The short tale below is part of a series of vignettes written to characterize Johna de Rothesay, formally known as Lady Winchester. Johna is a significant person in her daughters’ lives, though she does not appear directly in The Outcast Earl, and only briefly in The Rusticated Duchess.
If you have not finished The Outcast Earl and The Rusticated Duchess, as well as previous entries in the Temptation vignettes, this is officially your spoiler alert. Go read the earlier vignettes first, then come back here.
Temptation in 1803
~Elle Q. Sabine~
Copyright 2015 by Elle Q. Sabine (firstname.lastname@example.org).
All rights reserved, do not reprint in paper or electronic form without prior permission of the author. This material is supplemental material to books in the series The Misbegotten Misses (The Outcast Earl, The Rusticated Duchess, TBD) published by Totally Bound. By reading further, you are stating you are 18 years of age, or over.
“I’ve been watching you,” a husky voice murmured in his ear, “And she’s watching you too.”
Despite the absence of his usual lazy aristocratic drawl, Jack knew the voice immediately. “Robert, you reprobate,” he murmured, sipping from his drink from the cardroom doorway. “How did you know?”
“You’ve had your eye on her all night, traitor, and I always keep one of mine on you,” the man behind him chuckled in a low whisper. “Not that I mind, but she won’t do as your next duchess. She’s already married.”
Jack winced, inwardly anyway. Despite expectations, even Robert’s expectations, he wasn’t interested in having another duchess. He’d had one, and still had two sons. Life was frankly easier without a female in his henhouse. His mother, the Dowager, was enough of a headache. “It’s easier for you to come and go at all hours when the apartment next to mine remains empty. I have two sons already, after all.”
“True. So what is she? An affair? Are you tired of me?”
“Never that,” Jack snorted. “And do you have any objections to one?” he continued casually.
“I might,” Robert laughed softly. “But not to one with her. She’s no danger to you or I, what with her marriage. There’s no public gossip of her sharing favors, so at best, she’s fanatically discreet. At worst, she’s truly a faithful wife and you’ll be shot down cold. I’ve checked the betting books at White’s and Boodles, and found exactly a nuppence of wagering on her. She’s given the stiff an heir and two daughters, lives only a few doors away, and the man’s damnably oblivious to his personal life. He doesn’t even notice that his mistress entertains others on his dime and is making a fortune while the earldom is drained. I suppose the lady could be enceinte now, or are you looking to father her next child?”
Jack was silent, considering all he knew of both the countess and her husband. Information was Jack’s most valuable commodity, and it was unusual that Robert had gone out in search of it without consulting him first. After a long while, he chuckled. “You want her yourself, old man. You truly are a reprobate.”
“It’s too damn bad we’ll have to take turns,” Robert whispered huskily, his lips nearly brushing Jack’s ear and so low that even Jack could barely hear. “I’d give five years off the end of my life to have your cock in me while mine is buried in her. Or the opposite.”
A wave of lust washed over Jack. He tossed back the rest of his drink and shoved it into Robert’s hand, which had been resting on the doorframe. “You’d damn well better show up tonight, ready and willing,” he rasped. “Especially if I’m stepping aside for you.” He strode away, not daring to look back, and for once avoiding the dark eyes which followed him across the room. Robert could have her for now; Robert hadn’t had a woman in months.
It gave him a curious thrill, to be supporting the lovers’ play. Jack did his own research before embarking on any clandestine adventure that might come back to haunt him, so he’d paid good money to Winchester’s mistress for nothing more than a frank discussion of Winchester’s foibles and follies. The man was a cold fish at best, and probably a barren one. Still, the countess had only the one son, and Winchester needed two to secure the succession of his title. Despite his time and effort, Jack hadn’t been able to discern who the lady countess had taken to bed in her husband’s place in order to birth the three she was known to have carried. But it was apparent, at least to Jack, and Robert too, that the countess was looking.
While Jack didn’t need a woman at the moment, Robert had a reputation as a rakehell to maintain. His family would force him to marry if they thought he was settling, or if they even suspected the depth of Robert’s true attachment to Jack. The countess was the perfect distraction, at least as long as no one identified her as Robert’s lover.
Jack could bide his time and wait his turn, especially if it meant that there would be a little boy or girl running around London in a few years that would be Robert’s progeny. He felt curiously gleeful at manipulating his best friend and lover in such a fashion, even if Robert was walking into it willingly.
Robert, in the meantime, would make him crazy by taunting him with the details of his conquest.
Jack could hardly wait.
* * * *
Johna sighed at the withdrawing room mirror, determined not to think of Alex, at least not every quarter hour. More than a year after his death and she still wept when Alex’s ghost came to her dreams. Every week, the bitter pall over her heart when Winchester came to her bed was more like a betrayal of Alex than ever. Alex may have hated the thought of her in the earl’s bed, but he wouldn’t have condemned her to a lifetime of Winchester’s rutting. He’d said often that she deserved to be happy. His very last words had reminded her. “Find more ways to be happy,” he said.
She was trying.
Even more than the detested half-hours beneath Winchester, though, Johna simply couldn’t bear the loneliness and lack of intimacy any longer. For the last few nights, she’d danced and laughed and flirted, and used all the lessons she had learned from William years earlier, but nothing worked with the duke. He’d watched her, yes, but hadn’t made a move in her direction.
Johna knew she was comely and attractive, despite the three children. In any event, the last thing she needed was another man who treated her no better than a breeding mare, as Winchester did. She had no wish to be patronized, constantly overruled as if she’d never spoken, or even to be beckoned forth only for the purpose of reproduction. Her marriage to Winchester already guaranteed her a lifetime of such treatment. She didn’t want to survive longer; it was time to look elsewhere.
There had been another tonight who might do – one of Richmond’s several sons, though she couldn’t have said which one. She’d seen him speaking with her duke – no, with His Grace – earlier. Afterward, he’d held up a wall and watched her dance, then quite properly partnered one of his own cousins. He’d managed to brush against her twice on the crowded dance floor, before she’d come here to think about it.
She sighed and stood, giving herself a mental shake as she looked at the women around her, all in various stages of recovery. Some were repairing gowns, others cosmetics. A few of the more outward females were openly lowering their necklines or using cold water to hide the swelling of their lips.
Really, what was there to think about? She needed to have another child. Winchester had proven himself incapable of fathering his own children, even if he would never see it. Richmond’s son was undeniably blue-blooded, whether he was born the first or the seventh, and he was attractive.
One more son and she could end Winchester’s weekly visits to her chamber forever.
If he was still in the ballroom, she’d look at him. She knew. She knew how to lower her lashes and peek through them, the small smile that could tempt and inform him. The Duchess of Richmond was hosting a masked ball the next night to launch the Season proper; it seemed a rather fortuitous circumstance.
Johna stepped from the withdrawing room, and drew herself up proudly, gathering herself for the last hour in public. She could sneak away now and no one would be the wiser, as many were already leaving, but tempting the attention of a notable rake seemed a better use of her time.
He only appeared to come to her as if by command. The truth was, he had lain in wait in the shadowed windows that looked over the gardens below. Without speaking, he took her hand and drew her silently into the dark gallery past the withdrawing room, where others would not see them. Blinking, Johna acquiesced until they turned a corner and fell into complete blackness.
She stopped suddenly, pulling back on the hand that led her unwaveringly forward. “A few more steps only,” he whispered, “And there will be a door with a key on the inside lock, and light to see me by and ask my name, and cold champagne. I’ve fetched your pelisse from the cloakroom myself, and I know you only walked from a few doors away and will return the same. If you don’t wish for my company, one of Lennox’s footmen will go with you as a guard, as I know you sent yours home.”
“You’ve been watching me,” she murmured. “Intriguing.”
“Yes, for several nights now,” he returned in the blackness. “Will you come, and be in private with me? I promise not to bite.”
Johna thought for a moment, then laughed huskily. “Frankly, sir, I would rather you did. Bite, I mean.”
He drew in a sharp breath and jerked her forward, pushing open the door before him until the light spilled out. Without looking back at her, he pulled her into the room, releasing her only when they were both inside. Not looking at her, he said quietly. “Lock the door, and put the key somewhere you wish it. That way you will have it, when you wish to leave.”
Johna furrowed her brows, but did as he said, simply leaving the key in the lock. When she looked up, it was clear that they were in a well-appointed sitting room, one frequently occupied, by evidence of the ink blotter on the desk, the stack of newsprint in a basket by an armchair, and the stock of liquors on the bureau across the room. A door to the side stood open to a bedchamber beyond, and the man before her seemed comfortably at ease in the space. He was pouring champagne into two fluted glasses of crystal, so she reached out for hers as he turned back to her. “To us,” he said simply, lifting the glass to her.
She smiled and sipped, looking at him closely. He was taller than she’d thought, and wore his green evening jacket and ivory breeches well. He wasn’t dressed in the forefront of fashion, but it was soothingly elegant attire. So he was not the fop, and not the heir either.
Setting her glass down, she gave him her hand, consciously not curtsying to this man who would likely be her lover. “Johna,” she said simply.
A smile now on his face, he set aside his glass and took the proffered fingers. “My good lady,” he murmured, bowing over it. “A delight to meet you, at last, Johna.” He stood and brought her hand up, delicately unfastening the evening glove and removing it from her fingers. “I am Robert.”
She raised a brow. “Lord Robert Twicken, how interesting. I’m told you should be trolling the ballrooms for a debutante rather than organizing clandestine tete-a-tetes. Second sons, after all, are quite eligible. Should I be honored that you are putting aside duty for my company?”
The man raised a brow. “I rarely exert myself with duty after the evening hour of ten, Johna, especially as there are much more pleasant ways to occupy my time. And you needn’t be honored. I am, after all, only a younger son, and you are a countess. It is I who should be honored.”
“So I am in charge of this interlude?” she asked curiously as her second glove disappeared.
“Of course. If you wish to stop at any time, simply say so and walk out the door. I have no interest in coercion or manipulation, or in virgin debutantes. Only in pleasure.” Both gloves were gone now, and his lips caressed the inside of her wrists. Johna shuddered.
Much later, in the depths of the night, he helped her dress, fastening her clothing with experienced fingers and trailing lips. “You must have realized by now that these are my rooms. I stay here at Lennox House when in town,” he whispered in her ear, his hands twisting her hair up and re-settling her wig over the golden mane. “When you arrive home tomorrow night, send a note to the kitchens with my name. I can meet you at your garden gate and bring you here.”
Johna, still shaken by the unexpected explosive climax, shuddered. “I’m engaged tomorrow to attend your mother’s masquerade,” she pointed out. “As is every other female like me in London, and several who’ve arrived just for the event. I won’t be home from Chelsea until dawn.”
“Of course.” He nipped the back of her neck and she nearly fell back against him. “You’ll be in a full mask and a domino, then. I’ll send you the mask, and you’ll trust me to take you away to my chamber there and have you back in time for the unmasking.”
“Yes, yes, I will,” she agreed, and she felt him smile behind her. And he did.
* * * *
Three nights later, she waited in the shadows of her own garden. She’d unlocked the back gate, and watched with trepidation when it finally opened, too many minutes later. Johna watched a man slip inside and inwardly gasped. It was not Robert, but the duke, and he was clearly looking for her. With a glance to the house above her, silent and dark, she stepped out of the dark blackness under the oak tree and arrived at his side. “Why are you here?” she asked directly, hardly believing her own nerve.
The duke grasped her arm and drew her out into the alley, locking the gate and slipping the key into the pocket of her pelisse. “Not here,” he muttered, “Let’s get back to the house first.”
Unsure as to why she was trailing obediently after him, Johna wrapped her arms around herself and traipsed through the alley, past the backs of Rochester House and Dorset House. The huge mansions were dark and shuttered, their owners out for the evening and the servants safely going about business of their own. But Lennox House was lit, and the duke, upon attaining his own back gate, slipped into the gardens and then stopped confidently and drew Johna up beside him. It was still dark and chilly, but he walked slower, guiding her along the paths. After a moment, in which she determined they were clearly headed for the house, she said, “I was expecting someone else.”
“Robert,” he acknowledged, glancing at her. “He was … displeased when you didn’t send over a note last night – as if your absence was somehow a statement of dissatisfaction. I informed him that you perhaps had a prior engagement, but he did not take well to the notion. I should have just remained quiet, or asked him outright if he’d been so polite as to engage your time in advance for the evening.”
Johna couldn’t hide her gasp. “So he sent you?”
The duke cleared his throat. “Not exactly. He spent all day sulking and then stormed out to White’s about two hours ago. When your note arrived, I thought it best to come and fetch you myself. If I hadn’t, you’d be standing in your gardens getting into a temper, and then later he’d be in a rage because of the misunderstanding.”
“You know him rather well, then, Your Grace?” Johna asked, unable to disagree. If she’d been left standing outside in the winter chill, she’d not have given him the time of day, ever again.
“Jack, call me Jack. And yes, better than most, I suspect,” the man beside her acknowledged. “We’re of the same age, and have been conspiring together since we were at Eton.”
Johna nodded. “So we’re going to what? Sit around and chat until he stumbles in drunk and in a temper? Wouldn’t it have been wiser to simply send me to my bed?”
“Ah, actually,” Jack glanced at her, guiding her unresisting form up the steps to his terrace, “I was going to suggest something else. I’m sure he’ll be back within the hour, as I’ve already sent his man off to White’s to drag him home. And to be honest, I’ve never seen him completely foxed in all the years we’ve known each other.”
Johna stopped and stared at this man beside her, who obviously knew she was intimately involved with a man other than her husband and found nothing odd in it beyond amusement. Indeed, he was actively involved in smoothing their way along. “You know, you are encouraging this?”
Jack stared at her for a second and then laughed. “My dear, I know secrets you can’t even imagine, including several about Winchester. Your husband is an incompetent nitwit, and I’m just about the most managing, manipulative bastard in London – not literally a bastard, of course, but in spirit. While Robert may imagine you are free to play, I confess I know Winchester still shares your bed and presumes you are the most virtuous of wives. You were with him last night, just as you are every Friday night. But do not concern yourself with my sources of information. Robert’s seed will be a vast improvement over Winchester’s dead little soldiers, and you need not worry I’ll tell a soul. I only ask that you make him happy.”
“And how,” Johna asked imperiously, her mind whirling at both his knowledge and his crudeness, “Do I do that?”
“’Tis simple. Be in his bed, and bare, when he returns. Candles lit, of course. I guarantee he’ll forget any aggravation at such a sight.”
“And what do you get out of organizing this little escapade on his behalf?” Johna asked suspiciously.
“Nothing more than a more pleasant breakfast room, my lady,” Jack laughed. “But then again, I’ll do just about anything to have peace while I enjoy my morning coffee. So it’s either this, or I’ll send him home to his mother, and she’ll not thank me for that.”
They stepped together into the main hall, and Jack himself began to walk her up the steps. “Having recovered from her soiree the other night, my mother left for the country today,” he informed her evenly. “Only Robert and I are in residence, and my servants are discreet.” The progressed in silence for a moment, and then suddenly Jack stopped before a door in the gallery. Johna looked at it and blinked but Jack just smiled and took two keys from his pocket. “For the terrace door and the back gate,” he said simply, pressing them into her hand. “In case you need them. I’m certain Robert ought to be making sure himself you get home, but in case he behaves out of character and abominably, you will lock up when you leave, won’t you?”
Johna looked at him, at the panels on the door before her, and smiled. “Yes, I will, Your Grace,” she said, marveling at the man. “And thank you.”
Jack nodded soberly, his eyes on her face. “Jack will do. As I said before, just make him happy,” he said roughly, and walked away.
Johna stared after him in astonishment, shook her head, and let herself in the room. She’d never met a more unusual man in her life than the Duke of Lennox, and she couldn’t make the first bit of sense out of him. But she’d think about it later. For the moment, she had a seduction to plan.
* * * *
“I ought to stay out of your bed for a month,” Robert growled hours later, as dawn tipped the edges of the sky.
“I couldn’t bear to see you unhappy, dear friend,” Jack returned unrepentantly, his hands exploring Robert’s body in the darkened room. “And you should be thanking me, not contemplating torture.”
Robert’s hands returned the favor, taking Jack’s erection in his fists firmly and pulling rhythmically. “You do realize she was laid out on the damn counterpane, nude, bottom up, knees apart, and her delicious feet crossed at the ankles up in the air. And reading that book of Shakespearian love sonnets you lent me last week? The devil only knows what she thinks of me reading love rhymes.”
Jack growled a little and thrust into his lover’s hands. “Sounds delicious,” he groaned. “I do hope you took her in that position.”
“Hell yes,” Robert hissed as Jack’s fingers tugged in the hair around his scrotum and pulled tauntingly. “And I held her ass apart and watched that lovely little bottom work open and close while I fucked her. I want you in that ass, Jack. And I want to watch you do it.”
Jack arched closer to Robert so that their cocks rubbed each other. Their fists worked together now, and Jack could feel his scrotum tightening in desperation. Robert would be able hold out, as he had fucked his woman earlier, but Jack had waited for Robert, all the while imagining his lover in bed with the countess in all manner of positions and degrees of roughness. “Wish we could trust her,” he grunted impatiently, his feet pushing against Robert’s legs as he prepared to ejaculate.
“I swear to God I’m going to watch when it’s your turn,” Robert threatened huskily. “Even if I have to hide in a damned wardrobe.”
The words were too much for Jack, who couldn’t stop the thick, heavy cream that shot from him and hit Robert’s groin and lower stomach.
“From what I saw earlier today,” Jack murmured, grasping Robert’s cock in his hand and fondling the rigid flesh, “That’ll be awhile. She’s in your head already and it’s going to be some time before you finish with her, lover.”
“Jealous?” Robert gasped, now arching as Jack slid down against him, his mouth and tongue trailing a fiery path over his sternum and stomach until it tangled in the curls around his cock. Jack was licking up his own seed, an exhibition Robert had never been able to resist.
“Not if she can give you what you need,” Jack growled and then took Robert’s cock between his teeth, making sure his teeth caught on the broad head before slipping past.
“This is what I need right now, Jack,” Robert lusted, trying to force his way further in. Jack pulled back though, only keeping that first inch of cock between his teeth. “Dammit, I’ve only had her three nights, and it’s not like I can marry the chit. Now drop it, and let me fuck that hot mouth.” His hands reached down and grasped Jack’s hair, thrusting deeply into the cavern.
Jack allowed it, opening so the wide shaft reached nearly to the back of his throat. His tongue rubbed the stretched foreskin teasingly but he refused to suck Robert any deeper. Instead, he used his hands to grasp Robert’s hips, holding him still as he slowly drew his mouth off Robert’s erection.
The man hissed in frustration when Jack completely pulled off. “I know the inconvenience of it, but I think she’s the one for you.” Jack sat up in the bed and swung off the mattress as Robert looked on in shock.
“What the hell?” Robert asked, “Where are you going? Don’t leave me –“
“Never, Rob,” Jack said fiercely, lighting the lamp beside the bed. “I just want to see your face while I suck on you.” He turned back, pushing Robert to half-sit up against the headboard, and moved to lie between the man’s thighs. “I want to watch you tell me why it won’t work, and then I want to watch you while you tell me why you’re not going to walk away from her anyway. You can’t keep secrets from me, remember?” Jack nuzzled the hairy thighs before him, sliding his hands up to grip Robert’s outer thighs. “So stop pretending and get it out. And when I’m satisfied with your answers, you’ll be allowed to fuck my mouth as hard as you want. Not before.”
“Bastard,” Robert grunted. “She has to be discreet. No one can know. But we need people to know I’m fucking women.” Jack raised a brow and licked the heavy sacs below his shaft. “Good thing I like women, too, as you for damn sure haven’t done your share lately. Though God help me, don’t ever make me go without being in your bed, even if I’m the one threatening to abstain.” Jack couldn’t help but chuckle at that, and sucked the sac at his lips slightly into his mouth. “I can’t marry her, either, so my parents and brother won’t leave me the hell alone about finding a wife.”
“It sounds nearly insurmountable so far,” Jack observed unhelpfully, using his teeth to deliver small, quick bites around the base of Robert’s cock. Robert promptly groaned and lifted himself nearly off the bed but Jack clucked his tongue and kissed the cockhead gently.
He was treated to a desperate release of pre-cum, which he lapped up after murmuring, “Any more downsides?”
Robert moaned and nearly lifted his body out of Jack’s hands, but then fell back with a moan. “Not sure yet if she’d have us both in bed with her, either like this or as a straight ménage. Can’t work out how to bring up the idea without telling her.”
“Good.” Jack rewarded him by sliding his lips over the cock head and squeezing his lips before drawing back only far enough to whisper against the straining skin. “Now tell me why you won’t walk away. And keep going until it goes all down the back of my throat, Rob.” Jack’s mouth slid around the head, his lips tightening instinctively at Robert’s moan.
“You mean besides the perfectly rounded breasts and that heavenly arse? She swears she still rides every day they are in the country, despite the three little ones,” Robert rasped.
Jack took his mouth completely off Robert’s cock, grabbed his wrists and forced them to the bed, and then frowned at him. “You may have looked because of the body, but that’s not what has made you so contemplative the last few days, nor what put you in such a snit today, Robert Twicken. Talk, or you can suffer until I get back from Lords tonight.”
“Fuck that, I have a hand,” Robert gasped, then bit back a shriek when Jack abruptly bit down hard on his inner thigh. “Dammit, leave a bite mark there and she’ll see it!”
“Hm, will cut down on your playtime, won’t it? You’ll have to wait, or pretend you’ve got another girl on the side, or do it in the dark –“
“Fine. She’s looked at me like I’m some fucking hero ever since I walked her home myself that first night. She said no one looks after her except her brothers anymore, and they are barely in Town this year,” Robert snapped. Then he moaned as Jack’s mouth slid back around his cock. Jack took him deeper, pressing his tongue into the sensitive underside of the shaft as Robert’s heaviness filled his mouth.
Jack took him almost fully in, then waited until Robert bucked his hips and tried again, eventually falling back and going on, “And she was so fabulously thankful for the inexpensive silly mask I sent her for the masquerade, as if no one gives her gifts. Not practiced or sensually erotic, just simply grateful.”
As though rewarding him, Jack took the last inch of Robert’s fully engorged cock, until the sensitive slit on the end pressed to the back of his throat. He concentrated on breathing through his nose, consciously keeping his hands and weight on Robert’s hips and wrists. “Bloody mother of heaven, Jack,” Robert fought him for a minute and then shuddered, before forcing out, “Tonight she let me babble on about my niece’s near-disastrous engagement with nothing more than a smile and a few intelligent questions – and that was after I’d made her climax at least thrice.”
Jack sucked in through his nose and exhaled through his mouth, letting the warm air flow around Robert’s hard cock. Robert, desperately impatient now, growled. “I cannot stop dreaming about watching her ride your cock while she’s stretched out to take my cock in her mouth. She tempts me, Jack, to forget all the damn rules.”
At those words, Jack released Robert’s hands. The man’s fingers dug into Jack’s scalp and suddenly it was Jack who had to focus. Robert tipped them over in the bed, his knees digging into the bed beneath both of Jack’s armpits, as his cock rammed hard into Jack’s mouth and the warm cream slid down his throat as Jack swallowed frantically.
Robert was, Jack thought, as emotional as he’d ever seen him. That tempted Jack to forget all the rules, too.