Notes: I apparently have a fondness for Sweden. I have all this useless knowledge in my head from writing other stories I can't help but use it as other ideas pop up, besides the fact that I'm partial to Scandinavian men. Sweden will not be a focus in this story, but our hero's heritage from there will. I will NOT remove this story for publication of any sort—this story is purely meant as entertainment for everyone. I needed something of a different outlet to restore my creativity after 18th Floor Balcony.
I love history. I'm reasonably knowledgeable in the Regency world, but I know this won't be perfect even with the amount of research I've done for other projects. I'm neither British nor Swedish; I'm writing this story for those who love history and Jane Austen, though I'm sure Miss Austen would never write something like this. I'm going for the story this time, not historical accuracy, so I ask you to suspend belief for a little bit, sit back, and enjoy what I can offer.
Also, in regards to our hero's surname- Yes. There is a line of Swedish counts that originated in Scotland, hence my use of Douglas. That said, this family is not meant to coincide with any real historical figure. Just used it for this story because it works. You'll see why.WARNINGS: This story will deal with somewhat darker subject matter. There will be implied non-con, abuse, etc. Some parts may be graphic, but I will post special warnings for each chapter that requires them.
Mr. George Aubrey was a man of no little consequence. As a true country gentleman with one child and no living wife—and an estate of two thousand pounds a year—he enjoyed many of life's more luxurious offerings, not at all limited to the most sinful of vices. He preferred tavern and wench to that of dice and cards, but he had been known to frequent all establishments that offered all of the finest diversions from an otherwise boring country life of a man who had nothing better to do than spend his money.
However, any economist would agree that there was a virtue in saving some money rather than spending it, especially for the years when crops failed and living had to be leaner. Mr. Aubrey could not be concerned with such matters, his lust for vice knowing no equal, though it had quickly become apparent to him that he should have had more care for his money. Had he done so, he would not have woken in a dank room, face down in an accumulation of all manner of horrid things mixed with a good dose of spilled ale from the taproom above it.
His head felt like it could split in two at any moment as he blinked and tried to right himself, but the heavy irons on his wrists were cumbersome and prohibited some movement. He rolled onto his back to face the stone ceiling. A drop of cold water fell right into his eye.
"Oi, 'enry!" called a voice. " 'e's awake!"
Aubrey turned at the sound of the voice seeing the beast of a man sitting on a wooden barrel using a small dagger to wheedle a piece of wood. The man flashed a wicked smile, a line of yellow with black holes were teeth had once been. Tommy was the meanest and vilest of Henry Cavendish's lot of enforcers; Aubrey wondered how he had survived this long.
"Glad you could join us, ol' Georgie-boy," he said. "Sleep well?"
"Like a babe, Tommy," Aubrey answered him, though he was not certain whether he had been sleeping or knocked out cold. Judging by the throbbing pain in his head, he would have to believe it was the latter.
Aubrey grunted and clutched his head when the sound of metal scraping on the floor filled the small chamber. Cavendish stepped into the room then, well dressed and dandy, clearly not happy with the situation presented to him.
"Where's the money, Aubrey?" Cavendish asked, removing his gloves and adjusting his signet ring on his small finger.
"What money?" he inquired.
Aubrey felt the force of Cavendish's anger concentrated in his fist a moment later. He lay out flat as the metallic taste of blood filled his mouth. Aubrey struggled upright again, spitting on his abductor's fine leather boots. The man kicked his ribs in response, drawing all the air from his lungs.
Cavendish stood over him and grasped the front of his shirt, pulling him closer to his face. "You know what money I mean. You said you would have it to me a fortnight ago. Now, I was more than generous and gave you more time and you still don't have it. What am I to think, Aubrey?"
Aubrey hung his head. "I don't have it."
"I am not surprised with the way you have been spending recently," he said. "Bess and Lulu's attentions are not cheap, are they?"
"Give me more time," Aubrey said. "I will have it to you."
Cavendish laughed at him and shook his head. "You should not fool yourself into thinking that the meager profit you will make from your rents this quarter will do anything to satisfy the amounts you owe me. Quarter day or not, you will still owe a considerable sum, to me and to others. And those others will not be as gracious as I have been."
"What do you expect me to do, then?" Aubrey asked. "Will you kill me and be done?"
"Now, Georgie, why would I want to do that?" Cavendish asked. "If I kill you, I will never see the money owed to me. And should I send you to Marshalsea, you will only accrue more debt to your name."
Aubrey shuddered at the mention of the debtor's prison. He'd been thrown there once before, and he did not tender going back to be a viable option.
"What would you have me do, then?" Aubrey asked.
Cavendish cracked a smile of ivory teeth—the type of arrogant smirk no man could mistake as being genuine or kind. "Work off the debt for me."
"You know I cannot work," Aubrey said, looking at his lamed leg. As a young man, he had been in the wrong place at the wrong time and received a musket ball to his thigh, shattering the bone inside. The surgeon had done his best to repair the damage, but Aubrey never recovered full use of it. Age had only worsened the injury.
"Ah," said Cavendish. "I thought you might say that. You do have a child, though, that could work for you."
"No!" Aubrey said. "Not her."
The man's cold eyes glimmered in the low light of the room. "Aye, her."
"She is good and humble, Cavendish. She does not deserve such a fate," he said. "You cannot have her."
"It's 'my lord' to you," Cavendish said. Raising a booted foot, he stepped on Aubrey's knee, turning it out and applying his weight. Aubrey cried out at the excruciating pain. "Give her to me and I will hold your debts paid. And just think—without another to care for, it leaves you that much more to spend on whores and drink."
Aubrey was ashamed that the thought of such a thing was not entirely unappealing to his sensibilities.
"I have plans to have her married off soon," Aubrey protested, but even he had to acknowledge the arguments sounded feeble on his lips.
Cavendish's dark eyes narrowed at him. "Indeed, I had heard. Have you told her beau yet that you have no money to give her, either, for her portion? I should think he would not be impressed by such a notion as he himself has the same vices you do. Again, I believe we should not fool ourselves into thinking there will be any place for her to go but the poor house or the whore house with a degenerate like you as her father."
Aubrey bristled at the notion and used the energy to push the man away and stand up. He leaned on his good leg against the wall, wincing as another shooting pain coursed through his lame one. Cavendish stepped closer to him, getting in his face. He smelled of fancy French cologne that was about as horrible as the smell on the ground.
"She is a pretty little thing, is she not?" he asked. "If she is as pure as I have witnessed, she will pay off all of your debts and then some."
"Don't," Aubrey pleaded. "Please don't take her. She won't go willingly."
Cavendish snorted and laughed as though the notion were ridiculous. "She can be broken."
"You do not know her," Aubrey said.
"You do not know me," Cavendish replied, his fist connecting with his gut. Aubrey fell back against the wall and used all the strength he could muster to keep himself upright. Cavendish stepped back from him then, gave him an arrogant smirk as he replaced the gloves on his hands and turned to leave. "Tommy, make sure he gets home."
"Aye, boss," he said. "What of the girl?"
"I will handle the girl," Cavendish said. Aubrey watched the man as he retreated up stone stairs. He opened the door and closed it behind him, leaving Tommy to stare at him with a malicious leer. Tommy cracked the knuckles of his giant hands.
It was only then that Aubrey realized this nightmare had not ended when Cavendish left. It had only just begun.