A Wayward Man: A Prequel to A Dangerous Invitation (The Rookery Rogues)

Free A Wayward Man: A Prequel to A Dangerous Invitation (The Rookery Rogues) by Erica Monroe

Book: A Wayward Man: A Prequel to A Dangerous Invitation (The Rookery Rogues) by Erica Monroe Read Free Book Online
Authors: Erica Monroe
your
claret.”
    “I've no
intent to hurt her, Miss—?”
    Her guarded
expression was back. “Putnam. Jane Putnam.”
    He nodded. “Miss
Putnam.”
    He made his way
through the crowds. Finally, he pulled out a chair at her table. Kate
had removed her greatcoat and bunched it underneath her to ward off
thieves. Her gaze never wavered as she searched his face. He thought
he knew what she saw: a marred image barely resembling who he had
once been. His breath sucked inward, a futile attempt to draw in
courage with the air.
    Kate glowered. “Must
we do this again? Whatever you want, Daniel, I'm not interested.”
    “I don't want
anything except your company.” He wanted many things: to win
her heart back, to prove his innocence, to regain some sense of
control over his existence. But for now he'd settle for a civil
conversation with her.
    She folded her hands
over each other. Her gloves were threadbare, the seams about to
burst. “Tell me what is so important that you felt it necessary
to linger in the exact alley I'd take to get home from the market. I
don't want to think of how long you may have been spying on me,
biding your time.”
    “I've been in
London for five days.” Five long days in which he'd holed up at
Madame Tousat's Boarding House and pored over information from his
friend, Atlas.
    Finally, he had the
names of people who might know something about the night of the
murder. If he could avoid being captured by the Peelers long enough
to figure out who had really killed Tommy Dalton, he might have
another chance to prove to Kate he could be the man she deserved.
    He glanced at the
tables surrounding them. To their left, a group of sailors sat
huddled around what was likely a pornographic pamphlet, from their
jeers at the contents. One man in shirtsleeves with an anchor
tattooed on his neck looked directly at him. Daniel pulled the brim
of his hat down lower to shade more of his face, a lump high in his
throat.
    He couldn't
recognize me, not in this light.
    The barmaid came by,
setting Kate's plate of mutton and a glass of ale in front of her.
Jane turned to him. “Would you like something?”
    “He won't be
staying,” Kate interjected.
    Jane simply
shrugged, unconcerned.
    “I don't need
anything to drink.” Daniel managed to keep the right amount of
calm in his voice, like he'd practiced with Poppy. He didn't need a drink, but he wanted one with every fiber in his being.
    As soon as Jane
left, Kate turned back to him. “I never thought I'd see the day
when Daniel O'Reilly wasn't thirsty. You used to be a crank man.”
    “I used to be
a lot of things.” Stalwart, honorable, respectable: those were
the terms which had once been applied to him. The taste of crank
lingered on his tongue, though he had not drank the blessed gin and
water in months.
    Pulling the plate
closer, Kate cut into the mutton with gusto, as if it was an
epicurean treat served by her father's old cook.
    Daniel lowered his
voice, deciding to play it safe. “Do you know a man named Atlas
Greer? They call him the Gentlemen Thief.”
    Kate drew back from
him. “Do you really think I'd be foolish enough to confess my
associations, so that you have something to hold over me if I don't
comply with what you want?”
    “Christ, Kate,
why do you think I'd do that?”
    She gave him a look
that told him exactly how little she thought of him.
    “I asked
because he's a friend of mine. I wrote to him a few months ago to ask
him to look into my case.” Daniel had penned that letter a
month into sobriety, but he held that information back. “Atlas
is a savant when it comes to puzzles. He sees conspiracies in a
simple trip to the market. I thought maybe he'd find something the
constable missed.”
    “When we were
together, you never once mentioned your friend Atlas.”
Kate's eyes held a hard glint.
    “I'd been
appointed your father's assistant. Somehow I didn't think it in my
best interest to confess my affiliation with a known thief,

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