The Pleasure Garden: Sacred Vows\Perfumed Pleasures\Rites of Passions

THE PLEASURE GARDEN

THE PLEASURE GARDEN

EROTIC TALES • OF CARNAL DESIRE

•AMANDA M
C
INTYRE•
•CHARLOTTE FEATHERSTONE•
•KRISTI ASTOR•

CONTENTS

SACRED VOWS

by Amanda McIntyre

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

 

PERFUMED PLEASURES

by Charlotte Featherstone

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

 

RITES OF PASSION

by Kristi Astor

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

SACRED VOWS

by Amanda McIntyre

PROLOGUE

THE MAY QUEEN, THEY SAY, WAS BEAUTIFUL beyond compare—men were drawn to her irresistible charm and grace. She was betrothed to the Winter King, ruler of everything cold and dark, a man whose reputation spoke of a demanding, relentless lover who took what he wanted in order to satisfy his needs. And while she did bear some affection for her betrothed, she did not desire him. Would she survive his ardent attentions, she wondered, with no fire in her heart for him?

Conflicted, she retreated to her refuge—a garden that exists in neither place nor time, but in another realm hidden far away from mortals’ prying eyes. Set beside a deep, dark wood and shaded by a copse of trees, the garden is a veritable oasis, its walls protected by magic. There the May Queen spent her days in quiet contemplation, the trees rustling above her head, the fountain gurgling beside her. Flowers in every hue bloomed in abundance, perfuming the air, and birds sang gaily to one another while the queen pondered her future.

The Green Man, wild and reckless, ruler of all that is warm and light, took pity on the poor queen’s plight.
Watching her night after night in the secret garden in which she hid, he found his pity soon turned to lust. He requested permission to enter her verdant hideaway, and, drawn to his warmth and earthy sensuality, the lonely queen admitted him. Taking him into her confidence, she confessed that because she felt no fire for the man she was meant to marry, she feared that none existed within her. Challenged by her confession and overcome by her great beauty, the Green Man coaxed forth her passion like honey from a bee, sampling her lips with reckless abandon. The resulting sparks ignited a fire that neither was able to control. Their lovemaking was erotic and passionate, and time seemed to stand still as they hid away from the rest of the world, giving in to their carnal pleasures again and again. There in the secret garden, the lovers professed their eternal devotion, and the queen promised to break off her engagement to the Winter King.

But before she was able to do so, the Winter King discovered the secret affair. In a fit of rage, he denounced their forbidden love, publicly humiliating the queen, and cursed her beloved garden. Challenged to a duel, the Green Man fought valiantly for his lover’s reputation, but was defeated by the Winter King, who cast him to stone and imprisoned him in the garden. The despondent queen, unable to live without her lover’s touch, took her own life within the garden walls, taking all of its beauty and vibrancy with her. There in the now-barren garden, the Green Man was forced to forever witness the death and destruction his wanton passion had wrought.

Though darkness prevails, the Green Man knows that with the awakening of passion, the fires of love can burn bright once more. Indeed, if he can summon three pairs of
lovers into his garden—lovers who possess the same passionate intensity that he and his queen once shared—the curse will be broken. The garden will once again flourish, and he and his lover will be reunited in another realm for all eternity.

It is said that on the eve of Beltane—a time for celebrating new beginnings—you can hear the Green Man’s voice on the wind, singing his tale of woe.

I am the wind, softly caressing her hair

the breath near her ear

whispering words of passion she yearns to hear

I am the hand cradling gently her breast

awakening inside what others cannot,

I not so humbly confess

I am the sigh as she offers me all

and with no reservation,

I answer her call

Reborn in her passion, but faced with remorse,

she turns from my arms,

and faces her betrothed

A duel, says he, as I dust off my hands

and comply with his challenge

for her reputation to stand

I am the fire burning bright in my quest

ridding the cold, dark of winter,

winning my May Queen’s breast

Yet before Darkness is finished, he utters one final warning,

and to his bride now banished

claims her death come the morning

You shall remain imprisoned in this dead withered place

as atonement for your sins,

and then to me he did face

No one will admire your seductions, kept hidden beneath

the vines

until thrice over you awaken

stone hearts and cause passion to entwine

1

FORBIDDEN
. THE POSSIBILITY THAT HE AND his friend Gregory could be held in high treason by the English king was the last thing on Edmund’s mind as he stared at the lovely creature walking through the crowd toward them. Fair-skinned with luxurious red hair, she sauntered with ease, greeting vendors, charming all with whom she came in contact, offering them a smile from lips that Edmund found himself wanting to taste. He watched as the object of his attention accepted an apple from an old man and bit into it. She closed her eyes at the pleasure of its taste, and Edmund licked his lips in response. She curtsied to the old man in thanks and he offered her a toothless smile before waving her on.

Not before this moment had Edmund ever seriously doubted his future in the priesthood, a future designed by his parents without discussion. Nonetheless, he questioned it now, for his next breath hinged on capturing just one glance from this fair beauty. Edmund was mesmerized.

“Aha, now there is a flower ripe for picking, eh, Edmund?” Gregory slapped him on the shoulder, biting into his own apple with a noisy slurp. “Good enough to eat.”

Edmund jabbed Gregory in the ribs to end his annoying gibberish. With every step he took, the air seemed to pull in as though the center of his world were closing around him. His heart pounded against his ribs. “On my oath, she is no common woman. Are you blind? Do you not see how the magic surrounds her? She is the envy of all she passes.”

“Oh, my boy,” Gregory said with a chuckle, “it is by magic you are smitten, of that there is no doubt.” His friend huffed. “But do you see her escorts? Am I the blind one, then? Surely, were she as respectable and fine a woman as you say, she would not be left unattended.” His gaze flitted from one maiden to another in the crowd. “And to remind you, my friend, may I say our purpose in coming here today was to merely sample only, not to find a wife.” He chuckled again.

It was midday and dark clouds had rolled in, playing hide and seek with the sun, casting long shadows over the lush spring valley. Here, beyond the newly imposed barricade barring the Gaels from the English, the ancient rites of spring were being celebrated. Plentiful food and drink mingled with mirth and promiscuity were the reasons Edmund and Gregory chose to ignore the new Statutes of Kilkenny imposed by the paranoid English king. Not easily enforced, they served to keep the Gaelic influence from swallowing the small English contingency in Ireland. Gregory’s and Edmund’s fathers, involved in the English governing bodies in Dublin, placed both them and their families at great risk of prosecution by the crown.

All of which was inconsequential as Edmund stared at the Gaelic beauty walking toward him.

“Shall we draw straws, then, to see who shall try to win her favor?”

Edmund glanced at his friend in amicable warning.

Gregory’s eyes glistened with mischief, but he smiled. “Very well, there are countless such flowers waiting to be plucked today.” He shrugged.

Edmund’s body reacted to her of its own accord and he panicked at his discomfiture, unused to the protocol of approaching the fairer sex. That was Gregory’s specialty—the wooing of women.

“What shall I say?” Edmund mumbled from the side of his mouth.

“Let her see you are interested, but do not reveal your intent. Make her come to you,” his friend calmly advised.

In a hazy fog of virginal ecstasy, Edmund found the advice fading into oblivion, leaving only her beautiful face and dancing brown eyes meeting his as she passed. He sucked in a breath, unable to speak, certain that he’d met his destiny.

“Good day.” She offered a quick curtsy and journeyed on, but then favored him with a glance over her shoulder. Edmund swore her cheeks were flushed. Or was that his imagination?

He held his hand to his heart, finally finding his tongue. “God forgive me. Surely I will die and be cast into hell for my thoughts,” he whispered aloud, without care for who might hear him. His eyes were pinned on the gentle sway of her hips, his cock straining to follow her.

A harsh slap on his back woke him from his carnal trance. He gave Gregory a startled look. “Was she not the most beautiful maiden ever to grace the earth?”

His friend rolled his gaze upward. “Go after her then. You’ve not taken any vows of celibacy yet, my friend. I should think that God would prefer you purge yourself of your carnal demons now rather than later, wouldn’t you
agree?” Gregory winked at a young maiden who caught his eye. “Oh, my brother, I do not envy you your future. You are far nobler than I, to have the strength to give up such earthly pleasures—more to the point, women.”

Confused as much by the battle warring between propriety and the reaction of his body below his belt, Edmund was dismissed by his friend with a jaunty wave. “Go on, enjoy yourself. I’m going to find a bit of shade and a drink for my parched throat.” Gregory sauntered off and soon struck up a conversation with two maidens.

Edmund chuckled and turned, immediately stumbling over two pairs of legs protruding from a makeshift tent. He righted himself, ready to make his apologies, but the loud groans from within caused him to stumble backward again, realizing the pair likely hadn’t been disturbed. Edmund took in the sights and sounds of the festival, searching for a tankard of mead, trying to avert his eyes from the public displays of carnal pleasures going on around him. He found drink and settled himself on a knoll, content, if need be, to stay away from temptation. Within moments a crowd began to gather nearby to watch a small acting troupe. He sipped his mead and listened as the story unfolded, involving the betrothal of the lovely May Queen to the cold and ruthless Winter King. He’d heard bits and pieces of the tale before, but never from a Gaelic perspective. He was enthralled, drawn up in the slow thrum of the music and the pleasant buzz from the need forming in his head. His attention, riveted to the sensual dance of the May Queen for her secret lover, the Green Man, left a disturbing awareness inside him, causing him to shift his legs to hide the protrusion in his brocs. Finally consummating their love, the queen straddled her lover’s lap. Their realistic acting skills were not lost on the crowd as cheers
and whistles encouraged the actors to portray the forbidden lovers. Edmund stared in fascination that this carnal behavior was not only publicly permitted, but also encouraged. His gaze landed on the scowl of the actor portraying the betrayed Winter King, his frustration increasing even as Edmund’s erection became
his
frustration. The woman’s soft cries brought his attention back to the couple, acting out the mating ritual with determined fervor.

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