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The Engagement of Cock Lane

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“So,” Rey sighed, once more sucking her fingertips, stomach distended it was so full, as she slugged her ale, “there must be something you want for this charity, Mr. Ren. And now that I’ve eaten, I’d like to know what you had in mind.”

Rey rubbed her stomach, winked, “Or maybe you’re just one of those blokes that likes to watch a woman eat.” She grinned, “I’ve heard of those sorts. And if that’s your game, you can count me in. I’ve always felt that if I were rich, I would be very very fat.”

The man in questions was still smiling that wayward crooked grin at her and some how it made Rey’s stomach churn in an entirely different way than being just too full. Something about his eyes, how they took her. And his dimple. It was like he found her amusing in the best way possible.

People never found Rey amusing. So her interest was piqued.

Finally the man sighed and Rey knew the truth of it was coming. She was quite literally on the edge of her seat.

They had not agreed upon arrangements prior to and the food was already gone, so he could say what he liked, it mattered little. Rey felt safe. Or as safe as she ever did.

“I must admit, I do have something of an ulterior motive, Miss Rey.”

“Rey,” she reminded him scowling, “it’s just Rey.” The workhouse hadn’t bothered to give her a last name. And she certainly wasn’t asking to take Plutt’s. So she was a girl with only one name. And nothing else. Rey didn’t want to forget that fact and she didn’t want anyone else to either. She would rather he didn’t puff her up so that she lost sight of her station in life.

She was born a nothing, lived as a nothing, and, she was certain, would die as a nothing.

The man only quirked his elegant dark brow.

Mr. Ren did, however, indulge her, “Of course, Rey. You see, I am wondering, do you have any experience with photography? With modeling?”

That took her back a step. It was highly unexpected.

“You mean like posing for artists and the like?”

He nodded.

She knew whores that did such work. A man paid for their cunt but didn’t use it. Just sketched it. Or painted it on canvas with oils. Rey thought the whole situation was quite outlandish but who was she to judge when the money was good and the work was even easier than lying on your back. And it didn’t involve a poxed cock plowing your hole.

Her face was befuddled. Rey could feel it.

“Yes!” Mr. Ren’s smile was beatific, wide, like she had just passed some sort of complicated exam. The man did not appear to expect her to be his equal in understanding and education.

“I’ve never done it. But I know some girls who have,” Rey trailed off. Was he looking for her to model for him? For a man like he was she just might be tempted. He seemed the type to give her a glass of gin or the like while she “worked” for him. And it wasn’t whoring. It was art.

“Well, I would like you to pose for me.”

She could have guessed he would say it but when he did it still felt like a slight breeze could have knocked her flat. “Me?” She blinked, adding, perplexed, “I haven’t any tits.” It was an honest statement. She didn’t want to disappoint upon arrival, his sending her packing with even less dignity than she once had. And it was nary any to start with.

But the roguish man’s responding grin was positively feral. “Who said anything about your tits, Sweetheart?”

“Oh,” she replied, taken aback, “it’s just that men don’t come to Jakkutown for models who aren’t going to show their tits.”

“As much as I adore those little bubbies, maybe it’s your back avenue that I want for my work.”

Rey all but choked on her beer, coughing, then gasping. To hear such words from those lips was both thrilling and horrifying.

“So you’re not interested in my cock lane then?”

He was thoughtful for a moment as Rey aggressively swallowed more ale, in disbelief that she was having such a conversation with such a gentleman. Putting down the tankard, she wiped her sloppy wet chin with the sleeve of her dress, glancing back at Mr. Ren in sudden guilt. He would never hire her if he knew just how filthy of a thing she was. Plutt had always been quick to tell her she was disgusting.

But the upward tilt of his lush mouth hadn’t so much as budged.

“You see, Rey, I’m a photographer. And I take pictures for gentlemen. Certain, specific kinds of pictures to be sold in particular shops around town.” She nodded, not entirely following along, and let him continue. “Society ladies in, what some might call, compromising situations?” he raised his voice as though in question but it didn’t sound like one. “Do you follow?”

“I’m not a society lady,” she returned dumbly.

“No,” his smile was oddly indulgent, like she had just said something sweet. “But you see, you’re fine boned like one. Your hair is pretty. And your face is so fresh and young. Innocent.”

No man had ever said anything about Rey was pretty before and she couldn’t stop the ridiculous blush rising up on her cheeks.

“So,” she swallowed, embarrassed by her own girlishness, “you mean you’d be taking pictures of me all fluffed up, in white stockings and frilled knickers...”

“Perhaps a bonnet? Or a pretty hat?” He interjected, unhelpfully.

“Like some toff for fancy gentlemen to look at,” he nodded eagerly, face serious, “while they fetch the mettle, so to speak?”

“My god,” he smirked, “but you are adorable, Rey.”

“Me? Are you sure you mean me? Only no one thinks I’m adorable. Meddling, maybe. Lazy? Sullen, I’ve been called that quite often, Mr. Ren.”

“I work on Sundays,” he told her, quite ignoring her statements, “unless you have elsewhere to be?”

“No,” she shook her head. “I’m not a church goer. And it’s the only day Plutt’s is closed.”

“Perfect,” he nodded. “You’ll need my card,” he handed her a piece of paper, soft like butter, with embossed type on it. His name, Kylo Ren, and his address, in an upscale part of town, printed on the surface. “Come to that address after the eleventh bell on Sunday, ring the door, and ask for me.” She agreed. “I’ll feed you before we start,” he added. “Plan to stay all day. I want to get a lot of work done. And I’ll give you a second meal before you return to your lodgings.”

That was a sweet deal. Rey couldn’t think of a reason to argue with anything he had offered but perhaps the pint had made her bold. “What will you pay me? For the pictures I mean?”

His lips ticked up, eyes crinkling, looking thoughtful, but Rey thought it a farce, put on for her benefit. “I’ll pay you ten shillings,” she gaped at him, “per photograph we take.”

“You’re fucking with me.”

“I’m not.”

“That’s three times what a common laborer makes. Are you crazy? Just for some pictures of my fanny?” Her gaze narrowed at him. “You’re not going to expect me to knock it when I get there are you?”

It was his turn to look mildly lost, “I’m afraid I don’t know that term.”

She rolled her eyes heavenward and pointed boldly at his trousers. “Get it off. With you. Only cause ten shilling is a lot of money and you said you weren’t aiming for a piece of my cunt.”

“Are you trying to beggar me down, Rey?” Mr. Ren asked, once more amused.

“What,” she gasped, “no! It’s just...”

“I do appreciate you looking out for my purse,” he smirked. And she wanted to smack it right off of his face. Or kiss it.

“Eleven. On Sunday. Don’t be late,” and with that he tipped his fine hat to her and strode from the establishment leaving Rey staring unbelievingly in his wake.

Maz chose that moment to reappear, “Plutt’s pie my dear and you better be moving along before that codger realizes the time.”

That jolted her into action, grabbing the hot crust from the woman and taking a full tankard in hand she shot off of her stool and darted for the door and back into the street.