Mastering the Marchioness
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by Em Brown
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance
Description: The last person Vale Montressor Aubrey, the Marquess of Dunnesford, expects to see walking into Madam Botreaux's Cavern of Pleasures is his wife. Fortunately, she does not recognize him behind his mask, for he has had no intention of revealing his secret life as a Dom to his new bride. Harrietta, the new Marchioness of Dunnesford, knows that she, modest in means and countenance, should consider herself lucky to be married to such a desirable man as the Marquess, even if he is rumored to have had more mistresses than one can count. But if he can have his fun, why can't she? And the dashingly handsome Lord Elroy seems just the man to make her forget about her lackluster marriage. Vale knows that Elroy, also a secret Dom at Madame Botreaux's, is only out to serve his own interests. To protect Harrietta, Vale must claim her as his own, but he soon discovers this feisty wife of his isn't so easy to tame. Especially when things start heating up in the Cavern of Pleasures...
eBook Publisher: Ravenous Romance/ravenous romance, 2009 2009
eBookwise Release Date: September 2009
41 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [261 KB]
Reading time: 164-230 min.
Hanging from a hook, the young woman's toes barely touched the floor. Instead of the mask worn by many of the other guests at Madame Botreaux's Cavern of Pleasures, she wore only a silk red blindfold. The rest of her was laid bare for all to see.
Vale Montressor Aubrey, the third Marquess of Dunnesford, circled around her like a predator examining its prey, occasionally running the tip of a riding crop languidly over her nipples. Once or twice he pulled the riding crop back and flicked it against a breast. She gasped, then groaned.
"Please ... please, Master..." she pleaded.
Peering at her thighs through his black and silver mask, Vale saw the telltale glisten of moisture at her mons. This one never took long.
"Your punishment has hardly begun, m'dear," Vale told her.
"Please ... forgive me ... I was weak."
Suppressing a sigh, Vale pulled back the crop and lashed it at her buttocks. It was unfortunate. Her body was beautiful--with full ripe breasts that quivered when punished--but she had indeed proven weak.
"I leave you to contemplate how you can do better," Vale said with another swat of the crop.
As he headed toward the stairs, past a number of men and women engaged in various forms of coupling, a masked woman threw herself at his feet.
"Take me. I would be a far better submissive than her," the woman declared.
Vale looked down at her. His half-mask did not cover his frown or the hard set of his jaw, and she crept away in shame.
"Pray tell that is not boredom writ on your face?" asked Lance Duport when Vale joined his friend and Madame Botreaux in the balcony from where they could view the activity below, much like patrons in an opera box.
It was the favorite spot of Penelope Botreaux. She rarely ventured onto the floor of the Cavern of Pleasures--so-called because the large assembly area existed practically in the basement of her residence. Unfinished walls left the ground rock exposed. As there were no windows, only the dim glow of a few strategically placed candelabras penetrated the darkness.
"I let you have the beauty when I could have made her mine," Penelope declared from the settee upon which she lounged like a Grecian goddess, wearing a thin transparent gown over a body that time and a few too many glasses of ratafia had made plump in various places.
"I regret your generosity is wasted on me," Vale replied, removing his mask and looking over the balcony to where he had left the young woman. "Perhaps I am too old for her."
Penelope snorted. "I am over forty and hardly consider myself old. You are barely five and thirty."
"And you could best any of the younger men here," added Lance as he raked an appreciative gaze over Vale's body.
An active life of riding, hunting, fencing, and an occasional bout in the ring kept Vale's physique in admirable shape. His stockings encased calves that were the envy of his peers. His simple linen shirt opened to reveal a broad, strong chest. His tight breeches covered muscular thighs and left little to the imagination.
Lance turned to Penelope. "You know half the women here--and men--would give their right buttock to be partnered with Vale. He needs more than a neophyte."
"Would you give your right buttock?" Penelope returned.
Lance curled his thin lips into a salacious grin. "I would give both my buttocks. Do you remember Demarco?"
"Ah, yes, how can I not? He was a beautiful brute. A Samson, with that lush head of hair."
"And cocky as hell, but Vale had him writhing in submission within the hour. After such a conquest, I wonder that Vale should wish to trifle with the weaker sex."
Vale smiled. "Despite all appearances, women are not the weaker sex."
"Well, what the devil are you looking for?" Penelope prodded. "Apparently not men, nor women of unsurpassed beauty. You have spurned both novice and skilled submissives. Only Lovell Elroy has had more partners than you."
Vale pressed his lips into a grim line as he looked over the balcony at a man wearing a red mask flogging a woman. "Lovell is malicious. He cares nothing for the women he is with. I wish you would throw him out, Penelope."
"But the women flock to him, especially those whose hearts you have broken."
"Lovell breaks more than hearts, Penelope."
"Ah well, like you, he is a beautiful specimen to behold, and I do enjoy beauty." Penelope held up her glass and blatantly directed her gaze at Vale's crotch.
"Egad, Vale," Lance interjected. "Nearly forgot. Felicitations to you on your recent nuptials."
Vale started. He had nearly forgotten he was now married.
"Indeed," Penelope said. "Where are you hiding this wife of yours?"
"We arrived in town but yesterday," Vale answered. "She is with my cousin Charlotte at the moment."
He was not particularly interested in pursuing the subject. Though he was sure that Charlotte would prove better company for Harrietta than he, he nonetheless felt a stab of guilt for pawning his wife off on a relative for the evening.
"And will you be introducing us to her?"
"Good God, no," Vale shot back. "She is a simple girl from the country."
"Hardly sounds like the sort of woman you would choose to marry after all these years," Lance commented.
Vale shrugged. "Dunnesford needs an heir. Does it really matter who I marry?"
"Yes, but of all the beautiful and wealthy women setting their caps at you, why a chit for whom you seem to have ambivalent feelings?"
"Her brother and I were the best of friends before he died at Yorktown in the service of His Majesty. We served in the same regiment for some time together, and I owe my life to him. At the age of ten, I would have drowned in the lake at Dunnesford but for his efforts." Vale put back his mask. "I should return to the beauty. Her arms must be sore."
"Even if her constitution is weak," Penelope attempted, "her arse must be a delight. I almost wish I were a man that I might experience the feeling of being inside her."
Her arse should have been delightful, Vale thought as he recalled how easily his cock had slid into the woman due to the immense amount of wetness that had dripped from her cunnie into her sphincter earlier. But there had been something missing with this one--as there had been with all the others. The women were more and more beautiful, yet his drive, his passion, continued to diminish. Perhaps it was only natural once one had experienced all there was to experience, tasted all that a feast could offer.
"Ah, we have some newcomers," Lance said as a few people walked onto the assembly floor. "Damn me, that brunette looks like Charlotte, but who is the one next to her with the lackluster brown hair and emerald necklace?"
Vale narrowed his eyes at the three emeralds separated by two small diamonds and laced together with silver. At first, he paled. Then his jaw hardened as he answered, "My wife." * * * *
For Harrietta Delaney--now Lady Aubrey, Marchioness of Dunnesford--the eye holes in her mask were not large enough to accommodate her wide-eyed stare as she followed Charlotte onto the floor of Madame Botreaux's Cavern of Pleasures. There were men and women about her in all states of undress, and yet she, clothed from head to toe in a modest evening dress, felt like the naked one.
Not only were these men and women openly naked in public but they were engaged in all manner of ... activity ... in public. It hardly seemed real. Only in her fantasies--deep, dark fantasies she had never shared with anyone--had she envisioned such possibilities. Only in London could such a place exist. Certainly not in the small town where she had lived for all four and twenty years of her life. The prospect of living in the city had been the one bright part of marrying the Marquess of Dunnesford. It was a marriage that made her among the luckiest women in England.
And the biggest fool.
"He has wealth and breeding and a title and is pleasing to the eye," Bethany, Harrietta's junior by four years, had cooed after the Marquess had finally accepted one of their mother's numerous invitations.
"Exceedingly handsome," Marianne, who had yet to have her come-out, had sighed.
Even Jacqueline, the youngest Delaney daughter at twelve, had agreed. "He looks like a prince."
Harrietta had to admit that King George himself was unlikely to have produced as grand an entry as the Marquess, arriving in his gilded carriage pulled by a team of four with gleaming white coats and footmen who appeared to possess more expensive garments than the wealthiest of the bourgeoisie. The Marquess was also perfection, from the finely powdered hair, the elaborate cravat tied at his throat, the rich velvet coat that flared from the hips, his delicately embroidered waistcoat, and down to his jeweled high-heeled shoes. He was elegant, yet commanding. Powerful but refined. Regal and sensuous.
Nine long years had passed since she had last seen Vale, and she no longer recognized him. She had dreamt of him, still flushed when she remembered their last encounter, and had heard much about him--especially about the many mistresses he had kept in those years. At the time of her marriage to him, he had been most recently rumored to be with an Italian countess. A family friend who traveled in the same social circles as the Marquess had described him as an aloof and arrogant rake--not the sort of man Harrietta had ever envisioned herself marrying.
The Marquess was a stranger to her. He was not the Vale who once preferred the company of the Delaney family to his own, who had been Harold's best friend, and who had been like a second brother to her. She resented this magnificent Marquess for failing to be the man with whom she had fallen in love as a girl. But Mr. Delaney had three daughters with no dowries. That a man of Lord Aubrey's stature would offer for Harrietta--poor and plain--was, according to Bethany, nothing short of the most miraculous gift Fate could bestow.
Dear God, Harrietta thought to herself as she glimpsed a woman whose breasts were being serviced by the mouths of two different men. Surely I belong in Bedlam for wanting to see this place?
What she saw next answered her question affirmatively. A naked young woman was hanging from a hook like a slab of meat in a butcher's shop while a man wearing a silver and black mask was circling around her, and striking her with his riding crop. Harrietta had never seen such tight breeches as those worn by the masked man. She flushed on his behalf. Her gaze traveled from his loins to his finely sculpted chest. The sinews of his strong arms revealed themselves as he pulled the crop back and lashed it against the woman's backside. Harrietta eyed the planes of his pectoral muscles, the ridges that filled his torso, and the rugged hardness of his belly. She had not thought the naked body of a man could be so--captivating. The man would have made an exceptional model for Michelangelo.
"Masterful, is he not?" Charlotte whispered.
"What is he doing to that poor woman?" Harrietta asked, appalled and intrigued.
"Punishing her. She has displeased him in some way."
The young woman groaned--in pleasure. Harrietta felt warmth spreading through her body. Her own carnal experiences had been limited to a few encounters with the footman and the squire's son. There had been groping--a few playful swats on the butt that she had surprisingly enjoyed--but nothing on the order of what she now witnessed. But she had imagined a world of greater possibilities ever since she had found a copy of Fanny Hill that Harold had hidden beneath his bed.
"He is the most desired master," Charlotte explained. "Only the most beautiful and practiced are selected to be his submissive."
"Have you ever been with him?" inquired Harrietta as she followed the hard set of his jaw. "I should think it rather terrifying."
Charlotte closed her eyes and a small smile played upon her lips. "I would be unworthy."
Harrietta studied her companion, who seemed to be reveling in a daydream. She liked Charlotte, and not because the woman was her only friend in London at the moment. Widowed two years ago, before she had turned thirty, Charlotte Kensington possessed a worldliness and self-assurance that Harrietta appreciated. It therefore surprised her that Charlotte would want to submit to a man like the one in the silver-and-black mask.
When she saw the man leave the assembly floor, Harrietta felt relieved, though she was also curious to see what he might do next with the woman he had left hanging.
"If you wish to leave, you have only to speak it," Charlotte said.
Harrietta contemplated the suggestion. She had seen more tonight than she had ever thought possible. Her mind whirled and she needed time alone to digest all that she saw. And yet, she felt a part of her awakening, a part of her that desired to see more, a part of her that was not merely curious.
"Does everyone wear a mask?" Harrietta asked, stalling.
"Mostly," Charlotte replied.
"Do you know anyone here?"
"No, and that is part of the fun."
They walked past a row of semi-private alcoves occupied alternately by two women licking each other, a group orgy, and a ménage-a-trois.
"Are there no private chambers?"
"Where is the thrill in a private chamber? Ah, it is the time for presenting," Charlotte observed as a number of men and women who began forming a line in the middle of the assembly. "Did you wish to present tonight?"
"Present?" Harrietta echoed. Her pulse began to quicken.
"Those new to Madame Botreaux's must first present themselves. Those of a certain seniority here are allowed to choose among the new ones."
"What happens if you do not like the person you are with?"
"If you find you do not enjoy your initial encounter, you may request to present again upon your return."
Harrietta's heart was pounding. For a brief moment she wondered what her new husband would say or do if he ever found out what she had done. He had made it quite clear before they married that he would not interfere in the life she wished to lead if she would afford him the same consideration. The coolness of his tone as he spoke had surprised her. In truth, she had felt a little stung by it. She knew full well she was not the sort of woman to merit the attentions of a man of his wealth and stature. That he had offered for her hand had mystified her. She could only guess he had felt somewhat obligated to her brother to care for his family.
He was certainly not interested in her. That much had become clear as crystal when he had chosen not to consummate their marriage on their wedding night. Instead, he had adopted a fatherly tone, assuring her he would not press his privileges upon her but would wait until she was ready. What the bloody hell could he have meant by that? The only answer that came to her was that he had no desire to bed her. Her lack of beauty had never bothered her before--Harold had often told her he would sooner be in her company than all the Helens of Troy in the world--but on her wedding night, she had felt the pain of her plainness.
It was possible that despite the understanding that she and the Marquess had not to interfere in each other's lives, this would be too much for him to accept. But why should he have all the fun? Harrietta found herself reasoning as she thought of the Marquess with his mistress. Moreover, her identity was protected by her mask, and she trusted Charlotte not to divulge their illicit tryst. He would never know.
The man in the silver-and-black mask had returned and released the young woman from her bonds and her blindfold. He said something to her that made her cry. At first Harrietta thought he was telling the woman how much more she would be punished, but then he gently wiped the tears from her face, and his lips formed what seemed to be the word adieu. The woman departed with obvious reluctance, casting one last look of longing at him before she left.
What would it feel like to want to be with someone that much? Harrietta wondered.
"If you worry that Vale--" Charlotte began.
Harrietta was quick to dismiss the suggestion. "Not at all. One of the maidservants mentioned he is likely to be at the home of his mistress, the Countess D'Alessio. I suspect he will not return for some time."
"Does that mean you wish to present?"
For some reason, the thought of her husband with his mistress spurred her courage. "Yes--for tonight."
"Very well. I will wait for you when you are done."
I have lost my mind, Harrietta said to herself as she stepped into the line formed by four other women and three men. She could not deny that her body felt warm from seeing all the bodies of men and women writhing in pleasure, but she had not expected she might be one of them tonight. From the corner of her eye, she saw the man in the silver-and-black mask, his arms crossed over his chest as he looked over the line of men and women presenting. She wanted to flee.
But then she saw him move. He was coming toward her. * * * *
Vale saw Lovell Elroy, a man equal to him in physique and dominance, saunter toward the line of newcomers. It was unlikely Lovell would select Harrietta, if the man selected anyone at all. Not all newcomers merited a partner. And Harrietta, with her square shoulders, petite breasts, and common features, was not the type of woman who would catch Lovell's eye. But Vale couldn't take that chance.
Damn Charlotte, Vale thought, when I lay my hands upon her...
"You," he said to Harrietta in a hoarse whisper to disguise his voice. "Come with me."
Lovell looked over. The rivalry between him and Vale was understated but obvious. Vale knew Lovell was wondering why he was bothering with someone like Harrietta.
Vale began walking away. The sooner he removed Harrietta, the better. What the devil was Charlotte thinking bringing her here?
He realized he was not being followed and turned back. Harrietta had not moved. Instead, she simply stared at him dumbly.
"I will assume you did not hear me," Vale told her. Heads around them began to shake.
She glanced over to where Charlotte was standing. Charlotte nodded her head encouragingly.
"Come with me," Vale repeated and turned once more. This time Harrietta followed. He led her to the farthest and most private alcove. It was also one of the darkest, allowing him to reside in the shadows of the faint candlelight.
"Stand there," he directed her, pointing to the center of the room with his riding crop. He surveyed her evening dress. It was a simple gown of violet damask that was part of the new wardrobe he had purchased for her as part of her wedding gift. The corset had managed to push her petite breasts up to form faint contours above the décolletage. She wore her hair curled, but loose and pulled away from her face. The blue half-mask covered what he knew to be a pert little nose but not her full lips, which formed a slight frown in their state of rest. Vale shook his head. Why did she bother with a mask when her emerald necklace, a family heirloom he had presented to her on the day of their wedding, flashed around her neck like a beacon?
"That is a striking necklace, ma petite," he said as he ambled around her slowly.
She realized her error and stammered, "I--it belongs to a friend. She lent it to me for the evening."
An adequate lie, Vale thought to himself. He wanted to sigh and run his hand through his hair. But he continued to circle around her as she watched him cautiously. Why had she come? And what was he going to do with her now that she was here?
"You don't belong here," he pronounced.
She lifted her chin. "Indeed?"
"You had best return home with your friend."
"I will leave when I am ready."
Vale pressed his lips together in displeasure. He was well acquainted with her stubborn streak--one she shared with Harold--and it seemed time had not diminished that quality. God, but she looked so much like her brother, Vale thought to himself as he studied her. The memory of his best friend tugged at his heart with fresh vigor in her presence. He could feel the guilt in every cell of his body. He should have tended to the Delaney family immediately upon learning of Harold's death. Or at least when he had assumed the title of Marquess and had come into his full inheritance. The Delaney family had provided him with the warmth and affection that he lacked from his own family. He owed them the courtesy of a visit and so much more. But each passing year only strengthened the inertia. The guilt grew until he could ignore it no longer, and he had thought to absolve himself by marrying Harrietta; a posthumous apology to Harold for not having taken better care of his best friend's family.
"This is no place for you," he told her.
"Who are you to judge?"
He stepped toward her. She jumped a little but remained where she was. He stood behind her and leaned in toward her ear.
"Did you think I could not smell your apprehension?"
"That is merely because I am unfamiliar here," she responded.
Vale raised his brows. "You have been to similar establishments before?"
A smile tugged at the corner of her lips. "You seem to know all. You tell me."
Vale stepped back to better observe her. Was she lying or possibly telling the truth? If the latter, he had greatly misjudged the country girl he had married. She was staring at him, and he stepped once more into the shadows.
"In the Cavern, you will always direct your gaze in front of you," he explained. "You are not to meet my gaze or look upon me unless I direct you to. You shall always address me as your 'lord' or 'master.' Failure to do so has consequences."
Why was he telling her this? Vale wondered to himself. Best to get her on her way. But her response stunned him. She laughed.
"And what have you done to merit such a title?" she asked.
Insolent chit. Vale could hardly believe he was having this conversation. "You ... are clearly a novice or you would not have the audacity to question me. I have no patience for greenhorns."
"Then why did you choose me--my lord and master?"
He would have preferred she not have added those last words, spoken with such mockery. Never had Vale encountered such impudence in the Cavern. He was almost tempted to punish her.
"Because others would not be so kind as to advise you of the prudent course, which is to return from whence you came."
"Kind?" Harrietta echoed. "And were you kind to that young woman you hung from the ceiling?"
A flush spread through Vale. So she had seen him with the beauty. How much had she seen? But it didn't matter. It wasn't as if she knew who he was. Not even Charlotte knew. "She was being punished," Vale explained. "And perhaps you noticed she was not exactly complaining."
Harrietta seemed to consider the matter, but returned with, "And who gave you the authority to punish her?"
"She did. The source of authority always comes from the submissive. All that I do is what she desires me to do."
"She desired you to strike her with your riding crop?"
"Yes. With an experienced master, even acts that she fears, resents, and dislikes are ultimately ones she wants to happen."
"What was she being punished for?"
"Spending without permission."
At last he was able to silence her. Her brows were knit in thought.
"An experienced submissive would know to do what she was told," Vale continued, "and would not forget to address her master as 'my lord,' as you have done repeatedly."
Her voice wavered every slightly as she asked, "And what will you do with me--my lord?"
This time the words were spoken with more respect.
"Send you home," Vale answered.
She seemed disappointed.
"Madame Botreaux's is not a place for the faint of heart," Vale told her with the tenderness of a parent explaining what was best for a child. "It is understandable to be curious, but in here a person needs to be committed and possessed of a certain level of ... ability."
"What kind of ability?"
"That you need ask shows your lack of understanding. Return home, ma petite."
He began to walk away.
"Where can I obtain the requisite ability?" she asked.
Damn it, Vale swore. Would she not give up? He had no idea how to answer that question. Many years ago he had taken the time to work with new submissives, but he no longer had any interest.
"Would you teach me, my lord?"
Vale whirled on his heels and strode over to her. She was more than a head shorter and had to lift her chin quite high to meet his gaze.
"You do not know what you ask, ma petite," he warned.
"Stop speaking to me as if I were a child," she returned. "You know nothing of me, but have conceived some prejudice against me. Why?"
She was beginning to irritate him. If he lifted his mask to reveal his identity, perhaps he could scare her away.
"Because you are a child," Vale said. "Only a child would persist in asking foolish questions."
"And only an arrogant lout would persist in sending me away." She lowered her voice. "I could be better than any submissive you have had."
The quaintness of her delusion made him laugh, which made her cheeks redden in anger. "I do not mean to deride you, ma petite, but you have no notion of the challenges you face."
"Show me," she insisted.
"As I said, I've no patience for neophytes."
"Then tell me who has. Will the gentleman with the red mask..."
"No," Vale returned with such vehemence that she jumped back. "He has less patience than I."
"And perhaps less arrogance," she muttered.
Vale caught her jaw between his thumb and forefinger. "You tread in dangerous waters, ma petite. You have courage only because you are unaware of all you do not know."
"I know more than you think."
"Do you? With how many men have you lain?"
"Is it breadth or depth that matters?" she countered.
Vale would easily have wagered she was still a virgin. "And how deep does your depth extend?"
"I will be the judge of that. Have you ever been fucked?"
Her eyes widened behind her mask, and her breath quickened. "Often."
Liar, he thought to himself, but decided to let it go for he had another question he could ask. He stepped away from her and pointed to a ring on her finger with his crop.
"You are married. Have you lain with your husband?"
"If I was interested in fucking my husband, would I be here?"