Monday, December 5, 2016

Thief in the Night: Part 2: An Offer




Diebin threw her elbow back into his gut and was sprinting toward the door before the grunt of pain hit her ears. She took the stairs two at a time, landing with an indelicate thump on each step. At the foot of the staircase, she caught the newel post at the cap and swung about, propelling herself towards the main door. Much heavier footfalls thundered behind her, echoing on the hollow floors. She flung her hand out toward the knob, only to have her fingers just brush against the idea of freedom as her pursuer snatched up her braid and yanked her backward. The entryway rug slipped from beneath her, spilling her onto her rump.

Air rushed from her lungs and pain ran up her spine at the impact. She shook her head, dazed. The man caught her by the scruff of her coat and shook her roughly, making her pockets jingle with the bits and bobs she'd already pilfered from the study.

"A busy little thief, I see," he grumbled, a hint of amusement in his tone. He lifted her bodily from the ground by her coat before switching his grip back to the thick base of her braid and guided her back into study in which she'd found the signet ring nestled over her left breast.

"Sit." he commanded, thrusting her toward a chaise lounge upholstered in forest green velvet which sat across from a great cherry wood desk.

She eyed him warily as she moved to obey, her heart racing as he took a key from the pocket of his trousers and locked the doors. He then took one of the withering candles from a sconce and lit a few of the lanterns about the room to illuminate them both. He turned to her finally, dropping the key into is left pocket. He was tall, as she had imagined from the expanse of the bed which he consumed. He was broad at the shoulder and narrow at the hip, but with the slight protrusion of the belly common among men of comfortable means. The dark gold of his head also dusted his torso and arms, and bedecked his face in a neatly trimmed Van Dyke fashion. He was neither old nor young, but it is hard to tell the age of a man when freshly woken. He narrowed sky-colored eyes at her as he made his way leisurely to the other side of the desk, but the look was somewhat diminished by the disheveled state of his hair.

He took a seat in a leather-backed swivel chair and produced a sheaf of paper and a pen from a drawer to his right. The desk was otherwise clear of clutter, save for a capped inkwell, a tin of tobacco, and an oil lamp with a small flame flickering occasionally behind the glass. He uncapped the inkwell and dipped his pen a few times before casting her a brief glance.

"Your name, Miss?" He said.

A nervous laugh escaped her. "Why would I tell you that?"

He looked up at her and arched an imperious brow. "Miss, I will remind you that you are currently locked in a room with me. I've a good foot on you and easily a few stone. My questions will be answered. How I attain those answers is singularly up to you. Now, your name, if you would be so kind. First and last."

"Diebin Kraus," she bit out with a frustrated snort.

He gave her a hard stare. "That is not your name."

Diebin bristled, returning his gaze with an indignant glare. "It's my name. Who are you to say otherwise?"

"I do not believe for an instant that your parents named you 'thief'."

She crossed her arms over her chest. "Perhaps they did. Perhaps they didn't. You're welcome to sod off across the country to the cemetery they happen to be buried in and ask 'em, but I very much doubt you'll get a satisfactory answer."

He lifted his brow again and jotted something down on his paper.

"What are you doing?"

"Making a note," he said absently. "All right then, Miss Kraus, please produce everything you have purloined from my house."

Diebin tightened her grip around herself and remained defiantly silent.

He huffed a short sigh and scribbled another note on his paper. "Miss Kraus, I might always forcibly strip you and search your clothing in any case. It would behoove you to comply."

Diebin huffed and started plucking the treasures from her pockets: a handful of gold coins, a silver pocket watch with pearl settings, a few pieces of silver cutlery, and, reluctantly, the gold signet ring. She laid them before him on the desk and watched as he recorded each item on a piece of paper separate from his "notes."

"Come now with the rest of it. That's not all that was in your pockets," he said, gesturing with his hand.

Diebin plopped back onto the couch, crossing her arms again. "You only requested the things which I had taken from your house. You're not my first stop tonight."

He lifted both brows at that. "No, but I am your last. My name is Coleman Raycraft. I am a professor of history at the Barryman Institute, the second son of a minor lord. I find myself desirous, if not so much of need, of a servant. Thus far, I have not been able to justify the expense of a staff given my relatively modest accommodations, but since there would be no need to pay you..." He trailed off, appraising her silently. "I shall offer you two options for how we might handle this incident. I can summon the authorities and give an account of the items you have both stolen and attempted to steal from me, and given that you have already admitted that you have additional evidence of your thievery on your person, I very much doubt that would go well for you."

He sat the pen down. "Your other choice is to bind yourself to this house and to the whims of myself. You will perform whatever duties I see fit to assign you, suffer whatever disciplines you might incur in the failure of such. Essentially, you will be the property of this estate and of myself."

Diebin narrowed her eyes. "For how long?"

Coleman Raycraft chuckled, a low, almost seductive sound. "My dear little bird, you aren't exactly in the position to be attempting negotiations."

"And what makes you a better choice than prison?"

He pondered her carefully, stroking his short beard between his thumb and forefinger. "My dear, I could regale you with the fates of women in prisons historically speaking, but I think you already know that pretty little birds like you do not fare well in such conditions. That is to say, if they do not decide to hang you, which, given your history and aptitude for your...craft, is a very likely outcome."

Diebin slumped in her seat. He was right. They would likely hang her. That might be the most merciful option of those available to her.  If she were honest with herself, she didn't want to die. She didn't want to go to prison either, but she also didn't know what she was agreeing to with this Professor Raycraft. But what choice did she have?

She sighed, resignation heavy in her chest. "All right."


Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked

1 comment:

  1. I have the feeling this is going to lead to a very interesting 'collaboration' ;)

    Rebel xox

    ReplyDelete