Topaz. Sez who? Course it ain’t. I’ve sworn off nickin’. It’s just that nickin’ ain’t sworn off me. See it’s like Splendor’n shoppin’. I gets a thrill so I does it even when she tells me ter stop cos there’s posters up everywhere and it ain’t exactly her face whot’s on ’em either. I does it no matter whot. Topaz . To my shame, I admits, I even robbed Splen’s squeeze Kenny. Fine gentleman ‘e was an’ so koind, nuffin’ loike she said. Puttin me hand in ‘is pocket was a real thrill I tells yer. Wouldn’t ‘ave ‘alf moinded puttin’ it in more. Then there was the brandy ‘e puts in ‘is mornin’ coffee. Figured I was doin’ ‘im a favour there. Wouldn’t loike ter see ‘im droppin’ down wif some disease cos ‘he stuffs ‘is face wif booze steadah food first thing in the mornin’ now, would yer? She went titz about it, cos he went titz wif her, but given that business of her runnin’ up debts ter keep me out of Newgate, I looked on it as my altruistic duty ter return the compliment.
Topaz. That depends doan’ it? I means if I can steal ‘un now, get the ingredients an’ whot not. I might.
Topaz . Death.
Topaz. You ain’t pretty enough. Nah, the moon is whot I’m after.
Extract…….a sort or rapid downturn in Splendor’s fortunes extract.
“When all’s said and done, it beats old woman Hanney’s. Beats sittin’ in this wreck, now Gabe’s gone and left us flat. Unless you want me going back ter stealing? I mean I could, I suppose.”
As Topaz studied the rotting fence posts at the sides of the ditch, as if they were next for pocketing, Splendor fought to bite her tongue. Topaz had never stopped.
“I take it when you use that word wreck, yor meaning some other vehicle an’ not Clitherow’s fine lookin’ trap.” O’Taggart clicked his tongue.
“Long as I ain’t meanin’ yer damned, bleedin’ trap, what does it bleedin’ matter?”
Splendor smothered a shriek as O’Taggart brought the whip down on the nag’s back as if he wished it were Topaz’s. The jolt sent them both flying upward, then down onto the wooden plank, straddling the cart.
“That’s it. That’s it, me old cuddy. Take yor time, me faithful nag, and you’ll soon get there.”
“It’s taken three hours to travel two miles,” Stillmore growled, nudging his black gelding closer. “Do you think you could possibly hurry it along? I should like to be at Catterton House sometime this week if that’s not a trouble to you.”
“You are not the only one, sor. But Clitherow will only do as Clitherow can do. She doesn’t take kindly to complaints.”
“That’s a pity when the list is ten yards long.”
“And Oih must say, Oih don’t either.”
“Then that makes two of us. Three if that blasted nag doesn’t fall down dead
“Pity ’e wouldn’t do the bleedin’ same.” Topaz smoothed her cape shut. “’Ow
rich would that make yer?”
“If I had married him. But I didn’t.”
“So ’ow the bleedin’ hell does he think ’e can get the divorce courts ter agree ter a divorce then? Commit ’igh treason?”
Somehow Splendor managed to cinch her lips.
“If I agree, he’s going to say the parson was not ordained.”
“Thing is, I don’t know why yer agreed.”
She didn’t answer, and Topaz continued. “Look, we got ’is watch, we could pawn it. There’s plenty more where that come from.”
“And that’s the problem. If you’d left it where it came from…” She lowered her voice. Horses had ears. Their masters too.
“But it were pretty.”
“Will you stop it?”
Pray God, Stillmore took her screech as one of agony as the cart lurched over another stone, almost catapulting her onto the floor. In truth, she felt like screeching, screeching to the high heavens. What was it Papa always said, especially during these first days in the Marshalsea? Nothing is ever so far beyond your reach, you should worry about it.
“And I still don’t see why yer agreed ter it,” Topaz whispered.
“I told you I never agreed straight off. All right?”
She was not going to tell Topaz about the business with Lady Kertouche. She’d sooner cut off her hand. Papa had said that too. Just tell people as much as they need to hear and will make you feel better. She sighed.
“But if you must know it was because I didn’t see how the bloody hell else I was to get you out of there with your picture all over the walls.”
The only thing he hates more than losing at chess is marriage…
For Splendor, former servant to the London’s premiere jewel thieves, pretending to be someone else is all in a day’s work. So when she learns of a chess tournament—a men’s chess tournament—with a ten thousand pound prize, pretending to be a man is the obvious move. The money will be enough to set her fiancé up in his own business so they can finally marry, and more importantly, it’ll pay off her bills and keep her out of debtor’s prison. But she doesn’t plan on her opponent, the rakish Kendall Winterborne, Earl Stillmore, being a sore loser—and a drunken one, at that. But before she can collect her prize, she finds herself facing the most merciless man in London across a pair of dueling pistols at dawn. Chess may be Splendor’s game, but she’s never fired a pistol. And dressed as a man with ill-fitting shoes on the slippery grass and borrowed glasses that make it hard to see, she’s certain she’s finally tipped her own king.
Bitter divorcee Kendall Winterborne, Earl Stillmore, is the ton’s most ruthless heartbreaker. And he’s got three pet peeves: kitchen maids, marriage…and losing. So when he realizes the “man” opposite him has entered the chess tournament under false pretenses, he’s in the perfect position to extort the little chit. But that’s before the exasperating woman begins to slip beneath his skin, and soon all he can think about is slipping beneath her skirts. But the confounded woman is engaged to someone else, and worse—she’s nothing but a former kitchen maid, just like the one that lured his father into the marriage that ruined the family name. And his ex-wife taught him more than he cared to know about why marriage was the worst kind of checkmate of all…