‘Business or pleasure, Ashmole?’ Mistress Catt asked.
‘I hope you do not favour my sister above me, sir.’
‘Never, Gracie, my dear. As you know, I am most careful to give neither of you cause for jealousy.’
‘The mayor has asked you to investigate Bonneviot’s murder?’
How did she know? The same way she knew everything else.
‘Indeed. Can you instruct your ladies, please? On the usual terms, I suggest.’
‘A little on account?’
Foxe leaned across and kissed her. A long, slow kiss compounded of equal parts desire and affection. When he straightened up, he opened the portfolio he had brought with him. From it he withdrew a small purse, which he dropped into Gracie’s open palm.
‘You know kissing me like that makes me want more,’ Gracie said.
As the madam of the most fashionable and expensive bordello in Norwich, Gracie Catt no longer needed to work on her own account. However, being but 30 years of age, she was still in her prime and had no intention of wasting it. The next time he came, he had better be in condition. Gracie both expected and gave the highest levels of performance.
‘Business?’ Foxe asked in a soft tone.
‘Was Bonneviot a customer?’
Did he notice a distinct shudder before she answered?
‘Once or twice. Then I barred him.’
There it was again.
‘He was … quite rough. I care for my girls, Ash. I won’t have them mistreated. We have several customers who enjoy certain … special services. Some girls are happy to oblige, for an extra fee, of course. I force none to do so. Bonneviot said nothing in advance, then caused … injuries. The first time I warned him. The second time, I had Horton throw him into the street. He never came back.’
‘Hah! Came once, but couldn’t get the job done, despite all the help my girls gave him. He’s a feeble specimen, Ash. Makes a lot of noise to hide the fact he can’t get it up. Might do better with a boy, of course.’
‘You think so?’
Foxe pondered a moment.
‘Get many of the other Master Weavers here, Gracie?’
‘Quite a few.’
‘They’re the target then. What did they think of Bonneviot? How did he treat his business rivals? Was he doing well, or beginning to slip?’
Gracie inclined her head in agreement. She knew that would cause him acute discomfort. He had to bite the inside of his cheek hard to stop himself jumping up and covering that long, beautiful neck with kisses.
‘Sorry, Gracie. I really do have to go. I need to talk to your sister before she starts getting ready for this evening’s performance.’
‘You know she’ll tell me if you …’
‘I know. Merciful God! How you two work on me! My poor heart …’
Gracie laughed in a most unladylike way. ‘I’ve heard it said some people wear their heart on their sleeve, Ash. This is the first time I’ve met someone who wears his heart tucked in the front of his breeches!’
Foxe snatched up his portfolio and fled before his resolve crumbled altogether.
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