Authors: Raven McAllan
La Bella Isabella
Ladies of London
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or
persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
La Bella Isabella
Copyright© 2012 Raven McAllan
Cover Artist: Victoria Miller
Editor: Deadra Krieger
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations
embodied in reviews.
To my lovely DH and my family, my amazing crit group, UCW, especially Doris, who help me through many a crisis, all at Breathless Press for their faith in me, especially Tara, Victoria, and Justyn.
Thank you all.
“Why are we doing this?” Charlie, Lord Lampson, asked his colleague plaintively as they strode along the street arm in arm. “I’m so cold and shriveled, La Bella Isabella and her whole troupe of dancing girls could be standing in front of us, and I wouldn’t be able to show my appreciation. In any way!”
Harry, the Duke of Fairmont, just laughed. “Don’t be such a goose,” he advised. “We’re doing it for you. You want to go to see The Fair Isabella, before you agree to the parson’s noose, and I, as a true friend, am accompanying you.”
Charlie snorted. “Just because your Mama can’t control you and make you wed, you don’t need to be so damn cheerful about my impending doom.”
Harry didn’t answer.
“You’re a lucky dog,” Charlie said. “A doting Mama, a considerable fortune, a
accommodating mistress; what more does a man need?”
“What more, indeed,” Harry, who usually spent his days—to his friend’s amazement—managing his estates, amassing even more money via various schemes and businesses, and bedding his current mistress, agreed with him amiably. “At some point, an heir, perhaps? But for the moment, I have all I need. I have no interest in all the young girls paraded under my nose every year by despairing and pushy parents. I have better things to do with my time. Including accompanying you on this outing.”
“And visiting your clubs, race meetings, Jackson’s Saloon, and anything else that might take your fancy,” Charlie retorted, his lips twitching.
“As you say,” Harry acknowledged. “And tonight’s entertainment to see La Bella Isabella and her Dancing Girls does take my fancy.”
He was silent, thinking of the probable delights of the evening ahead. Beside him, Charlie sighed. Harry would bet his new hunter they thought alike.
New to London, the troupe had taken the males of the Ton by storm. No one knew where they came from or who they were. Only that they danced, in a
interesting manner. The rumors abounded. French, Italian, demimonde, ladies of the Ton. But no one knew for sure. And, as no girl ever made contact with any of the audience, all wore elaborate masks whilst they performed, and no one standing outside the stage door ever caught a glimpse of anyone leaving, the mystery and interest increased daily. Even more annoying was the fact they only performed occasionally, and it was never disclosed more than a few hours in advance when and where their performance would be. To pique interest even more, admittance was by invitation only.
A commotion ahead made Charlie stop grumbling and pull on Harry’s arm. Harry had already seen the carriage skewed across the road, its wheels embedded in the snow, and the horses slipping and skidding on the ice. The young lady trying to calm the horses was definitely not dressed for the arctic conditions. Indeed, as he made his way to her side to help with the horses, Harry was sure he could see her nipples peaking with the cold through her flimsy, muslin gown.
“I say, are you all right?” Charlie openly ogled her body.
“Of course I am,” the lady answered impatiently. “As your colleague had realized, it’s my horses that are not. Pray, sir, either help or get into the carriage and calm my companion before she shrieks the place down.” Wails were erupting from inside the carriage, growing louder which each passing second.
“Oh, Peggy, be quiet,” she said—rather loudly, Harry thought, and he feared the woman’s voice would upset the horses even more. Her next words quelled his qualms, however. “You’re spooking the horses. Close your mouth, use your smelling salts, do anything, but stop that noise. Now!”
Harry was amused at how she ordered everyone around. Charlie had obediently entered the carriage, where the wailing was subsiding. The groom on the box was following her orders, and he, himself, was patiently standing in the freezing cold, helping to calm the prime-looking cattle. And he was discovering by the minute how little the cold conditions were affecting his reactions to the fair lady. In fact, he grinned to himself as he struggled to adjust his clothing to allow a small degree of comfort; a certain part of his anatomy was mimicking the state of her nipples standing to attention, though in his case, it was not due to the cold and it was not his nipples…although they weren’t exactly flaccid either.
As she continued to soothe the horse nearest to her, he saw her take note of him, of his physique, her eyes straying to his erection, now very obviously outlined under his tight-fitting garments. Was she wishing his hands were stroking her rather than the horse? As they were between the lamps that helped lighten the gloom, he knew she couldn’t see his face clearly, but had probably guessed by his clothes and his bearing he was one of the nobility…and therefore, could be trouble if he recognized her.
Harry noticed she lowered her voice, changing the pitch slightly, as she thanked him for his help. “We are fine now. It was a dog that spooked them, and in this weather…” She shrugged, either unnoticing or uncaring how her breasts moved and shimmered under the thin material of her dress.
notice, and his erection responded accordingly, making his pantaloons incredibly tight and uncomfortable. He stifled a groan. “My pleasure,” he replied, not altogether truthfully. It had been a pleasure to catch a glimpse of what seemed to be delectable breasts, but he was in pain, unable able to do anything with them.
“Well,” she hesitated, “we must not keep you any longer, sir. Once again, my thanks.” She held her hand out to him and curtsied slightly. Harry didn’t think twice, and taking her outstretched hand, pulled her toward him, his mouth covering hers whilst he—unable to resist the temptation—grasped one lovely breast to tweak and torment its nipple.
She gasped, in indignation or arousal, he knew not. “Sir,” she said stringently, “unhand me.”
Harry laughed. The protest seemed forced. Her eyes were bright, and her breathing rapid. It was plain to him she was untouched, for such a simple caress had affected her. Used to more worldly women, to whom a fondle of the breasts meant very little apart from signaling his interest, the fact a casual caress could cause such a reaction produced an instant response in him. His cock was straining the knit of his pantaloons to their limit. He chose not to analyze why that was. Instead, he focused on the girl in front of him.
“Why?” he inquired. “You like it.”
She stiffened. The movement only brought her into even closer contact with his body, his
body. Obviously, her curiosity overrode her indignation, because she moved against him. He felt his cock swell even more.
Harry groaned—or was it the mystery lady? For he felt sure she was a lady. He determined he needed to get to know her, especially in the biblical sense. How the hell could he be aroused by a mere glimpse of a nipple and a soft, sensuous body resting against him? In the freezing cold, no less. But not even the fact he could see his breath as he wetted the thin material covering her breasts could reduce his interest.
Before he really disgraced himself and came inside his pantaloons or pushed them down, pulled her dress up, and took her hard and fast against the side of the carriage in full view of anyone who happened to look, sanity, in the form of Charlie’s voice from inside the carriage, took over.
Without any hurry, he moved back slightly, noting again her flushed cheeks and rapid breaths. For the first time, he realized she was shivering, and he shrugged out of his greatcoat before wrapping it around her shoulders, enveloping her slight body, while hiding the damp material of her dress.
he chastised himself,
it’s a wonder her nipples didn’t freeze and snap off.
He watched her pull the coat around herself tightly and visibly pull herself together. It seemed he had the same effect on her as she on him.
The carriage rocked, and they both watched Charlie climb down, looking somewhat disheveled. Harry raised an eyebrow, and Charlie nodded briefly in return.
at least one of us is replete.
He turned to the young lady, who was now giving instructions to her coachman; it was a pity her words were too low for him to hear. Finally, she turned and curtsied to both men, a faint flush on her cheeks, making Harry aware she may well be remembering what had happened the previous time she’d curtsied to him. Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to happen this time.
“Sirs, my very grateful thanks.” Her diction was clear and sweet. “Please, do not let us detain you any longer.” Without asking either of them to hand her up, she climbed into the coach, and without further speech, instructed the coachman to drive on.
They watched as it slowly moved along the street and turned the corner.
“Well,” Charlie turned to his friend, “just what do you make of that?”
Harry adjusted his clothing and carefully moved his still throbbing cock into a more comfortable position. “Not enough,” he said slowly. “Did you get any information about who they were? It was too dark to see her face, although I’m sure I half recognized her.”
“Which half?” Charlie inquired as they walked without haste in the direction the coach had taken.
Harry laughed. “Unfortunately, not the half I want to get to know more. The last time she spoke, her voice was different. As if she had forgotten to disguise it. Oh well, if she is of the Ton, I’ll find out sooner or later.”
“And if she isn’t?”
“I’ll still find out sooner or later. Come on; let’s get you to La Bella Isabella, so you can ogle to your heart’s content. Or don’t you need to go anymore?”
Charlie knew just what he was alluding to. “Well, let’s face it Harry, if the opportunity is there, we take it. So I did. And very nice it was too. For although her face was hidden, her outline was not. Lush, perfectly formed, and unfortunately, a virgin.” He sighed dramatically.
“And still a virgin?” Harry asked laconically, although he already knew the answer. Though his friend was irresponsible in some things, deflowering virgins was not one of his vices.
“Technically,” Charlie replied. He raised a finger in the air as if a thought apparently struck him. “She called her Peggy. So we know Miss Whoever-she-is had a friend, Peggy-something.”
“Oh well, then, we’re almost there!” Harry said sardonically, as they arrived outside a nondescript wooden door set in a high wall. “Never mind, Charlie, this is where tonight’s spectacle is to take place. Let’s go in and take a box while we can.”
Upon his knock being answered by a tall man wearing a mask and their admittance allowed, he steered his friend toward another undistinguished door, which he knew led to a small, very discreet theater.
La Bella Isabella chooses her venues with care.
Harry contemplated the location as they were ushered in and taken to a box in a prime position overlooking the small stage. Every man who got a coveted summons accepted with alacrity.
And even at the risk of being crude—which he knew he was—not only did every man take it up, but also, by the end of the evening, every man had it up. Straining, pointing skyward, and demanding immediate consolation. He’d bet his last thousand a lot of wives and mistresses had a thoroughly good work out after a Belle Isabella event. His mistress, the lovely Lady Mellissa Mountcroft, he knew, was already anticipating his impending visit with delight.
However, before the delights of Mellissa, Harry intended to enjoy the delights of La Bella Isabella and her Dancing Girls. Anticipation was almost as satisfying as the actual event…almost.
The pandemonium in the dressing room was indescribable. Girls in various states of undress chattered as they donned costumes, masks, and rouge. Tonight there were six of them. The troupe was elastic on purpose. Never more than twelve, never less than five. All willing and eager to find time for rehearsals and the events themselves. Each girl had signed a confidentiality contract, and in a reversal of usual practice, had paid to become a part of the troupe. If any member of the Ton got a hold of those contracts, all hell would be let loose. It was no wonder the solicitor in charge was one of the brothers of La Bella Isabella. As was often said, a
brother. She shuddered to think what her other brothers would make of it all.
“My petticoat keeps slipping, and it won’t tie any tighter.”
“Has anyone seen my mask?”
“Who’s on first?”
“How long have we got?”
“I can only find one shoe.”
Questions, pleas, and general chitchat; anyone walking past would have thought there were sixty girls in the room, not six.
She clapped her hands for silence. Dressed in an elaborate gold and silver mask, which covered the top half of her face, with a silver scarf loosely covering her hair—making it impossible to know what color it was—and a swirling, sensual slither of a dress—gold and silver and hinting of all manner of things—it was obvious; here was the boss: La Bella Isabella herself.
“Ladies, please. We have fifteen minutes.” She proceeded to answer questions patiently. “Margot, is it your petticoat? Don’t forget it should have your stage name sewn into it, not your real one.”
Margot laughed, groaned, and took the offending garment off.
“Exactly. Louisa, your mask is where you left it by your dressing table. Susannah, you are
your other shoe.” There was a general laugh at this, Susannah being notoriously absentminded; her head was usually in a book, except when she was on stage.
“Now, remember, this is all about illusions. No nudity, no crudity. They may imagine they see our breasts, our bodies. But we know they actually see less than when we accompany them in a waltz.”
“And certainly feel less,” contributed the irrepressible Margot. “D’you know Lord Armiston? When Lady Jersey gave me his arm at Almacks the other night, he pinched my behind!”
“What did you do?” Susannah, who had not met Lord Armiston, asked.
“Pinched his,” she paused to waggle her eyebrows before continuing, “hard, when no one was looking. With my nails digging in.” To general laughter, she waved her overlong nails in the air. “But—”
“Now Ladies.” The chatter was ruthlessly interrupted. “Are we all ready?” At the affirmatives, La Bella nodded. “Good, you have three minutes after I open. Checks, please.” At this, she twirled slowly, allowing the others to be sure nothing was amiss.
“Right? Well then, let’s enjoy ourselves.” And with a swirl of skirt and a hint of leg, she left the room, the others following.
As she stood behind the curtain on the small stage, she could almost smell the anticipation of the audience. Taking a deep breath, she nodded to the man standing by the curtain’s ropes. Even he, who had been with them from the start of their enterprise, had no idea of any of their identities.
Slowly the curtain opened, and there was almost immediate silence from the well of the theater. The orchestra—only twelve of them, but also handpicked and bound by their confidentiality clause—began to play, a soft, gentle piece, which swirled and embraced the senses.
As she moved toward the front of the stage, La Bella Isabella knew she had the audience’s attention. She pretended to be viewing herself from an audience seat, imagined what the men were thinking, seeing, feeling. Her dress moving in time with the almost mesmeric music, caressed and surrounded her, hinting of delights unseen. As she pivoted slowly before coming to a halt, the entranced men strained forward in their seats. Was that a nipple? A leg? Or even soft, downy hair showing briefly? Or could they see a bare mound? There were lots of conjecture, but no facts. Bets were being taken and noted over what would be revealed, if anything ever was.
Now, all were waiting to see what happened next.
“Gentlemen.” Her voice caressed. “Thank you for choosing to come tonight. We hope we don’t let you down.” She laughed then, deep and throatily, making each and every man in the room aware as to what she was alluding.
The music swelled, increasing in speed and volume, and she began to dance. Her petticoats, with their multiple panels, gave tantalizing glimpses of leg and thigh. Her scarf shimmered, and the tiny beads all over it glittered rainbows as she swayed. With each movement of her arms, she knew it seemed as if a hint of rosy nipple briefly showed.
Probably each and every man in the theater had seen much, much more at masquerades, in the brothels they may have frequented, or from a mistress. However, to those somewhat jaded palates, this teasing—almost innocent—erotic show made breaths quicken, cocks become stronger, longer, and harder, and anticipation as to what may happen next become almost unbearable.
She knew all eyes were on her. She teased and tantalized. A leg on a chair, bending forward, to emphasize her round behind. A kick of her skirt to show a trim ankle. A slow teasing rise of its hem upward, past her knees…
As a one, they surged forward in their seats even more, as if those few inches nearer the stage would expose more of her to their view. Those at the back stood, craning over the heads in front.
Abruptly, the music stopped. She turned slowly and let her arms fall to her side. In the silence, she spoke, “Gentlemen, the girls!”
She moved to one side as the rest of the troupe entered the stage, each holding a common child’s toy. A hoop, a top, a whip, a ball, a hobbyhorse. The next ten minutes would be bawdy and good-natured, as the girls played with their chosen toy.
It is amazing,
she mused, as she swiftly changed her dress for another equally tantalizing outfit,
how a simple child’s toy can be used innocently, but with so much innuendo!
And how by the end of the evening, she would feel so sexually charged and have no chance of releasing that charge. For in these times, nice ladies didn’t know about sex—or so, they were frequently told. She shuddered to think what would happen if the rest of the Ton found out what they were up to. Luckily, their identities were concealed, and she devoutly prayed it would continue thus.
But for now, they could all enjoy the evening. Because the whole purpose of La Bella Isabella etcetera was for themselves. That the gentlemen enjoyed themselves also was a by-product.
She listened briefly through the door to check where in the program they had reached. Each event was short, around an hour total, with no interval. The girls all had to leave quietly, secretly, and unnoticed to return to wherever they should be that night. So far there had been no trouble, but she was not naive enough to think it would always be so.