Home > Taming of the Beast (Scandalous Affairs #2)

Taming of the Beast (Scandalous Affairs #2)
Author: Christi Caldwell

Chapter 1


London, England

Winter 1828

The irony of Tynan Wylie’s fate was not lost on him.

He used to be the man in control of all the criminals, the jailer of Newgate, titled the Beast of Newgate for the reputation he’d earned, the man who’d decided who lived and who died. Those matters settled by courts and magistrates ultimately had fallen to him. With bribes passing and his pockets lined, Tynan had been the arbiter of fates and futures.

Now he found himself devoid of either fate or future.

Now he was locked away in the fetid palace he’d once served as king.

It was enough to make a man almost feel bad about the life he lived.

Almost.

Having been the one to watch over these sinful halls, however, had given him a leg up on how to not only adapt, but also how to survive in this new-for-him side of the world.

Sprawled on his back, with his arms folded under his head to form a pillow against the hard stone floor, Tynan looped an ankle across his opposite upturned knee and launched into a happy song.

“Would ye shut up?” the guard assigned his hall barked, the command reverberating around the corridor.

Another guard rushed over. “Who the hell do ye think ye are talking to Mr. Wylie that way?” He shoved his baton at the other man, and a small melee broke out among old guards loyal to Tynan and new.

Slowly, Tynan unfurled to his feet, coming to a stand. That slight movement from him managed to quell the brewing fight. All guards instantly went quiet. Lining up, they directed their focus forward but kept their gazes trained on the floor.

“My, my, my,” he said on a steely purr. “Never tell me, you’ve turned.” The sallow-faced guard swallowed wildly. “These bars between us have made you bold, have they not, Ridley?”

The older man blanched. “Sorry, sir,” Ridley whispered loudly. He glanced about and stepped closer. “Just, the new man in charge, Hinton”—he added that name needlessly—“wants things run a certain way.”

Ah, as in, Hinton wanted no signs of loyalty toward the one who used to serve in his stead. Perhaps the man wasn’t as bad at all this as Tynan had credited. He was going through and purging from Newgate the men who’d been loyal to Tynan. The warden who’d replaced Tynan sought to eradicate any hint of those still with ties to Tynan.

“What’s going on here?” a voice thundered, and the small group of guards parted, allowing their superior, Smithfield, through. He looked from them to Tynan, his suspicion-filled eyes homing in briefly on Tynan. “I asked what is going on here,” he repeated.

Tynan resumed singing, raising his voice several decibels in a diversion meant to distract the head guard.

As they were walking by the river’s brim.

With a hey down, bow down

As they were walking by the river’s brim,

The eldest push’d the youngest in,

And I’ll be true to my love

If my love’ll be true to me.

“Nothin’ amiss,” Ridley grumbled.

Smithfield took an aggressive step toward the older man. “Do I need to report you to Hinton?”

Ridley held his ground, refusing to cede the spot where he stood on the stone floor. Of course he did. Tynan had appointed only the most fearless men to his crew. “Haven’t done anything to merit being reported,” he shot back.

Smith’s blond brows slipped. “Are you getting mouthy with me?” The man’s perfect, clipped King’s English was at odds with the coarse, more unrefined accent of the guards Tynan had hired from St. Giles.

Ridley glared back at the newer guard. “If ye can’t tell, then ye’ve got no place serving in Newgate.”

The younger man’s eyes bulged. “How dare—?”

Tynan broke out more loudly into song, slashing across the escalating conflict between the two men.

O sister, O sister, pray gie me thy hand,

With a hey down, bow down

O sister, O sister, pray gie me thy hand

And I’ll gie thee both house and land,

Though Tynan appreciated that show of loyalty, neither Tynan nor Ridley stood to benefit by his being tossed out on his arse like the others. The other man would end up with empty pockets and an even emptier belly, and Tynan would be down another connection he had to power in this place.

Smithfield gave his towhead a shake. “You’ve gone mad, you have,” the guard spat from the other side of the prison bars. “It was only a matter of time before it happened. Happens to all who find themselves in this place.” He switched his focus back to Ridley and jabbed a finger in the older man’s direction. “And you? All of you would do well to have a care not looking out for the last man you should.” With that, Smithfield scurried off, his large ring of metal keys clanging.

Ridley stole one last, regretful look at Tynan before continuing on his way.

Once both guards had gone, Tynan switched over to humming the remainder of the lyrics to “The Barkshire Tragedy.”

The new guard, Smithfield, had leveled the charge of madness at Tynan. The young man, however, was correct on only one thing: The majority of the people locked away here eventually lost their minds.

Tynan had lived in squalor. He’d been beaten as a child, had nearly broken his back grinding stone in a workhouse, only to rise up and rub shoulders with some of the most ruthless men and women in the whole of England. It would take a good deal more than locking him up in a cell to leave him dicked in the nob. Nay, that was for the innocent. The pitiable who still had goodness in their souls. Or links to the outside world. And for him, no one knew of his lone link to the living. It was a secret he’d carry, lest it be used against him. And it was also because of that link that he needed to find a way out, too.

There was always a way out.

He’d witnessed it firsthand. And he’d be damned if he proved the sorry sot who couldn’t maneuver himself out of this mess he’d landed in. Not when he’d invented the ways out of this place.

From the corner of his eye, Tynan caught the flicker of a shadow upon the opposite wall before he heard the arrival of his latest guest. Ah, his replacement. “Hinton!” he called before the other man had even stepped into focus. “A pleasure, as always,” he greeted with false cheer.

The warden stopped outside Tynan’s cage. Several years younger than Tynan’s thirty-three years, with pale blond hair and a wiry frame, the other man couldn’t be different in appearance… or how he ran this place.

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