As a new day dawned over London, it brought a traditionally overcast sky full of clouds, fog and light sun rays with it. A melancholic mood seemed to seep through the town’s servant quarters inside their manors, as busy butlers were beginning to wind up all the grandfather clocks that would act as a timeline for the servitude the staff would provide their masters that day.
The upper-class society was already sitting in their comfortable dining rooms while breaking their fast on kedgeree, pastries and other delicacies, sipping cups of earl grey tea. Nothing unusual to the daily routine, apart from an act of urgency that was humming through the air. The entire Tonnies society of London was preparing for the Duke of Swannson’s ball, being held later that evening. Gossiping tongues had already begun to whisper among the breakfast tables of the gentry. And as ladies contemplated their colourful ball gowns while practicing shallow breaths in corsets, gentlemen were making appointments with tailors for final adjustments to be made to their style cut suits and breeches, aiming for that perfect fit.
At Winston Manor however, this was not the case. Sebastian, the very handsome Earl of Stantonshire was once again receiving a scolding by his darling mammy in the green room. A room his late father named due to its bottle green colour. A room where the Duchess overindulged it with overflowing vases full of fresh lilies and orchids, and a room where the smell overpowered one's senses, capable of driving a man to insanity. Its floral essence seeped deep into your skin, leaving its mark on you for the remainder of the day while reminding you at every corner that you were unlucky enough to have endured it. This room represented the power of a determined woman who used it to intimidate her servants, and at times her loving children.
He had to get out of here. His mother was ranting on about what an embarrassment of a son he was, ‘yet again’, and how his poor deceased father would be turning in his grave. She was complaining about her delicate sensibilities not being able to handle another bed hopping scandal, how he should care about what sort of disposition he was portraying to society, and how dearly she wished that her prodigal son Tristan would return home.
Christ, his head was about to explode. He felt terrible. He knew he was a scoundrel when it came to women, but by god it wasn't his fault that most of the wives of the aristocratic society were more than happy to open their legs for him. And oh how delicious some of them turned out to be. Tinneka; Lady Ashley for example. She had the most delicate long fingers that wrapped around a man's.....
"Are you listening to me Sebastian?"
"Yes, mother dear." Bloody bollocks. He needed to escape her ramblings. She was right of course. He knew that. He just wasn't ready to change and settle down with only one woman, at least not yet.
"Mother, something urgent has arisen and I must beg for your pardon." He couldn't get out fast enough. Hurting his mother was always a disturbing emotion for him to deal with.
As he rushed towards the front door, he did not notice a lady handing her yellow parasol and bonnet to the maid. In his hurry he collided with her but managed to catch her arms as she began to fall backwards.
"Good heavens I'm so sorry my Lady, I did not see you." Sebastian's heart almost stopped as he looked up into exquisite angelic features. She had the most startling emerald green eyes, large piercing black pupils that made you want to recite the Lord's Prayer, long auburn ringlets and very kissable lips, currently upturned in anger. The scent of vanilla surrounded him, erasing the green room’s previous essence. His view travelled lower, fixating on two lusciously cream coloured breasts just screaming to be released from her tight corset and nibbled on. Such beauty, such loveliness, such a delicate flower in need serious of deflowering.
"I would appreciate it if you would cease ogling my cleavage sir. And do not even consider my derriere, or my parasol will find a new home, making it very difficult for you to sit down."
Sebastian could do nothing but stare in shock as a very fine formed behind swayed from side to side while the female stormed off down the hallway. Who the hell was that? A new maid with that tongue no doubt. A very beautiful and edible morsel he would have to attend to later. Her parasol would find a new home? Bloody hell, he thought as he left the house laughing.
He could not get her out of his mind while playing cards with Stanley at White’s that evening. Those breasts, the hourglass figure. He could just imagined what treasure lay beneath her petticoats.
"I say Sebastian, are you alright?"
"What? Oh fine, fine Stanley, carry on. Deal the cards my man. And call for another round of whiskey would you." What the hell was he going to do? Arrange a garden tryst with possibly his mother's new maid? Now wouldn't that be a divine scandal. His poor mammy would have a heart attack if she found out. No, he would simply have to forget this particular gorgeous female specimen. It's not as if he ever suffered a shortage of shagging partners. Maybe this was the evening that the Countess of Easswick would finally succumb to his lethal charms, and wrap her incredibly long legs around him. He had heard through some gossip that the Duke was away on country business for the next few weeks. Tonight's ball was the perfect opportunity for an assignation with the lovely Countess. Perhaps in the billiard room. Or, perhaps on top of the billiard table. Preferably the balls. His balls. Yes, what a marvelous idea indeed.
“Sebastian, are you sure you’re alright dear fellow?”
“Yes, Stanley. Just deal the bloody cards you cad.”
Continuing his final card game with a smirk on his face gave the impression to Stanley; the Earl of Dudley, that Sebastian was holding a very good poker hand. So, Stanley did what he thought was best and folded. That evening, Sebastian won the final round and two thousand pounds with a six of hearts, two of spades, three of diamonds, and a very stiff roger as he imagined the beautiful Countess spread naked across the billiard table, awaiting a damn fine rogering from an Earl.
She was dazzled by the African theme. Elephants made from paper mache and live snakes were hanging from french imported crystal chandeliers, even life size statues of zebras and tigers were in every corner of the manor. Immaculate silk wall hangings surrounded the ballroom with hand stitched hunting scenes from abroad, and at the refreshments table were sweet meats, imported french cheeses and savory delicacies available for the peckish, while lemonade and champagne was being poured for the ladies and whiskey, madeira and port served to the gentlemen.
The Duke of Swannson certainly wasn't short of money. He was someone she needed to consider as a future husband if she was going to have any chance of keeping her brother and sister out of an orphanage. Ever since her poor papa died from consumption, she was forced to look for a wealthy husband. One who would not require a dowry as there was nothing left. Her papa's illness cost them everything they had in medical expenses. Even then the doctor could not save him. Now, the only thing left worth fighting for was a small country manor bequeathed to her nine year old brother Lukas, together with her father’s Baron title. She had to make sure that he would at least get what was his birth right.
Although she was a Lady by name, she certainly was no lady. It was difficult for her to act like one since her papa permitted her to run the Estate in a way she saw fit, especially after her mother's death. This included riding horses astride and training them. She was about to ask if someone could point out the Earl of Stantonshire, when a large figure bumped into her, causing her lemonade to spill over her pale apricot ball gown.
"Pardon me my Lady, I’m deeply sorr. You again?"
"And you, what are you doing here?" It was her. That beautiful creature from this morning. Here she was all dressed up at the ball, looking even lovelier. She really was a stunning vision. Pity about that tongue of hers. Speaking of tongue, he wanted to sink his deep inside her.
"Oh Sebastian?" Damn, not his mother again. He just wasn't in the mood for another ear boxing right now. Not when this curvaceous female stood a few feet away from him.
“Hello mother, you look ravishing as always, and Gene, what a beautiful gown dearest sister. Shall I be chasing the potential suitors away with my revolver this evening?” Gene giggled at that.
"Oh do stop that nonsense Sebastian. I am actually glad you have already met Lady Tabitha. Do you remember Lady Barrymore who passed away several years ago? Taby is her eldest, and now your new Ward.
“You will usher her and our Gene around for the remainder of the season." Sebastian suddenly felt like he might hit the ground. He couldn't have heard correctly surely!
"You heard me Sebastian. Now be a good boy and introduce her around a little so that she can get her dance card filled for the evening."
“You better watch out dear brother, mammy is out for your blood. Whatever you’ve done this time, something tells me that she isn’t letting the matter go.”
This was a bloody disaster. Over his dead body was he going to even permit her to dance with any of the rogues here, let alone usher another spoilt young lass around for the season. Not that he minded too much for Gene, she was his sister. But this bloody vixen with her frown on her face looking as if she was about to scream bloody murder, this; as Tristan would say, was a fucking disaster greater than the open sea, because all he could think about was bending her over a chaise, pulling up her petticoats, and giving her a jolly good romp. Oh he was in trouble alright, a lifetime full of trouble.
The nerve of that man. Of all the men in London, he had to be the Earl. She expected someone older. And less attractive. Great, just bloody great. Now she found the weasel attractive. Exactly when did that happen? What an absolute calamity. Worse, what was she going to do? She needed to find a husband. But what about the Earl? Sebastian, he told her to call him. Well that would not be happening. She did not want to get personal with him. Although, he was such a handsome man. And a rogue no doubt. Now why did that thought upset her so much? Just as she was about to pinch her cheeks, a commotion of blue, gold and scandalous red skirts flew into the powder room, pushing Taby back into one of the smaller rooms where ladies adjusted their corsets and petticoats in private.
“Did you see him? Isn’t he just a dream. Tinneka do tell my darling, is he as good as his reputation? I envy you. I do think that if he asked me to flash my bosom, I couldn’t deny him either.”
“Let us just say Ellie May, that when Sebastian kisses, he doesn’t just kiss you on the mouth. He likes to travel through valleys and crevices.” This statement was followed with scandalous moans and childlike giggles from the three women.
“And who is his new Ward? Did you see her? I wonder if he has managed to lift her skirts up yet! You may have some competition on your hands Tinneka darling. Although plain, and quite obtuse with that red hair, she has a certain quality that he may find attractive.”
“Oh do hush up Regina. That boy is mine.” It was then that Taby worked out who the three women were. The same women she had been warned about from the Dowager. Ellie May; the Duke of Haberdash’s yet, unmarried daughter, who at seven and twenty was classified to be on the shelf, the Viscountess widower; Lady Tinneka Ashley, known for her petticoat lifting reputation, and Regina; the Countess of Easswick, known as the ice queen of the Ton. No one could blame her for that though. Married off to a seventy year old tyrant; the Earl of Easswick by her ambitious father at just seventeen. He was rumored to have a nasty disposition with a habit of beating up his wife.
“I don’t know Tinnie, she does have a very ample bosom that matches yours. And she is of child baring age to give him an heir.” Taby couldn’t stand to listen to it anymore. She had to get out of there. So, with a brave face, she walked out of the side room, past the three scandalous women while holding her head high, and right into the hallway, leaving three stunned faces staring in her wake.
Champagne. She needed some champagne. She figured she would at least try it once to help calm her nerves. With that thought, she headed straight for a servant walking around in the hallway with champagne filled flutes. As she began to sip the bubbly concoction, bubbles gently tickled her nostrils. In that moment, she decided the beverage wasn't bad indeed, and finally she understood why so many made such a fuss over the french drink. Oh she was definitely having a second glass, possibly a third.
Where on earth could the little rebel have disappeared to? Sebastian was beside himself with worry. Damn the bloody woman. His mother would have his bollocks on a plate by the morning if he didn't find her soon.
"I say Stantonshire, wasn't that your new Ward I just saw dousing herself with champagne in the hallway?" Bloody fucking bollocks, he was going to kill her. He could not believe that in a matter of an hour, the stupid woman was already becoming his worst nightmare. Thank Christ for Aunt Bertha arriving to chaperone Gene. One debutante was bad enough this evening. His thought process was interrupted by the vision ahead of him. There she was, holding a half filled flute and leaning very heavily on the wall. Dear Lord, she looked foxed. How could someone get intoxicated so quickly?
"Oh hello you, you, Earl you (hiccough). You sirahhh, (hiccough) are a dishhhpikable cad (hiccough)." Good god, she was already three sheets to the wind. He had to get her out of here before any of the Ton witnessed her disgrace, and his.
Without thinking, he grabbed her arm and whisked her out through the open doors and straight towards the gardens, having to pick her up half way due to her intoxication. As he carried her deeper into the gardens, he realised two things. She was very beautiful, and she was very drunk.
"Would you be shhhhho (hiccough) kind and put me down shhhh (hiccough) shhirrr."
"Not now woman." The problem was where to take her in this state. They couldn't hide in the garden all night. Possibly for a few hours, or at least until he could get her to make some sense again.
Christ she smelled lovely. Even foxed. The smell of vanilla was again overpowering his senses. He had to put her down, and soon, before the rogue in him would take over by ripping that damn bodice down to her waist. Besides, his pantaloons already had a mind of their own.
"Do you think I'm perrrrdy (hiccough) my Lorddddearlll? You're shhdaarrring at meeee (hiccough), I bet you stare at all the ladies (hiccough)." Was he staring that much that even in her delicate state she could tell? Oh bloody bollocks. Where was Tristan when you needed him? She should have been his bloody Ward. How was he going to do this for the rest of the season?
"Kisssshhhhhh me Sebasssddiiiaaann." And before Sebastian could say another word, she pulled his head close to hers and planted a hard kiss on his lips. He couldn't do anything but kiss her back, and suddenly there was nothing else he would rather have been doing in that moment.
She was sweet, she was soft, she was delicious, and she smelt like vanilla pie that he wanted to devour. She was moaning in pleasure, and her erect nipples were digging into his chest as he slowly lowered her feet to the ground, never stopping the kiss. She was like a furnace. Hot, melting in his arms, and tasting of champagne and cherries. Suddenly, his head was spinning, and she kept on kissing him, and he never wanted to let her go, and his breeches were very tight, and her derriere fit perfectly in his two palms, and he wanted to touch her breasts, and oh god she was, she was, she was snoring?
Good god, she was asleep. What the hell just happened? Within his arms, with her head dropping to his chest, eyes closed, she was snoring and she was fast asleep. Never in his life had he ever kissed a woman to sleep. A woman awake hell yes, but asleep? What did that say about his kissing technique? Never mind that now, he had to think rationally. No time for a bruised ego. What the hell was he going to do? Picking her up gently, he made his way to the gazebo deep within the gardens. He of course knew where to find it since he had many trysts there with women in the past. Now, all those times with all those wives made him feel like an ass. What was this girl doing to him? Causing him to second guess himself that's what! Maybe he was sick of all the different women every night. Maybe his mama was right. Maybe he needed a wife and to settle down. Maybe not just yet.
Looking at her now, he had time to really inspect her, and she really was quite lovely. Just one more kiss. Even if she was fast asleep, he wanted to feel those soft lips on his once more. He bent down, and gently touched his lips to hers.
"You have some serious explaining to do my dear boy."
"I say Bethany, I do believe there is going to be a wedding very soon. Possibly even a quick trip to Gretna Green don't you think?"
Mother, and the Dowager Duchess of Longfield? Oh fuck!