Imogene, p.1

Imogene, page 1

 part  #1 of  Imogene Farrell Series

 

Imogene
 


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Imogene


  Imogene

  By

  Eliza Lloyd

  Other books in this series: Jack’s Hellion,

  The Frenchman’s Widow and Lady Prescott’s Confidential Matter

  Second Edition, Copyright 2016

  All rights reserved

  Imogene

  Book One, Imogene Farrell, the series

  by

  Eliza Lloyd

  Copyright 2015

  All rights reserved

  Table of Contents

  Copyright Page

  Copyright Page

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead or places, events or locations is coincidental.

  This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead or places, events or locations is coincidental.

  Historical | Wicked Affairs Series

  Birds of Paradise Series

  Mad Duchesses (series complete)

  The Curse of the Weatherby Ball

  The Infamous Forresters

  Imogene Farrell series

  Body of Knowledge series

  Contemporary Romantic Suspense | Cold Play series

  Contemporary | Far From Home series

  Chapter One

  Imogene Farrell didn’t want to die alone in a deserted back alley, but death might be better than having her arm ripped from its socket. Her shoulder burned like hellfire. She was in a tangle and the bastard holding her had no mercy, twisting harder when she refused his command. She yelped like a pup.

  “You put that in my mouth and I swear I’ll bite it off and roast it in the next fire I find, ya filthy bastard,” she growled.

  No one would come to her rescue because no one cared what happened in the darkened corners and dirty alleys near Twenty Acres Dock. No one cared what happened to foolish orphan girls who trolled the streets at night working for a few coppers to help keep her brothers fed.

  “Shut your trap, girlie.” The man gripped her arm tighter, forcing it high up her back. No match for him physically, she used the only tool at her disposal to prevent his forceful wish. Her mouth. The mouth he thought he’d put that ugly, foul prick in.

  “Thought you said you wanted me to open wide,” she taunted.

  A sharp knife appeared, the blade glowing with the moonlight overhead. “You’re going to take every inch. If’n you don’t, I split yer gullet and cut that vicious tongue from yer head.”

  She clamped her lips tight and attempted to turn her head away. One of his large hands gripped her chin, his fingers digging into her flesh. The unwashed stench nearly made her gag. She was less than poor, but she knew what water could do for a body. She didn’t think anyone had washed him since he slipped from his mam.

  How was she going to put that vile thing in her mouth?

  “I touched it just like I said I would, now give me my two coppers and leave me be, you fat old slimy good-fer-nothing arse wipe.”

  “I’ll give you a whole lot more than them coppers, girlie.” He stuck his dirty, hard thumb in her mouth and pulled the skin back like she was a fish he’d hooked in the Thames.

  She squealed and then turned her head quickly in an attempt to bite him. Her sharp teeth sank into the meaty flesh at the base of his thumb.

  He roared in pain, pulled his hand back and then swung his heavy fist, landing a solid blow on her temple. She fell against the cold brick and sagged downward. Imogene refused to believe it was her day to die, but if it was, her brother Charlie had said enough prayers to see her ushered through the gates. She also hated to think tonight was the night she might be raped senseless.

  The sailor grabbed her collar and hoisted her to her feet again, then slammed her against the wall, the back of her head and spine nearly cracking with the impact. A great woof of air shot from her lungs. Damn, that hurt.

  She glanced down the alley, hoping against hope one of her brothers would show up. Not Daniel—he’d be furious. Not Franklyn—he’d watch and demand more money of the prick. Not Charles—he was too young, and unless he could call down one of his angels, best he stayed away.

  Danny. It would have to be Danny. Please.

  He could save her and then he could kill her. She didn’t want to go like this, lying face down in a back alley gutter come sunrise.

  The knife pressed into the soft spot at her throat, under her jaw. The tip lanced her skin and it stung like the devil’s breath.

  “Open up,” he commanded.

  “Go ahead. Put it in. When I bite down, yer dead grandmammy is gonna hear ya scream clear from Purgaterry.” The knife tip cut through more skin. The warm gush of blood dripped down her skin. Tears cascaded over her dirty cheeks. “All right. All right. I’ll do it, but you have to give me my money first.”

  He shoved his hand inside his coat and fished around inside. Two coppers dropped on the cobbled stone at her feet. “On your knees. And I don’t want to feel those teeth.”

  She opened her mouth. She’d accepted his money for one thing, now she had to do something altogether different.

  “Imogene, is that you?”

  Danny! Lud was she glad to hear the sound of his voice. With a quick turn of her head, she called, “Danny, help me.”

  The sailor punched her; she lurched and vomited in the alley. Her shoulders spasmed as another flow of puke filled her mouth. The retching sound made her even sicker and she vomited again. Ale and bread. What a waste of her last meal.

  From the corner of her eye, she saw the sailor’s feet shuffle as he turned toward her savior. She spat and looked up to see her brothers.

  Danny’s steps echoed down the alley, but he kept a wide area between him and the sailor. “Imo,” he yelled as he closed in. “You! Get away from my sister, you dirty, thieving, bloody bastard.”

  The fat seaman swaggered forward, probably on his way home to his wife after a stint at sea before Imogene had enticed him. Probably why he so eagerly agreed to her offer.

  “I paid for it, you young pup.” He flashed the knife in Danny’s direction. “Best you be mindin’ your own business.”

  Danny’s face went hard, cold as winter with murder in his eyes. She glanced up at him while wiping at the spittle hanging from her chin. She’d seen that look before—every time she did something he didn’t like. And he sure as hell didn’t like his sister threatened.

  “Is that true?” he demanded.

  “Hell no, it ain’t true. I told him I’d touch that sorry excuse for a cockstand, and he tried to force his worthless prick in my mouth.”

  “How much?”

  “Two coppers. He threw ’em somewhere on the ground.” She wiped her hand across her mouth again.

  “Find ’em.”

  Imo didn’t hesitate. Her fingers fanned along the filthy street, touching the refuse of humanity and the remnants of nature, probably her own puke. Her fingers latched on to one, then the other, and she shoved them into her good pocket.

  “And that’ll be two more for services rendered.”

  “Like hell. She didn’t do anything for me.”

  “Imo, was his cock in your mouth or not?” Danny asked.

  “Yes.” No, but she wasn’t going to say different.

  “You little bitch,” the sailor said.

  Danny, nearly nineteen, was tall and lanky—a good six inches taller than the seaman. Plus, he’d been raised on the streets of London. The water boy didn’t stand a chance, even with that cruel-looking knife. “Show me those coppers or I’ll put that knife between your legs and start cutting.”
>
  The seaman laughed. “You and who else?”

  “Frank!”

  She nearly fainted with relief as Frank sauntered down the alley with Charlie in tow. While Danny was good and tough, a London street fight was always fairer when the odds were on your side.

  “Looks like a plump pigeon, Imo. What’d you do for him?” Frank asked. His strut was as irritating as his grin.

  “None of yer business, ’cepting earning yer next meal,” she spat out along with more putrid spittle.

  “This gent owes Imo two coppers. See if you can help him find the money.”

  The seaman raised his knife. “I paid her.”

  Frank pulled out a curved blade that looked just as vicious and then pushed the man against the wall. Imo saw Frank kill a man with that blade last year. He’d only been fourteen at the time, but what he’d saved Charlie from was worse than having a filthy cock shoved in her mouth. She shuddered. The bile threatened to erupt again.

  “All right, you filthy beggars.” The man fished around in his clothing and pulled out more coins.

  Daniel loomed over the man. “I think we’ll be taking all of that.”

  The seaman paled. His mouth pursed then opened like he was a fish out of water. Frank waved the blade under his chin and made a choking noise, followed by a harsh laugh. Frank was the meanest of them. The horniest. The toughest.

  The clinking sound of food and security echoed in the alleyway as the money changed hands.

  “Imo, did ye get him off?”

  “No, he wanted sump’um he didn’t pay for. So I stopped.”

  “Well, give the man what ye promised. I won’t have him thinking we don’t keep our word.”

  Imo had done it before and the deed usually didn’t take long. Well worth the time and the resulting coppers, if you asked her.

  “I don’t want to,” she whined, straightening her shoulders to confirm her determination to disobey.

  “Do it anyway.”

  “Not while you’re all watching. ’Specially not Charlie.”

  “We’ll turn around.” Danny glanced at the seaman. “If you want it, it’s yours, but no funny business.”

  Imo wanted to kick Danny. The seaman grabbed at his crotch and the offending manhood came into view again. Looked just as ugly as it did before.

  “Slow, girl, I earned it,” he growled.

  She was caught. They all knew it meant food and shelter. Imo couldn’t remember how it started, only that they hadn’t eaten in two days. For a month now, they’d found men at the public houses, on the streets, at the docks, all interested in her services. Touching was all Danny would allow. He said she wasn’t old enough for anything else. Hell, like she hadn’t seen a hundred women getting swived during daylight hours in the rough streets and back alleys off Old Fish Street and down by the docks. Prostitutes aplenty and men aplenty who wanted what prostitutes had between their legs.

  The seaman held his rod. She turned her back on her brothers and batted the filthy hand away from the filthy cock to complete the filthy act. She spat one last time before she set her mind to the task. It was just business.

  At first, she had been clumsy handling a man. Her fingernails had clawed into the sensitive man parts. She’d learned, though. She’d learned that cupping the two balls in one hand and stroking with the other was usually the quickest way to finish the business.

  His hands settled against the brick wall and he leaned forward, one leg bent while he supported himself. “That’s it. Faster now. I want you to squeeze hard-like when I’m coming.”

  She’d learned that too. The fleshy balls went from all soft and squishy to hard, round stones. That part always made her feel powerful, like it was something she alone could do.

  ’Course, that was foolish. Danny did it to himself all the time when he thought they were sleeping. Even her own brother made those hideous grunting noises and his breath came hard and fast liked he’d been running from Bow Street. But then he’d sigh, take in a few deep breaths and go to sleep. Imo never felt right about listening, but he never seemed embarrassed, and there was no place for them except their one rented room. He couldn’t afford a whore, not that she knew about anyway.

  The act finished, Imogene hurried away from the sailor and reached for her hat, knocked off at some point during the kerfuffle.

  “Come on, Imo. Let’s go home and get you cleaned up,” Danny ordered. He grabbed her upper arm and yanked her away before she could swing her booted foot.

  * * * * *

  The four of them trudged along the never-sleeping street, turning away from the waterfront when they neared their home. Four boys, that’s what they looked like. Many years had gone by while Imo dressed as one of them. They were nearly the same size until Danny sprouted like a dock weed—no manure, no food, no sun—but there he was, tall like one of them prissy nobs walking the street with their black canes and fancy stovepipes.

  “What were you thinking, Imo? Out alone?”

  “I can take care of myself.” Imo had her hands shoved inside her coat pocket to hide the shivery spasms that shook her from head to toe. Her brothers didn’t need to know she’d been scared witless.

  Frank snorted. “I wish I knew girls who could take care of themselves—just like that. Down on their knees and doing it fer free.” Danny cuffed Frank, who glowered at the mistreatment but didn’t flinch. Then Danny cuffed Imo for good measure.

  “Ow.”

  “Don’t do it again.”

  “I will if’n I want.”

  He cuffed her a second time and she clamped down on her teeth. Any words now and she’d probably get a thorough thrashing.

  “Why? We already found you a mark. We already had four coppers tonight.”

  Yes, she’d already done it with two others—the touching, not sucking it or swallowing what came out.

  “Maybe I wanted something.”

  “Like what?” scoffed Frank.

  “She wants a ribbon for her hair,” Charlie said, not recognizing Imo’s threatening look and forgetting he was to keep his mouth closed.

  “Shut up, Charlie.”

  “She told me so.”

  “Yeah, well, I ain’t never tellin’ you nothing ever again.”

  “A ribbon? You sneaked out in the middle of the night so you could buy a ribbon?”

  “For her hair,” Charlie butted in again. Charlie wasn’t really their brother. He was now, of course. But when they found him, he belonged to somebody else. Somebody who hurt him real bad. He idolized Danny, loved Imo and got into trouble with Frank.

  “You don’t need a ribbon. What you do is for food.”

  Damn it. She wasn’t a boy and she got tired of being treated like one. True, masquerading under the guise of brotherly kinship had saved her bacon more than once. She’d be sixteen next week. Or maybe it was sometime next month. She didn’t know for sure. Mam said she was born in early summer.

  Her little titties weren’t so little anymore and they hurt when she wrapped them in bindings. She kept her hair cut short, lopped off now and then by Frank’s sharp knife.

  But the true test of her boyishness ended about six months ago. Since then men seemed to know by instinct she was a girl and not the ragamuffin she pretended. Maybe not innocent by some standards, but untouched in ways that mattered to men and gossipy old women. Charlie had spilled the answer one day, quite by accident.

  “It’s yer face, Imo. You can’t hide yer face.”

  A month later she saw her reflection in the glass of a fancy shop in the nicer part of Cheapside. What she saw scared her. She looked like one of them fancy pieces Danny and Frank always dreamed about and stopped to admire on the street—when Danny would jab Frank in the side and nod in the direction of some dockside whore with red lips, swaying hips and large tits.

  They climbed the rickety outside stairs to their one-room home. Their space was at the top of a boarding house under the eaves of the slanting roof. The walls were near paper-thin and they shared the a
ttic with three other families, each with their own door. None of the families were respectable—all scraping by like the Farrells.

  Old Mrs. Bunton let the place for ten coppers a month, without heat. ’Course, it helped the two chimney flues ran up the side of the building. One of them was in their room. The room was smaller but warmer than the others under the eaves, a fact they were thankful for since they couldn’t afford the coal. It was good enough for their needs, except in the summer when the place heated like hell’s furnace.

  Mary FitzPatrick also helped them now and again. She was a friend of Mam’s, before Mam died from all that coughing and blood. Mary was important in another way. If something happened to one of them, they were to go to Mary for help. She couldn’t help all the time but if there was a real need, she would.

  And Mrs. Bunton? Dear, sweet Mrs. Bunton had made the boys vow a vow to end all vows that they wouldn’t cause no trouble, while Mary stood over them as a witness to their swearing. There would be hot coals and hellfire if they broke their word. Or maybe she’d lock them in the attic through the summer.

  And no thieving neither. Cadgers would be thrown out faster than you could say buttock and file, Mrs. FitzPatrick or no.

  They also agreed to work for Mrs. Bunton every Friday and Saturday doing odd jobs and running errands. Imo always ended up helping with laundry. Her brothers hauled coal, stacked wood and fetched fresh milk from Honey Lane Market. Mrs. Bunton fetched the milk on Wednesdays. They all speculated that she had a flirtation with one of the tradesmen at the market, but Danny said it wasn’t any of their business.

  When there was nothing to do, Mrs. Bunton didn’t think twice about hiring them out to shopkeepers and tradesmen. They got half the coins she collected and Mary was right when she’d said Mrs. Bunton could be trusted. They all liked the old lady. Once a month she brought them hot rolls or apple tarts. Once a month was a long way in between meals, though.

  Imo was never sure they were safe. Even with the door closed, entry wasn’t difficult. But safe was relative if the boys were around and she wasn’t on the dangerous street alone.

  Nor was it the rookeries, where they had spent those years after Mam died. When Imo thought of the rookeries, she shivered knowing how close they were to hell, death, disease and despair. Two years had seemed a lifetime, especially to a nine-year-old.

 
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