A Duke Will Never Do (The Spitfire Society #3) by Darcy Burke

Chapter 2

Anthony Colton tried to roll to his side, but pain shot from his abdomen, forcing a moan from his parched throat. Blinking his eyes open—rather, one eye since the other seemed to not want to cooperate—he struggled to sit up. Though he could only see from one eye, one thing was plainly apparent: this was not his bedchamber.

He brought his hand to his face and winced, letting out a hiss of pain.

Two things, actually. Someone had beaten him to a pulp. God, his head felt as if it might explode. Perhaps that would be for the best.

He let his hand fall back down to the bed beside him, then winced once more as his knuckles brushed the bedclothes. He brought his hand back up and squinted at the back of it. Judging from the scabs and reddened flesh, he’d maybe beaten the other man to an equal state of collapse.

Anthony tried again to sit up, gritting his teeth through the agony shooting through him. Once he was upright, he had to stop to catch his breath. He took the opportunity to look around the room, a medium-sized bedchamber scarcely lit by a candle beside the bed and the coals in the fireplace. Where the bloody hell was he?

He didn’t recognize a thing. Not the green upholstered chair near the hearth, not the landscape painting hanging over the mantel, nor the ivory draperies cloaking the window. And while he didn’t recall the bedside table to his left, the pitcher and cup atop it were most welcome.

It took considerable pain-filled effort to turn his body and swing his legs over the side of the bed. The room tilted, and he had to sit still for a moment for the world to right itself. His hand shaking, he reached for the pitcher and managed to bring it toward him so he could view the contents. Water. Splendid.

Wrapping his hand around the cup to hold it steady, which seemed laughable given how uncertain his entire body felt, he managed to pour water into the cup and only sloshed a small amount onto his hand and the table.

“Well done, Anthony,” he murmured.

Then he drank. A spot of gin might go down better, but he wouldn’t complain. It just felt good to get his throat wet. He poured a second cup and downed it, only a bit more slowly than the first.

Feeling slightly refreshed, he braced his feet on the floor to stand. With an exhalation, he pushed the bedclothes away and then realized something he should have known since awakening.

He was bloody naked.

Where the hell were his clothes? Was he in a brothel? If so, he didn’t recognize it, and he was fairly certain he’d been in every single room at Mrs. Alban’s, his bawdy house of choice.

He tried to stand and immediately regretted the movement as the room pitched again. After he was settled once more, he scooted down toward the end of the bed and wrapped his hand around the post. Clutching tightly, he brought himself to a standing position and was again winded by the act.

“Christ,” he muttered in irritation. Whoever had pummeled him had done a bang-up job. The unintended pun made him smile, and then flinch as his sore lips and cheeks rebelled against the action.

Who had beaten him? Anthony tried to think back to the events of the evening. Was it still evening? He had no notion of the time.

He’d gone to a gaming hell where he’d drunk to excess, as he did most nights. The drinking, not the gaming. He didn’t gamble anymore. He merely watched, and every time he felt the urge to join, he drank. Which explained the excess.

Someone had tried to coerce him into gambling, he suddenly recalled. The man had been looking for a fight, and Anthony had been more than happy to give it to him. He vaguely remembered another man—or several men—breaking them apart, and then Anthony had stumbled out of the hell. The rest was blackness. Had some benevolent soul found him and given him care?

There was only one way to find out. He saw his clothing on a chair tucked into the corner. Hell, that was incredibly far away. Clenching his jaw, he gathered the energy to make the journey. His steps were more like shuffles as he inched his way to the corner. Halfway there, he had to stop and draw several breaths to continue. He closed his eyes as the floor seemed to move beneath him. He was well used to the aftereffects of drinking too much, but this bout was particularly nasty.

At last, he reached the chair. And he promptly sat, his body slouching in exhaustion and defeat. Perhaps he should just climb back into the bed until he was more recovered.

Except, he wanted to know where he was. Turning at the waist, he rifled through the pile of clothing until he found his shirt. Pulling it over his head took a great deal of exertion. So much that he decided that was all he could manage.