At A Glance
House of Pleasure #6
On Sale January 25, 2011
Historical Erotic Romance
HOUSE OF PLEASURE SERIES
SIMPLY FORBIDDEN is the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award Winner 2011 for Best Erotic Romance
“Pearceâ€™s House of Pleasure series continues with this intense, thought-provoking Regency-era novel that will cause you to ponder the events that shape peopleâ€™s lives. The complex, troubled characters struggle with issues of abandonment, betrayal, trust and family relationships as they come to terms with their sexual proclivities. You get a great historical novel, a touching romance and blistering sex â€” with a little kink.” —TOP PICK! 4 1/2 Stars, Joyce Morgan, RT BOOK Reviews
Lisette Delornay-Ross is used to belonging to two worlds—her father Philipâ€™s aristocratic circles and her mother, Heleneâ€™s more risquĂ© sexual empire. When she meets Major Lord Gabriel Swanfield, she is instantly attracted to him and more than willing to engage in her usual brand of flirtation. Scarred both physically and mentally by his sojourn in the Peninsular army, Gabriel lives a solitary existence on the fringes of London society.
Although he is willing to indulge Lisette in an erotic affair, Gabriel has surprisingly strong views about marriage. But despite herself, Lisette understands Gabrielâ€™s conventional desires all too well. Should she give into his demands and become the perfect society wife he thinks he wants, or try and persuade him otherwise? As both of them try to provide the other with what they believe is the answer to their dilemma, they discover that love has a way of making the most unconventional of lifestyles work after all.
Read an Excerpt
So far Miss Ross had disappointed Gabriel. She had made no effort to ingratiate herself with him at dinner at all. In truth, sheâ€™d sat as far away from him as possible, and allowed the gushingly youthful and chatty Miss Emily to claim all his attention. He reckoned she had hardly spared him a glance but to laugh at his efforts to deflect the younger girlâ€™s incessant questions about his life in the military.
He drank one obligatory glass of brandy, discussed horses with his host, which was no hardship at all, and excused himself from joining the ladies. He had no desire to sit between the debutantes and listen to them giggle all night. After his incarceration in Spain, he hated being shut in and hated the thought that he had to do anything to please anyone else at all. Heâ€™d rather be with the horses and breathe the clean, quiet air of the English countryside.
As he walked away from the house, he turned his face upward and inhaled. His cravat seemed too tight and he pulled at the carefully arranged folds until it came loose. The evening light was golden, the sky tipped with pink-edged clouds, and the horizon, a hazy blurring of light and impending darkness. Gabriel lit one of his narrow Spanish cigarillos and headed down to the stables. The smell of warm oat mash and manure didnâ€™t bother him half as much as the over-perfumed and often under-washed bodies of his fellow guests.
â€śNow, please be a good horse and stand still.â€ť
He halted by the stable, drawn to the sound of a now familiar French accent. What the devil was Miss Ross doing back here? He walked as quietly as he could up to the nearest stall, and peered over the door. She stood with her back against the wall, one hand reaching out toward the horseâ€™s neck. Sheâ€™d discarded the low-necked gown sheâ€™d worn to dinner, in favor of a simple blue dress, and stout boots. Her hair was drawn back from her arresting face in a single long braid.
â€śMay I help you, Miss Ross?â€ť
She jumped so violently that the horse followed suit, and almost knocked her over. Instantly, he joined her in the stall and used his voice to calm the startled animal, his hands to sooth and placate.
â€śYou frightened me.â€ť
He glanced over at her, but kept his hand on the horseâ€™s rope halter, his attention on the high-spirited mare. â€śYou frightened the horse. Donâ€™t you know any better?â€ť
â€śThe horse was perfectly fine until you came along.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m not so sure about that.â€ť He wanted to smile at the indignity of her tone, but kept his expression bland. â€śYou couldâ€™ve been trampled or kicked.â€ť
â€śI know.â€ť She swallowed hard, and he noticed the pallor on her face, the terrified look in her hazel eyes.
â€śMiss Ross, if you are afraid of horses, why are you here?â€ť
She looked directly at him then, as if trying to convince him that her fear meant nothing. â€śBecause I am determined not to be.â€ť
â€śSo you wander into any stall and scare the living daylights out of the poor animal?â€ť
â€śI didnâ€™t scare her! You did.â€ť
Gabriel gave the mare one last reassuring pat. â€śPerhaps we should continue this discussion outside.â€ť He opened the stall door and waited for Miss Ross to move past him before checking the latch was secure. She lingered in the narrow cobbled passageway between the stalls, her arms folded across her chest and her cheeks flushed. She looked far younger in her plain clothes than her dinner finery, and far more vulnerable. He found himself intrigued by the contrast.
â€śWell?â€ť he asked.
â€śWell what?â€ť She glared at him and he was reminded of her ability to disconcert him anew. â€śI do not have to explain myself to you.â€ť
He closed in on her and deliberately blocked her exit. â€śThat is true.â€ť
She sighed. â€śBut you will not let me pass until I do.â€ť
He nodded and settled his shoulder more comfortably against the cold stones behind him. Eventually she looked at him.
â€śMy father loves horses.â€ť
â€śAye, he does.â€ť
â€śAnd Iâ€™m afraid of them.â€ť
Gabriel frowned. â€śDid you have a fall recently? Have you lost your nerve?â€ť
â€śLost my nerve? Iâ€™ve never had it.â€ť Her smile was derisive. â€śIâ€™m simply an appalling rider.â€ť
He studied her from the tips of her boots to the top of her head. â€śI find it hard to believe your father would have allowed that. He must have set you on a horse as soon as you were able to stand.â€ť
â€śIâ€™ve only been riding for three years.â€ť She took a deep breath. â€śI didnâ€™t grow up here. I grew up in France.â€ť
It was none of his business where she had grown up or how she had been raised, but Gabriel found himself wanting to ask, anyway. It seemed they had more in common than he had imagined, both displaced as children, both trying to overcome unusual circumstances in their lives. He curbed the unusual impulse and concentrated on the problem at hand.
â€śI could teach you.â€ť
â€śWhy would you do that?â€ť
He shrugged. â€śBecause the idea that anyone is too scared to ride appalls me. And it will give me something to do with my time rather than hiding in my room avoiding the other guests.â€ť He motioned back at the stalls. â€śIs that the horse you normally ride?â€ť
â€śYes, thatâ€™s Sugarplum. I was trying to reacquaint myself with her before the hunt at the weekend.â€ť
â€śThen meet me here tomorrow morning at five, and weâ€™ll begin.â€ť
She stared at him for a long moment and he stared right back, felt his body tighten and respond to the surprise in her hazel eyes.
She nodded. â€śAll right, I will.â€ť
He bowed and started to turn away and then remembered something important. â€śBorrow some breeches. Iâ€™ll teach you how to ride astride first.â€ť He didnâ€™t wait to see if she protested. If he was to teach her properly, he needed to see her legs. He smiled into the darkness and imagined those legs wrapped around his hips.
It was a long time since heâ€™d been inspired to fantasize about sex, and his body responded far too enthusiastically. Miss Ross was an unusual woman. Beneath her charm and ability to appear as empty-headed as all society women obviously lurked a keen mind and a sharp tongue. He found himself excited by the contradictions she presented and far too ready to take her on. Unfortunately, as a protected upper class virgin, Miss Ross was unlikely to share his lusty enthusiasm for a quick roll in the hay.
Lisette glared after Lord Swanfieldâ€™s retreating figure. Why on earth had she agreed to meet him on the morrow or believe that he would help her? Something about the way he had calmed the horse and his softly spoken words had lulled her into a state of security. He seemed far more at ease with Sugarplum than he was with her, or with any of the other guests.
She sighed and started back up the slight slope to the house after him. He could at least have waited and escorted her inside, but that might have caused comment, and he avoided notice like the plague. Sheâ€™d watched him surreptitiously over dinner, how heâ€™d flinched at every loud noise, and every slight brush of Emilyâ€™s hand.
Had he suffered during the war? He was certainly physically scarred by it. Perhaps beneath his silence lay unimaginably awful experiences. When she got back to Town, she would inquire of her army friends as to exactly what Major Lord Gabriel Swanfield had gotten up to in the recent conflict. Perhaps that would help her understand him better.
Sheâ€™d always enjoyed a puzzle and Lord Swanfield was certainly a challenge. Having caught her at a disadvantage, heâ€™d seen her at her most vulnerable, stripped of artifice, and he hadnâ€™t seemed to mind. In truth, something in his brusque manner encouraged her to be just as blunt, which was almost refreshing.
The house, ablaze with light, welcomed her, but she avoided the main entrance and turned toward the kitchen door. She didnâ€™t want Christian to know sheâ€™d been out or guess whom sheâ€™d met; he was far too astute not to notice her interest in the enigmatic Lord Swanfield. And she was interested. She could no longer fool herself that she wasnâ€™t. His unexpected appearance in the barn, and his surprising offer, had intrigued her.
Was he worth taking up Emilyâ€™s wager for? Lisette smiled at the direction of her thoughts. Surely not. All she had to do was get up early the next morning and see if he really was a man of his word.