[Siren Classic: Erotic Historical Romance, M/F]
Poetry. Fear. Sex. Death. Love. Murder. Music. Hate. Kindness. Revenge. Survival.
Elise Montfort, the haughty young opera diva, is the darling of Paris society with a talent that is only rivaled by her cynicism. Clever and sometimes cruel, Elise only looks out for herself, and with good reason. She has something to hide: a deadly secret from her past that could utterly ruin her.
A darkly erotic love affair with a handsome, mysterious marquis takes Elise to new heights of pleasure and challenges her heart as much as her body. Her jaded, morally ambivalent existence is suddenly jeopardized by the return of a dangerous man from her past who threatens to reveal her secret. Elise finds herself forced to choose between her lover and her enemy, a decision tangled in a web of blackmail, scandal, heart-break and despair. Can one have sympathy for the devil? Only if one remembers that the devil is but a fallen angel.
A Siren Erotic Romance
5 CUPS: "From the first paragraph to the last, Ms. September keeps you on the edge of your seat. She vividly recreates the gay Parisian life, flawlessly contrasting the glittering richness against the poverty-stricken beggars in the street. The author gives you a heroine strong enough to conquer, but smart enough to surrender when necessary. The absolutely wonderful hero knows just how to take command. Blended in with the mystery of what could destroy their budding romance is the decadent eroticism of each encounter. If you want a great story, hot romance, and characters that stick in your mind for a long time after, do not miss this book!" -- Jenn, Coffee Time Romance
5 ANGELS: "Duet of Desire is a sensual and intense novella set in Paris in the turn of the century. With each hot, and even at times scandalous, sexual encounter between Marc and Elise you are drawn in to another world. Miss September's awesome creativity brings these characters to life and makes one tremble with desire leaving the mundane world of reality behind. I enjoyed every aspect of this story and would love to find each installment in the La Belle poque collection." -- Debbie, Fallen Angel Reviews
4 STARS: "Ms. September has written a book that is sure to charm readers. This intriguing story is sure to take hold of readers' imagination who want something a little different to pass their time. There is mystery and intrigue, murder with a touch of scandal, the all important ingredient of love and lots of sex, and some old-fashioned story-telling. Duet of Desire is an intelligently written romance spiced with eroticism, betrayal, revenge, redemption, and ultimately a love that surpasses all to bring triumph and happiness to Elise and Marc. The sex between these two is heated, inventive and voyeuristic. Ms. September's knowledge of this time in history is obvious with its subtle reminders and events of the day interwoven around the main plot. What made this story even more enjoyable was the philosophical musings about women that can apply even in today's society. This book is a stand alone, and as such you don't need to read the first installment in this series. The language, setting, plot and characters are all interesting and make Duet of Desire an enjoyable and spicy read to take to bed." -- Aggie, Just Erotic Romance Reviews
4 CUPS: "In a tale of haunted pasts and the road to love, Ms. September writes a book to keep you on the edge of suspense. She creates a Parisian society that holds true to history and you feel as though you are walking down the same streets as the main characters. With a strong heroine forging success in light of her past, and a hero who sees past the exterior to a vulnerable heart, each page keeps the reader swooning or holding their breath. If you want a story that will imprint its words into your heart, then do not miss this exceptional book." -- Mila Bean, Coffee Time Romance
4 HEARTS: "This reviewer found Duet of Desire to be a refreshingly different story. The language is erotic and sensual with explicit sex scenes, which may offend some people. The action is easy to follow, with good rhythm and flow. The conflict is an integral part of the plot and is very well done. The story, written with passion and verve has a dialogue that has a good tone and depth. The character's motivations are clear where needed and the hero is a man with tenderness to go with the dominance he seeks. The character's passion is mirrored in the prose. "She gasped and shook like a sapling in gale winds, as her body vibrated with untold pleasure," is an example that rang with this reviewer. The sense of historical era is well done." -- Pam, Love Romances and More
She hid her face against Marc’s coat, for she was too afraid to look back at Dufarge. She felt Marc scoop her up in his arms and carry her to the carriage, where he gently placed her on the seat, gave an order to the coachman, and sat down next to her. But she felt her defenses were too fragile at that moment to bear the tender attack of his kindness, and she moved to the seat across from him.
She kept her eyes closed, fighting back the tears of shock and tumult. She felt the carriage lurch into motion and focused on the rhythmic clip clop of the horses’ hooves against the pavement. Finally, when she thought she was composed enough, she opened her eyes and looked at Marc.
He was sitting, still and silent, regarding her with a mixture of pity and puzzlement.
“How long have you known Gustave Dufarge?” he asked finally.
The moment seemed oddly balanced, perched between two equally precarious paths, neither of which would bring peace or resolution. To hide yet again, to lie, would be to betray Marc in some indefinable way. To tell the truth would betray her years of discipline.
She was weary of being wary, but to tell Marc the whole truth would be to drive him away, and she suddenly couldn’t bear the thought of that. He was waiting for an answer, though, and she didn’t have the luxury of time to examine why she didn’t want to be without his companionship.
“I lived with Gustave Dufarge for several years when I was much younger,” she quietly admitted, choosing a half-measure of truth and a half-measure of omission.
There was an awkward moment of silence between them, punctuated by the monotonous sound of horses’ hooves.
“That was eight years ago.” She tried to break the strained quiet, feeling an overwhelming sense of emotional weariness.
“And eight years ago, Elise Montfort took the stage at the Opéra Garnier. And almost overnight, she became the sensation of all Paris.”
“He never knew me as Elise Montfort,” she replied defensively to the implicit accusation in his statement. “In case you hadn’t noticed, Gustave is not exactly the opera-loving type.”
She felt a pinch of relief as he gave her a slight smile, but the ease was short-lived.
“And now that he has found you?”
“What do you think?”
“He wants you back, of course, even though you are with me.” Marc’s words were tight and his tone controlled.
“I won’t do it,” she finished feverishly. “But I’m afraid…”
“What are you afraid of?” He leaned forward, his voice full of quiet intensity. “Afraid that you’ll go back?”
“No!” she firmly denied, feeling the familiar strangling sensation surround and close off the tap of her emotions. The instinct for survival surged up and asserted that she had already said more than enough. “It…simply complicates how I go about my business,” she finished coolly, retreating weakly behind her defenses.
He regarded her for a long moment, as if he knew that she was hiding from him, and she bit her lip.
“And quite the business it is, Elise,” he said at last.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“What of love? What of true passion? What price your soul? You have a measure of…financial freedom, but is your heart free as well? Your precious control imprisons you.”
“Are you my confessor, now, monsieur?”
“No, not your confessor, but I am a man who loves you.”
She laughed harshly, feeling too angry and bitter to care about how he might take her behavior.
“Love? That is the stuff of operas, and most of them end badly when love is involved. How many weeks has it been, monsieur? One? Two? It is hardly enough to decide upon liking, let alone love.”
“I know you well enough.”
She glared at him, her hands balled into tight fists in her lap.
“You still really know nothing of me.” She thought with silent horror of all the things in her past that, if he knew of them, would make him turn from her with disgust. “And I pray you, do not try to guess at what you do not know.”
“Why not?” he asked, taking her fists into his hands and gently prying her fingers loose.
“Because it will only end tragically, like an opera.” She fought the constriction in her throat at the wild, adoring look in his eyes.
“You do not have to hide with me. You do not have to always be in control. You can trust me and be who you truly are.”
His gentle tone nearly undoing her, and she drew her hands back from him. It was too much, it was too hard to keep the icy walls of her protective coldness from melting under the heat of his heart.
“I am what you see,monsieur,” she said, her voice hot and harsh from all the feelings she repressed. “I am a whore, a diva, and a poor girl made good. I am all of that and none of that. Take it or leave it, but leave my heart in peace.”
Marc abruptly leaned back against the seat and looked at her. She watched as his expression changed from gentle to something hard and heated.
“So be it,” he murmured. “If that is how you want it.”
Elise turned her head away from him, noticing that they were approaching the Bois de Bologne. It was growing darker, and the carriage was now full of shadows.
“A lovely dress you wear.”
Marc’s voice broke through her reverie and forced her to look at him again, but all she could see in the darkness were the line of his jaw and the gleam of his eyes.
“Take it off.”
“What? I beg your pardon?”
“You heard me, Elise. Take off your dress.”
“Here? In the carriage? But people will see me!”
“Take it off, or I will remove it for you.”
“You are mad, monsieur!”
“I told you to call me Marc,” he replied evenly.
There was a long moment of tense silence as she weighed his command against her dignity.
“Take your dress off. Slowly.”
“Because I want to see you,” he said simply. “I am hungry for every inch of you, and I want to strip you of that icy, controlling façade you wear during the day.”
Elise bit her lip and blinked back tears. She was angry with herself for being so emotional. She had put herself in this situation by taking Marc as her lover, and she had no one to blame but herself. She forced herself to bring her trembling fingers to the laces at the sides of her dress. What was wrong with her? She had stripped for lovers before—made quite a show of it, in fact, but in the darkness of this carriage, with a man who wanted what she could not give, she felt more vulnerable than she had in a long, long time.
“No, take the pins out of your hair, first,” Marc suddenly ordered.
She swallowed hard, but obeyed quickly. That was easy. She removed the curved tortoise shell pins that held her hair up in a thick bun, long locks of curls tumbling down around her face and brushing her bare shoulders. She heard a soft sigh come from Marc, and her heart jumped. It was as if his very breath filled the carriage with his desire.
Shakily, she went back to unlacing the bodice of her dress, struggling with the recalcitrant knots. Finally, the lacings gave way, and the bodice fell open at the back. She pulled it off, revealing her corset and the off-the-shoulder chemisette that covered her breasts. She glanced over at Marc, and his very stillness was unnerving, like he was some kind of jungle hunter, lying in wait for his prey.
Somewhere, deep down in her soul, she felt a spark of wayward desire. Once again, he was making her show herself, expose her body not just to him, but to anybody who happened to glance into the carriage. The thought sent an abrupt jolt of desire down her belly, pooling in molten heat between her legs.
As she worked the fastening of her skirt and slipped it off, she railed inwardly against the treacherous desire that this man’s game was brewing in her body. Quickly, she removed her silk slippers and outer petticoats, so that all that remained was the corset, her chemisette, a flimsy under-petticoat and her stockings.
She leaned back, feeling the cool leather of the seat against her warm skin, gasping as another wave of wanton desire washed over her. She could barely see Marc’s eyes, but knew they were fixed on her, and from the tension in his casual posture, she knew that she was not alone in her desire.
She turned slightly as she unlaced the corset, tossing it aside once it was undone. She glanced out the window and saw that they had emerged on the other side of the Bois de Bologne and were now rolling through the streets of one of the picturesque little villages that dotted the periphery of Paris. People in the streets were surreptitiously peeking into the carriage, but only able to catch the most fleeting glimpse of flesh. The thought made her burn with arousal all over her body.
She then determined to torture Marc as he had tortured her. Dignity be damned! She wanted him, and his little game had only made her want him more—almost as much as he wanted her.
Slowly, she lifted the sheer linen petticoat just high enough to reveal the snaps of her garter belt and unhooked her stockings. With a devilish little smile, she slipped them off her legs, casting them on to the billowy pile of silk and linen that filled the carriage with the light scent of her lavender perfume. She then brought her hands to her own breasts, caressing them gently and thumbing the nipples through the fabric to an erectness that made her writhe with pleasure. With aching slowness, she pulled down the chemisette to bare her torso to him.
She was conscious now only of the pounding of her heart and the need to be completely naked. She hurried to pull off what remained, yanking down her petticoat and unfastening her garter belt. Finally, she was completely nude, her chest rising and falling with desire as she locked gazes with Marc across the darkened carriage. She was conscious of a strange feeling of freedom, of being completely unrestrained and unfettered by anything. It was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.
“I want you to surrender to me, Elise.” He kissed a line down the inside of her extended arm. “I want you to trust me, to let go of everything and be who you truly are.”
She felt a stab of panic as she instinctively knew that she could not bring herself to do that. On stage, yes. That was a different kind of freedom and a safe surrender. In the arms of a man? Never. It was too dangerous. She saw that Marc was searching her face for her answer. His eyes narrowed with both frustration and a kind of sadness as she saw he perceived her unspoken resistance.
“You are helpless now. You are at my mercy. I can do whatever I like to you, and all you can do is feel in response. You have no choice but to surrender to what you feel, now.” He stroked the length of her body as he spoke, leaving a trail of desire everywhere he touched.
She shook from both shock and a sudden renewal of desire as he kissed the hollow of her throat and worked his way back down to her breasts. He suckled noisily at her breasts, alternating between his mouth and his hand. She bucked her hips up, hungry to be touched, fondled and filled by him. Being unable to use her arms and hands was a new sensation to her, and the vulnerability she felt was tantalizing, as if urging her to abandon her defenses and give in to the soaring combination of desire and emotion. She arched her back to press her breasts into his mouth, the sound of his lips sucking and biting her nipples filling her senses, as if reinforcing her helplessness. She couldn’t stop him from kissing and sucking on her breasts even if she wanted to. She had no choice but to let him taste and tease her.
She cooed in pleasure as she felt his hands slide down her back, cupping her bottom and spreading the cheeks. He lifted her hips slightly up off the bed and straightened up. His forefinger slipped inside her sex, as if testing how wet and warm she was. She made a sound of frustration, too dazed with desire to form the actual words demanding that he fill her fully. She heard him chuckle at her impatience and looked up at him, feeling her chest rise and fall with wanton need. Her hands pulled against the binding that held them in place, and she threw her head back against the pillow at the incredible wave of arousal that the resistance of the binding awakened in her.
As if on cue, Marc entered her pussy with his cock and her nether entrance with his slicked forefinger. Elise cried out in rapture at this double penetration, arching her back and writhing in his strong grasp. With every movement, she could feel her arms pulling against the binding, trapping her in a torturous, erotic pleasure with no escape. As he thrust into her openings over and over, she felt something utterly wild rise up in her soul and take possession of her. With primal need, she tried to roll her hips against his, trying to rub her clitoris against him. As if to stoke the fire he had set in her body, he withdrew his finger from her and brought his hand down onto her sex with a light slap, the contact making her sting with pleasure.
“And again.” He slapped her sex.
She groaned as she felt her clitoris start to throb with the roiling, building pressure of climax. She whimpered in complaint when he slipped his cock out of her and spread the lips of her sex with his fingers.
“Say you like it,” he said, slapping the exposed flesh.
She cried out in pleasure as the stinging of the slap jolted the sensitive nub of her slit. He slapped it again, a little harder this time, and she thought she’d pass out from the bliss she felt.
“Do you want more?” Marc demanded hoarsely, his face dark and contorted with desire. “Say it, Elise!”
“M-more,” she managed to say through her kiss-swollen lips.