Dorothea looked around the private sitting room of Lady Georgiana Winderfield. Even being here was something of a miracle. To think that four months ago…
‘It is in the past, Miss Berryman,” Mr Milford would remind her, were he here. But of course the past was the point of her visit; the reason for her being invited to take tea with Lady Grace and her sister-in-law Lady Sutton.
“Georgie. There you are. I want to have a word with you. Oh. Grace. You’re here, too.” Lord Sutton barged into the room without knocking, ignoring Dorothea and addressing his two nearest female relatives. “Grace make Georgie see she cannot go on like this. Father won’t have it.”
Lady Georgiana turned to her visitor. “Miss Berryman, I do not believe you are acquainted with my brother. Sutton, Miss Dorothea Berryman.”
Dorothea, not without some trepidation, met Sutton’s gaze, her face carefully bland. Not that she expected him to recognise her. Not without the paint and the powder. Not with her hair returned to its natural brown and her clothing designed for dignity and discretion rather than seduction. Considerably more clothing than she had worn at the beginning of her last encounter with Lord Sutton.
The manners drilled into his lordship in the nursery surfaced long enough for him to bow briefly and mutter, “Miss Berryman. Charmed.” Then he returned to his grievance.
“Just look at it.” The wave of his encompassed the dozens of portraits on the mantelpiece and the walls either side of the fireplace. Every one showed the courtesan known as Lily Diamond. All were draped in black.
“It is pathetic, Georgie. You are making a laughing stock of yourself, and us.” Sutton was pacing too and fro, thumping a fist into his hand. “People are making the most outrageous of suggestions. Bad enough you even knew the woman. But to mourn her as if she were a friend? You have to stop it.”
“Lillian was my friend, Sutton. I am not interested in the opinions of those who considered her beneath them, though they were perfectly willing to partake of her charms.”
“Georgie!” Sutton cast a shocked glance Dorothea’s way. “You must forgive my sister, Miss Berryman. Her humours are unbalanced, I fear. Georgie, you cannot discuss women like that. It is not seemly.”
Dorothea had seen Lord Sutton being very unseemly indeed, back when she had been called Fanny and had been commanded to entertain him. She managed to keep her face bland.
“Sutton, may I suggest we continue this conversation at a later time,” Lady Sutton said. “Miss Berryman is here to interest us in her charitable work.”
“Yes, Lord Sutton,” some imp prompted her to say. “I am hopeful of providing work for gentlewomen in need of some means of support. Perhaps you would care to make a donation?”
“I am sorry to interrupt, Miss Berryman.” Sutton allowed his indignation to spoil his apology. “Shouldn’t air our linen in public, but the damned woman was a bird of paradise!”
“Sutton!” His wife and sister chorused their disapproval of his language, and he flushed.
“Beg pardon,” he mumbled. “Better put me down for fifty guineas.” The thought of his own generosity buoyed him, and he bowed himself out of the room.
Lady Georgiana grinned broadly. “Well done, Miss Berryman. Your first donation. But please, continue your story. You were telling us about how Mr Wakefield and Miss Virtue paid your debt so that you could be released from the brothel.”
“Yes,” Lady Sutton agreed. “Please finish your story, and then tell us how we can help you to rescue some more damned birds of paradise.”
Dorothea is a minor character in Revealed in Mist. See the story for more about who murdered Lily Diamond, what Lady Georgie had to do with it, and the part Dorothea plays in supporting David and Prue to solve several interlocked mysteries.
Prue’s job is to uncover secrets, but she hides a few of her own. When she is framed for murder and cast into Newgate, her one-time lover comes to her rescue. Will revealing what she knows help in their hunt for blackmailers, traitors, and murderers? Or threaten all she holds dear?
Enquiry agent David solves problems for the ton, but will never be one of them. When his latest case includes his legitimate half-brothers as well as the lover who left him months ago, he finds the past and the circumstances of his birth difficult to ignore. Danger to Prue makes it impossible.
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“Fanny, show my young friend a good time, eh?” Talbot commanded, and David followed her to one of the rooms.
He had a better use for the bed than the exercise Talbot imagined. He was beginning to feel the loss of a night’s sleep.
“Don’t bother,” he told the prostitute, as she began to unbutton her blouse. “When were the sheets last changed?”
“Maybe three days.” She looked uncertainly at the bed and back at him. “How do you want me then?”
David explained. “What I’d like you to do is sit in the chair over there and wake me in half an hour. Before we leave this room, I’ll give you double what I gave your bawd. And when we get back out there, you’ll pretend to everyone, especially my friend, that we’ve coupled.”
The prostitute frowned. “You’ll pay me. Just to sleep in the bed.”
“On the bed, but yes. Miss Fanny… or is it Miss Frances…? You’re very desirable, but I’m very, very tired, and I’d rather nobody knew…”
She nodded. “It’s Dorothea, really. But Old Hatchet-Face, who owns the place, she said that was not a good name for a whore.”
“Do you have a way to tell the hour, Miss Dorothea?” He’d removed his coat, but he laid it on the bed and stretched out beside it. No point in putting temptation in the woman’s way. He’d wake in an instant if she approached the bed to check his pockets.
She nodded. “I can hear the clock tower down the street. It chimes the quarters. It’ll be just on the half I wake you.”
“Good. Thank you.” His nose wrinkled, but he’d slept in places more rank. Willing his body to relax, he closed his eyes, and Mist was suddenly there stretched beside him. No. He was here to sleep, not to fantasise about the only woman he desired.
“Mister? Mr. Walker?” He woke to the woman’s whisper. “It’s been half an hour.”
Yes. The half was still chiming. Half an hour was not enough, but it took the edge off his weariness. He’d cope.
In the main sitting area, Dorothea poured him a glass of wine and perched on the arm of his chair, leaning against him while he waited for Talbot. Her silence money safely in the pocket she had tied to her waist under her skirt, she had obviously decided to throw herself fully into her part.
Talbot arrived some minutes later, buttoning his breeches. His companion was smiling admiringly up at him, but David caught the contemptuous grimace she passed to her companions behind Talbot’s back.
“That’s the ticket,” Talbot said to David, grinning at the way Dorothea was draped over him. “Can’t get enough of you here, can they? They should pay us for servicing them. Hah! That’s a good one. They should pay us, eh?” And he slapped the bottom of his companion with expansive glee.
“You want another round, Walker? Or what about an exotic dance? I know a place where the girls…” he gestured expansively, shaping improbably curvaceous shapes in the air.
“That sounds very exciting, Sir,” David said, back to being suitably grateful. “Is it a place we could get something to eat, Sir? All that exercise…”
“Good lad. Worked up an appetite, eh? Oh, to be young again. Come on, then, lad. The night is young. We’ll stop at a coffee house and then go on to Sultan’s Palace.”
David saluted Dorothea with a kiss on the cheek and received a warm smile in return. “Best half hour I ever spent in this place,” she told him loudly, “and that’s the truth.”