COVER no way out

Book Info

Title: No Way Out

Series: Another England Book 3

Series Type: Can be read as a stand alone

Author: Eric Alan Westfall

Publisher: self-published

Published: 10 September 2018

Cover Design: Roberto Quintero

Length: 150,000 words

Keywords : Historical, Romance, Humour

Add To Good Reads: Goodreads

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BLURB

It’s April of 1816 in Another England.

 

And Jeremy—a whore from the Dock—is living in a guest bedroom at the London home of the (in)famous Iron Marquess, with over fifteen days missing from his life.

 

For someone who remembers everything from his third birthday on, it’s unnerving not to know. Fine, fourteen days for the coma and the infection delirium. But those first thirty-six hours. Do they explain how he got hurt, how he got to Ireton House, and why his lordship’s mountain-sized valet is taking care of him? Or why his ironness looks at him with nothing iron at all in his eyes?

 

Jeremy and the Iron Marquess both have dark secrets. Forced engagements, an inheritance, a scheme to clap Jeremy in Bedlam, the revelation of the missing hours, a problem with plumage, some numbered accounts, and a long sea voyage, all seem to mean there’s no way out of the snares surrounding them. Or is the old saying true: where there’s a waltz, there’s a way?

 

All royalties will go to a local LGBT organization.

 

 

 Excerpt

 

  1. IT ALL BEGINS

6 April 1816

1:38 p.m.

 

Ireton House, London

no way out

The voice was back.

Inside my head.

 

Still I swiveled, twisting to look behind, knowing I would see what I always see when the words are said—nothing. The unpainted, scuffed wooden floor was empty. The door to second story elegance had not creaked since we passed through, shutting it behind us, moments ago. The stairs to lesser third-story elegance and fourth story no elegance at all were both bare of bodies who might whisper words only I could hear.

 

I turned forward again, teetered, and reaching out, slapped my palms flat against the walls of the narrow servants’ stairs. Pressing hard, I tilted back, but my socked foot slipped on the slick wooden edge. When I landed, the floor made known its displeasure with a sharp splinter through the rope-belted loose trousers, ill-fitting smalls, and into my bum. I yelped.

 

The cold voice of Thomas, the senior footman, rose up the stairwell from the landing below. “His lordship is waiting.”

 

I shifted my weight to my left hip, and rolled to my knees, giving him a fine view of my bottom if he was watching, which was by now instinctive. I made a point of lifting my left leg with great care, and with equal care placing my foot on the floor, again in case he was watching. A right foot repeat and then some clearly awkward struggling to get myself as upright on the landing as I could—although a boy with a twisted spine and a twisted leg can never be truly upright—followed by a shuffle-step away from the edge. I suppressed the temptation to rub my right arse cheek. Without turning around I called down, “Well, bugger ‘is bleedin’ lordship! Me feet ‘urt ‘n me arse ‘as been ‘urt, too.”

 

My feet didn’t hurt much any more. Though bandaged still, and covered with the thick wool stockings sagging around my ankles, they had almost healed. But the pretense might keep me here, with a comfortable bed, and good food, for just a while longer. I grinned a small, wicked grin to myself, and wiped it away as I turned to face the stairs. “Right, then. Shall I drop me britches, turn ‘n bend and you can see what’s stickin’ in me bum, ‘n maybe come up ‘n pull it out?”

 

It was amazing how much disdain could be contained in stare and stance. Thomas even managed to look down his nose while looking up the stairs.

 

“Orright, orright. Jus’ wait a bleedin’ minute. ‘n you might want to close yer eyes so’s y’don’t see somethin’ what might ‘orrify you, just in case me grip slips, ‘cause I ain’t goin’ nowhere with somethin’ stickin’ in me arse.”

My hands were on the knot in the rope, and I grinned broadly when the footman closed his eyes, with a stern “Be quick about it then, boy.”

 

I untied the knot, loosening the waistband since whoever supplied the trousers was much thicker around the middle than me, using my left hand to hold the pants up. I reached behind, and working my right hand into my smalls and found the painful little bugger. With thumb and forefinger I wiggled it free, brought my hand round to the front, and looked at the bloody, bloody thing. I shouldn’t have, but I did. I lifted the three-quarter-inch sliver before my face. “Oi! Is this a dagger wot I see before me?”

 

Bloody hell. Bloody, bloody, bloody hell. Maybe Thomas wouldn’t.... Well, bloody hell all over again, he did. The footman was looking at me now, his eyes wide, his mouth open to say something, and then he slowly shut it.

It would only make it worse if I tried to cobble together an explanation of why, or how a sixteen-year-old street boy (the age I gave) could paraphrase The Scottish Play. I shut my own mouth, dropped the splinter, retied the knot, and began descending the stairs with care, one thumping step at a time. I braced one hand against the wall—his lordship did not believe in hand rails for his servants—in case of another slip. The footman waited until I was almost at the landing before turning away. Watching my downward struggle, he was unconcerned about the possibility of another fall, his expression informing me if I fell I was on my own. I followed in silence as we went through the halls of the first floor to the front of the house.

 

Ah, his lordship’s library. I stared at the door.

 

I’d been in there, just the once, when I shouldn’t have been. But then, I shouldn’t have been in the house in the first place, but I was, though I didn’t know why. Or how I came to be here. Both were part of what was missing. I could remember every...bloody...thing in my life up to the night before...whatever...happened. Remember the Dock on the 12th, the clock in my head saying it was ten thirty at night when I finished the last man. I remember the glint of the shilling as it spun through the air, making me get off my knees, bend and stretch to reach it in the muck. The feel of the metal between my fingertips as I picked it up. Then the twist and roll away, my back taking the brunt of the kick meant for my belly. The man was one of those who, once done, and eager to be tucked and buttoned away, feels guilty and lashes out at the one responsible for his sin. I remember his silhouette as I got to my feet, his realizing how much taller I was, and how the silhouette turned and hurried away.

 

Then nothing more until I woke up too damned many days later in a bloody nobleman’s house, in sobbing agony, weak, my feet, head and thigh throbbing with pain.

 

Exclusive Excerpt From Chapter 8

From Chapter 8: The First Visit

 

IRETON

12 April 1816

9:30 a.m.

Ireton House, London

 

[Baron Enderby, accompanied by his adopted son, and the Vicar of Wakefield, have arrived at Ireton House without an appointment. The baron has demanded to see his son, Brendan—once known as Jeremy.]

...

I waited until they were done. “Not possible, Baron Enderby.” He would, of course, catch the frost inherent in the formality, rather than the less formal, but equally polite, “my lord,” or the “come, let us all be friends” of “Enderby.”

“I have every right to talk to my son, Lord Ireton.” Ah, two can play the formality game.

Of course, any “right” of access he might have in my home was conditioned on two agreements: mine and Brendan’s. I doubted the baron would recognize any right in Brendan to have an opinion, so I didn’t mention the point.

“It is not a matter of anyone’s rights, but reality. He is still in severe pain, and his health was not good to begin with, after his earlier injuries. Dr. Pritchard requires him to take a mild dose of laudanum after he breaks his morning fast, which he does early. He is sleeping now.”

“You’re keeping him drugged?” The baron’s eyes widened as he realized how stupid he’d been.

I coated the iron in layers and swathes of silk. “Keeping him drugged? Are you suggesting, sir, I or my household are doing anything to your son other than administer the medications prescribed by his physician—one of the most respected in the country—and caring for him as he needs to be cared for so he may make a timely recovery?”

He was forced to overlook the demotion of my dubbing him someone only worthy of a mere “sir,” in his haste to back away from an insult which could give rise to a challenge to one of the illegal, but nonetheless frequent, duels.

He managed not to stutter. “No, Lord Ireton. I...ah, I misspoke.” He also managed not to grit his teeth when he had to utter the words, “I apologize for any misunderstanding.”

“Accepted. Do you wish to go upstairs—you and only you, Lord Enderby—to observe your son sleeping and ensure yourself he is not in a drugged coma, or being mistreated?”

There are times when I enjoy the requisite manners of the Ton. The baron’s only choice was declining my most gracious offer, as accepting it would have been yet another insult.

“If you will send a note to advise me of your current residence, I will let you know when he is able to see you.” I kept the “and willing” part of the equation to myself.

We exchanged mild pleasantries, and I saw them off my premises myself.

It is a good thing my façade serves me well in all circumstances, especially when gambling. I had gambled on the baron’s rigid propriety in fashioning my excuse for keeping him away from Brendan.

There was no prescription for morning laudanum. Only for when he needed it, or when Harris or I knew he needed it but he was being stubborn and the smallest bit of force majeure was used to get him to take it.

In recent days I somehow found myself visiting him in the mornings, after he’d refreshed himself and eaten. Somehow? Ha. I inveigled myself into that position. He was still weak, and slept a great deal, but we talked of a variety of things, much of those things ones he might not have heard about during his perilous three years.

As it turned out, he enjoyed reading, though the baron’s library was not large and he’d gone through all its contents at speed. But he’d been without books for three years. And at the moment, the pain and weakness and strain on his visible eye did not allow him such solace.

I offered to read to him, and he extinguished the flare of pleasure on his face in favor of a noncommittal, “If you wish, my lord, but you have no obligation to do so.”

We were to start this morning. I sent to Hatchard’s for a new copy of the book I’d selected, since mine was in a box at my father’s. I retrieved it from the parlor, went upstairs, knocked, and was given permission to enter.

I decided on the way up I would not keep him ignorant. “The baron was here.”

He closed in on himself, almost cringing back into the bedclothes. “What did he want?”

“To see you, but with the laudanum you are required to take every morning, you were sound asleep and in no shape for any visit, so he and the rest of his entourage left.”

My words brought him back upright, or as upright as he could be. “But I’m not—”

“I may, perhaps, have misled him.”

“You lied for me?”

“Are you not worthy of being lied for, in a worthy cause?”

Men with flaming hair and pale skin sprinkled with delightful, delectable freckles, blush so beautifully. Not a thought I would ever admit to anyone. Not even myself. Especially myself.

He had no reasonable reply, and so shifted the topic. “Entourage?”

“Your so-called brother, and your self-styled ‘spiritual adviser,’ oozing concern for you. I shall have to instruct the maids to give the parlor an extra special cleaning. They were sent to the right-about with all due speed.”

He smiled. It was not the smile he graced us with when he was mischievous, recovering, sixteen-year-old Jeremy, but it was at least heading for a more mature version of merriment.

I had selected a book I felt sure he would enjoy. He knew of the author, but had read none of the novels. I pulled the chair up to the bed, on his left side, made sure there was enough light, and began.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

He gave a little snort, and a sly grin, and waved me on.

I went on.

 

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 Author Bio

Eric is a Midwesterner, and as Lady Glenhaven might say, “His first sea voyage was with Noah.” He started reading at five with one of the Andrew Lang books (he thinks it was The Blue Fairy Book) and has been a science fiction/fantasy addict ever since. Most of his writing is in those (MM) genres.

 

The exceptions are his Another England (alternate history) series:  The Rake, The Rogue and the Roué (Regency novel), Mr. Felcher’s Grand Emporium, or, The Adventures of a Pair of Spares in the Fine Art of Gentlemanly Portraiture (Victorian), with no way out (Regency) coming out a month after Of Princes.

 

Two more fairy tales are in progress:  3 Boars & A Wolf Walk Into A Bar (Eric is sure you can figure this one out), and The Truth About Them Damn Goats (of the gruff variety).

 

Now all he has to do is find the time to write the incomplete stuff! (The real world can be a real pain!)

 

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