One Summer of Surrender(6)

By: Jess Michaels


There was a scent in the air. One that felt…familiar. Jasmine and earth, sweet and sultry. All at once, his cock stirred and he swallowed hard as she closed the door behind him.

“I’m surprised to see you here. You haven’t been to my club in over a year,” Vivien said, gliding a hand toward the liquor at her sideboard.

He shook his head. “Yes, well, I was to marry, if you recall. I steered away from such things. But when my engagement to Celia Fitzgilbert dissolved, I just…”

“You had no heart for it?” Vivien offered.

He shrugged. “Something like that. But I’ve been told that taking a lover might improve my mood around others. So I came here in the hopes you might help me find discrete companionship for a very limited engagement.”

Vivien tilted her head and a sudden knowing smile crossed her lips. “You came here tonight. Of all nights.”

He wrinkled his brow, not understanding her tone. “Yes,” he said slowly.

“Looking for a temporary lover,” she continued.

He nodded. “Yes. Is there something I’m missing?”

Vivien shook her head, but that secret smile remained tilting her lips. “Not at all. I think we understand each other perfectly. She is looking for a longer term agreement, you know.”

Stenfax blinked in blank misunderstanding. She? Vivien must be referring to the larger “she”. To all the women who came to her, seeking to be matched with a protector.

“I’m certain that is true. That is what you do, after all. But you must make it clear that I am not in that market. At least not at this point. I don’t want to mislead anyone.”

Vivien nodded slowly. “I will make it clear, Stenfax, I assure you. This might even make it easier.”

Stenfax stared at her. She truly did have the oddest expression on her face, but before he could question her more fully about odd behavior, she motioned him toward the door. “I’ll take you to a room and bring you what you desire.”

Stenfax sighed and drew in another whiff of the rapidly fading scent in the room. It stirred him as nothing else in his presence that night had. Then he followed Vivien down the hall, through winding corridors where more moans and cries floated from various rooms. She stopped at one and motioned him in.

“Here is where you will meet with the lady. Talk, and if you can come to an agreement, do as you will. I hope I’ll see you after for a drink.” She bobbed her head as he entered, and left.

Stenfax slowly looked around the room. There was a bed in the corner, draped in rich red satin. A fire burned in the enormous fireplace and a black velvet settee was set before it. This was one of Vivien’s finer rooms, he thought. And not, it seemed, one where other guests could spy. He verified that with a quick sweep of the room for hidden looking holes.

Satisfied, he shrugged out of his jacket and draped it over a chair near the bed. There was a window beside it and he moved to it. He could see the terrace off the ballroom to the side and there were couples milling about on it, kissing, touching, one was even making love. His body thrummed and he shut his eyes, thinking of soft hands on his flesh, warm lips covering his, thinking of…

Elise.

His eyes flew open and he shook his head to clear the image. No, he would not think of Elise tonight. She would not pollute a night of pleasure with a willing stranger.

As if on cue, he heard the door behind him open, and the rustle of skirts before the door was shut. He slowly turned, a smile of welcome on his face for the lady who would bring him that pleasure.

But when he saw her, the smile fell. The blood drained from his face, his hands began to shake. He stared at the woman who had entered the room and his mind began to scream at him.

Elise. It was Elise. She was standing there at the door, staring at him with an expression of shock and horror that had to match his own.

And she was gorgeous. He hadn’t seen her in three long years, a circumstance organized and planned impeccably because looking at her would be too painful. And it was, for everything about her was even more beautiful than he remembered.

She was a statuesque beauty, a good head taller than most of the women in their set. This meant she towered over many of the men, but never him. She had always fit perfectly in his arms. But it wasn’t just her height that gave her presence.

Elise was stunning. She had an intelligence to her face and coupled with her high cheekbones, her full lips, her bright green eyes and her light red hair, she had always been the kind of woman men turned to look at as she passed.

He thought all that in the fraction of the second as he saw her standing there, and then his brain lurched, recognizing not only that she was there, but where there was. Elise was at Vivien Manning’s, a house of ill repute, where men came to have their pleasure and women came to find protection.

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