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Authors: Michaela Wright


BOOK: Willing
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Michaela Wright



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Chapter One


“God, ye sure smell nice tonight, Connie.”

Constance turned to Benny and gave him a sly smirk. She had taken a few extra moments before coming downstairs for the night – Jasmine and Lavender oil under her arms to mask any body odor she might have by the end of the night. She didn’t want to waste the thorough washing she’d had that afternoon.

“Why thank you, Benjamin. You’re certainly the charmer tonight?”

He blushed a deep rose across his pale cheeks. Benjamin O’Hearn was in his very early twenties, tall as a lamp post, and just as skinny, and he was one of Constance’s devoted regulars. He’d come to see her three years earlier, when after his first few weeks of working on the docks of the Thames, he’d made enough money to pay for the company of a girl. Despite the many young and bouncy girls found in the Keg and Barrel each night, Benny had chosen Constance. He wasn’t the first virgin to do so.

“Think they like to be taken in hand, some of ‘em. The good’uns, anyway,” her friend Charlotte once said. “And I think you strike the poor babes as just the sort of girl to teach ‘em a thing or two.”

She didn’t disagree. Constance had her way with Benny that night with a gentle hand and a patient word. Benny had lasted much of that evening, God bless him.

A loud guffaw and the sound of mugs clattering to the ground drew everyone’s eye to some of Benny’s friends at a nearby table, one of them in the middle of planting his face into the cleavage of a well-endowed girl named Molly. By the red line across his nose, he’d be in upstairs or passed out in an alley in fifteen minutes.

Benny leaned over the bar, nursing his pint of stout. Constance scanned the room. Though the raucous behavior was common for a Saturday evening, there was a strange lull to the crowd off in the corner. She leaned onto the bar to get a better look at the men settled there. Constance assumed they had one of two reasons for being so somber in such a place as the tavern known as the Keg and Barrel – either they were criminals, or they were gentlemen. Sadly, one was more likely than the other.

“You like me, don’tcha?”

Constance spun around to meet Benny’s cherubic face. “No, I adore you!”

Benny beamed at her, showing off his crooked front teeth, something a more sober Benny would make every effort to avoid.

“Why do you ask, love?”

He frowned, his shaggy brown hair flopping over his forehead, half dangling into his drink. “Dunno. Guess I needed ta hear it.”

“Well, then I’ll say it as many times as you like, handsome.”

Benny smiled took a few more sips, then finally opened wide and took the rest in one big swallow. He quickly began to hack across the bar as Constance slapped his back. Another loud commotion broke out near the door, this time with anger and threats. In a flash, the red haired bartender, Henry Poole, was across the bar, a wooden club in his hand and menace in his voice. The offending fellows were tossed out on the cobblestones a moment later.

Benny settled, finally, and Constance smiled at him. “Feeling better?”

He shot her a grin. “I could be.”

She exhaled out her nose in jovial rhythm and shook her head. “Fine, then.”

Constance tucked her dark hair behind her ear and took Benny by the hand, his long, bony fingers gripping hers tight as she led him up the stairs. They made their way into one of the doors on the right, and Constance quickly shut her bedroom door behind them. Before another word could be spoken, she pressed he full weight against him, pinning him to the door, and lifted onto her toes to kiss his jaw.


“Mhmm,” she said, playing at his belt buckle, pulling the leather strap free.

“You’re gon’ be – Oh sweet Mary.”

Constance chuckled, pressing her hand to the front of his trousers, feeling the familiar shape of his long, thin erection – a shape she knew well after three years of his regular visits. “I’m gonna be what?”

Benny gasped, letting his head fall back against the door. Constance stroked him with a rhythm she knew he liked, feeling him respond to her until he was as solid as stone.

“Christ, I’m sorry, Connie.”

Constance stopped, her hand still on him, but her eyes searching his face. “What’s wrong?”

Benny swallowed and looked down at him, his face peppered with tiny acne scars and fresh red marks across his brow. “I ain’t go’ anyfing ta give ye.”

She yanked her hand away as though it was hot to the touch. “Benjamin O’Hearn!”

He shirked from her, waiting to get swatted, but she just glared at him.

“You know I’ve been downstairs with you for over an hour. I could have been working,” she said, fuming.

“I know, I know! I just needed yer company.”

“Oh bollocks, you! You know I have rent to pay up here.”

“I know ye do! And I’d pay it all if I could, Connie, ye know that!”

She glared at him. “I don’t need your ‘coulds,’ I need to make a damn wage tonight. All the lads downstairs are well and settled with girls, and it’s late. For Christ’s sake, Benny. What were you thinkin?”

Benny slumped down on the edge of the bed and put his head in his hands. Constance stopped dead as she watched the rather inebriated young man’s face contort, as though he was near tears. “I just needed ye. I’m so sorry.”

Constance set her jaw, searching for the stern demeanor she was so known for, but watching Benny rub his eyes pulled at her heart. She took a deep breath and sighed. Then she crossed the small room to his side, pressing her chin to his bony shoulder. She sat there with him rubbing his back, and waited.

“They didn’t pay us nuffin this week. Said payroll was backed up. Didn’t ‘ave nuffin. I ain’t got enough to feed mahself let alone be wif ye.”

Constance didn’t speak. She’d learned over the years that when a man suddenly needs to speak his mind, it’s best to let him in silence. Some men get violent when they realize they’ve allowed themselves to seem vulnerable. Others simply shut down and leave in an ashamed huff. Benny would do neither, she was sure, but he might have more to say.

“I shoulda just went ‘ome, but I needed the company.”

Benny finally turned to her, and Constance took a deep breath. “You’re not starving, are you?”

He shrugged. “Nah. I’m a rail. Don’t need much. Had some fancy bastards leavins down the way. That’ll last me.”

“I’m being serious.”

“So’m I. If ye know where ta go, you can feast in this city on the scraps of the rich. Couple fellas an’ I from the docks went searching before we came ‘ere. Not the most appetizing ta look at, but tastes fine.”

Constance stared at him a moment. She remembered once finding herself in similar straits, begging her landlord to grant her leniency and another week to find a job. He assured her that there were other ways to make rent. Constance closed her eyes, pushing the memory aside. Then she exhaled out her nose.

“You owe me,” she said, then pressed her hand between Benny’s legs, stroking him within his trousers. His eyes went wide, then softened with affection.



Constance ignored Berty’s call and stared in the mirror another moment. Benny was gone, having succumbed to her touch in short order, then taken his leave for the night. However charitable she was feeling, she would not be letting him sleep in her bed for free. Constance tussled her dark hair, letting it fall over her shoulders. She shook it out, listening to the quieting sounds of the tavern below.

Today was an important day; the anniversary of her first night in the Brothel. She’d started working her trade before the one they came to know as the Ripper started hunting women of her profession, but the Ripper wasn’t the first monster to come to Whitechapel and leave with his hands bloody. Yet, still she worked and still she survived.

Constance touched the pale skin beneath her eyes, stretching the skin enough to make the tiny lines at the corners disappear. Then she released the skin and watched them spring back into place. She sighed.

“Miss High and Mighty! You got lads waitin down here!”

Constance furrowed her brow. It was well into the late evening. Any man who came with the usual rush would have picked his girl by now, if not taken her upstairs for the hour – or the night.

“Constance, you bitch! Get downstairs!”

“I’m coming!”

Constance grabbed her shawl from behind the chair and hustled out into the hallway.

The upstairs smelled of gas lamps and sex, the sounds of other girls giving lads a good show in just about every room. All the girls not yet at work would still be downstairs entertaining the potential customers, plying them with whisky or absinthe, perhaps taking them into the back room to smoke opium – anything to seal the deal. Constance didn’t do that. Unlike many other girls, she didn’t feel the need to numb herself with substance and she preferred the lads who didn’t either.

“Thanks for joining us, yer Majesty.”

Constance shot Berty a stern glare. Berty gave it right back. Berty was a tall, powerful woman, broad shouldered and wide hipped with wild white hair, a color that was blond before age took it. Berty kept her corset strapped tight at the waist, letting her breasts spill over the top just enough for the areola to peek from beneath the white fabric of her shift. She did a fair amount of business when she was working, but Berty didn’t have to work anymore if she didn’t want to; she was the madam now that her husband, Mr. Lyle Grisholm, was dead.

“We need you down here. Girls are acting like idiots, tonight.”

Constance glanced around at the girls, all in varying degrees of scantily clad. Many were younger than she. They tossed themselves about, tits bared, hiking their skirts for the sailors and workmen who came in after a long day on the docks of the Thames, looking to spend a day’s wage on drink and a bit of a pull. They’d buy the girls drinks, try to warm them up to a trip upstairs for a fair price. Constance could handle her drink, and easily fake drunkenness to get the lads loose and get them upstairs. These girls rarely faked it.

“They’re making fools of themselves down here.”

“Cut em off.”

Berty snorted. “Already did. Lads are buying the drinks. Can’t very well stop that.”

Constance stood by the bar with Berty, taking in the cacophony. There was a sudden sound of glass shattering, then a low groan from the crowd, followed by laughter. Constance wrapped the shawl around her shoulders, pressing her hands into the corset at her waist.

“It’s late, I don’t see anyone in need of entertaining.”

Berty glanced at her, then nodded toward the door. The somber crowd was still sitting quietly in the corner, heads down. As Constance watched them, one in particular kept glancing over their way. She met his dark eyes and stilled a moment. He didn’t turn away.

It took another moment for her to shoot him a smile.

“Those admirers of yours, then?”

Berty had stopped servicing lads two years earlier. She only took her favorites to bed these days. That exclusivity seemed to drive some men mad, spending weeks, if not months, trying to court her. She rarely gave in for anyone new.

Berty raised an eyebrow and gestured to the bartender. He appeared a moment later with a glass and a bottle of green. “Ach, no. Customers of yours, I believe.”

“Never seen em before in my life.”

Berty tipped her glass to the bartender and watched the sugar cube burn and melt into the glass of absinthe. “Naw, but they’re yours nonetheless.”

Constance watched the five men, speaking quietly to one another, glancing about the room from time to time with an air of almost disdain. They weren’t the kind of lads looking for a drunk girl to screw. Unlike most of the men that Berty threw her to – the virgins, intellects, and pious, the wealthy and articulate - Constance couldn’t quite read these men.

“Berty, there’s five of them and one of me.”

“Well, I’m sure they’re not gonna take you all at once. And if they do, charge extra.”

Constance guffawed. “Is there anyone else to come with me?”

“Naw. The older girls are all working upstairs and these fool girls are making idiots of themselves down here.”

Constance boosted her breasts just so. “Cut the bitches off.”

Berty nodded. “I intend to, once a few of the girls come back downstairs. You go handle those lads. Once you’ve made an arrangement, give me a sign and I’ll shoo the drunks upstairs.”

With that, Berty turned her full attention to her drink and Constance made her way across the room, getting her ass grabbed by two drunks as she squeezed between the crowds and tables. She arrived to find the men were not playing cards, but were simply staring at their hands.

“Forget the rest of this rabble, this is where the real fun is, ae?”

The men turned toward her, but only one met her gaze. It was the same man from before, and his look startled her.

He had deep green eyes, but the dark brows that framed them gave them an intensity that was almost unnerving. He met her gaze, taking her in, then rose from the table.

BOOK: Willing
10.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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