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Authors: Serena Janes

Tags: #Contemporary, erotic romance


BOOK: CultOfTheBlackVirgin
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Table of Contents

Title Page

The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

To my mother, for teaching me to read.

Chapter One

Chapter Two

How could tomorrow possibly top this?

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Jo soon decided she couldn’t face dinner and drinks with the others. Not with her French lover sitting at the same table. When she’d calmed down enough to feel hunger, she raided her luggage for snacks, devouring all her emergency granola and chocolate bars. Food had never tasted so good, she thought.

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

She wasn’t coming.

About the Author

There’s a dark alter ego inside every woman. Celebrate yours.

Joanna Clifford just can’t say yes to a proposal of marriage from one of Seattle’s most desirable bachelors. And she doesn’t really know why. After running off to do some soul-searching, she finds herself traveling with a group of strangers in southwest France. But her companions don’t stay strangers for long, as she gains friends, enemies and a new lover—a French lover—whose passion ignites surprising forces in conservative Joanna.

Blame it on the Black Virgin of Rocamadour. Not only does she represent the darker forces of femininity—subversive, sexual forces—some women believe the Black Virgin grants sexual license. Jo joins the Cult of the Black Virgin, and is freed to indulge her lust for Lucien LaPlante, the charming athletic archaeologist who introduces her to the sensual pleasures of his culture. Taking the most thrilling ride of her life, Jo submits to him, discovering the joy of giving up control.

But lust is only temporary.

Isn’t it?

The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Cult of the Black Virgin

Copyright © 2013 Serena Janes

ISBN: 978-1-77111-517-9

Cover art by Carmen Waters

All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.

Published by eXtasy Books

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Cult of the Black Virgin


Serena Janes

To my mother, for teaching me to read.

Chapter One

It was perfectly clear to Joanna Clifford that she shouldn’t be allowed free run of the planet—she was too stupid.

I’ve been in France just over a week and look what I’ve done already!
She railed at herself as she slipped a nightgown carefully over the open skin of her scraped back and settled into bed with a pen and notebook. Her entire body hurt, she was over tired, and it was hard to get comfortable. But she needed time to think, and writing in her journal might help her sort out the mess in her head.

She opened her book and read the last entry, made early that morning.

June 18. I can’t say what will happen now. Everything’s changed. That’s what Luc was trying to tell me last night, and he’s right.

I’m afraid.

Especially of myself.

So why does it feel so good?

Joanna smiled. Everything had changed, all right. She had no idea who she was any more.

Then she began to write.

Ridiculously foolish mistakes made in the last week:

1 - rejecting marriage proposal from best catch in Pacific Northwest

2 - leaving best catch to come to southwest of France alone

3 - joining a cult

4 - taking a French lover

5 - feeling no regret for above actions. Whatsoever.

Still smiling, she paused and re-read what she’d just written. There was nothing more to say. All of a sudden her eyes wanted to close, so she shut her diary and gingerly reached to turn out the light. Her aching body needed sleep, although she knew her brain was in no state to cooperate.

She had done some very bad things, and wanted to think each one through. Being a stickler for organization, she began with the moment things got really dangerous—the moment she walked into the bar of the
Hotel Deux Rivieres

Three days earlier.

Conversations in mingled French and English seeped through the stone wall of the ladies’ room as Joanna assessed her puffy eyes in the mirror. She looked tired—she
tired—and didn’t particularly want to meet the group of strangers laughing in the bar next door. But she had to go out there. She was the last to arrive and they were all waiting for her.

Forcing herself to take some slow, deep breaths, she washed her hands, grateful that her eyes weren’t redder than they were. She’d been crying since she woke up that morning in her Paris hotel suite, her grim lover beside her in the opulent bed. She’d wept all the way to the train station as she tried one more time to tell him why she couldn’t accept his proposal. And she’d sniveled most of the way to Souillac, where she was now, buying some time to think about why she wasn’t ready to marry James. And when she might change her mind.

Leaving James to come to the Dordogne had been her own idea, and once she was away from him she suffered alternating bouts of guilt and elation.

But she was also relieved. Maybe she’d meet some nice people over the next week. She needed distractions, and making new friends would help her think about someone besides herself for a change.

The buzz in the crowded room softened to a murmur and all eyes turned to the latecomer as Jo finally made her entrance and walked up to the polished wooden bar. She was a little self-conscious as she felt so many people watching her, but this sort of thing happened all the time and she was almost used to it. Just as she was about to order a drink, a large man with dark hair wedged himself between her and the bartender, blocking everything else from her line of vision.

Annoyed, her first response was to tell him to back off. But before she could open her mouth she looked up into the eyes of the smiling stranger and felt the room suddenly grow smaller, quieter, and strangely dark around the edges.

An eternity passed in the space of two and a half seconds.

,” she managed to squeak out as she forced a brief smile. Clearly, he was French.

His smile fading, he extended his hand in greeting. Jo took it out of politeness, noticing it was very warm, then quickly let go.

Neither spoke as they studied each other. She couldn’t read what she saw in the stranger’s face. Was it disapproval? Confusion?

She opened her mouth to speak but was as tongue-tied as a fourteen-year-old.

Flushing, she managed to look away, heart hammering, feeling far too warm all of a sudden. The palms of her hands were sticky with sweat, her mouth dry.

The spell broken
she looked back she saw a wide smile on the man’s face.

Bonjour, Madame
. Please forgive my manners. I am very pleased to meet you. You are the lady who has joined our group at the last moment? Ms. Clifford, from the United States?”

Of course. The guide. That’s why he pounced on me the minute I walked in the room. He was waiting for me.

Forcing herself to meet his gaze again, she mumbled, “
Mais oui, monsieur
.” His eyes were a shockingly deep blue, unusual in such a dark complexion. Beautiful.

Tres bien!
My name is Lucien LaPlante, your guide for the next ten days. It will be my pleasure to show you this part of my country. I trust you’re looking forward to our travels together,
” His smile deepened and Jo felt her body turning into some sort of liquid.

“Um, please call me Jo, or Joanna,” she said, still staring, finding it difficult to breathe. She longed to escape. Hide. Jump on the train and run back to Paris. Coming here was a mistake.

Although he’d relinquished her hand, the expression in his eyes held her captive. She read a complex of emotions there, including amusement, as one eyebrow arched playfully.

“And you must call me Luc. You’ll be a most welcome addition to our little group, Joanna.” He slowly pulled his gaze away from hers and glanced around the room. “Everyone else is here. You can meet them now. But first, some wine.” He turned and motioned to the bartender.

Now that he’d released her, Jo could take a breath. Then another one. The last thing she wanted was to make small talk with a Frenchman who had the power to kill her composure with a simple quirk of an eyebrow. Her instinct was to bolt—even a five-minute reprieve would help her regain some dignity, she hoped, so she excused herself.

“Wine would be lovely, thank you. I’ll be back in just a moment,” she mumbled as she slid away to the ladies’ room, certain he was appraising her backside.

Once inside she yanked open the stall door, jammed the lock in place and slumped against the wall, rocking the back of her head against the rough stones.

Her heart was still pounding in her ears and her breath came in short bursts. She entertained a ridiculous desire to run upstairs and hide in her room. Instead, she knew she had to go back out there and play nice.

But based on what she recognized in Luc’s eyes, she knew that playing nice for ten days might be impossible.

Ten minutes later found Jo back at the bar, Luc guarding her glass of wine.

“I think I’m ready to meet my new best friends now,” she said with a controlled little smile as she took the glass from him, careful to avoid looking into his eyes or touching his fingers. For the moment, at least, she was composed enough to keep her expression neutral and her voice even as he introduced her to the other members of the group.

Paris had been pretty much a disaster. James was left angry and embarrassed and Jo felt terrible, too, but for different reasons. Early that morning, as they packed their bags to go their separate ways, she tried to talk to him.

“Please don’t worry about me, sweetheart. I really do need this time away and I’ll be fine on my own,” she said as she watched him lock his suitcase, controlled fury in every move he made.

“And it’s not like I’ll be alone, anyway. I’m sure there will be ten or twenty other people on this tour, so I’ll be perfectly safe,” she said with a forced brightness.

James didn’t even glance at her as checked his smart phone for messages.

“And when I come home I’ll have my head together and we can plan our future.”

Having nothing to distract him any longer, James finally looked at the woman who was threatening to break his heart. He spoke slowly. “Fine. As I’ve already said, if that’s what you want, then that’s fine.”

be fine
once I get a chance to think things through. It’s just that I was so unprepared. I really didn’t see this coming.”

Jo fought hard to sound sincere, but she was lying, a little. When James had invited her to Paris for a week, she suspected a marriage proposal might be part of the package. But she didn’t want to rush into anything. She was having too much fun.

BOOK: CultOfTheBlackVirgin
8.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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