Author: Victoria Vane
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: April 11, 2016
BlurbShe gave him a chance to bury his past… but the price would be his heart..
Burdened by the past… Orphaned at a young age and left to run wild, at eighteen Julian Price joins the fight against Napoleon in the hope of attaining honor. Devastated when his best friend, Thomas, is killed in battle, Julian returns home burdened with guilt, only to find his wastrel uncle has squandered his inheritance.
Desperate to live her own life… Facing a future of drudgery caring for her aging mother and raising her brother's children, Henrietta Houghton believes her chance at a real life died with Thomas, the only man who ever wanted her. But Henrietta is still full of dreams. When her wealthy aunt, offers her a gift of ten thousand pounds, Henrietta finally has the chance to choose her own destiny.
Everything has a price...With a fortune at her command, Henrietta offers Julian a marriage of convenience, unaware that she really offers Julian a means of salvation—not just his fortune, but his very soul.
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“What is it like?” she suddenly asked.
“What is what like?” he replied carefully, wondering how the devil to extricate himself from this damnable line of conversation.
“Coupling with another,” she said.
“It’s impossible to describe,” he replied. “There is no other comparable experience.”
“Then I don’t understand why so many women regard it as an unpleasant duty.”
“Perhaps some are soured by a clumsy first experience or by a selfish or insensitive lover.”
“I know the first time can be painful, but what do you mean by selfish and insensitive?”
“Must we continue this conversation, Hen?” he pleaded. “It’s damnably awkward.”
“Why?” she asked. “I have questions, and you have answers. There is no one else I can ask about these things. Do you honestly think Harry or my mother would tell me anything?”
“What about your married sisters?” he suggested.
She bent to pick another flower. His gaze lingered on the outline of her arse. To his chagrin, he was once more feeling stirrings below. Why was he having such lustful fancies about Henrietta when he had a willing mistress to warm his bed? Maybe that was the trouble? He’d been too long away from Muriel. But Muriel wasn’t the one currently inspiring his sexual fantasies.
“They would only blush and titter and speak in euphemisms,” she continued. “All I want is to understand what I would be giving up if I do not wed.” She lowered herself to the grassy bank and cast her gaze out over the shimmering water with a sigh. “They say one does not miss what ones does not know, but I don’t think that’s really true, do you?”
“From a man’s perspective, you would be right,” he agreed. “The sexual drive is very strong in men. We instinctively know what we are missing.”
“But women don’t?” she asked.
He tied the horses and sat down beside her. “Perhaps some do,” he agreed. “But those are generally women who make themselves available to satisfy men’s lust.”
“You speak of prostitutes? But I thought you said any woman could enjoy . . . coupling.”
“It depends on both the man and the woman,” he said. “If a man only seeks to satisfy himself, she is unlikely to experience any pleasure.”
“So a man must desire to please a woman?”
“Oh. That’s interesting. I didn’t know that. Does it also hurt a man the first time?” she asked.
“No,” he answered tersely.
“So it’s always pleasurable?”
He hesitated and then shook his head, recalling the utter humiliation of his first sexual experience. “No. Not always.”
“You mean it wasn’t for you?” she softly prompted.
“It was at first, and then it wasn’t,” he replied.
“I don’t understand you,” she said. “Would you please explain?”
Julian hesitated to speak of what he had never shared with a soul, not even Thomas.
“Please, Julian,” she persisted.
Suddenly restless, he stood and scanned the bank for a skimming stone. “Do you recall the week before my sixteenth birthday when Winston arrived with four carriages full of guests?”
“Yes,” she laughed. “Who could forget? He supplied the village with a year’s worth of salacious scandal. Is it true what the servants said?”
“That he hosted a week-long orgy? Yes, Hen. And once he realized it was my birthday, he took it upon himself to initiate me to manhood.” It was only then that Winston even remembered his existence. In retrospect, Julian wished he hadn’t. In that single week, Winston introduced Julian to all manner of vice—gaming, drinking, and whores. Eager for acceptance, Julian had embraced it all. He might have pitched completely into the moral abyss were it not for Thomas, who’d brought him back from the brink.
“My first experience was at the hands of one of Winston’s whores.” He sent a stone bouncing over the water.
“But you didn’t enjoy it?” she asked.
“I did until she recounted the experience in minute detail to the entire party. I was utterly humiliated while they all had an enormous laugh at my expense.”
“How cruel! I’m so sorry,” she whispered.
“Me too,” he said.
“Sometimes I try to imagine what it must be like to be with someone that way.”
That remarked snagged his attention. “You fantasize, Hen?”
“I don’t know. Sometimes I have kissing dreams.”
“Kissing dreams?” he repeated. “And who exactly do you kiss in these dreams?” Was it Thomas or someone else? Did he really wish to know?
“I don’t know,” she replied. “You know how vague dreams can be.”
Her pink tongue darted out to wet her lips. Was it a subtle invitation? Did Henrietta desire to be kissed? Julian tamped down the powerful urge to do just that. For once begun, he could never end it with just a kiss. He’d grown uncomfortably aware of her physically and feared he would soon be fully aroused. Kissing her could only end in ruin, shame, and disgrace.
We should return now,” he said abruptly.
“But it’s still early,” Henrietta protested. “Can’t we stay here for a while? Harry won’t return for hours yet.”
“That is not what I needed to hear, Hen.” He’d resisted the urge to kiss her, but any more time alone with Henrietta would only be tempting the devil. “Let’s go. Now.” Before I do something I shall surely regret.