He'd done it again, damn him to the blazes. This time, she wasn't going to take it. She'd had about enough of it, and if she ended up hanged for killing him, she'd not count herself lacking. Barely restraining herself from shouting his name into the crowds, she slogged through the rainwashed streets, holding her already filthy skirts closer to her.
The bodice of her dress pressed too tightly as she took in a deep, damp breath. The chill was prickling the bare tops of her bosoms and her bare arms, and she knew if she didn't find him soon, she'd end up ill.
"Philip, you idiot," she said under her breath, stepping up to the inn and looking in the windows. The cheap, warped glass with its inch-deep film of dirt made it hard to see, but she was sure that was him sitting by the bar. Tilting her chin in the air, she started for the doors.
She was stopped just short of the doors, swung about in a wide circle as an arm anchored about her waist, a warm, heavily sinewed hand clasped possessively on her hip. The momentum she'd gathered to walk in the inn swung them both around, and she already had her hands up to push at her captor.
"Hello, love," the man slurred, completing the arc by cinching her close to his side. "Such a lovely night, it is, that I got to feelin' lonely, and I says to meself, 'Jack…'" he trailed off for a moment, his dark eyes wide, reflecting the moonlight and making them glow. He pursed his lips slightly and lowered his head, the wide, almost black eyes staring into her own light brown ones. "'Captain Jack,'" he corrected, "'It seems you ought to find y'self some… company for the evening.'"
Wonderful, Amelia thought. Only in seeking a drunk were you likely to be assailed by one. "I'm not your company for the evening," she enunciated, noting with mingled curiosity and distaste the sheer number of things he had twined into his hair. A pang of longing went through her, and her hand reached up to tangle in her own sable hair. The newly-shorn tresses would barely fall to her shoulders when released from the haphazard mess they'd been pinned into.
"Oh, right, right," he said suddenly, stepping back from her with an exaggerated toe-heel step, his arms flung wide in acquiescence. "Ye'd like a bit of something in return. I know the procedure, madam, been through it thousands of times." Tipping her a wink just as exaggerated as his walk, he extracted a small pouch from his trousers and untied the leather thong keeping it shut. The glitter of coins caught her eye and knowledge, horrifying and embarrassing, shot through her. She was stricken completely speechless by his implications, unable to correct him as he continued to speak.
"So what do we say, love? I've got the coin, provided you possess the—" He let his gaze drop to her breasts, the target of his stare more than obvious. Clearing his throat, he brought his eyes back to hers. "Time," he finished the sentence.
Insulted, Amelia shoved at him, expecting him to stagger, but he stood firm, only wavered a bit in his stance. What sort of man talked as though he'd fallen into a barrel of ale, gesticulated as wildly as any lunatic, but didn't smell of drink and didn't stagger a bit? "I'm not a whore," she shouted. "Are you mad?"
To her amazement, he chuckled. He was actually laughing at her. "Love, let's take a look at you. I've more covering on my legs than you've on your entire body, and though it's sure to be an attractive part of town, it's not an attractive part of town, savvy?" Clapping a hand to her shoulder, he lowered his face to hers confidentially, giving her the full benefit of those dark-rimmed eyes. She thought fleetingly that Marlowe's Mephistopheles must have had eyes quiet like those, rimmed in soot and wickedly charming, amused and cold at the same time. "So now that we've taken a look-see, shall we try and see the situation as I see the situation, and trust me, I do see the situation quite well. And it is… quite well." He winked again, salacious this time rather than playful.
He could have done no worse than to bring up her state of dress. It was a sore point with her, driven directly by pride. "I'm a laundress, you bloody git, not a whore. Though I can tell by the looks of you that a laundering is beyond your imagining, whereas a whore is not." She spoke through her teeth, shrugging off his hand roughly. "And if it so happens that I'm too poor to wear naught but that which I've outgrown, it's no business of yours." She crossed her arms over her chest, struggling with the embarrassed tears that wanted to fall. "I may be poor, Captain," she stressed the title sarcastically, "But that doesn't make me common."
No, no, he was starting to see that all too clearly now. She spoke as one educated. He hadn't heard speech like that since… well, it had been several months since he'd seen Elizabeth and Will.
"Well, pardon me, milady," he apologized, only a little facetious as he again spread his arms wide. More's the fool me, he thought, watching her chin lift proudly. Aye, now, he thought, barely restraining a nod of approval, there's a girl. "When I'm wrong, I'm wrong, and 'tis often I'm wrong." He looked at her more closely and wondered why he'd grabbed her in the first place. Even if she had been available, there was a dusting of freckles across her nose that spoke of no rouge or powder, she was a bit thinner than the women he kept time with, and her hair… well, her hair was shorter than his was, by his estimation.
"I'll not pardon one such as yourself," Amelia said, turning her back on him and walking down the street. It was too late to find Philip. Her wastrel brother would have spent the money he'd stolen from her ten times over by now. If she'd not been waylaid by the pirate, who was undoubtedly just as much a thief as Philip, she'd have been able to salvage at least a fraction of her pay.
"Miss!" The voice echoed off the damp walls of the buildings, careening down the cobbled street after her. A few drunkards stood against the walls of the inn and cackled echoing 'Miss'es after her.
Against her better judgment, as this whole night had been, she turned and looked back at the man standing in the middle of the street. He flicked his right hand, the rings on it flashing quickly in the moonlight, and she heard the object coming at her before she saw it. She caught the pouch deftly, gasping at the weight of it in her fingers. Shocked, she looked down at the money-filled sac. "Sir, I cannot—" she looked up, meaning to face the assailant-turned-benefactor, and swallowed the rest of her sentence.
The street where he had stood was empty.