Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 4)(55) by Lorraine Heath
June 17, 1851
I can hardly properly hold my pen in order to write legibly. My fingers, my whole person, are trembling with such excitement. Lord Rockberry called on me today. He brought me a dozen roses and a tin of chocolates. Cousin was astounded by his generosity. She assures me he is one of the most respected lords in London and that he is in a position to select his wife without consideration of her dowry. I could not be happier nor have greater hope that I shall make a good match and be able to provide the means for my sisters to have their own Season and secure their own happiness.
June 21, 1851
Lord Rockberry again called on me. He took me for a ride in his open carriage. Cousin accompanied us. Once we arrived at Regent Park, we disembarked so that we might walk with a little privacy and speak without Cousin hearing every word. Lord Rockberry is seeking a wife with an adventuresome spirit and believes I might suit. He teasingly told me that he wishes to test his theory. Without Cousin knowing we made plans to meet at midnight tomorrow. I am breathless with anticipation.
July 1, 1851
Lord Rockberry called. I told Cousin to inform him that I’ve taken ill.
July 5, 1851
Lord Rockberry called again. I am still abed.
July 10, 1851
I have asked Cousin to make arrangements so I might return home.
July 15, 1851
I am home.
July 20, 1851
I can see the concern in my sisters’ eyes, especially Emma’s. She has always been the most sensitive. I have failed my family. I do not know how much longer I can live with the shame of what transpired during that night of “adventure” with Lord Rockberry.
August 5, 1851
I have no will to eat.
August 8, 1851
I have no will to breathe.
August 20, 1851
I walked to the edge of the cliffs today. How easy it would be to simply step into nothingness. But it would break their hearts and so I must continue on.
September 1, 1851
The cliffs are calling to me again. I do not know how much longer I can resist the peace they offer. But I know I cannot depart this earth without writing of the “adventure,” as Lord Rockberry so blithely referred to it. Perhaps in so doing, I will find the peace I seek. At midnight I slipped out of the residence with Cousin none the wiser. In the alleyway Lord Rockberry kissed me quickly and handed me up into his carriage. Excitement thrummed through me. He whispered words to make me feel beautiful, desired. He explained that he was a disciple of Eros, the god of sexual desire. He was a member of a secret society which initiates women into the art of love. He told me it involved a beautiful ritual during which he would claim me as his. He seduced me with his words, his kisses. In the carriage he plied me with wine. I suspect now that it was laced with something that served to disorient me. I did not feel myself. And I certainly did not act myself.
We arrived at a residence. Inside, two ladies took me away and began to prepare me. They removed their clothes and mine. Beautiful silver filigree circled their necks. They draped the softest silk over me and explained what was required of me. I wanted to protest but my mouth seemed unable to form coherent words. My will was no longer my own. They led me into a dark room where the only light came from flickering candles. Pillows were piled everywhere. There were other naked ladies wearing the same silver at their throats. Men in red cloaks wavered in and out of my vision as the two ladies escorted me to Lord Rockberry. I heard humming, a chant.
The ladies removed my silk. I stood before him exposed. I knew I should have covered myself in shame, but I was beyond caring. The world faded in and out. He bade me to kneel before him. When I did, he placed the silver around my neck and told me I was now a sister of carnality. He lay me upon a mound of pillows and took me. There were cheers and laughter echoing around me even as I tried to push him away. The pain was indescribable, the intimacy barbaric. The room exploded into madness, chaos, as others—men and women—had their way with me. I remember so little except the agony and humiliation. I thought I’d awaken to discover it had all been a dream. But the nightmare was real. And even though I’ve returned home, I seem unable to escape it.
September 7, 1851
When Swindler awoke, sun was spilling in through the window and he was alone. After he’d made love to her a third time, Emma slipped out of the room as he drifted off to sleep. She wanted to be sure she returned to Eleanor’s bed before her sister awoke. He rolled over onto his back, shoved his hands behind his head, grimacing when he bumped his healing wound, and stared at the ceiling. He’d finished reading the journal in the early hours. He’d heard rumors of the secret societies that engaged in depravity but had always heard that the members were willing participants in the orgies, so they’d been of no concern to him. It seemed Rockberry sought to bring a new, supposedly exciting element to the festivities. An innocent. A virgin to be sacrificed.
Swindler’s blood boiled when he thought about what Rockberry had done, the people he’d harmed, the pain he’d wrought. Damned, arrogant bastard. If he wasn’t already dead, he would have strangled Rockberry with his own hands.
Claybourne had killed a man for raping Frannie when she was twelve. Swindler had thought nothing as vile would ever touch him again. He’d been wrong. He’d not known Elisabeth before he read her journal, but he mourned her passing now. The storm outside had ceased, but within him a storm for further retribution was brewing. He got out of bed and walked to the window. His heart very nearly stilled at the sight of Emma standing at the edge of the cliff. He didn’t know how he knew it was her. All he could see was her back and the cloak billowing out behind her. What little wind remained from the storm toyed with her hair.
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