The Temptations of Anna Jacobs excerpt

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Taken from chapter one…

London, 1889


Anna Jacobs closed her textbook and stifled a yawn. “Simon, I do believe I’ve had enough. For tonight, that is.”

Her older brother looked up from his notes. “When is your examination?”

“Not for a few weeks still.” She gathered her books in a tidy pile, then stood. “But I do like to be prepared.”

“Indeed. Come along, then, I shall walk you home.” Simon carried her books and they stepped out into the cool evening air. The streets were relatively empty, save for a carriage now and again. People were either abed or attending one of the evening’s balls.

“Do you think you’re any closer to indentifying him?” Anna asked. Simon was the lead investigator on the Jack the Ripper murders. Recently he’d come close to catching him, but the villain had got away.

“I have a few more leads to investigate, but the chief superintendent is losing patience with me,” Simon said.

“Well, that is ridiculous. They certainly weren’t handling the investigation any better without you.”

A ruckus broke out in the alleyway adjacent them. Simon shoved Anna’s books at her. “Stay here,” he barked.

Then he ran in the direction of the commotion. As best she could tell three men had pinned a fourth on the ground and were taking turns kicking and hitting him. Poor creature.

Simon yelled and the men scattered, leaving the one on the ground alone.

Anna set her books aside and ran to aid her brother.

“Christ, Drew, is that you?” Simon asked. He looked up at his sister. “Anna, help me get him into the house. You can tend his wounds while I find some constables to round up the perpetrators.”

Anna helped pull the bleeding man to his feet, then together they hauled him up the stairs of Simon’s front stoop. Two footmen came to their assistance. Simon barked out instructions, then turned and ran back to the alleyway. The servants helped her bring the injured man into Simon’s study and laid him gently onto the settee. Anna gave them a list of items she’d need to care for the wounds; once they were off gathering the materials, she turned her attention to the man.

His eyes were closed, but his brow furrowed and the muscle in his jaw ticked as he clenched his teeth. He was, quite obviously, in a lot of pain. Her nerves hitched in her throat, but she swallowed hard against them. She was to be a physician. She could manage this man’s injuries.

“Sir, can you hear me?” she said.

He grunted in response.

“Excellent. Can you tell me your name?”

Just then the footmen returned with her supplies and then looked to her for further instructions. “I shall need you to remove his shirt so that I can access the damage done to his torso.”

The men went about doing as she instructed. She removed her brother’s brandy decanter and set it on his desk, then used the tray to organize the items she’d requested.

“Drew Foster,” the man rasped.

Anna stopped cold. “Did you say Drew Foster, as in the younger brother of the Duke of Carrington? The one recently imprisoned for the Jack the Ripper murders?” she asked.

“One and the same,” he said, then released a hoarse cough.

“My lady, he’s bleeding pretty steadily here,” one of the footmen said.

“Hold his shirt to the wound to staunch the bleeding.” She wrestled open one of the windows and poured brandy on her hands to clean them before carrying the tray back over to him. Drew Foster. She knew him by reputation only. Knew that he was a drunk and a lecher, and kept wretched company if he was in the same place as Jack the Ripper on more than one occasion. While many still believed him guilty of the crimes, her brother believed Drew innocent. She didn’t have to approve of Drew Foster, but she would agree with her brother’s assessment of his guilt.

Carrying the tray back to where her patient lay, she set it down on the occasional table nearby and assessed the damage. His face had taken a pounding, one eye was swollen shut and abrasions marked up his cheeks and forehead. Bruises were already forming on his torso, but she couldn’t help noticing the tight muscles of his abdomen, muscles that were artfully carved. He was too thin, no doubt from his stint in prison, but he still cut a fine figure. Good heavens, what was the matter with her? She was not to assess his physique, but rather tend his wounds. She took the shirt from the footman and lifted it off the wound. “This will need to be stitched up.”

“Find my valet, girl,” Foster said through his teeth. “I’ll not have a woman such as yourself treat my injuries.”

“I hardly think you are in a position to make such demands,” she retorted, then she poured a liberal amount of the brandy on his wound.

He flinched and swore, making no concessions for her feminine ears.

She returned in kind by being none too gentle as she inserted the needle into the flesh of his upper side. “I suppose along with your other charming qualities, you’re one of those numskulls who believes the only stitching a woman should do is at her needlepoint table.”

“I didn’t precisely say that. Ow!”

He didn’t have to. She was used to people’s attitudes about her attending medical school. “Who were those men who attacked you?” she asked, ignoring his yelp of pain.

“How the devil should I know?” His green eyes pinned her. “What kind of woman are you, walking about the streets after dark?”

“I’ll have you know I am perfectly respectable—”

“Not if you’re attending that school for women doctors. Ow!”

She tied off the stitch and put a salve on his wound. “You have a decidedly backward attitude, Mr. Foster,” Anna retorted. “Society needs as many qualified doctors as—”

He held up a hand. “Spare me the lecture, Miss Jacobs. I’ve endured about as much as I can stand for one evening.”

Anna knew it was pointless to try to enlighten anyone so small-minded. If only there were more men in the world like her brother, society would have fewer ills.

“You are badly bruised, Mr. Foster,” she said, examining the rest of his injuries. “Lie still another moment. This will most assuredly be a blackened eye.” She ran a finger along the sensitive skin already bruising beneath his eyebrow. He winced.

Just because he was churlish did not mean she wouldn’t treat him to the best of her ability. She took a bottle of liniment from her bag and poured a dollop onto the palm of her hand, then began to rub it gently across his abdomen, where the worst of the bruising appeared to be.

“I hardly think that is necessary,” he grumbled.

“I can stop, but you will hurt worse in the morning without it.” She paused, her hands merely resting on his taut stomach. She was already having to concentrate doubly on his injuries so that she wouldn’t focus on the play of his muscles beneath her palms.

“Do what you must,” he said.

Copyright © 2014. Robyn DeHart. All Rights Reserved.

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