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Authors: Scottie Barrett

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The Viscount's Addiction

BOOK: The Viscount's Addiction
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This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.

Samhain Publishing, Ltd. 512 Forest Lake Drive

Warner Robins, Georgia 31093

The Viscount’s Addiction Copyright © 2007 by Scottie Barrett
Cover by Anne Cain

ISBN: 1-59998-619-1

www.samhainpublishing.com

All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

First Samhain Publishing, Ltd. electronic publication: November 2007

The Viscount’s Addiction

Scottie Barrett

Chapter One

“Out of bed, you filthy rubbish!”

The turnkey’s voice thundered through Ryder’s dreams. He tried to slide back into sleep to recapture the only blissful moments he enjoyed outside the gates of hell. There was a sickening cracking sound too near his ear. He lurched into a sitting position. His head felt as though it had been cleaved in two. It was an all too familiar feeling, a consequence of his unsavory habit.

His eyes narrowed in response to the thin light that threaded through the grates. Remnants of furniture were still strewn across the ward from yesterday’s near-riot. A charming Newgate tradition. A destructive farewell from those being shipped off to Botany Bay to serve their sentences.

The turnkey paced the ward, brandishing a table leg he had ripped from a ruined table. Now that Vickers had a makeshift weapon, he only wanted for a victim.

Ryder gave his tattered blanket a shake, scattering the vermin that had shared his bed for the night. The faint odor of death wafted over from Finch’s mat. Ryder pressed the back of his hand to his nose. The officials were waiting a bloody long time for a family member to claim him. Chances were, no one would come for the poor bastard and he’d be sold for profit and end up on a dissection table in a university.

Ryder reached into his boot and pulled out the small lump of opium and ripped off a bite. To wash away the bitter taste, he removed the contraband gin he kept stashed under his mat. Blessed William and his successful trading schemes. Once William had realized that one man’s shoes were worth another man’s tobacco, then anything, even a comb with missing teeth, became currency. Size and strength were Ryder’s commodities. While he wasn’t always clear-headed, he could still break a man’s jaw if the situation called for it. Thankfully, William was clever enough to appreciate it and made his payments with liquor. The opium, though, came from a sinister source, but Ryder’s cravings made the origin unimportant.

With three swallows, he neatly finished the gin. He stared at the empty bottle for a moment before deciding to fling it across the room. It hit his intended target squarely on the back of the head. Profanity spewed from the turnkey’s mouth as he spun around to find his assailant. Vickers’s glare honed in on Ryder.

“Sorry, must have slipped,” Ryder said dryly.

The hulking figure stomped toward him. As the table leg cut the air above his head, Ryder rolled away onto the filth-covered floor. The club hit the stone wall, and splinters of wood rained down on his head. Ryder tried to sit up to get his bearings, but something had hold of him. He reached back and felt the cold fingers of his cadaverous neighbor caught in his long hair. Nausea shuddered through him as he yanked his hair free from the lifeless grip. He jumped to his feet, swaying a bit as he waited for the dizziness to clear. Suppressing the instinct for self-preservation, he made himself an easy mark. He braced himself for the explosion of pain and wondered fleetingly if a death wish had prompted him to hurl the bottle at Vickers.

“That’s right, you cocky bastard. You hold still while I pummel you into a heap of bones and flesh.” The man’s words came with stale breath.

Ryder prayed the oafish bastard would manage it in one swing.

“Vickers! Put that down!” The chief warder’s voice echoed off the walls. “And bring Blackwood to the governor’s office, now!”

Vickers brought the stick down, slashing it so near Ryder that it stirred his hair.

There were grumbles from his ward-mates, disappointed by the lack of carnage.

Ryder moved past Vickers. “Perhaps next time you will be a little fucking faster.”

The guard’s thin lips pulled back in a malicious smile. “Bloody hell right, there’ll be a next time.” He prodded Ryder with the jagged end of the table leg. “You heard the chief warder, now move!” Vickers ground the stick between his shoulder blades. Ryder could feel the blood trickling down his back as he was spurred past the yards, through the clanging gates and along the maze of passages. He prayed that he wasn’t being sent back to Coldbath Fields. A trip to the scaffold was far more to his liking. Last Sunday he’d attended the Condemned Sermon and stared at the centerpiece of the macabre service, the empty coffin, with a sort of longing.

Ryder believed he had his viscountcy to thank for having been tried on a lesser charge than murder and thus spared a capital sentence. He’d been relieved at the time because it meant he would not forfeit his lands. He’d avoided the noose but not punishment. Deeming him too dangerous to walk the streets, they’d caged him. However,

he had come to learn that death certainly trumped time spent on the agonizing treadwheel or working the water engine crank or days of mind-twisting isolation.

With a final vicious jab, Vickers forced him into the governor’s office. Quillton fussed with some papers on his desk before acknowledging Ryder. His small, close-set eyes peered out of a ruddy, porcine face, and his bulbous, misshapen nose, the product of heavy drinking, resembled a pink cauliflower.

A cozy fire flickered in the hearth. The wainscoting gleamed with polish. And Ryder, in his filthy shirtsleeves and trousers, felt half-human in the pristine surroundings.

Vickers stepped in behind Ryder. “When you’re done with ’im, I’d like a few moments with the bastard myself.”

“Yes, yes, let’s get this over with. I’m in a hurry.” Quillton hitched his hip on the front of his desk.

“What’s the matter, Quillton?” Ryder asked. “You afraid all the good cadavers will be dragged from the Thames before you get there?”

Quillton’s fist came crashing into Ryder’s chin, the heavy ring slicing into his bottom lip.

Wincing, Quillton uncurled his fist and shook out his hand. “You see that, Vickers? Didn’t even nudge him. We’ve built a formidable brute. Perhaps the House of Correction ought to limit the time they give the inmates on those contraptions. Wouldn’t do if we created prisons full of men capable of overtaking the guards.”

Quillton moved quickly to put the desk between himself and the prisoner.

Ryder allowed the blood to drip down his chin and onto his shirt, watching it with a certain fascination.

“Couldn’t help myself, Blackwood. I get tired of looking at that arrogant smirk of yours. Besides that, I won’t tolerate anyone inferring that I’m a grave robber. My little side business is completely legal. Nothing wrong with it at all.”

Ryder spat blood-riddled saliva onto the floor. “I doubt Finch would agree. Dead he may be, but he’s not free of you yet. He’s still stuck in this rotting hole waiting for your ghouls to carry him off.”

“A scraggy specimen, Finch, but what can you do? Shame I won’t be having your fine carcass to pawn off anytime soon.” Quillton laughed as he tossed an old linen bag to Ryder.

Puzzled, Ryder opened it and pulled out the contents—a silk cravat, a cashmere waistcoat and an evening coat with a velvet collar. The vestiges of another life. He looked at Quillton. “I don’t understand.”

“Those are the things you wore when they brought you in here,” Quillton said, explaining the obvious. “A gaggle of doxies who knew the murdered woman paid a visit to the magistrate. Insisted you were innocent. Admitted they’d all seen the real murderer, though they couldn’t name him. Inconceivable that they took the word of whores.”

“What took them so bloody long to come forward?”

“Perhaps the question is
why did they suddenly come forward
? And my answer would be money. Wealth, it seems, can buy everything. Including a ticket out of the gaol.”

“There isn’t a soul I know who would part with a farthing to see me released,” he said. “I
am
innocent.”

“The face of an angel, eh, Vickers?” Quillton leaned over the table, his cheeks reddening. “Never hurt a woman, never made her scream for the pure pleasure of it, eh?”

“I have made many a woman scream, but I sure as hell have never hurt one.”

Quillton studied him a moment from beneath hooded lids. His lips curled into a hyena’s grin. It was one of the ugliest smiles Ryder had ever seen. “Now that’s a pleasurable image, eh, Vickers? Wouldn’t this brute of ours be something to watch swiving a young beauty?”

Vickers grunted, clearly not entranced by the thought.

The greed receded from the warden’s eyes as he seemed to realize he’d revealed too much of himself.

Ryder shoved the clothes back into the bag.

“You might be able to trade those rich threads for a few beans. At least enough to get you back home,” Quillton said.

“I have no home. Least not one I care to return to.” “Where are you headed then?”

“Nearly around the corner. As they say—if you’re looking for sin, you head to Middlesex,” Ryder said without hesitation.

“What is it with you spoiled, rich bucks? Can’t wait to get some pussy, eh?”

Vickers let out a guffaw. “Pussy ain’t the only pleasure he’s going in search of. Take a look at the man’s eyes. Like blue saucers. I’ve seen pinpricks bigger than his pupils.”

Quillton frowned at Vickers’s outburst but did not utter a word in response, confirming Ryder’s suspicion that the warden had had knowledge of the opium being funneled to him. “I’ve no doubt, Blackwood, that I’ll be seeing you again, very soon.” He strode purposefully to the door.

The second the door shut behind Quillton, the guard hurried over to Ryder. He slapped the stick against the palm of his hand, a vile gleam in his eye.

Ryder took one step forward, wrapped his hand around the club, and with a hard twist, wrenched it easily out of Vickers’s hand. “Strike me again, and I will shove that stick so far up your arse you will be blowing it out your nose.”



The unbearable throbbing in his head let Ryder know he’d lived to see another day. He inched out from under the bare, long leg that lay across his chest, trying not to wake the woman to whom it was attached. Her small foot twitched as his rough beard scraped her toes. Once free, he rolled over and found, to his surprise, a second naked woman sleeping soundly and hugging the edge of the bed. He maneuvered over her. Once his feet were firmly planted on the ground, he lifted his head carefully. It felt too heavy for his neck. He had no memory of the evening and wondered if it had taken two whores to get his cock to stand. Opium played hell with his erections. It had become a rare feat for even his own practiced hand to bring him to climax.

He moved to the window and folded back the dust-coated drapes, allowing a sliver of sunlight into the room. The floor was littered with clothes, bed sheets and empty gin bottles. Yesterday’s wash water stagnated in the ewer basin. Ryder splashed the stale water onto his face. He lifted his head and dragged his wet fingers through his hair. He caught a glimpse of his reflection in the warped mirror on the wall and was repulsed by what he saw. His skin had taken on an unholy pallor, a startling contrast to his black hair. There were dark, blue-tinged circles under his eyes and his pupils were eerily large, a sign he’d been without opium for too long. He looked as if he’d just risen from the grave.

In prison he’d often lost the thread of time. Even now the days blurred together. But he could name the year and he knew that the man staring back at him was only in his late twenties. Gone, it seemed, were any traces of innocence, replaced by an alien hardness he

found difficult to accept. He reached for his breeches and pulled them on. Unable to find his shirt amongst the tangle of discarded garments on the floor, he reached for his long, black coat hanging from the bedpost.

He had won the coat wagering on a fight between a boisterous naval officer and a tough-talking farrier. The blackness of it had suited his mood perfectly.

He fished around in the pockets and produced enough coins to get him into some card games at the tavern. With a little luck, he would be able to buy some twists of opium rather than the weak tincture the apothecary concocted for him.

An icy wind filtered through the star-like crack in the window. He brought the collar of the coat up around his ears and braced himself for the frigid outside air.

He glanced at the two naked beauties and with a shrug tossed his coins on the bed and reached under the mattress to retrieve the last gold buttons from his waistcoat. Quietly, he shut the door behind him. The block that housed all the seedier trade shops was only an alley away. He stopped in front of the pawnbroker’s and inspected his wares. He needed another pair of boots; he was starting to feel the ground through his old ones. Unfortunately, his desire for opium trumped his need for warm feet and the pawning of the buttons would not afford him both.

BOOK: The Viscount's Addiction
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