Authors: Michelle McMaster
Tags: #Historical, #Romance, #Fiction, #Regency, #Victorian, #London Society, #England, #Britain, #19th Century, #Adult, #Forever Love, #Bachelor, #Single Woman, #Hearts Desire, #Mayfair Ball, #Scandalous Embrace, #Reputation, #Courtesan Club, #Pledged To Another, #Exclusive Courtesan, #Destiny, #Years Later, #Second Chances
His Courtesan Bride
Brides of Mayfair
His Courtesan Bride
Copyright © 2016 by Michelle McMaster
Digital Edition ISBN: 978-0-9947817-6-5
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission in writing from the author.
This book is a work of fiction. The characters, events, and places portrayed in this book are products of the author’s imagination and are either fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Cover Art by The Killion Group, Inc.
Digital Formatting by Author E.M.S.
Table of Contents
“Don’t you know how dangerous it is for you to be seen with me?” a sinful voice whispered in Serena’s ear.
Strong, masculine hands slid around her waist and pulled her flush against him in a dark corner of the dimly lit gardens. The heat of Darius’ body penetrated through the delicate fabric of Serena’s ivory silk ball gown, a heady contrast to the cool, summer night air that danced around them.
“Of course I do,” she managed to whisper. He was right. This was dangerous business, indeed—for both of them.
If they were discovered like this, in such a compromising position, all hell would break loose. Of course, Serena herself stood to lose the most if their forbidden liaison were discovered. But at times like this, that fact seemed dreadfully unimportant.
Warm lips touched Serena’s neck just below her ear, making gooseflesh erupt upon her skin.
“Then why did you come?” he demanded.
Serena gasped as his hands slid upward over the bodice of her gown, claiming her breasts as if it was his right. If he had been her husband, it would be his right to touch her so intimately. If he had been her fiancé, even. But Darius, Lord Kane—famous war hero and leading bachelor of the Marriage Mart—was neither of those things to Serena.
She tried to reply, but gasped as deft fingers teased her nipples to achingly hard points.
“You know why,” she said, hearing the edge in her voice.
It was a game they played. They both knew the answers to such questions. Yet they asked them, regardless.
“For this?” His warm, wicked mouth burned a trail of hot kisses over her throat and shoulders. Serena leaned her head back against his hard chest, turning her head to give him more access to her tender skin.
“And this?” He quickly loosened the laces at the back of her gown, pulling at the whisper-thin fabric.
Serena shivered helplessly as Darius bared her skin to the night, biting her lip as he slowly palmed her breasts. As her lover pleasured her with his hands, Serena gazed through half-lidded eyes at the opulent manor house in the distance. Golden light spilled out of the tall French windows onto the terrace and courtyard below.
Somewhere inside, mingling with the other guests was Serena’s mother, Lady Ransom. Over these past months of the Season, Lady Ransom had coached her daughter well in the tricks and subterfuge necessary to snag a worthy husband. She had taught her to seduce with dancing eyes and a carefree manner. Serena had learned to wield her remarkable beauty as a warrior wields a sword, with purpose and without quarter.
What would Lady Ransom say if she could see her daughter now, engaged in a dangerous dalliance in the sanctuary of the gardens below?
She would admonish her most sternly, Serena knew.
But what her mother didn’t know was that Serena had been meeting Lord Kane for clandestine trysts just like this for weeks, now.
Each time, Darius teased and tempted Serena a little further in their wicked game. Such profound pleasure could not be too much of a sin, Serena thought—not when the man in question would be making an offer of marriage before long.
Now she stood in the darkened gardens of Telford House, Serena’s fancy gown sliding further down past her shoulders. Lord Kane used his mouth to rain tantalizing kisses down her back. Serena moaned in pleasure, clutching the silk bodice to her chest in an effort to cover herself.
In one smooth movement, Darius spun her to face him. Excitement coursed through her veins at his masterful movement. He was the war hero of Waterloo—strong, capable, and used to getting his way.
This was part of their little game, too. Even in this low light, she could see the unmistakable passion in his eyes. Passion that glowed and burned for her.
Serena still clutched the flimsy fabric to her chest with one hand. The other had reached out and grabbed onto Darius`s sleeve for balance as he`d quickly turned her.
“I’ll rip that gown to shreds if you don’t let go your hold upon it,” he warned.
Serena gasped. “You wouldn’t.”
“I would,” he replied with a mischievous grin, and she knew he was toying with her. “Your body is too beautiful to keep covered up. If you were my wife, I would pleasure you night after night in my bed, and you would be quite naked indeed. You’d never want to leave.”
Serena felt her knees weaken at the thought. The wicked truth of the matter was that she would like nothing more than to live exactly as Darius described.
A shiver ran over her skin as she imagined all the things Darius would do to her if she were legally bound to him. If she guessed correctly, she would soon find out. Lord Kane wanted her as his wife. He’d all but said so. Theirs would be the most passionate union London had ever seen.
A year from now, she would be the Countess of Kane, wife of the handsome war hero, and her perfect life would be everything she always dreamed….
Becoming a Courtesan is never the first choice for a woman…which is a pity, for once they take up the vocation, most women wonder why they didn’t do it sooner.”
–from Memoirs of a Courtesan, by Lady Night
Two Years Later
Serena ran her hands over the shimmering gold gown that hugged her trim figure, and felt her pulse quicken at the excitement of the evening. The exquisite silk fabric had been sent from Paris at exceptional cost. Nothing but the best would do for London’s newest courtesan.
Lady Devlyn’s French maid, Giselle, had spent two hours arranging Serena’s thick, auburn hair into an intricate and beguiling design. A strand of pearls wove throughout the tresses, and one bouncing curl dangled enticingly between Serena’s shoulder blades. As a final touch, the maid dusted Serena’s bare skin with a shimmering powder, fine as fairy dust.
“What is that?” Serena had asked, intrigued.
The maid smiled as she dusted the soft powder puff over Serena’s cleavage, which rose above the scandalously low neckline of her gown. “Zis is magic powder,” Giselle replied in her thick accent. “Eet gives zee skin a delicious glow, and will make zee men want to touch it, you see. But you will not let zem. Eet will drive zem wild!”
Serena gazed about Lady Devlyn’s opulent dressing room and took a deep breath. The walls were covered in pale pink silk, the floor with a rare white Abyssinian carpet. Furnishings of mahogany, cherry-wood and polished brass complimented a pale marble floor. The rest of the house was as luxuriously decorated. Priceless tapestries, paintings and marble busts further adorned one of the most expensive residences in Mayfair.
Serena had come a long way from the terrible scandal of the Telford Ball, and the subsequent loss of her mother.
After those dark days, meeting Lady Devlyn had been one of the most fortuitous events of Serena’s life. Lady D—who also used the professional name of Lady Night—had passed on her wisdom to Serena, Felicity and Bliss, and what they had learned from her was much more than simply how to become a skilled courtesan.
Lady Devlyn had taught the girls how to be confident in a man’s world, how to pursue pleasure and enjoy decadence without apologies, and most importantly, how to guard your heart against the power of a man’s seduction.
“‘To thine own self be true,’” Lady Devlyn had said, quoting Shakespeare’s
. “If you follow this adage, my dears, you will never be disappointed. Especially where men are concerned.”
Their training had included everything from reading the entire works of Shakespeare and selections from the Classics, to an illuminating book called the Kama Sutra. Serena smiled as she remembered the look on Bliss’ face when she gazed at the illustrations in that ancient text. Not only had it provided instruction on the physical pleasures of their new vocation, it also had an entire chapter dedicated to the life of a courtesan.
Serena had read that particular chapter three times.
Along with advice on managing one’s finances, the Kama Sutra provided tips for choosing a suitable man, but warned of becoming too attached to just one. Instead, it encouraged the courtesan to pursue sexual pleasure as a means of spiritual development. And if a man chose to give you expensive gifts along the way, it was most prudent to accept them.
Lady D had also insisted on other, unorthodox training such as fencing, how to shoot a pistol, and even martial arts practiced in the Far East. During one particular lesson, Lady D had entertained them with an exciting story about one of her exploits deep inside Peking’s Forbidden City which featured herself, the Emperor of China, and a band of deadly, black-clad warriors. “One can never be too prepared,” Lady D had said as she demonstrated how she fought them off, “for whatever situation might arise.”
In an effort to better understand the sensual skills they would learn, Serena, Bliss and Felicity also studied human anatomy, which they found wickedly fascinating. But sensuality alone did not a courtesan make. That was only one aspect of their allure.
“A Courtesan is, above all, the epitome of independence,” Lady Devlyn explained, “in thought, in passion, as well as in matters of finance. The education I bestow upon you now will cultivate all of these things in your hearts and minds.”
The Courtesan Club—as they liked to call themselves—had arrived at Lady D’s Mayfair mansion a few days prior to the exclusive soiree that would mark Serena’s debut. In the year that she, Felicity and Bliss had lived at Hargrove Park, Lady D had also taught them how to dress… “
so that a man cannot take his eyes off you, how to speak so that a man cannot forget you, and how to indulge in the most wicked pleasures without making the mistake of falling in love
That last part was probably the most invaluable lesson of all, Serena thought. She had made that mistake before with Darius, and she’d be damned if she did something so foolish again.