Binding the Baroness
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by Em Brown
Category: Erotica/BDSM Erotica/Romance
Description: "Ten thousand pounds if you will seduce the Baroness Debarlow." To save his estate of Chelton, Montague Edwards, a known rake, agrees to the Earl of Frotham's proposition. The Earl intends his son, the Viscount Tremayne, to marry well, but the Viscount has fallen instead for the scandalous Lady Debarlow. To Abigail Debarlow, marrying the young Viscount is a means to avenging her mother's death. Her plans to elope with the Viscount, however, are upended by the handsome Montague Edwards. An accomplished seductress herself, she nonetheless finds herself at risk of succumbing to his advances. When Montague discovers that Lady Debarlow is a patron of Madame Botreaux's Cavern of Pleasures, he kidnaps the Baroness and takes her to Chelton with the intention of fulfilling her every fantasy. But he soon finds he wants to do more than bind her body... Failure to seduce the Baroness means he loses Chelton. But successfully seducing her may mean losing her altogether. Also look for Mastering the Marchioness and Conquering the Countess, the first two books in the Cavern of Pleasures series.
eBook Publisher: Ravenous Romance/Ravenous Romance, 2011 2011
eBookwise Release Date: August 2011
5 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [243 KB]
Reading time: 151-212 min.
"Ten thousand pounds if you will seduce the Baroness Debarlow."
Montague Edwards eyed the Earl of Frotham without evincing emotion, though he could have choked on the snuff he had just inhaled. Ten thousand pounds. The sum reverberated gloriously in his ears.
The invitation from Frotham came as a surprise, for Montague barely knew the Earl and his family. The aforementioned proposition was beyond expectation. The old man, frowning from behind his large mahogany writing table, appeared not to be jesting, if such a jest fell within the inclinations of the Earl--which Montague doubted.
Without word, Montague took another pinch of snuff and replaced his snuffbox into his waistcoat pocket. He should have leaped without question at such an opportunity, but he wanted time to quiet his excitement. How often did one come across ten thousand pounds? He had come to London, despite his aversion to the Season, to seek that which he had never craved or thought he needed: a wife. To be precise, he needed funds. A wife, with the proper endowment, was simply a means to that end.
"Five and ten, then," the Earl amended, mistaking Montague's silence.
The man was desperate, Montague surmised as he took in his surroundings. The silk-lined walls of the library, the stately furnishings, and paintings mounted in gilded frames all suggested Frotham had the means to make such an offer, but appearances could deceive. Clearly something important was at stake for Frotham to state such an outlandish proposal. Montague wondered what it could be. His dispassion appeared to rankle the Earl, who tried unsuccessfully to suppress the irritation from his voice.
"Are you not in need of five and ten thousand pounds, sir?" Frotham asked. "Many a young man of standing would want years to generate such income. One could do much with such an amount."
Only a fool would not recognize that fact, Montague thought, but he had no wish to offend the Earl into withdrawing the proposition at hand. Instead, Montague responded, "You mistake my years. I am hardly deemed callow with four and thirty years to my name."
"Shall we agree it be no paltry sum for any man?"
"Indeed. Are you so desirous then to part with it?"
Frotham had a pronounced jaw, and it jutted out with displeasure. He might have presented a handsome man in his youth, but a rich diet had made his jowls more prominent, and his constant battle with the gout had rendered his countenance surly.
"I understand you are short in the way of funds," the Earl countered.
Montague stiffened. Choosing not to respond immediately to such a pointed statement, he took a seat on the richly upholstered settee. Crossing one leg over the other, he studied his shoes. He had spent more than he ought to have on his pair of silver buckles, but he could not expect to entice a woman of wealth without the proper attire. Five and ten thousand pounds could buy a great number of buckles. It was enough to save Chelton. It would eliminate the need to marry.
"That is why you have chosen me to receive your generous offer?" Montague asked, calmly raising a brow.
He was met with a tight smile.
"The reputation you have in Bath precedes you, sir," Frotham answered. "I am familiar with your...conquests, shall we say?"
Frotham's frown and humorless eyes indicated the statement was not intended as flattery. Montague suspected he was not favored by the Earl, but that mattered not.
"And you wish me to apply myself to this Baroness Debarlow. Why?"
Frotham shifted uncomfortably. "That is my concern. Yours is the ten thousand pounds should you prove successful."
"Five and ten," Montague corrected. "What shall be considered a mark of success where the Baroness is concerned? Is it sufficient that I bed her once? Twice?"
"You can bed her as often as you like." Frotham bristled.
"Or as little? The Baroness Debarlow must be homely indeed to require five and ten thousand pounds as recompense."
"There are many who would consider her pleasing to the eye, though she has not half the refinement of features as her--you will find her comely enough, I assure you."
"Then what, pray, is her flaw?" Montague baited. He had been tempted to accept the Earl's proposal without question, but desperate as he was for the funds, he would not throw all caution to wind. "She is odious in some form, is she not?"
"Not in any way that would deter the likes of you."
Montague again raised a brow. "My partialities are familiar to you?"
"Is it not a sport for men of your sort? I should hardly have to compensate you for the effort," Frotham scoffed, no longer able to contain his disdain.
"Then you must be distressed, indeed."
Unaccustomed to being denied and with such flippancy, the Earl growled, "Do we have a deal, sir?"
Rising to his feet, Montague decided to put an end to their tete-a-tete. "The terms are such: you will pay an advance of five thousand pounds, and twenty thousand upon completion of the charge. I will know the situation prompting this commission. If the intent is to cuckold the Baron Debarlow and incite him into challenging me to a duel, I shall have to request a greater sum, as I am to risk my head being blown off."
Montague watched as Frotham turned all shades of red, finally settling on a hue not unlike that of a fresh cut of raw beefsteak. For a moment, Montague wondered if he had overplayed his hand.
"The Baroness is a widow," Frotham said through clenched teeth. "And I shall not agree to such outrageous terms."
"Then I bid you have a good evening, my lord." Montague bowed his head and turned toward the door.
The Earl made a series of grunting sounds before saying, "If you please..."
Montague stayed his hand upon the door handle.
"Very well. I accept your terms."
Montague breathed a private sigh of relief before turning to the Earl.
"But you will have a month to succeed or fail," Frotham said. "You will observe the utmost discretion. If anyone were to gain awareness of this matter, our arrangement is forfeit."
"You have my confidence."
Frotham did not appear comforted and gnawed his words as if fearful his teeth would fall out during his speech. "She has ensnared my son."
"The Viscount Tremayne?"
"He is to wed Elisabeth Worsely. Her father and I have agreed it is a most suitable match, but Charles will not offer for her hand while he is smitten with the Baroness. I have enticed and threatened him in as many ways, but not even the threat of poverty will dissuade him from her."
"Perhaps he perceives it an empty threat," Montague offered, "as it would only augment that which you seek to avoid."
Frotham nodded. "His association with the Baroness is scandalous enough. She has at least thirty years to her name and he but two and twenty. There are many women of far greater beauty and charm than she, but Charles follows her about like a wretched pup to its master's heel. She has no breeding, and it astounds me still how someone as common as she could have married the Baron Debarlow. Her motives of greed were obvious, and he has left her a grand fortune upon his death."
"Are you so sure it is not a passing fancy between your son and Lady Debarlow?"
"It is as if she has powers of sorcery over him. I fear he would wed the Baroness if naught be done."
Tremayne was the only son and heir for the Earl, whose only other child was a younger daughter. Marriage to Debarlow would be disastrous for Frotham.
"And I am to woo the Baroness from your son, freeing him to marry Miss Worsely," Montague concluded.
"Precisely. My son must never know of our arrangement."
"Where can I introduce myself to the Baroness?"
"There is to be a ball given by Lord and Lady Bennington a fortnight from hence. I shall arrange to have you as a guest of my friend Mr. Henry, who will be in attendance."
* * * *
The Viscount Tremayne strained against the bindings that secured him to the wooden cross behind him. Every shred of clothing had been stripped from him, leaving him as naked as a babe newborn to the world. He shut his eyes that he might not know if the other patrons of Madame Botreaux's Cavern of Pleasures could see him thus: bound, exposed, and helpless. Those who came to the secret underground assembly observed a code of silence respecting the identities of their fellow patrons. The slightest slip of the tongue ensured a swift expulsion from the Cavern. Nevertheless, many wore masks to preserve their anonymity.
But his mask lay upon the ground at her feet, taunting him with its uselessness. He, the Viscount Tremayne, future Earl of Frotham, was bared for all to see. The darkness of the lair, illuminated by candelabras placed sufficiently far in corners to cast the scantest of light, provided no comfort. Shame colored his cheeks even as a peculiar thrill ran hot through his veins, churning in his groin and pulsing in his cock.
In stark contrast to his nudity, the Baroness Debarlow stood in full dress and mask. Even her bronze-colored hair was concealed beneath powder. He marveled at her beauty. Long ivory gloves encased firm yet supple arms. Hers were not the scrawny limbs of the younger chits who vied for his attention. Her full bosom curved lusciously above her corset. Her pale unblemished skin glowed with a luster that no rouge could engender. Though her shoulders lacked the dramatic slope defined by the standards of current feminine beauty, he would have given much to kiss that part of her. Even her height--she stood as tall as he when in her heels--did not dissuade him.
With a quick flick of her forearm, Abigail Debarlow landed the cat-o'-nine tails across his chest. He grimaced but she knew he reveled in the pain. Deep within her, simmering embers of a fervor threatening to burst into flame compelled her to lash him with greater vigor, but she stayed the desire, not wishing to frighten him. She had labored far too hard cultivating his devotion to risk any setbacks. With his breeding and handsome features, he could command the attention of women far younger and comelier than she. The older women doted on his fine brown eyes with their large bright irises. The younger women admired his form, which he kept lean through a healthy allowance of sport.
Perhaps it was her easy dismissal of him upon their initial meeting that roused his attention, for undoubtedly the young Viscount was wont to be the recipient of greater attention among the fair sex.
* * * *
"She is beautiful."
The wake of the dashing mare swept the words from his mouth and the breath from his breast. Charles had never seen such a splendid specimen of an Arabian. She galloped smoothly along the fence, appearing as if she might take flight at any moment. The movement of her muscles mesmerized him even more than her gleaming coat of black. Though his father would oppose adding another horse to his stable, Charles could not resist the gasps of admiration that were sure to follow when he unveiled this prize at the races.
"I will take her," Charles pronounced, barely able to contain his grin, to the shorter man beside him. "You have outdone yourself, O'Kearney. By far, you can claim to breed the best horses this side of the Thames."
O'Kearney, scratching his neck, looked away. "I thank ye for yar kind words, m'lord. But I fear she be taken."
Charles could not believe it. This horse was meant to be his. "Taken? By whom?"
He turned and beheld a woman in a blue riding habit donning a pair of white riding gloves. From the tailoring of the jacket, which molded her body most impressively, and the sharp cravat at her throat, he discerned her to be a woman of quality. The first blossom of youth had passed the peak of bloom for her, but she was no less striking. Charles felt a sense of relief. A woman would be easier to persuade, and one with a few more years of maturity. He found the younger, prettier ones could possess the most unappealing haughtiness, expecting that even men of distinction should treat them as if they were crowned princesses.
"You are a fine judge of horseflesh, madam," he praised with a step towards her. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am the Viscount Tremayne."
He doffed his hat and bowed, but when he met her gaze again, he did not perceive any glint of interest in her greyish blue eyes. She looked him over with what seemed to be tedium or even disdain. He would have dismissed her as unperceptive or of a cantankerous disposition, but she possessed something he desired. He had no choice but to engage.
"And you are?" he prompted with his most charming smile when it became clear she was not to offer her name. He decided she was both unperceptive and cantankerous.
"Baroness Debarlow," she tossed over her shoulder as she went to stand at the fence to watch the mare.
Well, Charles thought to himself, appearances can deceive. He had never met Abigail Debarlow before, but he knew the scandal of her marriage to the late Baron Debarlow. With his wealth, the Baron could have chosen from any number of willing women, but he elected a most common woman. She must possess extraordinary powers of seduction, Charles concluded, to have ensnared one of the most eligible bachelors. He wondered what manner of tricks she engaged in the bedchambers to have won the Baron over.
She raised an elegantly arched brow at him, and he realized he was grinning at the thought of her naked in bed.
He cleared his throat. "My condolences on the passing of your husband, my lady."
"His death amuses you?"
"No, I..." His cheeks grew warm. He was near to disliking this woman. Perhaps she was not so comely. She had not applied enough powder to conceal the darker tint of her complexion, bronzed perhaps by hours riding in the sun. Nevertheless, one who did not possess skin of alabaster should, at the least, employ the cosmetic arts to her advantage. Yet she did possess a regal carriage unexpected in one given her circumstances. No doubt it was an effort to mask an ordinary origin.
"The Baron was much respected," he said.
She looked him over before turning her attention back to the mare. "You are young to have known him well."
He bristled. Did she think him an adolescent? Perhaps it was best to change the subject of discussion. He followed her gaze. "A magnificent mare, is she not?"
She said nothing.
"And an impressive gait."
He decided a polite tete-a-tete would not be possible with this woman. He might as well come forth with his intentions.
"I would buy her from you."
"A bad temperament has the horse," O'Kearney warned. "Terrible skittish."
"I have no interest in selling her." She turned to O'Kearney. "Saddle her, if you would."
"But you have yet to hear my price," Charles pressed.
"I have no interest in your money."
"I will pay you double for the mare."
That gave her pause. She turned to look at him. "I paid two hundred pounds."
Charles blanched. Perhaps it was just as well she was not interested in selling. He had not four hundred pounds, not without pleading before his father, who was not likely to approve the purchase. The chorus of admiration and envy he was expecting to hear from his peers began to fade into a mere dream.
Distressed, he blurted, "I would have thought the sum of four hundreed pounds could merit your attention."
She had been watching O'Kearney struggling to cinch the saddle about the mare but now she turned to Charles with narrowed eyes. "You had not heard, perhaps, the claims that I married the Baron for his wealth. Having accomplished such a feat, I have no need for your money."
She left him at a loss for words. It was not often that he felt like a fool. The sensation was most uncomfortable.
The Baroness walked over to the mare and placed a firm hand upon the horse. He could not hear the words she spoke, but the mare calmed enough for O'Kearney to put the reins over the horse.
"Allow me," Charles said, springing forward when he saw O'Kearney about to assist the Baroness. Putting his gloved hands together, he formed a bridge for her to step on. He hoisted her onto the horse. Stepping back, he admired the vision before him. The mare pranced in place but showed no other signs of a flawed disposition. It was evident from the ease with which the Baroness held the reins while maintaining her tall posture that she was an experienced horsewoman. Perhaps she was not so plain in features. Astride a horse, she presented a compelling vision. His interest turned from the horse to its rider. No woman had ever denied Tremayne before, and neither would Lady Debarlow.
"I trust you will not make the same error at the Bennington ball?" Abigail asked Charles as she surveyed the series of bright pink marks she had left across his chest, thighs, and arms with her lash. His cock stood at rigid attention, his body trembling for release. But she would not allow it. He had wronged her at the last assembly, embarrassed her among the quidnuncs, eager to discuss when the Viscount would finally tire of her in favor of younger, prettier women.
"I will dance with none other lest I have first danced with you," he said.
"Invite me to dance," she corrected. "Whether I shall accept is a different matter."
He winced. Walking over to where he stood still pinioned to the post, she released his bonds. He fell to his knees and kissed the laces upon her boot.
"Forgive me, Mistress."
She smiled. "You are forgiven."
"My lady is most merciful. Your benevolence is the greatest honor. I am unworthy of your forbearance. You--"
She had been willing enough to play the role of mistress to him, but his excessive flattery was most tedious.
"You may apply twenty lashes to your back so that you may fortify your lesson," she added, dropping the lash where he knelt.
He bowed. "Thank you, Mistress."
She walked out of the alcove to the sound of the lash falling against his body. She shook off the sensations of guilt that always crawled upon her since the day her lash had first fallen upon him. He deserved worse than she gave. She would spit upon the name of Frotham for what they had done to her family. Fate had been cruel, but that capricious goddess had seen fit to present this most unusual opportunity to avenge the wrong. She knew the Earl to suffer great consternation over his son's infatuation with her. He would be appalled if he knew his son patronized Madame Botreaux's Cavern of Pleasures, but he would not disown his only son and heir to the earldom.
Unless the Viscount chose to marry her.