No Angel (Spoils of Time 01)

Free No Angel (Spoils of Time 01) by Penny Vincenzi

Book: No Angel (Spoils of Time 01) by Penny Vincenzi Read Free Book Online
Authors: Penny Vincenzi
lost, not so much in thought, as in financial consideration. She had a remarkable facility for mental arithmetic, she could carry three or four columns of figures in her head, add them up, subtract them, make percentages of them: it was not only an enormous help to her in her work, it was also a pleasure, almost a recreation. Just as some people recite poetry in their heads before going to sleep, or on a walk, played with figures. Tonight though, she was not playing; she was calculating the precise profit Lyttons were making out of the three new volumes of Biographica. They had had to be priced at a higher level than originally planned; such considerations as the book club and library discounts, the new titles on approval scheme for the central London book showroom, the rising cost of binding – all these things had meant that the series had been launched at six shillings per volume. That had been all right the first year: just. This year, it looked as if they might have to be six shillings and sixpence, which hardly met with their original criterion of a cheap library of quality books. And even at that, they would do well to make a profit of half a crown a book; which meant that for their initial print order of five thousand, they would make a little over a thousand pounds. Not enough. Just not enough. But—
    ‘Now what is a lovely lady like you doing walking out on her own at this time of night. And in a dark alley like this too? Eh?’
    LM said nothing: just stood absolutely quiet and still.
    ‘Going to come quietly? Much better if you do.’
    Hands were on her now, strong hands, one gripping her shoulders, the other on the back of her neck.
    ‘Come on now. Just along here. This way, that’s right, on you go – no, no, don’t you try biting me. I wouldn’t like that at all. Not yet, any ro ad—’
    They had almost reached the street lamp at the end of the walk; one of the man’s hands had moved down, was caressing one of her breasts.
    ‘Very nice. Very nice indeed. Can’t wait to see a bit more of those. Really can’t wait. Hey, now, I said no biting. I get quite aroused when I’m bitten. Or scratched, so don’t start that either.’
    LM swung round swiftly, suddenly, confronted him; under the street lamp his face was very clear. A well-shaped face it was, with a strong jaw and a wide mouth; dark waving hair, thick black eyebrows and set quite deeply, a pair of very dark eyes. They were smiling, the eyes: smiling confidently.
    ‘Like what you see, do you? I certainly like what I see.’ He reached up, touched her mouth; she took his finger between her teeth.
    ‘Now now. Temper temper. Come on now, this way. And get a move on. I haven’t got all night.’
    ‘Haven’t you really?’ said LM turning to face him winding her arms round his neck. ‘well I have. And I really hope you’re up to it.’
    She had met him at a meeting of the Independent Labour Party in Hampstead; she had noticed him straight away, because he wasn’t quite like most of the people there, the self-consciously middle class folk in expensive clothes; he was clearly working class, in his heavy tweed suit, a scarf knotted round his neck, his hair untidy. He had been leaning against the wall; he’d noticed her too, was watching her with a half-smile on his face.
    Afterwards he told her he’d felt her, even before he looked at her; ‘Felt you under my skin, getting at me.’
    The meeting was badly attended; afterwards, there was been an invitation from Michael Fosdyke, a local party member, to come to his house up on the Heath, for tea and biscuits. ‘Or beer, if anyone wants it. Or a glass of wine.’ She’d been hurrying away from the hall and the crowd, not wishing to take any of Michael Fosdyke’s hospitality, for she found his social conscience, worn stark naked on his sleeve, hugely irritating, when the man had stopped her. Quite courteously, but firmly: simply stepped in front of her.
    ‘Not going up to the big

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