Anna found Mr Finnegan in a disgusting inn with vomit and beer splashed on the steps, named The Wounded Dog. The man at the bar looked mildly surprised when she inquired about Mr Finnegan and pointed to a corner where a man was slumped in a chair his head bent and a stiff brandy in his hand. Annabel moved towards the table and took a deep breath.
“Ahh what now?” the bent head growled and Anna stared at him taken aback.
“I’m sorry for disturbing you sir but I have some questions if you don’t mind.” Finnegan looked up and Anna felt her chest tighten at the sight of his face. He was younger than she had imagined, late twenties early thirties perhaps and he was stunningly handsome. Despite the rough short beard that covered half his face the man had brilliant blue eyes a cool blue with flecks of grey and his hair, over grown around his ears, was curly.
“What do you want woman?” Finnegan demanded and Anna frowned at the distinct upper class tone in his accent.
Lowering her voice and leaning down slightly Anna met Finnegan’s eyes
“I wish to discuss the A.S”
Finnegan rolled his eyes muttering under his breath
“Who doesn’t. You’re the second chit I’ve had barging into my privacy nattering and nosing into the A.S’s business.”
“Well, that’s nothing to do with me.” Anna said bluntly sitting down without permission. “I find myself in need of someone with inside knowledge about codes and spy work etc.”
“Is that right?” Finnegan sat back tipping his brandy glass slightly evident boredom on his face. “Then find yourself a gentleman spy and leave me alone.” Anna frowned in irritation at Finnegan’s dismissal and as he raised the glass to his lips she deftly took it from his grasp and held it a distance away. “Ay! What do you think you’re doing missy, hand that back!” Finnegan exclaimed but Anna was bold.
“I cannot talk to you while you’re more interested in this drink than myself, and you shouldn’t drink so it’s highly unsavoury.”
“I don’t give a damn what it is!” Finnegan cried “I’d punch a man square in the face for less than what you’re doing.”
Anna arched a perfect brow
“And you shouldn’t be so aggressive.” she said before tipping the dark liquid into a nearby dying plant. Finnegan swore and glared at Annabel who wondered if he were about to strike her before he sank back again into the chair.
“You shouldn’t even be in a place like this.” Finnegan said abruptly “What the hell do you think you’re doing out at this time in a brothel no less?”
“I beg your pardon but you are in here, and I have no doubt in my mind that the house brandy is not the only wares of this hovel that you’ve tried.” Anna said eyeing Finnegan with distaste daring him to deny it. He didn’t, instead the man regarded Anna for a moment a small hint of a smile playing at his lips and nodded.
“You’re right enough.” he said and Anna glanced around wrinkling her nose as a man pulled a whore onto his lap and sloped a kiss onto her mouth.
“It’s disgusting what men so easily take part in while expecting women to be the epitome of respect and virtue.” Anna said pulling a face.
“I suppose despite your evident distaste in the rules of society that you yourself are an example of the epitome you speak of?” Finnegan asked mockingly
“I most certainly am!” she said indignantly, then conscious that Finnegan may think to take advantage of her innocence Anna went on “And I did not come here alone, I have two very big, very strong men outside.”
Finnegan laughed aloud at Anna’s threat and ran a hand through his hair.
“Have no fear wench I’m not accustomed to taking young virgins in their finery. Now hurry up and tell me what you want so I can get back to my drink.” Finnegan sighed “and don’t hand me any codes to break because the A.S change them and as I recently discovered I can’t read them.”
“I merely wish to know more about the A.S.” Anna began “however what I have to tell you is a great secret, I must trust you to keep it.”
“Do you want my word in writing?” Finnegan said sarcastically and Anna huffed in irritation.
“There’s no need to be so rude.” she exclaimed “I’ve shown you every curtsey and if you will help me I’ll pay you.” Finnegan snorted at this and Anna’s anger rose.
“I don’t need your money wench.”
“Anna! My name is Annabel Bloomswood. Lady Bloomswood.”
“Fine. Lady Bloomswood.”
“I don’t know quite how to say this.” Anna began but Finnegan tutted clearly fed up of the conversation already.
“Say it quickly and shortly I won’t give you much more of my time.”
“Oh well your time is clearly so well used.” Anna said sarcastically, Finnegan was unconcerned by this remark and barely even looked at Annabel. “You’re not taking this seriously at all.” Anna said forlornly.
“No I’m not. You’re a young, foolish girl who thinks she’s onto something that will turn into nothing. You’re stupid enough to gallivant in here where your person and reputation are at stake and take offence when I’m reluctant to indulge your whims. Rich girls like you are always the same.” An edge of bitterness rang in Finnegan’s voice and Anna sat back disappointed and irritated by the speech that had been flung at her. Standing Anna held her hat in her hands and curtseyed silently before turning and making her way across the room.
Finnegan watched her go and saw the man’s grabbing hands before Anna did. A gentleman turned monster in such a place took hold of Anna’s arm and she turned and cried out in surprise as the man tried to pull her onto his lap.
“Aren’t you a pretty girl.” he said as Anna fiercely tried to pull away.
“Unhand me you oaf!” she cried but the man only pulled harder a hand gripping Anna’s tiny waist. “Release me!”
“I’m having this one!” the man called out to the amusement of his friends “Landlord get me a room.” The man’s laughter was cut short when Finnegan gripped the back of his coat and hauled him across a table breaking glasses and causing a serving woman to scream as they darted out of the way.
“Ere what do you think you’re doing?” the man’s friend slurred as he drunkenly tried to punch Finnegan but missed and stumbled. Finnegan gripped Anna’s upper arm and pulled her with him across the room and out of the doors ignoring the words and stares of the punters.
Anna tried and failed to shake Finnegan off and once they were outside he swung her around the cold air tingeing her cheeks pink in the dim light from the windows.
“You see why you shouldn’t be here?” he growled his hand clutching Anna’s arm in a stiff grasp. “You see what happens in places like this?” Anna trembled in fright and Finnegan released her arm, his eyes flashing angrily. “Where are your very big men now?” he demanded and Anna looked around and saw her carriage silhouetted with the two men sat atop deep in conversation.
“I made a mistake in coming.” Anna said “but you have no right to lecture me on decorum. You saved me just now and I thank you, such an act assures me that there are more morals in that heart of yours than I first thought. That however doesn’t change the fact that you’re in such a place, you’re nothing but a drunk yourself who wastes his life in a dirty hole. How you were ever a great spy I cannot imagine I doubt there is any brain left in your head, you’ve clearly thrown yourself away long ago.” Anna breathed deeply surprised at herself and Finnegan stared in shock, Anna’s words had clearly hit a nerve and he for a moment he looked hurt.
“I’m not a foolish girl.” Anna went on her eyes bright “I’ve struggled and taken pains and all while being a mere girl. That makes me stronger than you think.” Finnegan’s eyes narrowed as he regarded the young woman full of youth and beauty and ignorance.
“You still don’t appreciate the danger you’ve put yourself in do you?” he demanded
“I would have handled the situation in there.” Anna said stubbornly “I appreciate your help but I would never have been taken from that room, I would have managed.”
Richard huffed in disbelief. “Oh really?” taking two steps forward Richard swiftly took a hold of Anna roughly pulling her soft curvaceous body against him and muffling her cry with his mouth. Richard meant it to last a second just enough to scare her but the feel of Anna’s pouting lips stirred desire inside of him and he held her closer more loosely. Anna eye’s closed without thought and she stopped struggling as her treacherous body enjoyed the feel of Richard’s persuasive mouth and rough beard. Shocked with herself and her sudden carelessness Anna pushed against Richard’s hard shoulders and he released her catching his breath in steady gulps. Anna stared at him in horror and disbelief more confused with her own reaction than angry with his conduct.
“I’m sorry.” Richard said when he had caught control of his voice “I only meant to frighten you, it shouldn’t have gone that far.” Even as he spoke Annabel was retreating stepping back her arms wrapped around herself protectively.
“You succeeded well enough sir.” she said her voice shaking before turning and running to her carriage where she shouted angrily at the coachman and dived through the door. Richard blinked watching as the carriage went away, despite the delayed fear, Richard had felt Anna’s almost immediate response to him. He knew instinctively that she had never been kissed before, therefore her compliance to his embrace was surprising as it was enjoyable. Shaking his head Richard returned to the inn signalling for a new drink, when it came he found himself staring into the glass for a long time unable to put it to his lips. Almost afraid of washing away the feel and taste of the young woman that had obtrusively entered his life.
That young chits words had unnerved him. A drunk who wasted his life in a hole. That sounded all too true, he had been wallowing in self pity and neglecting his duties for too long. The Stewart who took care of his late brothers estate had visited Richard numerous times begging him to come and take his role as rightful Duke of Deanworth. As Richard sat in his corner brooding the image of Anna’s beautiful face evolved in front of his eyes replacing the dark scratched wood of the table with soft skin and bright brown eyes. What was another girl getting involved in the A.S for? With one last steady look at his untouched drink Richard stood up and pushed the glass away. It was time he returned to his life and he was determined to discover what Annabel Bloomswood was up to.