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When Lady Viola is left at the altar, she feels it is a dream come true. After all, when she turns twenty-one she’ll have an inheritance of her own and will be able to move away from her parents. But the disaster of her engagement doesn’t stop her mother from trying to push her into marriage.
In an effort to thwart her parents’ plans, Viola proposes a scheme to Lord Byron, the fourth son of a duke: act like he is her suitor for six months and she will give him her virtue at the end. But Byron has other ideas. If he is to take part in her plan, he wants to play with her body before the six months are out. After all, there are many things they can do that will keep her virtue intact, and he has many ideas to keep them occupied while they wait for her birthday.
But, as they say, the best laid plans sometimes go awry, and things don’t always turn out as planned. Will Viola and Byron be able to fool everyone with their false courting? Will their arrangement encourage their feelings for each other to grow? Are they both ready to confront and accept any changes in feelings if they occur?
Publisher’s Note: This book contains elements of power exchange and explicit scenes. If any of these themes offend you, please do not purchase.
*** Currently available exclusively at Amazon ***
Lady Viola, only child of Baron Boyton, hated flowers. Well, she supposed hate was too strong a word. Disliked them, maybe, or detested was a word that came to mind, but that was stronger than hate, so she supposed she should stay with her first choice. It wasn’t that they weren’t pretty, they were. But her mother cared more for flowers than she did for Viola, which made them all ugly in Viola’s eyes.
That meant being at the Chiswick Gardens to watch people show off their blooms and compete for prizes was not where Viola wanted to be this afternoon, or any afternoon. She knew the only reason her mother wanted her here was to make contact with eligible bachelors that might be here with their mothers; or, God forbid, a man who might be interested in horticulture himself. Viola couldn’t stand the thought of spending the rest of her life with a man like that. Frankly, she couldn’t stand the thought of spending the rest of her life with a man, period.
She shivered as she thought about men. They didn’t like her, and she didn’t like them. It was in her mind to stay a spinster forever. She had money of her own, given to her by her grandparents upon their deaths. They had defied all convention when they’d set up a trust for her, of ten thousand pounds, that she would come into on her twenty-first birthday. If she married before then the money would go to her husband. That was why she needed to stay single, so she could keep the funds for herself.
She’d already embarrassed her parents by being left at the altar almost a year ago. Frank Granger. Her mother had been humiliated; her father had been enraged; Viola had been relieved.
At that time her father had tried to get his hands on her money, arguing that since she was still on the shelf he needed to care for her, and he needed the inheritance to do so. But the barrister in charge of the trust had been firm. They had to wait until Viola was married, or until her twenty-first birthday.
She just had six more months to drive away every man her parents threw in her direction. She would not marry. They had taught her that marriage was nothing more than trying to climb the social ladder and hating the person who had the bedroom next to yours. How they’d managed to get together long enough to conceive a child was beyond Viola’s comprehension. In her later years she’d wondered why they hadn’t tried to have a second child, so they could have a son. But then she’d listen to them scream at each other about her father’s extended golf trips to Scotland, or her mother’s visits to Paris for shopping, and it all became clear.
They hated each other, and from what she could decipher, they’d done so for their entire marriage. They put on such great faces in public, smiling at each other and cooing back and forth. But Viola knew the truth. Lately, she had been at the center of their discussions. “She’s twenty years old,” her father had screamed the night before he left for his latest trip. “You have failed to find her a husband.”
“It would help if you were in town for the season,” her mother had retorted. “Perhaps you could visit men at their clubs and encourage them to call on Viola. I am not the only one at fault here! If you didn’t spend so much time with golfing and your mistresses, then she might be married now.”
“The marriage mart is your concern, not mine!”
Then their voices had lowered and Viola had sunk into the chair in her room, letting her book rest on her lap. They talked about her as if she were a menu to be discussed with the cook. Why would she ever put herself in a marriage where she would end up screaming at the person she was supposed to love?
Their hatred of each other, and the idea of spending the rest of her life in such a loveless marriage, was the reason she was here today.
Viola scanned the crowd for Lord Byron Sway, the third son of the Duke of Wilshire. He wouldn’t gain a title, which made him unworthy in her mother’s eyes, but Viola knew his parents were forcing him to find a bride. And while he wouldn’t be her mother’s first choice, she was desperate to get rid of her daughter.
To that end, Viola had a scheme she wanted to discuss with Lord Byron, one that would, hopefully, play their way and satisfy their parents, at least for a short while.
She wasn’t sure how she had thought up the idea, but somehow it had come to her in the middle of the night that she needed to find a potential husband before her parents found her a real one.
The hardest part of the scheme was finding a man she thought would follow along with her plan. It had taken her two nights to come up with Byron Sway. It had taken another two nights, full of yelling and screaming from her parents, to decide the scheme would actually work, and she needed to act fast.
Yesterday she’d sent Byron a note, asking him to come to the flower show so she could speak with him, alone. If he didn’t show up, she would have to think of someone else.
“Boring as hell, isn’t it?”
Viola stiffened slightly, then relaxed before she turned in the direction of the male voice behind her. “Lord Byron.”
“Lady Viola, a pleasure.” He inclined his head slightly. The wicked grin on his face made her stomach flutter. “I received your message. I have to admit my mother was flabbergasted when I said I wanted to accompany her today, but your cryptic words intrigued me.”
“Lord Byron,” she repeated, her stomach fluttering. She looked around, wondering how she was going to tell him what she had to say. “I didn’t think it was that cryptic.”
He laughed softly. “Was getting me here part of some sort of scavenger hunt between you and your friends?”
“I have no friends,” she said. “What I have is a problem. I have enjoyed your company at parties in the past.”
Viola shook her head. Her words were not making any sense.
“And that is a problem? I apologize if you felt it necessary to summon me here to tell me you detest my company. Perhaps I should try to make amends. Should we dance?” He held out his hand. “There is no music, but I suppose we can pretend.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about,” she said. “Lord Byron, I have a proposal for you.”
“Now I am intrigued,” he said. “What exactly is your proposal, that we go behind the flowers and play a game together? Does this game involve you removing your clothing?”
His gaze was on her cleavage now, and she felt herself blush. He really was a cad, as she had heard. She had spent time with him when they were younger, at house parties and the like. Despite his naughty words, he was perfect for her purposes. “Not here.” She took a deep breath and then exhaled loudly through her mouth. Oh, what was she doing? She should have thought this through sooner. “This was not a good idea. I’m sorry I leapt before I thought. Forgive me.”
“For what? Nothing has happened yet, although I love the idea of you taking off your clothing, whether it’s here or some other place.” He leaned closer and Viola looked into his deep blue eyes. She understood now why other females thought of him as the most eligible bachelor in England this season, even if he wouldn’t gain a title.
“I’m looking for someone to perform a special service for me,” she said.
“And you thought of me? I’m so flattered.” He once again looked at her chest. “Does that special service have something to do with marriage? If it does, I have to admit I think you’re very beautiful, Viola. But to put things quite bluntly, I don’t think you can handle me.”
“You shouldn’t dismiss me so easily,” she said. “But I’m not talking about marriage.” He studied her as if she were a piece of meat on his plate. Her stomach fluttered.
“What exactly are you offering, Viola?”
“You don’t want to marry, and neither do I,” she looked around once again to make sure no one was listening. Her mother was staring at a bunch of roses, gesturing wildly as she indicated the blooms. Viola wondered exactly how much she should tell him. After a moment she decided she needed to be totally truthful with him. “When I become twenty-one I come into money, and I can break with my parents and find a modest house of my own. I plan to be a spinster. But my parents are pushing me to marry.” She took a deep breath. “If I can convince you to court me for six months, then I can leave my parents, and I will be just another woman you’ve thrown over.”
Her body quivered as he looked her over once more. “Tell me, Lady Viola, what is in it for me? You get money at the end. What do I get?”
“I will give you my maidenhead,” she said. The words rushed out of her month, because she’d been afraid to say them, afraid of what they meant. She needed to qualify her statement, though. “Not right now, of course. At the end of the six months.”
“After I’ve fulfilled my part of the bargain?”
“Yes,” she said.
Their gazes locked for a few, long moments and Viola wondered exactly what he was thinking. How many other women had offered him their virginity? How many proper virgins had he ruined, she wondered.
“I am still intrigued,” he said. “But six months is far too long to wait.”
“You won’t have it before then,” she said.
“Maybe not your maidenhead, but there are other ways for men and women to play with each other.”
Viola frowned. “You suggest we become lovers?”
“Indeed,” he said. He leaned closer to her and Viola fought to keep herself under control.
“How do you feel, Viola, about me spanking your bare bottom?”
The shock of his words stilled her words in her throat for a few moments. “Sir, you forget yourself,” she finally said, her tone shaky.
“How do you feel, Viola, about me playing with your quim, even if I can’t put my dick inside you?”
“This was a mistake,” she said. She started to stand, but he put his hand on her wrist and if she pulled away, they would attract attention if she put up a fight. She looked away and saw his mother walking into the tent.
“How do you feel, Viola, about me putting my prick into your mouth?”
Viola gasped, so loudly that several heads turned in their direction. Before she could answer his mother called his name.
Viola turned toward the duchess, who was standing near to Viola’s mother. The baroness was also looking in their direction now. She frowned, but Viola saw the minute her mother realized who Viola was sitting next to, and her face brightened.
“Byron.” The Duchess of Wilshire was moving toward them, too, and Viola felt a little overwhelmed. She felt flushed from the words he’d spoken to her. It was obvious he would help her with her problem, but there would be a price to pay, one that she hadn’t considered. Lying under him in six months was one thing, but allowing him to play with her until then?
What had she done? Why hadn’t this thought entered her mind? She’d thought he would agree to her scheme and help her. She needed to get away from him. Now.
“This was not a good idea,” she whispered. He leaned over and kissed her cheek, which shocked her.
“Follow my lead,” he said. “Don’t dismiss my ideas so quickly. You will enjoy what we do together, I guarantee it.”
The duchess was upon them now. Viola couldn’t tell from her expression whether she was happy about her son sitting with Viola, or not.
“Mother.” He took his mother’s hand and kissed it. “You know Lady Viola, daughter of Baron Boyton?”
Viola dropped a deep curtsey. “Your Grace,” she said.
Seconds later her mother was at her side, doing the same thing. “Your Grace, it is an honor to see you here. Viola, darling, I missed seeing you near the roses.” Her mother kissed her cheek, the one opposite when Byron had kissed her.
The sensations were not the same. The cheek Byron had kissed burned in a delicious manner. Viola resisted the urge to wipe her mother’s kiss away from the other cheek.
“I was just telling your lovely daughter how she surpasses the stunning roses,” Byron said.
Viola cocked her head and gave him what she hoped as a coy smile. When she looked at him, all she could think about was him telling her he wanted her to take his prick in her mouth. Did people really do things like that?
“She does, doesn’t she?”
Her mother’s words made Viola feel sick. Her hatred of the woman standing next to her was the only reason she’d sent Byron the message.
“Mother, why don’t you and the baroness sit while Viola and I peruse the refreshment table.”
Viola could see the duchess was a little shocked by her son’s suggestion, but then she smiled. “It seems, Baroness, that our children want to spend some time together. Perhaps we should go and view more flowers, and then come back for tea.”
Viola’s mother didn’t argue. In fact, she looked like she’d just found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The mothers moved off in the direction of some flower that Viola couldn’t name, and Byron offered her his arm.
“Let us choose the cakes for our tea,” he said.
Viola smiled at the people around them, who were watching the couple with interest. She knew this news would be all over town in a few hours’ time. Lady Viola and Lord Byron, seen together at the flower show, making eyes at each other.
That’s what she wanted, of course, for people to think that they were together. This was a perfect start, if it wasn’t for his suggestions. Could she do it? Could she allow him to take liberties with her body?
Of course you can, you simpleton , a voice inside her said. You were going to let him rid you of your innocence. The time you spend together will only strengthen your plan. Your parents will think he will marry you. It will all go as planned.
They were now seated at a table, away from the other patrons. It wouldn’t be long before their tea was delivered, and their respective mothers joined them.
“Let me ask you something, Viola,” he said. “What happens when, in six months’ time, our parents force us to marry?”
“They won’t have control over me anymore,” she said.
“You’re so naïve,” he said. “They will find a way to keep you under their thumbs, I assure you.”
“I will have my own money,” she said.
He shook his head. “So naïve,” he repeated. “But, I do believe your idea has some merit. I would like to help you, if only to be able to play with that plush body of yours.”
Viola looked away from him. Plush? He might as well have said fat. Her father had bandied the word around enough while he and her mother had been fighting. Make her lose some of her fat, he’d yelled. Perhaps then she’d find a husband.
“Will you help me, or not?” she asked.
“Will you meet my terms, or not?” he countered.
“You’re basically saying you want me to become your mistress,” she said. “That’s not what I’m proposing.”
“No, it is not.” His smile was seductive. “But it is what I want. The two of us could have a great deal of fun together, Viola.”
Viola looked around the tent. Yes, people were definitely watching them, sneaking glances over their cups of tea, or while they were putting sandwiches into their mouths.
“Are you not at all curious about what happens between a man and a woman?”
Viola glared at him. “I know enough from hearing my parents scream at each other. I have no desire to spend my life like that. I want to live in a small village in the country where I can garden, read and be alone.”
“Do you think you’re far enough back on the shelf that no man will marry you?”
“I think you have wax in your ears, Lord Byron,” she said.
Before she could say anything else their tea was delivered. They sat in silence while a woman poured. When she was gone, he said, “That’s a strange saying, isn’t it?”
“Excuse me?” Viola asked him, confused by his statement.
“What I said earlier, about this being boring as hell,” Byron said. “You would think it wouldn’t be a boring place, since it is full of people who probably don’t follow the rules and therefore know how to have a good time.”
Viola shook her head. “You’re forgetting that, they are, in all essence hell-raisers, but they are not attending parties and dinners but trying to keep the flames from biting into their skins.”
His laughter was deep. “Such an analytical mind, Lady Viola. I have to admit I never thought of actual flames in Hades. To me, it is hell to be at the flower show, listing to my mother discuss varying types of roses and how she could grow them in her own gardens, or rather how her man could grow them for her while she directed his activities.”
They studied each other for a few moments before she said, “Will you do as I ask?”
He ignored her question. “Usually I find these events tedious, but today you’ve brought in something new.”
“Will you consider my offer?”
“I will ponder your idea,” he said.
“When will you have an answer?” When he didn’t respond, Viola shook her head. “It’s well known your parents are forcing you to marry as you near thirty. You have resisted in the past. Spending time with me will make them think you will marry. The arrangement will be to your advantage, too.”
“May I ask why you picked me for the proposal?”
“If you prefer I look in another direction I can do so,” she replied.
“No you can’t,” he said. “None of the other gentlemen have my reputation. You just didn’t expect me to demand sex in return.”
His words were true.
“I am not like the other women of society,” she said. “And yet…” Viola thought carefully before she completed her sentence. She had thought about other gentlemen, but they didn’t, as Byron had said, have his reputation.
“Do you remember when we danced at the Chisholm party? You held me close.” She blushed a little. “I thought you found me attractive, and that would make you more agreeable to my plan. If I was wrong and you don’t find me attractive I’ll find another man. My feelings won’t be hurt.” Too much. Well, maybe more than a little.
“I find you very attractive, Viola. That is why I added my codicil to your offer.”
Viola looked off to the left. Her mother and the duchess were heading in their direction. Her mother had a predatory look on her face that told Viola she was prepared to pounce on Lord Byron to see if he found her daughter agreeable, and if so when they could wed.
“Tonight, at the Gesky party, you and I will slip off to spend some time alone. My answer will depend on how that goes.” The twinkle in his eye was mesmerizing. “Until tonight, then. And Viola, don’t wear any under clothing except for your petticoats. I’ll want to see your quim, even if I can’t be inside it quite yet.”
Despite her attempt to hold back any sound, his words made her gasp.
“Viola, are you all right?” Her mother sat down next to her.
“Fine,” Viola said. “I just felt a chill.”
“In this heat?” The duchess sat down. “I do hope you are not becoming sick.”
“She’s in perfect health,” her mother said, a little sharply.
“I swallowed wrong,” Viola said. “My tea, it stung my throat.”
“I am sorry, my dear.” The duchess sat down and waved a hand at her son. “Go and order some warmer tea, please.”
“Of course, Mother,” he said. He left, and a few ladies came up to talk with the duchess.
Viola took a sip from her tea as her mother leaned in and whispered, “How did you manage to capture his attention?”
“Byron and I have known each other for years, Mother,” Viola said.
“Mind you, Viola, if you drive him away as you did Frank I will take a buggy whip to you.” Viola shivered at her mother’s words. She much preferred the shiver that Byron’s words had produced earlier.
“We are meeting at the Gesky party tonight,” Viola said. “He has asked for several places on my dance card.”
Her mother’s look brightened, and she glanced over at the duchess, who was still talking with her friends.
“Be witty and wise, dear,” the baroness said. “Remember my warning—”
Before she could complete her thought, Byron was back. He set a plate of small cakes in front of Viola.
“Sweets for the sweet,” he said.
Viola looked up at him, but instead of smiling she rolled her eyes.
“Too trite?” he asked. “I’ll do better next time, I promise.”
“I’ll hold you to that,” she said with a smile. “I was just telling Mother we were going to dance together tonight. It will be a most enjoyable evening, I’m sure.”
“By the time the night is over, Lady Viola, I will have taught you new steps that will make you giggle.”
“Giggle?” Viola took a sip from her tea. She set the cup down and said, “I do not giggle, Lord Byron.”
“You will tonight,” he said. “And it will be a sound to warm my heart.”
“Something is wrong with this.” Viola stared out the carriage window, but she could feel her mother’s gaze on her.
“We are taking the same route home as always, Mother,” Viola said.
“Don’t act stupid with me, Viola,” the baroness said. “You know I’m talking about that boy. Are you carrying on with him behind my back?”
“Mother, it is your sincerest wish that I marry and break ties with you and Father,” she said. “Why would you be angry about Lord Byron paying attention to me?”
“But why now? Have you been leading him on? Despite your advanced age, that would never do. People would talk, and we can’t have that.”
Viola wanted to laugh. People would definitely talk if they knew about how Viola had “led” Byron on. She was going to give him her maidenhead in exchange for helping her out of a horrible situation.”
“Does he know about the money?” the baroness asked.
“Of course not,” Viola answered. “Why would he know about the money?”
“Look at me,” her mother said.
Viola turned to her.
“If you are lying to me, and this boy has been paying you attention behind my back, I will see to it that you are severely punished.” The darkness in the baroness’s voice made Viola feel physically ill. She fought back the nausea.
“Mother, I assure you, he has not been paying attentions behind your back.”
“Well then, I suppose we should be happy,” the baroness said. “He will not be the duke, but his family is high up, and it would be a good match. Make sure you present him with your best side tonight. The green dress, I believe, will be perfect. It shows off your eyes and hides your—” the baroness cleared her throat, “your curves. Men don’t like curves, Viola. I’ve told you that before. I believe it’s one of the reasons you’re still on the shelf. Be nice to him, but don’t allow him any liberties. That way we can see exactly what his intentions are. He may just want to toy with you.”
Oh he wants to do that, Viola thought. That, and much, much more.