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A few drinks, a little fun—that was all; surely not deserving of the lectures and the constant disapproval that his father doled out on an almost daily basis. He was beginning to question not only whether his father could remember what it was like to be young, but whether there was any possibility that he ever had been—that he had, in fact, been born a bitter, resentful, controlling old man. And how he and his darling sister had ever come into being was anyone’s guess, as he was fairly sure the old man had not the faintest notion of the pleasure to be found beneath a woman’s skirts.

“I am ashamed to call you my son. You’re a lay-about and a scoundrel and you’ll never amount to anything more than that.”  The remembered words still cut, even now, days later—stinging far more effectively than the blow delivered to his face, the bruise of which had faded now to a barely-noticeable yellowing across his cheek. Shaking off his mood, Liam pulled the passing barmaid into his lap—she was a comely thing, her unkempt red hair left to hang loose down her back, green eyes flashing with mischief and promise as her hips swayed invitingly. His hand snaked surely beneath her skirts.  “Bring us another round, my darling,” he winked, certain that his charms would, as always, serve him well.
“Will you be rememberin’ me after my shift is over then, Master Liam?” The girl, whose name escaped him, pouted prettily and wriggled in his lap, her thighs drifting fractionally apart to accommodate his questing hand and gasping quietly against his neck when his fingers dipped into the moist heat left bare beneath multiple layers of fabric.
He removed his hand, much to her disappointment, and with his eyes fixed on hers slowly sucked his fingers clean, savouring her taste in the certain knowledge that the girl would be his before the night was through, and wouldn’t be costing him any either. “That I will, princess. Now about those drinks; a man could die of thirst waiting.” He laughed as she scuttled off to do his bidding and smiled across the table at his companion. “You see, Sean, me lad, money is not always a requirement. You just have to know how to get people to do what you want; you offer ‘em what they be wantin’—nevermind that most of the time it is somethin’ you were willing to part with anyways.”
“Yeah, and havin’ that pretty face doesn’t make all the difference, now does it?” Sean grumbled.
Both men jumped as a large, meaty hand slammed down on the beer-soaked table between them. “You,” he fixed his gaze intently on the larger of the two men, holding Liam’s eye as he ground out, “will be leaving now, good sirs.” His voice dripped with contempt. “And if you don’t have the coin to be payin’ for yer drinks, don’t be botherin’ my girls to be bringing them to you.” The redhead hovered in the background, her face apologetic as she ran her eyes wistfully down his body.
“Well, we’ll be on our way then.” Liam grabbed Sean’s arm, pulling the man up by his coat sleeve. “A good day to you, sir.” He smiled ingratiatingly at the barkeep.
“Yer da’ll be hearing about this, mark my words, young Liam. Don’ know how a good man like Master Connor ended up with such as you fer a son. ‘s gods own pity, is what it is.”
Brown eyes flared with anger; Liam’s jaw set and his fists clenched tightly, fury barely kept at bay as he looked around the establishment, quickly sizing up the odds and realising that they fell very firmly against him. Straightening his shoulders, he walked calmly across the room, pulling a worse-for-wear Sean in his wake. “We'll be back when we've a bit more cash money!” he offered as he exited.
The door slammed resoundingly, and he turned to pound his fury and frustration against the solid oak. “We'll be back when we've found a bit more cash money!” he vowed once more to the uncaring door. “Keep the girls warm!”
Sean moaned, his head beginning to pound as the cool night air hit him dizzyingly. “Let's go,” he pleaded with his friend, knowing that Liam would not take kindly to having been removed in such a manner, and fearing what form Liam’s retribution was likely to take. Sean remembered only too well that the tavern—which also served as residence for the barkeep and his family—of the last man to forcibly remove them from his establishment had mysteriously burned to the ground only nights later, taking with it the proprietor and all his brood, all but one small girl who was now living in the Galway orphanage.
Liam made his way back to his friend and slung his arm companionably across his shoulders, a slight sway marring the confident swagger he was aiming for. “Come on,” he encouraged, “We'll sneak in and take some of me father's silver. He'll never miss it. He eats with his hands, the pig.” Although momentarily disheartened as Sean succumbed to the vast amount of ale in his system, his legs collapsing from under him as he folded from beneath Liam’s arm to lay in a limp puddle on the cobbles, Liam quickly recovered, offering what seemed, to him, the very magnanimous, “Ah. Why don't you rest right here, then?” He gazed down at his friend for a few moments before deciding that what he had in mind for the remnants of the night would be better accomplished alone after all. With that in mind, he quickly forgot Sean, leaving him where he lay; no more than the boy deserved for being such a weakling, he thought contemptuously.
His gaze lifted to encounter a most unexpected and truly welcome sight. The most beautiful woman he had ever seen—she was clearly a lady, of high standing if her dress and bearing were anything to go by. His usual brash self-confidence having been buoyed further by the liberal application of an ale or two, he made his way into the alley, following in her wake as she glided elegantly across the filthy cobbles.

“So, I'd ask myself... What's a lady of your station doing alone in an alley with the reputation that this one has?”
“Maybe she's lonely,” the woman replied, her back turned to him, and he willed her to face him so that he might catch a glimpse of what he knew beyond doubt would be a delicately beautiful face—not the heavy-boned, rough faces so typical of the local lasses, no; this was a lady, and if he were not mistaken, she was clearly indicating her interest in him.
“In that case, I'd offer myself as escort to protect you from harm and to while away the dull hours.” A man could do well for himself with a woman like this; apart from the obvious pleasure to be found between such well-bred legs, there would definitely be other advantages to being the—consort—of a beauty of her standing.
“You're very gracious,” the woman purred, her voice like warm molten honey.
“Hmm. It's often been said,” he agreed; he must not lose her interest, but how to keep it? Her next words all but floored him.
“Are you certain you're up to the challenge?” She turned to face him, and his breath caught momentarily; she was truly divine.
“Milady, you'll find that with the exception of an honest day's work, there's no challenge I'm not prepared to face.” Liam decided honesty was most likely his best course of action here; the lady was obviously not interested in him for his skills as a tradesman. “Oh... but you're a pretty thing. Where are you from?”
“Around. Everywhere,” she smiled knowingly.
“I never been anywhere myself. Always wanted to see the world, but...” He left the statement hanging, waiting, hoping, willing her to make the offer he just knew she wanted to make. Life was beginning to look up, he told himself.
“I could show you,” she smiled again, her beautiful face becoming even fairer, were it at all possible.
“Could you, then?” Triumph, his mind screamed as she took the bait he had carefully lain before her.
“Things you've never seen, never even heard of.” Her voice grew wistful, her eyes seeing sights far beyond the foul alley in which they stood.
“Sounds exciting,” he encouraged, delighting in the deep sultry purr of her voice, the light that shone in her eye as she spoke of beauties and delights he had never thought would be his to see. Gifts that she now held out to him, in the palm of her delicate hand.
“It is. And frightening,” she warned.
“I'm not afraid. Show me. Show me your world,” he pleaded.
“Close your eyes.” The words that would change his life for an eternity floated melodiously across the foul, foetid air of the filthy alley. The alley in which he would die, only to be reborn.

A shimmering vision of splendour awaited him as he pulled himself from the ground. He drew breath, the cool crisp night air fragrant with so many delights, not least of which was her scent. Power, and strength, and something more. Something indescribable.

 “You came?” he marvelled as he shook the last clods of earth from his hair, carefully dusting down his suit as his eyes drank in the welcome sight of his magnificent sire.

“I’ll always come for you. We’re family. And Family, my darling boy, is everything,” Darla purred, her finger tracing gently along his jaw. Yes, her new toy would do very nicely.

“Family. Yes, family is important. In fact, I think it only right that I pay mine a visit; wouldn’t do to have them grieving unnecessarily, now would it?” He looked up and was gladdened by the warm approval shining in his sire’s eyes. Yes, indeed, life definitely was beginning to look up.
The end.