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Winter Spice

By: Vanessa Liebe
Published By: Blushing Press
Copyright: © 2016 Blushing Books® and Vanessa Liebe
5 Short Stories / 32,500 words
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What are girls made of? Sugar and spice and everything nice, right? With winter in full swing and Christmas fast approaching, it could be that each of them—an undisciplined twenty-something, a kiss-o-gram for hire, a student cleaning houses for extra cash, and a debutante—needs that little extra Winter Spice in their lives.

With a firm hand, the men in their lives add just the perfect amount of hot ginger to the vanilla and these five ladies soon receive an unexpected, but especially warming gift from the man in their lives. When it’s all said and done, they might just end up thinking, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Publisher’s Note: This collection of erotic short stories includes spankings, sexual scenes, elements of BDSM, and more.

Santa's Grotto

 

"I've got to start work in five minutes." Jenna glanced at her watch and moaned to her friend, Candice, who was sitting across the table from her.

Her friend sucked on a straw, taking a gulp of soda, before rolling her eyes. "Poor you," she sympathized. "But then your house did get kind of trashed, Jenna."

"Don't remind me."

The house party of the year. Well, it had started off like that. Everyone had been having so much fun and then it had all gone horribly wrong. Some drunken idiot had posted an open invite on social media, so that people had turned up, trashed her parent's house causing hundreds of dollars of damage, and disappeared before the police had turned up.

To cut a long story short, Jenna was more than sorry for trying to impress certain people in her social circle. She wouldn't bother doing so ever again and had cut herself off from that group now. They weren't particularly nice individuals and Jenna didn't like who they were trying to turn her into. A clone. She shook her head at how stupid she had been. At least now she was determined to show her parents that they could trust her. However, it was taking longer than she'd anticipated. She'd always been the apple of her dad's eye, able to twist him around her little finger—not this time.

"It's been five weeks, Candice." She sighed. "I haven't done anything wild. I haven't been out shopping, blowing my credit card. I've been good. Then my dad dropped his bombshell this morning." It had been the old 'responsibility' talk. Her dad had found her a job working in Santa's grotto for two nights. Hopefully she'd find the experience humbling was the gist of the conversation.

"At least it's only for a few evenings, Jenna." Her friend tried to placate her.

"But Christmas Eve, Candice!" Jenna pouted. "I've got to work tonight and Christmas Eve. I was hoping to be able to go out tomorrow night. Being grounded at twenty-one is so humiliating."

Candice smiled. "Yes, I know. However, if this gets you back in your parent's good books, what's the issue, hon? You can come to my New Year Eve's party then."

Jenna suddenly brightened. "There is that."

"Your dad might reinstate your allowance too. Think of the retail therapy afterwards. I'm sure you can suffer this job for two evenings and not get yourself fired."

Candice had a valid point. Maybe this job thing wouldn't be so bad after all. But then Jenna's smile slipped a bit, as she looked at her friend. "I have to be nice to little people though."

A laugh greeted that comment. "Those 'little people' are called children, Jenna and you can manage them for a few hours each night. All you have to do is show them in to Santa. What can go wrong?"

"Yes. Show the little people into a room with a bushy bearded old man so that they can get a present. Not my idea of fun."

Secretly Jenna liked kids. She just didn't know how to speak to them or behave toward them, having grown up without any siblings herself. And when she was unsure of herself, she tended to say the wrong thing. Even worse, she could be rude. She looked up to find Candice giving her a stern look. "What?"

"Whenever your friendly, welcoming smile starts to slip, just think of your shopping spree. Now get, or you're going to be late." Her friend made a shooing motion with her hand.

Jenna sighed. "I'm going." And she reluctantly stood up. Four hours of hell awaited her. She finished at ten o' clock, when the store closed. Which was obscene. How could anyone be expected to work so late? She sighed again, gave Candice one final look, before turning and heading to the escalator. As she stepped onto it, the other girl called out to her. "Remember to smile!"

Jenna shook her head. Then turned to glare at the blonde. "Not funny." There was absolutely nothing to smile about this situation. Still, her dad had insisted that she do this and if it meant Jenna could indeed go out again, then she would suffer working in Santa's bloody grotto for two evenings. Resolved to her fate, she carried on up the escalator, stepped off at the top and slowly made her way to the department store.

"You're five minutes late and you need to put this on," said a little squirt of a man, holding out an elf costume to her.

Jenna looked at the costume with distaste. Now, she had to put this monstrosity on? "You have to be kidding me."

"Put it on, princess. It's Christmas. And hurry up, or your fired."

Jenna snatched the costume off the man. No matter how much she didn't want to wear it, her pride wouldn't let her be fired before she'd even started the job. She stalked over to a dressing room near the grotto, grimacing when she saw the queue leading into it. So many children. She felt a headache coming on.

Ten minutes later, Jenna looked at her reflection in horror. "This is too awful for words." The outfit consisted of a green, knee length dress, zig zag cut at the bottom with gold balls attached on each point. She wore green and red stripy tights with red high heels. Red cuffs were on the long sleeves and a hideous red, zig zag collar was at her throat. As if this wasn't bad enough, Jenna felt like crying when she put her elf hat on. Cute, the costume was not. "Please don't let anyone I know see me. I will never live this down," she grumbled, before hurrying out of the changing room and into the grotto itself.

As Jenna took up her place outside Santa's inner sanctum, a voice called out to her. "You're fifteen minutes late, elf. Perhaps we can finally start, now that you've graced us with your presence."

Jenna stiffened at the sarcasm. Of all the cheek. She flipped back the glittery, white strands that made up the doorway and saw 'Santa' sitting in a wooden chair and gave him the finger. "Whatever. I was only five minutes late actually, jobsworth. If I didn't have to put this ridiculous costume on, I would have been working with your fat self a lot sooner."

With that, Jenna flipped a strand of long blonde hair over a shoulder, turned abruptly on her heel and went back to her position outside the door. A stranger had no right to criticize her like that. Oh well, get over it, Jenna. It wasn't like she had to talk to him or anything. She simply had to show the children in.

Ahead of her, a door opened and the first child came in. The onslaught had begun. Jenna put on her best smile. "Hello, sweet pea. What's your name?"

"Mary Jane," answered the cute little girl with dark curly hair. "I want to see Santa. I've already waited a long time to see him. Mummy says we haven't paid to wait."

Jenna could feel her smile slipping already at the sound of the whiney little voice. However, she forced herself to be nice. "Of course you want to see him. He's right through here." She waited for the little girl to approach her, before she held the white strands to one side. She watched Mary Jane go in and stuck her head around to look at Santa.

 

Spank-o-gram

 

"One harmless kiss," Madison muttered to herself for the umpteenth time as she stood alone in the lift, going up to the top floor of the skyscraper. "Then it's home to curl up on the sofa in my pajamas with a tub of ice-cream and a film."

The smirking security guard waving her through at reception had clearly known damn well she was a kiss-o-gram for the billionaire boss, but at least he hadn't seen what Madison was wearing beneath her long rain coat. Only the client would get to see that—thank goodness. Sexy Miss Santa, that's me. God, she was fed up with wearing skimpy little outfits and kissing strange men. But it paid the bills and tonight being Christmas Eve meant triple pay. If she got through this, she could afford to take a few weeks off.

Madison gave a heavy sigh. "So much for fun." She'd always loved fancy dress, dressing up sexy, pretending to be someone else. As for kissing people, she'd naïvely thought it would be great snogging gorgeous men. The reality of being a kiss-o-gram was rather different; driving through city traffic to kiss sweaty, slobbering men of all ages, who constantly mistook her for a strip-o-gram instead. She shuddered. No doubt tonight wouldn't be any different. She glanced down at the piece of paper in her hand, with the name of the client on it. Mr. Randall Martinez. Yes, Mr. Randal Martinez would have tentacle arms ready for groping, just like any other client. Except as a billionaire, he'd probably assume he'd paid for a full service, too. Well, she had her pepper spray with her just in case.

Madison put the card back in her pocket. She could do this. Walk into his office, sit on his lap, give him a quick kiss, evade the tentacles and leave. The lift doors opened. She stepped out into a well-lit corridor with plush carpet, and looked in both directions. When she saw an office with an open door to her right, Madison decided to head in that direction. In high heels, the distance was greater than it looked and she mentally added 'aching feet' to her hate list about being a kiss-o-gram.

At last, she was in front of the door. A quick glance at the golden plaque on it—Mr. Tyler Roberts—had her frowning as she knocked and entered. She hovered on the threshold of the office and stared at the man sitting behind a large desk. He hadn't bothered to look up as she'd come in, despite the knock. Yet, even from this distance, Madison could tell he was handsome, which completely threw her for a minute. Was this her client or not? There was a different name on the door than what was on her appointment card.

Seconds continued to tick by as she stood in the doorway, waiting for him to glance up, acknowledge her. When he didn't, Madison tried clearing her throat. "Eh hm." Still the man ignored her, carrying on with whatever he was writing that was so damn important. Now that's just rude. "Excuse me," she called across to him. Maybe he was hard of hearing.

Finally, he looked up, with annoyance showing on his face. Green eyes pinned her with a hard glare. However, Madison didn't care. She had to know if he was the right man, or not. "I've come to see…"

"Yes. You're expected. Please shut the door and I'll be with you in just a moment."

Well really. Madison watched incredulously as the man went back to his paperwork. Did he want his stupid kiss or not? She'd never been told to wait before. He may be hot to look at, with a voice that melted panties, but his dismissive attitude made her want to slap him. She gave a huff of annoyance, then turned to close the door. A little imp within made her shut it hard. There. See if he forgot his paperwork now. An ominous silence filled the room behind her and Madison turned back to find him standing up behind his desk. Her smirk slipped at the look on his face.

"You were asked to close the door and wait for my attention, were you not?"

Madison blinked. That voice was so stern and it made her feel like a wayward child. Combined with the lethal good looks, it sent a jolt of pure lust zinging through her. Spank me, big boy. She instantly sobered up at that disturbing thought. What was wrong with her?

"Yes. I was." She tried to sound meek as he was a paying client when she didn't feel anything of the sort.

His hand slammed down on the desk, causing her to jump. "Congratulations. You have my full attention now. Come over to the desk."

Madison gulped at the commanding tone which brooked no argument, her hand closing over the pepper spray in her pocket. This client may be hotter than any of her previous ones, but he was sure acting weird. Reassured by the spray can in her pocket though, she came forward as instructed, lifting her chin and staring at him defiantly.

"Do you normally slam doors?"

She blinked at the question. Was he for real? Mr. Moody or what? Couldn't she just get on with the kissing part so that she could get the hell out of here. She could really do without this stern crap. It made her feel like she was in the headmaster's office.

"Answer me."

"Jeez. I closed it hard. I didn't slam it," she told him.

Get over it mister.

"Don't sass me. Only bad girls slam doors and sass."

Madison rolled her eyes. God, she'd gotten a right one here. He'd obviously changed his mind about what he wanted her to be. Miss Sexy Santa, or a Bad Girl. Which was it? She gave a mental shrug. He was paying triple for whichever role and as it was Christmas she was feeling generous. She could be both for him.

She looked at him through her lashes. "Perhaps, I have been rather naughty," she said, making her voice a husky purr. Then she unbelted her rain coat, pulled it open and shrugged out of it, letting it fall to the floor. She kicked it away with a foot. "The question is, what are you going to do about it?"

* * *

Office Party

 

"Let's use the photocopier!"

Ava frowned at her friend, swaying slightly on her feet. Stupid feet. "Why?"

Tanya grabbed her by the arm. "To photocopy our boobs and bums of course."

"Brilliant." Why hadn't she thought of that? Ava put her empty shot glass down. "Lead the way," she said on a drunken giggle. This party was proving to be so much fun. Usually office parties kind of sucked. Nobody dared get drunk for fear of the boss watching. But at this one, alcohol flowed freely and there was no sign of the CEO, Mr. Jackson. Nobody feared any consequences of letting loose. Everybody was relaxed and more than a bit tipsy, including Ava. There had been several kisses under the mistletoe. Oh yes. Alcohol had made her confident enough to kiss a man or two. She was one happy drunk and about to have more fun.

She swayed, arm in arm with Tanya, down the corridor to the room with the photocopiers. This was going to be hilarious. "I've always wanted to photocopy my boobs," she declared on a hiccough.

"I know. Right."

They both giggled, almost bouncing off a wall as they swerved to one side. "Careful," Ava warned. "The floor's tilting."

That made Tanya giggle harder. She stopped. "I think it's us."

Ava stopped too, swaying on her feet and almost toppling over. "No." She frowned. "We've only had a few. It's the floor."

Tanya blinked owlishly at her, trying to focus, before stepping forward again. She immediately staggered toward the wall. "You're right. It's the floor. Help me, Ava."

Ava was determined to get them to the photocopy room without mishap. She gripped her friend's arm tighter and set off down the hallway once more. "The Health and Safety team really need to be made aware of this floor." She hiccupped. "It's dangerous." Yet they managed to eventually stagger to their destination, only bouncing off the walls a couple of times.

Ava shut the door, and just about managed to put a box of paper in front of it without falling over. "Don't want any… anyone to come in and see us," she said slurring slightly, before turning back to face Tanya.

"Yes. Shh," her friend said loudly, putting a finger up to her lips and missing. "Don't want anyone to hear us either. We're nu… naughty doing this."

Ava nodded gravely. "Mis… misappropriation of resources." Then she grinned, proud of herself for getting the long word out. But Tanya wasn't listening to her. She'd stumbled over to choose a machine and switched it on.

"This is mine." The brunette announced, stroking a hand over the top of the copier in a loving gesture, her action making Ava snigger.

Then Ava chose her own machine and switched it on, too. Then reached for the hem of her top. She drew it up her body, over her head and threw it to one side. "Boobs first." After regaining her balance, she squinted across at Tanya. "Naked boobies?"

Her friend whipped her halter neck top off and swaying, threw it to one side. "Yes. I'm naked already." She cupped her braless breasts. "See."

Ava found the sight of the topless brunette an incentive to be naked too. "Okay. Wait for me." She reached behind her, fumbled with the clasp on her bra. Finally, she managed to unclip it. The straps slipped down her arms. Ava pushed it off, letting it drop unheeded to the floor.

The two topless women turned to face their copy machines, lifting the lid. "Here goes." Ava cupped her ample bosom, leaned over the copier and placed her breasts onto the glass. The lid couldn't be closed far at all because of the position she was in, so she closed her eyes, then reached a hand out to press the start button.

"Oh," they said in unison as they felt the warmth of the light scanning them.

When Ava heard the paper being printed out the side, she opened her eyes. She pulled back from the machine, closed the lid and reached down for the sheet on the tray. Picking it up, she turned it over to see. She frowned. "I think I can make out my nipples," she said, squinting at the picture. The rest was grey shadows and it was hard to make out her actual breasts. Overall it was disappointing. She glanced across at Tanya. "How have yours come out?"

The brunette swung around with her copy held up. "Not bad." She giggled. "Come see."

Ava did indeed go over to have a closer look. Tanya's breasts could be made out much better. "No fair." She pouted. "Yours look like boobies. I can only make out my nipples." She showed her friend her copy.

Tanya shrugged. "Try again. It's fun right?"

Yeah it was. Ava smiled. "Okay. I'll try once more, if I can adjust the setting." She swayed back to her machine.

"I'm going to make one hundred copies of mine and put them up around the building!" The brunette proudly announced.

Ava smiled, but left her friend to it. She lifted the lid off the machine again, adjusted a setting, placed her boobs back on the glass and pressed the start button. Fingers crossed. The photocopier made its usual noises with the paper coming out onto the tray at the end. Ava picked it up. "Much better." She turned triumphantly to face Tanya again. "Look at my boobs."

Her friend squinted at the piece of paper, before grinning. "Great. I wish I had big boobs like you. Are you going to make more copies like me?"

Ava shook her head. "No. I'm going to do my bum now."

Tanya paused. "I'm going to wait for all these to come out. Then I'll do my bum too." She turned back to watch the copies flying into the out tray.

Ava saw boxes of copy paper nearby and dragged them over to her machine. She needed something to stand on while she carefully sat on the copier. Wobbling, her foot slipped off the top box the first time. "Damn it," she muttered. She put her foot back on, pleased when it didn't slip again. Then she stood on top of the boxes, gained her balance, hitched up her skirt, turned and gently sat on top of the photocopier. "Ohh." She couldn't help sighing at the heat of the machine as it scanned her bottom in its thong. When it was done, she almost fell as she got down. "Whoops."

Tanya held a pile of copies, while she staggered over to Ava. "How has it come out?"

"Let's have a look." Ava picked up the print and grinned. There was the perfect black and white copy of her ass. She could make out both cheeks, including the thong in between.

"You've got a great ass," Tanya told her. Ava was touched. She hadn't of course. It was too big, but it was nice to be told it was 'great'. "Thanks, hon. You doing yours?"

"Nah, I'm going to stick my boobs up everywhere instead." She yawned, long and loud. "Then I'm going home. I'm kind of tired."

Ava could appreciate that. She suddenly felt tired, too. However, while she was being daring, confident Ava, she wanted to do something else. Something truly outrageous. It was slow to come, but a brainwave struck. She hugged the copy of her boobs and ass against her chest and announced, "I'm going to leave these on Mr. Jackson's desk." It was worth it for the look on Tanya's horrified face.

"You're not!"

"I most certainly am," she said, alcohol giving her all the courage she needed. "He should know what a fun Christmas party he's missing out on."

A soppy grin appeared on Tanya's face. "I'm in awe of you."

Yeah. This is going to be great. Her crowning moment. No one in the office would think she was 'plain, boring Ava' then, would they? She smiled as they both put their tops back on, Ava leaving her bra off as she couldn't be bothered. Once covered, the two women high-fived, or tried to. They missed each other's palm. Then they went their separate ways: Tanya stumbling down the corridor pinning up her boobs on Christmas decorations, Ava to the lifts.

She'd never been to the top floor before, or met the elusive Ethan Jackson. She'd only seen pictures of him around the building and on the company website. She idly wondered how the CEO would react to her gift on his desk. An unknown pair of tits and ass. The thought made her giggle.

Clean and Shine

 

Alexis ran into the flat she shared with some other university students and rushed passed her friend, Lily, who was sitting on a stool in the communal kitchen area eating yoghurt. The redhead looked up as she ran past her.

"Where's the fire?" she called out.

Alexis laughed breathlessly and stopped long enough to respond. "My lecture finished late and I'm cleaning some hot shot's massive house today. I need to catch the next bus." She panted, catching her breath, before she disappeared into her room. She threw her bag of books and lecture notes onto her bed, grabbed her cleaning overall, then rushed back out of her room with it.

"I'll meet you in the pub later Lily, if I get back at a decent time. We'll have that drink and game of pool, okay?" She pulled her hair back into a pony tail as she spoke.

"Sounds good," said her friend, eating another spoonful of yoghurt.

Alexis glanced at her watch. "Oh crap, I'm going to miss the bus." Why was it that time always ran away from her?

Lily of course just shook her head.

"I know. I know." Alexis grinned. "I'm late for everything." Without looking back, she ran out of the door as if the hounds of hell were after her. She ran down the street to the bus stop. When the bus wasn't there, she was sure she'd missed it. However, miracle of miracles, the bus was late and Alexis got on.

While the bus meandered slowly through town, managing to stop at every single bus stop, whether anybody was waiting to get on or off, Alexis caught her breath back. The slow journey began to annoy her though. At this rate, she was never going to get back in time to go out with Lily. She had yet to pick up the owner's keys from the cleaning company office, get dropped off and start cleaning. A large house was going to take several hours to clean. Damn it, why do I have to do this stupid job? Oh yeah, typical poor student. And she had to admit it did pay pretty well, especially with Christmas here within the week. It was also quite fun looking around people's houses.

The bus finally stopped where Alexis needed it to and she ran into the office. She was promptly glared at by Anya, one of the co-owners and all round Queen Bitch as she ran in.

"Here are the keys to Logan Miller's home, Miss Slater," she said haughtily, dangling the keys from her hand so that Alexis could take them. The name was announced as though he was some sort of VIP and she felt like rolling her eyes at the woman. Who cares if he's rich? It wasn't like it would make any difference to how she cleaned his damn house. Alexis didn't do special treatment. She always did a good job.

"Remember to respect the owner's property at all times and do not break anything or it will come out of your wages," the unfriendly Anya droned on.

Blah blah blah

"Of course I'll respect his house and I won't break anything," said Alexis sweetly. Can I just go already?

Anya narrowed her eyes at her. "Christian will drop you off. After cleaning, lock up securely and leave the keys in the letterbox outside, as Mr. Miller is currently away and isn't due back until tomorrow. His regular housekeeper has requested this clean and if you don't mess it up, we may be taken on regularly."

Alexis almost saluted, but resisted in time. "I won't mess up." Then, pleased to get away from Anya, she went to the back of the office in search of Christian, the other owner of the company. At least he was friendly and didn't have delusions of grandeur.

* * *

"Bye, Alexis."

"Bye, Christian," she said as she got out of his white van. Such a dear man he was. Why he was with Anya she couldn't fathom. They were like chalk and cheese. A moment of temporary insanity perhaps. At least he had a good sense of humor, unlike certain others, and they could have a joke or two on their journey.

Alexis gave him a wave as he drove off then looked at the impressive house in front of her. It was gorgeous. She couldn't wait to have a look inside. She took the keys out of her cleaning overall pocket, grabbed her cleaning kit and went up the steps to the imposing front door. She quietly turned left and went over to where the alarm was supposed to be located, found it and punched in the key code to deactivate it. Half dreading the alarm going off, Alexis was pleased when it didn't. She hated the thought of having to turn one of these things off. One day she was bound to cause chaos by accidently setting one off. She could be such a klutz sometimes.

Alexis started to look around, wondering where it was best to begin. It was a large house with lots of reception rooms, but she was pleased to see that Logan Miller, whoever he was, had modern taste and had very kindly kept the furnishings and décor to a minimum for her, even the Christmas decorations. It meant that Alexis wouldn't have to spend so long polishing, dusting and hoovering downstairs as she initially thought. She put her headphones in her ears, listening to her iPod as she started work. Without thinking about it, she sang along, quite enjoying herself with a bit of air guitar now and then. She was so glad no one could hear her voice or see her.

As Alexis dusted, hoovered and polished, she idly wondered why there were no photos anywhere. Usually clients had family photos everywhere and at least one of themselves. But there were no photos of cute kids or adults and none of this Logan person. She shrugged. Probably some weird recluse or something. She just got on with her job, grabbing her cleaning kit to start up the long flight of stairs. She polished the bannister, complete with a huge garland of tinsel wrapped around it, as she went. If the rooms upstairs were as sparse as downstairs she might actually be able to meet Lily in the pub at a decent time.

Alexis took the last stair and looked around. She counted at least ten doors and groaned. In a house this size, the bedrooms were bound to have en-suites. All of which would require bleaching and polishing. She chewed her lip, indecisive as to where to start. She turned left and went into the first bedroom. She had her head down as she stepped into the room, looking through her cleaning kit for the magic white vinegar spray she used for cleaning mirrors, so she was half way across the room before she actually looked up and received the shock of her life. She almost screamed and dropped her kit, but stopped herself just in time.

Holy crap!

On the queen-sized bed in front of her, lying on top of black satin sheets was a naked man with the most gorgeous butt she'd ever seen. Talk about tight buns. And he appeared to be fast asleep. Who the hell was he? There wasn't supposed to be anybody at home today, according to Anya, and she was never wrong. Also why hadn't the hunk heard her downstairs, hoovering, cleaning and worse singing?

A Christmas Bride

 

Lord Lucas Thornton threw himself into a chair by the fire, sighed heavily and glared morosely into the flames. "You won't believe it, Alex!"

"What won't I believe?" Viscount Alexander Fortesque, Lucas's best friend, gave him an odd look, before joining him in a chair by the fire.

"It has been made clear to me that if I wish my political career to progress any further, I must take a wife." He knew that together he and Alex scandalized society with their behavior—drinking, gambling and womanizing. But he hated being told what to do. Of course he was going to limit his activities now he was involved in politics. However, he never envisaged a wife being part of his career, or life, so soon.

Alex chuckled, but stopped at his friend's black look. "Oh, come on, dear chap. It had to happen sooner or later.'

"I'd rather it never happened. But to be brow beaten into doing so?"

"Yes, but we fellows have to produce that all important heir."

"True," Lucas mused. "And once I've produced one, I can always take a mistress to take care of my needs." He suddenly brightened. "You have cheered me up, my friend."

"Who is the lucky chit to be? No doubt there will be even more ambitious mamas presenting their offspring to you than usual at any gathering once word is out you're looking for a wife. Or do you have a debutante in mind?"

"God. No." Lucas grimaced at the very thought. He leaned forward in his chair. "You have to help me, Alex. Find me a chit of good breeding, with a sizeable fortune and looks that are passable."

Alec raised an eyebrow. "You would really trust me with finding your future wife for you?"

Lucas nodded. "Yes, I would."

His friend was highly amused by this. "Very well. I shall. Now are we going to Whites or not?"

Lucas smiled. "Of course. Have to make the most of my freedom while I can."

The two gentlemen left for their favorite club to partake in at least one of their pleasures.

* * *

Grace Fitton, a young lady in her first Season, had been summoned to see her parents in the drawing room. She had no idea what the meeting was about, but it sounded serious and she frowned as her maid finished dressing her.

"Oh, Miss, don't frown so. The Master will only get cross and you'll be sent to your room without any supper again."

Grace immediately stopped frowning. Her maid was right, for her father needed only a minor excuse to find fault with his eldest daughter. She had spent numerous evenings in her room without supper for daring to express her opinion about something.

"I just wonder why they want to see me, Rosie. I don't think it's going to be good whatever it is they wish to tell me."

"Now, now, Miss. Everything will work out fine."

Grace said nothing. What was the point? She couldn't shake off a feeling of impending doom. Reluctantly she left the sanctuary of her room and went downstairs to greet her parents. To her surprise they had a gentleman caller. She recognized him from one of the soirees she had been to, but she couldn't put a name to the face. He seemed pleasant enough, so she relaxed slightly.

"Grace, my dear," said her father. "Come and meet Viscount Fortesque. He has brought us some splendid news."

Grace curtsied to him and they all sat down. She looked at her father expectantly.

"His Lordship has come on behalf of his friend, Lord Thornton and has expressed Lord Thornton's intentions towards you. I have given my permission for a courtship, Grace, and an announcement of your engagement will be made in the papers soon. You're going to be a Christmas bride. Isn't it wonderful news?"

Grace was stunned. She recognized Lord Thornton's name immediately and her blood turned to ice at hearing it. He was one of the worst womanizers in society and far too handsome for his own good. He had cheekbones that no man had any business possessing and on any other man would have looked effeminate. Instead they added to his feline grace. She had seen him only once at a ball, surrounded by simpering misses and had vowed then to have nothing to do with him. She was quite sure that Lord Thornton hadn't even noticed her so why he should suddenly ask for her hand in marriage, she was at a loss to understand. But then he'd sent his friend to do it, hadn't he? He couldn't even be bothered to come himself.

"Could my lord not come himself to ask for my hand?" she asked sweetly, while fuming inside. "Flattered though I am."

Her father immediately glared at her. "My dear child. Lord Thornton has important political work to do. You are lucky he has sent Lord Fortescue in his stead."

Outwardly, she gave a smile that didn't reach her eyes and agreed with her father that 'yes' it was indeed wonderful news and that she was sorry if she had spoken out of turn by querying her fiancé's absence. She then had to sit through afternoon tea, making polite conversation with her parents and Viscount Fortesque. Sometimes it was so unfair being a woman. Women never had any say in what happened to them.

 

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