His Not-So-Sweet Marchioness – Sorcha Mowbray

Lord Flintshire’s, cheek exploded in a flash of pain that quickly morphed into pleasure so intense it made his cock stiffen. He smiled at the man squared up across from him in a dark, slightly fishy, corner of London’s wharf. The area was as rough and seedy as his five-foot ten-inch opponent whose shoulders seemed to span as wide as the man was tall. With his tattered clothing, tobaccostained teeth, and the permanently swollen appearance of his ears, his challenger was a sight to behold. Considering the man’s rather ragged appearance, Matthew Derby, Marquess of Flintshire wasn’t the least bit intimidated. In fact, just the opposite. “Come now, surely you can hit harder than that?” The man’s eyes widened in surprise. “That’s a mighty smart mouth ye’ have there. Perhaps I’ll pop you in it next?” Flint’s pulse spiked with anticipation. He wouldn’t be kissing anyone later, but a split lip was a ten-fold gift—until it healed. All around him, the ring of voices acted like a shield, blocking out not only the late-night sounds of London. But the echoes of his dead brother’s screams, the disappointed tones of his father’s voice, and the throaty demands of his grandmother that he take a wife and continue the family line. Loudest of all was the shame that always accompanied his hunger for pain. All of them melded into a cacophony that trailed him wherever he went. One that he desperately sought to escape any way he could—even through violence.

He circled around to his left, leading with his non-dominant hand for now. Eventually, when his opponent had provided enough pain to satisfy the ugly hunger inside him, he would switch up to his right and end the fight. But for the next little while, he relished what was to come. It was too bad that he couldn’t follow the evening’s activity up with a rousing good fuck, but such was the life of a courting man. Even a fiancée in name only wouldn’t tolerate such poor form. And though Mrs. Rosalind Smith would only be engaged to him for a short while more, he felt bound to protect her. Damned if that same sense of honor wasn’t what had driven him to act as her suitor to begin with when her sister’s unwanted beau turned his sights on Ros. The whole situation was all confoundingly odd, considering he had never met her before that night. Then he stumbled over a loose cobblestone, which jerked him out of his thoughts and back to the fight he was currently engaged in.

That was when the hapless chap across from him dipped his right hand—a clear indication he was about to punch—and Flint reached in with a left jab, just catching the man’s cheek. The hulk of a man stumbled back a step. While not as stout as his opponent, Flint was easily two inches taller and still roped with muscle. He trained with former bare-knuckle champion Jem Langston, the erstwhile leader of the Lustful Lords, Lord Stonemere. They trained together at the same boxing club. So, there could be no doubt that he kept himself in top physical form. His opponent regrouped and leaned in with another solid punch to his left eye. The swelling set in quickly, limiting his vision, but not as quick as the man’s follow-up body blows. After taking a combination of punches to his ribs and stomach, he decided it was time to make the switch. The moment he shifted his stance, the stout man hesitated.

“Here now, what’s this?” Flint offered up a bloody grin. “Just settling in.” Wary, but clearly still under the misapprehension that he had the upper hand, the man circled around a bit and then stepped in to drive a solid punch to Flint’s gut. Except, with his shorter reach, the water hydrant of a man never made it. Instead, he stumbled backward in confusion after Flint’s right fist connected with his face in a solid jab. Blood spewed from his opponent’s bulbous nose spilling down his chin and onto his shirt. There was a decided nip in the air, making it too cool to be fighting shirtless. Still on his feet and willing to continue, the man kept moving. Flint stepped in to land another punch, and the goon swung around, slipped in behind him, and landed a rabbit punch to his lower back right over a kidney. Pain lanced through Flint, sending another wave of ecstasy through his body.

His cock was half-hard as his knees hit the ground. Unable to take a moment to relish the feeling, he quickly popped back up to his feet and whipped around in time to catch the stout man with another solid jab to his already broken nose. The man bent over, screaming and clutching his face. At that point, his manager, more aptly his chum, stepped in to stop the fight. “That’s it. The man’s gotta be able to fight again.” Disappointment crowded out the pleasure and adrenaline coursing through Flint’s veins. With a studied casualness he did not feel in the least, he dropped his hands and headed over to where the man holding the wagers stood. The money man growled, low and menacing. “This fight ain’t over.

Not until a body drops to the stones.” Flint considered the cobblestones beneath his feet and cast a glance back at his opponent. The man shook his head and walked away, clearly prepared to forfeit his money for the cessation of the fight. Flint looked back to the money man and shrugged. “Ain’t my fault, the chap refuses to continue. I won, I suggest you pay up what you owe me.” It wasn’t that he needed the blunt per se; it was the principle of the thing. Also, he used the money for a very specific purpose. With a fierce glare at the money man, he stepped closer. The man looked at him, perused his fine lawn shirt and the tailored trousers he wore.

It was obvious, even in the dim lighting of a wharf-side alley, that the moneyman was considering stiffing him on his payout. “Ah. Ah. Ah. I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Flint shook his head. “Do what?” the man demanded, though, with his thick cockney accent, it was all slammed together into more of a blur of syllables than words. The guy seemed to consider the mauling he’d just witnessed in addition to the fine clothing on Flint’s back. “Take my blunt and run. Appearances can be deceiving, none so much as mine.

” Where most men looking to intimidate another man would have crossed their arms at that point, Flint was not most men. He was a fighter, through and through. And he was all too aware of the fact that crossing his arms over his chest would only hobble his ability to react in the event the tosser decided to attack or —as he suspected—run. Suddenly the man’s shoulders slumped. “You’re a nasty blighter despite all the spit and shine.” Flint grinned and held out his hand. “Just so.” The moneyman handed over Flint’s winnings with a grimace. “If you consider how the fight had turned, I was about to drop him to the stones at any rate. So, technically, you were going to lose whether he fought on or not.

” Flint tucked the wad of bills away and shrugged. The moneyman merely grumbled about hoity-toity lords and their highfalutin ways as he melted into the shadows and disappeared. Most of the crowd had dispersed during their little exchange, so Flint grabbed his coat from the boy hovering nearby who held it. At the flip of a half-sovereign, the kid grinned, caught the metal disc, bit it, and then melted into the back-alley shadows. ~ The Market was unusually quiet when Flint strolled through the front door. In contrast, his body still hummed with the residual pleasure, pain, and adrenaline cocktail from his fight. Normally, he would have happily headed upstairs to work off his excess energy with one of the women who either frequented or worked at the notorious London brothel. But now, he had Ros to consider. He was many things, but one of them was not a cad. Hoping to find Linc and Arthur having a drink, as opposed to other less suitable activities, he made his way up the grand staircase and down the hall to the blue room.

His injuries were beginning to make themselves known. In fact, he was sure he had some bruised ribs, and his eye was quite swollen, which made the stairs a bit of a welcome challenge. Happily, he found his friends sans any female company. Pouring himself a whisky, he sat down with the duo. Linc whistled as he looked him over. “Holy shite! You took a walloping tonight.” “I needed one.” Flint snorted. “Besides, I think it probably looks worse than it really is.” “I don’t know.

You look pretty worse for wear.” Both of Arthur’s brows rose in punctuation. Then he took a great gulp of his drink and slammed the empty glass down. “Why do you do it, Flint?” Linc grew quiet as Arthur’s question lingered in the silence. Flint groaned internally. There was no good answer to that question—certainly none he wished to discuss—and though he knew what his friend was asking about, he decided to play stupid. “Do what?” “Come on, chap, you know what I’m asking. Why do you fight?” Arthur stood up and sauntered over to the sideboard where the bottles of liquor were ranged. He poured himself another drink and then returned to the table. Flint considered how best to answer that question.

Stone and Cooper had never asked him why. They’d merely accepted that this was part of who he was. It was possible they simply understood what drove him a bit more than the others. As for Linc and Wolf, perhaps they never asked because the others hadn’t? But Arthur was new to their group, and so clearly, curiosity had gotten the best of him. “Why not?” Flint tossed out the flip response in hopes it would suffice. There were no words to fully explain why he fought. Why he needed the pain. Why it felt so damn good. So he’d long ago quit trying to find them. Arthur sighed.

“Bloody hell. If you don’t want to talk about it, simply tell me to shut up. No need to be an arsehole about it.” “Then shut up.” Flint tried not to glare, but between being denied the release of sexual pleasure after a good beating and the uncomfortable brush with an inner truth he’d long avoided, he wasn’t feeling very chipper at the moment. His faux engagement to Ros had utterly disrupted his usual routine. He was fairly certain that any woman would take exception to her fiancé—even a decoy fiancé—having sex with another woman. But his current limitations were soon to be removed now that Lady Julia Wolfington, Ros’ sister, was happily and safely married to one of his best friends. Ros simply had to break off with him at one of the upcoming balls. With his reputation already blackened of his own doing, the plan was for her to break off their association.

Now, he just had to keep his hands to himself long enough to allow her to do what needed to be done. Unfortunately, that small task was proving harder and harder to accomplish. Despite being more than aware of how inappropriate he was for a woman as sweet as Ros, something deep inside him wanted to possess her, to strip her naked, and show her all the ways he could pleasure a woman. After all, he was one of the notorious Lustful Lords. Linc leaned over and slapped the back of Arthur’s head. “Don’t be a nosy nit. He doesn’t hurt anyone who doesn’t willingly sign up for it. Besides, watching Flint fight is a thing of beauty. The man is poetry in motion.” Flint rolled his eyes at his silver-tongued friend, who had a flare for the dramatic.

A ruckus down the hall saved him from responding. The noise proved loud enough to draw the three of them out of their private retreat. He was the first to the door and opened it, but Linc and Arthur were right beside him. Two doors down, a half-naked man stood in front of a cloaked woman. He leaned forward and then away before listing to the right. He was so obviously inebriated, it was laughable. But the woman was still clearly in distress, what with the way she was pressed against the wall. With his cock hanging out of his trousers and no shirt to cover the gentle swell of his stomach, the drunken man lurched toward the woman. “Come on, luv. Come join us.

” “I told you no. Now, take yourself back into your room this minute.” The woman’s voice carried down the hall and all but punched Flint in the face. Ros? What the devil is she doing in The Market? His gut twisted. Who the bloody hell was she here to see? Not him, since she was not aware he had planned to visit this evening. As far as she was concerned, he had plans with Linc and Arthur. And he had not indicated where those plans were to take place. But he would have thought that her assumptions on the matter would have leaned more toward White’s than a house of ill repute. With a growl, he stepped free of the doorway. He recognized the man as Lord Calhoun, a harmless drunk, really, but he did tend toward a bit of exhibitionism when the drink was on him.

“My lord, I believe one of your companions is calling for you.” Surprised by his interference, Lord Calhoun looked at him in confusion for a moment, then turned and walked back into his room and shut the door. Whether the man retreated as a result of Flint’s suggestion or Calhoun’s recognition of him made little difference, though his penchant for violence was well known. Flint’s goal had been achieved. Ros turned to face him. “There you are. I’ve been looking for you for nearly a quarter of an hour!”

.

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