A Marriage Most Scandalous (Scandalous Ballroom Encounters Book 2) (8 page)

Chapter Nine

 

Sheridan allowed his gaze to linger on the woman framed in the doorway that separated his and Cecily’s room from hers. She’d freshened up, changing from her rumpled carriage dress to a simple black peignoir and matching wrapper. Let loose from its chignon, her lustrous, mahogany hair fell around her face in luscious waves.

Near the fire, Cecily reclined in the bath, head thrown back against the rim and eyes closed.

From where he stood, it proved difficult to ascertain whether or not she slept. She had to have been as exhausted as he had, after their sleepless night followed by a full day of travel.

Deciding to leave had been a good idea. Especially since he’d done it on his own terms and escaped to Brighton instead of Edenwhite as his father had so high-handedly commanded. A quick visit to Madame Petra’s had secured her company, which had made Cecily happy, as he’d suspected it would.

The Madame had caught wind of the gossip and agreed they must leave London. She also agreed that their time had not yet run its course.

“There is so much more I want to teach you,” she’d said while packing her trunk for the trip. “Both of you.”

She’d assured him the brothel would be in good hands while she was away, and that a holiday in Brighton would be a welcome one.

The sun had just begun its ascent on the horizon when they’d departed London, just after he had sent a message by footman informing the viscount of their plans. He hated to think that his father had won, but derived a smug sense of satisfaction from his small rebellion. As a man completely dependent on estates he hadn’t inherited yet, there were only so many mutinies he could perpetrate before his financial well ran dry. Going to Brighton and taking his and Cecily’s mistress with them would be rebellious enough.

He smirked while she entered the room at the thought of her as ‘their’ mistress. In truth, that’s what she was—a woman they had hired to see to both their sexual needs. He almost envied his wife, who’d been privileged to experience Petra in a way he hadn’t yet. Though they did have the shared experience of knowing the feel of her skilled mouth. Just the thought of her lips wrapped around his cock caused the organ to swell and fill with blood.

“Are the accommodations to your liking, Petra?”

She closed the door behind her and met him in the center of the room, the firelight outlining her lithe form beneath the sheer fabric she wore.

“Quite comfortable, thank you,” she replied. Glancing from him to Cecily and back again, her gaze became observant. “You and your wife do not prepare for bed in the same room, do you?”

He frowned, thinking of the countless nights he’d peered at her through the cracked dressing room door, watching from afar as she loosened and brushed her hair.

“We have separate chambers and dressing rooms,” he replied. “Why would we?”

Her laugh—a low, throaty purr—sent even more blood rushing to his cock. God’s teeth, this woman had been made for sex. All he could think of was getting her between him and Cecily again.

“It’s called intimacy,” she replied, striding toward the tub where his wife soaked. “One of the many reasons for your reticence is that you’ve both been taught that your couplings should be a formal affair, with the husband asking permission from the doorway separating his chamber from the wife’s, and her acquiescing. What follows, I suspect, is an encounter during which you hide beneath the covers and rut with the candles blown out. It is a problem I encounter often among couples of the
ton
. You think the formality with which you live your everyday lives must rule your private life, as well.”

Kneeling beside the tub, she trailed one finger through the water, swirling it in a slow circle.

He came closer, watching the slender digit slide over Cecily’s wet skin. Little droplets of water beaded on her heavy breasts, and the water lapped gently at the tantalizing globes. He held his breath, waiting for Petra to touch her. Yet, she remained coy, tracing a path around the pink circle of her areole, but avoiding the nipple.

Cecily squirmed, opening her eyes. They glittered with desire as they alit on Petra first, then him.

“This goes hand in hand with your lesson on spontaneity,” she continued. “Such a simple thing, watching one’s wife dress or undress, or bathing … yet, it opens a level of intimacy that cannot be experienced when you wait on the other side of a door for her to prepare for you.”

Truer words had never been spoken. How many times had he fantasized about Cecily at her bath, water sluicing over her decadent breasts, little rivulets running down toward her mound when she stood, trailing down her legs in a sensual, serpentine caress? Experiencing it firsthand made his fantasy pale in comparison.

Coming around behind the tub, he ran his fingers through his wife’s hair. Kneeling, he reached for her, tilting her chin up so he could kiss her mouth. She parted her lips for him, answering his questing tongue by greeting it with her own. Moaning, she shifted, causing the water to lap against the sides of the tub.

Opening his eyes, he saw that Petra had taken up a cake of soap. Rubbing it between her hands, she produced a lather. Putting the cake aside, she slathered Cecily’s wet skin with the suds, producing another low moan as her touch skimmed from her shoulders down to her breasts.

“Such a lovely body,” she murmured, tweaking the nipples with soapy fingers, then tracing a path over her ribs. “You should experience it in this way. Enjoying your wife’s body should not be restricted to intercourse, my lord. A kiss on the neck, a bold caress where no one can see, assisting her in her bath … all are forms of intimacy that can be performed with no intention of ending in intercourse.”

Her lips curved into a smile as Cecily moaned, arching her back and thrusting her breasts upward. His hands joined Petra’s, until they both kneaded and massaged Cecily’s breasts and ran their soapy hands over her stomach and back up again.

“Of course, if it does end in intercourse … all the better for your both.”

Sheridan followed her lead, taking up the soap and lathering his hands before running it over Cecily’s bare skin. Petra moved to the foot of the tub, plucking one of his wife’s long legs from the depths of the water. Her hands deftly massaged Cecily’s feet and calves before disappearing into the water, moving higher over her thighs. Sheridan concentrated his focus on her upper body, unable to keep his hands from straying back to her breasts at every opportunity.

Pushing her into a seated position, he trailed his hands over her back, tracing the line of her spine down, then back up again to the nape of her neck. Tilting her head back, he wet her masses of golden hair and lathered them, too, smiling when his kneading fingers against her scalp produced another moan of pleasure.

Their ministrations continued until Cecily writhed and moaned between them, not one part of her body going untouched with four hands to tend to her.

Her hips bucked, causing water to splash over the sides of the tub, and he knew Petra’s hands teased her mons beneath the surface. She moaned, cheeks flushing pink as she ground her hips against Petra’s thrusting fingers.

Reaching back for him, Cecily clawed at the front of his breeches, seeking to free him. His cock pulsed, longing for her touch. Helping her, he freed himself and thrust against her palm. Closing her hand around it, she stroked him boldly, coaxing a bead of moisture from the tip.

His hips moved of their own volition, causing friction between her soft palm and his hard, pulsating shaft. Moaning, he reached for her breasts and cupped them, pinching her erect nipples and pulling a high-pitched cry from deep in her chest. Lips parted, her breath came in short gasps interspersed with moans of pleasure as Petra thrust her fingers rhythmically in and out of her cunt.

He had closed his eyes to give himself over to the moment and the pleasure of it all, when the hot rasp of a tongue caused them to fly open again. Gasping, he gazed down and realized that Cecily’s tongue had caressed him, leaving fire in its wake.

His vision blurred and he was taken back to his youth, when a similar act had been performed on him by a whore whose face had been garishly painted. Gritting his teeth, he pulled away from Cecily’s hold, avoiding the second flick of her searching tongue.

Brows furrowed, she gave him a questioning glance. Grasping her slender fingers, he wrapped them back around his cock and thrust, showing her what he wanted. Seeming content to follow his lead, she continued stroking him.

A few seconds later, she shuddered, her lips parting on a silent cry as completion carried her away. Petra’s fingers slowed, then stilled within her, and she withdrew them, leaning over the tub to plant a kiss on Cecily’s lips.

A surge of heat ensued at the sight of the two mouths touching, their tongues caressing between them, and Cecily’s hand coming up to squeeze Petra’s breast through the fabric of her black peignoir.

His stomach clenched and his bollocks contracted, signaling his climax. Seeming to realize his moment of climax drew near, Petra pulled away from Cecily and moved to kneel before him. Taking the head of his cock into her mouth, she caressed it with her tongue as Cecily continued to fondle him.

A hoarse cry escaped his lips, and he gripped the side of the tub as his knees buckled. His seed filled Petra’s mouth in hot spurts, while Cecily continued stroking him, milking him dry.

Releasing him from her mouth, Petra stood. “I do believe this lesson was quite successful.”

Yet, somehow, the look in her eyes when she set her gaze on him suggested otherwise. He’d felt her stare on him when he’d pulled away from Cecily’s searching tongue, and knew he would have to answer for it later.

For now, however, he had eyes only for his wife, who lay in the tub, more content and relaxed than he’d seen her in ages.

“I shall leave you to your rest now,” Petra declared, leaving the room with a swish of her robe. “Until tomorrow morning.”

He plucked Cecily from the tub and stood her on shaky legs. He took his time toweling her dry, starting with her hair, then letting his hands and the linen linger on her skin, caressing in slow circles.

“Hmmm,” she mumbled when he paused on her breasts, rasping the cloth over her hard nipples. “That feels good.”

“Yes?” he prodded.

She nodded. “You’re making me want more.”

He chuckled, dropping the towel and lifting her. She wrapped her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist while he carried her to the bed.

“You’ve become insatiable,” he murmured, laying her down. Removing all of his clothing, he joined her, covering them both with the counterpane.

“Sherry?” she asked in a voice thick with fatigue.

“Yes, love?”

“Why will you allow Petra to pleasure you with her mouth, but not me?”

His blood ran cold, and tension thrummed through him at her question. His arms tightened around her, and his pulse raced at the thought of having to answer her.

“Sherry?” she prodded when he didn’t answer.

“Oh, that,” he replied, forcing lightness he did not feel into his tone. “It wasn’t as bad as all that. Your pretty little fingers just felt so good around my cock, I didn’t want you to stop what you were doing.”

Giggling, she turned to face him. Her bare skin caressed his, and he decided there was definitely something to be said for sleeping nude with one’s wife. His cock sprang to life between them as her hard nipples tickled the hairs sprinkled across his chest.

“I never thought something so simple could drive a man to madness. I hardly did a thing.”

Nuzzling her nose with his, he gave her a swift kiss. “Hasn’t anyone ever told you the truth about men? We are appallingly simple creatures.”

Turning onto her back, she pulled him over her, parting her legs and inviting him into the wet cavern of her core.

“Petra’s touch felt nice,” she whispered, “but the feel of you inside me is beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I never dreamed I could feel such pleasure. Make love to me, Sherry.”

Lowering his lips to hers, he kissed her with a fervor he never had before. Desperation gripped him, and he vowed within himself to do anything to make her happy. If that meant finding some way to purge himself of his father’s sadistic measures of educating him, then he would find a way. Perhaps Petra could be of greater help to them than he’d previously thought.

Glad for a distraction for the nonce, he entered his wife in one swift thrust. Moaning, she arched her back and spread her legs wider, sheathing him to the hilt. Losing himself in her, he forgot his troubling memories for a time.

 

 

Chapter Ten

 

“Tell me about your childhood, my lord.”

Cecily tore her gaze away from the passing landscape and gave Petra a quizzical glance. Her request had been anything but—more of a command, really. As a gently-bred woman who’d been taught to defer to men in all things, she had yet to grow used to the other woman’s contrary nature. She’d never known a female more self-assured or confident. She’d never seen a woman command everyone around her as if leading puppets on strings. Petra was the sort of woman she wished to be.

Sheridan, who sat on the seat across from them, shifted uncomfortably and cleared his throat. They were alone in the carriage, as James and Cecily’s maid followed in a separate conveyance.

“Ah, well … I suppose it didn’t differ much from those of the other lads of the
ton.
I had every comfort in the world, and was cared for by a nanny, then a governess. Of course, then came my years at Eton, then university at Cambridge—”

“Yes, yes,” Petra said, a sound much like an annoyed snort cutting between the words. “I am hardly interested in the years you spent being cultivated for life as a viscount. If we are going to discuss your problem, you must delve deeper. I have no concern with the superficial layers that have been wrapped around you to turn Sheridan Cranfield into the Viscount of Perth. Peel them back, and show us the man within. Tell me about your relationship with your father.”

He visibly tensed, his jaw grinding and his eyes growing shuttered and guarded. He turned to gaze out the window, avoiding both their gazes.

Cecily frowned, reaching across the vehicle to touch his knee. “Sherry?”

He flinched, then glanced up at her. Her heart broke at the lines of anguish crossing his face. In all the time she’d known her husband, she’d never seen his eyes so shadowed, or his mouth so pinched. The carefree, amiable man she’d married had vanished. Or … had it all been a façade? Was this the real Sheridan, then? This brooding, sulking man who couldn’t even talk about his father?

He placed a hand on top of hers and patted it reassuringly, then cast Petra a dark glare. “I don’t wish to speak of him.”

Petra nodded. “I suppose not. I suspect he is the crux of your little problem.”

“I do not
have
a problem!” he snapped, his voice raising a bit.

Unlike her, Petra did not become ruffled by his sudden shift in mood.

“Of course you do,” she insisted, her voice remaining level and calm. “Before your wife hired me, you could only make love to her in one way—in the dark, on top of her, in the most basic and chaste of ways—denying yourself and her the pleasure you both so desperately wanted.”

Pursing his lips, he quirked one blond brow. “In the past week, I have licked her cunt, fucked her from behind in a brothel while you looked on, let her ride my cock while she whispered fantasies of the three of us together in my ear, shared her with you on my dining room table, and helped you bathe her body in an inn’s bathtub before taking her to bed. I do believe the problem has been solved, to everyone’s satisfaction.”

Her cheeks heated when he gave voice to every salacious act she had committed with both him and Petra. A slow throb began between her legs, and the memories made her long for more. Yet, it quickly faded as she took in Sheridan’s guarded posture.

He hid something, and she wanted to know what.

“You had to be blindfolded in the brothel,” Petra pointed out. “You had to be cajoled in the dining room, and last night when Cecily tried to take you into her mouth, you refused her and took me, instead.”

“You noticed it, too?” she asked, glancing back and forth between them both. “I … I thought I had overreacted. He assured me that it was only because …” she turned back to her husband, her brow furrowing in confusion. “Did you lie to me last night?”

His Adam’s apple bobbed when he swallowed. His hands trembled in his lap.

“I don’t think—”

“That now is the time?” Petra finished for him. “We have another long day’s ride to Brighton and we’ve only been in this carriage an hour. There is nothing but time.”

“Sherry,” she said, moving to sit beside him on the carriage. She took his hand and held fast. “I love you. Nothing you tell me about your past will ever change that.”

He shook his head. “Yes, it will. I’ve done things … you shouldn’t have to hear about them.”

Exasperation filled her, turning quickly to anger. “Why? Because I’m a delicate porcelain doll to be set on a shelf and admired? I am sick to death of being treated that way! I am a
woman
, Sheridan. I am your wife. Can you not see past your ridiculous notions?”

“You don’t understand!” he roared, his face reddening.

She flinched, startled. His expression became contrite, and he took a deep, noisy breath and released it on a sigh.

“Forgive me,” he murmured. “It’s just that it is not as easy for me to push aside my ridiculous notions, as you call them. They’ve been ingrained in me since I became old enough to understand the difference between men and women.”

She exchanged a glance with Petra, who gave an encouraging nod.

“Go on.”

“My parents shared a very formal relationship,” he began, still avoiding looking at either of them. “They referred to each other as ‘my lord’ and ‘my lady’, and never showed affection in front of me and my brother. When I grew old enough to understand intercourse, I often wondered if my parents had only engaged in it twice—just to create Aaron and I—as there existed no evidence that they felt any sort of physical attraction to one another.”

“Were they ever affectionate toward you?” Petra asked.

He shook his head. “My father never was. The most he ever did was shake my hand after an accomplishment and say ‘well done’. He managed to crack a smile when I completed my education at Cambridge. My mother … well, I always wondered if she weren’t a more affectionate person before she married him. She always seemed to want to show us affection, but he was always there to remind her that it wasn’t proper. We were boys, and as such, did not need coddling. He took our rearing in hand. In truth, we hardly ever saw her. Of course, she died when I was twelve, and there never came a chance to truly get to know her.”

Cecily’s heart dropped into the pit of her stomach at his revelation. What sort of man kept a child from his mother? Of course, a boy needed his father, but he also needed the love of his mother. She did not know her father-in-law well, and realized now it was because Sheridan did everything he could to avoid being anywhere near him. She understood now why he’d been so adamant that they rent their own town residence while in London.

“When I was thirteen, he told me I had become a man,” he continued. “He told me I would have urges that were perfectly normal. Men are supposed to explore and slake those urges on any willing female so long as she wasn’t a lady. Whores, courtesans, scullery maids … all fair game.”

Petra snorted, rolling her eyes. “Typical.”

“When I turned fourteen, he showed me to one of the guest rooms where a young scullery maid waited for me. She was …” he paused, his cheeks reddening. “Naked. He told me she was my gift and to enjoy her in any way I wished.”

Cecily clapped a hand over her mouth. “Dear lord!”

“Did you?” Petra asked, her face still schooled into a mask of calm composure.

He nodded. “I had just turned fourteen and I’d never known a woman before. She had breasts and a cunt, and was willing. Of course I did. I had a bloody good time, too.”

The Madame inclined her head, giving him a sympathetic look. “The fun did not last long, did it?”

“No,” he confirmed. “This was just the first of many lessons my father taught me about the fairer sex.”

“Lessons?” she inquired.

She did not like the turn this conversation had taken, and had a feeling she’d like the rest even less.

“To him, they were as important as the rest of my studies. My conditioning for society and marriage, he said. He wanted to ensure I understood the difference between ladies, and … well, everything else. He took me to my first brothel when I turned sixteen.”

She supposed she didn’t conceal the gasp burning in her throat as well as she’d thought, because Petra reached across the carriage to pat her hand reassuringly.

“A common occurrence among men and their sons,” she said. “I see it every day.”

It would seem she was as delicate and naïve as Sheridan had thought her. She never could have imagined such things took place among London’s elite. Oh, of course, she knew men had their vices—drink, gambling, whores—but to take one’s young
son
to a brothel seemed a bit uncouth.

“He would allow me to pick the whores, any one I wanted, but never the same one twice. Because, of course, whores are dispensable and interchangeable. They aren’t to be clung to or
cared
about. The first couple of times, he allowed me to go at it alone, and asked me how it went afterward. He was always insistent upon details.”

Now Cecily
knew
they’d crossed the line. They no longer spoke of a normal father and son rite of passage. This proved something far more sinister.

“Why did he want details?”

“I did not know, at first,” he admitted. “But I knew not to question him. He had his reasons and I always obeyed him. It wasn’t until he insisted upon sitting in on my … sessions, that I understood.”

Cecily felt as if she would be ill. “He
watched
you?”

“Yes. The first time, I felt so nervous it almost made me ill. He insisted it was necessary and that I would thank him someday. This was an important lesson, one only he could teach me. So I … I did it. I had intercourse with a whore with him in the same room. Hardly enjoyable for me, though she seemed to have a good time. Of course, she’d been paid to pretend one way or the other. After she left, he descended on me and beat me soundly.”

Petra frowned, reacting to this bizarre story for the first time since he’d begun. “Beat you? Whatever for?”

“Apparently, my performance didn’t meet his satisfaction. I’d been too nice to her. I’d showed her courtesy. When I thought I’d entered her too roughly, I’d asked if I’d hurt her. When it was over, I gave her towels and a bowl of water to clean herself with. These were my offenses—enough to warrant a facer that nearly knocked me unconscious and several blows to the ribs.”

“Animal,” Petra muttered, her disgust clear.

“On that, we agree,” he replied, his tone strained and clipped. “It continued. Each time we went to the brothel, he would watch and tell me what I’d done wrong or right. Then he would instruct me on how a lady must be treated. A man’s wife should be a woman above reproach. Pure, chaste, and virtuous. How else could he be certain she would bear him sons that weren’t someone else’s by-blows? Ladies were delicate, he told me. They didn’t have the constitution to stomach a man’s voracious attentions.”

“But whores could.”

He nodded, confirming Petra’s statement. “But whores could. Every act other than the most basic practice of penetration, I was taught to perform only on whores or my mistress, if ever I were to take one. If a gently bred girl is taught to close her eyes and think of England when her husband is on top of her, how on Earth is she supposed to react when I …”

He trailed off, the embarrassed blush coming back to his face.

“Put your cock in her mouth?”

His head snapped up when Petra spoke. The Madame gave him a little smile.

“And here we have arrived at the true reason behind your reticence, my lord,” she said. “Your father, with his lessons and beatings, taught you to associate certain sexual acts with whores and women of ill repute. These so-called lessons … how long did they last?”

“Three years.”

Petra sighed. “Long enough to ingrain those foolish notions. It is no wonder you have been holding back.”

He ran a shaking hand through his hair and sighed.

“I haven’t wanted to,” he said, finally looking her in the eye. “You cannot know how hard it’s been.”

She smiled, reaching up to touch his face. “Yes, I do know. I’ve wanted more for so long, but I was afraid to speak up, worried you would be disgusted with me.”

He laughed, covering her hand with his. “Do you remember our wedding night? I came to you, and you stood there wearing that gossamer bit of white tulle and lace … Christ, there wasn’t an inch of you I couldn’t see through the flimsy scrap.”

They laughed together, and her heart warmed at the memory.

“How could I forget? I stood there, trembling like a leaf. My mother had told me what would happen; yet, I still felt anxious … but, I knew you would treat me well.”

“I remember picking you up and carrying you over to that bed, and thinking you looked like an angel laying there all in white, on sheets to match, with the moonlight in your hair. I didn’t think anything sweeter existed in the world, and I vowed then to protect you from any and everything—including my baser needs. I never wanted to hurt you, and I never wanted to give you reason to look at me and feel disgust.”

Wrapping her arms around his neck, she pulled him close for a kiss. He clung to her, accepting her lips and tongue, devouring them as if he’d never tasted anything more satisfying.

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