyle

Published: December, 2014
Entice Publishing
in cooperation with
Windtree Press

Cover Design by
Gilded Heart Design

Edited by
Red Circle Ink

The right of Christy Carlyle to be identified as author of this Work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval system, copied in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise transmitted without written permission from the publisher. You must not circulate this book in any format.

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return it and purchase your own copy.

Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Find out more about the author and upcoming books online at
 or @writerchristy.




              My deepest thanks to Jessa Slade at
Red Circle Ink
for your invaluable feedback on this manuscript.


              Thanks also to my husband, who doesn’t truly understand why I spend so much time staring at my computer screen and agonizing over the right word, and yet loves me nonetheless.


              Most of all, thank you to each and every reader who gives a just-on-the-market writer a chance.




London, December 4, 1888

I can’t be late. He hates it when I’m late.

Kate Guthrie’s fingers wouldn’t obey. She fumbled with the fastening of her necklace, willing the trembling to stop. Taking a deep breath, she tried again and finally jerked the latch apart, only to feel the strand slip down her neck.

Blast and bother!

She’d broken the clasp. Weak on one side, the metal had been repaired after a break years before. Kate grasped a few of the lapis lazuli beads before the rest plinked and clattered across the polished wood of her dressing room floor. Vision blurring, her mind conjured another floor and the bedroom she’d shared with Andrew, her late husband. He’d ripped the strand from her neck during one of his rages—simply because she adored it, a birthday gift from her brother, posted all the way from the Asia. She’d watched the beads scatter around her. They’d bit into her knees when he knocked her down and pressed against her forehead as she crouched on the rug, arms and hands covering her face, praying he wouldn’t kick her again.

Later, she’d retrieved each blue bead, studying the flecks and threads of gold sparking from each one, praying she had a vein of fire in her too—a little spark of hope and strength he couldn’t extinguish.

Ten years dead, Andrew Guthrie still haunted the corners of Kate’s mind, sending tremors of fear skittering down her spine whenever she did something that would’ve set him off. Like now, when she was late. He’d never tolerated tardiness, and she had spent each moment of her life with him attempting to avoid his displeasure. Treading softly, stifling her tongue. Striving to be proper, always polite.

Some days she could still hear his voice, the melodic rolled
and long
of his rich Scottish brogue, berating her in terms she wouldn’t use against her worst enemy.

“Make haste, woman. A hobbled nag moves quicker than you do. You’re useless.”

Biting down on her lower lip, Kate focused on the pain and pushed away thoughts of her late husband. She undressed quickly, wrenching and straining against the confines of the purple silk and velvet day dress she’d worn for luncheon with Mr. Thrumble. He hadn’t proposed again, as she’d half expected, but he would, and she’d almost made up her mind to accept him next time.

Kate winced as the gown’s fabric ripped at the seams, but she didn’t slow her progress. Mending her gown and collecting the beads from the broken strand could come later. Now she had to get to Whitechapel.

The violet gown was lovely, the finest she owned, but it wouldn’t do for her charity work in the East End. The grime of the crowded streets always soiled her hem, no matter how often she lifted the edge to avoid the mire. And even if she managed to save her skirt, whatever cleaning or tending she did at the clinic invariably left its mark on her jacket and blouse too. Depending on her duties or who she tended on a given day, her shirtsleeves might reek of the carbolic-infused water they used to clean the clinic or bear the stains of blood from a patient.

Finally free of the frock’s tailored finery, she stepped into the skirt of the dark blue woolen gown she usually wore to Whitechapel. The fabric was soft, suppler beneath her fingers than the newer gown, and well worn. The dress knew the curves of her body and hugged her comfortingly. She’d miss wearing the old garment, miss how donning it as she prepared for her work at the clinic made her fizz with anticipation and look forward to being useful, to serving a purpose. Her throat burned and a tear threatened at the corner of her eye at the thought of never wearing the dress again, at least not for her charity work at the clinic. She swiped at her cheek. There was no time to lose. She’d promised to begin her shift at the clinic at five and couldn’t be late. Not on her last day.

Exiting the Selsby townhouse without being noticed was impossible. Its noisy stairs squeaked and groaned, giving away even the lightest tread. But Kate didn’t need to avoid questions when she departed this afternoon. Her brother and sister-in-law—who’d fret if they knew of her trips to the East End—were away visiting friends and wouldn’t return until supper. She’d be back well in time to share the evening meal as a family. Kate and Will had started the practice of dining together years before, as bachelor brother and widowed sister sharing their family’s London townhome. With the addition of Will’s new wife, Ada, and her young sister, Vicky, the tradition had grown even richer.

Downstairs Kate found the Selsby’s housekeeper Sally trimming the fireplace mantle with holly and red satin ribbon. Vicky, the sweetest addition to their growing family, assisted her. Christmas was only a few weeks away and there was much to do before the party to celebrate Will and Ada’s recent marriage, and their first holiday as man and wife.

“What more is to be done, Sally?”

“Wee Vicky and I have it well in hand, miss.”

As soon as Kate spoke, Vicky approached and embraced her sister-in-law around the waist. Kate stroked the girl’s chocolate brown curls a moment before Vicky echoed her usual plea.

“Won’t you take me with you?”

“Not today, my dear, but we must go Christmas shopping together soon. How does that sound?”

“Perfect! I shall make a start on a list.”

Her ten-year-old’s enthusiasm was boundless, and the child turned away so quickly Kate thought she might start her list then and there, but she returned to sorting the ribbons and shiny boughs of greenery.

“Please tell Will and Ada I’ll return in time for supper.”

“Visiting are you then, Mrs. Guthrie?” Sally posed the question in a teasing tone, arching her eyebrow to emphasize the secret Kate had shared with her.

As yet Kate had kept her charity work in Whitechapel from her brother. And though her sister-in-law, Ada, had been born and raised in the district, Kate kept the details of her weekly jaunts to the East End from her too. She couldn’t face the admonitions and dire warnings about spending time in one of the most dangerous parts of London. Most of all, she couldn’t face Mr. Solomon Thrumble’s disapproval if he ever learned how she spent her days.

Yet Sally, in her observant way, took careful note of Kate’s leaving the house three days per week for the entire afternoon and much of the early evening. After all, Kate had never been much for visiting and doing the social rounds. And when Sally found her in the kitchen late one evening attempting to scrub a stain from her Whitechapel gown, the details of her charity work were easy for Kate to confess to a woman she’d known most of her life. With her usual practicality, Sally hadn’t simply warned her to take care when traveling in the East End, she’d presented Kate with a fearsome little object with which to protect herself.

“Don’t forget your wee friend, will you?”

Now Sally always reminded her to carry the small homemade cudgel, an oval of discarded leather stitched around a bit of lead ballast with a roughhewn piece of wood for a handle.

Kate patted the pocket of her skirt and returned Sally’s smile with a grin of her own before lifting the collar of her cloak against the winter chill and stepping out the door to hail a hansom cab to take her to Whitechapel.

Sally had been with the Selsby family for as long as Kate could remember, and she’d promised to stay on with Will and Ada. Now that the newlyweds were expecting their first child, Kate was especially grateful for Sally’s steady presence. But unlike their housekeeper, Kate had to move on with her own life, open her heart to the future, and start again.

Time heals all wounds
. She’d heard the trite phrase often enough. She’d even uttered it a few times to her brother after he’d returned wounded and heart sore from the Second Afghan War. And in truth, time had eased the vividness of her memories. Nightmares came less frequently, and when she thought of Andrew now, a veil—though at times too thin—separated her from the pain and terror he had inflicted.

Solomon Thrumble was a different sort of man. Calm and stoic, he seemed wholly opposite in nature to her first husband. Andrew Guthrie’s fiery temper had been so well hidden by his charming, affable public face that none had suspected the monster he became in private.

But almost ten years of widowhood was surely enough. Friends continually urged her to marry. Her brother expected it. And Solomon Thrumble wished to marry her, despite her first refusal. With Will and Ada settled and on the cusp of starting a family at Moreton Terrace, it was time to marry and move on.

After all, time heals all wounds.

But more so than time, usefulness had healed Kate’s soul. To be needed, first by her brother after his return from war and now by the patients at the Whitechapel clinic, eased the ache in heart, set her mind to worthwhile tasks, and allowed her to counter the cruelty she’d found at Andrew’s hands. Tending the sick and wounded in Whitechapel seemed to help her as much as it benefited others. The pleasure gained from being needed was so keen, she sometimes felt selfish for the hours she devoted to charitable work. Such a great expenditure of time would surely be impossible once she took on the duties of a married woman.

The bounce and sway of the carriage and the steady clip clop of horse’s hooves on cobblestone had lured her into reverie, but she sat up straight, shaking the cobwebs of memory away. The scent in the air alerted her. They’d entered Whitechapel. None of London’s streets smelled sweet. Not even the teeming flower stalls in Covent Garden could mask the stench of so many working horses. But Whitechapel had a smell all its own, a fetid rankness that assaulted the senses. Kate had grown accustomed to it over time, but smelling it again even after a few days’ absence took some getting used to.

The cabbie dropped her in front of the clinic and she stopped a moment on the pavement rather than dashing inside as she normally would to avoid the more unsavory gentlemen who sometimes gathered outside the nearby pub and called to her, offering or petitioning favors no decent woman should hear.

Taking her time, she studied the front of the building which housed the small clinic, straining to imprint every little aspect of it on her memory—the freshly scrubbed window panes, the weather-beaten wooden door, its paint peeling off in long, curling flecks of dingy white. A sign maker up the road had donated the sign above her head, its words drawn in the most careful, bold yellow script. She had tended to that man’s wife. Mary Winship—that was her name. An infection after giving birth to her sixth child had laid the older woman low for a while, but Kate and the volunteer nurses and doctors had cared for her and nursed her back to health. How was Mrs. Winship doing now?

The tear that had threatened back at home returned now and made its way down her cheek. This would be the last time she ever saw the clinic, the last time she contributed her time to such a worthy cause. Mr. Thrumble would never approve of her forays into the East End. He might allow her time for charitable work, but it would be closer to home in London’s more fashionable districts, and it would only be allowed after she had done her duty to him and whatever children she might bear. He would expect that of her, and he would have every right to do so. A wife’s time was not her own.

She spied Alice Cole through the window levering a clean piece of linen onto a cot. Most beds were empty this evening. It would be a quiet night at the clinic. Though she usually preferred to be so busy she didn’t have time to peek at the watch fob pinned to her skirt, a quiet night would give her the opportunity to say her goodbyes. She sniffed away her tears, straightened her back, and walked into the clinic for the very last time.

BOOK: Reckless Wager: A Whitechapel Wagers Novel
5.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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