Michael, Viscount Laidley, Brent’s best friend and distant cousin, fretted that Brent would never agree to reenter society. Hence his determination to push his cousin into attending this ball, where Brent was now hiding behind a life-size statue of a well-endowed male. Michael pointed at the marble man’s appendage and laughed. ‘Hoping the ladies will compare your equipment favorably to his if you stand beside him?’ Brent snorted.
Michael could always tease Brent into seeing the humorous side of situations, but tonight he was also going to push Brent back into society, even if it involved a couple of white lies and some scandalous women. He pointed down the dance floor. ‘That’s Lady Templeton in the orange mask and feathers and…I say, a very transparent gown. You know what that means? Melissa will have already wheedled out the names of any men or ladies with titles who are on the guest list from her weak-willed lover.’
‘Weren’t you her lover once?’
‘Briefly. Never again. She eats green men for lunch.’ He pointed at Melissa again. ‘Watch. She’ll try to match people to names. And I know from personal experience that she’s not above blackmail when she’s short of funds.’
‘She tried to extort money from you? Why didn’t you tell me?’
Michael shrugged. ‘I was young and green and humiliated by my own ignorance. And she’ll target any man who has refused her, which means you Brent. and your friends.”
Brent groaned. ‘Hell. I need to find Lillian.’
When his cousin rushed onto the crowded dance floor, Michael smirked and silently toasted himself on a job well done.
PLEASURE HOUSE BALL
By Suzi Love
Love revealed at a courtesan’s ball.
Brenton, Lord Mallory, attends his first courtesan’s ball in ten years to appease his concerned friends, though he’d rather stay home and read to his motherless daughters.
Though mortified that Brenton unmasks her at a scandalous ball, Lady Lillian Armstrong doesn’t regret their night together.
But will the object of her girlish adoration still treat her as his best friend’s little sister, or will he now see her as a mature and willing woman?
Lillian was his best friend, plus a beautiful woman with a seductive feminine form and, right at this moment and in his direct line of sight, a pair of familiar bountiful breasts spilled over the top of a too-small red bodice. He blinked, and looked again. Heaven help him, it was Lillian. His friend who’d been targeted by unscrupulous women who, wanting to pull her down a peg or two, had blamed her for her husband’s impetuous nature. A titled lady who, according to convention, should be secluded from society while she mourned her husband. Lillian, his Lillian, stood before him drawing the eye of every discerning gentleman at a courtesan’s ball. Shock robbed him of breath and froze him in place. His head spun as he tried to imagine why she’d come here, and with whom.
As a duke’s daughter, she’d been taught the rules for mourning and for the behavior of widows all her life. A minimum of six months wearing black and withdrawing from society, followed by another six months wearing mauve and lavender and socializing only with family and close friends. Brent could think of no reason why she’d be here, flaunting herself in that red slip of a gown. What had possessed her to attend a ball, any ball, so soon after her husband’s demise?
More importantly, Brent’s mind was so numb that he couldn’t formulate a plan to smuggle her away from the dance floor before masks were removed and she was recognized. Or before one of the lecherous men present realized that those were Lillian’s breasts squeezing past them.
First step was to uncover the identity of her companion, a woman insensitive enough to introduce an innocent to this sort of event. Couples were finding quiet corners and getting to know each other better, much better. Some of the ladies, and he used that term loosely, had already shed layers of clothing and their remaining garments were so thin that they revealed rather than concealed their shapes. Personally, he preferred to unwrap his presents, piece by piece, and he liked to do it in private rather than in an overcrowded room full of peers he didn’t particularly like and took great pains to avoid.
Looking towards Lillian’s position, Brent cursed his inattentiveness. The lady in red and her companion had disappeared. He pushed between companionable couples, past clutches of leering youths, and dodged ladies of the night who were advertising their wares so blatantly that the slightest movement would topple their breasts out of their bodices and into full view. Hell, if that green buck on his right peered any further down the neckline of that redhead’s gown, they’d need to haul him out by his boots.
There, a laugh that sounded almost right for Lillian apart from a strange high-pitched trill at the end of every sentence, as if the speaker was deliberately leaving a question mark at the end of each speech. Nervousness? If it was Lillian, she had good reason to be nervous. And when Brent caught up with the two women, they’d have good reason to be nervous because he was furious with Lillian’s unknown companion, and her.
Yes, he’d wanted his best friend to find happiness, but he’d envisaged her slowly renewing friendships next year in London, chaperoning her sister, and perhaps sometime in the future accepting a marriage proposal. The idea of any man making advances to her when her emotions were still raw after her husband’s demise and the pain of the appalling rumors that said she’d urged her husband to his death, made his blood boil. Though he couldn’t put his finger on why he was so incensed.
Lillian was his friend, nothing more, and she knew his feelings about marrying again any time soon. She was also one of the few people who knew of his first wife’s numerous affairs and what he’d done afterwards. As he wove a path through the crowd, he listened for Lillian’s voice and tried to smell her particular scent, though the air in the ballroom was thick with heavy scents from both females and males. The smell of desire, and arousal, swamped him as he squeezed around several couples in the final stages of negotiating the terms of their associations, with the women listing what they’d like their protectors to provide. The air reeked of sexual awareness, not something he’d been surrounded by for quite a long time and a smell he’d have gladly avoided for many more years.
The push and shove, and the manipulation and capitulation made him inwardly shudder. Though he’d visited his share of brothels and indulged himself at wild house parties in his younger years, he’d never employed a mistress. More recently, he’d simply felt jaded after one unhappy marriage and he couldn’t dredge up excitement over two hundred primped and primed gentlemen and the equivalent number of ladies of the night playing games of intrigue and seduction.
There were many parts of married life he missed, desperately. Lust, desire, and passion he understood and, to be perfectly honest, yearned to experience again. The shared intimacy of conversations in bed after a bout of rigorous sex. Waking to a woman’s soft body wrapped around him and taking his time rousing her from sleep and then making sweet slow love to her. That he missed. Fake relationships, the sort formed here, left him cold, yet he yearned for the connection and sense of belonging that came with having a lover, or being in love.
There! That voice. That was the voice he knew as well as his own, and the scent that had often tempted him to rethink his views on marriage. Maneuvering around the dozen men and six women surrounding her, Brent eased into the lady’s intimate circle and stood at her shoulder. He sniffed. Oh, yes!
His senses hadn’t led him astray, nor had his sanity deteriorated and tumbled into madness, where his imaginings spiraled out of control and his fantasies sprang to life. Lady Armstrong, Lillian, was truly here in the midst of this decadence and debauchery. He shifted so they stood shoulder to shoulder, their arms touching.
Leaning in, Brent whispered in Lillian’s ear. ‘Well, well, well. I certainly didn’t expect to find you in attendance.’
Meet Suzi Love:-
I am Suzi Love, an Australian author of historical romances set mainly in the late Regency and early Victorian eras, and ranging from sexy to erotic. With a bit of Australia thrown in.
I now live in a sunny part of Australia after spending many years in developing countries in the South Pacific. My greatest loves are traveling, anywhere and everywhere, meeting crazy characters, and visiting the Australian outback. I adore history, especially the many-layered society of the late Regency to early Victorian eras.
My titled heroes and heroines live a privileged life in and around London, but my stories also dig deeper into the grittier and seamier levels of British life. I love heroes and heroines who challenge traditional manners, morals, and occupations, either through necessity or desire.
I hope my romances bring history alive for you and that you have fun alongside my roguish heroes and feisty heroines.
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