The shoe set against his windpipe turned his cheeks a magnificent shade of plum. “Answer me.” She leaned in, putting more of her delicate weight on the man’s throat before letting up.
He choked on the sudden air before rasping out a belligerent “whore”.
Delia rolled her eyes. “Yes yes. I’m a whore, but you’re a man about to experience death by velvet pump. Someone approached you looking for a way into the city. Who were they?”
More swearing as his face returned to a normal if not healthy shade, there was too much wine in him for that. Not to mention the lovely cocktail she’d added to it to keep him compliant. Delia administered her foot again. “Your ships were used to bring in illicit goods, Lord Perna, which then vanished out of your stores. Who approached you?”
He choked for a bit before Delia let him breath. “Hell does a whore care who I do business with?”
Delia sighed and bent down, her cherry silk skirts pooling next to his head. “The thing about whores, Lord Perna, is that we are paid to do things, services rendered. I have no interest in who you do business with, but the very important man who hired me does.” She tapped his forehead and stood. “However, if you find being interrogated by a whore debasing, I welcome you to think of me as a mercenary, or if you refuse to cooperate, an assassin.”
Delia withdrew a long pin from her hair and let her meaning sink in. “Now, who approached you?”
The prince waived away Delia’s curtsy as soon as it began. “Was Lord Perna receptive?”
“Eventually.” Despite the summoning curl of his finger she didn’t move over the gilded wood tile. “Three men approached Lord Perna on the solstice, giving the names Jack, Jerrod and Jens.”
He groaned and brought a finger to his temple. “Fake.”
“Smugglers do not give real names your highness. To be expected.” Delia clasped her fingers behind her back watching her employer. Getting involved in any merchant prince’s affairs was not something Delia made a point of. In the aftermath of a chess game there were rarely many pawns left on the board. “Lord Perna made note of their clean shoes and rough speech. One time hires, who were told a great deal about Lord Perna himself. The men knew exactly where to find him, the tailor he preferred, his favorite wine, his favorite hound’s name…. they were a charming bunch.”
The prince’s jaw tightened as his temple twitched. Delia began wondering which window had the softest bushes beneath them. It wouldn’t be the first time some inbred aristocrat lost their temper at bad news and took it out on the nearest peon.
“Their master either did their research, or knew him personally.” She paused. “In my opinion.”
The prince’s dark eyes finally flicked to hers. As much as she could make assumptions of the webs woven here, he was a creature of them. “Which I value.” He said finally and Delia breathed an internal sigh of relief. “Payment will be transferred to any account you’d like in a few days.”
“Your highness is very gracious, but as before, payment it required upon services rendered. So now.” The sooner she was done with this the better, and it was worth demanding the gold upfront.
He blinked at the boldness but nodded. “The man outside will arrange it.”
Delia gave another curtsy and left, velvet pumps clicking against the tile.