This man made her wary. His exterior veneer was deceptive and from what knowledge she had gained prior to this meeting, Emily could be sure that he was as cunning as a snake.
Ponderously, he approached her and carefully took her chin between the fingers of a warm, clean hand. His touch was soft; the touch of a man who was unused to hard labour. If Emily did not know any better, she would have considered him kind in his gestures.
His deeply brown eyes searched her face penetratingly before a finger swept admiringly along the curve of her cheek. She endeavoured to shy away from his touch but her position limited her movements, still bound as she was.
He caught the shift and his eyes darkened with aggravation. Her father- no, she could not bear to think of him like that; she would call him by his namesake- abruptly dropped his hand and straightened, pinning his arms behind his back. His manner was one of authority and Emily intuitively sensed that he was a man who did not adhere to insurgences in his ranks. "You have your mother's eyes," he remarked curtly, surveying her from his advantageous height. "Her hair, her breasts."
The bluntness of his words made her flinch but she hid the action quickly, lowering her gaze to the tips of his immaculately polished boots.
"Joscelyn was a good whore," he remarked to her continued silence. "She filled the coffers with her substantial favours, just as you will."
Her eyes flew to him at that. "My mother-"
"-was the most desired prostitute my establishment had ever seen," he interrupted sharply.
She glared at him. "My mother was not a prostitute," she told him firmly.
He shrugged off her remark with a flippant gesture of his wrist. "Well, not after we conceived you, she was not." He glanced at her piercingly. "Your mother was my property. I owned her, just as I own you. Do you understand?"
"I am betrothed to the duke of-"
"Ah, yes- the whelp you've been living with for the last twenty or so years." He brushed this off as easily as if he were swatting a fly from his sleeve. "Such a marriage would not go unnoticed by his set, would it not? I believe that the marriage of a duke is akin to the marriage of royalty. Surely, if what you say is true, then all of England would be aware of it?"
The rebuttal died on her lips and she silently cursed her stupidity, her inability to admit her love for one of the most powerful men in the country and hasten their courtship. If she had, Sebastian would have quite possibly obtained a special license and they would have been married by now, no doubt causing a hitch in Byrne's plans for her. An extremely fetid transgression it would be were he to abduct and prostitute the duchess of Rochester.
Her tight-lipped silence was answer enough and an abrupt smile crept up the corners of his full lips. "I thought not. I have heard tell that you are cavorting with the man, but that is all. I do not place much credence in rumour, however. Are you a virgin?"
She felt her face redden and burn with shame but she quickly masked it with genuine affront. "I am a lady-"
"You are nothing more that a street rat, the daughter of a whore-"
"Stop it!" Angrily, she writhing her wrists, churning her skin against the abrasive texture of her confines. "What do you want from me? I am not your property. You cannot own me, nor did you own my mother."
His smile was iced with condescension. "Dear child, I own many women. I bought them, just like I bought you before you were even born. Your mother had a change of heart, it seems, and took off with you, hoping to hide you away from me. Honestly, with features like yours, you could not have remained hidden from me forever."
"You're mad," Emily hissed. "I'll fight you, I will. You'll never get a day's rest-"
His look was decidedly amused. "They all do at first," he told her patiently. "Eventually, with time, your spirit breaks and you will become a submissive girl, willing to earn her keep." When Emily said nothing through her baleful glare, Byrne continued, "Since you claim to be a virgin, we can still earn a hefty profit from your voluptuous little body. Gentlemen will pay nicely for your exclusive use."
Byrne had little else to say to her after that other than a quick remark about visiting her later to report on her progress and then he left, without attention paid to her bound wrists and ankles.
Grudgingly, Emily found that she was more bitter than afraid. For now, at least, she was unharmed other than mild abrasions to her wrists and ankles and she hadn't been tossed to some brute for unwillingly liaisons she couldn't bear thinking about just now. She took consolation in the knowledge that Sebastian and Mr Lyons would be searching for her whereabouts as soon as they got wind of her disappearance, of that she could be certain. For now, however, she could take stock of her surroundings and maintain her survival to the best of her ability.