"Get out of my sight," Isabella croaked as a man approached her.
Another asshole, another day.
"Please, Miss Swan, I have money!" the man said, eyes torn and raking over her body.
"The day I seek wages for my body like that, is the day I slit my throat! I have some decency and self-respect," she replied, pointing the way for him to leave.
Instead, he rushed forward, dropped to his knees and clung to her skirts.
This was ridiculous! She rolled her eyes and tipped her head back.
"Please! You know how lonely I am!" he cried, pawing at her legs.
She tried to step aside, but he would not relent.
"Tell me your name again," she said, dropping her head.
He still gripped onto her, his eyes welling up. "Mr. Stanford."
"Your first name, dolt, or I'll kick you between the legs. My boot's between your knees already, Stanford; you put yourself in a precarious position." She lifted a brow.
"I do it for you. I want to bear myself to you, to take you to my bed," he pleaded.
"Pay a tart—I'm not in that line of work. My profession is artistic," she said.
"You could paint me. I'd be a nude figure for you."
She grimaced and scrunched her nose real tight. "Ewww! No! I pick my subjects, and rarely do nudes anymore."
"Then I'd buy up all your sketches and canvases and—"
"Stanford, if you can afford that, then you can afford a proper mistress. I'm not interested. Sex has no appeal to me . . .".
"I'd be gentle—I'd never harm you," he went on.
She growled. "Gentle is not the problem. I'm not a china doll. I don't break, and certainly don't bend to you."
"I heard you visited Mr. Masen today. Do you bend to him? All of New York's ladies do," he said.
She kicked his inner knee.
He howled and rolled to the side.
She sat down on the park bench and watched him crawl back to her.
"Say that again, please. I need a good way to break in my new shoes," she said, smirking.
"Christ Jesus, I'll do anything for you—anything," he said, back at her lap, pawing once more.
"Stanford, you need to keep yourself busy with your employ. I have things I need to attend to," she said, standing up.
As she turned to go, there he was.
Asshole paperman. And he was watching her with a disinterested look on his face.
"It's raining assholes, and I left my parasol at home. Good heavens I should be so smart next time to bring my strongest one in case we get a typhoon of them."
"You mean 'tycoon,'" Stanford gritted.
"Oooh, I like that." She patted his head and told him, "You might want to get off the ground before someone mistakes you for an unleashed pet."
"I'd like to be your pet," he hissed through his teeth.
"I dislike animals—they shed and shit, and both are disagreeable." She brushed him aside and roamed in Mr. Masen's direction.
Instead of looking away like any gentlewoman would do, she stared right into his smug face.
He smelled of cigars and some lewd woman's perfume.
"I see the day's been good for you," he sneered as she passed.
She turned around and went straight to his side. "And I see the whore's have been kind to you." She wiped at his chin. "You missed a spot." There was lipstick trailing down his neck.
"I suppose I'm supposed to thank you for that?"
"No. I don't wear lipstick, and I certainly don't leave a trail when I've done illicit things." She set her hands on her hips. "Us peons that work for an honest wage, don't tout what we've done."
"Funny," he huffed, "I heard you've been touting your drawings all over town, trying to whore yourself out for more money."
"Some of us have bills to pay, and money doesn't just land in our lap."
"No, but apparently stray men do."
Well, what do you know about such things, paperman?"
"I just saw, plain as a tree in this park, a man throw himself at you." He tipped his chin toward Stanford now strolling in the opposite direction.
"And did your eyesight and hearing both fail you when I told him to go find a nice hole in a fence to dip his pole into? I'n it strange how you see only what you want to?" She smiled. What did it matter if she was using coarse language and letting some of her slang from her neighborhood seep into her language? It wasn't like he could despise her any more than he already did.
"I'n it strange how a woman such as yourself, decidedly educated, can't seem to find a proper husband to replace the one she lost, instead of hounding her employers for money she has yet to earn?"
"Don't you ever talk about my Roman. He was decent and kind—all the things, you, sir, are not."
He stood there with his cheek almost as red as the trails of lipstick left behind. She should have done more to him than that for not only insulting her, but for besmirching her goodly deceased husband.
Her hand tingled from smacking him, and she was glad of it.
After a slow measured step toward her, he took her wrist in his, and she cringed, ready for him to crush the delicate bones there.
Instead, he took her wrist to his mouth, kissed it with a sensual pulsing charge and then released it.
"That, madame, may be the first time a woman's ever dared to touch me without my permission," he growled low and gravelly.
"And that may be the first time I've dared to touch something so disgusting without a hope of flushing it down the toilet."
"You are in need of a proper man to take you at hand."
"You mean between his legs?" She hiccuped a laugh and covered her mouth, smiling.
"I do." He tipped his head.
She pulled off his hat. "Undoubtedly, that's the most absurd thing you've ever said."
"It's the most truthful thing I've ever said."
"Paperman, meet scissors. I can cut through your bullshit, and don't you think I won't."
"Is that what you call this?" He stared down at his hat in her hands.
She reached into her purse and pulled out all the money she had. "You use this. You need it more than I do. Maybe it'll be good for you to see what honest money feels like." She put the hat on top of his head with the coins clinking onto his hair.
"Good Lord, woman, what a good whip wouldn't do to cure what ails you." He bared his teeth at her.
"I'm sure it would, but I rather like being able to sit as I work. You well know the merits of a generous cushion on your backside as others toil around you."
He laughed. "I am not lazy. I work harder than any one of my employees."
"And I'm certain they look to you for moral guidance, too." She leaned in and sniffed at him. "Oh, and tastes in female perfume as well. That's important—can't forget about that. It's indeed fortunate you can tell them all about which ones are more pleasant on the tongue and which ones linger longest . . ."
"No, mite—I leave such feminine details to you and the ladies you gossip with, since clearly, they like to bicker about me and what I do. This will put all your tongues to better use."
She stepped even closer, her breast brushing up against his sleeve. "I don't care what other women say. I judge for myself, and the proof's on your neck right now."
"How do you know it's not blood? I could have cut myself shaving."
She shoved her fingers in his face with the lipstick she wiped off. "Short memory?"
"I . . ."
She smirked. "Short memory and poor taste in perfumed harlots." She wiped the lipstick on his chin. "Why not wear it as a badge of honor since you've already said you don't care."
"That's twice you've touched me without my permission," he said, his eyes flitting to her breasts.
"According to you, I walk the streets, begging for coin, so what does it matter to you if I throw myself at you?"
"Well . . . I . . ."
She shoved him back. "Get a private mistress, then the ladies won't have to tell me stuff I don't care to hear."
"Jealous . . ."
She threw her purse at him, and this time he failed to duck in time.
It knocked his hat off, sending the coins scattering and clinking around him.
"You, sir, are no gentleman!" She left in haste, and ignored her purse on the ground. She'd be damned if she leaned over to get it back.
He could keep it, leave it there, and take a shit on it, the bastard!
Isabella stopped at the last office of the day.
"Please, I only ask five minutes of his time. I've been freelancing for the New York Times, but they have no need of my drawings for this set. I'm due for rent next week. I only need five minutes," Isabella pleaded.
"You've been working for them?" the man's eyes rose up and his mustache jerked.
"For months now," she lied. "They pay well, and they're a good place to be employed, but unfortunately the competition is fierce, and well, I . . ."
"For a lady, I can see it is difficult for you," the man said.
She wanted to roll her eyes, but resisted in case it ruined her chances.
"I'll tell Mr. Bryant you're here." He stepped into the office and a few muffled words were exchanged that she could overhear.
The man she'd been talking to stepped out and ushered her in. "Mr. Bryant will see you now Mrs. Thompson."
Isabella gave a small curtsy and entered the office.
"I apologize for the delay," Mr. Bryant began. "We've been warned there's a hostile woman by the name of Swan parading around from newspaper office to newspaper office, bullying employees and asking to be hired."
"My word, how unseemly," she said, faking shock. She placed her hand over her chest, and of course his eyes went right there. "How awful for these hardworking papermen." She fought off a snicker at the name: papermen. Reminded her of that asshole she wiped lipstick off of and onto.
That man had actually reeked of more than one lady's eau de toilette, otherwise he would not have smelled so strongly of their diluted perfumes. Street walkers could not usually afford the strong, good stuff.
She knew because she was relegated to lavender aromatic waters herself. It was requisite she smell nice when she couldn't bathe as regularly as she'd like. The floating baths and the river were far enough away it made it a hardship to travel there to do it. How else would she gain employment if she stank?
She took a deep whiff for a moment to make sure at this point she smelled decent.
Yes, she was presentable, unlike that nasty asshole paperman, obviously in the throes of sin whenever he could manage it between tossing papers out to the masses filled with no news of import.
She was one to judge? Here she stood, being false about who she was so she could get paid. She had no choice though. It was obvious Mr. Masen had ensured none of the papers would hire her, the downright devil.
"Yes, it's unfortunate we've had to be on guard from such disgusting displays of unfemininity." Mr. Bryant coughed and wheezed.
She smiled and once more fought off a chuckle. This man was a dolt. How he ever ran an office was a question only the cosmos could answer. He could barely string together an intelligent sentence thus far. "I came today because as you know, the paper sells more readily with pictures for those who are less literate because they are more apt to buy it that way."
She set her portfolio on his desk. He leafed through it with a look of interest.
She had drawings of people of repute, stepping out of carriages. Pictures of powerful men, huddled in street corners. She even had sketches of a judge strolling down the walkway with a well-known call girl by the name of Rosalie Hale.
"How fascinating—the way you catch the details like the spark in their eyes. Well, I've . . . . I've never seen anything more exquisite than this." He plunked down a purse filled with coins. He pulled out a day's worth of wages, and even handed her some paper money. Her eyes went wide.
"Please, sir, this is more than generous," she protested. "I only want what's fair and equitable."
"These are to buy this lot. And I am advancing you with two week's pay. I want to use your services for that amount of time to make sure you are a good fit with us."
She lost her breath and her knees weakened, and nothing took her down like that. This would help pay off her debts. She was behind a month in rent. "Thank you. I shall be here at eight a.m. every day to offer up my artwork for your paper."
"Good. See me directly. I'll inform you of the day's stories to be printed for the next round. You will be placed at a desk, and I'll expect to you to sketch whatever my reporters ask. If you can do this, then we will discuss full employment in your future." He nodded, and his eyes roved over her body.
She fingered the area where her wedding ring used to reside. His eyes went there for a moment, his breath hitched and then he extended a palm.
She shook it and left his office with the money in her hands.
This was . . . Well, it was extraordinary. She could pay her rent, and she could eat.
As she ambled down the street toward home, she cursed under her breath.
"Oh, that damned club," she groused.
She forgot she'd made a commitment. She'd promised her sister-in-law she'd be there. This was before she had this money in her grasp though.
Her shoulders went up around her ears as a frigid breeze swept through. Her ankles broke out in chills.
Better attend. She never knew where her next set of wages would come from.
She quickened her pace and stepped into her home, where it was dark and cold, but hers nonetheless.
I've posted some information that's mentioned in this chapter on my blog (address in my profile), including which newspaper company this is she's applied to, even though it's mentioned in the next chapter or two, and also how poor people like her tended to common things like bathing since in a tenement there was rarely a bath tub in this time period.
I have to apologize for being unable to answer as many reviews this time around. I'm writing other stories right now and trying my hardest to publish another story in a few weeks on Amazon, so it leaves me little time for much else. I do read every single review, but if I get asked several questions that are similar, I'll just answer them here in author notes rather than answer individually to save on time.
So… this time around, I'm being asked what edge play is by a few of you. Here's the definition according to wiki:
In BDSM, edgeplay is a subjective term for types of sexual play that are considered to be pushing on the edge of the traditional S.S.C. (safe, sane and consensual) creed. They would be considered more RACK (Risk-Aware Consensual Kink).
Edgeplay may involve the risk of serious, even permanent, harm, or death, exemplified by activities such as breathplay (erotic asphyxiation), fire play, knife play, and gunplay, as well as the increased risk of spreading disease, as with cutting, bloodplay, or barebacking.
What constitutes edgeplay varies with the persons involved, and also over time. In the mid-nineties, the Living in Leather convention did not have panels on ageplay or scat because they were considered too edgy. By 2000 they were part of the regular list programming.
Some activities, such as ageplay or rape roleplay, may be considered quite edgy by some and not at all for others. The definition is fairly subjective, although typically based on some level on what people are used to in their local scene.
In this story, Breaking Blood on Alabaster, the edge play involved at the end is cutting because of Edward's blood lust, but it's definitely consensual. It won't be too gory or graphic, and extremely sensual. If you want to read some excellent darker erotica with some really good edge play, try out Tiffany Reisz's stuff. Soren is hypnotic, and he's into cutting/blood play. I never thought I'd ever consider even reading something like that, but holy crap, Tiffany somehow finds a way to make it sound sexy and fascinating.
BTW, if you're already a fan of hers, she's going to be doing an author's chat on Goodreads in the BDSM group on June 11 07:14AM. It'll be in the Foreplay BAR. I'm not sure if you have to be a member of this group to attend this event online or not (I love this group, BTW, such wonderful, friendly, helpful people there! And the book recs are fabulous). She's wonderful to talk to, though. I've chatted with her online more than once. Such a down-to-earth person and open about pretty much anything.
Of course, keep in mind this is just a story, just as hers is, so I do not promote playing in these manners without training, education and making sure above all else it is as safe and sane as possible, and always consensual. Training is imperative. This isn't stuff that should be messed with or treated lightly.
Back to my edgeward… I'm blown away by how many reviews this first chapter received. Seems I'm not the only one that loves a feisty Bella, taking him on. Yay! Thank you all so much for your support.
Just you wait 'til she gets going. You've barely seen the spark of this woman's flame. Think inferno…
P.s. There is a reason she's going by Miss Swan even though she's a widow. Unfortunately, that's not going to be revealed for quite some time. I'm finishing writing the 20th and 21st chapter today, so hopefully that answers some of the questions I've been given about length of this fic.