An excerpt of one of the Fiery Tales in AWAKENED BY A KISS... * Sleeping Beau *
“Will you do it, Adrien? Say yes. You simply must. I’m your sister.” Charlotte’s whine taxed Adrien’s already thin patience.
Adrien Christophe d’Aspe de Bourbon, Marquis de Beaulain, stared out the window at the gardens below. Lords and ladies milled about, clustering near the fountains and along the pathways bordered by flowerbeds. His mood was foul. His audience with his father the root cause. It hadn’t gone well. It never went well. Days after the fact, he was still irritable. He’d only just arrived at the Comtesse de Lamotte’s château and already Charlotte had him wanting to leave. Her unexpected presence and the absurd scheme she’d devised had effectively soured his plans: a few days at Suzanne’s abode, indulging in drink and debauchery to lift him out of his ill humor.
“You’re my half-sister, Charlotte. We have different fathers,” he replied bitterly. Raised in Paris at the Hôtel d’Aspe by his three uncles, Adrien had had all the male influence he’d needed. Or wanted. Except for the occasional horrid visit, his father had been absent from his life—that is, until a year ago when Adrien’s mother had died. Since then Louis had injected himself into Adrien’s world. Though Adrien wanted nothing to do with the man, his father was not someone he or anyone could simply ignore.
Charlotte rose from the settee and stopped beside him. “You needn’t remind me of that. Your father is the King. At least he has legitimized you, given you title and lands—”
“He legitimized all his illegitimate children. Not just me. And it is a wonder there’s any land left in the realm, given the multitude he sired. I doubt even he knows how many mistresses he’s had.” Their mother among the masses.
“Well, the Baron de Chambly still won’t recognize me as his. He’s never given me a moment’s thought, much less wealth.”
“Charlotte, nothing comes without a price.” His tone dripped with disdain.
“Come now, Adrien. Enough of this. We are family. I need you.” Her bottom lip was out in a full pout. “What I ask of you is not so strenuous. You and I both know you’ll bed some of the women here before the week is up. All I ask is that you bed Catherine de Villecourt as well. Charm her. Convince her that marriage is not what she wants. Lure her away from my Philbert. You’re my only hope, Adrien. He’s set to wed her in two weeks.” Tears glistened in her hazel eyes. “I don’t want to lose him. He’s been so distant lately. I fear if he weds, I’ll never get him back. She’s younger than I. Fifteen years his junior.” Two tears spilled down her cheeks. “He’ll focus on his new bride and forget all about me.”
Exasperated, Adrien let out a sharp breath. Charlotte and their mother were so alike. She, too, had harbored the illusion that she could accomplish the impossible: maintain her lover’s interest indefinitely and remain his favorite for good.
“Charlotte, find yourself a new lover. You don’t need Philbert de Baillet.”
“Yes I do,” she protested. “I love him! I don’t want to live without him.”
How many times had he heard those very words from his mother’s mouth about his father? Love. It was highly overrated. He’d no idea why anyone would pursue it. Love caused suffering. Lust was much easier to deal with. And far more pleasurable.
Adrien was about to rebut when she added, “Look down there. There she is now. With our hostess.”
Mildly curious about Charlotte’s rival, he glanced down at the manicured grounds and spotted their hostess Suzanne de Lamotte. She was with a woman whose rich auburn hair looked a tad too familiar. He stared harder. From this distance, he couldn’t make out enough details to be certain . . . but . . . The hair on the back of his neck stood on end. Dieu, it looked like her.
Could it possibly be . . . ?
Visions of the redhead naked in his bed materialized in his mind. He still remembered her face. Her scent—jasmine. And the sultry sounds she made each time she came. Their carnal encounter was like none he’d ever known. Perfect spine-melting passion. Her delectable mouth, her lush form, and her hot creamy sex clasped snugly around his thrusting cock had him on fire the entire night.
In the morning, he was shocked to discover that she’d spiked his burgundy with an aphrodisiac. And she was gone. He’d been confused, a bit disoriented, and uncertain if the whole thing hadn’t been a dream. But the scent of jasmine lingered on his skin.
And on the sheets, glaring back at him, was the stunning proof that he’d taken a virgin.
Furious that he’d been played, tricked, he’d questioned his friend Daniel, Marquis de Gallay, the host of the masquerade. Made discreet inquiries everywhere. No one knew who the auburn-haired seductress was. For the longest time he’d been unsure whether he’d be hauled to the altar or called out. But the lady’s family never stepped forward.
She’d left him with a sizzling memory and unanswered questions. Worse and even more maddening, after all these years she still made appearances in every one of his erotic dreams.
Was it possible that after five years he’d found the mysterious beauty who had sneaked into his chambers and awakened him with a searing kiss?
He stalked to the door and snatched it open.
“Well? Will you do it?” Charlotte called out. “Adrien? Where are you going?”
Adrien crossed the threshold with purposeful strides.
Moving through the gardens, Catherine walked arm in arm with Suzanne—her friend and former sister-in-law and the only good thing to come out of her brief scandal-ridden marriage. If Suzanne’s guests were privy to gossip about Catherine’s late husband, the Comte de Villecourt, they gave no indication of it.
Strains of music from the violins sweetened the summer air and blended with the trickling sounds of the fountains.
Her tension easing, Catherine was starting to enjoy herself. She’d remained in mourning two years—longer than her marriage had lasted—and had thereafter kept to herself at Château Villecourt, away from the gossipmongers who’d gleefully spread the sensational details leading to her late husband’s fatal duel.
It was Suzanne who had convinced her to visit last year. It was Suzanne who’d introduced her to her present betrothed, Philbert, Comte de Baillet. And it was Suzanne who’d persuaded her to take this sojourn before her impending nuptials.
“You aren’t really going to marry Baillet, that old bore, are you?” Suzanne asked, her hostess’s smile affixed to her face as they moved past the guests.
Catherine’s smile was genuine. “I am. I shall proudly be the Comtesse de Old Bore.” Her laugh moved Suzanne to one as well.
Sobering, her friend remarked, “I know my brother made you suffer, Catherine. I only want your happiness.”
Catherine arrested her steps. “I am happy. Philbert and I will get along fine.” Philbert was not the most exciting of men, but she’d endured enough excitement to last a lifetime while married to Villecourt. Philbert was the right choice. She’d have a quiet existence, financial security, and that was enough to satisfy her. Shoving aside the twinge of regret, she silenced the small voice inside her heart that opposed the notion. It made no difference that he didn’t love her. Or that she didn’t love him. Such marriages were virtually unheard of. At least Philbert had enough regard for her to treat her with respect and to be discreet about any paramours he’d maintain.
Suzanne sighed. “I suppose . . . but . . . beneath that very proper exterior lies a vivacious woman. One desperate to get out. I fear the sheer dullness of the man will kill her.”
“Suzanne—” Catherine’s retort was interrupted.
“Madame de Lamotte!” a woman called out behind her. Turning, Catherine saw two women about her age briskly approaching.
“Ah, Dieu . . .” Suzanne murmured softly.
The two dark-haired females stopped before them, cheeks pink and slightly breathless.
“Is he here, madame? Has le Beau arrived?” blurted out Madame de Noisette the moment Suzanne had finished with the introductions.
“Yes, do tell,” her friend Madame de Bussy, prompted.
“He is here.” Suzanne’s statement was weighty with a certain amount of smug pleasure.
Excitement bubbled out of the two women, the sound much like that of a gaggle of geese.
Catherine hid her amusement over their reactions. “Who is le Beau?” she inquired, her curiosity piqued.
Madame de Noisette’s brown eyes widened. “You don’t know le Beau?”
“I’m afraid I’ve never heard of him.”
“Why, he’s only the most handsome man in the realm,” she explained. “He’s one of the King’s own bastard sons—Adrien, Marquis de Beaulain.”
“And I hear he’s between conquests,” Madame de Bussy added. “His reputation as a master swordsman and”—she blushed—“in the boudoir is renowned. In fact, they say he’s had more women than his father.”
“Oh?” Catherine remarked, unimpressed.
Madame de Noisette tittered. “He’s living up to the curse.”
That grabbed Catherine’s interest. “Curse?”
“Why, yes.” Madame de Bussy looked around then stepped a little closer and continued sotto voce. “His mother was, for a time, the King’s favorite. It is said that at le Beau’s christening, one of the King’s former favorites was overcome with jealousy, burst into the chapel, and cursed the child the moment the holy oil was placed upon his forehead.”
Madame de Noisette shook her head. “Can you imagine such a thing?” Knowing how superstitious the King and his court were, Catherine understood the horror in the woman’s tone. Uttering ill-intended words toward the babe was bad enough, but to hurl them at the anointing of the child was far worse. “Tell her what she said. Go on,” Madame de Noisette urged her friend.
“Yes, of course . . . She said the babe would grow up to be exceptionally beautiful, charming, break women’s hearts, as his father did, yet be nothing but grief to Louis. The King became instantly incensed at the woman. One of le Beau’s godfathers, for his mother had three brothers and couldn’t choose between them for such an honor, tried to mollify the King. As the story goes, he placed a hand upon the infant’s crown and said that the child’s looks and charm would indeed be great and that all would marvel at him. That he would fill His Majesty with pride, for a son so fine could only belong to the ruler himself.”
Catherine glanced at Suzanne and caught her rolling her eyes.
“Really, madame, that tale has been retold too many times with too many variations to be believed,” Suzanne said.
“It is true!” Madame de Bussy insisted, then turned to Catherine. “It’s all come to pass. He most definitely has looks and charm, and at the age of majority, barely fifteen, he pricked his first woman.”
Her friend laughed. “My dear, I believe you mean he used his prick for the first time to tumble a woman.”
Madame de Bussy’s face turned crimson. “Ah, yes, yes, that is exactly what I mean. And he has been using that particular part of his anatomy to delight many fortunate females ever since.” By the sparkle in her eyes, Catherine could tell she was anxious to be his next conquest. Since most men preferred to live at their hôtels in Paris while their wives were banished to their country châteaus, the ladies before her could easily take a lover without anyone being the wiser.
“And, my dear, let us not forget how often His Majesty has had to look the other way each time le Beau has broken his own father’s law—” Madame de Noisette’s words froze on her tongue her mouth remaining agape as she stared beyond Catherine.
“It’s him!” Madame de Bussy exclaimed.
Catherine was just about to turn around when Madame de Noisette squeezed her arm. “Don’t. Don’t turn around. He is looking this way and it will seem as though we are speaking about him.”
“We are speaking about him, madame,” Suzanne said blandly.
“Oh, my.” Madame de Noisette removed her hand from Catherine’s arm and pressed it to her bosom. “He is coming this way.”
Suzanne was now facing her approaching guest with a welcoming smile.
Unable to resist a peek at the roué, Catherine peered over her shoulder. Her stomach dropped the moment her gaze locked on to a set of arresting green eyes. Sinfully seductive, intimately familiar light green eyes. Her limbs went cold and her knees felt suddenly weak.
Dear God, it’s him . . .
“Hmmm? What did you say?” Suzanne asked, still focused on the ever-nearing le Beau.
“No, nothing.” Oh God. Oh God. Oh God. He’s the bastard son of the King! She’d tainted his wine with an aphrodisiac. He could have her arrested for that. For her rash—idiotic—act. Every fiber in her body screamed, “Flee!”
“Suzanne,” she croaked out, her heart hammering.
Her friend dragged her gaze back to her, her smile instantly dissolving. “Catherine, are you all right? You’re flushed.”
“I’ve suddenly developed a terrible headache. I’m going to lie down. Excuse me.” She fisted her skirts and made her way across the gardens, forcing herself to keep to a swift walk and not a full-out run. She maneuvered around the guests, never making eye contact, never turning around, using the bushes to shield her from le Beau’s view whenever possible. Around the side of the château she’d find the servants’ entrance.
Ten more feet and she’d be out of sight.
Her breaths were ragged.
Eight feet. Hurry!
How could Odette have been so mistaken? Her maid had told her that the beautiful stranger she’d spotted at the masquerade five years ago was a foreigner. From Vienna.
She rounded the side of the château. At last . . .
Tossing a quick glance over her shoulder, Catherine bolted for the wooden door, all but falling against it when she reached it. Briefly fumbling with the latch, she opened it, ducked inside, and raced through the kitchens, negotiating around each busy servant who got in her way, ignoring their curious looks. Smoke and the heavy scent of roasting meats assailed her nostrils and scorched her throat. Move! Move! Get to your rooms!
She rushed up the servants’ darkened stairs and stopped at the door that led to the upstairs hallway. Cautiously, she opened it and peered out. Empty!
Only twenty feet remained between her and her chamber door. Wasting no time, she stepped into the long corridor and made her way to safety, her legs wobbly with each rapid step she took.
“Madame?” A male voice arrested her steps.
And her breathing.
She heard footsteps approaching.
Don’t panic. It could be anyone. Let it be anyone other than—she turned. Her knees almost buckled.
Where had he come from? The shadows? Likely the grand stairwell.
Two final strides and he was before her. Tall. Muscled. With hair the color of a moonless night sky. Her fingers began to tingle. Catherine clasped her hands tightly together. She could still feel its cool silky texture between her fingers, as if it were only yesterday that she’d caressed his dark shoulder-length hair. She’d forgotten just how large a man he was—his broad shoulders, his magnificently sculpted form. She felt small, very feminine near his powerfully built body.
Give nothing away. He doesn’t remember you. He can’t. Then why did he leave the gardens so quickly? Why is he here?
Schooling her features, she expelled the air from her lungs and met his gaze unwavering.
“Yes?” she said, amazed at the coolness in her tone when she was on the brink of discomposure.
Those unforgettable light green eyes scrutinized her face. She fought not to fidget. His presence and proximity were disquieting on so many levels. Her insides quaked.
“I believe we’ve met, madame.”
Her heart lurched. She managed a small smile. “I’m afraid you have mistaken me for someone else. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” She turned.
He caught her arm. A jolt of sensations shot through her.
“Unhand me,” she said, shaken, a dizzying combination of excitement and dread inundating her.
He released her, the corner of his sensual mouth lifting, stopping short of a smile. Without a word, he slowly walked around her, his bold assessing gaze moving over her body. She could feel his tactile regard right through her clothing, making her hot from the inside out.
“Sir, your conduct is outrageous.” Did she sound as breathless as she felt? “You are being extremely rude.”
He stopped, his towering form now a formidable obstacle between her and the door to her rooms.
“It’s you,” he said.
She swallowed and lifted her chin a notch. “Pardon?”
“You’re the woman who sneaked into my chamber that night five years ago.”
Stirring memories filled her mind. She shoved them aside as she’d done many times throughout the years.
“You are mad. I told you—I don’t know you.”
He tilted his head to one side, a smug look in his eyes, much like the cat that had cornered the mouse. “Madame, you do know me—in the biblical sense. Though there was nothing but sinful delights in what we shared.”
Heat crept down her face and neck to her chest. “Tell me,” she responded with as much calm as she could muster. “Is this a habit of yours? Skulking around hallways? Making lurid—unfounded—accusations?” she asked. “Or perhaps this is your twisted way of enticing women? By telling them of your sexual exploits. Are there women who actually fall for this ploy?”
He stepped closer. Awareness rippled through her. Yet she refused to step back, knowing he was trying to intimidate her. His mouth was oh, so close to her own . . . Images of that skillful mouth on her body, grazing over her skin, drawing on her breasts made her sex clench and moisten.
“Perhaps you and I have a different definition of twisted,” he said. “I’d like to know what twisted motives you had when you decided to taint my wine and surrender your innocence to me.”
“It sounds like you had quite an evening,” she said without flinching. “Though I can’t comprehend why—after five years, did you say?—it would be so vivid in your mind. How can you be certain that it was I? Surely, you managed to find a woman or two since then willing to overlook your barbaric manners. You are”—she shrugged—“mildly attractive.”
His brows shot up, surprised at first, then his lips twitched as he fought back a smile.
“Have I amused you?” How she wished he’d step back. His closeness was making it difficult to breathe. Or think. She had to get away from him. From the château.
Preempt her vacation.
“You have. I’m not accustomed to receiving a set-down from a woman.” He slipped his fingers beneath her chin and caressed his thumb along her cheek. Pleasure streaked from his touch down to the tips of her breasts, causing her nipples to harden.
She took a quick step back and bumped into the wall. He braced his palms on either side of her shoulders, trapping her.
“I am also not accustomed to having a woman dupe and drug me.” He stared at her pointedly.
Catherine glanced at her chamber door. It was so close, yet it might as well have been on the other side of the country. She couldn’t simply race to it and bolt the door behind her. That would only make matters worse.
You’ve got to convince him he’s mistaken. Fail and he could have the King draw up orders. They’d arrest her and leave her to languish in prison—until her trial and certain execution. Other women had suffered this fate. Because of the recent poisonings at court, administering anything, even something as harmless as a love potion, without the other person’s knowledge was punishable under the law.
Adrien scrutinized the woman before him with the discerning eye of a libertine. Her skin was flushed and her breasts rose and fell with her quickened breaths in the most mesmerizing, mouthwatering way. Jésus-Christ, that auburn hair, delectable form, and those brandy-colored eyes… She was just as alluring as he remembered.
He was not mistaken.
She was indeed his midnight temptress.
She knew it. He knew it. And so did his unruly cock. She hadn’t done anything more heated than to glare at him, yet she had him stiff as a spike, his hard prick straining against his breeches. The way her small pink tongue unconsciously licked her lips was driving him to distraction.
Her haughty airs and indignation were an act. She was trying to conceal not only the truth, but her arousal as well. Her nipples were hard and her frequent glances at his mouth were telling. Thoughts of taking her to her chamber, stripping her naked, and sinking his length into that tight juicy core of hers—of purging her from his system for good—were running rampant in his mind. Merde, there was no short supply of willing women. The last female he should want was one who’d schemed and stooped to such trickery. Unfortunately, his cock didn’t agree with his head.
No woman had ever occupied his thoughts or dreams the way she had. And he resented it.
He resented that the best fuck of his life had been drug-induced.
She’d left him to imagine every possible scenario that had motivated her actions. With no way of confirming any of them. Now that he’d found her and knew her name, he wasn’t going to relent. No matter how lovely she was, how enticing, how physically pleasurable that night had been, she was going to admit what she’d done and tell him why. He was going to have answers to the questions that had plagued him for years.
She owed him as much.
“Perhaps you are reluctant to discuss the matter because of who I am—or better yet—who my father is. But I assure you I want answers, not revenge,” he said. It had to be a barrier for her. One he wanted out of the way to clear a path for the truth.
“I’ve nothing more to say to you. This conversation is over. Please step back.” She had an obstinate look in her eyes, one that said she wouldn’t confess. That she’d never confess. It steeled his resolve. If she wanted to engage in a round of wits and wills, he’d play along. She’d started this game. He’d finish it. And win. It was time to chisel away at her façade.
Since it was clear she wasn’t immune to him, he chose his course of action.
Adrien dipped his head. The light scent of jasmine inundated his senses with a heady rush. “Catherine . . .” he said softly in her ear, her edible little earlobe so temptingly close to his hungry mouth. “I’ve thought of that night many times.” She placed her hands against his chest as if to stave him off but didn’t push him away. Encouraged, he continued. “I remember the sweet taste of your mouth . . . your pink nipples . . . details of your beautiful body . . . You remember our night together. Having me inside you . . . as you came, again . . . and again . . .”
She shivered with excitement. It reverberated inside him. His cock began to pulse. “Ma belle, admit it was you.” He brushed his mouth over the sensitive spot under her ear. She made a strangled sound and turned her face away, inadvertently giving him better access to the slender column of her neck. Or perhaps it wasn’t so inadvertent.
But stubbornly, she remained silent.
Urgency thundered through him. Her soft skin beckoned. He drew her warm skin between his lips and gently sucked. She fisted his shirt and gasped. Her pulse beneath his mouth was as wild as his own. She tasted of jasmine. And slightly salty. Sweet womanly sweat from her nervous excitement. “Tell me what I wish to know,” he murmured. “And I just might give you what your body is begging for.”
He moved to her earlobe and lightly bit it. This time she moaned, the delicious sound making his sac tighten and his heart hammer harder. She was too damned desirable. The crest of his cock was moist with pre-come, his body clamoring for him to take her right here against the wall.
He’d been with enough experienced women to know that she was not. In the last five years, she hadn’t gained any significant experience. He couldn’t believe this sexual novice had him this undone. Just as undone as he’d been five years ago when—in his ravenous state—he’d overlooked the signs of her innocence.
Pulling back slightly, he gazed at her face. She was panting, his breathing no less affected. She stared back at him. Her cheeks were pink and her lips were parted, begging to be kissed. Hers was no ordinary mouth. It was extraordinary—made to drive men wild.
Grappling with self-control, Adrien could barely moderate himself. “There is a way to put this to rest, you know. To prove once and for all whether or not you are the woman I seek.”
Something flickered in her amber depths. Confusion? Curiosity?
“You see,” he continued, “the woman who came to my bed that night had lovely breasts, much like yours . . . and on her left breast, right here”—he stroked his fingers along the outside curve of the soft mound, and she gave a delightful gasp—“she had three small freckles. A pretty constellation that, if connected, would make a perfect tiny triangle.”
He thought he saw her flinch, though it was so slight, he wasn’t certain he’d seen it at all. The sexual haze in her eyes dissolved. Replaced by a fire of a different sort.
She shoved his hand away. “Are you suggesting I show you my breast?” she said, clearly incredulous.
He pressed his palms against the wall once more, and tilted his head to one side, his mouth mere inches from hers. “It would prove whether or not you’re my mystery lady. Come with me to my chambers or invite me to yours—someplace where we’ll be more comfortable. I promise, you’ll enjoy every moment.” Her gaze once again dropped to his mouth. His greedy cock jerked in response. Adrien leaned in a little closer, their lips all but touching. “Which is your room, Catherine?” he whispered against her tempting lips. He was dying to possess them.
He was dying to possess her.
“Adrien!” a male voice called out.
She squeaked, ducked down and slipped out from under his arm so quickly, he almost kissed the wall.
“Merde,” he growled, shoving himself away from the wall. His head snapped around in the direction of the intruder, with every intention of venting his full fury over the interruption.
Merde. Merde. Merde! His three godfathers stalked toward him. What the bloody hell were they doing here?
Was everyone he was related to going to show up?
He looked at Catherine. She’d paled and was using him as a shield from his approaching uncles. Her intoxicating eyes were large, beseeching, as if she thought he’d make the situation worse. They both knew that she’d been caught in a compromising situation with a man who had a shameless reputation.
He stepped in front of her to better conceal her from the ever-nearing trio. “Go,” he said over his shoulder.
Dainty footsteps quickly retreated down the hall behind him and then a door closed just as his godfathers stopped before him.
Adrien clenched his teeth, his muscles taut, his body rioting for release. He was in sexual agony, unnecessary sexual agony, for given a few moments more and he’d have had the auburn-haired enchantress behind closed doors …
To learn more about Lila and her books, visit - http://www.liladipasqua.com/
Order Awakened by a kiss Now:
Barnes & Noble
Join Lila's Yahoo group- http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LilaDiPasqua_News/
*Lila will be giving away 2 copies of AWAKENED BY A KISS to two lucky commenters! Two winners will be picked at random once the spotlight is OVER. The more times you comment, the more chances you have to win!!*
Contest is only open to residents of the USA & CANADA.....