Authors: Cheryl Holt
|Fantasy 02 - Forbidden Fantasy|
SHE SOUGHT LESSONS IN DESIRE...
From girlhood, Lady Caroline Foster knew
what her future held: marriage to an esteemed viscount, followed by a dignified
high-society life. A sedate existence perhaps, but certainly preferable to her
current state--jilted, humiliated, and then hastily bartered off to a man old
enough to be her grandfather. Dreading the marriage, Caroline seeks advice from
her ex-fiance's illegitimate brother, whose potent sexuality has always
AND HE WAS THE CONSUMMATE TEACHER.
Ian Clayton can
scarcely believe that the woman he's coveted from afar is boldly seeking sexual
instruction. A true gentleman would turn her away, but the yearning he feels for
Caroline surpasses anything he's ever known. Soon their encounters become more
heated, more daring...and more dangerous. For someone will stop at nothing to
end their illicit affair--and destroy a fantasy that is coming blissfully,
brazenly to life...
London, Winter, 1814...
wish to speak with Mr. Ian Clayton." Lady Caroline Foster stared at the butler who'd answered the door. She tried to appear imposing, but intimidation was difficult. It had taken weeks to learn where Ian was living, and now that she'd arrived, she was terrified over what she'd set in motion. "And you are ... ?" the butler inquired. The question flummoxed her. In her rush to confer with Ian, she hadn't stopped to consider that an employee's initial order of business would be to ascertain her identity. She needed to be ruined—and in a hurry—when she wasn't even sure what the deed entailed. Ian was the only person she knew who might assist her, but their meeting had to be a secret, and she couldn't risk discovery.
She'd traveled in a rented carriage, had worn a hooded cloak to shield her striking blond hair, her big blue eyes, her perfect and easily recognized face. Servants were the worst gossips in the world. If she stated her name, within minutes the information would be bandied about in every house in London that mattered.
She pulled herself up to her full height of five foot six and repeated, "I wish to speak with Mr. Clayton. Is he available or isn't he?"
A man approached from down the hall and entered the dim foyer, but she couldn't see him clearly.
"Who is it, Riley?" he queried.
The butler gazed over his shoulder. "It's a visitor for Master Ian, sir."
"I'll handle this," the man said. "You may be about your duties."
He urged the butler aside and insolently leaned against the door frame.
At first glance, with his golden hair and too blue eyes, his tall stature and slim physique, he so resembled her prior fianc6, John Clayton, Viscount Wakefield, that she nearly fainted. Luckily, he wasn't John, but someone much younger who had the misfortune of looking very much like him.
In the six mortifying months since John had ended their lifelong betrothal and had humiliated her by swiftly wedding a pregnant commoner instead, Caroline had avoided him like the plague. If she'd run into him now, she'd have located a pistol and shot him right through the center of his black heart.
"Who are you?" she demanded in her most authoritative tone.
"Who are you?" he quipped like an annoying juvenile, even though he had to be every bit of twenty years.
"I've come to see Ian Clayton," she advised. "Either have the good manners to notify him that I am here, or be courteous enough to apprise me that he is out, and I shall return later."
With her father being the Earl of Derby, she'd been raised to be haughty and proud, to peer down her aristocratic nose at those she deemed inferior, and it was a hard habit to break. Typically, she hated to seem pompous, but with how her knees were shaking, she was glad for her ability to condescend.
By venturing to Ian's as she had, she was completely out of her element, so it was comforting to revert to form.
"Ian's here," he admitted with a casual shrug. When he made no move to go fetch him, she said, "Well... ?" "He's in bed."
"But it's two in the afternoon." "It certainly is."
She scowled. Ian was still abed? In the middle of the day?
As Ian was John's bastard half brother, she'd known him for over a decade, and throughout that period, he'd been excessively conscientious. What could have happened to alter him into a sloth?
"Is he ill?"
"Rouse him for me," she commanded.
"I imagine he's already mused," her mysterious host announced. "Up, too."
He was babbling in riddles that she was in no mood to decipher, and she pushed past him, barging in as if she owned the place. She proceeded to the stairs, acting as if she would brazenly climb them and find Ian.
She'd never previously visited a bachelor's abode, and couldn't quite articulate what had driven her to this one, so the prospect that she might was thrilling and ludicrous.
A hand on the banister, she whipped around. "Will you get him or shall I?"
"I'll get him," he offered after a lengthy pause. He evaluated her in an intense and unnerving way. "You must be Caroline Foster."
"Don't be ridiculous. I know Lady Caroline. She'd never behave so imprudently."
"No. She's an absolute paragon of appropriate conduct. Ask anyone; they'll tell you what she's like."
He scoffed. "You don't have to pretend. It's evident who you are."
"I'm not Caroline Foster!" she tried to insist.
"Ian was extremely precise in describing what a rich snob you are. You couldn't possibly be anybody else. I wondered if you'd come sniffing around."
He'd leveled so many insults that she couldn't decide where to begin in chastising him. How dare he castigate her! How dare he criticize! He didn't even know her.
"What is your name?" she seethed.
"Jack Romsey. Jack Clayton Romsey."
"You're a Clayton brother?"
"Another illegitimate one, Lady Caroline."
He tossed out the word illegitimate as if it might cause her to swoon. "With your inflated attitude, I might have guessed."
"We're slithering out of the woodwork like mice on a cold winter's night. I'll get Ian for you."
"You do that."
"It might be a while before he receives you. Make yourself at home."
He sauntered off, leaving her to her own devices, and at suffering his disregard she was furious.
She'd been abandoned by him. No maid appeared; the butler had vanished. Of course, Ian was a bachelor, his wealth of dubious origins and not commensurate with her family's by any means, but still, she'd expected simple courtesy.
There was a parlor off to her right, and she strolled in, determined to do just as Mr. Romsey had suggested: She'd make herself at home. She and Ian had been acquainted forever, so it wasn't as if she'd invaded a stranger's residence, though he could scarcely be referred to as a friend, either.
They'd interacted merely because Ian had lived with John, but Ian being a poor relative, who'd emerged from nowhere and latched onto wealthy John like a leech on a thigh, she'd always considered his alliance with John to be suspect. On one despicable occasion, she'd stupidly voiced her opinion on the subject, so they'd never gotten on.
He went out of his way to bully her, and she detested him—as she did every man she knew—for his arrogance and patronizing. She'd spent all twenty-five years of her life letting men order her about, and she was sick to death of their superior posturing and asinine advice.
She dawdled, studying the furniture, the drapes, the paintings on the wall. She'd viewed Ian through his association with John, but for some reason, he and John had quarreled and were no longer close. Ian was away and on his own, and she was more intrigued than she should have been by how he was carrying on in his new situation.
There was liquor on a sideboard, and she boldly walked over and reached for a decanter of the whiskey that Ian's uncles brewed in Scotland. She filled a glass to the rim, and she sipped it, mesmerized by the sharp flavor.
She couldn't remember drinking liquor before—no male would have allowed it—so as a petty form of protest, she downed the entire amount. As the contents hit bottom, she felt much better. The imbibing of hard spirits was so sinful, and so out of character, that she resolved to make it a habit.
Fifteen minutes passed, then thirty. She poured another whiskey, the second one going down much easier than the first. She was overheated, the fur on her cloak stifling, but she didn't remove it. Her cheeks were flushed, her
ps tingling, her body parts loose and limp.
The alcohol was awfully potent, reducing her inhibitions and circumspection. Her temper spiked. Why was Ian ignoring her? And what of Mr. Romsey? Had the infantile scapegrace even notified Ian that she'd arrived? He was probably sitting on the landing, snickering and watching to see how long she'd tarry.
Well, she'd show him! In the crush of recent weeks, any reticence or reserve she'd once possessed had fled. When she was about to be married off against her will, like a prized cow at auction, she wouldn't be coddled or sent away like an obedient schoolgirl.
She gulped a third serving of whiskey, deeming it the most delicious thing she'd ever tasted; then she started for the stairs. If Ian wouldn't come to her, she'd go to him.
She tromped up, listening and climbing, until she was rewarded with murmurs emanating from a room at the end of the hall. She presumed it to be the master suite, and she marched toward it, eager to strut in and demand Ian's attention, but as she neared, her confidence flagged.
She had no idea why she'd risk detection in such a precarious spot. If she'd been caught in his front parlor, she could have devised a suitable explanation, but she couldn't justify loitering outside his bedchamber.
The liquor had imbued her with courage, though not enough for shameless conduct, so shortly she was tiptoeing to the door. It was open a crack, and she peeked in, flustered to note that she was gazing directly at his bed.
He was awake and resting on the pillows, and while she knew she should sneak off, she couldn't pull herself away. He'd always fascinated her, and she hated to admit that neither time nor distance had quelled his allure.
With his black hair and blue eyes, his fabulous anatomy and assertive manner, he was just so blasted handsome. There was no denying it, and she was irked by how his looks tantalized her. Why couldn't she control herself around him? What was wrong with her that he had such an effect?
His hair had grown out, and it was held back in a rakish ponytail. He hadn't shaved, and his cheeks were shadowed with stubble, which gave him a dangerous air and exacerbated the rugged Scottish heritage he'd constantly striven to hide.
His untidy condition astonished her, yet she enjoyed this rumpled version much more than she had the polished, suave gentleman he'd been prior.
He wasn't wearing a shirt, and she couldn't quit staring at his bare chest. It was covered with a matting of hair, as dark as the hair on his head, and she suffered from the strangest urge to rush over and run her fingers through it. The quantity was thick across the top; then it thinned to a fine in the center and disappeared beneath the blankets to destinations unknown.
His shoulders were broad, his waist narrow, and as he stretched and yawned, she could observe the hair under his arms, the round pebbles of his nipples. She was agog, and her heart raced at the sight.
"What time is it?" he asked, and Caroline was shocked to hear a female voice answer.
He was with a woman! Had he a lover? Was she his mistress?
Since his fight with John, and his subsequently removing himself from John's town house, there'd been so little news. If he'd taken a paramour, Caroline would have had no method of gleaning the information, yet amazingly, she was angered by the notion. As she rippled with what could only be jealousy, she wanted to laugh aloud.
Jealous? Over Ian? She didn't even like him. Why would she care if he was consorting with a strumpet?
Still, his dalliance put a damper on her bravado. She'd planned to storm in and request his assistance with her dilemma, but with a trollop lying next to him, she never could.
She'd decided to turn away when Ian spoke to his companion, and Caroline was frozen in place.
"You have to be home soon," he mentioned, his soothing baritone wafting across the room and tickling Caroline's innards.
"Yes, so I suppose we should make the most of the minutes we have remaining."
"I suppose we should."
The woman shifted so that she was draped across his torso. The upper half of her body was naked, the bottom half concealed by quilts, but Caroline suspected she was naked down below, as well.
As a sheltered spinster, who'd waited through her prime for John to proceed with their wedding, she had few clues as to what adult men and women did when they were alone.
Her stoic, straitlaced mother, Britannia, should have been the person to provide the necessary details, but she'd never divulged any specifics, and Caroline would have died before inquiring. She and her mother had never gotten along, and often Britannia was so unpleasant that Caroline wondered if her mother hated her.
Their conversations were stilted, awkward affairs, filled with chastisement and reprimand. As to the topic of amour, if Britannia alluded to it at all, it was to hint at beastly masculine drives that could only be satisfied by females of the lower classes, but the cryptic comments shed no light on the subject.
What—precisely—were the foul activities that men relished? Caroline was so anxious to know. When she and her mother were so different, Caroline was positive that if it was something Britannia abhorred, Caroline would probably like it very much.
She'd been kissed exactly once—by Ian—and she wasn't sorry. It had occurred at John's Wakefield estate. She'd been depressed about John's refusal to wed, and she'd been unable to sleep and wandering the halls. Ian had been doing the same.