Chapter 27. Author's note - sorry for the long wait! Procrastination got into me and I'm very sorry that it did. I will try to update sooner next time. Also: if anyone has any fanart or anything for this story(not expecting anyone to) I'd love to see it!
Update! Art on the side by Percikingdawn, many thanks to her!
Sunday quickly slipped into Monday. Faster even than Nightingale seemed to blink, she was standing in the Club, waiting for government agents to arrive and reveal themselves. So far, she had spotted none, not even those from David's team.
Her sisters were ready, too. They knew what would happen - a client would approach them, reveal themselves to be a government agent, and then proceed to pretend to screw whichever lucky girl they had selected.
Now, as Nightingale stood in the Club between Mr. Foster and Mr. Kavanagh, she was wondering if an agent would show up and rescue her. After all, she was getting very tired of being grinded on by the two men, and was wondering if she could possibly go much longer without vomiting as they bumped up against her.
Steel had been right about that. Though she thought that she could handle her clients, that she was master of the pain they brought her, every touch and caress from the two men beside her was even more foul now that she'd been with Robin.
She had to grit her teeth and recite from Frankenstein - which she'd spent the better part of Sunday night chattering with Sparkle about - in order to prevent herself from imagining how her nails would bloody as she scratched Mr. Foster's eyes out, or how Mr. Kavanagh's face would turn blue as she throttled him.
Then came a distraction that was far better than Frankenstein. She happened to look up and, all of a sudden, she saw Michael standing before her.
Mr. Foster and Mr. Kavanagh noticed her fixation too, for they immediately scowled.
"I'm sorry, gentlemen. I'll have to leave you in the capable hands of another Inamorata," she said. And with no further ado, she pushed them aside.
Michael was not smiling. He was staring at her with wide, longing eyes.
"Michael," she murmured when she reached him, immediately taking his hands in hers. She kissed them. It was not as Clarence had kissed hers the previous day. That had been full of mockingly innocent seduction. Her gesture to Michael was entirely innocent - a desire to protect him and nothing more.
"Hello, Nightingale," he said. His shyness was like Robin's, but he had none of the other man's strange cockiness to temper it.
"I missed you," said Nightingale.
She felt her stomach twist nervously as a smile burst over his face. She had missed him, but not in a way that would make him smile so. It made her wonder if she ought to tell him of the fact that the bordello would be stormed.
"I missed you, too, Gale," he said. He leaned over and, as if fearing Nightingale were made of delicate china, kissed her mouth so delicately Nightingale barely felt it.
The childish innocence in his face was enough to give Nightingale pause. No, she must tell Michael. She would not have him hurt in the storming.
"I know. Which is why I have something to tell you, Michael," she said. To conceal her words, she leaned forward and kissed his neck, speaking when her mouth was close to ear.
He drew back, concern making the corners of his mouth turn down. "What's the matter, Nightingale?" he whispered urgently, taking her hand and squeezing it. "If someone's hurt you-"
Nightingale laughed scornfully. "All my clients hurt me, Michael. That's the fucking job description of an Inamorata. But no," she added, when his eyes widened with pain. His sympathy, as always, gave her pause. "No one has hurt me more than usual. Someone has, however, helped me. And I need to explain something to you. To keep you safe."
Michael jerked back and then laughed. His laugh, while bubbly and utterly pleasing, was not one of humour. It was one of confusion. "Keep me safe? What do you mean?" he said.
"Hush," said Nightingale. Though her mouth curved into one of her seductress's smiles, her tone was insistent. "Don't say anything so loudly."
"Then should we-" he began, but Nightingale cut him off.
"Come along, Mr. Castleman," she said, pulling him up by his tie, as she had the first time.
His face was bewildered. So Nightingale twined her arms around his neck, pulling him close so she could whisper into his ear.