Authors: Colleen Shannon
Tags: #Historical Romance, #Love Story, #Regency Romance, #Hellfire Club, #Bodice Ripper, #Romance
|Surrender The Night|
|Colleen Shannon (2014)|
|Tags:||Historical Romance, Love Story, Regency Romance, Hellfire Club, Bodice Ripper, Romance|
The real Hellfire Club, the secret society formed by roues and cads in London of the early 1800's...
Devon attends the dissolute club because he's curious about the legendary beauty being auctioned off that night. The minute he claps eyes on Katrina, he recognizes her as the only woman who's ever scorned his advances.
He duels to win her.
However, Devon thinks she's a kept woman, and does not realize she's innocent until too late. Because he's an earl and she's a baker's granddaughter,
he will only keep her as his mistress.
While he seduces her into his arms and steals into her heart, she has a spine of iron and too much pride to remain his kept woman, especially when she finds out she's pregnant.
Knowing this will tie her to him forever and she could even lose the child to him, she flees into a very uncertain future.
It is his selfish treatment of her that will be his making because when she leaves, he realizes too late that not only does he passionately love her, he faces a very lonely future without her. He moves heaven and earth to find her...
and will go through hell to win her back.
If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”
SURRENDER THE NIGHT
A Jove Book / published by arrangement with the author
Jove edition / July 1992
All rights reserved.
Copyright © 1992 by Colleen Shannon.
This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part, by mimeograph or any other means, without permission. For information address; The Berkley Publishing Group, 200 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016.
Jove Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group, 200 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016.
The name “JOVE” and the “J” logo are trademarks belonging to Jove Publications, Inc.
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
To Jason and Devon Jeske, my own two little heroes, with love.
‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
—The Holy Bible,
‘When lovely woman stoops to folly.
And finds too late that men betray. What charm can soothe her melancholy? What art can wash her guilt away?”
“An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog”
Awareness returned slowly
to Katrina Lawson. Blackness. Constriction. Suffocation. It seemed a bottomless well had swallowed her, or ... a coffin. The burring in her ears quieted until she heard sounds other than her own heartbeat. Voices. Dripping water. Her gusting breaths slowed. She was not alone, entombed alive as in her nightmares.
Relief was short-lived as she realized two things: why she couldn’t move, and who had brought her here. Oh God, now she knew why the tea he’d insisted on fixing her had tasted bitter.
Katrina strained at her bonds. To be trapped, used and discarded like a soiled handkerchief … She’d fought too hard, suffered too much to keep her self-respect. When her struggles tightened the silken cords, she went still and listened.
“My offering is a worthy vessel, quality in face and form, though not in birth. I shall display her to you all very shortly. You’ve never seen hair so gold, or eyes so blue,” Viscount Sutterfield bragged.
The past three lonely years had taught her to depend upon no one but herself. After her father’s death she’d gone in and quickly out of a succession of households, her dismissal each time owing more to her looks than her ability. That she neither sought nor wanted masculine attention didn’t signify to the worried mothers and wives. They sent her on with lackluster recommendations, forcing her to accept work where she found it, no matter the dispositions of the males in the households.
Exactly so had she met Sutterfield. The son of her last employer, he’d lulled her, at first, with friendly smiles. She’d hoped that finally she wouldn’t have to bolt her door at
night and avoid dark corridors—until he accosted her one day in the salon, proving he was like the rest. His prudish mother happened upon their embrace. She believed her son’s tale of Katrina’s flirtation and dismissed Katrina without a character. Katrina had subsisted on her meager savings until, a few weeks ago, she’d finally found an old harridan so disliked that she’d been desperate for a companion. She’d hired Katrina despite her lack of references.
Now it seemed all her struggles had been for naught. If Sutterfield had been describing her a minute ago, she could think of only one reason for his fulsomeness. She owed her uncertain existence the past few years to men such as Sutterfield.
Her thoughts s
hied away from the first and only enjoyable position she’d lost because of a man. She’d sent him away, and part of her had regretted it ever after. But rake though he was, even he had not stooped to kidnapping.
After Sutterfield explicitly extolled her beauty, other men gave raucous calls of “Let’s see the ware!” and “By Jove, take that dashed hood off!”
“All in good time, gentlemen, in the proper place during the ceremony,” Sutterfield replied.
Katrina stiffened with dread at the word
. All Londoners knew of the existence of the respectable clubs, like the Dilettanti, who shared a love for travel. But clubs devoted to debauchery, like the old Hellfire Club, had no purpose in a modem society, she’d believed. Thus she’d dismissed the recent newspaper accounts of a new club that had arisen devoted to the ‘ ‘worship of feminine pulchritude,” as the
had coyly put it. The article had then gone on to hint of the vile ceremonies performed there and the use of innocent girls by men masked as mythological figures. Several members of the lords were rumored to be involved in this club, which the
named as the Grotto of the Satyr Society. After reading the article, she’d thrown the paper down in disgust, not believing the
would devote space to such drivel.
Now she wished she’d paid more heed. Her panicked thoughts set
tled to hard fury. Virtue had bought her misery perhaps, but at her choice. She’d not lose it now to a worm like Sutterfieldr while she had breath to fight. Hooded, cloaked, and bound though she might be, she was not helpless. Men didn’t expect a beautiful woman to be clever; they’d soon learn otherwise. Sutterfield first. Swallowing her revulsion, she quietened her chaotic thoughts to listen. She’d need all her wits to escape.
“Lord Pan, I salute you! May this vestal offering make me worthy to join your revelry.”
Katrina heard the rustle of clothing and deduced that Sutterfield had knelt before someone.
“Is the grotto sealed?” asked a voice Katrina didn’t recognize.
“Like a locked door that awaits only thy great key, O mighty Pan, to open for the pleasure of us all.”
“Display thy offering,” Pan ordered.
Soft footsteps approached. Katrina had been propositioned and importuned too many times in the past years, sometimes obscenely, for the meaning of the exchange to escape her. She began to shake, fear and fury battling within her.
Hands fumbled at her waist, untying the cords holding her to the wooden bench. She was hauled to her feet, where she swayed, her hands bound behind her, her ankles tied together. The hands then went to her hood, loosed it, and ripped it off.
Cool air and blinding light assailed her at the same time. She savored both, breathing deeply and blinking, uncaring of the male gasps of pleasure. Moisture still glimmered in her large, slightly slanted eyes. The blazing chandelier illuminated the unusual peacock-blue color ornamented by thick, dark, and curling lashes.
If the eyes were the windows of the soul, Katrina’s so
ul was both pure and courageous. Diminutive she might be, but she stood straight, her chin high, her gaze clear and steady as she looked about. Her oval face was cameo perfect, her cheekbones high and delicate, her nose small and finely modeled. Her complexion was smooth and pale as Devonshire cream, tinted with strawberries at cheeks and lips. She would have had the face of an angel, but for that mouth. Wide, full, sensual, it both reassured and aroused the men, proving she was not only real, but all too human. She was an unschooled but promising temptress, strong yet weak, selfish yet magnanimous, wise yet reckless.
One last quality, blatant and untempered, was conveyed by that mouth: determination. Though she trembled, her mouth stayed unwavering, willful. It sat atop her pointed, obstinate chin like an unconquered peak, taunting every man present to seize it and claim it for his own. Her thick hair, loosening from its prim bun, capped her astonishing beauty like a heavy golden crown. It shimmered with highlights, brown, red, and every shade of gold devised by artist or Creator.
Escape her only imperative, Katrina ignored the hungry stares and looked about. Her heart pounded harder. She was in a cavernous, stone-lined room evidently close to the Thames, for water dripped down the walls. The stench of the polluted river was not disguised by the incense issuing obscenely from the satyr figurine burners behind the stage. The oval-shaped room had been painted to simulate a grotto. Romantic it was not, however. Every boulder, every cave formation, from stalactite piercing down to meet stalagmite thrusting up, was painted to resemble two human forms in the act of copulation. Naked statues of cavorting gods and goddesses were strategically placed and lit, making the room seem a favorite trysting place for the gods.
Which was exactly what it was for these men who thought themselves divine. She glanced at the score of seated men masked as mythological figures and night creatures. The feel of their eyes made her skin crawl, and she looked quickly away. Her cheeks burning with contempt and embarrassment, she skimmed the room again, but could see no exit. She forced her attention back to the brightly illumined, red-carpeted platform, to the two men proceeding with this mockery of a religious ceremony.
“She is doubtless not as young as some of your offerings, but have you ever had a fairer one?” Sutterfield asked, preening.
‘ ‘Not of face, perhaps. But there is more to a woman.
Pan’s words seeped into the ambience, foul and insidious as the dripping water.
Katrina knew what would happen as Sutterfield reached out. She stayed still and submissive until he came close enough.
When he reached around to unfasten her hands, she swooped down and latched onto his wrist like a rabid dog, putting all her fear and hatred into the bite. Despite his howling and struggling she didn’t let go until he boxed her ears with his free hand. When he backed off a step and tied his handkerchief about his bleeding wrist, she spat the residue of his blood into his face, then wiped her lips off on her shoulder.
Appreciative chuckles rippled through the audience.
Their humor fanned her ire. She turned her scornful gaze from Sutterfield’s furious face to the membership. “So, my fine lords, your estates, your mistresses, your horses, your cards, and your drinking are not sufficient amusement. You must needs make sport of those less fortunate than yourselves who wish only to be left alone—”
“Silence!” Pan roared. “The unholy ceremony is to be interrupted by no one!”
The watching men leaned forward in their chairs like leashed hounds straining after a bitch in heat. Her spirit, far from shaming them, seemed to have whetted their interest. She looked back at Pan, who was eyeing her sternly from his seat on the great red throne capped with goat horns. Very well, these men truly lacked human decency. But one characteristic they had in surplus: pride. That, surely, would be easy to wound. Wound it enough, and they might even let her go.
She tailored her snide smile after every lady who’d ever snubbed her. “Not even if it’s based on a lie?” she asked softly, She felt Sutterfield’s ominous stillness, for he knew that tone in her voice.
“Huh? What’s that you say?” Pan demanded.
“This, er, novitiate”^—she looked Sutterfield up and down—“is perpetrating a falsehood upon you all by foisting me off as a virgin.” Deliberately she paused, letting the suspense build, before concluding casually, “I’ve been his mistress for the past quarter and more.” She looked down to hide her satisfaction at the angry rumblings of the membership.
Sutterfield sputtered, “But ... but that’s not true! I offered her my protection, but she refused.”
How she hated that word. It conjured up memories of the first man who’d made a mockery of its definition when he offered it to her. The thought bolstered her determination. “Toby, why didn’t you give me my conge instead of ending our . . . association in such a way? Wasn’t what we shared worth more than this?”
His wide brow gleaming with sweat, Sutterfield looked at Pan, who was conferring with his attendant, a man in a homed-owl mask. “I tell you she’s lying to save herself.” He advanced on Katrina, menace in every step. “Tell them the truth, you bitch, how you tormented me with your flirtatious glances, then froze me with your scorn when I took the bait.”
The unfairness of the accusation stung her. A fool she might have been to accept his offer of friendship, but how dare he fault her for her human need of it? She put all her acting ability into her whine. ‘ ‘The truth, my lord? Such as your niggardly gifts of garnets instead of rubies, muslin instead of silk?”
Pan waved Sutterfield into silence as he began to interrupt. “If this is true, then you’ve seriously breached our rules.” Katrina kept her eyes lowered, but her heart thrummed with hope.
“She lies, I tell you. . . .” Sutterfield’s voice trailed off. He turned on Katrina too quickly for her to react. Her wrists were free, her cloak untied and wrenched off before she could do more than flinch. Too late she lifted her tingling hands to scratch him, but the movement unbalanced her. She fell into his ready arms.
Chortling his triumph, he set her upright and held her struggling wrists behind her back, turning her to face the audience. Katrina looked down at herself, her gasp mingling with a score of masculine ones. From somewhere came a muffled curse, but Katrina was too mortified to care.
Nor did she see, far back in the audience, a man surging to his feet, only to be jerked back down into his chair by the member in a Neptune mask sitting next to him. “Be quiet,” Neptune hissed to him. “If you interrupt the ceremony, you’ll be evicted.”
Katrina didn’t hear. She was too busy trying to free her arms to cover herself, but the viscount was far stronger. Katrina swallowed bile at the knowledge that he must have dressed her so while she was drugged. She closed her eyes and went still, hatred and fear building apace within her.
“Do you still not want her?” the viscount demanded. He unpinned her hair with his free hand and brushed through the glittering strands, bringing them forward and back so that they shielded then revealed the full bosom almost bared by the scandalous bodice.
Sutterfield’s voice grew husky with lust. “Even if she tells the truth, isn’t she worthy to be your consort, for one night, at least?”
The silence was broken only by heavy breathing as she was coveted by the score of rakes who’d thought themselves too jaded to be stunned by a female. Beautiful women were commonplace in England, especially in London, where many a comely country lass had come to make her fortune. But not a single member, even the wealthy ones who’d had a parade of mistresses, had seen a woman so rare. It was unusual indeed to behold a face so exquisite; it was unheard of for that face to be matched by a body Venus herself might have envied.
The blush-pink, tissue-silk night rail fell in sheer folds to the floor from the high, gathered waist. Her long, perfect legs were plainly visible. Her hips were full but not wide, setting off the glories of her tiny waist and flat, smooth abdomen. And those breasts ... A universal sigh of longing whispered through the room. The fact that the tips of her breasts escaped their eyes, as did the apex of her legs, only whetted their appetites. Panels of pink velvet had been strategically inset for just that purpose.