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Take a rousing romp through 1790s England with this second of four Properly Spanked novels...
The Earl of Warren never considered himself the heroic type—or the marrying type. Unfortunately, while attempting to save the mysterious Lady Maitland from the clutches of a degenerate fortune hunter, he ends up shackled to her himself.
It was never in the plans, and worse, his bride doesn’t want him. Rather than feel grateful, Josephine begs to be released from the marriage so she can accomplish her dearest goal—to be left alone. Troubled by an unconventional childhood, scarred by painful memories, Josephine acts out until Warren has no choice but to begin a disciplinary program to bring her to heel.
Although his spankings are firm, painful, and plentiful, he makes little progress in taming his wild countess. But her wildness pleases him in the bedroom, where they spend hours at uninhibited play, fulfilling licentious and carnal lusts. While Josephine struggles to understand her feelings toward her authoritative husband, Warren must decide if having a tame wife is worth the anguish of damaging her already vulnerable heart.
This 82K word novel contains acts of punishment and discipline, anal play, sado-masochism, and other sensual practices.
Chapter One: Lady Maitland
The Earl of Warren let his mind drift as his younger sister rambled on in a cheerful voice. Wilhelmina—or Minette, as everyone called her—could carry on a conversation for hours, no matter if the other person participated in the exchange. He had the questionable fortune to be sharing a carriage with her on a day-long journey to a friend’s home in Hertfordshire.
“Will we be there soon?” Minette perched on the edge of her seat, craning to look out the window.
“It’s at least two more hours, love. Perhaps you should rest.”
Minette was as likely to rest as an overstimulated puppy. The nineteen-year-old woman was as tiny as he was large, and possessed of boundless energy. They shared the same riotous blond curls, courtesy of their late mother, although such hair suited his vivacious sister far better than him.
“I can’t rest,” she said. “I am far too excited to see my friends again. Calliope will be there, and Lucy, and Helena, and Prudence, and Melinda and Belinda…”
She went on to name about a thousand girls her age, while Warren thought what a torment this house party would be. It was already early spring, so social duties loomed on the horizon. After a week in St. Albans as the Earl of Baxter’s guests, everyone would swarm to London for the start of the season, to plan their balls and dinners, and match up their young Melindas and Belindas with husbands.
Warren himself was a prime matrimonial prospect. He was an earl, for one, and excessively rich, for another. He was also considered handsome, with well-formed features and unusually vivid blue eyes. He was so eligible, in fact, that mamas and papas tended to overlook his rather sketchy bachelor activities and his association with a group of gentlemen known for lascivious pursuits.
“I’m sure your friends will be happy to see you again,” he said when she’d finished listing their names off. “And which gentlemen will be there? Any you are sweet on?”
“Warren! I’m not sweet on anyone, and if I was, I wouldn’t tell you.”
“Just behave yourself, all right? I won’t hover over you, but I expect you to stay out of trouble. No going off alone with any gentleman. No flirting or sending correspondence.”
“I wouldn’t,” she said, looking shocked. “I shall spend my time with my companions. We’ve made a pact to stick together and watch out for one another’s interests.”
Funny, but he had made the same pact with his friends several years ago. As only sons, the four of them had long been hounded by expectations of marriage and duty, but so far, only the Marquess of Townsend had fallen. The Earl of Augustine, the Duke of Arlington, and Warren continued to enjoy their bachelorhoods, and their “interests” were nothing at all like those of Minette and her friends.
“What are you going to do at the party?” she asked him. “Will there be any ladies you are sweet on?”
“I sincerely hope not, since I plan to stay in the card room and drink.”
Minette shot him a scandalized stare, but he meant what he said. One hadn’t much opportunity for sensuous pursuits at a quality function, unless one wanted to try one’s hand at seducing innocents, any number of whom would be at the party. But that had never been his style.
“I hope you’re joking about cards and drinking,” said Minette. “How horrified I would be if you were so rude. Lady Baxter had matched the number of ladies and gentlemen perfectly until your friends decided not to come, and so you must socialize and make conversation, and dance at the evening entertainments, and be a charming person for the sake of your hosts. In particular you must be kind to Lady Maitland, since she is the Earl of Baxter’s ward.”
“Baxter has a ward?” Warren asked, interrupting her mid-prattle.
“Yes, her name is Lady Maitland, and all of us think she is ever so mysterious and sad.”
Warren could sense a long story unfolding, and braced himself to endure a quarter-hour’s worth of details. “Why sad?” he asked when she looked at him expectantly. “Please tell me all about this Lady Maitland. Don’t leave anything out.”
Minette leaned forward, clasping her hands. “Oh, where do I begin? She has been to places all over the world, for a start, because her father was an avid traveler in addition to being a baron. She only came back to England a short while ago. She made her curtsy to the queen the same day I did, but she was all in black, can you imagine it?”
He tipped his hat forward over his eyes. “No, I can’t.”
“It was because both her parents died suddenly. I don’t know how, and of course no one would talk about it. Perhaps they were bitten by poisonous vipers in some jungle, or murdered by Cossacks. Or set upon by cannibals.”
“My goodness, Minette.” He was fairly sure this was all made up.
“But her mourning dress was the finest thing,” his sister went on. “With just a touch of ribbon, and elegant puffed sleeves. She was the most pale and tragic young woman and she had the smallest sort of hands, and gloves with a black pearl at each side. All of us wanted to be as pretty and dignified as her. During the audience, the queen said she must set about to be married, and soon, for she’s inherited her father’s barony.”
He pushed his hat up a smidge. “Who are we talking about?”
“Lady Maitland! Her given name is Josephine, which I suppose I am permitted to call her, since she is mostly my friend.”
“We exchanged a few words while we waited to see the queen, and she told me her name was Josephine, so that means we are friends, doesn’t it?”
“All the world is your friend, my dear. Including this Josephine, I’m sure.”
“But her official name is The Right Honorable Lady Maitland and she is a poor orphaned baroness who is all alone, without a mother or father or husband or anyone at all to look after her except for Lord Baxter who is some distant, distant, distant cousin. Isn’t it the saddest story you ever heard?”
“She can’t be a baroness with no husband,” he said, sinking back beneath his hat’s brim. “Only men have titles, and those titles are passed along to male issue when they die.”
“She’s got a title,” Minette insisted. “I suppose there was no one else to have it.” She placed a finger aside her gently pointed chin. “It doesn’t seem fair, though. None of the rest of us young ladies have titles.”
“You’ll get a title if you marry the right sort of chap. Why didn’t you accept Lord Bancroft when he offered? Or Lord Everett? Both were perfectly adequate prospects.”
“Perfectly adequate,” she said glumly. “And perfectly boring.”
“You say boring. I say steady.”
Minette pulled one of her thunderous pouts. “Why are you so eager to marry me off? Do you want to get rid of me?”
“Not at all, but you know how the marriage market goes. The longer you’re on it, the less appealing you are.”
“I had more suitors than Bancroft and Everett. Many more.”
“I know.” And she had rejected all of them for the most buffle-headed reasons. Too short. Crooked nose. An excessive fondness for chamber music. “I have every hope you shall eventually make an excellent match,” he said. “In the best case, you’ll choose someone we both esteem.”
“I don’t know how that will be possible, when you hate all the gentlemen I like, and I hate all the gentlemen you like. What’s worse, all the gentlemen whom I least admire seem to want me the most, while the ones I admire most don’t want me at all.”
“Because you chatter too much,” he said sotto voce.
“What did you say?”
“Nothing. Listen, I was up quite late. How about letting your brother get some sleep?”
“But who shall I speak with to pass the time? Why didn’t you let Mrs. Everly ride with us? Then we could have conversed while you rested.”
Just what Warren needed, the stodgy Mrs. Everly droning in his ears. “There was more room in the baggage coach,” he said. “Now hush.”
The truth was, his aged valet and Minette’s hired companion were fond of each other, and had precious little time alone, and so he had suggested they ride together in the other coach. Warren was sensitive to such things, to longing and hope and attraction, though he was not a particularly romantic man. He’d been ten when he became the Earl of Warren, and had learned to go about life in a very particular way.
And that particular way did not involve fawning over women.
He was more concerned with getting Minette happily married. His sister had never known their parents, who had died in a carriage accident soon after she was born. He wanted Minette to have a family and a sense of belonging beyond what he could give her—which, despite his best efforts, was not very much. He brought her to parties like this to increase her chances of finding a compatible partner. His friends Lord Augustine and the Duke of Arlington had been supposed to come too, but absconded at the last moment to Bath, to chase after some actress’s skirts.
“Warren,” she said, stifling a yawn. “Will you sit over here so I can lean on your shoulder?”
“Ready to rest now, are you?”
“Don’t tease!” she whined. “Will you?”
“Of course, mopsy.”
She scooted over and he switched to the front-facing bench, slouching down and propping his feet on the opposite cushion. When he’d slouched enough for her head to reach his shoulder, she settled against him in the same fashion she had since she was two or three years old. As a child, Minette had often wandered about in the throes of slumber—sleepwalking, they called it. During those night-roaming years, she had slept beside him a lot.
“All right?” he asked.
“Yes.” A brief pause. “I feel nervous about this party.”
“I don’t know. I suppose I’m always worried when I’m out among company. I’m afraid I’ll say the wrong things and everyone will come to hate me, and issue me the cut direct next time I’m around.”
He chuckled. “Everyone loves you, silly. And even if everyone hated you, I would still love you and let you live at Warren Manor for the rest of your days.”
“Well, in your own secluded wing.”
Minette batted him on the arm. “I hope you’re sweeter to your lady friends than you are to your sister.”
“I’m not, unfortunately. I’m only ever sweet to you.”
She thought he was joking, but he wasn’t.
“Go to sleep, will you?” he said, patting her curls. “I’ll wake you when we’re there.”
* * * * *
The Baxters’ house party was even grander and more crowded than Warren expected. With sixty guests, he understood why they’d only been invited for a week, as opposed to the typical fortnight. There was the usual mix of married couples and single guests looking for prospects. Since the latter outweighed the former, the party took on an air of flirtation from the start.
Of course, his sister was in heaven. Since she was beautiful, sweet, and naturally cheerful, men flocked to her and competed for the smallest scrap of her attention. And because she attracted so many men, swarms of young misses also surrounded her to benefit from her social success.
Warren watched all of this with a jaded eye. He was eight years older than his sister but he felt two decades older most days. As for the other young ladies, they seemed to grow sillier every year.
The second evening, the Baxters set up a great revelry in their ballroom which he attended out of social obligation more than anything else. He danced with three of the unattached women, again, out of social obligation. The first chattered on nearly as effortlessly as Minette. The second two he chose for their wallflower qualities, so they were much quieter.
At the end of the third dance he considered his social duties discharged and headed to the card room where the gentlemen—and some of the older ladies—gathered to play, drink, and smoke. He’d just settled into a hazy corner with a glass of port when he heard his name.
“Warren? Why, it is you. What have you been up to, you filthy beast?”
Warren frowned at the Earl of Stafford. “Do you mind piping down? I have a reputation to preserve.”
“We know your reputation, Wild Warren,” the man replied, arching a dark brow. Someone had long ago joined Warren’s hated first name and his title to create the moniker. He forgot how much it irritated him until now.
Stafford, who loved to irritate people, sat beside him without waiting for a by-your-leave. The earl was an Oxford classmate who had long run in the same debauched circles as Warren and his friends, but none of them liked the man. He was unpleasant at his best, and downright degenerate at his worst. He waved a be-ringed hand toward the ballroom doors. “Why aren’t you out there putting a sparkle in the eyes of the unmarried guests?”
“There’s enough sparkle on your fingers already, old chap.”
Now Stafford was the one whose lips twisted in irritation. “Ha, you’re a funny fellow. How is your sister? What’s her name? Winnie? Minnie?”
“Minette,” Warren said, looking about for some avenue of departure.
“Pretty thing. Such a smile, and those curls. She’s got to be marrying age now, yes?” The man’s handsome features twisted into a leer. “I wouldn’t mind courting her, young as she is. She’s got the famous Bernard breasts.”
With that outrageous remark, Stafford managed to insult both Warren’s sister and his late mother. It wouldn’t do to brawl in his host’s home, but if Stafford didn’t move along soon, Warren might lose his composure and plant a fist in the man’s face. “If you so much as look at my sister, I’ll kill you,” he said in a low voice. “I’ll kill you slowly and painfully, with great amounts of torture. That is a promise, Stafford, not a threat.”
The earl threw back his head and laughed. “I’m only joking, dear boy. Deliver me from overprotective brothers. No, I’ve got my eye on someone else. Only reason I’m here at this damned boring party, you know.”
“Damned boring? You’re happy enough to drink Baxter’s wine, though, aren’t you?” Warren liked Baxter, and thought Stafford a preening, self-concerned arse.
“Oh, Baxter’s a grand sort,” the man said with another wave of his rings. “At least, I’ll let him believe so while I’m paying my addresses to that daft chit he wants to marry off.”
“I’ve no idea what you’re talking about,” Warren said. “Are you drunk?”
“I’m speaking of Baxter’s ward, man. The Baroness Maitland. She’s looking for a husband, and I’d be as happy as anyone else to get my hands on her fortune.”
Ah, the pale and tragic Lady Maitland. Even more tragic, to be courted by Stafford. “I’m sure you’re not even in the running.”
“Oh, I am,” Stafford said with a smirk. “I can be charming enough when I need to be. Even charming as you, Lord Warren, and I’ve not much competition in this case, since the girl is so strange.”
“If she’s strange, why do you want to marry her?”
“Money, of course. And she’s titled too, a baroness in her own right. Her father passed down everything—fortune and title, and a parcel of property not so far from yours.”
“Maybe he thought her too homely to find a husband.”
“Homely? No one could call her that. She’s got beautiful auburn hair, a slim little waist, and great, big, bountiful—”
Warren pushed down the man’s hands as he sketched curves in the air. “Be that as it may, do you really want a daft woman having your children?” The Stafford line was already mentally thin, though Warren didn’t say so aloud.
Stafford shrugged. “I’ve looked into all that. She’s not insane or anything, only a bit rough in manners. She grew up in foreign parts, so what do you expect? I can always have someone else raise the children if she’s a hassle, and stow her in Bedlam. Out of sight, out of mind.”
“What a detestable fellow you are.”
“Detestable? I call it practical. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t do as much.”
“I wouldn’t do as much,” said Warren. “I’d never put a woman in Bedlam.”
Stafford gave him an arch look. “That’s rich, coming from you. Everyone whispers about your wicked and unnatural proclivities. Word is, you drove one of Madame Cecilia’s girls mad.”
“Drove her mad with pleasure.” It was a well-passed-about myth that he had broken Mary Branham’s mind, but it wasn’t true. The poor lass had been broken to begin with. He’d only set her up in a cottage in Cornwall so she wouldn’t have to sell her body anymore.
Stafford took another gulp of port. The man was considered handsome but wouldn’t be much longer, if he persisted in heavy drink. “Be sensible, Warren,” he said. “Daft or not, Baxter’s ward has money. Why marry a poor woman when you can marry a rich one? The Maitland property’s not much, but there’s enough in the bank to keep a gentleman in cards, wine, and women for the rest of his life.”
Stafford deserved to be heartily beaten. Daily. It was only his title and influence that allowed him to move in polite circles. And if Baxter had invited him here, he must—for some unfathomable reason—approve of Stafford as a suitor for his ward.
“Perhaps I’ll marry her,” said Warren. “Steal her from your clutches.”
Stafford laughed. Warren’s reluctance to marry was a well-known fact.
“So when’s your wedding to this Lady Maitland?” Warren asked. “I’ll want to be looking about for an appropriate gift.” Like a pistol for her to blow her brains out.
“We’ll wed as soon as I can get the woman to accept me. She’s not crazy to marry but I can romance her, at least until she’s under my thumb.”
“And then I’ll do what I like, won’t I? And with a great deal more gold in the bank.”
It was a bleak picture, this Baroness Maitland languishing with an arse like Stafford for a husband, especially when she didn’t want to marry in the first place. He hoped she was a strong woman with a resilient heart.
Warren stood to excuse himself, having endured enough of Stafford for one evening. “I wish you a pleasant night. And good hunting with Baxter’s chit.”
“Good hunting indeed.” Stafford raised his glass, rings glittering as bright as his ingratiating smile. No wonder the man needed money. He wore more jewels than a king’s whore.
Warren left the card room, feeling unnaturally tense around the shoulders, as if his coat was too tight. He decided to check on his sister, although he knew the stalwart Mrs. Everly was looking after her. Friends greeted him as he walked toward the ballroom. No matter his private exploits, he was generally liked and respected by the haute ton, and maintained a faultless public image for Minette’s sake, and for his Parliamentary career.
As expected, his sociable little sister was surrounded by friends, having a fine time. He watched her for a while, then skirted the shadows of the ballroom, lest some ambitious young woman come fluttering about to beg for a dance. He paused by a line of tall potted plants, thinking how grand it would be to hide in them and jump out at tottering dowagers, if only there were tottering dowagers around.
But there was only a young woman in a black mourning gown, peering out from behind a cluster of yellow-green leaves. He stopped and looked again.
Yes, my goodness. This could only be Lady Maitland, that daft and tragic figure of Minette and Stafford’s tales. She had disappeared behind her leafy fortress, but not before he noted thick, glossy auburn hair and a mouth made to be kissed.
He was always up for a lark, and this promised to be a good one. He looked around to be sure he was not observed, then set off with a jaunty sense of purpose to flush out this exotic bird.