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Virgin Enraptured: Virgin Series, #4

Virgin Enraptured: Virgin Series, #4

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Virgin Enraptured: Virgin Series, #4

Length:
244 pages
2 hours
Released:
Aug 15, 2019
ISBN:
9781393837145
Format:
Book

Description

A 19th century Gilded Age romance

The fourth installment in my "Virgin" series featuring the rough and tumble world of 19th century Boston's Red-light District, where illegal fancy houses, opium dens, gambling establishments, and risqué dancehalls all thrived beneath the eyes of the law.

Against this background...alone and desperate, a young virgin trades her lofty ballet ambitions for the down and dirty reality of dancing for tips on the cancan stage. But when the dancehall's owner also forces her to whore for his clientele, she has no choice but to accept the protection of a darkly seductive admirer, a member of her audience. Her carnal attraction to this dangerous but wealthy older man has her questioning what makes a gentleman and what makes a criminal...

...and if it is possible for a man to be both at the same time.

All books in this series may be read independently of one another. This title is also a stand-alone book.

Released:
Aug 15, 2019
ISBN:
9781393837145
Format:
Book

About the author

Louisa Trent has been published in ebook format since 2001. Her erotic romances have been with Ellora's Cave, Liquid Silver, Loose Id and Samhain. Refusing to be "branded" ( Louisa has a rebellious streak ) she writes across the genres -- contemporary, historical, paranormal, multi-cultural, and sci-fi. Basically, she writes whatever piques her interest, and she is a writer of many passionate interests. Readers can reach Louisa through her website: www.louisatrent.com .


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Virgin Enraptured - Louisa Trent

PUBLISHING

Chapter One

The stage manager called through my warped dressing room door, On in five, Miss DuPont. Best shake a leg.

I shook more than a leg during my high-kicking routines, but I always did so with class. Indeed, the dancehall’s marquee out front boasted of me:

Tonight’s can-can show stars classy Mademoiselle Daphne DuPont, coming to you all the way from Paris, France.

That last was a bit of an exaggeration. Abandoned as a baby and raised in an orphanage, I actually had no idea where I was born. Sadly, the City of Light was no more than a pretty picture on a postcard to me.

My foreign accent?

Pure invention. Just like the rest of me. An ear for dialect, a knack for acting, and a secondhand wardrobe that mimicked haute couture helped me pull off the charade. Not that my all-male fan base paid much attention to such props. My audience was only interested in my shimmying. Nevertheless, the devil was in the details – like stage makeup.

I hated greasepaint. The grainy texture. The cloying smell. The fixed look of it, like a death mask sealed to my skin. On stage, I worried alternately about my face cracking during a performance and the hot spotlights melting the stuff, particularly the carmine rouge slashed across my lips. Yet, here I sat, balancing precariously atop a rickety three-legged stool squinting into my tiny dressing room mirror while repairing my fake smile, all because I wanted to be somebody someday…even if it took assuming a false identity to get me there.

The irony of that reasoning was not lost on me.

Succeeding as a professional dancer meant the whole world to me. Yes, I performed in a rundown dancehall in the worst part of town, but I was still principle dancer in this company and I took that responsibility seriously. My demanding attitude might be considered snooty or snobby but there it was…I held myself to high standards. Taking the easy way, doing the least to get by, was not what I was about.

And that was a problem.

A hardworking, take-charge attitude earned men respect. Women got called bossy. Or a prima donna. Or a diva. And not in a complimentary, lead operatic singer sort of way, either. Here, behind my back, I was called all three. By management. By my fellow dancers. At the very least, I was regarded as disagreeable. All because I rehearsed until my feet bled and expected others to do the same. After starting out with nothing I felt a tremendous sense of urgency to make something of myself, and that something was a ballerina.

I finished plastering makeup on my face until it was thicker than French buttercream frosting on a cake and hid my sun spots. Freckles were unknown to Parisian women. Parisian women protected their perfect complexions by wearing Basque berets sewn of the finest wool. To the French, everything was about quality.

No one had ever adopted me but I had adopted the French way of thinking. Even in Boston’s seedy Red-light District, I had my fraudulent reputation to consider. Non, non, non! Call me a phony, but never call me anything less than a first-rate phony.

For stage costumes, I insisted on exceptional fabric, sewn with the highest degree of craftsmanship. Not just for me, but for all the girls. And that meant each piece, insignificant geegaws – buttons and bows, and so-forth – included.

Quality did not come cheap. When I explained to Milton, the penny-pinching theatre owner, that increased ticket sales would more than justify the additional expense, he balked. Eventually, though, I wore him down, and he relented. And ticket sales shot through the roof.

No matter. He still branded me a rabble-rouser. A troublemaker.

And that was before I suggested unionizing the troupe to the girls.

Instead of banding together and demanding respect from management that would translate into better wages, treatment, and working condition for all of us, someone went and snitched on me to Milton, who clamped down on any additional revenue-producing changes.

Frustrating.

Long and short, the girls returned to wearing cheap costumes – tawdry tassels and coy peek-a-boo reveals during their acts and Milton wanted me gone from the dance company. Especially when I also refused to wear lewdly split drawers beneath the ruffles of my abbreviated can-can skirts, an alteration that awarded Peeping Toms a better view all-around…

…of body parts best left to the imagination, in my opinion.

But Milton ignored my opinion. He insisted peek-a-boos convinced voyeurs to buy pricier, first-row seats, perhaps for the entire season, a financial investment of no small amount.

There was just no arguing with Milton. He was the theatre owner and that was that.

Well…the other girls could do as they pleased but, as for me, I intended to succeed on talent, not titillation. When I high-kicked up on stage, the audience caught a chaste glimpse of frilly petticoats, a flash of black hose and the fleeting gleam of red satin garters – my signature accessory, the one prop I was known for far and wide, or, at least within the limited confines of the Red-light District. 

I clucked my tongue at my conceit. I was not saying I was better than the other dancers in the company. Not precisely. But I did know this much – some can-can dancers deserved their bad reputations.

Where was their pride? Their self-respect? Their dignity?

Stuffed inside their fat tip envelopes. My tip envelope was very nearly flat. Though principle dancer in the troupe, I earned far less than girls who showed their nether regions to dirty old men in Aisle A, seats 1-30. Those greenbacks tossed up on stage added up fast.

I secured a bracelet around my wrist. When the jewels caught the light, the pretend precious stones were even glossier than the genuine articles. At a distance, few could tell the difference between real diamonds and paste. Certainly none of the men in the audience would notice. Or particularly care. Their gazes were directed elsewhere.

Legs first, bosoms second.

My necklines revealed little. Queen Victoria would have seen worse during her royal visit to the Palace of Versailles thirty or so years before. However – as was the custom amongst certain highly-placed European female aristocrats – I did sport gold hoops beneath my demure décolletage, and those gold hoops were scandalously attached to my nipples.

My little secret. Not even a golden glint showed. I made sure of it. Not that I was a prude. Or particularly modest. And growing up a foundling had pretty much killed any naiveté I might have ordinarily possessed. But as an aspiring ballerina, I had to be less obvious than the other girls in the troupe.

After all, I had my fake French name to protect.

Chapter Two

Taking care not to smudge my reapplied kohl, I swiped at my suddenly burning eyes.

Me and my pie-in-the sky pipe dreams. Little wonder the other girls thought me pretentious. I should have been grateful for the opportunity to perform anywhere, including here at Milton’s World Renowned Girlie Burlesque House on North Street. I desperately needed the money for when I moved on.

In the elitist world of classical dance, a ballerina-in-training received neither a monetary allowance nor a stipend, hence her need for an independent source of steady income. A private inheritance would do there. A wealthy patron of the arts – a rich letch, in other words – to pay for her companionship would also not go amiss. Plenty of married gents were looking to take a pretty piece of fluff on the side as a mistress too.

I was all on my own. And very nearly destitute.

Still, I was succumbing to neither vulgar costumes nor sugar daddies to stay afloat. This was not Toulouse-Lautrec’s bawdy Moulin Rouge. Anything goes did not go here in Boston, a far less sophisticated city than Paris. And I had my fake name to preserve.

That was what I told myself now but Milton, who took a percentage off the top of his dancers’ fat tip envelopes, was pressuring me to cooperate. He also strongly suggested I start taking men into the back alley after the show.

Those assignations were not of the romantic variety. Not even close. Even so, with a wink and a nod, many a performer went along. And Milton, of course, got his cut of their agreeableness.

He was looking for any excuse to fire disagreeable me.

And I did have to eat. Sparingly. And pay my boardinghouse rent. Always late due to my lack of tips. Applause, yes. I received plenty of claps and foot stomps. But if I heard it once, I heard it a thousand times – Milton could not take his percentage from a standing ovation.

And neither could I pay my landlady Mrs. Beatrice Tucker what I always managed to owe at month’s end. Sneaking past her first floor apartment on rent day never worked. At eighty-years of age, the bespeckled Beatrice missed nothing.

Unlike me, who regularly forgot to check the time between sets. In avoidance of my lateness pushing Milton to the point of ultimatums, I needed to crank the diesel before Burt, the ever irascible stagehand, raised the stage curtain without me.

I rushed for the stairs.

To punish my insubordination, Milton had recently removed me from the first floor communal dressing room where I was a bad influence on the girls and stuck me all alone in the dark and dingy basement changing closet, a spot located between mop and furnace. The extra distance to travel gave me less than the standard three minutes to swap out costumes between scenes, no concession made for the additional time involved in climbing two flights of narrow steps to the stage level. All that, and my finale called for anchoring iridescent plumes in my jet-black hair. Otherwise, I would resemble a Boston Common pigeon, not a graceful peacock.

I did my best, then raced like mad for the stage curtain, thankfully finding it still closed. Upon seeing me, Burt cranked the ancient red drapery to the ceiling. Trying not to sneeze at the billowing clouds of dust swirling around me, I stepped out onto the boards for that night’s closing performance.

The grand finale was not my last act of the evening. After the show, Milton still expected his dancers to mingle.

Translation: push watered-down drinks at audience members seated at small tables to the rear of the building. This duty was not to be confused with taking customers into the back alley. The former I did nightly, the latter I recoiled from doing ever.

To the tune of whistles and catcalls, I moved to center stage, where I easily found my cue mark on the floor. Edison’s new electric lamps not only offered better lighting, but a wider variety of mood effects. However, there was one drawback to all this additional illumination – the spotlights blinded the performer out front.

No problem. I could execute the steps blindfolded. My inability to see the all-male audience strip me naked in their thoughts while fiddling with playbills tented over their fidgety laps was a much appreciated bonus.

In the music pit, the conductor cued the orchestra. An orchestral prelude began, the notes belonging to a different song than expected. To the somber bars of that new score, I pirouetted.

After swearing the band to secrecy, I swapped out my usual lively sheet music for a few melancholy bars taken from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. I still wore my regular finale costume, hair plumage included, but the dance I now performed was classically graceful.  

Can-can choreography was all about displaying the dancer’s sensuality. Ballet was about elegance and technique and training and romance. And beauty. Lord, how I missed the beauty of the ballet!

The booing and hissing started immediately.

Saddened, but not really surprised, I obstinately continued my performance until the red velvet curtain came crashing down in front of me and Milton’s long bamboo cane, with the theatre owner attached, was yanking me backwards from the stage down a long and dingy paneled hallway into the front office.

The door slammed at my back.

"Guess you no longer need this job, eh, Emma?

Uh-oh. When Milton used my real name, not my Frenchie pseudonym, I knew I was in trouble deep. I’d had my moment and now it was time to pay the piper.

I do need this job, sir. Honest. I only made a minor alteration in my act. Really, only an adjustment, and just in the beginning. A few steps only. I assumed no one would notice and hardly anyone did…

Ain’t you got ears, missy? Did you not hear the ridicule directed at you out there?

I heard some mild confusion, yes, sir.

Bullshit. That was a disaster. And do not try to con a conman – I recognize highfalutin’ ballet steps when I sees ‘em.

Please do not blame the orchestra, sir. Swapping out a few musical notes was all my idea. Something just came over me tonight. I just needed to dance a few ballet steps to…to…just to…feel better, sir. The ballet is so lovely, so uplifting…

He held up two tobacco-stained fingers, signifying an inch, before my nose. I am this close to firing your ass tonight.

I kept my expression carefully blank and continued to plead with him. But sir, I meant no harm…

But nothin’ You may have lost me reg’lars tonight with that snobby highbrow routine. I pay you to leave the crowd cheering and begging for more. Which, after getting them all hot and bothered, you always refuse to deliver. Your fans get no satisfaction from you. A gent leaves here with his cock all tied up in a knot. You need to rectify that situation starting tonight.

What are you saying, sir?

After that shit you just pulled, you either provide relief to your lathered-up fans or out the door you go. Hear?

How can I not hear with your mouth within spraying distance of my face?

Exasperation made me say it. As soon as the rude words left my mouth I knew them for the tactical mistake they were. And the polite sir I tacked on the end would prove too late. The damage had already been done.

His face gone florid, Milton raged, Highest offer, you march your ass out the door to the back alley with the propositioning gent in tow. And every performance, thereafter you do the same. You finish off your fans or consider yourself finished here, missy.

Sir, I insisted in my own defense, I always work the crowd afterwards. You know I do! I bring in just as much money as the next girl.

"Wrong! And you know why? Because you never go into the back alley. For that matter, you never avail yourself of the swanky couch in this here office like I have so generously offered you time and time again. Most of these girls would give their eyeteeth to make use of that leather love seat over there in the corner. Not you. You act like some fucking French queen, like that Mary Antoinetty or somethin’.

Listen up good – you need to earn a shitload more in order for me to keep this dance company afloat. Do you think can-can tickets and watered-down drinks alone keep these theatre doors open?

I did, yes.

Tobacco-tinged spittle flying, Milton screamed, Circulate the damn tables, find your best fucking offers, and take those gents out back.

When I realized Milton spoke in multiples, not a single customer, I panicked. Near faint, I protested, I am no whore, sir.

Starting tonight, that is exactly what you are – a whore. And you better make me a profitable one too. I have considerable cash invested in you. Time to pay up.

A practical streak prompted me to ask:

How much?

The figure he quoted amounted to a small fortune. I would have to take on ten men each evening to earn that sum.

But my dancing, sir, I cajoled. The men come here to see me dance.

Like hell they do. The men come here to come.

P-pardon? My mouth twisted with belated understanding. Oh.

Growing up in an orphanage had toughened me. Then afterwards…what followed…that was my own fault.

I was no innocent.

Chapter Three

My ballet slippers were constructed for neither arduous hikes through the wilderness nor indoor foot dragging, of which I was doing quite a bit after my discussion with the theatre owner. The thin soles complained as I trudged down the narrow wrought iron stage stairs to the dancehall’s floor below.

In the interest of running up the bar tabs of any diehard fans that still remained even after the disaster of my performance, I headed for a large, open area where small tables were located and where most of the heavier drinking was done.

Money was money. Why should Milton care how I earned it? It was all greenbacks, after all, and green was Milton’s favorite color.

The way I saw it, serving up whiskey was my only means of staying out of the back alley tonight. That was the plan anyway. Now all I had to do was convince a hundred or so audience members to cooperate and order up rotgut by the gallon.

Only…no one did. Not even a single shot of bad whiskey could I sell. The tables were mostly empty. But desperate, I kept walking, anyway. Past the mid-theatre region to the very end of the building, where one sole gent sitting alone at a table drew my attention.

Then again, who else was around for me to notice?

At this point, the theatre had pretty much cleared out entirely for the evening. The gent was one of the few remaining members of the audience not already in the alley. This meant he was my last chance to keep my dancer’s position and not by turning tricks. Now, if only he would cooperate and be very very thirsty,

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