Nell Jones

A former actress and prostitute, Nell is Temperance Dews’ right hand at the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children.

Appears in Wicked IntentionsScandalous Desires, and Thief of Shadows.

* * *

Nell cleared her throat after a moment of silence. “A cup of tea always sets me right, especially afore bed.”

Temperance had to blink back the tears that had welled in her eyes. “Thank you.”

She’d never exchanged heated words with Winter. Asa and Concord could be quite maddening in their stubborn inability to see other people’s viewpoints, but Winter had never raised his voice to her. He was a thoughtful man, not easily roused to anger, and the realization that she’d done just that tonight was extremely upsetting.

Nell placed a pot of tea on the table along with two cups and sat opposite her.

She poured the steaming tea into one of the cups. “Mr. Makepeace didn’t mean to be so-so…ah…” Nell trailed away, apparently unable to think of a word without disparaging her employer.

Temperance smiled wryly. “Yes, he did.”

“Oh, but—”

“And he’s right.” Temperance reached across the table and took the full teacup, pulling it toward herself. “I shouldn’t leave him to go gallivanting about the East End with Lord Caire. I am neglecting my duties.”

Nell poured a second cup of tea silently, stirring in a huge lump of sugar. She took a delicate sip and then placed her cup carefully back on the table, her eyes on the tea. “Lord Caire is a very…fair man, quite easy on the eyes, I find.”

Temperance looked at her.

Nell bit her lip. “It’s that hair, I think, so long and thick and shining. And silver! It’s just so very striking.” 

“I like his eyes,” Temperance admitted.

“Do you?”

There was a drop of tea on the table and Temperance placed her fingertip in it and drew a circle on the table. “I’ve never seen eyes so blue. And his eyelashes are so dark in contrast to his hair.”

“He has quite a nice nose,” Nell said with consideration.

“And his lips are wide and curved at the ends, have you noticed?”

Nell sighed, which seemed answer enough.

Temperance bit her own lips. “And they’re so firm, yet so soft. They quite take my breath away.”

She realized that she might’ve said too much with that last confession and hastily took a sip of tea. 

When she placed the cup back on the table, Nell was looking at her thoughtfully. “He seems to have a special…consideration for you.”

Temperance’s eyes dropped to the table again. Her tea-circle had dried up. “How can you tell that? You’ve never even met him.”

“Ah, but I’ve heard from the children. It’s in the way he looks at you, I think and Polly.” Nell said. “Polly says that the way he looks at you gives her thrills.”

How did he look at her? Was Nell mistaking lust for caring? And why did it matter so much to her?

Temperance shook her head, placing her hands flat on the table. “His wants are unnatural. And even if they were not, what kind of a woman would I be to let my urges guide me?”

“Perhaps an ordinary woman,” Nell said gently.

–from Wicked Intentions