London, England

Home of Lord Warton and Family

On the outskirts of Hyde Park

March 1814

Adria Kokinos made her way through the elaborate gilded halls of her benefactor's home overlooking the famous Hyde Park. As she strode past various paintings of Lord Warton's famous relatives she felt as if their judgmental eyes followed her. She kept her head high and her gait wide as she walked past the disturbing paintings that depicted scenes of various battles throughout England's history.

Adria had been disturbed by the paintings within the estate ever since her parents had left her in the care of Lord Warton and his wife. The Lord and Lady were both of an elder age and had sired three sons and a daughter that were older than Adria physically by at the least four years, with the youngest son being nine and twenty years old.

The family were all attractive in looks and status and Adria supposed that was why her parents had left her in their care. Lord Benjamin Warton was dark of hair and pale of skin, unlike his wife, Lady Elizabeth, who was at one time, a golden goddess in the ton's eyes. Their eldest set of twins, Ben and John, took after their father in almost every way except for their eyes, which were as blue as their mother's. The younger set of twins, Adam and Charlotte, took strongly after their mother with their golden looks, only taking after their father in the way of rich chocolate brown eyes.

Though Adria had been accepted as if she were another daughter, she barely resembled the family. Her hair was jet black, eyes- a warm honey brown, and her skin olive-toned. She was petite and lithe unlike her muscular and statuesque adoptive sister, Charlotte. The siblings all looked like the siblings they were and fit perfectly together and for the life of her, Adria yearned for that feeling of belonging in her life.

At the age of five and twenty, Adria was fast approaching spinsterhood as she had been without a marriage proposal for the last several seasons. Not that she had ever received one to begin with. Yet, that didn't bother Adria as much as she thought it would when she was a child. What bothered her was the aching loneliness that came along with it.

But none of that mattered at the moment and as Adria opened her bedroom door and shut it behind her, she made haste to her wardrobe and threw the doors open. Inside all her gowns were arranged neatly by her lady's maid. She reached within to pull out a garment bag that had hung within. Tossing it onto the bed that sat on the west wall, she walked over to her full-length mirror and reached behind her back to undress.

Once fully undressed except for her drawers, Adria carefully wrapped her chest till her breasts mimicked that chest of a man's. Pinning her hair up on the top of her head, she skillfully piled her long curls into a bun that would lie flat against her scalp.

Moving over to her bed, she pulled out her boy guise and donned it with care to make sure her work hadn't been for nothing. Reaching into the chest in front of her bed, Adria pulled out a hat to cover her hair, and grabbed an old wallet of Adam's and placed some of her weekly allowance inside.

Reaching one last time into her wardrobe, Adria pulled out a cloak that would cover her, hat and all. Careful to keep her steps quiet, Adria left her room and exited the estate via the servant's exit.

Upon reaching the entrance to the back room of the gentleman's club, Adria pulled open the door to reveal a group of gentlemen, all under the age of five and thirty, sitting around a round table with all but one chair filled. The room was lowly lit, with the rooms light coming in the form of candles spaced evenly throughout the room. There was typically an extra chair empty even after Adria arrived to play a game of cards but there wasn't this time. She carefully locked the door behind her and poured herself a glass of whiskey from the glass decanter that sat on a side table beside an upholstered chair in the corner closest to the door.

Adria took her seat at the main table and felt for the familiar bulge of her trusted, but never truly used, dagger. Even though she knew and trusted the majority of the men present, Adria was no fool with her own safety and didn't trust newcomers easily. To her right sat the Earl of Pembroke, Robert H. Herbert who was a trusted friend of hers, and to his right sat Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Grafton. To her left sat Baron William Lennox and his friend Dr. Thierry Bradley. Directly across from her sat the newcomer to their little group.

He was a handsome man with a devilish smirk that would have made her go weak in the knees had she been prone to the joint problems that no doubt afflicted every available lady in his presence. He was a tall man whom Adria was sure made her look like a dwarf in compare. He had pale skin that was not uncommon for an Englishman. His eyes a pale icy blue and his hair was as dark as her own.

As it was, Adria pulled off her hat and set it down on the table. "Good evening." she greeted the gentlemen, never taking her eyes off the newcomer.

"My Lady," each nodded in return in her direction, including the newcomer.

Each of the men sitting around the table, excluding the happily married Doctor, were known for their scandalous behavior and roguish ways. Adria would even go so far as to call them rakes. But nonetheless, they had ever-so-kindly ignored the fact that she was a lady and allowed her to play with them and place her own wagers without revealing the fact that she was in fact a woman.

Thierry turned to her and clasped the newcomer's shoulder, "My Lady, this is Lord Alexander Whitbeck, Duke of Thornebrook. Alexander, this is Lady Adria Kokinos, adopted daughter of Lord Warton of Mayfair." After introducing the two he turned to Adria once again, "He joined us shortly after you began your hiatus from our little game a couple of weeks ago. Alexander just recently returned to London after a brief stint in... Virginia, wasn't it? Yes, Fairfax, Virginia, I believe it was."

"How lovely. How is America this time of year?" Adria asked, leaning back in her chair.

"I imagine it would have been much more appealing had there not still been tensions from the war back in 1812." He stated rather matter-of-factly and Adria fought a shudder at the sound of his voice. It was deep and rough yet positively alluring. Adria was grateful for the low lighting as she felt her face warm.

"I imagine so." she replied carefully, very even in her tone.

Adria looked around the table, "Well? Who's dealing?" she asked.

"My turn tonight," answered Henry and he began shuffling the cards and handing them out to the others.

Adria picked up her cards and held them with care, making sure not to reveal anything to the men that had been known to cheat when they had the opportunity. All in good fun, of course.

"What's the wager?" Robert interceded, looking over his cards at the faces around the table.

Robert was a man of two and twenty and had the looks that came with the age. With dark brown hair and pale green eyes that complimented overall very regal features, he was a handsome man, but he had a penchant for drama that scared any intelligent woman off. Adria had been introduced to him midway through her third season and had found him to be a loyal friend.

"Nothing too costly, I hope. My wallet still hasn't recovered from last week." Henry stated and Adria looked at him with exasperation and, not for the first time, hoped he had learned his lesson.

Henry Fitzroy was the Duke of Grafton and had the regal air that came with the title. Yet even at the age of four and twenty, he refused to settle down and live out the life his father had made clear that he wanted him to lead. Henry had thick, wavy, caramel colored hair and eyes as brown as the darkest of chocolates. Over his right brow sat a small discreet scar that only appeared to endear him to the other sex. Well, if the number of women that stalked him was to be believed.

"So how much did you lose this time?" Adria smirked at Henry.

"Enough to only wager five shillings this time." he grumbled.

"Five shillings it is," They each agreed to the wager and began their game.

As they played their game, Adria found herself frequently looking up from her cards to see Alexander watching her and smirking. It felt strange to be looked at that way. It was almost as if he could see all of her sins and secrets, which, if you hadn't guessed, could be quite unnerving. Adria wanted more than anything to be able to look at him like that. To see through the layer that hid the truth of the man.

An hour into the game, Alexander stood abruptly, took five shillings from his pocket and dropped them onto the table. "For the winner," he said.

"Unfortunately I must take my leave." He said as he picked up his hat and placed it atop his head.

He looked at the men and Adria. "Gentlemen. My Lady."

He sent one last smirk Adria's way and left the room through the back exit. The door shut with little noise behind him.

Adria knew in her heart that she hadn't seen the last of him and Goddess help her, she yearned for their next meeting.

An hour later, from across the street, 'Smiles' caught sight of this evening's prey. The Ripper stood to his full height atop the roof and climbed down the fire escape, which led to a dark, foul-smelling alley. Smiles pulled his mask on over his head and never strayed from the shadows as he followed the small cloaked figure through the narrow streets of London during the small hours of the morning.

The figure made a sharp turn down an alley not unlike the one he had just been in. The Ripper smiled in anticipation beneath the mask and fingered the scalpel he had pilfered from a country hospital. His victim would be the first of many he would claim in the coming years.

As he followed the figure down the alley, he felt his smile widen till it could do so no longer. It was a dead end, and the end was obscured by shadow. His prey was trapped.

Adria had felt the eyes of a stranger follow her since she had left the gentleman's club and had tried to lose him in the maze of London streets that he apparently knew as well as she did. She had turned down the alley looking for a quick escape but had found none. She was trapped.

She carefully raised her leg and removed the dagger from her boot. It was all she had, but she wouldn't go down without a fight.

The stranger approached her and she kept her arms bent against her chest. He put a firm hand on her shoulder and she flung herself around only to lose her hood and hat. She held the dagger up against his throat, but with a skilled move, he shoved her hand aside and the dagger flew across the alley into the shadows.

Adria felt her breath swiftly leave her body as she was held up against the grimy brick wall with his body. His hips kept her legs spread in an erotic manner and his hands kept her arms above her head. His grip was not rough, but instead as gentle as that of a hound with his prey.

He leaned in close and trailed his masked face along the line of her neck and Adria fell breathless with her desire. She could feel him take in her scent and Adria bit back a moan.

The man, no, the beast, brought both her wrists up above her head and clasped one of his hands over both of hers. Adria saw his other hand part his cloak to reveal a gentleman's suit of red and black. He reached into his jacket pocket to pull out a thin, silver metal scalpel.

Adria's breath caught in her throat at the sight. Yet she wasn't scared, and for the life of her, she couldn't figure out why.

Her would-be-assailant trailed the dull end down her neck and across her chest, parting the boy shirt that she wore.

"Close your eyes." He commanded, his voice somewhat familiar, but not overly so.

Adria did as he bid her to do. She closed her eyes and she felt her other senses heighten in response. Her skin was hot to the touch as he trailed the medical instrument between her breasts, cutting into the fabric that held them captive as well as her flesh. It was a shallow cut and it served to only heighten the sensation. Adria moaned as drops of her blood welled to the surface and flowed down her shirt.

He withdrew the scalpel and leaned in again, "We'll meet again, rest assured, My Lady, we'll meet again."

Suddenly Adria's weight fell to the ground and she opened her eyes to see no one there. She rubbed her wrists and looked down her shirt to see a streak of crimson red flowing down her torso.

Adria glanced up toward the entrance of the alley to see a cloaked figure running off into the darkness of the night. She knew they would meet again, just when, she wasn't sure.