Of Profit & Pleasure
Disclaimer: I do not own The Libertine.
A/N: Thanks to LinaLove, dionne dance, Marie and Bree for their reviews!
Blackmail & Puzzle Pieces
Olivia had read and reread the book Elizabeth had given her several times. And though she appreciated John Wilmot's perverse humor and dark take on love, she wasn't entirely sure how this would help her find anything out about Charlotte Fitzroy and Katherine Parker. She had thought this book would hold all the answers she needed, but she was beginning to learn that not all was as it seemed.
And Will wasn't helping at all. When she had returned to work that day and showed him what she had brought back he laughed loudly.
"You might want to read that in private," he had said and then walked off to take a look at another colleague's project.
It was now 10 p.m. on a Saturday night in London and she was alone in her flat. Her roommate was out on one of her numerous dates and judging by the height of her heels and the length of her skirt, Olivia doubted Becca would be back that night.
She let her head roll back as she sat in her desk chair. Another Saturday night in, doing research; such was the life of an art historian. Of course, that wasn't exactly true and Olivia knew that. She just wanted to think that her job was too important to spend any time socializing with anyone that hadn't already been dead for centuries.
The truth was a small part of her would have loved to have been out on the town on this beautiful August night. But even more than that, she wanted to find out the mystery revolving around the sapphire necklace.
She let out a sigh and sitting back up straight, she typed into the EBSCOHost browser bar "John Wilmot."
When she saw how many results that came back, she knew this was going to be another long night.
"So like the Bard you enjoy the art of deception. Miss, what was it?"
"Fitzroy," she replied flippantly.
"Ah yes, Miss Fitzroy," he leaned down closer to her, "my, my, my, I wonder what daddy would say if he found out his only darling daughter was employed in an occupation no higher than that of a common whore?"
She remained silent.
"Shall we find out?" he asked her innocently.
"I never deceived you. I never told you that my name was Katherine Parker."
"But that is your stage name, is it not?"
"Is an actress not allowed a stage name?" she asked.
"An actress, yes. A possible heir to the throne . . . I think not."
"Oh please, I will never be crowned queen. As far as the court is concerned I am merely a complication. I know many of my half-brothers laughed when they discovered great King Charles had sired a girl."
"I bet if they familiarized themselves with your wit and wisdom they would be concerned for their own place in the line for the throne."
She was taken aback; he was paying her a compliment. Whether he was aware of it or not she wasn't sure but it was surprising nonetheless.
"They say England is still recovering from the reign of Elizabeth; that the English people would not welcome a queen so soon again with open arms."
"Especially one that opens her legs so willingly," he remarked smugly and all thoughts of his previous compliment left her.
"Another assumption. My Lord, as we have discussed, people may talk but that doesn't necessarily mean what they say is true."
"Do you or do you not enjoy many a gentleman caller?"
"I have been called upon by many gentlemen. That is true."
"And yet you claim your purity is still intact?"
She laughed charmingly, "Now I never said that, my Lord."
"Then with that out of the way you should be able to enjoy many a tumble between the sheets with many different suitors," he stood up straight and walked to the other side of the room.
She let out a small breath she had no idea she had been holding and stood up to follow him across the room.
"There is something extremely pleasurable in being selective about a bed partner. It makes them feel honored and with that I get exactly what I want from a lover."
"And what is that Miss Fitzroy?" the name still felt foreign on his tongue.
"To be worshipped, of course."
"Like father, like daughter. Which brings us back to the matter at hand: what would your dear father do if he found out you were late to court because you were playing to hundreds of commoners at the theater?"
"He won't find out," she replied firmly.
"What makes you think I won't inform him of your many indiscretions immediately?"
"Because you have your own indiscretions that I am sure he would not like that I have seen firsthand; using your title to obtain free drink and board whilst you spend your money on fine clothes and fornication. And I would not hesitate to reveal to him certain names you have used to insult his highness."
"I have been banished from court for such deeds and worse and yet he has brought me back time and time again. He cares not what I do nor what I call him, only that it doesn't create a great scandal," he paused and turned to her.
"Now, tell me, why will I not tattle on you?" he moved towards her like a great lion eyeing its prey.
"Because you enjoy having power over me."
"Are you suggesting you have something to offer me that may buy my silence?" he said in mocking voice.
"I know I will regret asking this but do tell, what will it take, my Lord, for you to forget what you have discovered tonight?" she held her ground but the Earl could sense her discomfort.
He placed a finger under his chin as he hummed to himself. She waited patiently for his reply. That's all she could do. After all, if she had known her father had invited the Earl to court that evening, if she had known he would be there, she would have declined the King's invitation. But she had not known . . . and she had come . . . and now he knew. Charlotte did not believe in harping on the past, merely accepting the present . . . and also hoping his proposal was agreeable.
He started to circle her. Closer and closer; so close she could feel his breath tickling her neck and the silk of his waist coat brushing against her back.
Her brow furrowed in confusion, "pardon?"
He came to stand in front of her.
"Acting lessons. I will tutor you in the art of acting."
"As I have said before, I am in no need of acting lessons," she laughed incredulously, "I am the toast of the London stage."
"And in three months' time you will be forgotten. But with me as your instructor, you will become immortal."
Her eyes narrowed in suspicion, "And that is all you require of me in exchange for your silence?"
"Did you have something else in mind? If I didn't know any better I would think you want to warm my bed," and a lascivious grin spread across his face.
"Meet me at the theater, tomorrow morning," she said and she made her way to the library door.
"A moment, Miss Fitzroy," the Earl called and she stopped.
"You shall come to my manor tomorrow. Wear your morning dress and no jewelry. Your hair will be pulled away from your face and you will not apply face powder or rouge."
"I will do no such thing," she replied.
"You shall do as I say or suffer the consequences, my Lady."
Her eyes were on fire and he could see her body tense.
"Very well, my Lord. Until tomorrow," and she gave him an exaggerated bow before slamming the library door in his face.
"John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, poet, playwright, blah blah blah, I've already read all this," she said aloud to herself.
It was nearing 4 in the morning and, as she had predicted, Becca was not back yet. But Olivia wasn't concerned. She had found a fascinating character in Lord Rochester. But he was becoming just another piece of the puzzle and she hadn't even begun to fit together the few pieces she already had.
"A fondness for actresses, one of his famous students was Elizabeth Barry," Olivia yawned, "After retiring to his country estate to recover from an extended illness, he returned to London to find Barry had fallen out of favor to be replaced by Katherine Parker. He then steered Parker's career to great popularity."
At this her eyes widened. Finally! It wasn't much, but it was something. Now she just had to figure out what the two had to do with Charlotte Fitzroy.
She heard the door of her apartment slam and footsteps hurrying towards her room.
"Olivia?" she heard Becca whisper as she knocked timidly.
"It's open," Olivia called.
Becca opened the door. Her face was red and her eyes swollen from obviously crying. Her dress was torn and she was missing a shoe.
"What happened?" Olivia said as she rushed over and embraced her friend.
"He wouldn't take no for an answer," was all Becca said as she burst into tears.
A/N: Thank you for reading. Please take a moment to review?