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My Naughty Minette

A Properly Spanked Novel : Book Three

By: Annabel Joseph
Published By: Scarlet Rose Press
Copyright: Copyright 2015 Annabel Joseph/Scarlet Rose Press
Eighteen Chapters / 75,000 Words
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Take a rousing romp through 1790s England with this third book in the Properly Spanked series... 

The Earl of Augustine has always thought of Lady Minette as a sister, but when a nocturnal adventure goes horribly awry, he’s forced to make her his bride. 

Now his friend Warren is furious with him, the jilted Lady Priscilla is spreading ugly gossip, his father’s illness is worsening, and Minette is...well...being Minette. Flighty, exuberant, and utterly irascible, she wants a true marriage, when all August can see is the impish girl he rescued from scrapes as a child. 

But Minette has idolized Lord August for years, as long as she can remember, and she’s determined to make their union a passionate and fulfilling one. She launches caper after caper in an effort to capture his attention and awaken his masculine hungers. Unfortunately, all she seems to accomplish are repeated disciplinary sessions over his lap. 

Can she make August realize she’s the love of his life in time to save their crumbling marriage—and her smarting backside? Or will he hold her at arm’s length forever, refusing to acknowledge the powerful emotions she stirs in his heart? 

This 75K word novel contains acts of punishment and domestic discipline, sado-masochism, and other sensual practices.

Chapter One: Despicable

England, 1793

August, more formally known as the sixth Earl of Augustine, never expected to spend his twenty-eighth birthday at a tame house party in Berkshire. Since two of his three best friends had married, this sort of thing had become his life.

“Now, Townsend, get your teeth into it.” Gentlemen and ladies cried out encouragements as the dark-haired host went underwater again, bobbing for apples in traditional Hallowe’en fashion.

“Open wide,” said another. “If you must, use your tongue!”

Perhaps not so tame a party. The Marquess of Townsend and his wife, Aurelia, had gathered a merry crowd of friends and acquaintances to Somerton, their country manor. It would be their last opportunity to entertain for some time, as Lady Townsend expected a child in February. His friend Lord Warren’s wife was expecting as well, in March, so the lot of them had gathered for one last hurrah, along with Warren’s younger sister Minette and her companion Mrs. Everly, and his friend Arlington, the “Viking duke,” who indeed resembled a Viking at times.

August’s mother was in attendance too, along with his sisters Catherine and Eliza, and their husbands and children. The Townsends had also invited the Earl and Countess of Colton, whose daughter, Lady Priscilla, was often linked to August in gossip.

Truth be told, Priscilla was practically planning their wedding, with encouragement from his mother, and hers.

During the bonfire at dusk, Lady Priscilla had stood by his side in a wholly proprietary manner, and when the breezy autumn night had blown smoke in their direction, she’d hidden behind him and cried, “Lord Augustine, how heroic you are.” He didn’t know what was heroic about shielding someone from a bit of smoke. He supposed delicate, china-doll ladies like Priscilla wilted beneath the horrors of flame and soot, which made him wonder why she came down to the bonfire at all.

Priscilla was beautiful and genteel, with her sleek brunette hair and striking blue eyes, but the smallest things she did irritated him. Really, he ought to have stayed in town. He always spent Hallowe’en night—his birthday night—in the company of the famed Dirty Esmeralda. Half-witch, half-wanton, Esme had become his favored outlet for lustful dissolution. When he was in London he visited her three or four times a week, and on his birthday, she always bestowed “special favors.”

If he married Lady Priscilla, as he was expected to do, he might have to reduce his association with Esme, or stop seeing her all together. He wondered if Priscilla would find that heroic. He wondered if he cared. His only chance at birthday fun this year was the buxom, blonde chambermaid who made eyes at him every morning when she brought his bathing water. Perhaps he ought to seek her out later and have a word with her, though he wasn’t sure Townsend would appreciate him sleeping with the help.

“Huzzah!” Cheers rang out from the assembled company, drawing August from these glum thoughts. Townsend had come up with an apple between his teeth. Aurelia laughed and swabbed at his soaked hair and face with a towel. Water dripped onto his shirt; the linen clung to him at his neckline. His cravat and collar had been undone, of course, before he took the first dive. This apple-bobbing ritual provided the younger men the excuse of disrobing—at least partially—before the ladies, and a great many of them waited their turn to experience this masculine thrill. The ladies blushed and whispered behind their fans, and ate ginger and pumpkin cakes, and drank black currant tea.

August sat on the outskirts, leaving them to it. He was not exactly sulking. He was only tired of doing what everyone expected, particularly Lady Priscilla, who doubtless wished him to untie his cravat, take off his coat and waistcoat, and undo his top button so she might simper over him to her friends. Once he’d gotten the apple in his teeth—and he was excellent at this, since he had a big mouth—she would also expect to be the one to dab his black hair dry with a towel. She’d expect him to hand his apple over to her with a smile, bite marks and all. Such a gesture would be tantamount to an engagement announcement.

He found all of this distasteful.

He did not wish to marry Lady Priscilla. At all.

The ginger-haired Lord Robert went next. The amiable young buck had been paying special attention to Minette ever since the house party convened the week before. August searched the room for his friend’s little sister and found her sitting near Lady Warren and some other friends. Blast, she was looking right at him. He quickly looked away; he’d long ago learned not to encourage Minette in her childish infatuation. Not that Minette was a child anymore. Goodness, she must be twenty now, if he was turning twenty-eight.

August sighed and stood, and retreated to the other end of the room to sit at the pianoforte. Some of the older houseguests sat at card tables or snored in tufted chairs, keeping their distance from the apple-bobbing merriment on the terrace. His mother smiled at him from a chaise, where she visited with Lady Colton. These blasted Oxfordshire family dynasties, and these china-doll marriageable daughters.

Another great cheer rose from the other side of the room. August sifted through the music at the piano. Bland stuff, suitable for company.

“Play something for us, would you?” his mother asked.

“Oh, yes. Something haunting, in the spirit of the season,” suggested Lady Colton with a smile.

August shuffled through a few more selections. “I’m afraid there’s nothing haunting here, and besides, everyone’s preoccupied with the game at the moment.” He looked over toward the terrace, and found that Minette had escaped her group of friends and was headed his way.

“Good evening, Lady Colton,” she said. “And Lady Barrymore.” Minette embraced his mother warmly. The blonde-curled chit had always been charmingly polite. Since Minette had lost her parents at a young age, many of the Oxfordshire ladies had acted as mother to her over the years. Spoiled her, even. He half-listened as Minette chattered on in her typical happy way about the past season in London, and her brother’s marriage to Josephine, and the Warren baby to be born before Easter. He traced fingers along the keys as the ladies asked after Minette’s winter plans. They hinted sweetly that marriage and children should not be far off in her future.

Ah, God. Minette, married with children? It seemed only yesterday Warren was fretting about whether to dress her in ankle skirts. Lady Colton continued to discourse upon the blissful state of matrimony in a voice loud enough for him to overhear. He would not be drawn into the conversation, no matter how loudly they talked. Another cheer from the terrace, and the ladies moved on to the topic of the Townsends’ lovely party, the grand bonfire, and the rosemary-pumpkin tarts.

“Well, perhaps Lord Augustine will agree to play if I play with him,” said Minette.

August looked up at that. Lord help him, Minette meant to join him at the pianoforte. He might have sent her—good-naturedly, of course—to re-join the other young people, but at that moment he noticed Priscilla and some of her friends heading over. So, instead, he slid sideways on the bench and placed the great, disorganized pile of sheet music on her lap.

“This shall be a treat,” said his mother. “Lady Minette has always played so prettily.”

Minette did not play prettily at all. August knew this, but he told her to pick something she liked. Of course, being Minette, she liked them all.

“Well, Flowers of August might be perfect for the season, and perfect for your name,” she said, “but then Lady Millicent sang this other piece at the Denham’s dinner and it was beautiful too. It’s new and oh so lovely, but it takes rather more of a soprano than I’ve got. Oh, here is  The Clock Shall Chime, have you heard it?”

Before he could answer, she went on.

“It’s a rather sober piece for a fun night. I don’t think it will do. Oh, here is a whole suite of baroque arrangements. The Townsends have the most capital collection of songs, don’t they?”

“Perhaps you should pick one,” he said in as polite a voice as he could muster. “We can play a duet.” Priscilla was hovering, ready to draw him off to some tiresome circle of conversation, and more guests were making their way over from the terrace.

“Here is Poggle and Woggle. Oh, that’s a dreadful noise, we’ll put that one on the bottom. And Holly on the Green, but it’s not even the holidays yet, only Hallowe’en, and oh!” She turned to him with an accusing gaze. “That means it’s your birthday, doesn’t it, Lord Augustine? How could we all have forgotten?”

It was too late to shush her, and he probably shouldn’t anyway, in front of all these people.

“I say, it is your birthday, isn’t it?” said Townsend, who had come over with Arlington to the pianoforte. “We ought to celebrate. What would you like? A champagne toast? Some cake?”

August didn’t dare think about what he wanted—Dirty Esme. His friends gave him a sympathetic look. They knew where August usually spent his birthday, just as they knew August was only at Somerton because of Lady Priscilla, and parental pressure.

“We must have a song, at any rate, Minette,” Arlington said in a brisk voice. “What will the two of you play?”

“Oh, yes, play something,” said Aurelia. “A bright song, for celebrating.”

Minette smiled and looked up at him, pink cheeked. “It should be  Flowers of August most certainly, since it’s Lord August’s birthday.”

Everyone agreed that would be lovely, except for Warren, who was giving August dire looks. It wasn’t August’s fault that Warren’s silly sister had nurtured an infatuation with him for the last decade or so. Given the choice between Minette’s blushing or Lady Priscilla’s aggressive and proprietary hovering, he would take Minette. He scowled back at Warren, shrugged, and arranged the music atop the stand.

“Are you sure you want to play the high end?” he asked, scanning the piece. “It’s the more difficult part.”

“I’m sure,” she said, nodding her head. “I’ve been practicing my piano.”

As soon as they began the piece, it became apparent Minette had not practiced hard enough. There was a great deal of pausing as she searched for the correct notes. Once or twice, August was obliged to reach over her and strike them himself, at which she giggled.

“Tempo, my dear... A little faster,” he said when she nearly came to a stop. She did have a lovely voice, strong, melodious, and clear. He supposed her voice got plenty of exercise, with all the chattering she did. She held a sustained note as she searched for the right keys again. Some of the guests laughed, and when August reached around her to strike the chord, there were guffaws and bemused applause.

Goodness, Minette was silly, but it was impossible not to smile when she was around. Although he had learned not to smile at her too hard. Warren was still sending him warning glances.

They muddled through the rest of the song, his shoulder pressed to hers. He joined in on the last chorus, his baritone steady if out of practice. Minette stared up at him, forgetting to play completely until he nudged her hand. They banged out the song’s finale, although Minette missed a few of the necessary notes. Their ragged effort was met by enthusiastic applause and wishes for a happy birthday.

Minette’s brows drew together. “I never knew you could sing,” she said, beneath the clamorous ovation.

“Nearly everyone can sing. And how wonderfully you played.”

“Now that is a lie, Lord Augustine.” She tilted her head and gave him a look. It unsettled him, for it wasn’t the vapid, infatuated look of her childhood, but something aware and flirtatious, and altogether more mature. He looked away, right into the fawning regard of his soon-to-be-bride, Lady Priscilla.

“I must have a turn at the piano now,” she said. She was the same age as Minette, but where Minette was flighty, Priscilla was refined. Where Minette was impish, Priscilla was beautiful and confident and...cold. His china doll. “Will you stay and play with me, Lord Augustine?” she asked.

There was nothing else to say. “Of course.”

Priscilla leafed through the music and decided on one of the baroque pieces, a difficult work by François Couperin.

“I don’t know,” said August. “It’s a rather heavy piece for the current mood.”

“Can’t you play it?” she teased in an icily sweet voice.

He could play it in his sleep, but Minette would be mortified when Priscilla performed this showy work just following her shaky attempt at  Flowers of August. “How about Poggle and Woggle?” he suggested.

Priscilla laughed. “You’re joking with me, my lord. I love your sense of humor. No, I think we’ve had enough of such foolishness. The children are all in the nursery for the night.”

As she said children, her gaze slid toward Minette. It confused him for a moment, this cruel and petty behavior on Priscilla’s part, and then he realized the foolish woman was jealous of the girl! Of Minette Bernard, the last woman on earth he’d ever consider courting. Warren’s sister pretended not to notice Priscilla’s cutting look, turning instead to speak with Aurelia.

“Are you ready to play?” he asked. Priscilla didn’t answer, only plunged into the treble part of the Couperin selection. August played the bass. He glanced at Minette as the notes grew in complexity, watching her normally pink cheeks flush a humiliated red. By the time he and Priscilla finished the first movement, his friend’s sister had disappeared.

* * * * *

“I hate her!” Minette sobbed as her sister-in-law stroked her hair. “Lady Priscilla is the most despicable creature in the entire known world.”

“I know, dearest. I hate her too. We all hate her,” Josephine crooned. “You mustn’t fret so. Everyone enjoyed your playing with August.”

“Everyone laughed at me.”

“Everyone laughed with you, because it was delightful and fun. Now they’re doubtless covering yawns as Priscilla plods away in there, showing off as she always does. I’m sure they much preferred you and your good-natured antics. Even August smiled, and you know that almost never happens.”

Minette pressed her handkerchief against her lips. “He smiled? At me?”

“Several times, darling. You would have seen if you were not so intent on the keys. He smiled right down at you as you flubbed all those notes, and no, it wasn’t in mockery. I believe he was charmed.”

This made Minette cry even harder. In fact, she felt like her heart was going to bleed right out of her body through her tears. “I can’t bear this,” she wailed. “I can’t smile any longer. I can’t watch August court Lady Priscilla and pretend I don’t care.” She grasped Josephine’s hands. “You must talk to my brother. Tell Warren we have to leave. Tell him your pregnancy is making you feel tired, or ill, or...”

“I can’t lie to my husband. But if we tell him how you’re feeling, perhaps he’ll agree to leave early. I’m afraid...well...” She gave Minette a deeply sympathetic look. “I’m afraid August and Priscilla’s betrothal announcement could come any day. So perhaps it would be best to go, if we can manage it without causing a fuss.”

“I just… I can’t believe it.” Minette paused a moment to blow her nose. “I always knew this day would come, that he would marry somebody, but I can’t believe it’s finally here. It hurts so much worse than I ever believed. I don’t know how I shall stand at their wedding and smile and wish them well. I’ll have to manufacture some illness to excuse myself. I’ll have to tell them I have the plague.”

Josephine held her close and petted her hair. “You could tell them that, but I don’t know if they’d believe you.”

“I never thought it would really happen. I thought he would break with her. He doesn’t love her!”

“I know, my dear. Of course he doesn’t love her, but I didn’t love your brother either when I married him. And Aurelia and Townsend despised each other before they wed. Now they’re deeply in love.”

“You’re not making me feel better.”

“I’m sorry. But if it’s August you’re worried for, I think he’ll be all right.” Josephine twisted one of her wavy auburn locks. “I’m more worried about you. Perhaps it’s time to move on.”

“Move on to what?” Minette cried. “I have always loved August, as long as I can remember. I adore him with all my soul.”

Josephine took the handkerchief from her and wiped at her tears. “With  all your soul? Minette, you’re so young. You’ve plenty of time to find another love, one who is within your reach. August was never meant for you. He thinks of you as a child. As Warren’s sister.”

“I know, I know. Everyone believes I’m ridiculous, even August, but I can’t help how I feel.” Minette doubled over, scrunching her hot eyes shut. They would be so swollen and red, she wouldn’t be able to show her face. This was so much harder than she’d imagined. She had thought she could be strong and accept Lord August’s engagement when it inevitably came. But she was finding it impossible to be strong. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I can’t think. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I can’t keep up this act anymore. I dream about him and Lady Priscilla. I woke up in Mrs. Everly’s room this morning, curled into a ball.”

“Mrs. Everly’s room?” Josephine blinked at her in concern. “How did you get there? Have you been walking from your bed again?”

“I can’t help it. It just happens. Oh, don’t tell Warren.” Minette clasped her hands together in a gesture of entreaty. “Please, Josephine. He worried so, before.”

“And he shall worry now, but your brother would want to know.”

“Please don’t tell him, Josie. Not yet. It’s only the idea of August marrying. It’s got me in such a state.”

“Dear love.” Josephine hugged her close with sisterly concern. “You mustn’t be so troubled. You must try to move on. There’s some dashing young gentleman out there waiting to sweep you off your feet. I promise, Minette. Your perfect husband is out there. You’ll look back at this time and wonder what you ever saw in August.”

Minette wished it was so, but she’d never pictured herself with any other man. She’d tried. She’d opened her heart to this one or that, but something was always missing, some connection she felt whenever Lord August was near. It wasn’t only his strong, powerful physique or his ebony dark hair. There was something in the depths of his eyes. They were an odd color, somewhat hazel, somewhat brown, and so brooding and mysterious. He was gruff, yet kind. Careless, yet intelligent. Sometimes he greatly surprised her. For instance, she’d never realized he could sing so beautifully. As much as she studied him at every opportunity, there was so much she didn’t know, that she felt she must know if she was to be fulfilled in life.

She had always believed Lord August was meant for her, before she even knew about courtship and love, and marriage. How could this be happening? How could he marry someone else?

With a soft knock, her brother entered and shut the door behind him. They shared an abiding affection, in addition to matching light-blond curls and blue eyes. “Minette, darling, are you all right?”

The concern in his voice brought another flood of tears. She would make herself sick if she didn’t stop. She had never been the weeping type, but this was an utter disaster.

“Don’t cry,” he said. He crossed to sit on the other side of her, and gave her shoulders a squeeze. “No one cares that Lady Priscilla can play better than you. She made herself look a right idiot choosing that wretched baroque music to play at a Hallowe’en fete.”

“It’s not that,” Minette bawled. “I’m not crying about that.”

She glanced up long enough to see her brother and Josephine exchange a look. Yes, silly Minette, and her childish infatuation with August. None of them understood the chaos in her heart. She wasn’t a child anymore, and what she felt wasn’t only infatuation.

“My dear,” he said gently. “We’ve talked about this so many times.”

“It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve talked about it. It doesn’t change my feelings. It doesn’t change my love for him.”

Warren took her chin and made her look up. “I don’t want August for you,” he said. “Those are my feelings. I know him better than you do. You wouldn’t make a good match. What of Lord Robert? He’s a steady chap with excellent prospects. He’s fun and cheerful, like you.”

“He’s a ginger,” Minette sobbed.


“We’ll have carrot-topped children, and nothing looks good with that color. What on earth will my daughters wear to their coming out?”

Warren blinked at her. “I don’t…know.”

“Not only that, but when I talk to Lord Robert, there’s nothing to say. When I’m with him, he’s cheerful and fun, but he doesn’t make me love him.”

“And August does?”

“Yes! I’ve loved him for years, and I’ve always wanted to be his wife. I feel connected to him somehow. I can’t explain it.”

Her brother frowned. “I don’t think it can be explained. And I don’t think there’s anything to be done for it. Lord Colton’s growing impatient, and August’s father is in ill health. So you see, August’s under pressure both ways. Three ways, if you count Lady Prissyupstairs banging away on the pianoforte. Listen, mopsy.” He squeezed her hand and held it between his palms. “I love you very much. I want you to be happy. Even if August was head over heels for you, I wouldn’t let a match proceed. It wouldn’t suit either of you. You’d realize it soon enough.”

Minette loved her brother, but sometimes she hated him too, like when he was being a know-it-all, overprotective tyrant without any heart.

“You don’t understand,” she said, pulling her hand away. “You don’t feel my pain.”

“Warren,” said Josephine. “Perhaps we ought to think about leaving early. Very soon,” she added, raising a brow. “If it can be arranged.”

He sighed. “I suppose the Townsends would understand, but I think it awfully cowardly of you, sis. The party doesn’t end for another week.”

One more week. By the end of that week, August was sure to be engaged to Lady Priscilla. It was so unfair.

“Please, we must leave,” she said, worrying her handkerchief between her fingers. “I’ll pretend to be ill. Or you can say you have business to attend to in town.”

Warren shook his head. “I’ll tell Hunter and Aurelia the truth. They’d know anyway. But we must keep the rest of the guests from finding out the reason, for propriety’s sake.”

“For propriety’s sake?” Josephine rolled her eyes. She tended to scoff at propriety when it suited her. “You speak of propriety when your sister’s heart is breaking?”

“Yes, I do,” Warren said. “I won’t have drama and gossip overshadowing August’s proposal to Lady Priscilla. It’s going to be difficult enough for him as it is. As for you, my dear...” He looked back at Minette, concern clouding his blue eyes. “My heart breaks for you, too, but you must come to terms with this situation. You must look elsewhere for love. When we return to London for the season, after the baby’s born, we’ll search until we find a young man worthy of your affections. We’ll go on calls and plan dinners. We’ll have a ball at Park Street, a lively, grand affair.”

Josephine looked heavenward in exasperation. Minette wrung her hands.

“You can throw a thousand balls but it won’t make me stop loving Lord August,” she said to her brother.

“You may love him all you like,” he replied with regretful firmness. “But August shall marry Lady Priscilla before spring of next year.”

Chapter Two: Mary

August retired late into the night, after drinking far more than he should. It was black outside with no moon, an ominous Hallowe’en night. He was another year older, and another day closer to offering for Priscilla. By the end of this week, surely, he must do it. Why not? Who else was there? He’d never courted anyone, or loved any lady with particular feeling. If not for familial pressure, he might have contented himself with several more years of Dirty Esmeralda’s talents, and his music, and the occasional bottle of port.

He groaned and drew the curtains of his bed, and fell into a restless sleep, thinking of Esme, and Priscilla, and poor Minette, whom she’d humiliated. Afterward, Minette had disappeared for the rest of the night, and of course people remarked upon it, because Minette was so social. It wasn’t well done of Priscilla. If she was his wife—and she would soon be his wife—he might have had sharp words for her afterward, in private. He might have even spanked the spiteful creature, knocked her down a step or two from her pillar of righteousness with a trip across his lap.

But fantasy-spanking Priscilla did nothing for him. His dreams veered in a more satisfying direction: spanking Esme, and then holding her down and showing her just what happened to naughty girls. In the midst of this erotic reverie, a faint sound awoke him. The curtains parted, revealing a white gown and blonde hair. Ah, breasts. The side of the bed dipped and the curtain closed, enveloping them in darkness, but he knew who she was. The alluring chambermaid.

It appeared he was to have some birthday fun after all.

How he’d groused to Townsend and Arlington earlier, that he must spend his birthday alone. His friends must have sent her upstairs to surprise him, or perhaps the lass had come on her own. Either way, he was happy for the company, and not at all too drunk to perform. His cock stirred at her scent, her warm acquiescence as she snuggled close beside him. He knew from her glances the past few days that she found him enticing, and he planned to give her a good show of it, out of gratitude as much as anything else.

He stroked her hair, finding it soft and curly, sprung loose from her staid servant’s cap. He couldn’t see her face in the darkness but he remembered a pert nose and saucy mouth. He breathed in her sweet, flowery scent and caressed her soft skin. Esme had soft, fragrant skin like this. He might even pretend this girl was Esme if he wished it. One willing body was very like another, especially at this dark hour, on this witching night when he’d been born so many years ago.

“Have you come to be my special treat?” he whispered, drawing her pliable body closer. “Oh, but you smell pretty. You’re kind to visit me.”

She made some soft, sleepy sound in response. He knew he must be gentle with this young trollop. She’d be experienced—she wouldn’t have come to his bed otherwise—but he had to remember she was a Berkshire maid, not a London whore. He traced the curve of her waist and hips through the thin cotton of her night shift. She gave a light, breathless sigh, arching against him. She was petite but beautifully feminine, with great, round breasts and a bottom that filled his hands.

“How sweet you are,” he said, chuckling at her cuddlesome manner. “Will you give me a kiss? It’s my birthday, you know.”

She didn’t answer. These servant girls could be so shy around proper gentlemen. He cupped her chin and tried to kiss her, but he ended up grazing her nose in the darkness before he found his way to her lips. Her kisses were shy too, but her fingers crept up his shoulders and curled in his hair in a decidedly welcoming way.

“You want to be here with me, don’t you?” he asked, just to be sure. “You didn’t get lost on your way back to the servants’ quarters?”

She went still, and he thought for one moment that she’d rise and leave him there, aroused and unsatisfied. But then she said, in a soft, whispery voice, “Yes, I want to be here.”

The way she said it had him rock hard. “I’ll make it good for you, my little pretty,” he promised. He kissed her again, entranced by her freshness, her reticence even as she pressed her body closer to his. “We’re going to have a fine time together this Hallowe’en night. You’re not afraid of ghosts and goblins, are you?”

She whispered in that same soft voice, “No, milord. I’m not afraid.”

His fingers played over her knee and then trailed up the bare skin of her thigh. She wasn’t bold and brassy like Dirty Esmeralda, but she was equally luscious in her way. He caught the hem of her shift and bunched it in his palm, drawing it upward. “I’m going to take this off. I want to be able to touch you everywhere and make you feel good.”

“That sounds...nice.”

He went by touch rather than sight, inching the garment over her head, though she tried to grasp it back at the end. “It’s all right,” he said. “I’ll lay it right here so you can find it later. I’ll let you back to your bed by dawn, so you don’t risk the housekeeper’s wrath.”

“Oh. Thank you. That’s very important.”

The formal, polite way she said this made him smile. “You’re a funny one, aren’t you? Silly girl.” He drew her closer, not to maul her or anything. He wanted to enjoy her for a while, trace her curvy waist and squeeze and suckle her bounteous breasts. She made the most erotic sighs as he caressed her. She twitched and tensed, and grasped his shoulders, giving herself up to sensation as they lay together in the dark. His mind wandered to thin, icy Lady Priscilla. No, he didn’t want to think about her now, not with this willing, warm angel in his bed. He stroked his palms up and down the maid’s back.

“What’s your name, missy?” he asked.

Silence again. The little imp. Did she think he wouldn’t recognize her in the light of day? Did she think he didn’t very well know who’d been making eyes at him all week?

“Mary,” she finally said. It was probably a false name, but that was all right. He’d call her whatever she wished as long as she spread her thighs for him and helped dispel some of his frustration this dreary night.

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