Read an Extract
The Temple of Venus, King's Place, St James's London. May 1814
The clock struck the hour. Eleven. Laurel clenched her tethered
hands, felt the nails bite into her palms. It was going to
happen now. It was hopeless, but she would not surrender lightly.
She would fight and she would hurt whichever foul man they
sold her to, even though she had no hope that it would do
her any good. She wished her nails were longer. She wished
she had a knife. She prayed she would not cry.
Laurel forced herself to stand up straight and not huddle
into a mindless terrified ball. She was terrified,
she admitted, but she was not going to give them the satisfaction
of showing it. Her hands were shaking, her stomach was hollow,
but she was not a mindless victim, even if her concentration
was all over the place, her imagination skittering about from
one hideous imagining to another.
She stood in the shadowy antechamber, barefoot in the long
white linen shift, her hair loose around her shoulders. Patrick,
she thought as the two young women who flanked her, painted
and scantily dressed in crimson silks in contrast with her
virgin white, took her by the arms.
How could the name of a man she had known only a few days
give her strength? And yet she had not been able to get him
out of her mind.
Patrick, she repeated over and over as she was
led through a door into a sudden explosion of noise and heat
and the smell of alcohol and smoke, perfume and food.