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MAYFAIR, LONDON 1890. How does a French Casanova fall under Cupid's spell?
Flora is going to marry the man of her choice! That's what she's told her father! He’s insisting she marry a German prince fifteen years her senior. In a fit of rebellion she runs away during a raging storm, only to crash head-long into a wall of a man knocking her unconscious. The last thing she remembers are warm brown eyes staring down at her.
Zane De'Ville, a French aristocrat and infamous womanizer, finds himself taking care of a beautiful young lady who doesn't remember anything, but is her continuing amnesia authentic? He will need to find out before the scandal of staying alone in a gentleman’s home ruins her reputation.
Master Zane: The French Aristocrat introduces a memorable Victorian gentleman and willful young noblewoman in a sizzling love story.
How does a French Casanova fall under Cupid's spell? Click the link and pick up your copy of this spellbinding romance today.
Maggie Carpenter won the Spanking Romance Reviews Award for Best Victorian Romance in 2015 (His Willful Bride) and 2016 (The Wanton Widow).
Paris, France 1890
Arms crossed, Zane De’Ville leaned against the carved post at the foot of his bed and studied the naked beauty lying on his embroidered gold bedspread. Her wrists were tied together with a soft white cotton cord that was secured to a brass ring on the headboard, but otherwise she was free to move, and her legs were spread wide, very wide. It was a deliciously decadent, satisfying sight, as was the pained expression on her face.
“Zane, please, please forgive me.”
“I have forgiven you.”
“Then why must you continue to tease me?”
“You know very well,” he said sternly, then leaning forward he softly tickled her inner thighs.
Squirming urgently against his fingers hoping for more she loudly moaned, then whimpered, then moaned again. He had kept her on the brink of her orgasm for almost an hour.
“Please, I’m begging you. I can’t stand it, I can’t.”
“Mary, what did I tell you when you first came to me? Before I taught you about pain and pleasure? Before I showed you the delights your body could offer?”
“We’ve gone through this a thousand times. Why must you repeat it?”
“Do not test my patience! You will answer the question as many times as I ask it. What did I tell you?”
“There is no truth that is worse than a lie, and if I lied I could no longer serve you.”
“You know this is your punishment and parting gift, so why must you continue to beg?”
“I don’t know, Master Zane. Perhaps because…”
“Aah, finally some truth? Let it out. I might take pity on you.”
“Perhaps because I love to beg,” she said, her voice almost a whisper, “and, uh, then be denied.”
A knowing smile curled the edges of his lips. He was aware of her hidden desires, just as he was aware of the hidden desires that lived in the hearts and minds of the other women who surrendered to his hedonistic hands.
“I know you find it difficult to voice your secrets. Thank you for telling me, and because you did I’ll give you the orgasm you’re craving.”
“Mary! I’ve told you before! You are too English to speak French,” he scolded as he sat on the edge of the bed and pressed his finger into her sex. “I know you mean it but it still sounds insincere. Now relax and ride the wave.”
With inherent expertise he massaged her magic nub until she was gyrating her hips and crying out her joy. He knew how to prolong her pleasure and took great delight in watching her, but her body finally fell limp, and moving to the headboard he unknotted the rope and released her
“Zane, please let me continue to see you?” she whimpered gazing up at him. “It was one little mistake, just one.”
“You allow me to tie you up and blindfold you, and to use your body as I wish. Why are you able to surrender to me this way?”
“Because I want to, because I absolutely love it.”
“That may be true, but that isn’t why you submit yourself so willingly. Think about it. What gives you the confidence to do such a thing?”
“I suppose it’s because I trust you.”
“Oui, because you trust me. If I promised not to tie the rope a certain way and I did, your trust in me would be broken. This is how I feel when a woman lies to me. It is a knot that cannot be undone.”
“I know it must seem that way, but—”
“It’s for the best,” he said interrupting her as he tenderly moved the hair from her anguished face. “You know I am not a man who can be with just one woman. When people speak of me they call me a rogue, and in their eyes I am. They don’t understand the nature of a man like me.”
“It’s a strange thing,” she sighed. “I possess the other side of that nature, and yet it still remains a mystery.”
“I stopped seeking answers many years ago. Perhaps you should do the same. Just accept the way you are. I do not hide who I am. I do not live by society’s rules and I never have, but I understand for a woman it’s different.”
“Must we part company?”
“I told you from the outset there would be no future with me, and I sense it’s time for you to find a man who seeks to marry and have children. You know in your heart this is what you want, and you also know it is something I’m unable to offer.”
“I hate that you’re right.”
“Perhaps it’s why you lied, so you could free yourself from me.”
He saw a flicker of realization. He’d been right. He wasn’t surprised. There had been others who had committed the same sin for the same reason. It made the pain of separation easier to bear. They could blame him, after all, who could tell the truth, all the time?
“I hate that I’m like this,” she lamented. “I hate that I need a man who will spank me and tie me and master me. I’ll be miserable without a man like you.”
“Mary, do not use the word hate. It is a negative word and a powerful one. It will only turn against you.”
“Maybe, but I don’t know what I’ll do?”
“You must try not to settle for less than what fulfills you,” he said gently, “though your desire for children may become so strong your craving for the dark pleasures you enjoy may become less important.”
“I can’t imagine that.”
“When you find a man you love, tell him. Even if he can’t give you what you want it’s important he knows about it.”
“There was a man before I met you, but I could never be with him now. He still wants me. He still sends me flowers and letters.”
“Perhaps if you told him what you need he might surprise you.”
“I’ll think about it. Thank you, Master Zane.”
“I’m no longer your Master. I am simply Zane to you now.”
“That makes me sad.”
“I understand, but you know I never lie.”
“I don’t know how you manage it.”
“I don’t know how I would manage carrying an untruth,” he said with a warm smile. “You should dress and leave. It’s getting late, and the sun will soon be setting.”
“It’s hard to leave knowing I’ll never return,” she said solemnly as she slipped from the bed. “Are you still planning to look for a house in London?”
“Oui. My wish for change is growing daily.”
“I don’t suppose I could visit you over there could I? Just for some playtime? Or if I’ve been a bad girl and need a spanking?”
“You already know the answer to that question. We must say, adieu, and I wish you much happiness.”
“Thank you, Zane. You are a remarkable man, especially for one so young.”
“Age is a number, a measure of time, that is all.”
“I rest my case,” she said with a smile. “Now you must help me dress.”
“Ah, yes, one of my least favorite things to do. Covering a woman’s body. Tsk, tsk. It’s a crime.”
Six Months Later
With a dramatic sigh and a heavy frown, Flora Braithwaite studied her reflection. Her maid Lucy was placing a sparkling diamond clip in her dark auburn hair, but Flora was staring at the delicate piece of expensive jewelry as if she was about to be stabbed in the scalp with an ice pick.
“No! I don’t want it,” she said vehemently with a dramatic wave of her hand. “Take it out.”
“Are you quite sure?”
The question had been asked by her best friend Millicent Palmer. Millicent, sitting on the bed watching, was there to lend moral support.
“It’s too pretty. I don’t want to look pretty,” Flora declared. “There’s to be nothing in my hair. I’ll have the choker of pearls around my neck. They make me look wan and pale.”
“Yes, my lady,” the young maid replied as she carefully removed the twinkling clip.
“How can you be so sure you’ll hate him?” Millicent asked. “He may be a total charmer.”
“He won’t be, he’s German, and I find this entire episode infuriating.”
“I met a splendid German once,” Millicent said with a faraway look in her eye. “His name was Frederick. He was everything a girl could want but sadly he was penniless. At least this chap is—”
“I really don’t care what he is,” Flora huffed interrupting her. “He’s thirty-five for heaven’s sake. Fifteen years older than me! How can father even consider him as a suitable husband?”
“He’s a royal, and you’re a royal.”
“Not really. I’m only distantly related to the royals.”
“Being a second cousin on your mother’s side is not distantly related. You have to marry your equal or marry up, it’s the rule.”
“I’m not marrying some rich old German because of some silly rule. I won’t. I just won’t!”
“You might not have a choice,” Millicent said softly. “If your father insists you’ll have to.”
“I’ll run away before that happens.”
“To where? Where could you possibly go? And what would you do once you got there?”
“I have absolutely no idea, but I will if I have to.”
“That’s what scares me. If there’s one thing I know about you Flora, it’s that you have a mind of your own, more’s the pity.”
“This choker my lady?” Lucy asked holding up the three strings of pearls for her mistress’s approval.
“Yes, yes, put it on, and quickly or I’ll be late.”
“Do you think your brother will notice me tonight?” Millicent said with a heavy sigh. “He’s so dreamy.”
“I’m sure he will. You look ravishing in that dress.”
“I adore everything about him. He makes me go all funny when he talks to me.”
“You see? That’s what I want to feel!” Flora exclaimed as her maid placed the choker around her neck. “What you feel for George is the way I want to feel if I’m going to spend the rest of my life with someone.”
“Except George doesn’t even know I’m alive.”
“That’s not true. I think it’s just the opposite. He’s nervous around you because he likes you so much, and that’s why he’s not as friendly as you’d like him to be.”
“I pray that you’re right or I shall die of a broken heart. Is that a carriage I hear?” Millicent abruptly asked, jumping to her feet and moving swiftly to the window. “Heavens, it certainly is. You have to see this Flora. It has to be the grandest carriage in the world.”
With the pearl choker securely in place, Flora moved across the room to join Millicent at the window, and as she stared down at the street she had to admit her friend was right. It was a spectacular carriage with four white horses sporting bright red plumes.
“Very fetching,” she agreed, “but that doesn’t make him any younger or any less German.”
“What do you have against Germans? Our Queen is married to one.”
“I have nothing against Germans. I just don’t want to marry a man who lives in some drafty old palace thousands of miles away from here.”
“My goodness, he is tall.”
“Hard to tell from up here.”
“Not really,” Millicent argued. “Look! He’s towering over your butler.”
“You’re right, and Reeves isn’t exactly short. We should go down. I don’t want mother banging on my door looking for me. You know how irritated she becomes.”
“There is a lot riding on tonight. She’s sure to be on edge,” Millicent agreed, “and why are you pulling the wrinkles from your gloves? If you really want to make a bad first impression you should scrunch them.”
“What a good idea,” Flora giggled as she pushed them towards her wrists.
Leaving the room, they turned down the hallway towards the stairs, but as they reached the landing and caught sight of the important visitor, Flora grabbed her friend’s arm.
“Millicent, look, it’s worse than I thought,” she said in a hushed whisper. “He’s a scarecrow.”
“He is not.”
“He is. He’s a tall, skinny, scarecrow.”
“Flora, you must be gracious. He’s come all the way to London just to meet you.”
“That wasn’t my idea.”
“If you’re rude you’ll never hear the end of it.”
“Ooh, this is maddening. It really is such a huge waste of time. I will not marry that man.”
“Just make it through the evening, that’s all you have to do.”
“Anything would be better than this.”
“Then get it over with,” Millicent said firmly. “He might turn out to be perfectly nice. Just because he looks like a scarecrow doesn’t mean he is one, though you could always invite him for a walk tomorrow. If the birds fly off in a panic you’ll know if he’s a scarecrow come to life.”
Flora burst into a fit of giggles. Millicent always managed to make her laugh. It was one of the things Flora adored about her.
“I’m so glad you’re here Milly. You know just what to say at just the right time.”
“Does that mean you’re ready to meet him?”
“That’s exactly what it means. We’ll have a glass of champers, sit down and have dinner and that will be that.”
“I just had another thought,” Millicent said with a cheeky grin. “Rather than have him come back tomorrow, after dinner we can take him into your backyard and see what happens.”
“You must stop this at once,” Flora scolded, trying to suppress her laughter as they made their way down the stairs.
“Ah, girls, there you are,” her mother said bustling forward. “Grand Prince Gerhard has arrived, and what a carriage.”
“I know, mother. I saw it from my window.”
“This will be such a fine match. You’ll be living in a sumptuous palace.”
“I know that too mother. You and father have told me seventeen-thousand times.”
“Your father and I will not tolerate any churlishness from you tonight,” she sternly warned. “Seventeen-thousand times indeed! We expect you to be as charming as you should be.”
“Yes, mother,” Flora said demurely, then whispered to Milly, “whatever that means.”
“Are you having trouble with the birds here, Lady Braithwaite?” Millicent asked.
“Yes, are they bothering your fruit trees? They’ve been a blight on ours. I was thinking I might suggest a scarecrow to my parents. It would be wonderful if we could find one that would wave its arms about.”
“I’m not sure this is the time to be discussing such matters,” Margaret said with a puzzled expression, “and Flora, why are you giggling? Get hold of yourself.”
Feeling buoyed by her secret joke with Millicent, Flora was smiling as they walked across the foyer and headed down the wide hallway to the drawing room, but as they entered her heart sank. Her father was grinning broadly and his chest was puffed out like a proud peacock. That meant only one thing; he was taken with the German prince. Flora knew immediately she’d have a devil of a time escaping the marriage.
“Flora, come here my dear,” he said waving her over. “Your Highness, may I present my daughter, Flora. Flora, His Royal Highness Grand Prince Gerhard.”
“Your Highness,” Flora said dutifully, lifting her hand.
“Such a delight,” the prince said, delicately taking it with a slight nod of his head.
“And her dearest friend,” her father continued, “Lady Millicent Palmer.”
“Charmed, and please, you must both call me Gerhard.”
“Have you spent much time in London?” Millicent asked.
“Not as much as I would have liked, but now I believe I will be spending more,” he replied sending a warm glance towards Flora.
As Flora inwardly groaned, she noticed her father’s chest puffing up even more, but the arrival of more guests brightened her spirits. Lady Anne Barkley, dressed in a vivid scarlet and black gown swept into the room. Flora loved Anne and saw her as an older sister. She was a widow, and a woman of independent means with a mind of her own. Flora was sure, if anyone knew how to deal with the impossible situation in which she found herself, it would be Anne.
Introductions were made and the trivial chatter continued, but able to catch Anne’s eye, Flora indicated that she needed a spot of quiet conversation. When George entered and meandered across to talk to her and Millicent, Flora stepped away so Millicent could be alone with her brother, and a few minutes later several of her mother’s friends arrived and began to fawn over the prince. It gave Flora the opportunity to excuse herself, and moving quickly across the room she pulled Anne aside.
“You’re looking well, Flora,” Anne said as Flora approached, then lowering her voice she added, “and I can guess why you wish to speak with me. It’s Prince Gerhard. I take it you’re not interested.”
“Heavens, no! You must tell me what to do.”
“It’s clear your father is determined. He’s been romancing that Prince as if he’s the one who wants to marry him.”
“Anne, you do say the most wicked things!”
“So I’ve been told.”
“What can I do? I will not marry that beastly man.”
“There’s only one thing I can suggest.”
“Tell me, please, I beg you.”
“You’ll have to be nice, agree to see him again, then when you’re alone be an absolute cow.”
“Anne, that’s brilliant, you’re so clever.”
“Be prepared for some serious consequences. Your father will wring your neck.”
“Let him. It will be worth it. Can you imagine me being married to that scarecrow?”
Anne laughed out loud, then quickly composed herself.
“You’re right, he does look like a scarecrow. All that crazy hair and his long arms. My goodness, I shall be giggling all through dinner thinking of him in a garden with his arms flapping about.”
“But Anne, how can I arrange to be alone with him? I’m sure my father would forbid it.”
“Your parents want this marriage very badly. If you tell them you need to spend just a few minutes in his company by yourself I’m sure they’ll permit it.”
“Do you think so?”
“I’m sure of it.”
“Thank you, Anne. What would I do without you?”
“End up marrying a very rich German scarecrow.”
Before Flora could respond the dinner gong sounded, and from the corner of her eye she could see Prince Gerhard moving towards her.
“Remember, be charming,” Anne whispered, “then be an absolute witch as soon as you get the chance.”
Grateful for Anne’s crafty plan, when the prince extended his arm to escort her into dinner Flora happily accepted the invitation and pretended to be delighted to sit next to him. She smiled as they talked, and told him how she’d always wanted to visit his beautiful country. By the time the meal came to an end she knew the Prince was taken with her. The trap had been set. As her mother rose from the table, signaling it was time for the women to move into the drawing room for coffee, Flora glanced across at her father. He appeared to be studying her and he wasn’t smiling.
“I don’t know why father’s so miffed,” she murmured to Millicent as they walked from the room. “I did exactly what he and mother wanted.”
“I agree, it is a bit strange. Maybe something else is on his mind and he just happened to be looking at you as he thought about it.”
“That must be it,” Flora agreed. “He has no reason to be upset with me, not after that painful performance.”
Coffee and chocolates had been set out, and the women chatted amicably until it was time to head to the foyer to meet up with the men and collect their coats. As the small group ambled down the hall, Flora realized she’d left her evening purse behind. Hurrying off to fetch it she passed the men who had just left the library, but she noticed her father and the prince were not among them. Convinced they were probably talking about her, she continued on and loitered outside the library door.
Not only had she guessed correctly, what she overheard made her blood boil.