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Authors: Juliana Ross

Improper Relations

BOOK: Improper Relations
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Improper Relations
By Juliana Ross

Dorset 1858

When Hannah’s caught watching her late husband’s cousin
debauch the maid in the library, she’s mortified—but also intrigued. An unpaid
companion to his aunt, she’s used to being ignored.

The black sheep of the family, Leo has nothing but his good
looks and noble birth to recommend him. Hannah ought to be appalled at what
she’s witnessed, but there’s something about Leo that draws her to him.

When Leo claims he can prove that women can feel desire as
passionately as men, Hannah is incredulous. Her own experiences have been
uninspiring. Yet she can’t bring herself to refuse his audacious proposal when
he offers to tutor her in the art of lovemaking. As the tantalizing, wicked
lessons continue, she begins to fear she’s losing not just her inhibitions, but
her heart as well. The poorest of relations, she has nothing to offer Leo but
herself. Will it be enough when their erotic education ends?

22,000 words

Dear
Reader,

April is a bit of a mixed-bag month, isn’t it? In
some countries, like here in the United States, it’s tax season, which for
many is either a very stressful time or a time of “Hurray! Tax-return money
arrives!” We also get Easter weekend, which comes with days off for some.
April is also the month where we finally (hopefully) really start seeing the
change of seasons from winter to spring, let out a long breath and kick our
children outdoors for longer periods of time (surely it’s not just me who
does that?).

So I guess it’s only appropriate that our releases
this month are also a mixed bag. Carina Press is able to bring you an
assortment of titles to help bust you out of any lingering winter blues. The
month starts off with a smokin’-hot bang via Abby Wood’s erotic contemporary
cowboy romance
Consent to Love.
Joining her in the first week of April are Sandy
James with her contemporary romance
Rules of the Game,
and Regency romance
The Perfect Impostor
by Wendy Soliman.

Also in the contemporary romance genre in April we
have
His Secret Temptation
by Cat Schield,
Serious Play
by Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon, and
North of Heartbreak
by Julie Rowe. Historical romance author M.K.
Chester joins the April lineup with
Surrender to the Roman,
and Juliana Ross heats up the Victorian era with
erotic historical romance
Improper Relations.
Returning with three more books in her White
series is author Susan Edwards.

Talented Natalie J. Damschroder returns with
another crowd-pleasing romantic suspense,
Acceptable Risks.
And if you love that book, make sure you check
out her previous romantic suspense,
Fight or Flight,
from our 2011 release schedule!

For those of you who prefer your romance a bit
more…otherworldly, Kaylea Cross’s
Darkest Caress
is a paranormal romance of magical races, darkly
handsome men and fiercely independent women. Ella Drake takes us to her
vision of our post-apocalyptic world in
Desert Blade,
and new Carina Press author Kay Keppler’s
Zero Gravity Outcasts
takes readers on a science-fiction adventure with
a hint of romance. Fans of male/male romance should be on the lookout for
Brook Street: Fortune Hunter
, the next in author Ava March’s regency
historical trilogy.

Last, but certainly not least, we’re very pleased
to present debut author Christopher Beats’s steampunk noir
Cruel Numbers
this month. Visit Christopher’s alternate
historical world in which the North loses the War of Southern Secession, one
girl’s talent for analytical machines has made her a valuable asset in the
new world, and steam-powered gadgets may give war veteran Donovan Schist the
edge he needs to save his life, and hers.

I think April’s schedule of releases is a good
reason to wish for just one more snow day—so you can stay inside and read! I
hope you enjoy these books as much as we have.

We love to hear from readers, and you can email us
your thoughts, comments and questions to
[email protected]
. You can also interact with Carina Press staff
and authors on our blog, Twitter stream and Facebook fan page.

Happy reading!

~Angela James
Executive Editor, Carina
Press

www.carinapress.com
www.twitter.com/carinapress
www.facebook.com/carinapress

Dedication

To my sister Kate, who believed in me
from the start.

Acknowledgments

I’d like to thank everyone who helped me
on
my journey from aspiring to published writer. To the delightful people at Carina Press, in particular my editor Deb Nemeth, thank you for making this journey just as fun as I had always dreamed it would be.

To my dear friends Jane, Kelly F., Kelly W. and Liz, thank you for your canny and inspired suggestions, as well as your regular pep talks and deliveries of Crema coffee. You kept me going
on
many a dispiriting day!

To my sister Kate, thank you for being my most devoted (and relentless) cheerleader. I couldn’t have written it without you.

Most of all, I want to thank my husband and children, who put up with me when I was lost in the world of Hannah and Leo, and never once complained that we were having scrambled eggs for dinner
again.
The three of you are everything to me.

Chapter One

Bexington Hall
Weymouth, Dorset
1858

The library was my sanctuary, my refuge. It was always quiet there. So quiet that the click of the door opening and closing, then the hiss of footfalls on the plush Turkey carpet, sounded as loud as artillery fire in my consciousness.

Who had come to invade my solitude? I half rose from my seat, set aside the stocking I was darning and peered over the scrolling ironwork of the gallery railing. The interloper was stretched out in a wingback chair drawn at right angles to the fireplace, his booted feet propped up on the brass fender. I didn’t have to see his face to know who it was.

Lord Alfred Frederick Leopold Wraxhall. Second son of the Marquess of Dorchester. The wastrel younger brother who’d never done a lick of work in his life and would never amount to anything, at least if one listened to his parents.

While his given name was Alfred, he’d always been known as Leo.

Cousin Leo to me, but not my cousin. Not my anything.

I’d met him for the first time on my wedding day, when he and his siblings had been introduced as my new cousins. I’d been all of twenty, in awe of my husband’s grand relations; Leo had been a boy of fifteen, just beginning to grow into the man he would become.

Then as now, he lived in his brother’s shadow. Arthur, so fair and noble and perfect in every way. Arthur, the apple of his parents’ eye, the brother who never failed to please them, who always conformed, who always behaved. Who looked at me as if I were something he’d scraped off the sole of his boot.

Leo, on the other hand, was interesting. He was intelligent and funny and always had a kind word for everyone. He had beautiful golden-brown hair that curled when he let it grow too long, was half a head taller than his brother, had not an ounce of fat on his fit, lean body and had a dimple in one cheek when he smiled, which was often.

He also drank too much and gambled too much, raced his horses where he oughtn’t and consorted with the wrong sort of women. He’d left university after only two terms, refused to buy a commission in any of the fashionable regiments, and fell asleep on those rare occasions when he could be convinced to attend church. He was, predictably, the despair of his family.

I’d watched him for years, had been half in love with him for nearly that long. But he’d never seemed to see me, not properly. If I were in the room, his gaze always seemed to slide past me, as if I were a mere shadow. Or a nonentity, which in truth I was. Why should he pay me the slightest wisp of attention, after all? Dissolute and profligate he might well be, but he was still the son of a marquess—while I was the plain, poor, insignificant widow of his cousin.

If only Charles hadn’t been so deeply in debt when he died. If only my parents had been living. If only I’d had somewhere else to go, or some friend who might have helped. But there had been no one, and after Charles’s debts had been settled, I’d been left with nothing. So I’d gone to Lady Dorchester and begged for help.

She was a kind woman, had even instructed that I call her Aunt Augusta. But I received no wages for my work as her lady’s companion, nothing apart from my room and board. I was beneath her, dependent for every crumb that passed my lips. She knew it, and I knew it. I didn’t hate her for it—I was grateful, truly I was—but it galled me.

I stared at Leo hungrily, wondering why he had come to the library. No one ever came here, for the Dorchesters were not a reading family. Day after day, year after year, the books remained unopened, their pages uncut. And the library itself was undisturbed, apart from the whispered footfalls of the maids who swept out the grate each morning, laid and kindled the fire and twice a week stayed for another hour to dust and polish.

Just then, a feminine giggle told me that someone else had entered the library. It was Ida, one of the maids. She had worked at Bexington Hall for as long as I’d been here. Not one of the young ones; I would say she was in her late twenties. Pretty enough, with a jolly, round face, dimpled cheeks and ringleted blond hair that always seemed to be escaping the confines of her cap.

Perhaps she’d come to dust; perhaps it had been overlooked that morning. But she’d brought no rags with her, nor any polish.

Cousin Leo spoke, his voice so low that his words evaporated before I could catch them. The maid went back to the door and turned the key in the lock. Then she returned to stand before him, a bold smile on her face.

I’ll never forget my amazement at what she did next. Dropping to her knees, she reached out and unbuttoned the fall of his trousers. Rather than smack her hands away or rebuke her, as any decent person would have done, he merely smiled. Smiled and let his head loll against the burnished leather wing of the chair back.

She undid the buttons that secured his braces to his trousers, and with his help she pulled them lower, exposing the linen of his smallclothes. Those, too, she unfastened.

It could not be happening—nothing in my limited sphere of knowledge or philosophy could have prepared me for this—but it must be possible, for I was watching it happen.

I cowered in my hiding place, some fifteen feet above them on the gallery that ringed the library’s upper level. And I wrestled with my conscience.

I knew I ought to cry out, alert them to my presence in some way, for my continued silence was reprehensible. It would be mortifying, for they would know I’d witnessed something illicit between them. But it must be done. I resolved to clear my throat.

But Ida, knowing nothing of my deliberations, didn’t wait for me to make my presence known. Instead, she reached into Cousin Leo’s smallclothes and drew out his member. The sight of it was startling, for it was the first erect penis I had ever seen. My late husband had always worn a nightshirt on those nights when he came to me, and he had always doused the lights.

I had felt one, of course, though not with my hand, only with the delicate skin of my inner thighs, which my husband had rubbed against most avidly before pushing inside me. I’m not sure how I would have reacted had Charles ever asked me to touch him there. Probably I would have done as he asked, for I’d known it was my duty as his wife to submit to his wishes.

Curiously enough, Ida appeared to be enjoying herself. Her smile had not diminished; quite the contrary. She’d begun to stroke his member with her right hand, smoothing up and down the length of it firmly, while her other hand delved into his smallclothes. At this he lifted his hips from the chair, enough to allow her to pull his trousers even lower, and I could see that she grasped the sac that hung below his member, and was squeezing it tenderly.

He was definitely enjoying her ministrations, for I could hear him groan now and again. He muttered something to her, a word or two only, but she said nothing in return. Instead she bent forward and licked the end of his member, which was swollen and a dark purplish-red that was ever so much darker than the pale, freckled skin of her hand. She licked it once, twice, and I thought I heard her laugh again.

Then she licked up and down its length several times, giggling all the while, her hand squeezing the lower part of it, keeping up the mysterious rhythm she had established.

He seemed impatient, his mouth pulled into a grimace, and after a minute or so he took her head and pushed it toward his lap. The frill of her cap obscured my view for a moment, so it was only when she drew back that I realized she had taken him in her mouth. She pulled back, her lips pursed tightly, then moved forward, again and again. All the while his hand lay on the crisp, starched linen of her cap, encouraging her, pushing her when she began to flag.

I was nearly thirty years old, had once been married, and I’d never known, never suspected, that a woman could do such a thing to a man.

It was the most fascinating, appalling,
thrilling
act I had ever witnessed.

And it was making me quite unwell. My pulse was racing, I’d begun to perspire though I hadn’t moved for many minutes, and the oddest kind of ache had taken up residence deep within me. I felt restless and languid and, oddly enough, hungry for something—but what it was, I couldn’t tell. Perhaps I ought to have eaten more at luncheon.

He seemed to be reaching some kind of crisis, and at this I felt a flicker of recognition, for my husband used to grunt and groan atop me in such a way, moments before experiencing whatever men felt when having conjugal relations with their wives. But what would happen to the seed when Cousin Leo reached that point? Surely he wouldn’t deposit it in Ida’s mouth.

Evidently he wasn’t interested in such a conclusion, for he spun her around and pointed her toward a heavy oak table to the left of the fireplace. It was difficult to see what they were doing, for they had their backs to me now, but he was shoving her forward, making her bend over the table, which was a good three feet deep and about the same height as her hips.

He threw her skirts up over her back and reached beneath them, pushing her legs apart with one knee. And then he grasped his member, pushed it between her legs, between the open crotch of her drawers, and she gasped as he thrust all the way into her.

His left hand held her waist, keeping her still as he moved in and out, while with his right hand, which had delved under the front of her skirts, he appeared to be tickling her in some way. Ida moaned and wriggled and clutched at the far edge of the tabletop, her fingernails skittering across its polished surface as he rutted against her.

He was thrusting ever faster, ever harder, setting the table to shaking with the vigor of his movements. His hands were on her hips now, pulling her toward him as he rammed into her. With a guttural moan, he drove forward, ground himself into her bottom, then fell atop her prone form.

Neither moved for at least a minute. Nor did I, for my astonishment at the entire episode had acted as a paralytic of some kind, rendering me incapable of anything beyond the simple act of taking a breath, and even that was laborious.

Before I’d even begun to recover, I heard Ida giggle again, followed by the sound of skirts being shaken out and straightened. I opened my eyes, which I’d shut for a moment’s respite, and was surprised to see Cousin Leo helping Ida to restore her cap, though it was sadly crumpled and would never pass muster if Aunt Augusta were to catch sight of it.

Aunt Augusta—she would wake soon! Had the clock in the hall rung in the past few minutes? I’d never be able to explain my absence if she woke from her afternoon nap and I were not at her side.

He was saying goodbye to Ida, whispering something to her. Her smile brightened, and she made a quick curtsey before unlocking the door and slipping into the hall. With any luck he’d follow her soon, and I could make my escape.

Long seconds dragged by as he tidied himself, restoring his garments to order. Smoothed his hair. Stretched his arms wide, sighed heavily. And then he walked to the sideboard, which stood directly beneath my hiding place, poured something from one of its row of crystal decanters, and returned to the chair where he’d been sitting when Ida came in.

He took a sip of his brandy or whiskey or whatever vile spirit a man might drink after debauching one of his family’s maidservants, stretched out his legs and crossed his ankles. Then he spoke.

“Good afternoon, Cousin Hannah. Care to join me for a drink?”

BOOK: Improper Relations
13.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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