The Dark Discovery of Jack Dandy Page 4

“Of course, my lord.” And she was being all coy in return.

Jack eyed his walking stick and wondered if jabbing the blade up his nose and into his brainpan might take away the image of the two of them trying to put their parts together around their notable middles. Instead of testing the theory, he sat down in the chair—it was as comfortable as it looked.

When Abernathy was done cooing to Mrs. Dean, he came and sat down in the chair opposite Jack’s. “First of all, I want to thank you for responding to my request for a meeting so quickly.”

“You have impeccable timing. This is my only free afternoon for some time.” It wasn’t, of course. His business happened mostly at night, in the dark and shadows, but Abernathy didn’t need to know that his afternoons were open for at least the next three to four days.

“Oh, very good. I suppose you are wondering why I requested a meeting as we’ve never been introduced.”

“I rarely wonder at anything, my lord. And it’s not as though we’re totally ignorant of one another, is it?”

The viscount had to be a lousy card player. His cheeks flared red, and his left eyelid twitched.

All the ladies must find him so very attractive.

“Yes, quite right.”

Jack leaned back in his chair, crossing his right leg over his left as his hands dangled over the leather armrests. He was rather enjoying himself. “You are a friend of my father, are you not?”

If Abernathy flushed any redder, Jack could sell him to a freak show as “The Incredible Tomato Man.” “We are well acquainted, yes.”

“I wager it wasn’t he who pointed you in my direction, though, was it?”

Make that “The Incredible Lobster Man.” “Indeed not. I was given your direction by—”

“Don’t.” Jack held up his hand. “Who hardly matters. I’m more concerned with why.”

It was at that moment that Mrs. Dean arrived with refreshment. She set a silver tray laden with food and a large pot of coffee that smelled strong and rich on the table between them.

“Thank you, Mrs. Dean,” Abernathy said. “We’ll serve ourselves.”

She curtsied—ignoring Jack—and bustled out of the room like an engine with a furnace full of burning coal.

“I think you intimidate her.”

Jack poured himself a cup of coffee. “I have that effect.” He took a plate and placed three little sandwiches on it before leaning back in his chair. “Not that I don’t appreciate the hospitality, but why am I here, my lord?”

Abernathy, who was fixing his own cup of coffee, cleared his throat. “I understand that you occasionally avail yourself to the transportation industry.”

Jack wouldn’t necessarily call it an industry, or say that he availed himself to much of anything. He got involved in schemes and opportunities that promised to pay him extremely well for the amount of risk he had to take. “Do you have something that requires transportation?”

The viscount’s cheeks flushed. The man was hopeless. “Yes. Something that requires a certain amount of...discretion.”

Men like Abernathy only used that word when they knew they were doing something they oughtn’t. “I realize your circle considers it gauche to discuss remuneration, but I do not put my reputation or personal freedom on the line for cheap, sir.”

The man’s lips curled briefly, as though he’d bitten into something bad. Jack’s first thought was to poke him in the throat—hard. “Of course. What is your price? I suppose you’ll want it up front?”

He made it sound as though Jack had asked for a kiss on top of it all. “Half to seal the deal and half upon completion would be the gentlemanly agreement.”

“There’s nothing gentlemanly about this, sir.”

“No,” Jack replied quietly, locking his gaze with the viscount’s. “On either side, else I wouldn’t be here, would I?” Let the arrogant nob chew on that for a moment.

Abernathy’s chin lifted defiantly. “Name your price, Dandy.”

“Before I know what I’m getting into?” He chuckled. “I am not a fool, my lord. I went to Eton, you know.”

“Of course I know. You were in class with my eldest. That’s how I came to know of you. Fenton Hardwick.”

It was a surname that made the boy in him want to snort with laughter, but Jack resisted temptation. He remembered Hardwick—annoying little prig, but always up for a bit of trouble. They hadn’t been friends, though. Very few boys wanted to align themselves with a bastard.

“Ah, yes. How is he?”

“He’s on the Continent with friends.” Where Jack would probably be had his parents married.

Jack’s smile was false. “Good for him.” He took another drink of coffee. “What am I to transport, my lord?”

“A crate.” The viscount gave him a narrow glance. “Though I’m tempted to tell you to go to the very devil and find someone else.”

“As you wish, but I’ve been to the devil, my lord. He sent me back.” He made to rise.


Jack hid his smile as he sat once more. He knew the old man wouldn’t let him leave. Honestly, if he needed a reason to leave this should have been it. Abernathy’s desperation should have warned him off. Desperate men were not good employers.

But Jack didn’t leave. “Yes?”

The viscount squirmed. In his mind, Jack had the bounder pinned like an insect on a display board. “I will give you one thousand pounds to deliver a crate to St. Pancras station.”

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