Authors: Helen Hardt
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Historical, #General
This book is an original publication of Helen Hardt.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not assume any responsibility for third-party websites or their content.
Copyright © 2015 Waterhouse Press, LLC
Cover Design by Waterhouse Press, LLC
Cover Photographs: Shutterstock
All Rights Reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic format without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9905056-9-3
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
In memory of
William Charles Betcher
1936 - 2015
Rest in peace, Daddy.
Lady Alexandra’s Lover
Sex and the Season Book Three
y Dearest Amelia
Forgive me for not having written in several weeks, but I had terrible sickness on the ship home. I miss you so, and I especially miss all the fun and frolic we shared whilst I visited you on holiday in the Americas.
I was no sooner back in our London townhome when Auntie Beatrice insisted that I begin art lessons. Amelia, I can’t draw a straight line to save my own soul. Art lessons? Truly? I dreaded the very thought. An hour several times per week listening to some old codger preach the virtues of light and dark hardly excited me, and I possess the artistic talent of a tomato. But Auntie would not be swayed. So yesterday, I began.
My instructor, rather than the foul old lech I imagined, is a young Frenchman. I nearly swooned when I saw him, Amelia, so beautiful is he. Dark hair and simmering brown eyes…and the way he looked at me… My quim started pulsing just from his gaze upon me.
“You must be Lady Prudence,” he said with a smile.
I let out a sigh. “I am.”
“It is a pleasure.” He took my hand and kissed it. “I am Christophe Bertrand.”
Oh, Amelia, he is a delicacy. How my stomach fluttered when he brushed his lips over my hand. I thought perhaps I could learn something after all. He set up two easels and placed canvases upon them. We spent the next hour learning and mixing color, until he finally turned to me.
“Forgive me, my lady, but I find I can no longer ignore your beauty.”
My cheeks heated to blazing, Amelia. I am quite sure they were redder than the crimson paint on the palette.
“Monsieur Bertrand… Our lesson…”
He took my hand and kissed it again, this time letting his lips linger just a touch longer. A surge charged straight to my cunny, and a slight moan escaped my lips.
“My lady, beauty such as yours is a rare gift. Please, if you would allow me to paint you—”
“Paint me?” I stood, aghast.
He wanted to paint me? I’d been so hoping he might want to kiss me. Truly kiss me, the way you did, Amelia, and the way Broderick and Miles did when the four of us were together. What wonderful times we had!
“Yes, my lady. Your azure eyes, your raven hair, your lips the color of the rarest ruby—you are stunning. If you would allow it, I will find some way to compensate you for your time. I’m a man of modest means, but I could make your lessons gratis.”
“My aunt is paying for the lessons,” said I.
“Perhaps if I spoke with her—”
“No!” I screamed.
Can you imagine? Prudish Auntie Beatrice allowing me to pose for this young man? It would never happen. And suddenly, Amelia, I wanted him to paint me. I wanted it more than my next breath of fresh air. More even than a kiss from him.
“Monsieur Bertrand”—I smiled coquettishly, or so I hoped—“I would be happy to pose for you. Gratis.”
“Outstanding!” His grin lit up his face. “When may we begin?”
“How about now?”
“Well, I do have some time presently,” he said. “Perhaps we could go out of doors. The afternoon sunlight would highlight your lovely fair complexion.”
“No.” I touched his arm lightly. Such sparks I felt! “You will paint me here, in the parlor.” I walked to the door and turned the key in the lock. “And you will paint me nude.”
Brighton Estate, Wiltshire, England
to sleep with Mr. Landon.”
Lady Sophie MacIntyre abruptly straightened her back and dropped her crocheting to the floor with a soft thud. “Excuse me?”
“There’s not a thing wrong with your hearing, Sophie dear.” Lady Alexandra MacIntyre smiled. “I said I’m going to sleep with Mr. Landon.”
Sophie picked up her crocheting and let out a sigh. “I’m not in the slightest mood for one of your jokes, Ally.”
“Who is joking?”
“For goodness’ sake. You don’t expect me to believe—”
Alexandra stood, held up a hand to stop her sister’s words, and placed her own knitting in the basket next to her. She wasn’t joking. She’d been waiting months now for Mr. Nathan Landon to propose marriage to her, and she was damned tired of his foolish trifling. “I certainly do expect you to believe it. I’ve allowed him so many liberties I’m beginning to feel like I’ve already lost my virginity. Yet nothing. No promises from him, not even a bloody ‘I love you.’”
“Have you considered,” Sophie said, “that perhaps it’s because you’ve allowed him so many liberties that he’s not taking you more seriously?”
“Don’t be silly. I haven’t allowed him liberties to get him to propose marriage. I’ve allowed him the liberties because I wanted to.”
“Have you never been curious, sister dear?”
Sophie’s cheeks reddened. “I’m as curious as anyone, but I know my place.”
“You and Van Arden never…?”
“Of course not!” Sophie said hotly. “Not even a kiss.”
“You’re missing out on life’s pleasures, then.”
“I’ve no interest in—”
“Oh, Sophie, please spare me the self-righteous drivel. You just admitted to curiosity. We’re all interested. Lily and Rose both slept with their husbands before marriage. And while it might have been behavior to expect from Lily, it was not from Rose. Yet she did it.”
“Still, Ally, if it’s marriage you’re after, perhaps you should not have let him have so many liberties.”
“And you think he would have proposed by now if I hadn’t allowed the kissing?”
“I think it’s a distinct possibility.”
Ally rolled her eyes. No man in the world would marry a woman just to get into her drawers. There were places one could go to get
. And with Mr. Landon’s money, he could have as much as he wanted. “I disagree, dear, but it’s quite a moot point. I’ve allowed the liberties, and I can’t take them back. Nor do I want to. I enjoyed it.”
“And now you think to give him the ultimate liberty?”
Ally smiled deviously. “So you can catch us, of course.”
ord Evan Xavier
entered his father’s mansion on the Brighton Estate, handing his riding gloves to the butler.
“I trust your ride was pleasant, my lord?”
“Yes, thank you, Graves. Are my stepsisters at home?”
“Ladies Sophie and Alexandra are in the front parlor.”
“Thank you.” Evan turned and headed up the long staircase to the second level, his goal to get as far away from the front parlor as possible. He didn’t want to deal with his stepsisters at the moment, especially Alexandra, who had lately turned into the very bane of his existence.
Their newly wedded parents had left for the continent nearly a month ago, and while they were abroad, the girls were Evan’s responsibility. His father, David, the Earl of Brighton, and his new stepmother, Iris, the girls’ mother, were desperately in love with each other, and Evan didn’t expect them home anytime soon. He normally enjoyed having the estate to himself when his father was away, but now… Well, he was no longer alone.
He found sanctuary in his own suite of rooms on the third level. The girls would never dream of setting foot there. He dismissed Redmond, his valet, and stripped off his riding clothes himself. After cleaning up, he lay on his bed and closed his eyes. Only a bloody hour until dinnertime…
?” Sophie said, her green eyes wide. “Have you lost your mind?”
“Of course not. You catch us, and you tell our new stepfather, the esteemed Earl of Brighton, and he will force Mr. Landon to do right by me.” Ally smiled. The plan was brilliant. No one would think for a moment that her sweet and prudish older sister had made up the tale. And their new stepfather had already proven himself to be vastly overprotective.
“Absolutely not.” Sophie vehemently shook her head. “I’ll not take part in this ridiculous scheme.”
“But you must, Sophie. Everyone will know you’re telling the truth.”
“This is a truth I want no part of. Please reconsider, Ally. You’ll be ruined.”
“Do you think I care about being ruined? I want to be married, and Mr. Landon is my choice.”
“Do you love him?”
“What does that matter?”
“It’s the only thing that matters. Just ask Lily or Rose.”
“Lily and Rose both made fine matches,” Ally said, “and I’m thrilled for them. But I’m not going to wait around forever. I want Mr. Landon.”
“You want his million pounds.”
“I’ve made no secret of that. But I do care for him. He’s kind, and he makes me laugh.”
“But do you love him?”
“Yes, I think I might.” It wasn’t exactly a lie. Ally enjoyed his conversation and his kisses, and she loved him as one might love a friend.
“Then you don’t. Both Lily and Rose say you’ll know when you’re in love with a man.”
“Perhaps Lily and Rose are wrong. Did you ever consider that?”
Honestly, Ally hadn’t considered it either. “Then perhaps Mr. Landon is my true love after all, even though I don’t feel the fireworks that Lily and Rose felt. After all, that crone at the Midsummer festival said my true love was closer than I knew.”
“First of all, I don’t believe any old crone knows anything,” Sophie said. “But even if she does, what makes you think she’s talking about Mr. Landon?”
“Who else in the world could she be talking about?”
Sophie sighed. “I’m sorry. I won’t take part in your scheme. I cannot, in good conscience.”
Her sister’s reaction didn’t surprise Ally in the least. But no worry. She’d simply go to London on her own, find someone else to help her, and seduce Mr. Landon into taking her to bed. How difficult could it be?
She turned toward the parlor door when it opened.
“My ladies,” Graves said, “dinner is served.”
“Thank you, Graves.” Sophie stood. “Will Lord Evan be joining us?”
“Yes, my lady. He returned a little less than an hour past.”
“Lovely,” Sophie said.
That was all Ally needed—her stuffy new stepbrother hindering her every movement. Well, she was going to London, no matter what he had to say about it.
Ally took her place at the small table in the informal dining room. Taking meals with only her sister and her new stepbrother for the past month had become tedious. Sophie hardly said a word unless Ally or Evan engaged her, and Evan rarely engaged either one of them. He still wasn’t quite comfortable with their parents’ marriage, and he made no secret of it.
When Evan entered, Ally’s heart lurched. She couldn’t help it. As much as he tried her patience, he was a beautiful man. A former oarsman at school, he was big and muscular, with blondish hair and warm brown eyes. His high cheekbones, slender nose, and broad jawline formed near masculine perfection. He resembled his father, and Ally had no trouble imagining her mother being swept away by the earl twenty years ago, even though she’d been married at the time. Married, of course, to the girls’ tyrant of a father who’d abused all three of them and left them penniless due to his negligence and reckless spending.
“Good evening, Sophie, Alexandra,” Evan said, taking his seat at the head of the table.
“Good evening, E-Evan.” Sophie blushed.
Ally couldn’t help smiling. Sophie still had issue with using Evan’s Christian name. Always true to convention, her sister. Timid and shy to a fault, Sophie often stammered around new people—though Evan was hardly new in their lives. Before their parents had married a month ago, he’d been courting their cousin Lady Rose Jameson. But Rose had loved another and was now married to Cameron Price-Adams, the Earl of Thornton and heir to a marquessate.
“Yes, good evening,” Ally said.
“I trust your day passed pleasantly,” Evan said.
“Yes, of course. And yours?” Ally asked.
Of all the insufferable small talk! As if he gave a care about their day. About as much as she cared about his.
“I’m going to London.” There. That would get his attention.
Evan looked up from his soup. “I beg pardon?”
“Ally…” Sophie began.
“I said I’m going to London. I have a dear friend whom I would like to visit, and she is excited to receive me.”
Evan cleared his throat. “And who is this friend, might I ask?”
Ally smiled, thinking quickly. “Miss…Prudence…Spofford. She is expecting my visit. I’ll be leaving on the morrow.”
Evan looked to Sophie. “And I suppose you will go with her?”
Sophie shook her head. “No, my lor— er, Evan. I have no plans to accompany her.”
“Then I’m afraid it’s out of the question. You cannot travel alone.”
“Nonsense. I’m twenty-one years old. The coachman will be with me. He will see me safely to the rail. And Prudence is expecting me.”
“No,” Evan said flatly.
“No?” Alexandra raised her eyebrows.
“You heard me. No.”
“Since when do you have authority over me?”
“Since my father and your mother left you under my protection. You’re my responsibility while they’re gone, and I won’t have you gallivanting all over London unchaperoned.”
“I’m of age, Evan. I can go to London if I want. And I’m leaving tomorrow.”
“Ally,” Sophie said, “I do wish you would reconsider. The railway is still new. Perhaps traveling by coach would be safer.”
“No,” Evan said.
“You don’t trust our coachmen?” Ally asked.
“Yes, yes, of course I trust our coachmen.”
“Then what is the problem?”
“I don’t trust
.” He pushed away his plate and stood, summoning a footman. “I’m no longer hungry. Please clear my place.”
Ally’s skin tightened. How dare he? “You don’t even know me. How can you possibly say you don’t trust me?”
Evan closed his eyes for a moment, and then opened them. “Forgive me. I misspoke. I have no reason not to trust you. However, you may not go to London unaccompanied.”
“Well, I’m going,” Ally said hotly. “And you have no right to stop me.”
“Very well.” Evan sat back down, a look of defeat on his chiseled features. “Then I have no choice but to go with you.”