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Lord Raphael Westbrook has a mission: to take revenge on the woman who broke his best friend’s heart. She is an Irish courtesan named Molly Burke, recently parted from her latest protector in Paris. Rafe brings her to London, where he installs her in his nursery at Club Perdition, the gaming club he owns in the heart of Mayfair. Molly will be trained to please him and his friends, and learn how to behave like a little lady.
Rafe’s partner in crime is Lord Dante Blackwell, a man with the face of an angel and a troubled history. His brother, Viscount Heywood, was the man Molly hurt. As Molly struggles to accept her new life, her fiery spirit clashes with her new masters. Yet somehow, she finds a new happiness and freedom while under their strict rule.
When danger from the past threatens Molly, it will take all of her courage and love to survive, along with the unswerving devotion of her three lords. Is Molly strong enough to withstand the danger? Are her lords up to the challenge of rescuing their little lady?
Publisher’s Note: This romance is intended for adults only and features elements of power exchange, mild age-play, and strict discipline. If any of these themes offend you, please do not purchase.
The most celebrated courtesan in Paris wasn't beautiful, but most men never noticed that. They saw only a woman they desired, a woman with hair black as a raven's wing, eyes blue as the sea, and skin like rich cream. Molly Burke was a woman that most of them could never afford.
But Molly had only done what she needed to in order to survive and she wouldn't apologize to anyone for it. She was almost happy that Toby wasn't around to see what she had become. Molly sighed, tracing her finger down the window pane of her second-floor apartment in the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Toby's beloved face was only a memory now.
A shadow crossed the street below—a man, tall and slim. Was it the same man she had seen on the street earlier when she had returned from her dressmaker? Molly peered out through the evening fog, but he had disappeared. She shivered as the damp air penetrated the glass and then turned away from the window to find her maid, Josette, hovering in the doorway.
Molly had found the sharp-featured little Parisian begging in the street six months ago. She had been moved to hire her once Josette had confided how her previous master had used and then discarded her. It had reminded Molly of her early struggles, which had led her from a life on the streets to this luxurious apartment.
"You have a visitor, Madame Burke." Josette read carefully from the card in her hand. "Lord Raphael Westbrook. He claims an acquaintance with the Earl of Shevington."
Shevington was an old and trusted friend. Perhaps this new man would divert Molly’s attention from her melancholy thoughts. "Show him in."
Lord Raphael prowled through the door like a predator, his gaze roving over the room and then her, weighing her up like potential prey. Did he intend to pounce on her? How exciting. Molly could have chosen to be offended. Instead, she let amusement fill her face, along with a touch of scorn. Who was this man?
"Lord Raphael, how kind of you to call. How is my dear Shevington?"
"Extolling the virtues of marriage in the coffee-room at White's, God help him." His voice was gravel over velvet and it made her stomach flutter. A dangerous man. His sudden smile was devastating. "And call me Rafe."
His lordship's clothes were well-tailored and obviously expensive, but Rafe wore them with a casual air as if he couldn't be bothered with what he looked like. He was very tall and very large, his hair a pleasing shade of bronze. His features were blunt with high cheekbones and an unexpectedly beautiful mouth. How utterly delicious.
Intrigued, Molly extended a hand and Rafe bent to kiss it lightly. "How nice to make your acquaintance."
"Thank you for agreeing to see me. Although you may have second thoughts about that very soon."
She frowned at him, puzzled. "What do mean?"
His fingers tightened on hers as he looked up, his blue eyes bright with something she couldn't read. She opened her mouth to ask him, when Josette tapped on the open door.
"You have another visitor, madam. Monsieur Taillon is here to see you."
"Thank you, Josette. Show him in."
Her maid curtsied and opened the door wider. "Madame Burke will see you, monsieur."
Paul Taillon was the richest manufacturer in Paris and her current protector, a handsome man despite being fifty years old. Molly held out a hand and he dropped a graceful kiss on her wrist.
"You are more beautiful every time I see you, chérie."
"And you are a flatterer! I didn't expect your visit today."
Paul looked over at Rafe. "Apparently. Is this a new acquaintance?"
"Paul, this is Lord Raphael Westbrook. We have friends from London in common."
Paul's rather heavy features lightened. He extended a hand. "I see. How are you enjoying Paris?"
"Very much. I hoped Miss Burke could suggest some of the newer clubs to visit."
Paul leaned on the mantel and Molly nodded at Josette to bring in drinks. The two men chatted amiably and Molly made a few recommendations. "Of course, the naughtiest clubs are to be found in Montmarte. Try 22 Rue des Saules. I think you'll be pleased."
Rafe's eyes glittered. "With your recommendation, I am sure to be."
Paul cleared his throat. "I wonder if Lord Raphael could excuse us, chérie." A shadow crossed his face. Something was wrong. "I need to speak to you."
"Of course, I am at your service. Lord Raphael, thank you for calling. I wish you everything Paris has to offer."
Rafe crossed the room to kiss her outstretched hand. The tip of his tongue grazed her skin and Molly shivered, withdrawing her hand. "Wicked," she said under her breath and he smirked at her, unrepentant. And then he was gone, leaving Molly puzzled and aroused. She did not indulge in casual affairs. She could not afford to.
Molly waved her hand toward an elegantly appointed chaise. "Please, Paul, sit down."
"Thank you." He seated himself carefully to avoid crushing his expensive coat. How nouveau riche, Molly thought.A true aristocrat would not have cared. Paul cleared his throat. "I thought it best to speak to you before the announcement appears in the paper."
"That was thoughtful of you," Molly said without irony. So, the rumors were true, then. "You are to be married. Congratulations."
Relief swept across his face. "Thank you, my lovely." He pulled out a white handkerchief and mopped his brow.
"Dear me, what were you expecting? Storms and tantrums?"
Paul smiled ruefully. "Perhaps. It is awkward when one informs one's mistress of one’s impending nuptials."
Molly waved a hand. "If there are feelings involved, of course. But ours was a business arrangement."
Paul's expression hardened. "As you say."
She pretended not to notice. "When would you like me to move out?"
He was startled. "Why would you move?"
"Paul, you know my rule. I will not involve myself with a married man."
There was a short silence. "I did know it. I merely hoped that I might be the exception." His voice held a hard edge that Molly had never heard before.
"Alas, that is the one rule I never break. I have enjoyed our association."
She shook her head, but her smile was kind. "There is no point, Paul. I must contact the tenant in my own apartment to arrange a mutually convenient time for him to move out."
His hand shot out, grabbing her wrist in a painful hold. "Is it so easy for you then, to part ways?"
It was, but there was no point in saying so. His temper, uncertain at times, was frayed. "These things happen, Paul. You must have realized that when you decided to marry."
Paul released her, but a muscle jumped in his jaw. When he spoke, it was with an exaggerated politeness that made her wary. "May I dare hope that you favor me with one last encounter?"
"I'm sorry, my dear. My rule is absolute. An engaged man is promised to another woman. Goodbye, Paul."
His look was cool. Did he imagine he would change her mind? No man could claim that privilege—not any more. Finally, when she would not relent, Paul kissed her hand and departed. Molly breathed easier. Paul had been angry with her, though he had hidden it well. She hoped he would not return, expecting her to change her mind. For her part, Molly felt nothing but relief. No more pretending in bed or out. She would not have to smile at his remarks or feign interest in his conversation. And, especially, she would not have to pretend that she derived any pleasure from Paul's attentions. Molly hadn't felt anything like that--not since she had lost Toby over eight years ago. It was a wound that had never healed.
* * *
Rafe pulled out a chair and seated himself at the outdoor cafe. He hailed the waiter and ordered coffee. He checked his watch. Dante was late. A few minutes later, a familiar figure, tall and slender, edged along the line of tables. Lord Dante Blackwell, his partner and co-conspirator. Rafe breathed a sigh of relief. Breaking into their target's apartment had been a bit of a risk, but reconnaissance was necessary for an operation like this. Dante sat down, his cold, perfect features scanning the crowd.
Dante shook his head. "She was out and the maid was shopping. The skeleton key worked like a charm."
"Excellent. What did you find?"
Dante beckoned to the waiter and ordered a glass of wine and a steak. "The expensive lodgings of a kept woman. Elegant furniture, luxurious hangings, costly ornaments. No incriminating letters, the usual bills."
"There are back stairs on each floor, used by the servants and tradesman. They open onto an alley leading to the street behind the building."
"The only ones overlooking the alley seem to be in the servant’s quarters of each apartment. They are set high, above eye level."
Rafe smiled his satisfaction. "Sounds ideal."
Dante strummed the table top. "Any luck with transportation?"
"I found a man who will rent us a carriage and horses. We can leave them in Calais and someone will bring the equipage back to Paris, no questions asked."
Dante nodded. "Ah, so it is not the first time he has performed such a service."
"He knows a friend of mine."
"You have so many friends, Rafe, and in such interesting places."
Rafe folded his arms. "I aim to please."
Dante cut into the steak and ate steadily, while Rafe described the rest of the plan. "We should do a trial run. Tomorrow?"
Rafe nodded. "I've booked the passage to England in three days' time. That leaves us a couple of days to iron out any problems and for you to approach the maid and make friends."
A look of distaste crossed Dante's face. "Why me?"
Rafe grinned at him. "They all love your pretty face."
Dante blew out an aggravated breath. "Fine."
"We all have to make sacrifices, my friend."
"True." Dante finished his meal and drained his glass. He hesitated, his fingers gripping the stem. "I saw something in her bedchamber."
Interesting. It was unlike Dante to volunteer so much information.
"It was quite... different from what I expected."
Rafe arched a brow. "Meaning?"
"The chamber itself was the usual—a large bed, sumptuous appointments. But I also discovered another door that led to an inner chamber. Inside I found a single bed, like a child's. There was a collection of toys and other items suitable for a young girl." Dante paused, as if he was choosing his words. "But I did my research. Miss Burke is childless."
Rafe frowned. "Shevington never mentioned anything of the sort when we spoke. Why would she have a room like this?"
Dante leaned across the table to speak in an undertone. "I think she uses it for herself. I have heard of such women before. Women who like to pretend that they are little girls."
Rafe mulled over his words, seeking something to turn to his advantage. "And little girls need their papas." Dante tipped his chin. Rafe reached across the table to grab his hand and wring it. "I think you've just given me the key to taming Miss Burke."
Dante drew away immediately, but there was a spark in his cold eyes. Rafe should have remembered that Dante didn't like to be touched.
"She will need to be punished for her transgressions."
"Yes, Dante. She certainly will." Rafe pulled out his timepiece. "I have to send a message to London regarding our arrangements there. I will see you later at the hotel."
"Very well. Any word from Heywood?"
"Only that he will be gone for several months. More than enough time to carry out our plans."
Dante fiddled with his cutlery. "You're sure he'll be pleased?"
Rafe stared at him. "He's your brother. What do you think?"
"I'm convinced he'll be better off once he can put this whole thing to rest, but my brother can be sentimental."
"It will be the end of the affair and then Heywood can find his happiness."
Dante's cold eyes glinted with amusement. "Why, Rafe. I never knew you were a romantic." He smiled when Rafe cursed under his breath. No romantic would be engaged in an adventure like this.
"Heywood's my friend. The woman made him suffer. And we shall ensure that turnabout is fair play."
"I owe him, even if he weren't my brother." Dante stood, stretching his long legs. "I'll go make friends with the maid."
"Until later, then."
The two conspirators went in their separate directions, while the instrument of their revenge went about her days, oblivious to the fact that, soon, her life would change forever.
* * *
Molly felt unsettled the day following her meeting with Lord Raphael. Paul's engagement was not unexpected and he had been generous over the year she had been his mistress. In truth, she would not miss him. She would miss the spacious apartment he had provided and the temporary respite from financial cares, but her own lodgings on the Left Bank were comfortable. It was a change, that was all.
What had Lord Raphael been after? Occasionally, men would call upon her at a friend's recommendation. A high flyer like herself generally passed from man to man within the exclusive circles of wealth and power. But she did not think Rafe had pursued an acquaintance with her for that reason. He had flirted with her, to be sure, but there had been something else in his manner, something he was concealing. She hoped it had nothing to do with the Earl of Shevington, who had once saved her life under rather shocking circumstances. Molly's hand crept to her neck as if she could still feel the pressure of the wicked baron’s fingers, trying to choke the life out of her.
Perhaps it was time to leave Paris, to try a new hunting ground—Vienna or Rome. Rafe was intriguing, but he was English and London held bad memories. She had left Ireland too long ago for it to feel like home any more. In fact, Molly was forced to admit that life had lost some of its savor lately. She felt stuck in the same old routines of shopping, visiting galleries, and holding small, exclusive dinners for the pleasure of her protector. Molly did not have any close female friends. No respectable woman would be seen even speaking to her. And the other women in her profession were more likely to view her as competition. She was both bored and dissatisfied. In fact, she needed a change.
Molly gave Josette the rest of the evening off. She would spend a few hours playing with her toys. It always soothed her mind when she was troubled. She was headed for the small closet concealed in her bedroom when she heard a knock on the door. Josette answered it on her way out, announcing Lord Raphael. He strode into her drawing room like a conqueror. Molly's heart beat a little faster. She did love a masterful man.
"Merci, Josette. You may go." She turned to her visitor. "Rafe, I didn't expect you."
He bowed over her hand. "I beg your pardon. But your friend arrived and interrupted our conversation yesterday."
Molly settled back against the cushions of her elegant chaise. "Did he, indeed?"
"Is he your protector?" he asked her abruptly.
She considered him for a moment before shrugging. "He was, until yesterday."
His eyes narrowed. "Did you leave him?"
"As a matter of fact, though it is none of your business, he came by to tell me he was getting married."
His gaze held surprise. "He gave you your congé?"
"No, I cut the connection."
Rafe looked around the richly decorated apartment. "Why would you do that?" he asked, his rough voice shaded with insolence. Intriguing.
"How curious you are, my lord. Why do you care?"
"Very well. Paul is getting married. I don't have relations of any kind with men who belong to someone else."
His brows shot up. "Such propriety is unusual for a woman in your profession."
Rafe's words stung but Molly forced a smile to her lips. She would not let him see he had wounded her. It was not the first time someone had scorned her for the life she led.
"Perhaps. But it is the way I feel."
Rafe stood considering her for a moment. "You are a better woman than I thought, but it makes no difference."
Molly sat up. "What do you mean?" He was beginning to make her nervous.
Rafe was suddenly right beside her, his hands reaching for her throat. Molly reared back, trying to escape his grasp, but Rafe was too fast and too strong. His fingers closed on her windpipe as she struggled for air. The last thing she saw was the bright blue of his eyes filled with candlelight that looked like flames. Her vision darkened as hell beckoned and she knew no more.
* * *
Rafe shrugged, his target held carefully in his arms. Molly Burke's head lolled against his chest, unconscious. "Nothing that couldn't be managed. The maid was ready to assist me, just as you said."
Dante looked down at his burden. "She's pretty."
Rafe's arms tightened for a moment. "Would you expect anything less from such a successful whore?" He placed her carefully on the carriage seat. A lock of hair had fallen across her face and he pushed it aside. Dante was right. Molly was a pretty woman. He had been so intent on his mission that he had barely noticed. No, that was a lie. His first sight of the woman he had come to Paris to kidnap had struck him like a kick to the gut. Molly had a vibrant, alluring presence. Rafe would rather had fucked her than throttled her, but he had made a promise to avenge his friend, the man whom Molly had wronged so deeply.
Dante nodded and vaulted into the coachman's seat. Rafe seated himself opposite his victim and banged the door shut, holding onto the strap as the carriage trundled down the cobbled streets. They would cross the Channel at Calais, land at Dover, and then continue to London. It would be faster to travel by train, but harder to conceal Molly. A train also left open too many avenues of escape.
Rafe settled himself in the seat across from his captive as the horses were sprung. Molly should have been awake by now. Fortunately, her breathing was soft and regular. He pulled a silk rope from beneath the seat and carefully tied her ankles and wrists. Molly moaned and her eyes fluttered open. They focused on his face. A frown creased her smooth brow.
"Lord Raphael, what is happening?"
He regarded her steadily, his lip curled with contempt. "Do you consider you are owed an explanation?"
Molly struggled to sit upright, discovering her bound wrists. "What the devil do you think you're doing?" Her eyes fairly blazed with dark blue fire. Aye, she was a handsome woman.
"I'm kidnapping you."
"You are bloody well not!"
Rafe allowed his gaze to wander over her disheveled figure. Her frock was torn, revealing an enticing glimpse of a very fine bosom. "You owe a debt to a friend of mine, Miss Burke, and I mean to make sure that you pay it."
Molly eyed him skeptically. Why was she not sobbing and begging for mercy? His cock jumped at the image. Yes, he would enjoy seeing Miss High and Mighty reduced to such straits—preferably on her knees. Maybe Toby would let him have a taste when he was finished with her.
"I don't know you and I don't know your friends,” Molly said tartly.
"Are you quite sure about that?"
"We have only been acquainted briefly.” Her smile could cut ice. "But your presence is memorable."
Strangely, that pleased Rafe. For some reason, he needed to know that he affected her.
"Indeed," Molly went on, "I traveled to America once and encountered a native animal known as a skunk. It is famous for its pungent odor—very nasty. You quite remind me of the varmint."
"Right." Rafe grabbed her arm to pull her across the carriage and right across his knee. She didn’t even have time to struggle. It was the work of a moment to pull up her skirts and fold her crinoline out of the way. Miss Burke did not wear drawers. This was going to be a pleasure.
Rafe spanked her hard across both cheeks as she gasped. "I won't tolerate such disrespect, Molly." He spanked her again—hard— and she shrieked in outrage. He grabbed her hair and pulled back her head to glare at her. "And that's enough of that noise. You will be quiet and take your punishment."
Molly swore and Rafe stifled a laugh. He hadn't heard such language since the last time he traveled in London's back streets. He spanked her thoroughly while she fought, holding her in place and not stopping until she finally collapsed over his knee, exhausted.
"Much better. You may sit up now."
Molly wrenched down her skirt and shot to the end of the seat. "You keep away from me." Her voice trembled with rage.
"My dear, Miss Burke, I am afraid you haven't fully grasped your new situation. You won't be giving orders and making decisions. From now on, you will do as you are told, when you are told to. Any failure to follow my instructions will be met with swift and sure punishment.”
"Who the hell are you?" she spat at him.
Rafe folded his arms and smiled coldly at her. "Your worst nightmare, Miss Burke."