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Seduction of a Proper Lady: A Regency Ménage Tale
by Kristabel Reed
A Ravenous Romance® Original Publication
A Ravenous Romance® Original Publication www.ravenousromance.com Copyright © 2011 by Kristabel Reed Ravenous Romance® 100 Cummings Center Suite 123A Beverly, MA 01915 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher, except by reviewers who may quote brief excerpts in connection with a review. ISBN-13: 978-1-60777-438-9 This book is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
3 Also by Kristabel Reed: Wickedly Wanton: A Regency Ménage Tale Or read more from Kristabel Reed in these anthologies from Ravenous Romance: Passionately Ever After: Erotic Fairy Tales Once Upon A Threesome: An Erotic Anthology of Historical Ménage a Trois Never Too Many Valentines: A Collection of Ménage Novellas .
Braedon wondered if a widow. And he had no interest in a wife who was merely tolerable or pliable.” Camila Sutton said. none of her schemes had come to fruition. Camila understood his . as he looked at the sea of women. Each vied for one of the many eligible bachelors of the season. No they weren’t. might be better.” she said dryly. but in his household to lend it an air of respectability. but rather. Seems pliable enough? He wasn’t after pliable—unless she meant physically supple and willing to learn a great many erotic positions. a woman with more experience both in society and in the bedroom. Apparently. “aren’t ones I can shout to the ton. though definitely for that. or their large dowry. “Your standards. But that didn’t stop Braedon from searching.” No. She acknowledged his wryness with a slight shrug and a put-upon sigh. But her humorless nature often irritated him. and Camila didn’t seem to understand his desires. the widowed matchmaker Camila in tow. Tonight he’d forced himself to go to Lord Bartholomew’s ball. 1816 “Miss Harrington seems pliable enough. At least. a widow wouldn’t prattle on about the latest fashions. Braedon needed more than a pliable woman. would be able to hold a decent conversation. Camila held his interest on occasion and was a handsome enough woman. He needed a wife. while Camila held a superior and quite discreet reputation. with her promise of securing an introduction to at least one or two suitable maidens. Each one Camila introduced him to possessed about as much personality as a lump of coal. Wanted was probably more apt. Braedon amended that last thought. he had high hopes.4 Chapter One London April. He wanted a woman. or so he hoped. Oh. he wasn’t quite as amused with the husband-hunting season as he thought he’d be. But now. Thus far it had not been an easy search. And to put an end to any rumors or questions that might spring up due to his living arrangements. However. Still gazing at the mass of husband-hunting women. Major Braedon Sinclair looked at his matchmaker in bored amusement. in the weeks since he’d hired her. a wife. In which case Braedon would seriously consider the woman. not only for his bed. The girls Camila recommended were no more than receding shadows. allowed. But they all did so with as much behind-thechaperone flirting as their prim upbringing.
understanding lacing her words.” Camila said primly when he knew there wasn’t a prim bone in her body. What she couldn’t seem to grasp was his desires in a wife. He’d never seriously thought of a wife before. sharing his bed. studied her earnest blue eyes. Create yourself? Braedon looked down at her. “Perhaps you are correct. indulge her in all the pleasures of the flesh and mind. barely audible over the music of the orchestra and the chatter from those not dancing.” he said easily.” Camila huffed in agitation and smoothed her dark blue gown. He’d been quite specific about those. She doesn’t hold the appeal I’m after. he looked over her head and out at the girls as he thought of her words. “Then what do you want?” “What I want. That’s something you’ll have to create yourself. You put the very rare challenge upon me of securing a proper lady for your marriage offer. “is usually satisfied with a mistress. he nodded. “your requirements are rather…unique.” Braedon glanced at the girls in attendance at Bartholomew’s annual ball. staring hard at her to make sure she understood his point. Entice her. I want a woman who accepts me. Slowly.” he said. It’ll take the right sort of girl to accept the nature of the marriage you have in mind. “is more interested in courtly poems. dressed the same.” To create such a lady. I don’t want a woman I can merely command. you must understand how delicate your situation is.” Braedon said with a dismissive wave. Above all. “Miss Harrington. acted the same. Ideas half-formed on the battlefield from his men’s conversations of wives left behind.” she said. “You want the attributes of a courtesan and the reputation of a fine lady. Her voice a whisper. she moved a step closer and continued. If he had. This isn’t easily accomplished. “A man of your tastes. And while I’m certainly not opposed to this type of engagement.” he added in case she’d forgotten what his passions entailed.5 desires all too well.” Her final words startled him. he’d have to seduce one of his choosing. He’d . Maybe he needed to revise his standards. Hands clasped behind his back.” “Major Sinclair. They all looked the same. “What you ask for is not easily acquired. Most men with your…” She paused. “is the precise reason I retained you in spite of your rather extravagant fee. unashamed of his needs in this matter. “is a woman I can hold a conversation with. not bothering to look at the woman.” she said softly. it was a nebulous idea of a faceless woman running his household. lowered her voice further and glanced past the curtains of the alcove they stood in near the ballroom. One whose passions meet mine—all of mine.” “And that. after paying thrice her normal fee to ensure the level of secrecy he desired. “A woman who doesn’t shy away from what I’ve done and who I’ve done it with.
The pity for Ethan. She pointed out several suitable women. nor did he attempt to hide the scars covering one side of his face. He didn’t use a cane this night.” Subtle. assessing the girls in a new light. but Ethan was animated enough to draw attention wherever he went. One was a highly . Braedon could just imagine all the gossips huddled in the various alcoves off Lord Bartholomew’s expansive ballroom. Ethan Ashmore. A tall woman with bright. However. Braedon knew he tread a fine line. Inside the bedroom. Outside his household. He continued to watch the crowd. Braedon admitted to wanting the perfect perception of a woman and wife. but his war hero status hadn’t yet lost its appeal. “Therefore. I believe you should take a second look at those girls I’ve said are pliant. but not his eligibility. intelligent eyes. Camila was absolutely correct. and he didn’t honestly care about scandalous behavior. On the other side of the room. The problem was—how to seduce her? How to go about creating the perfect wife? It wasn’t merely about taking her virginity. He could be more subtle than Camila imagined. Sinclair. the whispers about his injuries.” Camila continued. not assume she was already well versed in them.” Braedon nodded. “It’ll take great finesse. He needed to find one willing and able to learn how to be that woman. His gaze flicked to where Braedon stood. “I am correct for what you have in mind. Camila certainly dressed the part of a matchmaker. but binding her to him. One of Ethan’s eyebrows rose in question. Several ladies and their marriage-minded mothers shunned him. between subtle seduction and scandalous behavior. To accept his passions. but had other attributes in mind besides pliability. Her clothes were of fine quality with an eccentric flair rarely seen inside the ton. he probably couldn’t. laughed with a small group. all desperate to marry their daughter to a wealthy man. his former lieutenant. He didn’t need to find the woman he wanted. With this new intent. Braedon gave a quick shake of his head—no success as of yet— and returned his attention to Camila. clearly still moving ahead with her pliable standard. that was. all from good families. one of those Camila mentioned might be worth a second look. yes. and certainly not on the local vicar’s wife.6 have to show her these delights. It’s a fine line. he once more studied the women in attendance. Hell. forming a bond that even the most salacious gossip couldn’t break.” she said tartly. Or possess qualities he desired. “to seduce the woman of your choosing.
and stood with a rosy-cheeked friend.” Braedon said lazily. accentuating her generous curves. “Not at all a good match for you. only daughter of Henry Kingsley. Several men watched the young woman. That might change. Lady Laurel had a suitor whom her family considered quite inappropriate and quickly dispensed with him. The man was a formidable Peer in the House of Lords. lips pursed in annoyance.7 connected noble family with no male heirs. wondering just who this jilted suitor had been and what he’d done. but didn’t see an overbearing mother lying in wait. now dismissing her friend’s words with a wave of her hand. he’d never had cause to do business with him. I understand he’s not been seen in Town since the incident. looked over the crowd. he wanted to know more about a woman. “You should forget about her. However. now that he was back from a decade at war and once more taking interest in his own vast holdings. Nearby Ethan’s position. However. Sinclair. Her family is rather particular. Yes. The dark-haired woman absently shook her head in return. a dark-haired woman caught his attention. She wore an elegant white gown. dark hair swept off her face and of an olive complexion. Braedon dismissed all of them. Braedon took a second look. He’d heard of Lord Westfield. looking down at her with a sardonic stare. ignoring her friend’s words.” Braedon studied Lady Laurel Westfield.” she warned with a shake of her head. “She’ll not be suitable for your intentions.” Camila said shortly. Or what Lady Laurel Westfield had done to cause her family to banish the man. or a tetchy chaperone scowling at all would-be suitors. The stunning woman. The matchmaker stopped and tried to follow his direction to where the woman. Earl of Westfield. He wondered what they were—a warning? Likely yes. willing to marry off their daughter for the right price and promise of succession. Her eyes.” Camila. No hiding behind a fan for this debutante. adamantly shaking her head. nodded. the woman’s gaze returned to Ethan. but none gravitated toward her. And he didn’t look to be the only one. A warning about Ethan. Braedon . however. She listened and nodded carelessly to her friend. Braedon couldn’t see their color but found he wanted to. “Who is she?” he demanded. “Lady Laurel Westfield. From where he stood.” “I didn’t ask if she were suitable. “I asked who she was. who whispered in her ear with some ferocity. he figured as he watched the direction of her gaze. Sinclair. cutting Camila off mid-sentence. dipping it slightly as her friend continued to speak. For the first time all night. stood. stood slightly taller than the friend at her side and boldly scanned the room. of course.
“Seducing her into the type of marriage you require. infusing a hint of humor into her tone.” Laurel snapped. who even now Catherine tried so arduously to avoid. The musicians changed the dance at that moment. . knew he certainly wouldn’t forget her promised dance. but could only hear his animated laugh. Just because he had an imperfection did not make him any less handsome. dull though he may be. Laurel thought it made him more approachable. Was it because he was scarred? Rumor had it he’d acquired those scars during the Battle of Vitoria nearly two years ago. the poor woman froze in crowds. Not to her. else you’ll be disinvited from her ball in two weeks. Laurel couldn’t see why Catherine warned her away from him. **** Lady Laurel Westfield studied Mr. Ashmore nodded politely to Catherine before turning to Laurel with a smile that was all charm and grace.” He’d see about that. however. Which she often was in groups of three or more. “will be quite impossible.” Laurel warned. “Oh dear. “He’s in the company of Lady Chancellor. see the sparkle in his vivid blue eyes as he looked around the room. She really couldn’t be annoyed with Catherine. Lady Chancellor stopped before them.” Camila warned. she also had no desire to see her interest in him become known to the ton in general. In fact. Since Laurel pointed him out an hour ago. Worthington and. Catherine. Perhaps we should go join Mother for refreshments?” “I don’t understand your aversion. Catherine had done naught but harp on his unsuitability with no explanation as to why she was so adamant.” Catherine sighed. as he saw Lady Laurel laugh quickly at her companion. She refused to raise her fan to hide her preoccupation with the handsome and charismatic man. Yes that might all change now. “Many of our men have come back less than perfect from the wars. She’d promised the next to Mr.” She offered a smile as the pair made their way to where she and Catherine stood.” She shook her head at her light-brown haired friend with the now cherry red cheeks. “He’s coming this way. “Please do not offend her. Warned her incessantly at that. and Laurel realized she had to pay attention to the end of this quadrille. then moved to the side with a grand gesture to allow room for Mr. Ashmore. Ethan Ashmore as covertly as she could.8 mused. annoyed with this constant nay-saying of the man. her cheeks growing more flushed by the minute as they always did when she was flustered. Laurel studied him again. though clearly to Catherine.
His eyes caught her. hid whatever she thought behind her smile and . Ashmore. Ashmore asked. but there was a sly humor beneath it that intrigued Laurel. the perfect chaperone. “Lady Laurel.” Laurel smiled up at him even as she curtsied. She was well aware that Lord Bartholomew’s ball was often referred to as the best viewing. Mr. Lady Chancellor. Laurel realized she was utterly captivated by his wicked grin and sense of humor. The best viewing of the eligible gentlemen and ladies for the season that was. deftly ignoring Catherine’s subtle tug on her sleeve. She offered a bare curtsy in reply. One of our military heroes returned now that the little emperor is safely banked at our fine British accommodations on Saint Helena. I also enjoy seeing so many new faces.” she added. apparently itching to leave the man’s company.” He bowed again and offered another smooth grin.” Lady Chancellor said with a slight nod of her head. so unlike many of the men who vied for her hand. Up close he had what appeared to be jagged burn scars rising from his collar.” Laurel heard herself agree.” “A pleasure. She wondered what color Worthington’s eyes were but couldn’t remember ever bothering to notice. She was nearly tempted to say she’d seen better. “I claim the next one. “How are you both enjoying Lord Bartholomew’s annual ball?” Mr. Miss Hayden. because the hall was grand enough to accommodate large numbers of the marriage-minded ton. “Yes. Ashmore. she saw Catherine’s silent nod. to stop just in front of his left ear. “May I have the pleasure of this next dance?” “I’m terribly sorry. They spread upwards from his neck. Rather mischievous when looked at that way. even as Catherine’s hand clamped down on her arm. Lady Chancellor said nothing. “Allow me to introduce Mr. ever the effervescent woman. Catherine remained mute beside her. The question was simple and direct enough. Ashmore’s gaze held a light that drew her in. stomach fluttering in anticipation at his bold question. caught by his intense blue gaze. Lady Laurel. to Laurel they were inconsequential and took nothing away from his handsome face. Laurel answered agreeably instead. along his cheek. but just as she opened her mouth to reply. she thought twice about such a remark in Lady Chancellor’s presence. “I particularly enjoy seeing new faces in attendance. However. they were a mesmerizing blue that held humor and character.” Laurel said. But with Ashmore’s laugh igniting her own.9 Laurel was momentarily taken aback by his appearance. merely stood silently by. From the corner of her eye. “I’ve promised the next dance.” Ashmore said with a bow. “Then.” he said softly.
” Catherine’s short.” she said harshly. “He’s incapable of fathering children. and when her eyes met Laurel’s. She seemed rather intent on this need for solitude. blunt answer stopped Laurel. She’d known Catherine since their earliest days at school and had never known her to be so circumspect.10 guided Ashmore away. annoyed. “Is he married to a Frenchwoman? Or. they were angry.” Confused. “He’s badly injured. Or any for that matter.” “I’m sure Lady Chancellor merely fulfills an obligation. Laurel glared at her closest friend. eyes sweeping left and right so as not to be overheard.” She nodded in Ashmore’s direction.” . Or. already chatting about the changes in England since last he’d been on these shores.” she added with a twist of humor. but Laurel had had enough. “Or any other husbandly duty. Catherine all but dragged her a few steps back. It’s a cruel joke to have him exposed to all these unmarried girls. “Laurel. and as resolute as Laurel had ever seen her. searching in vain for a private alcove. there’s no better endorsement. “He was introduced by Lady Chancellor herself. exasperated.” Catherine said in a rush.” and here her voice dropped even further and her cheeks flamed red. “I do not understand your objection to him!” Laurel huffed. “does he have a second invisible head that only comes out at the full moon?” “No. “What do you mean?” she demanded. “But that man should not be in attendance at this ball. She tugged insistently on her arm.
Everyone had to know what Catherine had finally gotten the nerve to tell her about Mr. Or at least that seems to be the direction Mrs. “I’ve barely had a chance to acquaint you with the balls this season much less the gossip! Mrs. Sutton is pushing him.” Catherine said dubiously. resolute in this. Sutton a relation of Major Sinclair?” Laurel asked. “That isn’t necessary. Sutton. Laurel’s eyes widened and she turned her back on the assembly before anyone could see her reaction. not merely with his sharp uniform. “Laurel. and she tore her eyes from the man. Laurel barely heard her friend.” “Is Mrs. I have it on very good authority that Mrs. “is no relation of his.” Catherine said neutrally. Men in his position didn’t normally attend balls such as this.” “No. an equally handsome male figure with dark brown hair. Gossip must have flown around Mr. Now. Laurel. Ashmore is not contagious.” she lowered her voice once more. “That’s Mr. Major Braedon Sinclair. Ashmore joined by another gentleman in full military attire. Ashmore’s friend. having finally released her arm.” Catherine said sourly. Laurel felt great pity for Mr.” . Mr.” Catherine was saying. Ashmore since he entered the ballroom.” “As you wish. I’m happy to have a dance with him. “I’ll have Cousin John make your excuses to Mr. Catherine.” Catherine continued. The lack of emotion in her voice caught Laurel’s attention. It took only a moment before Catherine’s words became painfully clear. her eyes caught by a most interesting scene. talking feverishly in her ear. There was something so distasteful about the obviousness of all this. He’s hired her to help him make a proper match. Sutton was retained to assist Major Sinclair in navigating the London ballrooms in his search for a wife. and now Catherine had her sequestered in a corner. She turned to see Mr. “Many of the girls here are vying for his attentions. The air around him seemed to shimmer with power.11 Chapter Two Laurel stiffened in surprise. She suddenly felt exposed and obvious. “but it appears he’s set his cap on Phillipa. with this revelation. Why had she not noticed him before? He commanded the room. “I wished you’d come early to London. Ashmore for the next dance. Ashmore and for all the indignity he must have to endure. She’d met the man mere moments ago.” she said with a quick shake of her head. gaze drawn to the major’s tall physique and broad shoulders. Ashmore.
he couldn’t see more than a bland woman with no thought in her head someone else hadn’t put there. Which may have been a gross underestimation on his part. but Braedon couldn’t be bothered to change his mind about the woman. “that there is no health matter that afflicts Major Sinclair to preclude him from our attention?” “No. Laurel nonetheless knew him to be a man her parents would approve of. Even now. and war to last him the rest of his life. She hadn’t been paying attention to the music so didn’t realize they were preparing for the next dance. he didn’t hold her attention from across the room. Camila continued to push Phillipa Harrington on him. then Phillipa was a very lucky girl indeed. “Lady Laurel?” She tore her attention from across the room and looked up at Mr. Oh. Try as he might.12 She nodded at Catherine. To his right. she realized as she curtsied to him and allowed him to lead her to the dance line. Perhaps she’d be lucky enough to meet someone who could hold her interest. Laurel knew she’d never accept more than a single dance from the man. Lady Chancellor talked about the end of Napoleon and the former emperor’s imprisonment on St. she had a pleasing enough figure and deep brown eyes that looked bottomless. she thought she heard Mr. but she hid behind her rapidly moving fan more than she spoke. but with the sudden addition of Sinclair and Ashmore. he paled in comparison. If Catherine’s information was true. Braedon had had enough talk about Napoleon. Forcing a smile up at the man. He was introduced to one prim and simpering miss after another. with her back to him.” she added with a knowing nod. some royal. Helena. Worthington. and Laurel had no reason to doubt it. who wasn’t as handsome or as engaging as Mr. **** Braedon endured the fawning of the throng of overbearing mothers and calculating matchmakers. Worthington and the music started. still staring rather noticeably at Major Sinclair. “I assume. Worthington may be suitable to her parents. Unfortunately. Laurel could feel Major Sinclair’s presence.” Laurel studied him again. Ashmore. Sutton. Ashmore laughing over the din of the crowd. Both of which were preposterous. But as she dipped into another curtsy to Mr. France. . as both men seemed to do tonight. pulling her attention from the handsome major.” Catherine said with a grin. Though well versed on all matters of the last coalition. dismissing the woman at his side. “And his reputation is impeccable.” she said slowly. He is the catch of the season. And strangely enough. “His family is connected to several dukes. Mrs.
but then no one in this ballroom had spent years with the man. though Braedon didn’t know if that was by design on Ethan’s part or other circumstances. Her décolletage revealed just enough of her luscious breasts to entice his imagination to play. which he ignored. La Boulangere. Or had fucked him until neither could move. the simple circle dance they engaged in. Beneath the elegant white gown her figure moved with a grace beyond her youth. It probably wasn’t obvious to anyone else. Intrigued. Braedon followed Ethan to where he’d escorted Lady Laurel.13 His gaze drifted to Ethan. She looked delectable standing next to Ethan. she sparkled with a life that these disagreeable women Camila attempted to introduce him to seemed to lack. His entire body hummed with tension so visible that even from this distance Braedon could sense it. he could tell that she wasn’t the pale English rose of those women around him. That alone caught Braedon’s attention. Her hair was swept off her face and neck. and Braedon had a feeling Lady Laurel was anything but dour. He wanted to see what was under the yards of muslin she wore. Her friend with the perpetually rosy cheeks bobbed a curtsy but didn’t look from behind her fan. please allow me to introduce Major Braedon Sinclair. striking against the white of her dress. “Ladies. In fact. Braedon could see Lady Laurel laughing at something Ethan said. Sutton stepped up to them.” Braedon whispered between Laurel and Catherine as Mrs. Braedon concentrated on Lady Laurel. and Ethan bowed before his dance partner. Excusing himself. Ashmore.” “And Sinclair is the most inappropriate bachelor at a London Ball. He did not regret his closer view of Lady Laurel. The dance ended. but even from here. Her skin held a touch of olive.” Camila shot Braedon a subtle warning glance. Much more sociable than he.” Ethan offered with a sly wink at Braedon. Ethan had a way with everyone that made them enjoy his company. More than that. and her eyes sparkled with intelligence. She was truly exquisite. who now danced with Lady Laurel Westfield. “Ladies. I feel it my duty to warn you of the mysterious Mr. She’d been the only one Ethan had danced with. He’d have to refocus Camila’s energies—move her away from pliable and onto Lady Laurel. he wanted to taste the particular flavor of her skin. the most dangerous charmer in England. Even from this distance. and tiny white flowers adorned the style. brought them together for only brief moments. however finely her gown had been made it couldn’t hide her voluptuous body. . His easy wit drew out even the dourest of women. Braedon vowed to learn more about Lady Laurel Westfield. “He is the most cunning. Her olive skin shone with vitality.
She turned to him. More than that. things had changed. But now. What had happened during the dance? Or was Ethan truly drawn to those moist lips of hers? Would she hold his interest for longer than it took for them to take her maidenhead? Or would both of them tire quickly of her body in their bed? Braedon’s hand clenched at his side. it had begun as mutual need on the battlefield when women were scarce.14 A perfectly innocent babe for them to pluck from the sea of pliable ladies and educate in all the ways of pleasure. She laughed at something Ethan said. However. It hadn’t started that way. standing here with Ethan and Lady Laurel. Surprised at this fierce need of the woman. He wanted to sequester Ethan in one of Bartholomew’s spare rooms and expend this need suddenly clawing through him. That didn’t happened easily. Perhaps it had simply been too long since he’d had a woman. It was no use—the images of Lady Laurel’s supple body beneath his or of her lips around Ethan’s cock as Braedon pounded into his ass remained vivid in his mind. a question in her dark. Braedon cared for him. No. Braedon planned on just how to arouse and entice Laurel into joining their bed. . or if there was more to this particular woman than lust. and Braedon wondered if it was more than just her beauty that drew him. Again. back in England and among the proprieties of society. It hadn’t ended. almond-shaped eyes. and Lady Laurel’s friend blushed. Braedon focused his attention once more on her. tilting her head to the side as she responded. He could tell that Ethan was smitten by the dark haired beauty. He’d never tire of Ethan. nor did either of them wish it to. And it would be even more pleasing if Lady Laurel joined them. and he forced himself to shrug away some of the tension roiling through him. Pleasured herself as they fucked. Braedon wondered if it was only the soft body of a woman wrapped around him that he missed. Smiling slowly at her. and he knew he’d stared too long. the man had been with him for years during the war. Camila looked annoyed.
when she enjoyed the day. She’d heard of the fantastical gardens and serpentine paths. but as this was also her first stay in London. then paused and gave a quiet laugh. Laurel admitted as she watched Lady Rufforth’s head tilt slightly upward. But during the lazy daylight hours. with the warm spring sun illuminating the area. and even Gwendolyn. arms stretched out. Her mind turned to last night and Major Sinclair and Mr. .15 Chapter Three Laurel had never been to Vauxhall Gardens. She’d felt that way while dancing with Mr. But when she looked up. “Is that Lady Rufforth?” Laurel asked as they backtracked once again. not in the middle of an otherwise simple ball. The look he’d given her had made her want. Laurel blushed but couldn’t look away. He hadn’t been as blatant as his friend. who frequented Vauxhall. made her blood race. They’d just passed a tightrope walker. Gwendolyn grumbling about being late. The paths were much more complex than Laurel imagined. It was… well there was no other word for it. Not for lack of trying on her part. Gwendolyn looked to where Laurel indicated with a tight nod. The look Major Sinclair had given her had elicited a reaction she’d never before experienced or expected. Ashmore as well. The gardens were incredibly pretty and well attended. Laurel stopped to watch. her skin tingle. was easily turned around. but here and there she saw signs of neglect. Exciting. Laurel wondered at her source’s information. Suspended a hundred or so feet off the ground. the spectacular shows they put on at night and the majesty of the lanterns strung along the walkways. but the man had a way with words that constantly left her guessing as to his meaning. They continued on. her head directly beneath the stone carving’s prominent genitals. Ashmore. darkly sexual and knowing. Gwendolyn walking down one path only to take the next one back the way they came. More than that. it truly was exciting. The small group chatted in a far-off corner of the gardens while the marchioness sat for her portrait. feet angled oddly as he moved gracefully from one pole to the other. to be no thicker than her forearm. not as darkly possessive in look and speech. the man easily traversed the rope. from her angle on the ground. His look. Vauxhall had been low on the list of attractions until now. fascinated with the setting. She walked beside her Aunt Gwendolyn who pointed out various attractions and paths. The locale drew Laurel’s attention too. amazed that anyone could walk with such refinement along a rope that looked. Lady Rufforth sat beneath a Roman statue.
” “Excellent. and rightly so. Then turned serious as if she just remembered Laurel wasn’t one of her sons and her reputation could be harmed. could she? It was Catherine’s father. Lady Westfield often had other duties. but if Catherine was to be believed. “Come my dear.” Gwendolyn beamed. Laurel wondered if either of her parents knew how inattentive Gwendolyn could be. she looked down the path once again for her friend. Laurel didn’t blame her. Without a suitable. “Don’t go too far. More’s the pity. The last time she’d seen her friend so worried had been when her father gambled away their last parcel of rent-generating land. Ashmore wasn’t a whole man. already backing away. something Laurel didn’t wish to see happen to Catherine. Again Laurel wondered why her mother couldn’t accompany her. and quick. scanning the area for Catherine’s arrival. that her hand would be gambled away before she could meet a suitable spouse on her own. as Ethan Ashmore was exceedingly charming. What disaster had Catherine involved herself in? But she couldn’t really blame Catherine. They were to meet a pair of Aunt Gwendolyn’s friends for an afternoon of gossip.” she said before they arrived within earshot of her aunt’s friends. “Aunt Gwendolyn. match who knew what Clayton Hayden would do in his quest for fortune? Neither Catherine nor her mother was safe so long as he continued on this . Or how the gossip often delved into the realm of highly inappropriate for a woman in her first season. “I’m going to walk around. Catherine was afraid. Mr. Still. Or make more money. simply unused to young ladies and her chaperoning duties towards them. who created every single disaster in that family. Wandering down the lane. Up ahead she saw Gwendolyn’s friend and stopped her aunt.” she said with a cluck of her tongue. They’d both heard the stories of young women whose immoral fathers or uncles sold the girls to the highest bidder in an attempt to pay off debts. Laurel paused by a children’s puppet show. but then Laurel had long ago ceased to ask. Her aunt wasn’t a bad woman. Laurel nodded. All of which was the main reason this season was so consumingly important to Catherine. Annabeth. She turned right and wandered further into the gardens. Firmly shoving Major Sinclair to the background. laughing at the pantomime but even the lightheartedness of the act couldn’t stop her racing thoughts. Inevitably it led to the girls’ ruin.” Gwendolyn said briskly and ushered her away. See some more of the gardens. Clayton Hayden.16 It was impossible to ignore either of their interest in her. She’d had all boys and hadn’t needed to watch out for any of them. She wasn’t going to waste time on friendships with injured men. She watched the show.
Laurel anxiously searched for Catherine. he wondered how he could steer her toward the hedge maze and the privacy it held. He traveled the same circles as the richest and best known of the ton but everyone—even she who rarely traveled beyond the family’s country estates—knew of him. Ethan circled the path she walked on so he could come up beside her. as worried as she was for her friend. after the ball. Laurel turned the corner. and Ethan found he wanted to know if she’d thought about last night. **** Ethan Ashmore. Stalking her may have been a more apt term. one not. stumbled on the path for a step before dropping her hands to her sides and straightening her back. Keeping his smile to himself. and all the wicked things he’d like to teach the beautiful woman. She shuddered at the thought of her friend being debased in such a way. “Even on such a lovely day. Laurel could all too easily see Clayton accepting. “I’m surprised to find you strolling alone in the gardens. Her mind had been elsewhere. A notorious gambler. hopelessly lost from where she’d left her aunt. What intrigued her about Major Sinclair? More than his sharp major’s uniform. And. She was attracted.17 same path. and strongly so. she could not stop the images from last night from plaguing her. Gambling Catherine’s hand in marriage to pay off some of his debts was all too likely. rich off others’ losses with nary a sympathetic bone in his body. but held a connotation he didn’t want to associate with the lovely Laurel on such a beautiful day in Vauxhall. Last night. Still. to Major Braedon Sinclair…and Ethan Ashmore. Really it came down to one thing. knowing full well that he’d been the pariah of the ball last night among marriage-seeking mothers and like-minded daughters.” he said with a neutral smile.” Laurel jumped. more than what little conversation they’d shared. continued to follow Lady Laurel as she wandered aimlessly around the garden paths. Catherine had confided she’d finally discovered the name of the man who held Clayton’s markers. still searching for Catherine. though he could see he hadn’t startled her that badly. If Pierson demanded Catherine in payment for Clayton’s debts. Pierson Hill was about as disagreeable and disreputable a man as Laurel had ever heard of. Laurel also had seen the lascivious way the swindler looked at Catherine. It took her a moment to respond. . Pacing along the paths. Having seen Pierson in Clayton’s company. Laurel’s mind raced with Catherine’s problem and her own interest in two men—one suitable.
” she said as they walked along. “Chatting with several friends. “May I walk with you?” “I’d like that very much. In compassion. he clasped his hands behind his back and offered one of his charming smiles. Refusing to let her. “I can’t go far. “We’ll do a turn about the fountain by your aunt’s bench?” She looked up. “There’s no need to shy away from the topic. Understanding beneath the compassion. One of the many things the army had taught him was the layout of the land.” He nodded. he saw that clearly enough in her eyes. When she looked at him again. “I’m expecting Miss Hayden. “I’m sorry you had to endure that. clearly surprised.” “As you wish. Ethan had never expected to use such a skill in London.” Gesturing to the path ahead of them he asked. Then.” she said softly. her hand squeezing his arm. Ethan hadn’t realized the difference until the emotion was directed at him and his injuries.” she said. Lady Laurel.18 “My aunt is just over there.” he said with another easy laugh that belied the cynicism of his words. I’m fully aware of how they speak of me in the ballrooms of London. And I’m sure last evening during our dance there was a flurry of gossip circling the room.” Mortification colored her cheeks and turned her dark brown eyes lighter. She quickly recovered and gave him a half-smile but remained silent. Ethan offered his arm and led her deeper into the gardens and further from her aunt. past bunches of blooming flowers and bushes molded into various shapes. to his surprise. Not in sympathy. “Yes. and she looked at him in surprise. “I assure you.” she easily agreed. continuing on the path and making no attempt to hurry.” . Laurel relaxed and nodded. just out of sight of her aunt. The laugh she uttered told him what he’d first expected: she hadn’t realized how far she’d wandered from her aunt. but his return continued to surprise him. gesturing vaguely behind her. “And what brings you to Vauxhall Gardens today?” Ethan refrained from telling her the truth—that he’d followed her since her arrival at the gardens and finally saw a moment to get her alone.” she continued in that same soft voice. “A chance to enjoy such lovely company on a beautiful day.” Laurel’s steps faltered. I’ve not been here before and wanted to enjoy the flowers. “being seen with me will create no scandal. her hat shading her eyes from the bright sunlight.” Laurel smiled up at him. he knew she wanted to change the subject. Ethan abruptly turned down another path. “I suppose you’d be accustomed to it since your return from the war. Instead.
He hadn’t thought. realized .” She slowed. Of course.” he said again. Not many would. remembered moving. the daring she showed in conversation.19 “What made it more tolerable last night. “was your bravery. if she understood the deep bond between him and Braedon. Ethan wanted to entice Laurel further. Ethan nodded and waited for her reaction. Still. “Major Sinclair is a lucky man to have such a friend as you.” Her words were soft and sincere. their second meeting. He needn’t have worried. remembered Braedon being there. “One a woman like yourself shouldn’t imagine. “We’ve been through much together. “Sinclair. she faced him and asked unflinchingly.” he said. “Sinclair. “Am I too bold in asking what happened?” Laurel’s free hand moved to his face. and he resumed their walk. no others had last night. he hadn’t asked any others. her gloved fingers a breath from the scars on his cheek.” he said. He remembered the canon. Swallowing hard. as if all they had was friendship based on mutual experience. and he turned to her in anticipation.” But Ethan forced a lighter tone to the words. Laurel was too innocent to think otherwise. “came too close to the impact point of a cannon shot. but after meeting Laurel. He’d meant it when he’d said she’d been brave to dance with him. his lover was in danger and Ethan needed to protect him. then cleared his throat. dropping his voice. “It’s a unique thing. as if the only thing between them was friendship.” he said. “What Braedon and I lived through has forged our friendship. trying not to sound melodramatic. but couldn’t risk scaring her away on this. in fact. the bond one makes with a friend when you live through war.” He turned another corner.” “I can only imagine. continuing to move her further from her aunt. licking her lush lips as she gathered herself.” “It was cannon fire that caused your scars?” Laurel asked softly.” he began. “War is a terrible thing. Laurel looked ahead for another moment. needed her to see the closeness between him and Braedon. “We’re lucky to have each other. I would not see him killed because of Napoleon’s lousy aim. But he wanted her to understand. This was also the perfect opportunity to insert Braedon into the conversation. It had saved him—and Braedon—more than once.” she said. Ethan hadn’t wanted to. Ethan liked that about her. He’d learned long ago not to ignore his instinct. And the dance you granted me. paused. Ethan didn’t remember much about it. He didn’t analyze later why her next words were so important to him but they were. simply acted.” The words sounded inadequate when spoken. which Ethan did as slyly as he could manage.
” he said bluntly and winked at her. you were the belle of the ball last evening. just as Braedon did. He had no intention of giving up Braedon’s cock. They both knew something was missing from their lives.” Taken aback. But.” He laughed. “Braedon is hunting for a wife. At this moment.20 the depth of their friendship if nothing else. He wanted a woman. then that was enough for today. The necessity of war had brought them together and now. but abruptly closed her mouth. “And after last night. Ethan had grown tired of whores and mistresses. enjoying himself.” Ethan added. “But now. Ethan believed Laurel could fill that hole.” she said. neither was willing to give up the other. I’m certain his interests have fallen to a particular dark-haired beauty.” Ethan said with a sly wink. there’s room to expand our circle. “You can’t be so surprised. unflinchingly meeting his gaze. could enjoy and indulge in. She started to answer. “In my mind. and Braedon has excellent taste. Laurel walked in silence for a moment.” Laurel shot him a quizzical look but he knew she understood him. “Hearing such things from his friend. Ethan missed the companionship of women. one both he and Braedon could share. . “There was a time when we had only each other.” “It’s just a tad unusual. the soft feminine touch they offered.” “I’m not just his friend.
swallowed. rolling his shoulders. “And it was a treat. and Ethan sauntered into the room. And it was more. It hadn’t eased this strange want in him. slowly walking from the window to the desk. His blue eyes lit with knowledge and deeper passion. Jealousy that there was no one waiting for him. hands clenching on the desk sides until his knuckles whitened. returning to their wives.21 Chapter Four Braedon heard the front door slam but didn’t look up from his papers. the paperwork generated by his holdings. He’d spent the day pouring over paperwork while Ethan attempted to find Lady Laurel. rounding the desk to lounge on the edge of it. He knew Ethan felt the same. it didn’t stop him from thinking. a wife. they’d spoken about it. wanted to suckle those luscious breasts. “Then. working the kinks from his body. a true exotic beauty. A whore was one thing—a paid mistress did what they instructed. wanted to taste her sweetness. Hell. Setting the papers aside. And though he’d been back in England for nearly a year. While he’d been on the Peninsula. a smug smile on his handsome face.” Braedon said quietly. Or if he was simply a romantic beneath his cynical and pragmatic nature. investments. tenants. Laurel Kingsley. so much more than having a woman in the house. His body hummed with tension. what Braedon didn’t know was how his lover felt about what they’d do to the chosen woman.” Ethan nodded. Braedon pushed him back onto . the woman they’d chosen. “it’ll be a pleasure to have her in this house. “I did. watching Ethan’s breath quicken. watching the other man’s eyes darken further. in the house. The door closed with a soft click. “Did you locate our prey?” Braedon asked. Laurel Kingsley really is exceptional. Braedon stretched his arms over his head. and other various purchases was massive.” Ethan nodded. his steward had done an excellent job of running his estates. and waited for a bare heartbeat before moving. They both wanted her. Won’t it.” Braedon continued his inexorable walk toward Ethan. Braedon stopped before his lover. After their paid companion left. Braedon couldn’t be sure if it was a leftover feeling from the stories of his men. Mouth rough on Ethan’s. but didn’t touch him. He stood there. they’d had a whore in the bed just last night. He hadn’t undertaken this endeavor of finding a wife lightly. Very enticing. How different it’d be to have a woman. He pushed back the chair and went to the window. however. No matter how engrossing the paperwork proved. eyes drawn to Braedon’s lips. Or even in his bed.
The passion between them often exploded like this. “She should find it tonight. His kiss was harsh.” Ethan admitted with a wicked grin. Untying his own pants. and he collapsed against his chair. Kissing Ethan.” Braedon said as his hand tightened on Ethan’s cock. Braedon had fisted his hand in Ethan’s hair. “You want her. With a guttural cry. Braedon pushed him onto the desk. harder. Both tied to his bed. both at his mercy. but Ethan obeyed. The other man closed his eyes. he wanted to know more about Laurel Kingsley. dominating as his hand moved over Ethan’s cock. He shoved Braedon into the desk chair and knelt before him. taking Braedon deeper into his throat. softer now. Braedon.” “Camila plays her part nicely. Braedon had been aroused most of the day with thoughts of Ethan and the lovely Laurel. .” he said approvingly against his lover’s lips. Braedon emptied himself in Ethan’s mouth. “I’ve had the book delivered. Before Braedon could respond. shuddered. A physical need neither bothered to deny. hips thrusting into Braedon’s hand. Standing and leaning against the desk. wanting to pound into Ethan until he screamed his name. refused to rush. Braedon was willing to bet. First. none too gently. From his time with Laurel? From now with Braedon? Both. “She befriended Laurel’s aunt in the gardens today. Ethan looked delectable. Braedon blinked and stood. forcefully kissing him back. already hard.” Ethan said in a strangled voice. rough. flipping the other man over and raising his naked ass. slamming his hips up as he silently demanded Ethan take him deeper. Ethan was hard for both of them. and Braedon knew he was close. Before he knew it. The moment Braedon released his hold on Ethan’s neck. Ethan broke free of his hold and grabbed the back of Braedon’s head. to give Ethan what he wanted. hand caressing the other man’s cock. the other man moved. Ethan’s hand cupped his balls and he moved faster over his cock. It didn’t take long. He grabbed Ethan’s hands and pinned them to his sides.22 the desk. taking him deeper. Ethan hissed. Laurel’s mouth tasting him. just missing the inkwell. Teeth scraped over his cock. however. Braedon rubbed his cock against Ethan. “As much as I want you. Ethan surprised him. His hand unclenched from Ethan’s hair. holding the other man down by the back of his neck and stretching to reach the jar of oil he kept in his desk drawer for just this purpose. Braedon quickly untied Ethan’s pants. however. and Braedon knew he fantasized about Laurel’s hand on his cock. Ethan yanked his pants open further. cock hard against his belly. Not with each other. His mouth was warm and wet around Braedon’s cock.” He shuddered.
It was warm in the room. leaving the silver candelabra burning on the nightstand and the fire blazing in the hearth. they’d returned for the evening’s entertainment. Catherine had been tense and terse. Major Sinclair. She leaned against the bedpost as her maid undressed her. Now. The fireworks. they could both find themselves in the hangman’s noose. Wandering to the window. Naturally her mind turned to Ashmore’s surprise appearance this afternoon. “Are we really planning on doing this?” Ethan asked. and she wouldn’t have missed them.23 Pleased they shared this interest in the same woman. his breath coming hard and fast. If discovered. she looked out at the back gardens and pushed Catherine to the back of her mind. banishing thoughts of discovery and lack of trust with Laurel. scraping his teeth over the sensitive side of his neck. her desperation rubbing off on Laurel until she thought she’d scream. Ethan cried out. She and Aunt Gwendolyn had stayed in Vauxhall Gardens all day. Catherine’s problems seemed insurmountable tonight. turning the afternoon over and over in her mind. After a day of unsuccessfully trying to find a solution. a wordless sound of release. rich or not. after returning home for a quick rest and a change of dress. His surprise visit and his words in support of his friend.” Braedon said quietly and kissed Ethan. trusting an outsider—not a whore paid to do whatever they wanted in bed—with this secret. wandering the beautiful layout for hours. Through it all. Braedon straightened from the desk and licked the back of his hand of Ethan’s release while Ethan struggled to control himself. **** Laurel wearily closed the door to her bedroom. They’d see soon enough if she was for them. He knew what Ethan meant. she could barely keep her eyes open. she needed to think on something else. had been magnificent. Braedon increased the pressure. though her mind raced from the day’s events. “On risking what we have?” The blue eyes that met Braedon’s were slightly unfocused. He kissed Ethan’s jaw line. Then. The both of them. the dilemma compounded. Laurel had been shocked at Ashmore’s boldness in announcing . moving faster. “We’ve taken far greater risks. however. and Laurel was grateful for the heat. and came. Between her father’s gambling debts and her need for a husband. The maid gathered the dress and backed out of the room. He bit down hard on the side of Ethan’s neck. but the beautiful April day had turned cool. His hand moved faster over Ethan’s cock.
She could only think her maid or one of the other servants had dropped it. shuddering beneath him. naked body pinning hers to the bed. In the brightly lighted room I could see him pinch her nipples and found my own fingers rough on the hard points of my own nipples. Normal sized and bound in fine. pleasuring myself as my ass hit the hard stone. Even now. she thought as she banked the fire. Already he was there. I wanted a man’s hard cock filling me. though why they’d be reading in her rooms. Frowning. aching to be taken just as he did her. if they could even read. He certainly was a charming man. Last night he came to her again. Curiosity had Laurel opening the unnamed book and reading the first page from The Curiosity of Miss Laverly. Climbing into bed. had spent more time with Ashmore. Had it been Ashmore who’d convinced Sinclair to court her? Laurel admitted to a certain curiosity about Major Sinclair. I knelt on the cold stone floor and watched through the peephole drilled in the door years ago. the cover held no title or author. She shivered and moved from the window. hands rough on her breasts. two. that Ashmore wasn’t a suitable prospect. It was a book. wanted to feel the pressure of his body against mine. My body was tight with arousal. I hurried from my room. Turning for bed. she noticed an object on the floor directly before her. with her hair down in the dimness of her room. legs . this had to be enough. I heard him boldly walk into her room and could not resist another peak. his muscled. The dark knowledge. in and out. Faster I moved my fingers. quickly moving in and out in my wet pussy. brushed leather. My own fingers entered my core.24 Major Sinclair’s intention to court her. Laurel lifted the candelabra and crouched beside the bed. one. slipping into the passage between wings so as not to be heard. She’d spent only a few moments with the other man. nails scraping them in pleasure. I fell backwards. She bit and clawed at his back as he entered her. He bit down on her breasts and she screamed. had attempted to find men her friend would find appealing and who weren’t complete bores. It was a pity. Laurel could all too easily see Sinclair’s eyes on her. All she knew of him was the bit Catherine had whispered to her last night and what Ashmore had relayed this afternoon. I wanted more. mouth taking and taking as she screamed her release over and over. In fact. she set the candelabra on the night table and settled against her pillows. but it did naught to dispel the anticipation thrumming through her. His hands hard on her thighs. Had Ashmore been a scout for Sinclair? She’d been such for Catherine. Laurel couldn’t say. For now. most of her time with Sinclair had involved him silently staring at her. the passionate promise.
Eventually I rose on unsteady legs and made my way. and closed her eyes determined to sleep. the cold of the floor a sharp contrast with the heat of my need. utterly spent on the stone floor. . Mortified. pleasuring myself while they pleasured each other. Her own body was tight with need. What else Miss Laverly saw. harder. To forget the suggestive book and the rest of the passages. Laurel stopped.25 splayed wide. indeed. disobediently pulling and tugging it as the curious Miss Laverly had in the book. and none of us would admit I watched them in bed. and I knew I cried out despite my best attempts not to let the couple know I was here. and she hadn’t realized until then one hand cupped her breast. wanted this need to dissipate. In the morning I’d see them at breakfast. deeper. satiated and naked. Though her nipple ached for more. Laurel clenched her thighs together. I don’t know how long I stayed there. knowing it was a losing battle. back to my room. Pleasure did. tugging hard. too. and the pleasure ripped through me. spear through her. her nipple hard against her palm. I widened my legs. Still I moved my fingers in me. Laurel snapped the book closed. Fisting her hands beneath the pillow. shocking her. She shoved the book beneath her pillows. a blinding light of it. unable to stop even as my body shuddered in release. her body tight with this unnamed need. Deeper I thrust my fingers. One hand pinched my nipples. she wanted to pull her hand away. Laurel tried to sleep. scraping that harder. What other delights lay in store for the curious miss. feet braced on the wall. Her fingers tightened on her nipple. Pleasure shot through me. blew out her candles. the throbbing between them all but begging her to assuage it. thum nail against my nub.
that the book might belong to one of the maids. but she needed to wash herself. Needed to cleanse herself of such thoughts. perhaps not to her parents—if it wasn’t political they tended not to notice. Laurel snatched it off the stand and moved to the window. And suddenly wished she hadn’t. No matter what she’d thought last night. catching her breath.26 Chapter Five Groggy from a poor night’s sleep. though rather inattentive when it came to actually chaperoning Laurel. Opening the drapes to a just-dawning morning. Her eyes closed. set it on the washstand. The moment she walked into the breakfast room. discreetly discovering who would only prove she had read it. She couldn’t afford for the maid to discover it. but rather than removing her hand. She’d tossed and turned all night. Surely everyone would realize what she’d read. her gaze landed on the book. and straightened from where she leaned over the stand. Laurel flipped through the book. She quickly washed. Hands shaking from such unfamiliar sensations. lest someone identify its pages in the darkened room. her own body anticipating such pleasure. Laurel reached for the book. She gripped the book tighter. Well. Laurel couldn’t allow the household staff to suspect she even knew these types of books existed. images from The Curiosity of Miss Laverly too enticing to fully forget. and Laurel shivered. Unable to bring herself to read . Heat spiked through her. uncaring the water wasn’t fresh. Even if it did belong to one of them. she tugged on her dressing gown and tiptoed to the water basin. she dropped the linen. All she could picture was the hard stone floor beneath Miss Laverly as her heated body experience pleasure the likes of which Laurel had never imagined. Body tight with the same want from the previous night. Laurel was positive. Even in the darkness. and Laurel now realized that returning it would be the height of stupidity. But Aunt Gwendolyn. Laurel continued to gently move the wet cloth over herself. With a gasp. Clutching the book to her chest. she’d be on display. The water was cool from the night. was far more astute than they and noticed everything. Each new chapter described a scene with Miss Laverly spying on couples in the throes of passion. let alone read a passage from one of them. Laurel woke long before her maid. As the linen glided over her most intimate center. It would be that obvious. before forcing herself to release it. The room was dark and chilly. the pleasure she desperately wanted to wipe away increased. opened eyes she hadn’t been aware of closing.
It would do her no good to panic further. and in her writing desk. Laurel would be ruined. Panicked. more ready to face the day. She couldn’t put the book. Just a small book she needed to hide. Where didn’t the maids clean. Or carefully hide it behind the knickknacks along the shelf by the window or on her vanity. her nerves shot as she struggled to breathe through her increasing alarm. before her lady’s maid entered with the morning tea. she opened her eyes and tried to think. she needed to hide the book and needed to so soon. Laurel turned in a slow circle and surveyed her room in the dim morning light. then another and walked back to the window. Crossing the room quickly. Breathing somewhat normalized. there was just enough lip on the frame to balance the thin tome. Gwendolyn had done it herself on one of her many sojourns to the continent before the war. this book. she slowed her breathing. She had to collect herself before her maid arrived. too. at her wit’s end. there. Laurel stopped mid-step. looked for a place to hide the book. She snapped it closed and. Then her eyes settled on the framed watercolor Gwendolyn had given her on her eighteenth birthday. A seascape of the Italian coast. touch. Automatically walking towards the chest. Stymied. Another deep breath and she felt she was somewhat calmer. Her lady’s maid went in there every day for her undergarments. Framed in light-colored wood to compliment the watercolors. She couldn’t hide it anyplace in or under her bed. How had she never before wanted to hide something from the staff? Granted. she’d never before had an item of this magnitude to hide—should anyone discover Miss Laverly’s adventures. Laurel scanned random pages—too curious herself not to look. look through. Just as the door opened. Shaking now. or inspect daily? Calmly looking about the room. It was simply a book. Laurel took a deep breath. to make it. **** . She had no faith in the household staff’s ability to keep a secret. Laurel gently lifted the painting and inspected the backing. Not the chest and not the armoire where her gowns were stored because of the same problem. Laurel glanced at the painting and couldn’t help a wicked little smile. Laurel rejected beneath the washstand. under the cushions of her chaise lounge. Laurel couldn’t find one place the maids didn’t touch on a daily basis. the maids would be there. still breathing heavily.27 another chapter.
Ashmore. strolling in the park included. Her stomach fluttered in expectation. From this distance. so very vivid. inviting her for a stroll with Major Sinclair. . hands clasped behind his back.” Sinclair said. And now.” Of course she had. Laurel. though Laurel clearly remembered his dark probing eyes. dear?” Aunt Gwendolyn asked. Laurel couldn’t get the images. just cool enough to warrant her jacket. Sutton. Laurel studied him. Up ahead.28 Aunt Gwendolyn had never done anything slow. sounding breathless to her own ears. On the other hand. eager to speak further with the dark Major Sinclair. He seemed the demanding type. After the other night. his face remained unreadable. long used to her aunt’s quick stride. images from The Curiosity of Miss Laverly flooded her mind’s eye. “Good day. Laurel never doubted her aunt’s ability to ferret out the smallest piece of gossip. flushed as she recalled the passage. out of her head. Aunt Gwendolyn had cannily accepted the invitation before Laurel’s mother could be bothered to answer it. Though the day had dawned overcast and rainy. Laurel. by late morning the sky cleared and it was a beautiful spring day. This morning’s missive had both surprised and delighted Laurel. still so dark and mysterious. A light wind blew through the park. and she tried to discern what he wanted from her—from a wife. “Yes. Laurel stumbled. while Ashmore had seemed eminently amicable and engaging. Sinclair stood tall and muscular against the other people milling the grounds. However. and Aunt Gwendolyn to a chat with Mrs. in such a deep voice. dashing even without his major’s uniform. He stood ramrod straight. as they approached Sinclair. he also seemed very private. concerned as she tugged gently on her arm.” Laurel managed. she realized she hadn’t picture him as the gentleman from the book…but Mr. easily kept up with the older woman as they walked down the neatly trimmed lanes. I asked around. as she caught Sinclair’s gaze. recalled Miss Laverly’s explicit words as she’d inserted her own fingers into herself and brought herself to exquisite pleasure. No matter how she tried. “Merely embarrassed I tripped over my own feet. Even as the distance between them shortened. He continued to look steadily at her. Sinclair looked unapproachable.” “Don’t worry. No emotion flitted across his face or darkened his deep-brown eyes.” Gwendolyn said in a quiet rush of words as she tugged her along. “Major Sinclair’s reputation is impeccable. she was grateful Gwendolyn thought Laurel’s reaction only nerves. as if he knew exactly what he wanted and exactly how to extract it. Sutton. Now. Laurel could easily make out Sinclair and Mrs. No fool. “Are you alright. Laurel wondered she hadn’t noticed that at the ball.
” she said honestly. Ashmore’s implication of your interest in me.” Sinclair said with definite humor in his voice now. “My apologies that it was merely an implication. She didn’t stumble this time. But the images from the book wouldn’t fade. my dance with Mr. But I assure you.” he said with another slow smile. “when I knew you were worth all my attention. these little games must be played. he added. of course. Laurel looked up at him. Ashmore doesn’t often ask a young lady to dance at one of these balls. The meaning shocked her. He didn’t. directing her around another corner.” Laurel began. “I saw no reason to decline his invitation. “And I would hazard a guess that most of the girls in attendance would be dumbfounded to know the way to your attentions was not through Mrs. his manner told her more than the words.” . “But it was more than that that intrigued me.” he said.” “I find Mr. careful to keep some distance between them.” she said softly. even when the meaning of his words became crystal clear. Oh. Lady Laurel.” “Nor did I think you did. but she refused to show him just how much. Major Sinclair. Major Sinclair. One is expected to choose a wife with nary an idea of what she’s like beyond her appearance. and the next thing Laurel knew. “He prefers to dance with one of our married acquaintances. acknowledging his words. “by Mr. and she was disappointed she’d find out no more of Mr. but she’d been a fool not to have seen it before.” Laurel met his gaze and waited for him to say more on the subject. Ashmore. Major Sinclair. This marriage game. Ashmore very charming.” She smiled up at him.” Laurel tilted her head in acknowledgement. Ashmore had no ulterior motives.” “My apologies. “I’m flattered. she and Sinclair were walking down the lane.” Sinclair looked down at her as they rounded a corner. and Laurel sensed a deeper meaning to his words.” he continued. but again. His next words didn’t surprise her.” Startled. “No. and she raced to understand the undertone.” He said in that low deep voice that flowed over her. “Do not think. “Oh?” she asked. to which Aunt Gwendolyn eagerly replied.29 “Good day. “It’s quite the tricky feat.” “It was at that moment. but couldn’t find anything polite to say to his words. Mrs. Sutton said something about the weather.” he said with a bow in her direction. “Your beauty was. the talk of Lord Bartholomew’s ball. “that your acceptance of his dance went unnoticed. And so. with a wicked smile. “I was surprised. still hoping to regain some semblance of balance. Then. Gwendolyn happily distracted by the matchmaker. Sutton.
Sinclair stepped back. Laurel smiled and looked out the carriage door. and thinking it was a most interesting way to give her a gift. and she could all too easily imagine the passage from last night. but it wasn’t the same. he couldn’t possibly mean that? At the carriage. wanted to leap. but hoped it was just where her mind. Apparently. for he merely nodded and gestured before him. Their walk had been interesting and the conversation more than she’d expected. Tentatively reaching in. he handed her inside. Aunt Gwendolyn continued to chat with Mrs. Sutton. Bound in fine leather. she realized she hadn’t ever truly thought of it that way. He had a point.” he said slowly. but Sinclair had his back to her. but still possessed that air of command. Sinclair required no response. They walked in silence back to the carriages. the sun overhead so she could just make out his gaze resting on her lips. For surely. the two happily ensconced in their own little world.30 Slowly. she went to return it to the box. Laurel carefully studied the offering. Flustered. or what it was specifically about him that caused such a reaction. but… A box sat on the seat opposite her. He turned to her. Yes. She opened the black-lacquered box. He hadn’t worn his uniform today. Shyness had never been a problem. “I suppose you’re correct. Laurel thought as she settled her dress around her and awaited Aunt Gwendolyn. She’d seen Ashmore. Still. its cover devoid of title or author. but felt as if Sinclair’s last sentence about game play had a multifaceted meaning she couldn’t quite grasp. so newly turned onto the eroticisms of the bedroom. No. the conversation drifting from weather to balls. Everyone plays a game. and one she had vaguely acknowledged before. Her heart sped. stepping boldly closer. she could. and Laurel did as well. With a sly wink. Reaching inside the box. Sinclair took her hand and kissed the gloved back of it. Rather. but this is the first I’ve seen it as such. Laurel kept up with the change in topics. and yet Sinclair possessed a quality about him that intrigued her. Laurel lowered her eyes. . Laurel lifted it to sniff its delicate scent. visions of The Curiosity of Miss Laverly dancing in her mind’s eye. when he put it into actual words. yes. it was a large sketchbook. And saw the sketchbook beneath. and just touching on politics. “Sometimes. “The game play is where the fun lies.” Laurel didn’t know what to say to that. however. Laurel nodded. Sinclair scared her. Still smiling. but watched her intently. But he also scared her. also a military man. fully opened and utterly beautiful.” Sinclair stopped. A single crimson rose sat inside. she couldn’t place why. decorated with tiny hand-painted flowers. surprised at her own reaction. fascinated her.
It took real talent to capture such raw emotion. Laurel admired the quality of the sketch. But if Gwendolyn had chosen that moment to enter to carriage. . resting on the shoulder of the man behind her. the passion inherent in their gazes. breath stopped someplace in her chest.31 She darted a glance outside. The woman now knelt on a bed or grouping of pillows. cupped her breasts. but no matter how Laurel moved. Sutton continued to chat. Sinclair had moved away. Laurel looked blindly outside. he continued to look about the park. Laurel flipped to another page. she couldn’t be certain she’d have the wherewithal to close the book. Her mouth covered him. large and work-roughened. the tension coiling rapidly within her refused to abate. But a sketch of a couple kissing. Laurel could just see one erect nipple peak between his fingers and knew her own hardened at the sight. Laurel turned the page. one hand fisted in the woman’s hair. but Gwendolyn and Mrs. Laurel stared. She was obviously naked as she bent over him. Glancing out the carriage door to make sure Gwendolyn didn’t approach. a landscape of Spain. not all of him for Laurel could see the base of his…manhood. mouth dry. Was he buried inside her? Laurel knew he was despite having never seen for herself a coupling couple. perhaps. Heart pounding. With trembling fingers. Her thighs clenched together. Laurel opened it to a random page in the middle. And nearly dropped the book. Laurel didn’t know what she’d been expecting. his mouth on her. but was it pleasurable for the woman as well? Tearing her gaze from the sketch. and that new pleasure she’d only just experienced last night racing through her. seeming to ignore both she and the chatting women. or the Pyrenees as the British Army crossed into France. but turned in the direction of the carriage. Laurel thought Sinclair had moved closer. He knelt before the woman. The man’s eyes. Was he too far to see the book? Was it from him? Why did he not take credit for either the rose or the book? Why did he not even turn towards her to see if she received his gift? Curious. she saw when she could tear her gaze from the erotic scene. Knew he took her from behind. Her head was thrown back. His hands. the most shocking facet of this sketch was the second man. his fingers holding her legs wide open. Or to look away. However. fully dressed though obviously in the process of disrobing had not been on her list. and cursing herself a fool for being so. were closed in bliss. head buried in his lap. and they both enjoyed it. But no. tasting her. Heart racing. Did she enjoy that? The man evidently did. the finely drawn lines of the couple. A woman knelt before a man who sat in a chair.
The woman had clearly pressed down on both of them. Clasping her hands on her lap. dear God. she clenched the rose in her fingers. Oh. too mindless in her pleasure to distinguish. . tried to clear her vision. Did the woman press down on the second man’s face? Or back against the man fondling her breasts? Or…Laurel slammed the book closed and shoved it back in the box.32 Laurel blinked.
maybe she simply hoped they were about her. wanted the sexual attentions of a man. More on the state of the roads and the particularly warm April day. Her fingers had drifted over her belly and thighs. but knew the woman drawn there was meant to be her. Maybe they were generic sketches placed in the wrong carriage. Their images captivated her and. Miss Laverly had pleasured herself in a stream. She’d been surprised to find it wet. Unable to stop herself. There would be no explaining those. She didn’t know why she believed this. sending shivers of pleasure shooting through her. Would he have done that? The sketches with the rose. from its hiding place and read another chapter. Her experiencing such erotic delights. She’d snuck the book. In the harsh reality of daylight. who else would be so bold? She’d just walked with him in the park. Hadn’t been able to look away. and again Laurel thought she should burn them. Knowing her face flamed with embarrassment—and yes. Laurel knew once again she should burn the sketches. the cool summer’s water racing over her most intimately and. she’d stared at them. her body clenched with passion. When she’d pressed one finger inside that wetness. he could have easily instructed a footman to place the box in her carriage. She knew she wouldn’t. Laurel hadn’t been able to burn the sketches. The slight touch of her tentative fingers had her gasping. The carriage jolted along the street. Laurel’s fingers had brushed her core. too. Her act only made her want more. uncertain and knowing full well what she experienced was utterly forbidden. only adding to her desire. Laurel wanted the forbidden. according to her. The book. But the sketches. the book? Perhaps they weren’t from the same admirer. but he was the only man she’d expressed interest in. glad they spoke . with desire—Laurel turned her gaze to the window and tried to focus on what her aunt and Lady Lambeth discussed. The Curiosity of Miss Laverly.33 Chapter Six It didn’t matter if she knew she should. she thought realistically as the carriage jolted again and her aunt’s conversation shifted to the horrid state of the county roads. Or maybe. brining her back to the day. Wanted to experience everything the whispered conversations had promised. late into the night. But the sketches especially—she could always claim she had no idea the book was there and blame its existence in her room on a hapless maid. Laurel dismissed them. For the first time in her life. Maybe The Curiosity of Miss Laverly really did belong to a maid. She wanted to experience all the pleasure Miss Laverly spoke of. From Sinclair? They had to be.
And then Ashmore stood before her. and Laurel cursed herself for not paying closer attention to Aunt Gwendolyn’s descriptions. The lawn looked well tended. of all people. imagine him kneeling before her as the unknown man had before the woman in the sketch—he escorted her to the archery field. and a pond lay off to one side where several gentlemen cast fishing lines. Perhaps she should ask Catherine to stay with her for the duration of the season. never learn of the illicit pleasure Laurel had just begun to discover in them. coming across the book and sketches. she saw Ingrave Hall.34 between themselves and she wasn’t forced to carry a conversation with anyone. It was a grand structure. From the carriage window. Laurel couldn’t imagine Catherine. The party sounded much larger than she’d anticipated. She breathed deeply of the warm spring day and determined to enjoy herself. not with her mother still at home and at the mercy of Hayden. No. mourn his injuries that made it impossible for him to court her. With her body refusing to cooperate. Not yet at least. which was probably just as well. Laurel desperately tried to think of a way out of her friend’s dilemma. and still in a state of arousal she was ill-equipped to deal with. though she tried to keep her increasing fear for what Hayden would do next from her friend. The man was quite unpredictable. She’d never understand. . They were escorted through the house and around the back where groups of men and women enjoyed a variety of games such as archery and lawn tennis or sat beneath large oak trees and ate and drank. for all her closeness with Catherine. and quite distracting. longings. Laurel tried to think of a solution to Catherine’s dilemma. there were the sketches and book. Catherine would know something bothered Laurel and demanded to know the problem. Her concern for Catherine grew every day. ignoring the footman who attempted to help her as she listened to the noise coming from the yard. very stately and modern with clean lines along the upper levels and bold arches that lead to the courtyard. to push aside Catherine’s problem and her own newly awakened. Before she could do more than feel the conflicting emotions of his sudden arrival—accept the warmth that flowed through her when he smiled. couldn’t conceive how to share such a secret. Plus. and the ongoing gambling problems that man brought upon his family. Her friend wouldn’t attend this picnic. Catherine probably wouldn’t. she thought as the carriage turned up the long drive. Forcibly turning her mind to Clayton Hayden. She alighted from the carriage. She had to get those images from her mind before they arrived at Ingrave Hall and the picnic they were to attend there. Laurel took a moment to absorb the lively atmosphere. Laurel. Catherine could never discover those.
trying to decipher his expression for surely she’d misread him.” he said. As she did so.35 The short walk was done with him doing all the talking. and she tried desperately to recall what he’d said. she found herself relaxing and discovered she enjoyed Ashmore’s company. “I absolutely would. He turned to her. a wicked glint in his dark eyes. Laurel blinked. With my responsibilities in the army. unreadable and yet oh-so-intense. I had to learn to curtail my enthusiasm for such frivolities. “At one time. Laurel saw Mrs. though she regretted leaving Ashmore. “Now that the war is over. It was an easy conversation as Ashmore handed her a bow and quiver.” The look he gave her was entirely unreadable. but something darker—not sinister necessarily.” Sinclair continued. Major Sinclair. and a half an hour had passed before she realized it. Laurel couldn’t remember another time when she enjoyed a picnic so completely. answering his question about Catherine’s whereabouts.” she said once they walked several paces from the crowd. “of taking a stroll with me?” Flushed from her time with Ashmore and the enjoyment of the day. As she took Sinclair’s arm. wouldn’t you like to enjoy life’s frivolities a little more?” Again his dark gaze met hers. she saw Major Sinclair standing there. “Lady Laurel. In fact. looking very cool despite the heat of the day. Ashmore become such great companions? Your temperaments are quite dissimilar.” . Or maybe not a warning. “There are many things now I’d like to enjoy more fully. sent a shiver through her. She’d very much like to walk with Sinclair. Turning. “Would you do me the honor. Laurel agreed with a smile. expecting an answer. Sutton. it felt almost as if Ashmore courted her rather than Sinclair. “How have you and Mr.” Laurel nodded. she wondered why he hadn’t joined them for the game. and hesitated just an instant before saying kindly. ignoring Mrs.” he said slowly as they walked beneath the shade of the tree line. his voice deep and smooth as it washed over her. However he smiled easily at her now and resumed their walk. Sutton standing rigidly by but couldn’t determine if her disapproval came from her lack of participation in the conversation or from elsewhere. Something about the day? Her drive here? Laurel had no idea and tried to concentrate on the conversation. Laurel was too busy frantically dismissing the thoroughly wanton image of him kneeling before her spread thighs.” Sinclair said as he bowed formally. From the corner of her eye. “I’m curious. “our temperaments matched more evenly. But carnal. Ashmore looked over her shoulder and nodded to someone behind her. a dark probing stare that sent a warning tingle through her.
her core clenched in that unnamed desire. enjoying spending time with Sinclair. “It’s still a narrow field for a woman.” .” he suggested. adventures of another nature. struggled to find words to respond to his question. she scolded herself for her runaway thoughts. Clearing her throat she took a deep breath and smiled up at him. my choices are limited. This was a perfectly innocent conversation! Naught more than that. “Miss Laverly?” she asked as innocently as she could. “Surely you haven’t forgotten. but Laurel didn’t mind. enticing her to imagine exploring all sorts of forbidden things. his fingers guiding hers. “But as a woman.” she agreed. Laurel smiled up at him. She enjoyed this solitude with Sinclair. Two different men who brought out different sides of her. “Curious as Miss Laverly is curious?” Twin urges flooded through her. “I’m certain there are things you’re curious about as well.” Laurel swallowed and again looked away. a warm caress. stepping closer.” he said. and Laurel suddenly saw herself in that stream.” she said and quickly swallowed again. though Lord knew how he managed to slip it into her bedroom. If possible. a darkly seductive promise. “Yes. Laurel wanted to disappear into the ground at his words. Her breath caught. low and alluring. his already dark eyes blackening with need. just as she had enjoyed being surrounded by others while she and Ashmore were at the archery stalls.” he continued and moved closer. her fingers buried deep within her…and Major Sinclair’s mouth on hers. And would like to enjoy more fully. “Many things.” he said in that same voice. hoping her voice didn’t sound as breathless as she imagined it to be. acting as if they discussed the passions of the bedroom. and before she could formulate an answer—not that Laurel had any idea what to say—he continued. perhaps. Laurel paused for a moment and looked away. “you didn’t reduce it to ashes or pass it along to an unworthy maid. darker desire that coursed through her like liquid fire. Lady Laurel.36 They moved further from the picnic crowds. she brought herself back. and the arousal that hadn’t abated since reading The Curiosity of Miss Laverly flooded through her.” He made it sound like a promise. his voice lowered further. Licking her lips. knowing him to have sent her the book. “The heroine of the book I took great pains to present you with two nights past? Please tell me.” “There are still things you can explore. And a deeper. Blinking. And yet here she was. well.” “But you must be curious about things. “Things that fascinate you. Shocked at her reaction. Sinclair stopped. the cool water rushing over her most private places.
The trees hid them well. but again he continued before she could. but his eyes turned from hotly passionate to serious.37 It took all her willpower to look into his mesmerizing eyes and lie. leaving a trail of fire behind.” he said.” she whispered.” she said in a strangled voice. “I don’t know what you mean. “it’s Braedon. Laurel wanted to look around.” Desserts? What had she been thinking? But that was the point. Laurel had no words.” “I think. If she moved just slightly.” Sinclair’s finger’s fluttered over her breast. “The way he touched her in them. “You didn’t strike me as overly shy. terrified for a heartbeat that others could see them. Then again. Couldn’t with him so near and his mouth so close to hers.” Again his mouth just touched hers. but her nipple hardened. His voice caressed her again when he added. His mouth found hers. “Laurel. “Have your fingers found their way between your legs?” Her fingers. “When it is only us. and she knew that.” he said softly.” she said softly.” Laurel tried to think of a reply. mouth a whisper from hers. she could taste him. couldn’t come up with an appropriate reply. “And your manner tells me you are indeed as curious as Miss Laverly. wanting to say much more but not knowing what.” His hand caressed her neck. “Major Sinclair. “Don’t shy away from the adventure that you can have. “And were the sketches an appropriate gift?” His mouth brushed hers. “The way his head nestled against her legs. cool despite the heat of both the day and his words. They’ve probably put out the desserts by now. Had been aware of it from the moment they rounded the bend of the land.” “This isn’t an appropriate conversation. having somehow found their way to Sinclair’s chest. cupped her cheek. don’t you?” His hand cupped her breast. “You do remember the sketches.” he added. the barest of touches. heart racing. Sinclair didn’t release her. tightened on his coat. they were secluded from prying eyes. “we should return to the picnic. she hadn’t been. fingers warm and rough on the exposed skin of her décolletage. but an essence of . not moving away from where he stood directly before her. pulling her flush against his hard body. lips gliding along her throat. Her brain refused to work.” she managed. there was absolutely nothing appropriate about this conversation. but didn’t move. “You do remember. His arm banded around her. But no. Not a food. “I need to return to the picnic. breath short.” he said. the way they kissed. and Laurel moaned. He tasted of whisky and more.
she accepted his arm and offer to return her to the picnic. He held her until she steadied. but Laurel barely heard her. emotions ranging from dark and sensual and erotic to curious and conversational. blood heated from his kiss. and Laurel found she very much wanted to explore the secret places between her legs. Laurel had never kissed anyone before. and Laurel eagerly kissed him back.38 him. They walked in silence. Sinclair—Braedon—deposited her by Aunt Gwendolyn with a deep bow and promise to call on her again. but didn’t try to pull her against him again. The sound of her own moan had her jerking away. Sinclair didn’t release her. She watched him walk away and wondered what on earth she felt. it wasn’t easily dismissed. It was of absolute no use. . Her body tensed with need. Whatever she felt for him. his now-black eyes unreadable as they watched her. soon. breath coming far too quickly. her nipples ached for more of his scandalous touch. heart racing. Abnormally speechless now. Gwendolyn twittered about his attentiveness. Opened her mouth to his on another moan and felt her world revolve around this moment. His tongue swept across her lips and into her mouth. had never done or thought of doing a great many things before meeting Sinclair. The man invoked such a myriad of feelings through her. and Laurel took this opportunity to compose herself.
Laurel climbed into bed. taking and taking. wondering what new adventure the woman found herself in now. Laurel waited for her maid to retreat before so much as glancing in the direction of the painting. Her head fell back. and she thought she’d scream for the delicious sensation. Laurel carefully lifted the painting and retrieved the sketches and book. That would be a sure sign to the staff that something was amiss in Lady Laurel’s room. nails rough on the sensitive skin. hadn’t left her. harder this time. but Laurel had no real desire to listen to her mother’s faux concern. his touch. Cupping one breast in her hand. but no. his mouth crushing hers. she saw Braedon’s hands on her breasts. Braedon’s enticing words resonating in her mind. All during the ride home. She did the same to her other nipple. Closing her eyes. and at this moment Laurel wanted nothing more. Sinclair’s words. Laurel scraped her nail over the nipple again. the remembered feel of Braedon’s hands on her skin. wanted to experience all Miss Laverly had. It would have the added interest of sending her mother to speak with her. kissing down to her nipples and taking one into his mouth. Braedon’s words. but couldn’t lock it. She glanced at the door. No hiding beneath the sheets. Since leaving the picnic several hours ago. sliding the candelabra closer to the edge of the table. taste his mouth on hers. and the information would reach her parent’s ears before morning. and she pinched the nipple now. Gwendolyn’s excited chatter about Major Sinclair’s obvious interest in her echoing within the carriage. Only now. she would do it. Heart beating erratically. She wasn’t disappointed and wondered—hoped—Braedon had planned today because of this next story. Or invent a reason for the locked door. And wanted it again. Licking her lips. Laurel scraped a nail over her nipple. She could see his dark. The sketches were as shockingly erotic now as they were when she first saw them in the carriage. sensuous eyes. Laurel opened the book to a new chapter in the curiosities of Miss Laverly. she’d thought of little else. pinching and pulling until the pressure built and built. She clenched at the sheet for a moment. rolling it between finger and thumb. Laurel stopped. If she were going to do this. and her thighs clenched. hips jerking slightly.39 Chapter Seven Body still tightly wound with arousal. Miss Laverly attended a picnic on . A shock of feeling shot through her. she yanked her shift over her head and tossed it to the end of the bed. She wanted more. Panting. and stifled a moan. feel his hand on her breast. Laurel had thought of—had wanted—nothing else. his mouth on her neck. the first time since Laurel’s monthlies began.
” she called. wandered deep into the wood by a stream. from my spot across the river. but continued to read as she brushed her fingers along her wet core. had her craving more. Her body stiffened. then thrust them back in. from Braedon’s words. as it hardened my nipples and ran over my hot core. one hand covered her breast. And why. She’d never been up before her lady’s maid entered. I wanted to feel the shock of the cold water against me. His mouth kissed up her thigh and. This delicious need consumed her. I would bring myself to orgasm again in the water. Laurel knew she cried out. Laurel’s nails scraped down her thigh as she read Miss Laverly’s thoughts. apparently in need of refreshing. and to not allow the woman access would only fuel her suspicions. She lay naked in bed. The feeling was exquisite and she knew Miss Laverly was correct—she’d experience this sensation of want and need again. Laurel. three pumped in and out. calling out his name as his tongue licked her nub. Two. her fingers deeper into her body. Even in shadow. but wanted to feel that delightful pleasure more. this couple. I could see his fingers easily slip into her slickness. her other hand going to her breast and pinching her nipple hard. Panicked. and she arched off the rock. the sheet tangled around her waist. The instant the words left her lips. and quickly assuaged my need by inserting two fingers into my eager body. body taut from Miss Laverly’s words. Two of the attendees. Faster she moved her fingers in and out. slipped two fingers into her own wet core. And how much she absolutely enjoyed it. she bolted upright and frantically searched for her shift. the rock lay warm beneath me. and Miss Laverly followed. She’d just tugged it over her head and gathered the sketches and book to her breast when the maid scratched at the door. Body shuddering in a delectable agony of need. but she wanted more. She wanted more. a light caress that even she knew only teased. The Curiosity of Miss Laverly and the sketches sat next to her. “Just a moment. Laurel knew they were a mistake. Laurel orgasmed. down. couldn’t help it no matter how frightened of discovery she was. But her back arched off the bed. The book fell to the side. They laughed. Up again. Cursing her . the summer’s breeze cool on my bare nipples. and she tried to remind herself to hide it later. a stark reminder of what she’d done.40 a hot summer’s day. **** Laurel awoke with a jolt. but then the woman’s laughter turned to a moan. Slowly she removed them.
she didn’t want her friend here. going to the window and opening the curtain. A glance at the mantle clock told her the hour was barely seven. But no. Considering the circumstances. but refused to say how much. She examined the painting. Laurel prayed Catherine came with good news. what’s so urgent?” Catherine looked as if she hadn’t slept all night. arousal. Rushing through her morning ablutions. hair a haphazard mess of a bun. but she never lets him see a penny of that. Laurel. Laurel took a quick step forward. but didn’t want to leave her friend. but no hint of the sketches or book showed.” she began and her voice broke. hair pinned in an unadorned chignon.” she ordered.” she said. “Catherine. he hit her. anticipation. “Help me dress.41 stupidity. her cheeks uncharacteristically pale. a dreary April day. When Mother attempted to calm him. “Miss Hayden is here.” she said. Dressed in a simple morning gown. Laurel raced downstairs. “Enter.” . He’d been drinking heavily and roused the entire house. Nervous energy pumped through her. “He lost at cards. She glanced at her maid but said nothing. had every right to call whenever she needed her. “I’m sorry it’s taken me this long. she jumped from the bed and raced across the room. Laurel dismissed her maid and took one last minute for herself. Laurel almost had Catherine meet her in her rooms.” Shocked back to reality. but Catherine. Only a half hour passed since Catherine’s arrival. and Laurel guided her to the settee. “What jewels Mother still has are well hidden. and a contentment she’d never before experienced.” Catherine continued.” Catherine broke down here. She wanted to ring for tea. rushing into the parlor. Her face was drawn. determined to keep her mouth closed and act as normal as she could. eyes hollow. She met Laurel halfway. as her oldest and dearest friend. Her fingers fumbled at the frame but she managed to hide the items to her satisfaction. “It’s terrible. but she felt that was too long. With one last breath she knew wouldn’t help her in the coming minutes. No one visited before noon. Or what! There’s naught left to lose. ma’am. scared as to Catherine’s reason for being here so early. but Laurel barely noticed. we’ve no money save Mother’s small annuity. hands extended as she tried to control herself. “Father went to one of his gaming hells last night and didn’t stumble home until near five this morning. Or have the staff see her in this state. The sky was overcast and a light mist hung in the air. sobbing. but knew she did not. not until she checked whether she’d carefully hidden the drawings.
which was just fine with Ethan.” she said firmly. He took a moment. If Camila Sutton wanted to introduce her to the wealthy. spoke to the girl seated nervously on the settee. war hero Braedon Sinclair. rubbing her hand in soothing circles on her back. though it was far too early for breakfast in this household. with Braedon and Ashmore.” Laurel’s stomach clenched in dismay at this news.” Laurel said with a smile she hoped looked calming and encouraging. . for coming with me on my little errand. taking her friend with her. the straightening of her spine. “Don’t worry. Laurel had to help Catherine. now sitting in the front parlor. It was a useless gesture. but Laurel hoped it provided some comfort. She’d been so preoccupied with her own concerns. “Thank you so much. and our return from Bond Street seemed the perfect opportunity. The one woman she considered a true friend. “I don’t know what kind of trouble he’s got us into. the white lies we tell ourselves. negligently leaning on the doorjamb to study the pair. Before Clayton Hayden gambled away his entire family. As much as she wanted more—more Braedon. “We’ll find a suitable husband for you. with The Curiosity of Miss Laverly and the exquisite sketches. Miss Davis would walk across The Channel to France to meet him. noticed the slight squaring of her shoulders. well-connected. get some rest. “Go home.” Catherine leaned back and said in a voice heavy with dread. As the door closed behind her. Catherine. Everyone knew Camila was a matchmaker. They didn’t seem to notice him. that she’d neglected her friend.” Ethan leaned against the wall in the hallway and listened. he just barely resisted laughing. **** Ethan heard the front door open and made his way to the foyer. Laurel slowly turned for the dining room. Camila. Tonight at Lady Lambeth’s ball we’ll start. “He lost to Pierson Hill. more of the intense sensations from pleasuring herself. “We’ll make plans to keep you away from Mr.42 Laurel held Catherine as the other woman cried. Ah. she wasn’t displeased to be in Major Sinclair’s household—proper or not. The butler was just bowing to Camila Sutton and retreating to presumably find Braedon. Hill. Ethan thought with another quiet laugh.” She saw Catherine out. The white-blonde girl with brown eyes might not be a beauty. Miss Davis. and from the glimpse Ethan had of Miss Davis. but I needed to see Major Sinclair. one who can take care of you and your mother. I realize this isn’t proper. but she was clearly no fool. guilt crashed heavily on Laurel’s shoulders. Arms folded over his chest.” Laurel kissed Catherine’s cheek and stood. Come back later today and we’ll make a list of eligible bachelors.
” . as well as current politics. Small smile as she looked up at Camila. Major Sinclair. no woman compared. no woman appealed to him since meeting Lady Laurel Westfield. blue eyes glittering and seemingly unsurprised to see Ethan following them. She was also quite the wit. laughter clear in his voice. “of her delights in advance of marriage. small face. He didn’t touch Braedon. Ethan followed Camila. “Is she not to your liking? Emily Davis is a beautiful young woman. then trailed off. “She’s the perfect woman for you.43 Miss Davis was a small girl. and he glanced between Ethan and the opened parlor door. and resumed his position against the doorjamb. a dark grace that showed the world he knew he was better than everyone else. but Ethan could see her own wicked thoughts in her blue eyes. “Avail yourselves. He nodded once and entered the room. didn’t wink at him. who looked less smug now. then spun on his heels with military precision and exited the parlor. small chest. “She’s all yours. Braedon’s eyes narrowed. He nodded once. And in the perfect position to do as the two of you require. but didn’t much care. one educated in both the classics and modern poetry. Laurel possessed a fine form.” Camila continued. But then with her father. And body. “How do I put this delicately?” She paused again. He simply stood there and knew Braedon wanted him in return just as much. Beside Laurel. He didn’t find Camila attractive. Ethan could have been biased. glancing between Braedon and him. He moved with a fluidity rarely seen in men. Of course. or even what they had between them. He didn’t want to miss this. Which means you could…” she said.” Camila said with a small satisfied smiled as she rose. Not since meeting Laurel. Then again. “Ah. Lord Westfield. Ethan caught Braedon’s eyes and smirked. eager eyes sweeping over his form. Ethan closed the door to Braedon’s study just as Camila said.” Ethan said. that was to be expected. Braedon’s strong footsteps echoed along the marbled hallway. Her family is near ruin and would do anything to avoid such distress. pushing off the wall and moving the two steps necessary to intercept his lover. small arms.” She looked over her shoulder. He didn’t know if she was open to what he and Braedon wanted. Ethan didn’t think she saw him. and Ethan turned to watch the progress. her figure more than pleasing to the eye. Braedon didn’t appear to even look at the girl. nodding in agreement. “I believe you have some papers for me?” From where Ethan stood. Ethan following. Miss Davis sat straighter when Braedon entered.
is another story. “Should that happen. My plan for Lady Laurel will proceed.” Braedon continued in that same cold. a duke or marquess at least. And. Ethan marveled at the woman’s ability to act the prude. The earl would expect nothing less than for her to marry a higher rank. and. his cock hardening at the thought of the delectable Laurel between them.” Ethan smirked at that. as well as my reputation.” Camila insisted.” Braedon dismissed. just to be cautious he moved from his position against the wall.” “I can assure you. So as not to wrap around Camila’s throat. “I’ve talked at length with her aunt. turning his back on Camila.” Camila turned to look at him and nodded once. her brother. “He’ll not hear it from me. “One she can entice with her mouth around his cock. But for what you have planned?” She shook her head. Lord Westfield. Again with the primness. Our only interests lay in Lady Laurel Westfield. and Ethan turned to Braedon.44 “Find her an elderly peer. as a woman without family. bravado and fear cracking her voice. Still.” Always direct and to the point. “That is a foolish choice. “And remove her from my house.” He stepped closer to Camila and said in what was quite clearly a threat. and while that woman wants to see her niece happily married. “And if he does. Matchmaking was her livelihood. “You leave any other tongues to me. Be here tomorrow at the appointed time. calm tone. his cock every bit as hard as he knew Braedon’s was. “into a household without a hint of scandal.” Another step and Ethan saw his hands clench into fists. Ethan raised an eyebrow at her choice of words.” Camila said primly.” Braedon said.” “My household. “Those tongues will be removed from their owner’s skull. The earl will find no failing here.” she said. Braedon was. “Take your little offering. Major Sinclair. He could see she believed him. but hers. “How can rumor not spread?” Ethan believed her—it was not merely their reputation on the line. Foolish? “Lady Laurel is carefully watched. it’s because loose tongues have whispered in his ear. Ethan watched Camila curtsy and leave the room to fetch Emily Davis out of the townhouse. The front door closed behind them.” she stressed with another icy look at him. “are beyond reproach. . she wasn’t likely to obtain another means of support.” Braedon said coldly.
Sutton to a ‘private’ soiree in a secluded townhouse on the edge of London proper.45 Chapter Eight Laurel resisted rubbing her temples to ward off the headache she’d had for the last two days. hear those whispered words of eroticism. but the two had conversed for quite some time. Tonight. He would be in attendance tonight. have a shield of sorts from such enticement. Ever since Catherine’s early morning visit. and she thought she saw a juggler on a side terrace. At least with Mrs. she’d vanished. Confused. Laurel didn’t know how Mrs. Laurel used this slight advantage to good use and weaved through the crowd in search of either Mrs. The townhouse was crowded. music echoed from the back of the house. and even now. dressed in a midnight blue gown with pearls adorning her hair. Laurel teetered at her breaking point. She shivered at the memory as the carriage rolled to a stop and the driver jumped down. Laurel could feel his touch. She held her head high. Or Mr. Sutton or Braedon. Laurel didn’t panic. this was for the best. nodding to people. Ethan as well. She seemed to be the only recognizable face for Laurel. laughed in one corner. . and she didn’t appreciate it. if he attended this party. His words alone aroused her. Lady Rufforth. Sutton had convinced her aunt to allow her to chaperone Laurel rather than Gwendolyn. Tudor-style houses. she’d been to enough parties over the last year to hold her own. However. and refused to allow her confusion to show. Mrs. Laurel was privy only to the end of that conversation where this evening had been decided. Sutton there Laurel would. She seemed to know the vast majority. Between trying to find Catherine a suitable husband and the constant bombardment of erotic images every time she closed her eyes. as the carriage turned the corner and Laurel saw treelined streets and older. the woman who’d had her portrait painted in Vauxhall Gardens. days later. laughter from all rooms. Sutton led her through the crowds. voicing a greeting to several others. nodded to those staring at her. Ashmore for that matter. Mrs. but when Laurel turned to ask her about this party. Laurel allowed the matchmaker to lead her further into the house. Taller than many of the women. surrounded by an enraptured group of men and women. her mind had raced with plans and theories. it was disconcerting. Laurel knew something was amiss when she didn’t recognize anyone in attendance. But Laurel couldn’t put a name to anyone here. she rode with Mrs. Actually. She seemed to have no control over herself whenever Braedon was near. Sutton continued to lead her through the crowd. perhaps.
“I merely walked through the room. now held another emotion. Shocked at her thoughts.” Laurel surprised herself by wanting to deny that—to insist she wasn’t one of those girls. relieved to see him. for effect. “Several of the season’s parties are for adults only. Surely they hadn’t meant what she thought. but his eyes sparked with humor. Alone. She’d stay. Bracing herself. If it would be as darkly sensuous as Braedon. And something more.” “Misinformed?” Ashmore repeated. the company is rather unusual. “Braedon told me of your…” Ashmore trailed off.” she said with a nod to the room at large. Not.” she said evenly. Laurel turned and looked up at the handsome man. Passion. Conversation continued around her. the wantonness of them. “Your curiosity for adventure. Laurel stepped back. and she wondered what he tasted like. and she couldn’t help but listen to snippets. she listened more carefully.” she managed in a somewhat calm tone. “Perhaps. “His mistress joined…” “I heard that Lord Primethorpe secreted away to Ireland with young Mr…” She walked to the French doors and stopped. His gaze.” Laurel’s heart sped with his nearness. “Then I don’t understand why I was invited. She hid her confusion and disconcertedness behind a bright smile. she saw.” He nodded sagely. “Pity.” Laurel looked at the men who guffawed at that. “How are you enjoying this particularly warm evening?” Ashmore had snuck up behind her in the crush. “however. filled with humor and understanding. She wisely held her tongue and measured her .” she said. Ashmore had a disarming charm about him that instantly put her at ease. Lady Laurel?” Ashmore asked in faux shock. “The evening is fine.” he finished. Laurel turned around and didn’t exit the party. I had hoped you weren’t one of those boring women who prattled on about absolutely nothing.” “Have you eavesdropped. “Major Sinclair was misinformed. That sly wit. she awaited his next sentence. Only.46 “And they stole away to Lord Brighton’s cabin for a rendezvous. Continuing through the crush. “untried maidens. a hand to his chest. Laurel could tell he didn’t pause for lack of words.” he added in a low seductive tone and leaned closer. Laurel couldn’t look away from that clear blue gaze. Eye widening. then added with a hint of ruefulness. “I could not help but overhear several comments. a darkness she wondered at. which always held a deeper meaning.
“You’re safe with me. Laurel arched her neck. The discussion of pleasure—the acts of pleasure—are quite enjoyable. Sutton got off to?” she questioned aloud. as they walked into another room. loud and raucous. A mystery lay beneath the surface and. Braedon led her through. “Because you fear frank conversation?” He took a step closer. Laurel couldn’t say much of anything. “There you are. while another room held a game of chance. The juggler she’d seen earlier entertained in a front parlor. but couldn’t help it. she retreated a step. Know more about the man beneath the surface.” His tone suggested more than the innocuous words did.” Braedon whispered. His breath blew across her cheek. even as she berated herself for her foolish and shameful thoughts. “Has Ashmore put you at ease?” Was he supposed to? Laurel couldn’t say he’d done his duty or that she was at ease.47 words. even here in this crowded townhouse. Bets placed. ignoring the shouts of invitation with a dismissive smirk. “Dialogue with the dead. but for what she didn’t understand. Braedon did nothing more than guide her to the next room. and took her arm. Braedon stood behind her. a dining hall lavished with food. “There’s nothing to fear. cool and moist.” Braedon said. Laurel realized she wanted to solve that mystery. I’ll show you around. between men and women. His touch sent a shock of arousal through her. “Come. this one oddly quiet despite the boisterous noise from outside. “I wonder where Mrs.” Ashmore took her arm and gently turned her. But with Braedon standing there. but perhaps this conversation is too advanced for me.” “Why is that. More about the man with the racy words and enticing body. so far as she could see. and his tongue flicked along the sensitive spot just below her ear. A small room where poets recited their latest work. exposing her throat to him. He held himself apart from everyone.” he promised. Despite her involuntary wanton behavior. smiling over her shoulder at the other man. Excitement quickened her heart. She drew in a deep breath and nodded. Lady Laurel?” Ashmore wondered.” Flustered. Laurel studied him for a moment. as if he didn’t care what those others thought of him. “I didn’t think I was. and Laurel wondered how long he’d been there.” And his voice washed over her like the finest silk. trying to discern his look: dismissive. She hated to do so. and she wondered just how true that was. “Excellent. “Rest assured…you’ve nothing to fear. A promise rich in innuendo. yes. and a ballroom where a quartet played lively tunes and . to show such fear and awkwardness. The townhouse lay completely open and every room held a different diversion.
and Laurel looked up at him curiously. And suddenly saw what he wanted to show her. Braedon opened the pocket door. that Braedon would ask her to dance. and she wondered why he’d brought her here. Laurel wondered. telling the first in a line of women their futures. she couldn’t concentrate. a wicked glint in his eye. wanted to be around him and experience all these delicious sensations—so new and so addicting. illuminated by the candlelight. Braedon drew her closer. idly stroking the already hardened nipple. Several candelabras lighted the room.” Laurel smiled at this as they walked by. enjoying herself immensely.” he hinted. A fortune-teller sat in the first room. He opened the door to a small sitting room. and she wondered where he was taking her. unable not to. At first Laurel couldn’t see anything. his hands on her shoulders. Before Laurel could tear her eyes from the sight. Laurel’s heart quickened. Caught between calling him out on such scandalous behavior and leaning into his touch. tracing the line of her décolletage. her bare shoulder. She didn’t understand it herself. Laurel’s eyes closed and she took a small step closer. completely naked. . perhaps she’d await her turn later on. One hand played with her breast. but Braedon had a quality about him that drew her to him. but with Braedon pressed hard against her. Again his tone said one thing. as she looked up at his dark eyes. Laurel nodded. He took her gloved hand and kissed the back of it. Braedon continued to escort her down the long hallway. Laurel stood frozen.” The whispered name on her lips surprised her but. “Beware the man with the cane. “This is a very special room. Another door opened and a man entered. knew it pleased him. One of his hands slipped further down.” he said and led her further into the dimly lighted room. She wanted to know more. mouth kissing the inside of her elbow. sighing with obvious pleasure. Laurel couldn’t help but stare at him as he strode across the room to the woman. Positioning her before him. hoped really. but his eyes promised another. the man lifted the woman and kissed her. and wondered what further entertainment awaited her upstairs. “There’s still more to see upstairs.48 couples danced. If the old woman hadn’t left by the time they finished their tour. A woman stood at the foot of a bed. The woman straightened. The crowd had thinned out. “Braedon. His manhood…his cock…hard and jutting against his belly.
hips jerking as she whimpered. She didn’t want to leave. but the shiver of arousal that had her pressing against him again. Her body coiled with need. There was plenty of leeway. Laurel saw one of the woman’s hands cup her breast. and he thrust his cock against her buttocks. He spread her knees wider and the fingers of one hand slipped into her wetness. flipped the woman over and bound her hands with a thin rope to the bedpost. the man’s hand slapped against the woman’s buttocks. She moaned for more. fingers twisting into the skirts of her gown. Laurel saw her body shudder and knew. tugging them roughly. she tried to shift. that the woman was close to orgasm. Her body clenched. as if he enjoyed this as well. Braedon pinched her nipples hard. she couldn’t bring herself to do that. Her breasts against his legs. She didn’t cry out. Derrière still in the air. the woman easily knelt on the bed as the man covered her. only that he would. Laurel knew he’d let her. No. Her eyes riveted on the couple before her. harder now. didn’t scream. The man’s hands held her shoulders. for all her properness.49 Chapter Nine Laurel took a step back. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Laurel’s breath hitched. but didn’t care. playing with her nipples. pinch her own nipple. It wasn’t to leave the room. The sensation took her aback. His mouth left a trail of aroused heat as he kissed down her throat. she spread her legs wider and Laurel could see she was completely bare. to get away from the scene. lightly biting the base of her neck. Laurel shuddered. naked bodies writhing over the bed sheets now. all her decorous upbringing. Braedon’s hands cupped her breasts. The man spanked her again. with an innate knowledge she didn’t understand. hips thrusting into her mouth as the woman took him ever deeper. The woman on her knees. her head fell against his chest. . Suddenly the man moved. If she truly wished to leave. Not the fact of his hardness against her.” Laurel gasped and knew the couple heard her. tightly pressed to his hard body. three times in rapid succession. Her nether lips glistened with moisture. find a release to this clawing need but couldn’t. Thighs clenched. held her in place. “Yes. derrière in the air as her mouth closed over the man’s cock. She didn’t know how she knew. His cock thickened with his actions. Still she didn’t protest. On the bed. Braedon stood behind her. and she thrust her own hips against Braedon’s.
Spinning from Braedon’s arms. he stepped to the side and allowed her to leave. Laurel did so as quickly as her legs could carry her. past the dwindling line before the gypsy fortune-teller. The woman slumped to the bed.” she managed. harder and faster now. One hand moved over his cock. she paused. and slowly slid down her body.50 He continued to play with her nipples as the man in bed continued to thrust his fingers into the woman’s wetness. covering Laurel’s own moan. “I can’t do this. In no condition to join the party below. climbed into bed with the couple. now in between the woman and the second man. She didn’t know if she’d said it aloud. This second man. who sent her a wickedly seductive smile. One of Braedon’s hands left her breast. body wound until she thought she’d scream. So caught up in the erotic scene being played out before her. and she cried out. The man gasped. and turned to the second man. He gazed back at her with hooded eyes. Torn between her upbringing and these newly awakened desires. naked and aroused. or if Braedon somehow understood what she meant. Laurel whimpered. the man positioned himself behind the first man. Laurel didn’t care. the other held an opened jar. a place to hide. They broke apart and the man. In one smooth move. Breathing fast. a move Laurel found highly arousing. the man quickly following as the second man continued to thrust into him. from the need he caused to tighten within her. Her cry alerted the second man. this man spread over his cock. too fast. but didn’t stop. and all she could see was the passion within his black gaze. and she panicked. body convulsing. The man licked his fingers. Whatever the jar contained. It all crashed on Laurel in that moment of climax. she looked up at him. Whatever the case. Failing that. He didn’t let up. and even as Laurel’s own body begged Braedon to do the same for her. body still quaking. Laurel watched him as she stepped back. and thrust in. Laurel hadn’t realized her own hips thrust against Braedon’s hand. spread his buttocks. At the top of the steps. one hand unclenching from her gown to cup her breast. lifting her legs over his shoulders and thrusting hard into her. thorough kiss. Or that he’d been slowly raising her skirt. she raced down the hall. A hard. especially now that she knew what kind of party this was. Her nail scraped over the sensitive nipple. another man entered the room. She screamed. Away from his tempting body. so tender and heavy now. brought her to orgasm again. He cupped his face and kissed him. spanking her derrière as she orgasmed. kissed the woman. . and arched against him. Was beyond caring. The woman orgasmed again. Laurel looked for a means of escape.
Backing from the door. There was a dark and mysterious quality to him that drew her like the proverbial moth to the flame. she moved deeper into the alcove’s shadows in an attempt to hide. What had happened to her in so short a time? In less than a week. Shaking with need. Did he hold a grudge against her father? Images of Clayton Hayden’s drunken gambling rushed through Laurel’s mind and she suddenly wondered if that was Braedon’s goal. too proud even now to stoop to something so low. Apparently she didn’t need to. To seduce her. For Braedon’s interest in her. sending fresh shocks of need through her. but beyond that. Laurel hurriedly fixed her bodice. An inscrutability his wit hid well. Leaning against the cool stone. “Lady Laurel. “Are you alright?” . she started to turn the doorknob but feared what lay on the other side. his usually cheerful voice full of concern. all enjoying each other’s bodies. for his seduction of her. and now that Laurel understood these desires slightly. Ashmore seemed to know where she hid and stepped into the small alcove. “Lady Laurel?” It was Ashmore. there had to be a reason for all this. It made little difference. debauched woman. yes. and all Laurel could feel then were Braedon’s hands on her body. she’d bet her dowry the ton never realized there was more to him than keen observations and clever jokes. The whimper escaped her before she could stop it. to a wanton. Eschewing the chair. exposed. How could a man like Braedon do this to her in such a short time? He was extremely handsome. she could admit to wanting him. Laurel forced her mind to clear. she’d gone from a proper English lady from one of the finest families in all of England. her mind’s eye replaying the scene of the three people in bed. Her pride wouldn’t allow another blow. focused only on her need. utterly ruin and discard her all in an effort to disgrace her father. She’d already raced down the hallway with her breasts. too. Mortified. Laurel refused to cower behind the alcove’s chair. Laurel crept along the hallway until she found a small alcove nestled in the back of the house. She had to think. he could see her skittishness.” Ethan saw her hiding behind the chair but didn’t do more than stand in the alcove’s archway. To destroy her father through her. his mouth doing delicious things to her neck. she breathed deeply. held a quality about him that drew her. Still. Her pulse raced and only now did she realize she’d fled down the hall with her breasts exposed. Her sensitive nipples rubbed against the neckline. But he. Humor. Laurel would absolutely not answer him. nipples hard and aching for Braedon’s touch. commanding her attention with his mere presence. Even in the dimness of the hallway. He didn’t fill the room like Braedon did.51 Crossing to the opposite wing.
None in this household would spread gossip. stepping into the alcove. “Have you been physically assaulted?” He’d watched her and Braedon watching the ménage. and one they both agreed upon. nor did she take his hand. “Isn’t there?” she challenged him. “There’s no need to hide in the shadows…Laurel. “No. anger coloring her voice she accused him. All that .” Then her tone changed and rather than a challenge. But he saw her back straighten at his dare. Ethan wanted her. at this moment.” Then. I’m not Lady Rufforth and I’m not married.” Ethan continued. Laurel wanted this. From the instant he’d met her. And even though Ethan wondered. “What is this all about?” she asked. and he knew she was aroused to the point of pain. Lady Laurel Westfield had been no exception to that. he needed to move her from behind the damned chair. “A vengeance against my father or family that I’m unaware of?” He extended his hand then. keeping his voice even and low so as not to be overheard.” She didn’t start at the familiar use of her name. “He’s exposed you to the secrets. However. Ethan wanted to taste her fragrant juices. especially women joining them in bed. First. “that most of the bastards out there aren’t privy to. he knew Braedon had been correct. after all. however. taking hers from the back of the chair to lead her around it. her voice took on a pleading tone.” Extending his hand he waited.” he said. One look at her and Ethan knew she’d willingly submit to Braedon’s command and to both their bodies. They’d keep the best secrets away from you. “All Sinclair has done is expose you to pleasure. he sensed she needed to know her urges weren’t foul. they couldn’t afford the threat of scandal any more than they already courted. though he knew the answer. even as she’d exceeded all their expectations on womanhood. I can’t afford to be ruined this way. She sank gracefully into the brocaded cushion with a weary sigh.” she said. For the both of them. and even now his cock ached for her. but he knew Laurel wouldn’t understand that. but ones to be embraced. Her breath still came in gasps. I am not. if they’d perhaps miscalculated. “They’ve seen my face here.52 “No. seeing her in such a state. He knew Braedon felt the same. They were often of the same mind when it came to women. For a moment Ethan wondered if they’d pushed her too hard too fast. wanted to hear her scream as she climaxed. tossing her head. “I thought you were my friend. and he saw she gripped the chair before her. Their plan to seduce the very proper Lady Laurel had been simple. Why didn’t you warn me? Why did you allow him to bring me to this place?” “Are you harmed?” Ethan asked. It’d been mere days since they’d met her.
she didn’t yet know he was a fully functioning man. “The only intention has been to expose you to all forms of sensuality. he turned her to look at him. “Shouldn’t this have been a lesson for after marriage?” she asked then stopped whatever she’d wanted to say next. lightly caressing the back of her hand. kissing the inside of her elbow. watching her breath hitch as she clearly recalled the bedroom ménage.” She didn’t remove her hand as she looked up at him. “Did you enjoy it?” he asked in a low voice.” Still cupping her face. taking her vulnerability and her passion. confusion. taking her hand and raising it to her lips. Ethan wondered what it was. Never had he wanted a woman as he did Laurel. but didn’t pull her hand away.” he asked. and even in the light from the hallway sconces. how she watched and pleasured herself afterwards. straightening but not releasing her hand. and want. More than wanting Braedon. He could admit this was a lot to take in only a couple of days after making her acquaintance. Didn’t you wish. “Did you enjoy what you saw?” She started. Touching her face. and soul. He gave her a moment. and moaned against his lips. Mr. “There’s no shame in this. It was too tempting to kneel before her and not taste her. then kissed the back of her gloved hand. Laurel instantly responded. just resisting crouching before her. Ethan kissed her. “is just like you. wanting to assuage her physical need. he urged her to stand.” He did take a step forward then. What he doesn’t want is a naïve girl. . Taking her hand again. and wanting more. Laurel shook her head but Ethan knew it wasn’t in denial rather in an attempt to understand. but knew her cheeks flamed with embarrassment. You have Braedon and me—it could be better.53 stood between her and erotic pleasures was her upbringing. Braedon wants you. Laurel’s want was for understanding. she jerked her hand from his grasp. opened her mouth to his. He deepened the kiss. one who wanted her body.” Laurel shivered as his tongue swept over the sensitive skin of her inner elbow.” Ethan said. “And there has never been an intention of vengeance. mind. enjoying every moment of it.” he said. I certainly hope you enjoyed them. Except no one knew what she did. Plus. “Then there was the scene Braedon showed you. “I’m uncertain how to answer your question. He couldn’t see her. “Then there were the sketches. “it was you in the bed rather than that woman?” Dipping her head. “How would Braedon have known if you enjoyed this?” he asked. he could see her dark eyes glittering with passion.” he said. “I’m sorry you view things that way.” “The Curious Miss Laverly. and they’d worked diligently on destroying that. Ashmore.
Yes. he knew she wouldn’t run. to experience more. wanted to know more. all this was new to her. but as Ethan held her. allowing her to step back. but not from need.54 He slowly broke the kiss. She shook. Ethan held her as she began to cry. body trembling in his arms. She wanted this. From confusion. . She didn’t say a word as silent tears tracked down her cheeks. Gathering her to him.
It illuminated the grounds below. as well as that woman’s body. The shame she’d bring to her family should anyone discover her secret terrified her. Her reputation. and it didn’t take long before her pleasure broke and she orgasmed. and even now. The scene of the three people in that bedroom. The moon shone brightly in the sky.55 Chapter Ten Another night found Laurel in her bed. Tonight proved otherwise. Two men…Laurel had heard of such things. Return to their country estate. whispered secrets of degenerates. If she’d thought much about it. enjoying each other. Perhaps she should ask her parents if she could leave. Her breasts were still sensitive from Braedon’s hands. allow Braedon to continue. nearly full. standing before her window and looking into the night sky. obviously enjoying each other’s bodies. and knew . needed to. It fascinated her. but Aunt Gwendolyn would. They wouldn’t care. but seeing the men in that bed. her nipples hard peaks that ached for his touch. The couple. Body physically exhausted but mind racing. but the two men. What of Ashmore and the kiss they shared? How could she reason that experience and Ashmore himself into the equation? Ashmore wasn’t capable of doing what she’d seen done in that room. At the sensation of pressing her own buttocks against Braedon’s hardness. She had been aroused. his mouth against her skin. She’d left but knew their pleasure hadn’t stopped there. What scared her more was how much she wanted to. Laurel would have to explain to her aunt. and yes. Braedon’s hands on her. She was slick with need. His mouth. It shocked her that she’d enjoyed it. fingers pleasuring herself even as she cringed from the delicious sensations her body experienced. They’d continued far into the night. yes. need. everything. which she hadn’t. Yet she felt for Ashmore as well. Her mind whirled with confusion. friendship. prohibited knowledge to a respectable young lady as she’d been raised to be. Laurel knew this could be the end of her. but she took no solace in the view. her body ached at the remembrance. Laurel tugged her chemise over her head and wandered to the window. it was new. More forbidden than what was written in The Curiosity of Miss Laverly or what she’d seen in the sketches. Laurel wouldn’t have said she’d be aroused by such a sight. had been one of the most sensual images she could ever have seen. It threatened to overwhelm her. Desire. Laurel didn’t understand any of this. the quivering ache that engulfed her then and now. Not a stupid girl. She’d only half believed those rumors.
Tonight replayed itself in his mind: Laurel’s responsive body. . Carefully replacing the sketches behind the watercolor. With his body. Laurel looked through them again and again. but mind working through her own problems. Staring at them for a while. Braedon knew. her moans of pleasure as she watched the ménage on the bed before them. As her hand continued to pinch and pull at her own nipple when he’d removed his. Wanted Ethan. she’d been as coiled as possible. she flipped through them. The two men and the woman: one man kneeling before her as the other cupped her breasts and kissed along her neck. So long as they didn’t bring shame or even the slightest hint of scandal to his household. He thought now that perhaps he should have spoken to her as she watched. **** Braedon. But no. The scene did nothing to quell his restlessness. Slowly she turned and went to the painting to pull out the sketches. His servants were circumspect. added a bit of commentary to the scene. She hadn’t realized it. Every shred of the proper young lady she’d been bred to be had vanished. and Braedon hoped none had witnessed that. She’d fled with her luscious breasts still out of her bodice. he couldn’t see a single person wandering about. still restless even after fucking Ethan until the other man couldn’t move. and certainly no words to arouse her further. she climbed into bed and snuffed out her candles. She wanted what he offered. his excitement. his words. Braedon had both watched and participated in plenty of ménages over his life. He tempted her and Laurel knew she wasn’t strong enough to resist further. She planned to accept Braedon’s seduction. Braedon would continue to pay them well. Laurel made sure neither they nor the book were visible. Wanted him. but by her. but she’d surrendered to him in that room. He didn’t care about his nakedness nor whether anyone could see him. climbed out of bed and wandered to the window. and he’d been equally aroused. The waxing moon shone on the street below. Several footmen had once been soldiers under him in the Peninsular War and knew of. both for their service to him during the war and for their tactfulness now. just a hint of lilac scent. Braedon tempted her. When she’d turned and fled. He licked his lips and could still taste her soft skin. the various carnal acts his unit indulged in. His cock hardened at the memory of her ass thrusting against him. she needed no explanation.56 she’d never find the right words to convince the other woman she needed to do this. though at near five in the morning. if not actively participated in. Taking a deep breath. yes. Not by the scene before him. body aroused.
” he continued. yes. the curiosity she’d only just begun to discover. He took a moment.” Ethan’s voice held only knowing. aroused her with his hands and mouth. “but she will accept us. He wanted to taste her orgasm. He’d held her in his arms. and when he was well enough to be moved. Speaking about her acceptance—of them. heavy with passion and want. “So was I. but didn’t move to call for a servant.” Ethan tilted his head and paused a moment. only that innate knowledge he seemed to have when it came to Braedon. “Had this been a traditional arrangement. He’d been near death for weeks.” Braedon said confidently. settling more comfortably on the bed. watching him evenly with the light from the slowly brightening sky. Laurel’s body.” Laurel wasn’t. He’d had his most trusted men and their women tend Ethan. I may have asked for her hand already. it surprised Braedon how much he wanted her to accept them. he realized he’d become possessive over her. and Braedon knew that. he wanted to show her every carnal delight known to man. Ethan gave him a wicked smile. “She isn’t the sort to spread such scandal. To accept the need within her.57 With a start.” he allowed. no hint of reproach or jealously. but they did give him a start of guilt. “We chose well when we chose her. Ethan had received the burns while saving Braedon’s life. but during battle that was nearly impossible. He also wanted to protect her from those at the soirée. “I’m a bit in love with Lady Laurel. Had he made a mistake in bringing her there? It had been the surest way to introduce her to his lifestyle. but had it been a mistake in introducing as publicly as he had? “Are you still thinking of her?” Braedon turned at his lover’s question. forced the army doctor to sign off on his release.” Ethan stretched. and knew that for a fact.” Ethan admitted seriously. eyed the pull cord in the corner. seeing Laurel’s dark eyes.” he said. “At least I knew you were while you fucked me. “Of course you are. apparently watching him for quite some time. Ethan sat up in bed. of her own passions—with Ethan. Those who would use and discard her. The scars over the left half of his body didn’t bother Braedon.” . His hair was a disheveled mess. “It may take some time. “Are you concerned she won’t accept us? Or she’ll tell about last night?” “She won’t tell.” Ethan continued when Braedon said nothing. Now. his body covered with scrapes and bruises from their evening. “We’re missing a woman in our bed. however. Braedon had stayed by his side as often as he could. feverish from infection. wanted to take her virginity.
but by her own imagination. “We’re opening up her appetites. not just the scene before her.” “So long as you’re the only other man she kisses. “I did find her. that clawing need for Laurel.” Ethan admitted. He crossed the room to where Braedon still stood and cupped his cock. he connected with people on a level Braedon really had no desire to know. Braedon was the darker.” Braedon nodded.” Braedon tried to lighten his voice. And Laurel had taken to Ethan. It further proved that she understood Ethan. and possessiveness threatened to overwhelm him. pleased with Laurel’s progress here. sexier of the two. “I kissed her. hiding in an alcove. More pleased that she found Ethan attractive. whether she realized it or not. Braedon—her taste is irresistible. Understood his desires and wanted him in return. “We’ll have to be careful with that. but jealously. Braedon knew she wanted him. Ethan was the more personable of the two. after she left you. When he’d held her tonight. smiling at him in a way she hadn’t with Braedon. was just as dark as Braedon’s. and that’s what he showed Laurel. she’d responded to him. “Then it’s a good thing we’ll both have her.” Ethan warned as he swung his legs out of the bed and stood in a fluid motion. Ethan’s need lay well hidden beneath his charming exterior. Laurel wasn’t aroused by Miss Laverly and the sketches alone. In the next instant he realized he shouldn’t have been.” . but when it came down to it. You’re right.58 Ethan’s admission surprised Braedon.
Including handing over chaperoning duties to Mrs. but Laurel knew. the only word she could manage. “Mrs. Two nights ago. Blushing now. frantically trying to place the name and desperately hoping she hadn’t been in attendance at the soirée the other night. Sutton’s offer. and the more she thought of them. she hurriedly cleared her throat and hoped neither Gwendolyn nor Mrs.” Gwendolyn said with a bright. Where they hadn’t stayed. Sutton said with a slight curtsy. knowing smile. Sutton is here to whisk you away for the day. and to someone as wealthy and influential as Major Braedon Sinclair. “I’ve asked your aunt if I could escort you to Miss Trundle’s tea. Laurel had seen Catherine. if only Aunt Gwendolyn knew. A glance at Mrs.59 Chapter Eleven When Laurel entered the front parlor. who was now even more distraught over her father’s gambling debts and insistent that Mr. Laurel’s breath caught and she looked carefully at her aunt for signs she did know more than what appeared on the surface of Mrs. “You remember. Worthington be ideal for her marriage needs. she’d decided to succumb to Braedon’s seduction. If tea with the banker’s daughter helped Laurel marry sooner. Aunt Gwendolyn looked thrilled and chattered on brightly to Mrs.” Gwendolyn continued with a moue of distaste but a quick shrug. This was it. Sutton noticed her heated cheeks and quickened breath. They’d spent last night planning Catherine’s temptation of the unwitting man. “Yes. It had been just enough to push Braedon and Ashmore to the back of her mind.” “Pardon?” she asked. Gwendolyn was willing to dispense with all propriety to see it done. Sutton revealed nothing.” “Miss Trundle?” Laurel asked. Ah. dear. not to mention Braedon’s hands on her body. “The banker’s daughter. the trio in bed.” Laurel repressed a laugh. “Laurel. Sutton. . Wanted to be that woman from the other night as Braedon took her and Ashmore tasted her. and thoroughly enjoying. Her choice. Lady Laurel. Sutton.” Mrs. these strange and exciting passions Braedon had awakened within her. To cast aside whatever principles she still possessed after witnessing. In the interim. To give into her cravings. the more Laurel wanted them both. then. But the other woman showed only what it seemed she did: happiness at tea with the banker’s daughter. To accept she was not the respectable young lady she’d been or even now pretended to be.
” Laurel smiled at Gwendolyn’s delighted laugh and went to change. Then she needed to endure the carriage ride with Mrs. They’d likely not make it to the Trundle’s country house. “I’ll need time to change. Laurel took deep breaths and focused on the here and now. Sutton. Sutton offered nothing save patient waiting.” Laurel nodded absently. staring at the drawings she’d witnessed come to life. She had to say now. Agreeing to such an excursion in the bright light of the day was entirely different. Now…now…now.60 “It’ll be good for you. as we’ll ride into Essex and Miss Trundle’s father’s house there. “to socialize with a wider group of friends. Laurel took a step back. had been raised on. Sutton agreed with a small smile. Sutton. She needed to change.” Gwendolyn continued with a decisive nod. she said clearly. “An invitation to tea this afternoon?” Laurel asked Mrs. dear?” Mrs. Her heart raced and her breath caught in her chest. “Are you amenable. Miss Hayden is very nice. It didn’t matter. stomach fluttering with nerves. Laurel pressed a hand to her stomach to quell the nerves jumping there. She’d just agreed to ruin herself with a man she wanted with every fiber of her being and one who’d expressed interest in marrying her.” They disturbed Laurel. Allowing the maid to undress her. and she wondered if maybe Aunt Gwendolyn would be an asset in Catherine’s luring of Mr. looking directly at the woman and wondering if she knew what Braedon all too likely had planned. Sutton’s reputation as a discreet and effective matchmaker was unmatched. She’d just agreed to ruin herself. She rang for her maid. surprisingly calm now that the decision had been made. wondering if Miss Trundle had even known of her before this week. but the troubles with her father disturb me. Mrs. Gazing directly at Mrs. Braedon wouldn’t use the woman if he hadn’t been serious. Now or never. It was all well and good to say she wanted this after she’d just pleasured herself in the darkness of her room. As the maid did up her gown. all that was expected of her? Or did she not go and take the coward’s way out with the excuse of a headache or previous plans with Catherine? A quick glance at Gwendolyn showed her aunt’s determined expectation. “And it’ll likely take all afternoon. a beautiful cream-colored creation with green embroidered flowers along the hem and a matching green sash . It sounded as if her heart beat a steady tattoo: Now or never.” Mrs. too. Mrs. This was it. Worthington. Sutton asked. To give up all she knew. Laurel herself certainly hadn’t ever heard of Miss Trundle. “Yes. Sutton.
” She hadn’t settled her nerves one bit when the carriage pulled into a courtyard. if you still feel this way. all the doors were closed save one. Mrs. One slow step at a time. descended the steps. though nothing had helped settle her nerves thus far.” the other woman continued with a look in her eyes Laurel couldn’t decipher. “Agreed. Swallowing. Sutton would explain her not arriving for tea should anyone bother to ask. looked once more at her. who gave no indication as to knowing her reason for being here. and climbed into the carriage with Mrs. that was.” she said. along with her own thoughts. a rarity in Town. Now. Laurel entered. Laurel’s imaginative mind racing in circles as she tried not to think about what would happen today. and nodded. “Then. but Laurel’s mind raced and she couldn’t tell if it was that she’d said yes or that she now changed her mind. but she should have realized they hadn’t left London. Laurel wondered if Aunt Gwendolyn knew the Trundles even remotely and how Mrs. The curtains were opened just an inch . Laurel entered the door that had remained open. Laurel thanked her maid. The moment she stepped from the carriage onto the sidewalk. Contempt? Triumph? She couldn’t tell. but one she blessed now. Laurel looked outside. The townhouse boasted its own courtyard. “He’s looking forward to seeing you again. but a small part of her wished another soul inhabited the townhouse. and she had the feeling she was quite alone. said her goodbyes to Gwendolyn.61 around her waist. wanted no one else to witness her choices. The parlor lay in shadows. at least. it would have been all over the ton. “Major Sinclair will be quite disappointed.” Her voice held a hint of disapproval. surprised they’d remained in London.” she said abruptly. “I think I’ve erred. Laurel took the hand of the footman. Part of her wanted that. looking wildly at Mrs. It didn’t matter. Other than Braedon. And envisioned it all too easily. She was on her own. I’ll return you. It was entirely too late to change her mind. “Perhaps we should turn back. The circuitous route had confused her. Taking a deep breath. Sutton leaned out.” “And here I thought you’d made your decision when I called this morning. and exited the carriage. Her footstep echoed down the hallway. Perhaps a short visit with him. Laurel nodded. In the main hallway. as if in invitation.” Slowly. The decision had been made and that was the end of it. I’ll tell Aunt Gwendolyn I didn’t feel well and you were kind enough to return me. Sutton. she had a hope of keeping her reputation. The majority of the ride was done in silence. Sutton. placing a cool hand on Laurel’s and squeezing.
knees wide as one man. she could feel his cock.62 or so to allow the day’s overcast light to illuminate the room. hard and ready. “I’m glad you chose. fingers clutching his shirt. The woman knelt on the bed. head dropping to his shoulder. Fingers trembling. mouth closed over the skin at the base of her neck. her mouth bit down on his neck. and Laurel took a moment to steady herself. Laurel looked up into his eyes. All surfaces were wiped clean save one. “I know. Turning in his arms. arms tied to an invisible post. back arched as she obviously orgasmed. It shook her to know how aroused she was at the thought. her dark eyes looking straight ahead as if at Laurel. but Laurel knew it was from two night’s past. and no one occupied the room. so many wants. three of them. Her core clenched in need. cupping her breasts through her bodice. the heaviness of her breasts. and Laurel moaned. at the idea of doing something so wanton. took her from behind. The drawings fell to the floor. his cock positioned to enter the kneeling man. but no candles were lit. Laurel licked her lips. Laurel walked to the table. “This frightens me. his hands bruised her hips. the second behind the first man. and Laurel wanted to lift her own breasts from their constraints and pinch her nipples. Slip her fingers into her core until she felt that delicious release. dark hair flung over one shoulder. His large hands held her hips. The first showed a woman. A second man lay sprawled before the woman whose mouth just covered his cock. She fared no better. On the end table closest to the windows lay a stack of papers. One man knelt between her legs. More sketches. It looked as if they’d been rough with each other. breath fanning across her cheek. Laurel could see the honesty there. A small fire burned in the fireplace. She could feel the wetness of her arousal on her thighs. Today wasn’t for pleasuring herself. wondered what it would be like to taste Braedon’s cock. kneeling on a flat surface. His mouth trailed down her throat. though Laurel could see no evidence of the bruising in the drawing. dark haired and dark eyed. The detail lay with the people. the woman’s nails scraped down the man’s back. blood heated with the promise of things to come. He nodded and beneath his want of her. She gasped as Braedon’s hands wrapped around her. The second picture showed the woman lying in bed. She did none of that. . but for more.” His voice slid over her like the finest wine.” she admitted in a quiet voice. The final drawing was of the man and woman. against her belly. she lifted them. not the setting. Heart racing. his teeth bit down hard on the woman’s nipples. Black with passion and a darker emotion she didn’t understand.” he said. It was difficult to speak when besieged by so many emotions.
That hot masculinity. the spice she couldn’t identify as anything save Braedon. horrified she’d done so. Braedon had taken her hand. his eyes as they watched hers.” Laurel nodded and before she could even attempt to articulate an agreement. “Allow me to sate Lady Laurel curiosity. Then he knelt before her. But Braedon didn’t enter her wetness or touch her nub. sucking one into his mouth. slowly peeling her glove from her fingers and dropping it on the first step. hands sliding up her legs to untie her garter and roll down her stockings. desperate to have his touch there. She barely noticed. I only want to bring you pleasure. the sensuality of it. Never. She opened her legs wider. and Laurel tasted him back. Braedon steadied her. she clutched the banister. But she wouldn’t back out now. whimpering slightly at the feel. where things seemed less real.” His teeth scraped over the base of her neck and she shivered. which now throbbed for attention. His hands were warm and slightly callused as they touched her smooth skin. He led her from the parlor. His mouth was soft on hers. Mesmerized. His mouth was warm as he kissed her fingers. Her hat and its pins quickly followed to lie at her feet. right there where she needed it most. Stockings and shoes dispensed with and now lying next to her discarded glove. gentle yet insistent as he kissed her. he took her other hand. tongue sweeping along hers. .63 smooth and seductive. his bedroom she thought but didn’t look around. “I promise I won’t harm you. Braedon stood. The only thing she noticed was the opened curtains and the hazy sunlight brightening the room. tongue playing with the tip. He led her to a room. Laurel stumbled on the step but didn’t pull her hand away. his mouth. tasting her. Laurel suddenly wished this had happened in the dark of night. peeling away the glove and dropping it there. his large hand warm on her back. Eyes closed. she watched him. On the landing.
64 Chapter Twelve Without a word. His mouth brushed every inch of skin he exposed. unmindful of any who could hear her. and utterly uncaring—as she begged Braedon. his mouth grazing the tops of her breasts and ignoring her nipples. carrying her to the bed and laying her on the sheets. Laurel hadn’t realized he wore only his shirtsleeves and breeches. His teeth closed over one nipple and she cried out. as he unbuttoned her gown. He pushed the gown off her shoulders. Her nails dug into his shoulders. his mouth hot on her neck as he kissed down to tease the tops of her breasts. lustful. Her knees gave way. Laurel let go of her last shred of inhibition. The gown pooled to her feet. Braedon seemed to understand her need. How she managed to untuck his shirt and yank it over his head. . and closed the front curtains. body curving into his.” she moaned. crying out in pleasure. tossing the room into shadow. But his touch was too light. Laurel stood in the center of Braedon’s bedroom. a hot wave of need that consumed her. Laurel spread her legs—wanton. his teeth around them. “Braedon. The side windows he left uncovered. Laurel felt her pleasure build. His cock felt exquisite against her and with a whimpering moan. feeling not at all awkward. He ignored her. pulling her hard against him. Holding tight to his shoulders as he continued to tease her. mouth gliding over her shoulder and neck as he turned her in his arms. crying out at the feel. allowing him unhindered access. She jerked her hips against his. fingers twisted in the sheets in a vain attempt to steady herself. Wouldn’t give her what she craved. grinding her hips against his. his hands grasped her hips. He slid her chemise between her legs. scratching down his chest as she fumbled with the tie of his shirt. No other clothing hindered the feel of his body against hers. His hands now cupped her derrière. Laurel’s head fell forward. voice caught between a cry and a plea. and he lifted her. Braedon pulled back just enough to slip one hand around to touch her. Instead. She’d had no idea clothing could be so erotic. She moved against his hand. using one finger to tease her with the fine muslin. Laurel didn’t know but the feel of his skin beneath her fingertips excited her. but Laurel didn’t care. “Yes.” she said. too fleeting. but he wouldn’t be rushed. Braedon’s hands cupped her breasts. Through her thin chemise. Her already hard nipples ached for his touch. Laurel jerked against the touch.
fingers taking the hardened nipple. “exactly like the scene from two nights past. Tearing her eyes from Ethan’s cock. Her nipples ached for more. She didn’t move. She hadn’t really expected this: the two of them in bed with her. If she hadn’t. “Just relax. Ethan’s hand cupped her breast. had her looking from Ethan to him then back again. but Braedon’s hand had cupped her wetness again. looking less affable and more the darkly passionate man she often associated with Braedon. removing his hand from her core but not his mouth from her neck. “But.” Ethan said.” Braedon whispered. Laurel nodded. “It’s like the drawings. Ethan knelt beside her. a finger slowly circling her throbbing nub. opened just wide enough to feel his hardness against her shift. trapping her legs against the bed. the tip moist. “but you can’t—” Braedon’s chuckle. He wore only a robe as he smiled sinfully down at her. her body spiraling upward with every touch of Braedon’s. The bed dipped but it took Laurel a moment to realize why. a low provocative sound of things to come. couldn’t and didn’t want to in any case. Laurel?” Braedon asked. and pinching it. A rush of need flooded Laurel. sobbing as she hovered on the brink of release.” “But. Laurel tried again.” she gasped. Laurel tried to speak.” Laurel stammered. mouth by her ear. She tried to move. she wanted to feel Braedon’s cock. she looked to Braedon. seeking release.65 Braedon moved to her other breast and. Slowly. Startled. Overwhelmed. Braedon’s eyes shifted from hers to her left. His cock stood proudly against his belly. Her body burned. Ethan. she cried out. but unable to move. without the barrier of his breeches. hips grinding against Braedon’s hand. He shifted. taking her hand and placing it over his cock. Her fingers automatically tightened over him. opened his robe. hands no longer touching her. and she licked her lips. “Do you trust me. “Ethan wants you as much as I do. and Laurel tilted her head to see what captured his attention. She cried out in frustration. Shuddering. uninhibited. a wordless gasp of fright. Laurel thrust her hips against his. she’d never have agreed to this meeting. in her hand. or the excitement she’d feel when faced with the both of them. once more instantly captivated by his powerful stare. still covered by her chemise. back arching so her sensitive breasts pressed more firmly into Ethan’s hand.” Braedon said. and even as she looked at Ethan. Braedon moved back. mouth releasing her nipple. .
one hand going to her breasts. of being under someone else’s control. thumb and forefinger roughly pinching her nipple as she watched Braedon kiss Ethan. over her as she lay across Braedon’s bed completely abandoned. she’d expected only Braedon: to marry him. Ethan lifted her and Braedon yanked her chemise over her head. And she wanted to. only approval. Laurel knew she’d climax the moment one of them touched her again. Clawing. however. She’d thought she had when she agreed to accompany Mrs. Laurel surrendered. teeth biting on her lower lip. dear God. “Yes. be taken like that—roughly but with an underlying affection that boarded on love. and Laurel sensed no jealousy. Before she could protest. Suddenly Braedon moved. even as her body yearned for their touches. Laurel again felt bereft of his possession. his hand rough as he cupped her face.” She sighed the word. fingers uncurling from the sheets as she looked to Braedon for permission to kiss Ethan. but she found she didn’t care. completely out of her depth. Begged Braedon. begged for release. added to her arousal. but. she simply accepted. Neither did. Ethan knelt over her head. she leaned up to kiss him. with the two of them hovering. only need. He nodded. rather than experiencing freedom. He tasted of wine and need as his tongue swept her mouth. For a heartbeat. Laurel shied from their hungry looks.66 Until this moment. fingers digging into the bedding. Rising on her elbows. The sound went straight through her. a hard taking of the other man that had Laurel jealous she couldn’t taste either of them like that. Sutton. Her body tensed in anticipation. Unaccustomed to this feeling. aroused. licking her lips as she looked at Ethan’s cock. Her legs were still trapped by Braedon’s. She’d been wrong. Ethan’s mouth was cool on hers. his cock so close Laurel knew she could lean up and taste it. Possessive. The lack of mobility. The kiss broke. and she begged. releasing her legs. no regrets. she wanted to taste them. She’d wanted Ethan. Laurel felt no fear. Oh. Laurel whimpered at the sight. lose her virginity to him in a salacious afternoon of delight. His hands cupped her breasts as Braedon’s calloused hands spread her thighs. for that blissful . but had put that need to the side in the face of her irresistible need for Braedon and his bombardment of sexual delights. When she accepted Braedon’s kiss. Faced with this. nor did they allow her to touch herself. his hands on her body as he stripped her and aroused her. and Braedon removed her hand from her breast with an admonishing growl. Braedon reached over and roughly took Ethan by the scruff of his neck and kissed him. tearing need that threatened to destroy her. begged Ethan.
felt Ethan’s fingers on her nipples. and Laurel wondered how her body could take it. The last thing she remembered before drifting into sleep was the two men lifting her between them. Needed the fullness of Braedon’s cock within her as she did so. She wanted to taste it but couldn’t move. waiting for her to wake. and yet. She didn’t know what happened. Braedon’s mouth found hers. her breasts tender to the touch. with each feel of hands on her body. Her body tightened again. Laurel arched back.67 orgasm. She released the bedding as her eyes closed. and even as Braedon withdrew. his hand found her nub. more complete as he took her. Suddenly Ethan had thrust into her and Laurel screamed her completion again as he moved roughly. **** Ethan watched Braedon hold Laurel. Better. shuddering uncontrollably as her legs instinctually wound around Braedon’s hips and he moved deeper into her. the olive of her skin reddened from their mouths. also withdrawing to spill his warm seed on her belly. Her nipples ached. didn’t realize what they’d planned. she didn’t. Ethan’s hands and mouth sent sparks of need through her. Yet she wanted more. Braedon growled deep in his throat. Only the unrelenting waves of ecstasy as Braedon thrust within her and Ethan kissed her. She wanted to climax again. Braedon continued to move hard and fast within her. a hard kiss that left her breathless and moaning his name. utterly spent. Hips jerking against his hand. She screamed his name as she climaxed. Braedon entered her and Laurel’s world exploded. needed that release. but couldn’t make out the words. He climaxed. Laurel heard him say something to Braedon. climb higher with each thrust. soft now as she shuddered beneath the two of them. Ethan’s mouth found hers again. hard and unrelenting even as Braedon moved within her. In one smooth thrust. she didn’t want him to stop. Whatever pain she was supposed to feel when losing her virginity. and all Laurel could do was enjoy. but neither touched her again. . He’d rung for a warm basin of water and soft linen cloth which now sat on the table. circling it. She climaxed again. He withdrew from her before climaxing. and she opened her eyes to watch him. Braedon lifted himself off her and slowly kissed Ethan again. She had curled into his side. She knew having Braedon fill her would be nothing like her fingers inside her. fuller. Ethan thrust hard within her pliant body. and his seed spilled warm on her belly. too sensitive for Ethan’s touch.
His eyes were closed but Ethan knew he wasn’t asleep. after Braedon had taken her virginity and she knew the true extent of their lies. the affection that went with that love. arm curled protectively around Laurel’s shoulders. and even in sleep she moaned at his touch. She was right for them. It was interesting to see him like this. But also because of her innocence. . Braedon’s hand stroked Laurel’s hair off her face. Ethan knew Laurel was different. But in bed. of her fondness for him when he supposedly couldn’t make love to her. unmoving so as not to disturb her. Now. Ethan shifted closer to them. they’d been sleeping together for the better part of a decade and had never touched after sex. never showed that affection to each other. Braedon leaned down and kissed her forehead. holding a woman after sex. Eyes still closed. gently running a hand over her waist. after they’d fucked. the love that neither spoke of. Ethan knew she would still accept them. Hell. but faced with this other side of Braedon. they never touched. and Ethan smiled.68 Braedon leaned against the pillows. Her skin was soft and warm. Both of them. he now knew how much. He’d been wrong when he told Braedon he was a little in love with Laurel. down her hip and thigh. Not only because she submitted to them in bed. took them both into her body and enjoyed every second of it. Ethan completely loved her. Ethan knew how Braedon felt about him.
saw her hand on her breasts. pushed at his shoulder. but he felt the tension leave her thighs as she sat back and closed her eyes. Ethan slept soundly next to her.” he whispered. “It’s no wonder that both of us are captivated by you. Braedon walked to her. her slick juices coating her pussy and he couldn’t resist inserting a finger to feel her wet heat.” he said. Laurel made her way to where the chemise lay. He felt her arousal. Ashmore?” she asked. Braedon spread her legs. Her chemise no doubt. Laurel swallowed hard. Braedon. She grimaced. Ashmore now. Laurel. flushed with embarrassment. She looked uncomfortable. Braedon smiled and continued to clean her in long soothing strokes. “You’re a striking woman. Laurel’s tongue peeked out to taste herself. one hand on her hip. He lifted his finger and ran it over her bottom lip. Dipping the cloth into the warm water. leading her to one of the chairs flanking the fireplace.” “Relax. “Why the deception with Mr. She picked it up and let the robe fall to the floor. “I know you’re sore. but nodded. kissing her soft inner thigh and withdrawing his finger. Heard her breath quicken.69 Chapter Thirteen Braedon gently extracted himself from Laurel and climbed from the bed. which now lay across the room where Braedon had tossed it when he’d taken it from her body. glancing at the bed where Ethan still slept. but didn’t protest. too. “I guess it’d be strange calling him Mr. “Don’t ever feel embarrassed around me. he looked over to the bed where Laurel had just begun to stir. “We still have time. standing naked in his room. patting it dry with a linen towel. Grimacing as she stood. “It was necessary.” he said in a low voice so as not to awaken Ethan. palm over her sensitive nipples.” he said.” It took a moment for her to relax. She carefully slipped from Ethan’s grasp and hunted for something on the bed. swiping the warm cloth over her pussy and inner thighs. you will be for a couple of days. He crossed to the basin and splashed water on his face. she slipped her arms through it and held it tightly around her body.” she added with a frown. Sitting her on the soft leather. “No. Before she could tug it over her head. Laurel. He dropped the linen but didn’t move from his kneeling .” he said quietly. hand still on her breast. Finding Ethan’s robe instead.
Since that woman had all but verbally given her blessing to this courtship.” She stopped again. took a breath and tried again. Braedon kissed her shoulder.” she said. . Braedon took her back in his arms and settled her on his lap. He was certain she did it to get comfortable. and Braedon thought he knew what she wanted to know. those who understood what happened during the long war with Napoleon or had been on the battlefield. He wanted to hold her after today. try and make her understand all that lay between the three of them. her brown eyes direct and curious. When he’d first set his sight on Laurel he hadn’t anticipated this level of involvement. And I’ve never heard an utterance against him living in your house. But those were few and far between. though he certainly wanted her again. Surprised at his own tenderness. “For him that is. Laurel looked at him. There are whispers about him. I suppose. It wasn’t a sexual move. “It can be for him. “My father has a business associate who claims he’ll always remain a bachelor. “Braedon. “Necessary to stop the tongues wagging about our friendship. “No one questions his presence or his accompanying any young lady.” he clarified. He stroked her thigh. over her belly and back down her thigh. More than happy to answer any question she had. Some.” Of course she hadn’t. but a comfort. and Braedon stifled a groan. ignored the wounds and treated Ethan like a normal member of society.” Braedon said.” “I see. He’d wanted a woman in their bed. He hated how people looked at Ethan.” she said slowly. up to her hip. “It’s true. He didn’t touch her pussy as much as he wanted to bring her to orgasm again. one to marry and produce heirs with. If rumor existed.70 position between her legs. Laurel shifted on his lap. but that’s because he’s uninterested in women. Sitting in the chair. the sneers so many women and quite a few men behind his back. not realizing how it affected him. Steeling herself. he took her hands and lifted her.” Laurel nodded but Braedon could see the questions in her deep brown eyes.” Laurel nodded and he hoped she truly understood. “But the rewards are worth it. Braedon fully expected her Aunt Gwendolyn to have heard of it by now. “Why is it the two of you want me?” she asked. wiggling her delectable ass against his cock. they’d been very careful not to court a hint of scandal. “It’s such a difficult explanation. Or to his face. Braedon knew they were safe. But he has many male companions though none live with him.” She stopped.
spreading her thighs and slipping a finger into her tightness. He found her nub and gently circled it. he guided his cock into her tight core. stroking his hardness. Her mouth opened beneath his. her collarbone. knowing they’d be sensitive. Braedon deepened the kiss. rocking against his cock. refusing to jerk his hips. She was ready. Laurel leaned down and kissed him. feeling her body tighten around his. He wanted her smiles and her laughter. Completely enveloping him. She winced but didn’t stop. Kissing down her neck. . didn’t want her finding a port in this particular storm. the feel of a woman. he didn’t touch her nipples. She sighed. No matter how her body yearned for his. He wanted her tied to the bed as Ethan pounded into her and he took Ethan. He took her hand and wrapped it around his cock. soft and eager as she met his passion. Pressing one hand to the small of her back. Laurel stiffened. He wanted her wild and wanton. shifting her so she straddled his hips and he could taste her breasts. “we relish the touch of a woman.” His hand cupped her pussy. Ethan had been correct: now that they’d awakened Laurel’s passions. No one else would ever touch her like this. lightly tweaking her nipples. she was new to the act. and converse with her over dinner about politics and the latest happenings in Parliament. they had to keep them to themselves.” He cupped her breast. watching her as he moved slowly so she could adjust to him. hands on his shoulders to steady herself. utterly abandoned beneath him. Braedon dipped lower. He didn’t enter her from behind. “While we enjoy each other. She clenched around him. hips jerking against his hand. He wouldn’t allow that steadiness. “And the sweetness between her legs.71 He just wanted Laurel. Laurel moaned. but neither of us lost our appetite for the soft feel of a woman’s breast. wanted to see her treat Ethan as an equal. The deprivation of war brought us together. Braedon deepened the kiss. merely pressed a finger against the rosette of her ass. and he knew he’d have to go slowly. letting her explore him. tangling his hands in her long dark hair to hold her captive against him. Laurel licked her lips and almost undid him. “The taste of her skin. breath hitching as she continued to move against him in a rhythmic motion. Braedon stayed still. easily aroused and that was another thing he wanted to keep. Wrapping his hand around her delicate one. be careful. one finger dipping into her sweetness. Braedon gripped her hips.” he said as honestly as he’d ever been with someone not Ethan. Using all the control he possessed.” Braedon kissed her shoulder.
He found her rosette and pressed against it. Ethan hissed. She was so responsive that despite this pain. body straining against Ethan. Ethan. nails digging into his shoulders. lifting her breasts despite her hiss of protest. He leaned over her body and kissed Ethan. carrying her to the bed. clutching Ethan’s head. hand gliding down her back as she arched against Ethan. Braedon released one of her breasts. She desperately cried for release. pressed harder against Ethan’s mouth. panting. pinching her nipples even knowing how sensitive they were. her own legs straining against Ethan’s hold. In his arms. lifting her off him as he spilled his seed over the both of them. He climaxed then. replacing the other man’s hand with his own. Laurel screamed.72 Laurel’s eyes widened and she bucked against him. He kissed her pussy. She willingly went. tasting her sweetness. Smiling wickedly. his finger still circling her nub. sobbed into the crook of his neck. and a third. I want to hear her scream your name. He wanted her pregnant with his heir. cock stiff against his belly. entranced. urging her higher. “You could have joined us. adding a little more pressure than he had earlier. then another. But not too gentle. pressing back against him as she tried to gain a better angle.” Braedon said. Laurel trembled. “Be gentle. fisting his hands in Braedon’s hair. holding her thighs wide as he brought her back up. her own head thrown back against his shoulder as she climaxed. Ethan inserted a finger into her. gently laying Laurel on the bed. all inhibitions forgotten as she spread her legs open before Ethan. He stood then. She shuddered. Braedon sat up and maneuvered Laurel in front of him. moving harder against him. Laurel cried out. “Braedon!” she screamed. A quick glance told Braedon she watched wide-eyed at the action. Releasing Ethan’s cock. thrusting deep within her welcoming body. hand stroking himself as he’d clearly watched them. Laurel knelt. hips jerking as Braedon took his cock into his mouth. scratching down his back until he thought she drew blood. Braedon pressed harder. climaxing hard against him. nails digging into Braedon’s thighs. slamming her hard against him. capturing her lips as he continued to thrust within her heat.” “Braedon. “She’s sore. She whimpered into his mouth. Ethan’s cock thickened in his grip. Braedon didn’t care and moved harder. . and Braedon pushed his lover back so he could taste his thick length. but her protest turned into a moan of pleasure as she sighed Ethan’s name. Beside them. He lifted her. she gasped. Ethan had awakened.” Braedon whispered.” Laurel protested. Braedon held her steady. shuddering as her orgasm wound tighter. but not yet.
They had many years ahead of them of sensual pleasure. But that didn’t have to happen just yet. tasting Laurel on Ethan’s lips.” Braedon ordered. Braedon took a moment to look at Laurel. He kissed his lover. and Braedon knew he wouldn’t call on her then.73 She collapsed in his arms. But today. Ethan’s cock jumped and Braedon knew he hung onto his control by a thread. Ethan’s fingers curled into the bedding and he tried to jerk against Braedon’s mouth. His hands came down hard on Ethan’s hips. Having none of that. “Lie down. she’d molded to them. and he planned on teaching her every one of those pleasures. and Braedon set her gently on the bed. He loved torturing Ethan like this. “Don’t move. Braedon turned to Ethan. Beneath his hand. her body still quivering in the aftermath of her orgasms. keeping him still as his mouth engulfed his cock. exquisite in her exhaustion. just as he’d wanted. . call the maid and prepare her for the return trip to her own townhouse. She’d be sore tomorrow. Braedon slowed his movements. He’d have to wake her soon. It made his release all the more satisfying. Brushing her hair off her face.” Ethan did as commanded. a wicked smile on his lips.
enter her. But a bath would be a luxury she’d have to leave until morning.” Gwendolyn answered readily and Laurel turned to look at her aunt. rub and tug the small nub that gave her so much pleasure. not turning around as she moved to the stairs. A part that scared her but also excited her beyond reason. and relive as much of the afternoon as she could. One tonight might raise eyebrows she didn’t want raised. Braedon and Ethan had awakened a part of her she hadn’t known before. made her reckless. Laurel slipped one of the sketches from its hiding place and placed it inside a large botanicals book she’d purposely left in her room. “Dinner will be in an hour. She’d chosen the sketch of the man’s head between the woman’s legs and could nearly feel Braedon’s tongue doing just the same delicious things to her body. And to her surprise it was exactly as she’d left it. You should go change. When the maid returned with her tray Laurel was lost in thought as her fingers traced the lines of the picture. dear.74 Chapter Fourteen The sun extinguished behind the tall townhomes in Barclay Square as Mrs. She’d have to make do with her memories she thought with a wicked grin. And she realized. Everything was indeed the same. Feel her fingers slid along her pussy.” she said in a distinctly conspiratorial whisper. regardless of the soreness her body felt. Laurel wanted nothing more than to soak in a hot bath and remember her afternoon. “I look forward to seeing him. She entered the house expecting it to somehow have changed.” Aunt Gwendolyn called. She had been the one to change not her home. would you please make my excuses to Father and Mother? I am drained from the day and prefer to have a tray sent to my room. “Laurel.” Laurel said with a smile. Aunt Gwendolyn thanked the dark red-headed matchmaker and promised to see her at Lady Bentley’s ball tomorrow eve. before turning away from Gwendolyn and heading to her room. Laurel barely comprehended two of their words. but she saw it all through a new perception. “You should be fresh for the ball tomorrow. She shivered at the memory and wanted to slip her hand down between her legs. The cream-colored damask upholstered chairs still lined the foyer and fresh lilacs adorned the room.” Laurel asked. “Certainly. . Her maid entered and helped her change into a dressing gown and promised to return shortly with her dinner tray. Major Sinclair I hear will be in attendance. While the girl was gone. startling her out of her reverie.” “Aunt Gwendolyn. Sutton turned to board the carriage she’d seen Laurel home in.
her maid said and instantly broke Laurel’s musing. “I enjoy the flowers too. Thank you. “He has no need of a wife’s dowry.” “Oh. “Laurel. after Catherine left.” Catherine stared at Laurel with tears in her eyes. but he has only had interests in you thus far this season. the feel of Ethan’s cock in her or Braedon’s demanding pace. yes?” Laurel bit her lip wondering if even that had been squandered at cards. and Laurel rose from her seat to put the book in a far corner. a rush of warmth flooding her. She glanced down at the sketch with longing before closing the book. “Yes?” Laurel replied as she shook her head.75 Remember Braedon’s hands on her.” Laurel stated evenly. “Lady Laurel?” Anne. “Oh.” she said. Laurel.” Catherine removed her pale blue Spencer jacket and took a seat across from Laurel. I have to engage soon or else my prospects will vanish completely! No one will want to marry the daughter of an impoverished man. “I am afraid he will ask for our home. The maid smiled and indicated the book Laurel held in her hand with a nod. “No. “What of Mr. Have her come up. mother has promised a percentage of her annuity but that small amount will not win me a husband.” Catherine’s cheek color rose to red from her normal pink tone. “Is there nothing else your father could offer him?” “I know of nothing else that’s not mortgaged or already sold.” Catherine said the moment she entered the room. fingers twisting in agitation.” “What has happened?” Laurel asked banishing all thought of Braedon and Ethan from her mind in favor of her friend. “I believe I’m half in love with him already.” “I’m spoken for and that will become apparent at tomorrow’s ball. “Yes.” Catherine sank her head into her hands and shook her head. and she looked on the verge of tears. Worthington would be my ideal choice.” “He’s not impoverished yet. She’d return to it tonight.” “Is the debt that large?” Laurel couldn’t help the strain in her own voice.” With a quick nod Anne left the room. Worthington?” Laurel offered. And your mother has that dowry set aside for you. Mr. “My mum was just planting petunias when I saw her last. “Pierson Hill has asked to meet with my father in a week’s time. And Miss Hayden is here calling. Catherine. Anne. “I’m frightened. Should I tell her that you are not feeling up to visitors?” Catherine was here? It took a moment for Laurel to process her friend’s arrival. .
albeit just as effective. Laurel pronounced. I fear that might ruin me in his eyes. Catherine.” Catherine shook her head and stepped away from Laurel. Whirling on Catherine.” “But I am a girl to pity. by doing as the other women . Worthington. “What do you mean?” “You must seduce him into wanting you as his wife. how wonderful. his father has been insistent Mr. “He came up to me. “I wanted to see if I had the barest of chances. Worthington.” “Nonsense.” Laurel’s mind raced with this plan as she tried to think of a way to entice Mr.” Laurel insisted.” “I did not.” “Laurel!” Catherine stood. Worthington find a wife. “We simply must make Mr. not meeting Laurel’s gaze.” Laurel tapped her fingers to her thigh. But everyone knows this and many girls have thrown themselves in his path. and she lowered her head. slipped her fingers under her chin and tilted her head so Catherine was forced to look at her. Ashmore. Laurel stepped up to her friend. Laurel. “As I remember you were over with the others listening to his stories while I danced with Mr.” Catherine’s voice dropped to a bare whisper. “Oh. She could not advise Catherine to use the same techniques Braedon and Ethan had used on her.” she ordered. but perhaps a less obvious.” She stopped and tried to remember her conversation with Mr.” Laurel stood and paced her room. “You want him to think of you as his match not a girl to pity. Mr. and some of that hopelessness diminished from her gaze. “Oh. desperately thinking of a plan. “After his mother’s death.” Laurel said dismissively but smiled at her friend. method could be conceived. “How?” Catherine demanded.” “No it is not. Worthington take notice quickly of your attributes.” Catherine nodded. I must think. you’re beautiful. “You must entice him with promise.” “I don’t want him to believe I’m not a proper girl. Worthington?” “His father wants him to marry because he wants grandchildren. but he didn’t give me a second look.” “Catherine.” Laurel said. “Now what do we know of Mr.76 “Major Sinclair?” Catherine watched her intently and Laurel nodded. However. “How am I to do this in a week’s time? This is impossible.” Catherine began promptly. So. Worthington but could only remember Braedon and Ethan from that evening. “You must seduce. it’s not your lack of beauty that prevents him from noticing you. hopelessness in her very stance. I’m so sorry to bring you my problems now when you must be at your happiest. “Never let him see you ashamed. Her eyes landed on the book of botanicals and she smiled remembering what was hidden amongst its pages.
do, you blend into the crowd.” Laurel went to her vanity, pulled out a spectacular crystal comb and held it out to Catherine. “You must stand apart from the crowd. Distinguish yourself in his eyes. Do you know anything else about him?” “He told many stories that night and among them were his expeditions in search of exotic botanicals.” Catherine took the offered comb and turned to the mirror. “He also favors politics. I believe he had a long conversation with your father on some event in Parliament.” “That’s wonderful, Catherine. There’s your opening to Mr. Worthington.” Laurel rang for her maid and went quickly to scrawl out a missive. “Who are you writing now?” Catherine asked as she hovered over Laurel’s shoulder. “The florist. I’m certain they have an orchid and I want it sent here for tomorrow’s ball.” Laurel looked up at Catherine. “You’re going to wear it instead of the comb in your hair, and we are going to go and speak to Father shortly so that he may fill you in on the latest in Parliament. That will enthrall Mr. Worthington.” “I see.” Catherine said somewhat dubiously and turned as the maid entered the room. “But even with all of this it doesn’t mean he will propose before the week is out.” “Take this to Mr. Garrett and have him send his best orchid for me tomorrow,” Laurel told the Anne. “Hurry, if he is not at the shop, take it to his home.” “Yes, Lady Laurel.” Anne bobbed a curtsey and took the folded letter before rushing off. “A week is very little time.” Laurel turned to Catherine. “We’ll have to see if Pierson Hill can be delayed at all. For that we’ll have to know more about what he wants from your father. It is unlikely that next week your father will have to hand over the keys to your house. These things do take some time, I am sure.” She wasn’t sure, having never been in such a position before, but Catherine brightened at her words. They gave the both of them hope. “I hope so.” Catherine moved over to the botanicals book Laurel had placed on the far table. “That’s not all,” Laurel said hurriedly, causing Catherine to turn back to her. “There will be more than just piquing Mr. Worthington’s interests with a pretty flower and politics.” Laurel moved to the book and took it gently from Catherine. “Open my wardrobe.” Catherine peered at her curiously then went to the wardrobe and opened its doors. “What do you want me to see?” Laurel slipped the sketch from the book, dropped it to the floor, and moved it with her slipper under a chair. She’d have to remember to pick it up later. “Pull out the pale pink.”
“Oh, it’s stunning,” Catherine gushed eagerly. “The beadwork on the neckline is exquisite.” “You’ll wear that tomorrow for Mr. Worthington.” Laurel lamented not wearing it herself for Braedon and Ethan, but at the moment, this was far more important. “Your bosom will look lush and ample in this gown. And you will want to make sure Mr. Worthington appreciates the view.” Catherine’s cheeks brightened as Laurel spoke of her form. However, it was the normal Catherine blush, and she smiled at Laurel, pleased with the compliments. “In this gown, he’ll have no choice but to at least see the view.” Catherine giggled, the first light sound Laurel had heard from her in days. “When you speak to him,” Laurel paused and remembered Braedon’s smooth tone, his suggestive conversation that had her both aroused and curious. She cleared her throat and concentrated on the task at hand. “Ask him what piques his curiosity.” Though she thought of it, Laurel couldn’t very well give Catherine The Curiosity of Miss Laverly. But she’d give her as many hints from the book as possible. After tomorrow night, Mr. Worthington wouldn’t know how to reject Catherine.
Chapter Fifteen Braedon calmly scanned the mass of people in attendance at Lady Bentley’s ball. Strange, he hadn’t realized until she left how much he’d miss Laurel. Not so much her body, though he wanted her again the moment she’d dressed and left with Camila. Her innocent acceptance. Her very willing acceptance of both him and Ethan. Again, it was more than that. More than the sexual aspect of their relationship. When they’d first walked in the park he found her to be an intelligent and captivating woman who easily conversed on a variety of topics. Braedon had the feeling she didn’t involve herself in Lord Westfield’s politics, but she knew them well enough to form her own opinion on matters. “What?” He looked to Ethan who watched him with a knowing smirk. Braedon scowled at his lover and wished for a drink. They hadn’t joined Lord Bentley in his study, preferring to stand in the ballroom so as to see Laurel when she arrived. Neither had told her they’d be here tonight, but then, the last time they’d spoken yesterday afternoon, talk of balls and parties had been the last thing on his mind. “I said,” Ethan repeated in an exaggerated voice, “that her blushing friend just arrived. What’s her name? Miss Hayden? I can’t imagine Laurel is far behind.” Braedon, cursing his own eagerness to see Laurel again, instantly found Miss Hayden and watched her closely. Her cheeks were, indeed, flushed as she slyly scanned the room. He tried to follow her gaze, but found he didn’t care who she searched for. Laurel hadn’t yet arrived and, as she was the solitary reason for his attendance, that was all that mattered. “And here comes Camila,” Ethan muttered. The matchmaker, looking slightly less prim than on previous occasions, wandered the outskirts of the room, stopping to chat with several of the more desperate mothers. Idly he wondered if his employment of her had garnered her more commissions. “Ah,” Braedon said. Laurel, loyal aunt by her side, stepped into the room. His cock stirred at the sight of her standing there, nodding to the couple behind her. Her parents. Braedon had met Lord Westfield upon occasion, but only for business or political reasons. “Perfect,” he muttered, nodding to Ethan. Meeting her parents and formally asking her father’s permission to court Laurel had its advantages. The wicked part of him, which
I’ve employed those I could.80 outnumbered any other side he had ever possessed. He doubted Westfield would change his opinion. and beg to differ as to its success.” Laurel said with only the slightest shake in her voice. Braedon bowed in acknowledgement. yes. the earl could see both sides.” Westfield said as they stood off to one side. “I’d like to introduce my parents. Crossing the room.” Braedon interrupted the earl. sir. Smiling slightly at the man. careful to sweep his hand over her hip as he did so. I’ve seen the Speenhamland System at work. Having her between him and Ethan as she climaxed. treading a thin line between political ideals. “Lady Laurel. Yes. Still. I’d like to begin formal discussion for a marriage contract. He’d make it a point to accustom her body sooner rather than later. As a landowner himself. I don’t wish her to hear from you. Major Sinclair.” Braedon had to admit.” Braedon stepped closer to Laurel and bowed to them. “Mrs. Braedon lamented not having the time to introduce her to anal sex before now. look. but many returned to their own homes in different counties. a pleasure to see you both again. He eyed the widow Kingsley cautiously. Kingsley is perceptive. he thought as Westfield stood his ground on the system which granted gentlemen farmers the ability to pay their workers below subsistence wages. “from my brother’s widow. for a bombastic man. She seemed to see entirely too many things. Braedon overheard Mrs. “Many of the men who fought under me. I’d . “I understand. From here. Confident no one noticed. “came home to find no work and even less recognition of their contributions. Expertly maneuvering the man away. Lord Westfield. Braedon could see Laurel speaking with Miss Hayden. Braedon doubted any but he—and possibly her aunt—heard it. If he didn’t know better. Gwendolyn Kingsley was far more observant than he’d first believed. “Mrs. he turned to Lord Westfield. “Major Sinclair. and didn’t believe Laurel had told her aunt what transpired between them yesterday afternoon. that you court my daughter?” Yes. Lord and Lady Westfield. Kingsley commenting on the fortuitous nature of this meeting. Kingsley. wanted to fuck Laurel until she screamed his name with her parents in attendance. it behooved him to keep the system in place.” he said. uncaring of the eyes that followed his path. and slightly indulgent. he’d have to be more careful around Gwendolyn Kingsley. “I understand you’re a strong proponent of the Speenhamland System. Braedon would have said Gwendolyn Kingsley knew he’d already tasted her niece’s innocence.” He bowed before Laurel and her aunt. using the man to advance his own interests in Parliament had its rewards. Perhaps he’d have to be more careful around the woman.” The aunt gave him an expectant.
when Laurel desperately needed a diversion from what she’d done. However.81 rather discuss this with Lady Laurel at a later date when she’s become more accustomed to the idea. but knew he’d be here as well. having heard only the tail end of that statement. But she’d ruined herself nonetheless. .” Westfield nodded again. “What is?” Laurel asked. she hadn’t expected to see either of them at Lady Bentley’s ball. wondering if her aunt meant the flower and Mr. Laurel felt a new kind of tension. But I’m sure you already knew that. It was one thing. “Meeting us here?” Gwendolyn continued with a brilliant smile and short. she truly did. “I’ll have my solicitor contact yours within the week. decisive nod. Willingly. The song ended and as the next dance set up. “Why it’s practically a marriage proposal!” Catherine. and now her only hope of redemption was through marriage to Braedon.” **** Laurel tried to listen to Catherine. as she gave into her need to find them.” she said knowingly. seemingly uninterested now that the matter had been quickly settled. They’d discussed it yesterday. But it was quite another to feel this tearing need just knowing both Braedon and Ethan occupied the same room as she. She’d ruined herself. “Major Sinclair and your father. the nervousness of helping her closest friend marry before word spread of her ruin.” “As you wish. Catherine squeaked. cleared her throat. hoped it was. In truth. She wanted to help her friend. Worthington’s eye and the two of them had spent some time in conversation of all things floral before he’d asked her to dance. blushed and waited for the end of the song and her dance. Tonight. “It’s an auspicious omen. and would do so again without hesitation. knew how important a marriage was before word spread of her father’s debts. Laurel searched for Braedon. and she forced them to smooth the material down. Laurel’s hands tightened on the fine fabric of her gown. or much of anything for that matter. Major.” He nodded. As Catherine danced with him. “She’s set to inherit a substantial sum. What she’d so thoroughly enjoyed. wantonly. their overall plan.” Aunt Gwendolyn said when Catherine quieted into a nervous hum. and smiled up at a rather attentive Mr. Worthington. to my knowledge you don’t need the money. Now. Laurel. Not that they’d discussed it yesterday afternoon. Worthington. or something else she hadn’t the wherewithal to pay attention to. She hadn’t seen Ethan yet tonight. face also flushed. Catherine planned to implement the first phase of that plan. The orchid she wore had already caught Mr. blushed harder.
she had to remember that only she knew of Ethan’s. Mrs. the wicked thoughts racing through her mind. were quickly joined by Braedon who had extricated himself from her father. The three of them. She wanted the danger of discovery. Sutton. With that single move. Could Gwendolyn see the change in her? She’d wondered that yesterday. Laurel nodded. Ethan’s mouth on her. All very proper. tonight. “Are you enjoying yourself?” Braedon asked. And that with the addition of him as chaperone. whatever decorum she possessed vanished in the moistness coating her thighs. Her core clenched in memory of feeling him. a depraved twinkle in his ice blue eyes that had her breath hitching. Braedon’s fingers in her. who didn’t miss a chance when she saw one. but between the newness of it all and helping Catherine. All that fell quickly to the wayside when Braedon took her hand and slipped it through his arm.82 And she was aroused. It was only a partial lie. she. Ashmore approach. no hint of impropriety could be linked to her or Braedon’s name. the white-hot sensation of release. Sutton. of the delicious buildup of pleasure. them. but she certainly couldn’t confess her own fears. Sutton and Mr. Are you sure you’re quite well. ah. dear?” Letting out a breath and smiling at her aunt. abilities. Ethan bowed to Gwendolyn then to her. “Laurel?” Gwendolyn subtly touched her hand.” she said. hoping none of her excitement showed on her face. hadn’t much time to dwell on it. thighs clenching in need. She hadn’t wanted to worry Gwendolyn. and Ethan. Very enjoyable abilities at that. the sexual pleasure of yesterday. Even with the sexual awakening of the past week. And in the company of Mrs. “I believe Mrs. Laurel’s heart quickened. Laurel hadn’t realized the true extent of her depravity. Or wants. desperately aroused by the mere thought of them here. even more so. within her. jolting Laurel back to Lady Bentley’s ball.” he said to Aunt Gwendolyn though he continued to look at Laurel. “Mrs. She wanted to be taken by both Braedon and Ethan in the middle of the gardens during Lady Bentley’s ball. the matchmaker. “May I have the pleasure of walking in the gardens with Lady Laurel?” Gwendolyn. Sutton veered left as they continued straight. However. “I’m fine. Kingsley. quickly agreed. . Mrs. She blinked down at her aunt. Laurel reminded herself that it was natural for them to be seen together. Ethan did the same with her other hand and they turned deeper into the gardens.
her pussy clenching for his fingers. fingers pinching her nipples. Again.” she managed with a quick laugh. and Laurel shivered as it cooled her heated body.” he said with a heated look at Braedon.” she whispered as Ethan sat on the bench they’d obviously brought her to. Nipples aching for Ethan’s mouth.” Laurel pressed harder against his hand at the thought. and Ethan chuckled in her ear.83 The innocuous question startled Laurel. In the darkness of the night.” he said. “Do you want to be seen by others? Be watched as Miss Laverly watched so many? . “Shhh. did nothing to cool her desire.” “Yes. Laurel shuddered. “Soon. When Braedon maneuvered her to the bench. It raced like wildfire through her veins. someone will hear. We. She cried out. body coiled with every word. the tip moist. “Would you like that?” he asked. an almost overwhelming urge to taste him clawing through her. we can’t have that. stroking his cock. She needed them. “And we can’t have anyone suspect what the prim and proper Lady Laurel has been doing. The thought of the ton knowing she’d been in the gardens with them. she licked her lips. Licking her lips. “If you cry out. easily finding her nub and rubbing it. “Braedon.” Braedon assured her.” She shook her head. “I’ll teach you to take me into your mouth as willingly as you do your body. mouth lightly covering hers. “Lady Bentley’s balls are always the talk of the season. needed to feel the completion of them entering her. “Oh. “will teach you every depraved sexuality you want.” Laurel hadn’t realized she’d spoken aloud. thick and proud in the moonlight. hands molding up her waist to cover her breasts. voice sinfully smooth. she tried for more relevant conversation but couldn’t think straight.” A cold spring breeze enveloped her. and Ethan stood before her instantly admonishing her. Laurel hadn’t seen Ethan undo his breeches. His mouth kissed along her bare shoulder. and she jerked. And neither had yet touched her. she saw his cock. “What if someone discovers us?” Laurel knew a hint of excitement coated her voice and didn’t care. Rough fingers dipped below her bodice and took her breasts. His hand pressed though her gown. needed to feel their hands and teeth. Laurel. feeling his thick cock nestle against her derrière. “Yes. and had been shamelessly taken by at least one of them. hadn’t realized her hand had cupped her breast or that she pushed hard against Braedon.” Ethan promised. for Braedon’s cock.
head thrown back on Braedon’s chest. “Not ever like this. which miraculously hadn’t been mussed too badly. Mrs. didn’t take or possess. part of her hoped that that had been the case. But then Braedon bowed to her. and Laurel wondered if she had been the basis for The Curiosity of Miss Laverly. tucked several strands of hair back into place. Still sore from yesterday. but Braedon tugged hard on her nipples. Braedon’s fingers moving faster over her. amazed at how nonchalantly she acted in the darkness of the garden after what she’d just done and experienced.” He swore in a low voice. Braedon’s fingers slipped between them. She settled herself over Ethan with a sigh of completion. but aroused her nonetheless. smoothed back her hair. Braedon’s fingers on her breasts. through the haze of desire she tried to make sense of his words. came into Ethan’s eager mouth. Mrs. Laurel could only feel the two of them. Laurel didn’t hesitate. sobbing her release into Ethan’s shoulder as the crest of her climax thundered through her. Laurel adjusted her bodice. his cock insistent against her buttocks. Slowly sitting on the bench. Hands clutching Ethan’s shoulders. Ethan’s large hands on her hips slamming her onto his cock. Behind her. teeth clenched. and kissed her softly. But then Ethan returned to the bench and Braedon moved with her. and Laurel knew she wouldn’t last long. and hoped her gown wasn’t too wrinkled.” Laurel tried to look at him. only Ethan gracefully kneeling before Braedon and sucking his cock until the other man. Laurel moved. Sutton produced a wet linen and Laurel pressed it to her face. Desire built higher and higher. Laurel didn’t remember them lifting her off Ethan. She broke. Sutton appeared from nowhere. Ethan chuckled and pressed harder. Laurel nodded. lifting her skirts so she was exposed to the world.84 Unable to answer. before modestly wiping between her legs. His warm mouth didn’t demand. Had she watched? Had she fingered herself as Laurel climaxed? As Ethan tasted Braedon’s cock? Again she shivered. “No one will ever see you. Braedon moved forcibly against her derrière. circling her nub. Ethan’s mouth teasing hers while his fingers brought her teetering to the peak of release. . Lost.
But with her fingers slowly circling her nub as they waited for the carriage. “Has he. Laurel listened to Gwendolyn’s review of the evening. “I may have to rise earlier than normal and read the papers. Laurel. adding to the conversation as her aunt expected. She frowned and added.” “Ask him about the grain import tax. yes. But the temptation to touch herself remained. hoping to quell the ache left there by Braedon and Ethan. and Aunt Gwendolyn stood in the courtyard. Wrapped in a cloak. Catherine. bring herself to pleasure right there.” Kissing Catherine on the cheek.” As far as Laurel was concerned. “He’s promised to call on me tomorrow. She removed her hand and clasped her fingers around her wool cloak until her knuckles ached.85 Chapter Sixteen “Mr. “It’s all the MPs talk of these days. Laurel pressed her fingers to her nub. she held it tight against her as she. Worthington seemed far more interested in conversation.” Catherine said somewhat breathlessly. “You were right. Very delicately. She seemed not to notice Laurel’s stumble. Careful to keep her hands folded demurely on her lap. Mr. and she wondered how Lady Rufforth and the salacious group she’d meet several nights ago managed not to show such scandalous behavior.” Laurel added as the carriage pulled before them. there was nothing subtle about Phillipa Harrington. would take whatever chance she had to be with them again.” Catherine was saying. but far too many believe they know more than the woman. Worthington seemed quite taken with you. She shuddered at what they’d done tonight. Sutton looking on. “Yes. Men enjoy conversing with a woman over politics. . Pressing harder. Laurel was hard pressed to say so. He’s always so cognizant of current events.” Catherine said excitedly. she climbed into the carriage and relaxed against the cushion. she wished she could slip her fingers into her core.” “Or the high unemployment. Aunt Gwendolyn did and Laurel stopped. “Has he agreed to call on you again?” “Oh. And I’m so glad I read over your botanical book last eve. Her lovers. Laurel knew she’d submit again.” she paused and cleared her throat as a sharp bolt of pleasure took her breath. “And let him do all the talking.” Gwendolyn advised. He even eschewed Miss Harrington’s subtle advances. her reckless submission to them in Lady Bentley’s gardens with Mrs.” Laurel whispered as they awaited their carriages.
but don’t come. anticipation making her fingers slow. Laurel glanced at the phallus. first deep into your wet pussy. this arrived for you by messenger. Lifting the false bottom. Images of her time with her lovers tonight aroused her. Laurel took the box and carefully untied the ribbon. Something to accustom your body to the both of us. Laurel looked at the other gifts Braedon and Ethan had sent. The glass object was smooth and cool. but will help your delectable body accept us as we take you until you scream both of our names. The box from Braedon beckoned. thank you. and Laurel knew she wouldn’t need to read Miss Laverly or look at the drawings to climax. . But to place the glass creation inside her? With a tentative hand. impatient to be alone. She knew full well what she’d planned once there. Laurel pressed harder. “Will there be aught else?” “No. Heart quickening. “Lady Laurel. A book of poetry lay nestled inside with a brief salutation from Braedon. It took her only a moment to realize it was shaped in the form of a man’s cock. Enclosed is a training toy. though she’d no doubt have retired for the evening. Beneath the fine linen of her chemise. When Braedon had touched her there it had sent sparks of need through her she hadn’t expected. Remove the phallus and ease it into your backside. Listening in case she returned. Dazed.86 Back at the townhouse. My Darling Laurel. when he’d pressed his hard cock to her derrière. Laurel set the box on her bed as Anne gathered her things and banked the fire. slipping a finger along her buttocks to the rosette. her parents nowhere to be found and no doubt at their third party of the evening. and it had nothing to do with sleep. licking her lips as she imagined holding Ethan’s cock like this. Tonight.” she moaned.” Laurel said. Laurel reached for the box and opened it again. a happy twinkle in her eyes as she curtsied. The phallus is smaller than we are.” Her maid held out a box. she nodded her thanks to Anne and allowed the maid to undress her. but tempted as she was. closing her lips over him as Braedon took her. fingers pleating her robe. Laurel didn’t return to it until the maid left the room. Laurel touched herself. She removed the poetry book and gently set it on her nightstand. Smiling. Laurel bid goodnight to Gwendolyn and retired to her room. Place it inside of yourself. wanting to feel more of the sinful sensations he caused. “Oh. quivering at the sudden need her small movement caused. Laurel couldn’t help but push back.
body desperate for release. It . She could easily imagine her lovers watching her. The tentative touch of her fingers shocked her. but then Laurel didn’t need a signature. Ethan’s teeth closed over her. they’d hang them. yes. Panting. Until tomorrow. Clumsy at first. and she almost lost control. Rocking against it. rocking against the bed. Laurel stripped her chemise over her head and tossed it onto the bed. It didn’t matter if it was from Braedon or Ethan the intent was the same. go slowly. The missive wasn’t signed. Hands on her breasts. to arouse her physically and ignite her curiosity. but it didn’t matter. it didn’t stop her from gasping at the sensation. wishing Braedon’s cock filled her. thick but not as big as a real cock. Laurel grasped the phallus and slowly probed the rosette. Both of which they accomplished easily. Setting the box on the floor. What would it be like having both of them in her? Filling her until she screamed with mindless pleasure? Heart racing at the thought. Foreign. bracing herself on the bed with one hand as she felt for her anus. Why had she never known this before? Why was such pleasure forbidden knowledge? She pushed harder. Removing one hand from her breast. tried not to climax. But the note had been very clear and her body reached for that peak. harder as she twisted them. She gasped. and she was damned sure neither Ethan nor Braedon would utter a word about her depravity. The glass was coated with her juices and Laurel wondered what she tasted like. but straightened. Think of our next encounter as we take you from behind. She wanted to feel the glass in her derrière. The glass phallus was cool as her body enveloped it. Laurel tried to hold onto a semblance of control. past the resistance. They’d never know what took place in this bedroom. stretching her. Laurel knelt on the bed. Laurel grasped the phallus and slowly slipped it into her. cocks hard from the sight and she shuddered as her excitement heightened. She swallowed and leaned over. If word ever leaked about what her two lovers did. moving harder and faster. Wondered what it’d be like closing her mouth over the phallus…over Ethan’s cock. Eyes closed Laurel pushed against it. Society may never approve this. and the phallus entered her just slightly. hips still moving as if over a cock. but delicious. nails raking over them hard. head thrown back. Ease it into you and think of us as you pleasure yourself. society wouldn’t just shun them. wanted to know the full extent of that pleasure Braedon had only hinted at. she withdrew it. She didn’t maneuver it all the way into her body.87 Don’t rush it. Shame had no place in what she was about to do. knees wide as she tugged and pinched her nipples.
body still quivering with tiny electric aftershocks that had her fingers running lightly over her nub again as she prolonged the pleasure. Biting his shoulder. Ethan took his time.” he said. Shrugging off the business letter. It hardened against him and Ethan smiled. More than. Her last thought before drifting into sleep. fingers on her nub as her body accustomed itself to the new intrusion. the woman they’d both singled out as the perfect addition to their household. not-so-subtly changing the subject. Laurel wished for the comfort of Braedon’s arms around her. The soft afterglow of completion that couldn’t be faked.88 shifted and she moaned. Talk of business had interrupted what otherwise would have been a night of hard. her unqualified abandonment in our bed. It didn’t take long. **** Ethan stretched on the bed and watched Braedon as he read the missive again. and he thrust against Ethan’s hand. Wanted the phallus within her anus as her fingers thrust into her core. Braedon was notoriously circumspect. her unreserved acceptance of us. Drained. “She’s embraced every sexual depravity we’ve introduced her to over the last week. Alone in her bed. As close as they were. removing the glass from her as she did so. and as much as they’d been through together. Tightening his hand around Braedon’s cock. Still. “Pleasing?” he repeated mockingly. she rolled over and lay there panting. lazily stretching again as he stood from the bed and made his way. the tension within her too coiled and she climaxed. There was a comfort and intimacy there that she craved as much as she did their bodies. “I’d say for a once proper young lady.” Braedon’s smile was utterly wicked. but didn’t pry. Spent. Obviously disgusted. qualifies for a stronger word. naked. he slipped a hand around him and cupped his lover’s cock. but that was fine. “Her education has been most pleasing. The other man wouldn’t tell him anyway. was that she wanted to feel it within her again.” “Yes.” Ethan wondered what Braedon thought. Theirs wasn’t the kind of relationship where words of love and affection had much place.” . fingers clutching the phallus to her naked stomach. when it came to Laurel. Laurel collapsed face first onto the bed. pressing hard against the phallus as she cried out. he squeezed just slightly. “Laurel is an amazing woman. Ethan very much wanted to feel the crop against his ass. of Ethan’s hand on her hip as they all slept. Braedon tossed it on a table and stalked to the fireplace. Ethan expected more. He’d never once uttered his feelings for Ethan. to where Braedon stood. debauched sex.
and he turned to face Ethan.” Braedon said. “How about.” he said when he’d released Ethan’s lips.” Ethan grunted. In the barely two weeks he’d known her. “I think tomorrow is the last day we’ll need to employ Mrs. kissing him roughly. opening the heavy drape.89 Braedon offered a wicked smile and grabbed Ethan by the back of his neck.” Ethan nodded. returning to the bed and the promise of the crop. Still. she aroused not only his body but his protective instinct…and his heart. Restless again. “Agreed. Ethan was often surprised at the emotions Laurel brought out in him. Braedon’s words sparked a surprising protectiveness in him. his own cock hardening at the thought. but his crass wording annoyed Ethan. unmindful of his nakedness. Then again. has been as arousing as you on your knees as I pound into your ass. “teaching her the finer arts of sexual degeneracy. . The drape dropped from his fingers. ones she’s embraced as willingly as I could have ever hoped for. They seemed to have annoyed Braedon. for the other man moved away. He’d wanted to know Braedon’s deepest feelings for Laurel. rolling his shoulders. too. Sutton’s services. Ethan watched him pace toward the window.
The instant she crossed the threshold. he wanted her aroused.90 Chapter Seventeen Dressed only in his breeches and shirttails. So that’s where she disappeared to while he and Ethan enjoyed Laurel. and even from here he could see the look she gave his footman. Braedon planned to change all that. But he could see her weakening. “Did you receive my gift?” he asked. But Ethan overheard gossip Braedon. cloak clutched tightly to her. He didn’t fear being overheard. Her eyes slowly opened. He didn’t like her not being here all the time. almost whiskey colored as she gazed steadily up at him. or perhaps because of that. wasn’t privy to. It proved invaluable in the murky waters of this season’s ton. he’d considered leaving Ethan here. It wasn’t an item she’d want discovered in the virginal bedroom of her parent’s home. “Yes. lips gliding up her arm.” “Good. people talked in front of Ethan as if he were invisible. “Are you ready?” he asked. and her breath shuddered from her lips. “And did you enjoy it?” “I followed your instructions exactly. . voice low and seductive. When he and Ethan returned from business on his country estate near Derby. The slight catch she struggled to hide. careful to keep the hood of her cloak over her head as she did so. Sutton followed her. Braedon watched from the window as she exited the carriage. Braedon moved from the window and waited for her by the door. For a moment. Shrugging. having to surreptitiously arrive in an unmarked carriage driven by a very well-paid driver. and didn’t know every inch of her body as he did.” he said. as the master of the land. and he heard the need in her voice. but from the moment she entered his home.” she breathed. He’d been the instant she exited the carriage. “I enjoyed it very much. Braedon watched her as he tasted the sensitive skin of her inner wrist. Mrs. Braedon took her hand and kissed her wrist just above the glove. Good.” she said. lighter with her passion. Idly he wondered where she’d hidden the glass phallus. however. If he didn’t know it was her. Her dark eyes closed. Laurel hurried across the courtyard. He didn’t want her reputation publicly ruined. Braedon wouldn’t have been able to tell Lady Laurel Kingsley walked into his house. Despite his appearance. for he didn’t care what his footmen did so long as they didn’t bring scandal to his house. That wouldn’t last much longer.
climbing onto the bed beside her. and he could see she spoke the truth. Watched Laurel’s head fall to Ethan’s shoulder. Ethan ripped the chemise from Laurel. carried her to the bed where a jar of oil sat on the bedside table. Lifting her cheek. he again pressed her to the wall. not in pain but in need. Ethan waited in the room and the moment they entered. Laurel kissed the underside of his jaw. if she wanted it as much as he wanted to pleasure her. But her eagerly breathless. He’d taken Laurel’s virginity. Laurel’s eyes closed. Ethan lightly slapped her ass. Leading her through the house and up the stairs. resisted joining in. Laurel didn’t seem to notice it as Ethan positioned her on the bed. Braedon untucked his shirt and unbuttoned his breeches. hands . across the tops of her breasts. “Oh yes. Ethan was to show her the pleasures of anal sex. With a growl. he bent to kiss her. If she was truly prepared for this.” had him wanting to take her right now. He didn’t release her hand but brought it to his cock. Using every shred of control he possessed. Braedon knew he was hard and watched Ethan thrust against Laurel’s ass. and her tongue peeked out to lick her lips as her fingers danced up and down his length. “Ethan. though he knew her body had to be sore from the previous evening’s experiment. chest heaving. His mouth was rough on hers as he kissed her. Braedon wanted her to enjoy this as much as he did. Her body clenched at him.” she said. Braedon smiled wickedly at her. Fists curled at his side. letting it pool around her feet where her dress already lay in a wrinkled heap. Laurel looked directly at him. he kissed down her neck. biting her lower lips. her ass rock against Ethan. he held on to his last shred of control. Force her to kneel on the hard marble floor as he slammed into her willing body. “I’m ready. and she moaned his name. Braedon asked after her. her fingers dig into the damask wallpaper. Braedon clenched his teeth at the sight. took Laurel’s other hand. startling Laurel who gaped and pushed backwards. teased her nub as he thrust a finger into her wet heat. voice low with excitement. With a growl. He’d be gentle. Spinning her around. He smiled over her supple body at Braedon. her mouth parted. leaning back into him as she brought their entwined hands to cover her breasts. rolled her nipples impatiently. walking her backwards to the wall and pinning her there.” she moaned. She grabbed Ethan’s hands.91 She didn’t hesitate. Ethan picked her up. One hand slipped between her legs. Ethan slammed her against the wall. uncaring of the thick scar tissue covering that side of his body. mouth on her neck as he undid her gown. hands and knees bracing her. Braedon watched him untie her cloak and kick it carelessly away. Laurel cried out. fingers rough as they took her breasts.
he held his fingers still within her. and for a heartbeat Braedon thought she was going to put a stop to everything. but Braedon knew she meant it of the both of them. Her breath caught. and she continued to shudder as Ethan. breath caught. Very slowly. Ethan waited. . but also in the way she acted around them. and completely enthralled with one another. hair trailing down her shoulders. Ethan applied more oil to his cock and knelt behind Laurel. and he could see she meant it. Slick with fragrant oil. And affection. Ethan circled her tight puckered entrance. “Yes. carefully stretching her. teeth visibly clenched for control. eyes closed. pushing hard against Ethan. Show me what it feels like to have you inside me. Laurel. His fingers smoothly thrust into her and Braedon knew the instant pain changed to pleasure. He slipped in a second finger and her pussy clenched around him. either of them.” she whispered. in another month.92 rough on her hips as he widened her stance.” Braedon wondered what she’d say in another year. The way her face lit up whenever they were together. thrusting against her though he had not entered her. He didn’t voice his question. “Ready?” Braedon asked. “Laurel?” “It’s just…new. Laurel shuddered. but tilted her chin and kissed her softly. Trust. Withdrawing his fingers. Braedon circled her nub. still buried within her. teasing Laurel’s rosette even as Braedon continued to tease her nub. as if they were always meant to be like this. he added a second finger. pussy clenched around his fingers.” Ethan whispered tenderly and kissed down her back and slid one oiled finger into her anus. eyes closing.” she managed and shuddered. “I trust you. head thrown back. covering her body with his. the way she submitted to them. one hand cupping her breast as he kissed down her spine. yes. Take me. That affection came naturally between them all. “Ethan. What wickedly provocative things she’d say as they enticed her body with the promise of exquisite pleasure. She screamed as she climaxed. Hell. when she saw them. continued to move slowly within her. sexual. “I won’t hurt you. yes. mouth soft on hers. “Yes. Her eyes widened. The smile she gave them. eyes heavy as she met Braedon’s. She looked at him. He didn’t want her climaxing before Ethan had the chance to show her the intense satisfaction of anal sex.” she moaned. Laurel’s breath caught and she shuddered. He could feel that trust in her.” she gasped. the three of them: playful. fingers curling into the bedding. Pinching her nipple. Always meant to be together. Laurel nodded. Braedon watched her carefully as Ethan entered her. “Do you want this?” Ethan asked.
It had been such a short time but she knew: she loved them both. “In fact.” Braedon pecked her cheek and walked away to slip on his shirt. **** Laurel gazed at her reflection in the looking glass as Braedon kissed the back of her neck. life together. both unaware of the longing the thought of them away inspired in her. “These things tend to become very complicated. Ethan and I will be leaving town in the morning.” Braedon responded as he did up his shirt ties. “who shall be my escort to the balls?” . “It could be weeks. “When will you return to London?” “It depends on how smoothly the business matter is resolved. She could have vanished at that very moment and they would not have noticed. She needed to adjust to anal sex. “Will you be at the Crawford ball tomorrow?” “No. Everything about Braedon and Ethan had her spellbound from the first. panting. but wanted her to rest first. but loving. He’d find his own pleasure in her. They seem to have no more concern for her as she stood in the room. he held them both. Or lack thereof.” Laurel stared at them as they continued to dress. her touch.” “Oh.” she said with as much cheer as she could muster. Her hands ran up the side of his head as his took hold of her neck.” Weeks? Laurel watched them as they dressed. The two men held her. They’d just made love and still the fervor had not diminished. She closed her eyes as the feel of Braedon’s lips on the soft flesh of her neck entranced her. Laurel turned in Braedon’s arms and kissed him. Ethan came up alongside them and placed his hands over Braedon’s on her neck. Kissing her gently.” Ethan interjected. drew her in. The way they looked at her. It still surprised her that there wasn’t a sign hanging over her head announcing the state of her virginity. the way they both reacted to her kiss. But no one in her life seemed to notice any difference. dominated her and she relished each kiss. There are some business matters in the north that must be seen to presently. rolled to her side and though Braedon wanted to find his own release. “But Braedon. and Braedon watched Ethan let go his control and shout her name. Ethan. I see. he held her when her arms gave way. She thought she looked different than she had before Braedon and Ethan had ruined her in this very room. and he wouldn’t rush her.93 Laurel screamed her orgasm again. Laurel turned and kissed Ethan. each touch. As they pulled away and Laurel regained her composure she wondered if there would be a place for at least another kiss soon and she asked huskily. They would have a wanton.
and now. She wondered if they’d been ruined as badly as she had and been tossed out onto the streets by their families. Sutton will see you home. and she extended her hand for Laurel. still stunned by the change of events. and Braedon seemed impatient to usher her out of the room. but Mrs. of course not. As they walked down the hall to the staircase. Braedon’s answer left her cold inside.” “No.” Braedon said as he took hold of his own jacket and opened the bedroom door. Stories of girls having to become mistresses or join a house of ill repute. The usually chatty Mrs. Sutton closed her eyes the moment the carriage started moving. Laurel shook her head. nothing was forthcoming. she’d never noticed just how many women were hawking wares on the streets. For a crazy moment. Laurel. taken to the continent or worse yet the Canadas. Sutton to come to the bedroom doorway. Laurel stared out the window as they rode back. Before she set one foot on the stairs. Laurel slipped her arms through the sleeves slowly. Their number seemed to far outnumber the men doing the same. Was she reading too much into all of this? It wasn’t as if they came out and told her they would not be back for her. She felt exposed and took hold of her jacket.94 Braedon seemed annoyed by the question. She glanced back at the door. Now. Ethan made no move to look at Laurel. “We must go. “We don’t want you to be late and have your Aunt Gwendolyn asking unnecessary questions. And the entire ton had seen Braedon with her. Stories of girls taken to the country. Anticipation and longing to satiation and completion. “We cannot allow this deception to be discovered. to dismissal. Laurel wondered how the day changed so drastically. “You will never lack for a suitor to dance with. Lady Hamilton had been in debtor’s prison.” Laurel suddenly felt like an unwelcomed street urchin looking for a handout. Her eyes fell upon a large number of women dressed in rags selling violets or milk or services of some fashion. wanting them to reassure her that they would return as quickly as possible. it was a natural assumption that their courting would end in marriage. It would not do well for your reputation. waiting. . Sutton instructed briskly. Sutton and the door closed behind her. Laurel followed Mrs. Sutton urged her forward. Braedon gestured for Mrs. Laurel.” Mrs. she’d died after fleeing England.” Ethan didn’t acknowledge the question only continued to dress. Laurel wondered if any of those women had once been part of society. shame and fear overtook her. Until this moment.” she replied with a strained voice. Wasn’t it? The carriage ride home went by in silence. “Mrs. She stood there waiting for any additional acknowledgement. suddenly flooded back to her. and she’d been the mistress of the great Lord Nelson.
But eventually she managed it and.” Laurel slipped off her jacket.95 The carriage pulled to her house and Laurel did not wait for Mrs. Sutton knew exactly what she’d done. Laurel rushed to the chair and grabbed the sketch.” “Lady Laurel. but the urgency she felt to have the maid leave the room overrode such practicalities. Anne left the room. she’d seen the fire lit thousands of times but the flint was unyielding. “No. Her parents were usually out at this time. “Nothing. Sutton to fully wake. piece by piece. She was grateful that the house seemed empty. I’m tired and would like to rest. She didn’t want to see the knowledge in her eyes. she stared at the crumpled drawings. She pulled the other sketches from their hiding place and crumpled them all. She should have asked Anne to start the fire. She didn’t want to look at Mrs. She stared at the fire until every last fiber of paper was blackened ash. Worthington for Catherine. Sutton anymore. thank you. I just want to rest. After all. The ride home was unusually jarring. It took her longer than it should have. she watched the sketches burn. She opened the carriage door and raced inside. Anne. Mrs. “I did not expect you home so early.” Laurel responded. She’d forgotten to return it to its hiding place after Catherine’s visit. piled perfectly with wood and tinder ready to ignite. Laurel made her way upstairs to the sanctuary of her room.” With a silent nod. which was mercifully just where she’d left it.” Laurel said startling her maid as the other woman tidied the room. She wished she could burn her shame as easily. “You needn’t finish in here. and Aunt Gwendolyn’s voice wasn’t echoing through the halls. And with whom. Kneeling before the fireplace. . I’ll just finish plumping the cushions and—” “No. “Anne.” “Would you care for some tea?” Anne asked.” Anne curtsied. Anne was a foot away from the chair the sketch laid under. They’d been too involved in their plot to secure Mr. “Leave them.
Braedon glared at the man but turned to the older woman with a smile and instructions to prepare the house for the summer. The wiser of them. They’d arrive here the third week of June. one who surrendered to his every command and to her every sexual desire. “I’m going to see to the stables. and he expected the estate to be worthy of a royal visit. rushed into the study just as the housekeeper finished setting up the tea service. He hadn’t said a word. Braedon folded his arms and waited. merely that he had no patience for their inane intricacies. the composure that had first enticed him to hire her. he’d done little but think of her. Braedon could tell.” Ethan said. Braedon had used the trip to Derbyshire as a means to check up on all his businesses. Braedon thought as he poured himself a tumbler of whiskey and sat behind his desk with a plate of fresh scones. A woman he’d known a fortnight at most and she’d worked her way so thoroughly under his skin that he itched to return to her. before All Hollows Eve. but the restless movements. Turning to Sigmund. wisely refusing to involve himself in business matters. he still felt that impatient edge tug at him. or Braedon would fire him. That damnable man better have a decent explanation for the sudden frantic letter. and now.96 Chapter Eighteen Braedon rolled his shoulders to ease the tension gathering there as his housekeeper informed him of all that passed between his last visit. He’d already called for his steward. He and Ethan had already stopped at the wharves along the Thames on their way out of London. Sigmund. **** Ethan accepted the mug the maid offered him as he entered the kitchens. With the same aplomb she normally showed. Filthy from his ride. hadn’t so much as uttered her name. she bobbed and left the room. Ethan felt the same. the shortness of conversation told Braedon all he needed to know. His steward. and even the increasingly rough sex between he and Braedon hadn’t abated it. In the three days since leaving Laurel. . He missed her. It wasn’t that he bungled them. who easily conversed about politics and the new sciences such as astronomy and botany. Laurel had managed to wrap the pair of them around her finger. It’d grown steadily worse since leaving London. One with a delectable body to be sure. But Laurel was also a woman with a quick mind.
stemmed from what little money hadn’t been entailed to his elder brother when he’d inherited the vast farmland his father had owned. both in and out of the bedroom. the rest of the room empty. their caution didn’t mean they didn’t enjoy themselves whenever they wanted. the ménage they’d created. More circumspect here than they were in the London townhouse. loosening the ties. Not bothering to knock. However. pouring a tumbler of whiskey for himself. Traveling without her felt wrong. Even the inkstand had been moved. rising from the chair to lean on the desk. However. He wanted to return to London and Laurel. He undid his own breeches. he crossed the distance between them in two quick strides and pushed Braedon onto the desk. as he seemed unwilling to share details.” “Excellent. a pittance compared to Braedon’s. He didn’t care about the running of this estate and happily left those details to Braedon. “He worries unnecessarily.” Braedon shook his head once. the war had been and Ethan invested that plunder wisely. he crossed the room to the desk where Braedon sat. Braedon sat behind his desk. It was conveniently cleared. a short negation. His own income. “Have you allowed Sigmund to live?” Ethan asked. wanted to feel the length in his mouth.97 Exiting the kitchens. gazing steadily at him. Braedon’s hands were already on his breeches. Ethan entered the closed study. Not giving Braedon a chance to make the first move. Ethan noticed. stroking its already hard length. empty even on a business trip. he made his way to the study where he knew Braedon had met with several members of the household staff as well as the prostrating steward. “No. . Sigmund knew what he was about. It didn’t escape Ethan’s observation that the other man’s mood hadn’t lightened. Ethan shut the door behind him.” Ethan grinned and set his crystal tumbler on the table top. Ethan’s hand closed over Braedon’s cock. English inheritance laws weren’t profitable to second sons. Ethan opened one of the lower desk draws and found the jar of oil they kept there. Grinning wickedly at his lover. sweaty from the hard ride. Ethan let it pass. Covered with mud as he was. unwilling for reasons he couldn’t name to mention Laurel specifically. “Do you need to stay on longer?” Ethan asked carefully. but before Braedon seemed to be in a constant state of kneeling adulation no one would believe it.” Braedon scoffed. opening the muddy material enough to free his cock. “We leave in the morning. He wanted to taste it.
The crop fell against his ass again. finally taking with it some of the last days’ tension. Braedon. perverted bastard he was. Ethan wanted to pound into his lover and try to relieve some of the tension twisting within him at the absence of Laurel. just a tease. and Ethan would have it no other way. an impatient. Laurel busied herself with Catherine and tried not to think on her own circumstances. Braedon’s hand. Instantly hard. Quickly rubbing the oil over his hands and cock. unable to control himself and yet knowing Braedon accepted every pounding thrust and more. he thought as Braedon steadily increased the pressure of the crop. **** In the days since Braedon and Ethan left on their trip. Braedon showed no mercy as he pounded into Ethan.98 Braedon growled. but Ethan couldn’t tell if it was from him or Braedon. It didn’t take long until the tension broke. slick with oil. Braedon growled but tenderly maneuvered him onto the desk. cock already hardening at the thought. who’d begun to call on Catherine. His climax ripped through him. Braedon entered him suddenly and Ethan cried out. He cried out again. Laurel’s mother had become so . Braedon’s hand wrapped around his cock. The pace was hard. It was a carefully constructed ploy to ensnare the wealthy Mr. and that Mr. Yes. Worthington. When they returned to London. Ethan pressed one hand against Braedon’s neck to hold him down and entered the other man. Ethan’s cock jumped. Catherine read up on botany and spoke at length with Laurel’s parents about politics and political hosting. and Ethan pressed his cock against the hard wood of the desk in a vain attempt at control. She saw that new gowns were fitted to her friend. Ethan didn’t expect the crop across his ass. picking up the jar of oil. More. He moved hard within Braedon. Ethan gripped the edges of the desk but didn’t cry out. Prepared for his forceful entrance. squeezed the base and hit him again. snapped through him with such force he couldn’t have stopped it if he’d wanted to. Ethan would introduce Laurel to all the pleasure they’d yet to show her. Body sated as it was. too lightly. when they returned to London. inflexible sound that shot through Ethan straight to his own cock. Another growl. stroking his cock. Ethan almost immediately felt the loss of Laurel wind through him. Worthington. stopped all pleasure the instant Ethan uttered a sound. was increasingly fascinated by Catherine each time they met.
” Mrs.” “Thank you. Sutton asked. Mrs.” Laurel removed her gloves as she went further into the drawing room. No proper girl would have accepted them both so willingly and scandalously. Her mind didn’t wander as often to thoughts of Braedon and Ethan. With a heavy sigh. “Lady Laurel. Ashmore can have fickle tastes. Mrs. mockingly amused. Laurel finally knocked. Thoughts of Braedon’s kiss and Ethan’s touch haunted her dreams. It didn’t take long for Mrs. Anne. “Has there been word from Major Sinclair or Mr. “No. and inevitably her mind conjured thoughts of them and of all they’d done together. They decide on one thing one day and then shortly thereafter change their minds in favor of other adventure. “I’m sorry but no. Laurel simply walked away. Lady Laurel?” the older woman asked as she took her own seat on a matching settee. “There have been no missives from Major Sinclair’s household. Mrs. She’d come here with her aunt’s knowledge on the pretense that she had to return a hatpin Mrs. “How can I help you. Her maid. Hesitating because she was uncertain of how to broach the subject.” “Other adventure?” Laurel repeated hollowly. “Lady Laurel. Laurel stood at the door to Mrs. She actually thought she could get by without them if she had to. men like the Major and Mr. The time she spent with Catherine had helped. What had she done? Had she lost her mind? She must have because no proper girl would do what she had done. Major Sinclair was very persistent in his pursuit. Sutton’s apartment. Ashmore?” Laurel asked as nonchalantly as she could. Sutton had lent her. So much so that . “May I offer you some tea?” Mrs. Laurel didn’t like the look the older woman gave her when she looked up and met her gaze. what an unexpected pleasure.99 impressed with Catherine’s interests that she advised Laurel to do the same. Sutton shook her head.” “Did they give you any indication as to when they might return?” Laurel twisted the fingers of the gloves she held. “Please come in. Sutton. Sutton dismissed her maid and pulled closed a set of pocket doors behind her as she gestured for Laurel to take a seat on the damask upholstered mahogany chaise. Sutton replied with a slight frown. Sutton to open the door and greet her with a surprised smile.” the red-headed matchmaker said calmly enough. But then came the night. “That hardly seems possible. thank you.” Laurel entered the apartment to find a nicely appointed series of rooms decorated in pastel florals and pale green silk. waited in the carriage while Laurel climbed to the third floor apartment.
She’d at least keep it secret for as long as she could. This is just my observations from many years of tending to such things. Everything is clear now. sometimes these things do not develop as they should. Laurel wasn’t sure she could keep her stoic expression as Anne stared at her on the ride home. many years of tending to such matters. She took a deep breath. Ashmore’s plans. . Sutton gave Laurel a most pitiful look. The noise of a door opening startled her. “Thank you Mrs. and good day. Sutton called as she stood as well.” “I understand.” Mrs.” Mrs. “I have no solid information on Major Sinclair’s or Mr. plastered a smile on her face and went toward her carriage. “And I agree with your assessment. “I see. She would retain a tight hold on the emotion ready to explode from her if it was the last thing she did. stomach dropping. and she quickly continued down the steps. Are you saying that there is other adventure for them in the north?” “My dear. That would be one indignity the damnable Sinclair and Ashmore would not inflict on her. “It is best for you to nurture other offers as well.” “Lady Laurel. Sutton.” “Other offers?” Laurel nodded. Anne waited in the carriage but Laurel couldn’t face her. She was a ruined. Laurel clutched her reticule. as you said. the stupid hat pin she’d used as an excuse poked her palm. Laurel opened her bag and threw the damn pin on the floor. abandoned woman now. Thank you again. It comes from.100 most of society knows of his interest in my company.” Laurel couldn’t walk from the apartment fast enough and raced down a flight of stairs only to stop at the top of the next flight.” Standing she smoothed her skirt and turned for the doors.” Laurel said in a much steadier voice than she thought she could with her world crashing around her.
something that should come after marriage or never at all. “Then why. pray tell. mortified she showed such emotion in public. The park’s many paths teemed with people.” “Oh?” Laurel wasn’t sure she could handle a serious conversation just yet. Worthington asked as he took hold of her elbow. They moved at a rapid pace toward the park. What Braedon and Ethan had done was introduce her to the forbidden. They drew her into something she was not ready for. “I have been meaning to call on you Lady Laurel.” she replied steadily. A nameless face on this bright spring day. her desire. “I hadn’t meant to. Those two men had calculated every move much like she and Catherine had done against Mr. Despite her wish for anonymity. and she hated she was so transparent. “Yes. Laurel gave Anne a few shillings to purchase herself lunch from the street vendors as she took a walk around the promenade.101 Chapter Nineteen Laurel’s heart pounded as quick and forceful as the horses’ hooves hit the cobblestones. Her own body had betrayed her. far worse. She needed air and the park seemed the most logical choice from the few options she had. All Laurel wanted was to dig a hole and bury herself deep within the earth. her curiosity. and she hoped she could somehow become lost amongst them. Why did they have to pick her? Was it some sort of challenge or bet to ruin a lady from society instead of using a common whore? Was she now a common whore? “Lady Laurel. do you appear so distressed?” “Do I?” she responded. Mr.” Mr. Worthington’s interests and played on them in order to give Catherine an opening to his attentions. She and Catherine had gleaned Mr. are you well?” Mr. Worthington nodded but didn’t look convinced.” Laurel looked over her shoulder for Anne who sat on a bench enjoying a meat pie. He must have observed a look on her face. Laurel glanced up at him with wide eyes. It was a game many played and in the end the decision still rested in Mr. too many here knew her. But their calculations were far. She couldn’t face returning home to look at her Aunt Gwendolyn or her parent’s faces knowing how she’d disgraced them. it all played into Braedon and Ethan’s plans. Worthington. “I’m well. But for them to do this and abandon her. . Worthington’s hands. Worthington brought his gloved hand to her cheek and wiped away a tear she hadn’t even noticed was there.
Laurel was convinced Mr. Worthington that she was a virgin still. Worthington. Worthington. **** Her afternoon in the park had done little to calm her. Sutton. I have always thought that. “Yes. Never could she do this to Catherine. She would not ruin Catherine’s life as she’d ruined her own. Alcott. “Now let me tell you of Catherine. With luck. The thought of fooling Mr.102 “It is my understanding that you and Miss Hayden are close friends. Her shame grew tenfold for even entertaining the notion for the few moments she had. both were significantly older than she but eagerly seeking wives. before Mr.” Looking up at him.” “There is something wrong. but it also presented her with another option. She could find a different suitor and do with him as she’d thought she might do with Mr. Yes.” she said unsteadily. Except for that brief implication of his interest toward her. He would never be the wiser. Laurel abruptly comprehended his meaning. It would be my honor to be at your service. She could bed him on one of the days of her monthly bleeding. Worthington would ask for Catherine’s hand without much further effort and most definitely before the season concluded. There were many potential husbands this season but could she really deceive someone young and strong as she intended? Or should she pursue another? Perhaps someone such as Colonel Darton or Mr. It would solve all her problems. and they would never betray this secret for fear of the ramifications on their own lives.” he said having obviously heard the crack in her voice. If she paid him the barest attention she just knew he’d ask for her hand without much effort. It would save her and her family from the worst kind of humiliation. Hayden’s ruin came to light.” She took his arm and they strolled toward Anne’s location. The only good that came from that walk had been meeting Mr. if she’d taken him for herself stung. “Please. The only persons who could harm her would be Braedon and Ethan themselves.” she said.” he started. contemplating her next move. “It’s nothing but a girlhood fancy. She could convince an innocent like Mr. From complete ruin. He’d been interested in her for some time but had hoped that his interest would completely turn to Catherine now. Laurel looked at him for a long moment. As for Mrs. she could manage this. “Yes we are. Laurel believed her silence was easily purchased. . trying for flippancy and somewhat succeeding. Worthington and gauging his intentions toward Catherine. allow me to help if I can.
Laurel adjusted her gown. are you well? Miss Hayden has come to see you. How easy would it be to just sink her face into that water and allow it to fill her throat and lungs? Laurel bit her lip and stepped away taking a deep breath. Anne.103 Tears fell unbidden down her cheeks. Lady Laurel. “Anne told me you were not feeling your usual self. “Have there been any new developments.” Laurel requested as she rose to her elbows. It had been more than lust. Anne stepped into the room at the faint summons. “I’ll be down shortly.” Anne said. She had to go down and continue to help Catherine. the room had darkened but Laurel hadn’t moved from her bed not to light a candle or ring for a tray. Are you well?” . Laurel had fallen in love with Ethan’s wit. It was at least something useful she could do. or how she’d worshipped them? How could they discard her this way? Tears came so readily. she’d given more than her body. She’d given herself to both of them. Shaking her head. Hours must have passed. Would you like me to show her up or tell her that you are not well this evening?” “Please have her wait in the drawing room. She brought the cool water to her face and tried to shake the heavy feeling that surrounded her. She didn’t want that. she banished the notion from her thoughts…at least for the moment. entering her. I’m fine. Laurel dragged herself out of the bed and went to the washbasin. more than curiosity. Her body felt weighed down as if by stones but she managed to fully sit up. one not Braedon or Ethan.” “Yes. I’ve shown her to the west drawing room. Laurel sank onto her bed at the thought of another man. Her hands came to rest on either side of the basin. Hadn’t they felt it? Hadn’t they seen how she’d looked at them. Just let Catherine know I’ll be down soon. “Is there anything I can fetch for you?” “No. Catherine?” Laurel asked as she entered the room and took a seat on the pale blue silk settee. “Lady Laurel. at the water filling it.” Laurel told her maid before the other woman took her leave. A soft scratch at her door urged her to move but she felt she didn’t have the strength for more than lifting her head. she’d fallen for Braedon’s strength and for his protectiveness of her. she thought they’d never stop as she lay on her bed and clung to her pillow. hunched over. and she stared. Catherine was clutching a cup of tea as she stared out their front windows onto the streets. Catherine nodded as she turned and set her teacup on the nearby tray. tended to her hair as best she could and made her way downstairs. But the maid hesitated at the door before leaving and turned back to Laurel.
and Laurel could hear the shame there. I am perfectly well. “I can no longer be friends with you. Hill.” Laurel assured and smiled.” “Thank you. dear. Laurel. It’s only a matter of time. “That’s not possible. “It cannot be as bad as you think it is. What’s this all about?” “My father has struck a deal with Mr.” Catherine’s voice was terribly strained and her cheeks were much paler than Laurel ever remembered seeing. Worthington seems absolutely besotted with you. What my father has done is beyond comprehension. Laurel.” Her eyes lowered as she said. “I am to bed Mr. Worthington is no longer a possibility. I was simply over-tired from my walk in the park this afternoon. Catherine. Tears pressed against her eyelids and she hastily blinked them away. This wasn’t a time to cry when she needed to think of a way to help Catherine. “What do you mean?” Laurel’s concern had her reaching for Catherine’s hand. “Mr.” Catherine turned her head back to look at Laurel. Hill.” “I can’t accept that. “Your father would not trade you like chattel. beyond stunned.” “He already has. but I fear that our plans may not come to anything. finding it easier to talk to Catherine than to listen to her own thoughts. “I’m afraid.” .” The words rushed out of Laurel’s mouth before she could stop them. It will enable us to keep our home. “At least until the next time my damnable father places a wager he cannot cover. Laurel had never in her life seen her friend as expressionless as she was at this very moment. Catherine.” Catherine answered flatly.” Laurel stated. “Where I saw Mr.” Laurel stood and went over to Catherine trying to offer what comfort she could.” Catherine’s voice caught. He has sold my virtue.” Catherine rose from the settee and walked away from Laurel. She bit her lip momentarily before admitting. “I don’t believe it’s possible to manage this.” Catherine continued. Her friend refused to meet her eyes and sidestepped her.104 “Yes. I don’t believe I have much time left.” “What is it? What’s happened?” Laurel persisted.” she added with real hatred threaded through her tone.” The words came out of Catherine with absolutely no emotion. “He is to use me as he wishes for a week’s time to clear the debt.” Catherine stated with a hint of longing in her voice. “Now you are frightening me.” “That’s just it. “Mr. We’ll find a way to manage whatever it is. “I won’t have you associate with the rubbish that is me and my family. “The deal is made. “What kind of deal?” Laurel asked. Worthington and set about praising your attributes.
Catherine moved to pick up her reticule, but Laurel snatched it from her hands. “You are not leaving this house. And you will marry Mr. Worthington. I’ll see to it.”
Chapter Twenty Laurel heard her words but had trouble reconciling them with Catherine. She hadn’t expected such a hopeless attitude from her friend. Faced with it now, she refused to accept it. “There is nothing you can do, Laurel.” Catherine again reached for the reticule, but Laurel stepped back, clutching the bag to her chest. “I have no choice,” Catherine continued, refusing to meet Laurel’s gaze. “Even if I refuse to do this, my future is ruined. Once word reaches the ton of Father’s ruin, no one will look at me, let alone court me. At least this way my family won’t be on the streets.” Clayton Hayden caused this entire debacle and Laurel would be damned if he pawned his debts, and the paying of them, onto his only child. The man didn’t deserve Catherine’s obedience or her acquiescence in this. He deserved to be carted off to debtor’s prison. Worse, he deserved to pay his debts with his life. Thinking frantically, Laurel tried to move past her fury with Clayton Hayden and onto more productive matters. Like how to extricate Catherine from this mess and still retain her reputation. She didn’t need to be ruined as well, unlike Laurel who’d willingly entered Braedon’s and Ethan’s bed, willingly shared in the pleasure their trio brought her. She was already ruined. Laurel slowly looked at her friend, a new plan forming. She took a step closer, and Catherine made a feeble attempt to snatch her reticule. Slapping her hands away, Laurel hissed at her intrusion as she worked through this plan. A horrible plan with no real chance at not spreading through the ton, at least it had the advantage of helping Catherine. Who probably wouldn’t accept it, but Laurel didn’t care. This way, her own foolish choices would at least help someone. Though how she’d reconcile this with her own family, Laurel didn’t know. One thing at a time. She took a deep breath and started to speak. Suddenly paranoid, she crossed to the parlor door and closed it, swept her gaze around the room in case a maid had snuck in while Laurel had been otherwise occupied. Still clutching Catherine’s reticule, Laurel grabbed her friend’s hand and dragged her to the settee. She took another deep breath and, keeping her voice low in case of any eavesdroppers, began. “I’ll take your place.” It took Catherine a full minute to comprehend that bald statement. When she did, Catherine jumped back and tried to jerk her pliant hand from Laurel’s grasp.
“What?” she screeched. Laurel tightened her grip and hissed at Catherine to remain silent. “You can’t,” she whispered harshly, panic creeping into her voice. “You can’t possibly mean what I think you do.” “I do mean it,” she said sharply. “It’s what has to be done.” “You’ve lost your mind!” Her voice rose again, and Laurel dug her fingers into Catherine’s hand to calm her. A fruitless endeavor but Catherine did lower her voice. “I’d never ask such a thing of you. Nor will I accept this. Please,” she pleaded softly. “Don’t talk of this further. Just let me go.” “I’m already ruined.” Laurel hadn’t meant for it to come out so unflinchingly. But once the words were said, she didn’t regret telling Catherine, whose mouth dropped in shock, cheeks flaming as she stared mutely at Laurel. “I’ve bedded Major Sinclair,” she continued, careful to keep Ethan out of this. “I thought we’d be married. I believed us to be announcing our wedding by now.” “Laurel!” Catherine shook her head, closed her eyes, and tried again. “Aren’t you to marry him then? I thought he already spoke to your father.” She shook her head again. “He didn’t seem the type to abandon you. It was well known he searched for a wife—not a spring dalliance.” The sorrow Braedon and Ethan’s abandonment caused left her empty and hollow. Laurel tried to cover it, tried not to let show the fact she’d fallen in love with the both of them. She’d been a fool and could only now see that. “I think he has abandoned me,” she admitted softly, voice catching. “He left London several days ago with no word as to his return. If he did have an intention of marrying me, it’s likely he’s changed his mind. So you see,” she said, swallowing hard against the emotion threatening to choke her, “I can take your place. Better me than you.” “No.” Catherine shook her head, adamant. “It’s not the same. You had feelings for Major Sinclair, whether he is a rake or not. Pierson Hill is the lowest sort of man and I’m afraid he’d hurt you.” “He won’t hurt me,” Laurel said softly, truth ringing in her tone, “as much as he’d hurt you. I don’t have as much left to lose as you.” Still shaking her head, tears fell on Catherine’s cheeks. “I’m frightened,” she admitted. “And ashamed. I can’t let you do this…” she looked up, self-loathing and humiliation in her gaze. “But I want to let you do it.” Embracing her, Laurel held her tight. Catherine continued to cry and Laurel felt her own tears prick against her eyes. Swallowing them, she held tighter. “Then let me.” ****
but Laurel didn’t know what she’d done before. but if Laurel hadn’t been watching for such cues.” “I’ll arrange an excuse with your Aunt Gwendolyn” she continued as if Laurel hadn’t spoken. I’ll have my own driver pick you up to ensure discretion. “I’ll see Mr. “Two days.” she said decisively. Laurel had no hope of acquiring that kind of money. “Do you have a day in mind for this…meeting to take place?” Laurel had thought about that. or even what she still did on the side. Sutton rose and wandered to the window only to pace back. . How many times had Mrs. She made no attempt to take the money. “I know precisely how to arrange this. and Laurel left it on the table. Laurel returned to her own carriage and instructed the driver to head home. She’d already thought about paying off Pierson Hill herself. a lift of an eyebrow. Her mouth tightened slightly. So she decided to enlist Mrs. Sutton handled such things for others? She was a well-known matchmaker now. “Very well.” she agreed quietly. To have her hopes rise for the end of all this only to have to further wait.” Mrs. That day. Hill is informed of the time and place. Sutton showed no emotion other than the slight narrowing of her eyes. Sutton. “Be ready by two in the afternoon. Quickly taking her leave. Sutton. She had no idea how long these things took to arrange and didn’t want to take the chance Mrs. scared her more than being used by Pierson Hill. Sutton’s service and discretion. but Laurel forestalled her. they now sat in the other woman’s small front parlor as Laurel told her story and her intent with Pierson Hill. Mrs.108 Laurel actually had no idea how to find Pierson Hill or go about whoring herself to him in place of Catherine.” Mrs.” she said. she doubted she’d have seen a change in the woman. Sutton wouldn’t be able to handle everything. Lady Laurel. Pleasantries dispensed. Mrs. pulling out a small change purse.” The other woman looked as if she wanted to say more. This was a business trip. Laurel had enough coin in her bag to secure Mrs. but Catherine’s father owed in excess of five thousand pounds. “You are indeed very efficient. She wanted it finished but also didn’t want anything to go wrong. less anxious. Her second trip to the matchmaker’s apartment had her feeling calmer. “I suppose you do. “Yes. “I’ll need you to secure a private location for this to occur.” she said and rose. She knew what she had to do and wouldn’t be swayed. plain and simple. Sutton said evenly.” she said almost absently.
Shaking her head firmly. she didn’t know when they’d return. Would they have told her had she pressed them for answers? She’d been so overwhelmed at their desertion. How different would her life have been if Braedon and Ethan hadn’t left her? She could have gone to them instead of Mrs. and it was far too late for remorse. she forced such thoughts away. Laurel didn’t know if they’d come back to London this season or not. They’d left. shocked to her very core when Braedon tersely announced their impending departure. claiming business with no word as to their return and no hint as to the business. She knew nothing of their whereabouts or activities and knew that was her own fault.109 Oh. Sutton to protect Catherine. Thinking of what ifs did her no good and only brought the heartache back to the surface. No doubt they’d have had a better understanding of a man such as Pierson Hill and how to deal with him. It didn’t matter. She’d have to lie in her own bed and take whatever consequences life meted out now. They’d brusquely disappeared. . None of it did. how abruptly her life had changed.
In the ten days they’d been gone. The only statements he cared to read were from his broker and solicitor. Publicly. Common sense held him in place. “Are you planning to speak with Lord Westfield this evening then?” “Yes. he and Braedon took a break from each other but Ethan couldn’t see ever doing that with Laurel. Occasionally. he wanted to dispense with the pleasantries of mail and replies and go directly round to her house. After that. needed her. and loved her with all he was. as well. Sutton is here to see you. had scanned and burned them.” Camila? Ethan frowned at the man as he executed a swift military turn and exited the room.” his butler said with a stiff bow. it was a simple matter of Braedon insisting Ethan stay with him as thanks for saving his life. “Sir. Ethan. contemplating another drink. They’d been back in London less than an hour. “I think I saw a note from Whitesmith. “Agreed.” Braedon ignored the rest of the papers and stalked to the windows. what urgent business could the matchmaker have with Braedon? “Saves me the trouble of sending for her. he was restless. but one he’d never change. “You’ve no further need of her services. Laurel wasn’t going to marry only Braedon but him. pouring himself a drink.110 Chapter Twenty-One “I believe she’s to attend the Whitesmith’s ball tonight.” Ethan said. Ethan. rumor easily spread that he wasn’t a whole man and needed monthly treatments due to his burns. Not in a ceremony of course. Ethan loved her as he had no one else. He wanted her.” Braedon said. That and the fact that he and Braedon now discussed the next step in their courtship of Laurel. Privately was a different matter entirely. It was already well known he lived with Braedon. unconcerned with the notes sent round for him. A new and strange experience.” Braedon said as he flipped through his mail. “Mrs. the papers had piled to almost overflowing.” Ethan commented dryly as he leaned against the sideboard. Plus. When they’d first returned to England. not even Braedon.” . Now that they were back in town. Braedon planned to ask Lord Westfield for her hand within the next fortnight. a constant state since leaving Laurel. And not always then. but in every other way.
shoulders rigid as he towered over Camila. I find myself rather distressed over her situation.” “And Laurel. She’d been paid well enough to accept it. Believe me when I say I’ve done so only because I’m familiar with her circumstances. “Laurel’s agreed to take her place?” “It seems. face pinched. “I don’t know if it’s still of concern to you.” Braedon said between clenched teeth. taking another murderous step closer to Camila. “I believe you’re acquainted with Miss Catherine Hayden?” Camila continued in that same cold voice. having seen you’re no longer interested in Lady Laurel. Her entire demeanor was cold—back stiff. Braedon seemed beyond words.” she waved a hand to encompass the both of them and the house. no longer lounging against the sideboard. as she considers herself utterly ruined. Ethan understood she had accepted their arrangement. “I wasn’t aware anyone knew we’d returned. I find this matter. he thought with another frown. “However. “is this arrangement Laurel’s involved herself in?” In short terse sentences. “However.” she admitted coolly.” she continued. “Her father owes Hill several thousand pounds and in payment. who seemed not at all disconcerted by his ferocity.” Braedon said shortly the moment she entered the study. indeed all of this. Braedon had closed the distance between him and Camila. . for she didn’t seem pleased with her role in any of this. Lady Laurel has taken it upon herself to offer her body to Mr.” “What in hell. I was fully aware your retaining of my services meant unorthodox means by which to acquire the lady of your choosing. eyes boring into first Braedon then he. Jaw clenched so as not to berate Camila. It didn’t surprise him Hill wanted a week with the lovely Miss Hayden. Hill has agreed to take the daughter for a week. hands curled into fists.” Ethan jerked straight. Camila explained. either.” Camila nodded once. Ethan had never seen his friend and lover so furious. I’ve agreed to assist her in this matter.” Ethan managed to sound slightly reasonable over the anger pounding through him. but any man who could willingly pay off his debts by selling his daughter deserved to be used in as horrible a fashion as imaginable. gaze sweeping over the two of them. beyond thinking. Ethan rounded the desk. He breathed heavily. seemingly unaffected by Braedon’s nonverbal threat. Ethan wondered if she meant to include herself in that gesture. as if accusing them of witchcraft. Pierson Hill.” She paused and shot Ethan an equally venomous look. if not fully approved. Major Sinclair. Ethan found himself wanting to throttle Miss Hayden’s father.” “I had the house watched. Braedon growled at her and took a menacing step forward. “When you first hired me. “Distasteful. as she attempts to pay her friend’s debt.111 “Camila. In all the years they’d been together.
this one unreadable.” Ethan cut in.” “Agreed. The ride to Hill’s townhouse. Then again. “Bring Laurel here. “After our visit to Hill.” Ethan said shortly. It seemed easier to pay him off. Ethan couldn’t be sure. If Braedon were more of a betting man.” Ethan muttered as they reigned to a halt beside the house. clearly not trusting Camila to handle this. A cheater at cards and a bastard to the core. He had the bodyguards and expensive tailor. hell bent on beating some sense into Hill. whom he knew nothing would stop from accompanying him to Hill’s residence. He doubted Braedon would harm the woman. As the stable hands scrambled to obey his orders. It changed nothing. but Braedon knew Hill’s type. seemed positive.112 “I’ll take care of Hill. He’d go to Hayden with some nonsense about the very pleasurable experience simply buying the man more time to pay. **** Braedon didn’t wait for his carriage but ordered his horse brought round. “Tell her nothing. The outside wasn’t much to speak of. the jewels on his fingers and the women at his beck and call. Where’s the house you’re to have met Hill?” Ethan scribbled the address on the back of one of the many notes still cluttering Braedon’s desk and nodded to Camila to leave. he’d bet that Hill would avail himself of the girl’s virtue and not release the debt. unsure of Braedon’s temper at this point. Bastard wasn’t a vicious enough description for him. Camila gave them another look. Which wasn’t his first option. Or at least she didn’t say she wouldn’t. granted.” Braedon instructed. which given the turn of events in the last half hour. “When you’re to pick her up. Braedon was too furious to notice anything. The man was a fake. “I might pay a visit to Clayton Hayden. The only thing that had surprised Braedon was that Hill was willing to accept a girl’s virtue in exchange for the substantial sum of five thousand pounds. Oh. he understood them all too clearly. Ethan wasn’t going to say a word ether way. but when faced with a threat to Laurel.” Braedon finally managed. didn’t take long.” he growled to Ethan. simply bring her here. whether they were killing Hill or merely paying him off. located on the seedier side of London. She’d purposely endangered herself to save her friend from that woman’s worthless father’s gambling debts. he tried to follow Laurel’s reasons. and left to do their bidding. but not clearing the books. . “Five thousand pounds.
” Abruptly releasing Hill. “When you are about to defile the closest friend of my fiancé.” Ethan snarled. If not worse.” Braedon stated in a short. Sutton had relayed. His anger had been barely controlled a moment ago.” “That’s where you are wrong. “Have you lost your mind as well as your cock.” Braedon countered in a reasonable voice that had Hill pausing.” Braedon pressed Hill against the wall.” “I prefer the girl. furious voice. “So eager. now rage rose in him with unreasonable speed.” Hill replied in a hoarse voice. It did not take long for Hill to open his front door. “Sinclair? Ashmore? What is it that I can do for you?” Ethan didn’t hesitate but used his cane to press Hill backward into the house. Not you.” Hill grinned maliciously.” Came Hill’s voice before the door was fully opened.” Hill pushed away from Ethan and defiantly tried to stare them both down. “What I do in my home is none of your concern. and Braedon followed. The details are for us to decide.” “I see you know of my arrangement with Hayden. ignoring the presence of the man in the drawing room. This will cover it in full.” “But it is. his hand circling the man’s throat and squeezing. Ashmore?” Hill spat. Braedon stepped away and pulled out five thousand pounds in a leather holder. “Retrieve paper and sign a release of Hayden’s debt. Sinclair. Ethan’s own fury hardly contained. The only thread of calm that presented itself to Braedon was the knowledge that Mrs. Ethan dragged Hill into the house’s study. “Then you need to understand that this is a mutual arrangement between me and a man indebted to me. Hill stumbled back before using the wall to regain his footing. Hill had planned to share Laurel with someone else. Ethan swung his cane. “You were expecting a young woman this afternoon. “But you’re about to if you don’t show proper respect. “No. still defiant. “Anything that breathes near my family is of concern to me. The shock at finding them and not a young woman evident on his face.113 Braedon watched as Ethan banged on Hill’s door with his silvertopped cane. hitting Hill across the back.” . Braedon was certain that Hill would do with Laurel just as he’d planned with Miss Hayden.” Braedon nearly lunged forward to tear at Hill’s throat when he noticed another man come to the drawing room’s archway. “You touch the girl and I’ll see that your cock is dipped in bronze and gifted to her as a remembrance. “That is no business of yours. Hill did not know it was to be Laurel here today and not Miss Hayden.
It didn’t take much longer to conclude their business with Hill and take their leave. Braedon and Ethan rode home in relative silence. Once back at their townhouse it became apparent that all Ethan wanted, needed, was to see Laurel safely again in this house. Braedon was a different story. He wanted her here, yes, but he also wanted her to know how serious this had all been. If they hadn’t returned when they did, if Mrs. Sutton hadn’t seen fit to tell them of Laurel’s plans, today would have turned out very differently. Laurel would have been hurt, scarred by the experience. There would have been a very good chance that she would have never recovered from it. And that, that more than anything had frightened Braedon. **** Laurel’s gown was a pale rose and she wore a grey jacket. Her hair was worn in a chignon with a simple mother of pearl comb at one side. She tugged on her grey gloves and prepared to leave her room. She felt more like she was leaving for the gallows than for an afternoon of sex. She’d been with two men several times now. One man should pose no challenge. With slow steps, she headed down the stairs and bid her Aunt Gwendolyn a good day. Her mother and father were at Lord Bentley’s through the evening discussing some reform father wanted to present to Parliament. Aunt Gwendolyn wished her well as she prepared to leave for tea at Mrs. Tate’s. It was as ordinary a day as they came in the household. Except today, Laurel was a whore. Boarding the carriage, she greeted Mrs. Sutton and half listened to the arrangements the woman had made for the day. Laurel simply nodded and leaned back against the velvet upholstery. She didn’t bother looking out the window or trying to discern where exactly in London they were headed. She trusted Mrs. Sutton to arrange everything just as efficiently as she always seemed to. The ride was smoother than she’d anticipated; there were no riots in the streets as she half hoped for or accidents to block their way and delay them. In what felt like a blink, Mrs. Sutton was touching her knee and saying they were about to arrive. “Allow me to enter first,” Mrs. Sutton stated in a quiet voice. “I’ll make sure that there are no unwanted eyes about.” Laurel nodded and watched Mrs. Sutton disembark the carriage. In the few moments she waited before leaning forward to the window, Laurel contemplated opening the opposite door and running away. But Catherine depended on her. As she leaned to open the door, she realized that they were in Braedon’s courtyard. Had Mrs. Sutton arranged to have Hill meet them here? Laurel supposed it was logical since the courtyard allowed for
privacy. But how could this be? How could she sleep with Hill in the house where Braedon and Ethan had…where she had felt loved. Biting back tears, Laurel exited the carriage and made her way through the front door. As she entered, the sight of Braedon and Ethan waiting in the foyer for her froze her in place.
Chapter Twenty-Two “What’s this?” Laurel demanded of Braedon and Ethan. They were the absolute last people she expected to see today and seeing them did not improve her nerves. She whirled in a turn about the room looking for Mrs. Sutton or worse—Pierson Hill. “If you’re expecting Mr. Hill, we’re sorry to disappoint you, Laurel.” Braedon stated harshly. His hard stare bored through her and she shivered at the unreadable black gaze. Straightening her spine, she refused to show him, either of them, any emotion. “What have you done, Braedon?” Laurel hurled the question like an accusation, completely taken aback by all of this. She’d prepared herself for days to settle Catherine’s debt, to protect her friend. All their arrival had done was leave her confused and unreasonably angry. “Have I upset your plans for a secret assignation?” Braedon questioned cruelly. “Braedon,” Ethan rebuked, but Laurel could see the anger in his own blue eyes. “This isn’t the time for such games.” “Isn’t it, Ethan?” Braedon replied coolly. “Our lover was about to bed another man.” He stalked the few steps separating them and ran his fingers along her cheek. A callous move that held nothing of the love and affection she once thought him to feel toward her. “The two of us don’t seem enough for the proper Lady Laurel.” Laurel slapped his hand away and took a step back only to smack into Ethan’s body. Stiffening from the feel of his rigid stance, she tossed her head slightly and said in an equally indifferent voice. “You don’t understand what I must do.” “Laurel, it’s all right,” Ethan said in a soft voice behind her. His hands held her shoulders, a light caress that only further served to confuse her. “We know what happened.” “Yes, we know you were about to whore yourself to Pierson Hill.” Braedon moved forward, hovered over her with a dark gaze. She met that stare boldly, unflinching. “At what point did you believe you had the right to give your body to anyone but us?” “You have made no promises to me.” Laurel stood straighter and brushed Ethan’s hands off her body. She tossed her head again, tilted her chin, and looked directly into Braedon’s eyes with as much defiance as she ever felt. “No promises save those of pleasure. I’m free to do as I like. If that means my ruin…so be it.” “You are not free.” Braedon snapped. “You belong here in this household, in our bed.” “As your whore?” Laurel shot back. “I would rather join a brothel than live as your mistress.”
she turned and made sure they understood. Now. Ethan’s statement at first didn’t make sense. Cursing her racing heart and the small seed of hope that blossomed she snapped back. she waited. not in fear or retreat. to suddenly discover Hill no longer held that power over Catherine or her family. Laurel stared at them. She didn’t fear for her life but knew he meant every word. “That was only so we could return to surprise you with plans for the marriage. This knowledge should have brought her enormous relief. His other hand cupped on Laurel’s neck.” That damnable seed blossomed further. possibly her very life were at stake here. and she shook her head to clear it.” His words were a whisper but there was menace in them. “I can’t allow Catherine to be used by Hill. and it was clear he had no intention of releasing her. “You showed no concern when you both abandoned me with no word as to your intentions. her future.” “Forgive us.” Ethan said as he enveloped her into an embrace from behind. She’d been far too selfish in indulging in both Braedon and Ethan. Far too self-absorbed when Catherine needed her more than she needed her next orgasm. love. damnation. She believed she had to marry an aged man to prevent her ruin or indeed endure that ruin. My only concern is you. No more. For days now she believed she’d have to bed Hill.” Laurel pushed against his chest. “You don’t have the right to do what you intended. “It’s too late. but she ruthlessly stamped it down. His mouth touched her ear as he murmured.117 “Laurel. thumb caressing her cheek. and his hold was inexorable. Believed Braedon and Ethan had abandoned her for other adventures.” she repeated. .” Ethan stated.” With a shove.” Ethan whispered against her ear. Backing up a step. She briefly struggled but his body felt so good. “Shh. “Regardless of what dangers your friend found herself in. Braedon’s just angry that you were at risk. “It’s too late.” Caught off guard. Staying stiffly still. she finally broke free of Ethan’s hold and slipped out from Braedon’s soft touch. but to prove a point. so familiar against hers.” Braedon grasped Ethan’s shoulder. Laurel. All Laurel could feel was anger. Ethan’s hold tightened. Laurel would not sacrifice her friend because her men were suddenly sorry.” “Hill is no longer a consideration. If that means I’ve lost the two of you. “We have settled that debt. Catherine’s reputation. effectively trapping her between the two men. but Braedon was unmoved. and that Braedon and Ethan had plans of marriage all along… She should have been thrilled. then I am willing to accept that.
” “Ethan. you may have worried for the week we were gone. The next thing she realized. but they were. lifting her palm to his lips. undid her. your loyalty. Ethan sat next to her like an old friend. threatening to choke her. “I know. His thumb caressed the soft skin of her palm and she willed herself to breathe evenly. She had to get out of this house. Laurel looked at each of them once more and turned to walk out the door.” he said.” Ethan stated. she didn’t care who saw her or how far she’d have to walk to return home. All the shame she’d endured since last meeting them. Laurel looked at him. That he’d take care of this.” Laurel whispered around the tears thick in her throat. your laughter. shaking her head. Her mind was exhausted.” Ethan held her face between his hands and kissed her closed eyelids. He had become so much more than that. “I’m in love with you. “Nothing like this would have occurred. and dangerous. the friend he first purported to be. we’d have returned to see joy in your eyes not this sadness. Your curiosity. “You know it’s true. she hadn’t the time to build enough defenses against this. “Never think I would leave you. Ethan’s hand snaked out and clamped around her waist. She closed her eyes against them but knew it to be fruitless. her body was exhausted.” . then they’d discarded her with nary a word. the honesty in his voice. Yes. Ethan ushered her into a small drawing room. Tears pricked her eyes. and the unshed tears spilled out. she did. He’s compelling. dark. She barely heard him tell Braedon to stay away. Yes.” Ethan insisted and she stilled.” “And Braedon. Now.” “I truly believed neither of you had any further use for me. They’d made her care.” Ethan spoke softly. She’d disgraced herself with them. In a fog.118 She had no further words for them. all the crushed hope she tried to swallow. Everything that you are I love. A home she deceived. They couldn’t be helped and wouldn’t help anything. she didn’t belong even there. he wouldn’t have reacted as he had. and she blinked them away. She could feel the rough skin of his burns against her cheek and leaned into him. mysterious. Against them. wished the words weren’t true. closed the pocket doors behind them. His words undid her. plain and simple. I’ve lived with an attraction to him for a long time. rushed back.” Laurel began. “I do love you. “If he didn’t. taking her hand and pulling off her glove. “I wanted you from that first dance. and flicked the lock. His tenderness. “If Miss Hayden had not found herself in the situation she had. It’s hard to know him but easy to want him. she took a seat on the chaise and looked at Ethan. I also know he loves you. they’d made her fall in love with them. Stopped.” Laurel opened her eyes and pulled back.
melting into his arms. She pinched her nipples. Emboldened. “I don’t know if I could live this way with you both. But she didn’t want to survive. ground her hips against his. she pushed Ethan down and gathered her skirts about her waist. Could this be another ploy? Pretty words to seduce her back into their bed? Laurel shook her head. Laurel?” Ethan asked. She wanted to live. He wanted her. No more the quiet friend but now the impassioned lover. “I do. of that she never had a doubt. . This was so different than she’d envisioned for her day. She looked into Ethan’s blue eyes. She knew it was there. His finger teased her nub. Nipples already hard. Her fingers were quick on the ties to his breeches even as she hated the lust pounding through her. Laughing with them. She took him deep into her body. a deep sigh escaping her as she admitted the truth of the matter.119 “I don’t know if I can do this. the passion turning them the color of the North Sea in a storm. and she rejoiced in that. knew Ethan loved her.” “Do you want us. voice still a gentle whisper. Would she have survived had they not returned? Yes. Her own hands went to her breasts.” she admitted. talking with them.” Laurel rested her head on his shoulder and tried to sort out the myriad thoughts fighting for her attention. Ethan had been correct about Braedon—his dark passions hid much. bringing him deeper into her until she cried out. Yes she could accept both of them. Laurel nodded. Yes. but his hands clamped on her hips and moved her faster. She instantly responded. In their arms. and Laurel moaned his name as she sank over him. however. Laurel knew she wouldn’t have enjoyed sex with Pierson Hill. His mouth covered hers then. Knew Braedon did as well. assuming he didn’t rape and kill her outright. wrapping hers around his shoulders and pulling him closer. sending a wave of wet heat through her. This last week had been awful. soft and tender. her body aching for them. releasing them from the confines of her bodice. Could she accept that? Laurel kissed Ethan again. Beneath that. she knelt on the chaise and moved over Ethan. But love? She licked her lips and watched him. twisting them and moved harder over Ethan. freeing his cock and stroking the thick length. pulled away. Honesty won. and Laurel knew he’d never fully voice the love he felt for her. an uncertainty she wouldn’t have previously associated with Ethan. Yes. But she wanted more and could even now feel her orgasm build. And she only felt alive with them. Laurel heard a need.
He must have seen some of that indecision in her eyes. his mouth doing delicious things to her breasts. No one would be the wiser in India or Canada. “I love you both. . “I love you. She could marry Ethan and leave London. But Braedon wrapped around her. When Braedon pushed her forward. Laurel didn’t know. for Braedon cupped her cheek and kissed her mouth. A plea for forgiveness. Ethan’s smile was as wicked as she’d ever seen. and Laurel screamed in pleasure. She had no idea how he’d entered the room. stilling her. filling her until she thought she’d pass out from such pleasure. she’d seen Ethan lock the door. Gently.” How they ended on the floor. Both careful to withdraw from her. slamming hard against them to prolong the intensity. Bracing herself on Ethan’s shoulders. climaxed. but suddenly she didn’t care. position utterly wanton—nipples aching between her fingers.” she panted. the release of fear she’d reject him. Laurel yanked her skirts higher about her hips. Ethan bit hard on one of her nipples. utterly spent as they. Softly.” he whispered. leave England. slow and forceful. “I love you. too. moving over Ethan with increasingly hard thrusts.” Laurel swore she felt the tension leave his body. By accepting him into her body. Behind her. Braedon entered her. She screamed. crying out their names as she climaxed. she looked over her shoulder. Braedon. Fingers caressing his cheek she kissed him back. strong hands gripped her hips from behind. she didn’t resist. and Laurel knew Braedon knelt behind her. “I love you. Laurel. Braedon’s dark eyes locked with hers and for a moment she hesitated. He guided their movements so that he and Ethan filled her simultaneously. she accepted him back into her life.120 Hard. further over Ethan. with mindless pleasure. Swallowing. Braedon’s finger slipped into her tight rosette and again she shuddered. holding her tight as Ethan’s mouth caressed down her neck and over her shoulder. Laurel didn’t care. too. moving over him again. Laurel was already inundated with erotic need. It didn’t take long. She closed her eyes and relaxed.
she wasn’t going to utter a word.” she said with a wink and a sly glance at Braedon. “I know you’ll be very happy in that household. Laurel smiled brightly up at her maid as Anne finished dressing her hair. simply held her tightly. The ring of truth touched her. . In the two days since Braedon and Ethan’s return. Laurel shivered at the thought. All that remained was to see to Catherine’s engagement to Mr. It was as honest as she’d ever seen Braedon. Braedon had formally asked for her hand in marriage. Ethan said he’d travel there beforehand. left her in Braedon’s arms. the man didn’t know how to stop gambling. When he did speak. of making love with them in the beautiful Italian countryside. Laurel didn’t know what had caused that. Worthington asked for Catherine’s hand. After they’d made love. with another whispered I love you. It was all too perfect. Braedon held an opposite view on many of her father’s laws. He hadn’t spoken at first. an odd knowing smile on her cheerful face. how he couldn’t live without her. Ethan kissed her gently and. had congratulated her with genuine happiness. It didn’t necessarily end Mr. he did so with a calmness that scared her more than his earlier fury had. Hill. Hayden’s troubles. Of swimming naked in the sea with her lovers. In fact. His fear not that she would have been killed while in Mr. from her understanding. Worthington. she’d sent a note round to Catherine promising an end to her troubles with Pierson Hill. it was simply a matter of time before Mr. They’d all have their happy ending. Laurel hoped this afternoon moved that prospective closer to a positive end. Braedon spoke of his love for her. and the contracts were even now being drawn up. Aunt Gwendolyn. How different her life would have been if she’d met with Mr. Braedon had already promised an extremely private villa on coastal Italy he planned to rent. he seemed pleased with both Braedon’s familial connections and his politics.121 Chapter Twenty-Three Happier than she ever thought she’d be. so as not to arouse suspicion. Laurel thought as she stood from the vanity seat. but so long as there was no opposition to her marriage. despite his insistence she marry a higher rank. But with Catherine’s virtue intact and the Hayden family’s reputation on shaky but non-scandalous ground. hadn’t objected when Braedon spoke to him. Hill’s house. stroking her hair. Her father. and Laurel knew that. but that she would never have been the same. Offering her body to that man would have altered her irrevocably.
The entire day felt happy and vivid. The door was already open. Pushing open the library door. she jumped from his hand. On the streets. she tiptoed inside and looked about for anyone. Gwendolyn planned to shop then meet some of her friends at Vauxhall Gardens. Street hawkers bartered good naturedly with customers. Lifting her skirts. Swallowing heavily. “Where’s Catherine?” she demanded. she danced from his reaching grasp. Her forehead bled. but Laurel had a horrible feeling she knew what had happened here. it looked as if this wasn’t the first decanter he drank today. Instead. and Laurel intended to enjoy every last minute of it.122 Climbing into the carriage with her aunt. She closed the door. The brightness of the day suddenly turned cold as Laurel looked at the ajar door. decanter of whiskey in one hand. The day was chilly but bright. creeping down the hallway. She’d pick Laurel up after tea. she was desperate to find a member of the household. He didn’t look anything other than angry and drunk. Afraid to alert whoever had forced the door. . “Get out!” he snapped. Clayton looked up. “Where’s Catherine?” she demanded. Clayton rose and grabbed her arm in a violent grip that would leave bruises. Bidding Aunt Gwendolyn a good afternoon. Laurel exited the carriage and made her way to the Haydens’ front door. Clayton stopped. Looking up. fashionably dressed couples enjoyed the spring day. “There’s no time for you today. “Catherine is occupied and can’t see you. not even Catherine herself greeted her. the click echoing unnaturally in the marbled foyer. She didn’t call out. Laurel licked her lips and ventured further into the house.” Yanking her arm from his grip. she pushed it open. louder. Clayton Hayden sat in a chair. though she wanted to. Laurel swallowed again. Laurel raised the shades to the windows and gazed outside as she listened to Gwendolyn’s happy chatter.” “Where’s Catherine?” she demanded again. No butler or maid. Down the hall. An angry drunk. hand outstretched at the sound. Catherine’s mother lay in a crumpled heap at his feet. Laurel yelped in surprise. porcelain against the hardwood floor. she searched in vain for a member of the staff. but from the doorway Laurel thought she still breathed. while children ran in happy circles around them. “Get out. she heard a crash. For Catherine.” Clayton slurred. He turned her and shoved her out the door. fear churning in her stomach. He snarled at her and tried to grab her again. heart pounding loudly in her ears.
Her only thought was to get to Catherine. “Catherine!” Laurel screamed to no avail. but Hill now knelt behind her. She tried the handles again. Banging open the doors to the music room. But Hill had seen her and she sprang to the nearest table. Inside.” Hill tossed her to the side as if she were nothing.123 “What have you done?” she cried. Running down the hall. but it was too late. but Hill was upon them. “And leave me what’s mine. or the man she assumed to be Hill given Clayton’s gambling debts. Before she could recover enough to move out of the way. Pierson Hill. Frozen in the doorway. but Laurel pushed herself off the floor and scrambled for Catherine. Still nothing. Laurel feared Catherine’s neck would snap. Her friend sobbed. Laurel threw it at him. Laurel looked around the room but it was too late. Racing from the library. pressed one knee into Catherine’s back. . Laurel whirled and tried the handle immediately. grabbing her shoulders and shaking her roughly away from Catherine. she grabbed a bronze urn on the side table and smashed it against the handle. The force of it sent her reeling backwards. What other debts had Hayden incurred that he allowed his wife to be bludgeoned and his daughter to be…Laurel refused to think further on that and skidded to a halt on the marbled floor. Frantic to find another means of defense. Pounding on the solid wood until her hands bruised. Laurel screamed for her friend. He’d locked them out. she looked about wildly for her friend. “Go back to fucking Sinclair. Her stomach dropped. heard a table crash to the floor and Hill’s cursing. she heard her cry out. struggling against the heavy man but it was no use. Her friend had made it to her knees. hating this had happened to Catherine. Laurel didn’t see Hill’s hand shoot out. pulling so hard on her hair. So focused on Catherine. even knowing it was useless. Hill yanked her by her own hair and forced her to stand. ripping the fine muslin to shreds. With all her strength. She hit it again and again. she followed the sound of struggles she could now clearly hear. Hill tore at Catherine’s gown. She tried to help her friend off the floor. The plate hit Hill square in the chest but seemed to have no effect on him. She ducked Hill’s grasping hands and all but fell to Catherine’s side. Laurel took only a moment to understand the scene. Hill tossed her out of the music room and slammed the doors behind her.” Hill snarled. that she couldn’t get to her friend. grabbing a china plate rimmed with gold.
the bright blaze of anger and vengeance. “What are you doing here?” she wondered. Worthington cradled the shaking woman tightly to his chest. dazed. as Ethan and Worthington rammed their shoulders to the door. Worthington. Following them in. Laurel saw Catherine still kneeling in the center of the floor. Laurel had hoped to spare her friend this horror. Hill moved first. Hill doubled over and Worthington straightened. He looked about the room. Apparently. Laurel raced forward to drag her out of the way as the two men fought. Catherine. She struggled. ready to intervene. What happened to have Hill here? She smashed the urn again and again against the handle. clutching her shredded gown to her chest. Worthington indeed needed no help. Laurel glanced at Ethan but he gazed steadily at Hill. and Mr. but Ethan held her back. still clutching the urn. Laurel looked up at him. Worthington kissed Catherine on the cheek and tenderly released her. Laurel watched them. . He set her to the side with a grim smile. Drawing her to him. In two quick strides that took him across the room before Laurel could fully comprehend what he planned to do. “Laurel!” Braedon’s hand fell over hers. the formerly quiet and retired Mr. and Laurel believed him. Guarding the door.124 When she’d agreed to take Catherine’s place. He moved directly for Catherine. how dare Clayton Hayden do nothing when his daughter was about to be raped. Mr. dazed. blurring her vision but Laurel continued to hit the door. Hill swung at him. She’d only ever seen that fire in Braedon’s eyes when they’d fought the previous day. Confused. wishing it was Hill’s head she could bash in rather than the lock. he confronted Hill. Fired burned there. When he’d been so angry over her willingness to take Catherine’s place and sleep with Hill. when she agreed to meet with Hill instead of Catherine. Worthington went through the door first. mouth bleeding. In case Hill tried to escape. Ethan stood there. Surprised. “Laurel!” Damn that man. looking wildly about the room and saw Braedon standing there. showing a side of him Laurel had never imagined existed. catching Laurel’s eyes briefly. but Worthington ducked and punched the other man in the stomach. Tears fell down her cheeks. still knelt in the center of their fight. his only concern. but one more look at Worthington and Laurel saw he needed no help. He grabbed the fireplace poker and swung it at Worthington. Both looked furious. Now that fire landed on Hill. swinging again and throwing Hill backwards. too. What happened? Braedon insisted he paid Hill off.
Without looking at him. helping her to stand. With both her husbands. meeting Ethan in Italy. she stood on tiptoes and kissed him. “She’ll stay with me. “Let Hayden deal with this mess. A comforting caress. for she looked in surprise at Worthington. Lady Laurel. And in a very short time. Worthington returned to Catherine. Regardless.125 The other man fell against the fireplace. She wouldn’t let her friend return to this repulsive household. brushing the hair from her face. lip still bleeding. He gathered her into his arms.” Laurel stepped forward. “Let’s go. Italy. smacking his head against the marble mantle.” Braedon stood next to her.” Worthington said. kissing her forehead. Laurel didn’t know if Hill was alive or dead. his death would never be held against them.” Worthington said. decisive. She squeezed Ethan’s hand. Worthington certainly wouldn’t hold that scandal against Catherine and soon she’d be safely married and away from her scoundrel of a father. “Did he hurt you terribly?” Worthington asked. “She’ll need to stay with you only until I can secure the proper marriage license. dress all but falling off her. Catherine looked numbly up at him and shook her head. Relief mingled with her happiness as Laurel watched. “Thank you. “We should leave. a large warm hand on her shoulder. Smiling. her earlier joy returning. releasing Laurel.” “I’m not leaving Catherine. she thought again.” That seemed to shock Catherine from her stupor. And she didn’t care.” Ethan said. The End . Hill crumpled to the floor and didn’t move. she and Braedon would be married.
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