Lady Rowena Collingwood and her sisters have just lost their father and, thanks to the rule of primogeniture, are about to lose their home likewise.
But Rowena refuses to sit on her bustle waiting for a "hero" to save her. A determined spinster at twenty two, plain, willful and slightly eccentric, she has a plan to make her own fortune. The world of Victorian England might be heavily weighted in favor of the male sex, but Rowena found a way to use those antiquated inheritance laws to her advantage.
Aristocratic families often find themselves in trouble without sons to inherit their estates. Sometimes the marriages of gouty old men to virginal young brides don't make fruitful matches. And sometimes the wives of Dukes and Knights decide to take matters into their own hands. With a little help from Rowena, the Studfinder General.
Her secret life, however, is about to be threatened by a man from her past. The one man who could undo, not just her very private business scheme, but also her corsets. With a will just as stubborn as her own, the Earl of Landisdowne means to bind her up in a plan for revenge. He hasn't forgotten the time she kneed him in the family jewels.
Neither has she.
Warning: This 63,192 word highly erotic story contains ménage sex, BDSM, bondage, spanking, chastity chains, the use of sex toys, shaving, and genital piercing.
Rowena had fallen into a doze while reading in bed, but the sound of a door opening and then a breeze wafting across her face as the curtain swept open woke her fully and immediately. She sat up to find Mason Radcliffe in her room again. The wooden curtain hooks clattered as he pushed back the bed drapes.
"How is your sore head, Lady Rowena?"
"Not improved by your uninvited presence. Do you make a habit of entering female guest's bedchambers in the middle of the night?" Even as she spoke she knew that was a foolish question. Of course he did.
"I have a gift for you."
He was wearing his quilted bed robe again and there was no doubt of his nakedness beneath. Rowena drew her knees up and clasped her arms around them. It was the best she could do to protect her body from his hungry, wolf-like gaze. Each time she looked at his firm lips, she thought of them around her nipple, sucking, and then between her thighs, forcing her to a climax that shook her from head to toe. She shivered and prayed he would not notice.
"I don't want any gift from you, Radcliffe."
He placed a carved box on the bed and opened the lid. "I want you to get used to these." Slowly he removed two items from the box, matching silver bracelets studded with pearls.
"Get used to them? For what?" she demanded.
"Give me your hands."
"Lady Rowena, today you asked of me a favor. If you wish for me to grant it, I suggest you humor me."
How smoothly he twisted the circumstances to make it seem as if she owed him, when it was the other way about after what he'd done to her in the plowed field that day. But he held all the cards. This was his house, his estate. She had some money from her successful stud services, but it was not yet enough of a financial cushion to help Rowena spread her wings and go out into the world alone. There was much planning still to do, and she did not want to make any mistakes.
For now she would have to play by her host's rules.
Mason grabbed her hands, pulled them away from her knees and clamped the bracelets around her wrists.
"I know you're in mourning," he muttered, securing the clasps on what must have been their tightest fitting, "but you can wear these under your sleeves and they won't be seen."
"What are they?" she scoffed. "The family treasures? I haven't even agreed to marry you."
"Not the family treasures yet, but they will come when you agree to be my wife. After today, when you wet your drawers for me, I knew you were destined for my bed and none other."
She felt her cheeks grow hot. "I did not wet my drawers!"
He grinned. "You know what I mean, Rowena. Lord, your dew tastes sweet, better than Napoleon brandy. After you gave me a sample, did you think I would not want more of the same? And I know you want me to take it, the way I did today."
His arrogant confidence irritated her like a bad rash where she could not scratch it. "They're too tight. Take them off."
"No. These are the signs of your bondage to me. They will remain until I deem them no longer necessary."
"Necessary?" she exclaimed.
"For your training."
Her pulse quickened beneath the cold, silver cuffs. "Are you quite mad?"
"I think, in light of your wayward behavior about which I've been warned, and these," he pointed to the scratches on his cheek, "I am incredibly sane to keep you under tighter control and your hands out of my way."
Rowena shrank against her pillows. "I will never be your slave or wife! Never! I—" She fell silent, tongue tripping over her words as he took each of her wrists, lifted them, and attached the bracelet clips to little hooks on the headboard of the bed. Hooks that closed with a snap.
"There," he whispered as his lips touched her temple in a feather-light kiss, "perfect."
His hands trailed over the shoulders of her nightgown and down to her breasts. He circled his fingers around her peaking nipples through the lace, and breath caught in her throat. She hated her body for betraying her, but she was helpless to prevent it. Utterly helpless. Why had she not fought him as he clasped her wrists to the headboard? She'd known what he was doing. Yet she allowed it. Limp and passive were two things Rowena had never been. Had he somehow drugged her, she wondered, glancing at the glass of warm milk she'd brought up with her to bed that evening.
He leaned in, his fingers still teasing her nipples, and kissed her on the mouth. "Say thank you, Rowena."
"Why should I?"
"It is customary when one is given a gift."
"An unwanted gift."
"Tsk, tsk! Such ingratitude." He kissed each pointy nipple through her nightgown and then folded back the coverlet to part her knees. "You do want me to help your sisters, don't you, Rowena?"
"Help them how?" she snapped, confused by the tumult of sensations beating a rapid path through her body.
"Give them what they need to find rich, titled husbands. Before your mother forces them into unhappy marriages like her own."
Yes, she wanted to help her sisters. Of course she did. He knew it.
"And you mentioned three of your father's staff in need of employment. There are many favors I can do for you," he added. "But you must do some for me first. We'll barter some more, eh?"
She pressed her lips together, thinking again of that morning in the field when she'd suddenly seen a way to get things she needed from her wicked, lusty host. He was right. There were things they could both do for one another, and since the business she'd embarked upon was hardly saintly it would be disingenuous to quibble about proper and improper.
He slid a pillow under her bottom. "Lift up your knees to your chest, Rowena, but keep them wide apart."
If she did as he demanded she would be completely exposed, front and back. With her wrists trapped to the headboard she could not even use her hands to hide herself. Her face burned at the thought, but her breasts were aching and tight, feeling swollen. And her quim...oh, her quim was damp again already.
Mason slowly rolled her nightgown up to her waist and repeated his stern instruction. "Heels up, knees wide. You're doing this to save your sisters, Rowena. Without me to help, god only knows what plan your mother will come up with next. Don't you agree?"
"She's hardly likely to sell them into slavery."
He smirked. "Don't be so sure. She doesn't want grown daughters hanging around her. You are marring her style, and she so desperately wants to be the merry widow. Hard to be, I expect, with a resentful, disapproving, twenty-four-year-old spinster daughter nearby to witness every step one makes."
When she still delayed, he lost patience, knelt on the bed, grabbed her ankles and pushed her legs up into the ungainly pose he wanted, bent like a frog, her private parts displayed crudely.
"What are you doing?" she groaned. "How dare you?"
"I am your master now," he replied gruffly, staring down at her, his hands still tightly clamped around her ankles. "I will do whatever I want to you, and you will submit yourself into my hands, uncomplaining, unquestioning. In exchange for my helping your destitute family, I want your complete trust." He paused, his gaze still fastened on her intimate areas. "Do you understand, Rowena?"