A Dance with Indecency

BOOK: A Dance with Indecency
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New York City, 1920s

Bootleggers are breathing down hotelier Harry McMahon’s neck. So when a beautiful, young, and very wealthy widow from Paris turns up at the Cotton Club, Henry sees it as the perfect opportunity to combine business and pleasure. First he will take her body, then her heart, and finally, her money...

Elise Rousseau may not be the mousey innocent she once was, but she can’t believe Harry doesn’t recognize her—and she intends to punish him in the most wicked way. She will make him want her body, make him give her his heart. And then she will break it, just as he broke hers four years ago...

A Dance with Indecency

Linda Skye

Chapter 1

The air was thick with the smell of sweat, smoke and sweet wine. A four-piece band belted out jazz tunes, and a crowd of drunken revelers danced to the beat. The gyrating bodies were slick with drink and arousal, and a heavy cloud of cigarette smoke hung over the acrid scent of intoxication. The infamous Cotton Club was in already full swing.

Harry McMahon lounged on one of the leather sofas that circled the dance floor, drink in hand. He lifted the glass, letting the ice cubes clink together and surveying the room through the pale amber of his cheap whiskey.

He was still waiting.

“You seem bored, old chap,” his friend, Lucas Thorne, commented from an adjacent chair.

Harry glanced at him from the corner of his eye. One of the club’s dancers was poised upon Lucas’s knee, wiggling her tail-feathered bottom. Lucas chuckled, his hand sliding up her long legs. Harry brought his glass to his lips, his eyes sliding back to the club.

“Not at all, Lucas,” he said, sipping slowly at the harsh liquor.

Lucas grunted and leaned back as the dancer dipped lower, her hips pulsing against his in time to the music.

“Then why are you staring at the door instead of enjoying yourself as you usually do?”

His friend beckoned to another dancer, who seemed all too eager to entertain—until Harry waved her off dismissively.

“You see,” Lucas said accusingly. “You’re not here to have a good time.”

“I’m mixing business with pleasure,” Harry countered, setting down his empty glass and leaning forward to light a cigar. “Not all of us can float through life as you do, my good man.”

“So says the heir of a hotel tycoon.” Lucas guffawed, giving his dancer’s bottom a playful slap.

Harry sighed and puffed at his cigar. It was true; he did stand to inherit his father’s hotel empire—but it was a crumbling, fading empire. Since prohibition, most of the hotel business in the city had floundered and entrepreneurs—such as himself—had to turn to other, less legal means of doing business.

“Oh, will you stop sighing?” Lucas interrupted his thoughts. “Everyone loves your hotel.”

“Only because I’m in debt to bootleggers,” Harry muttered.

“Well, you have to get the good stuff from someone,” Lucas said with an indifferent shrug. “Bootleggers are great business partners—until you can’t pay up of course.”

“Of course,” Harry repeated quietly.

Indeed, he thought grimly, the stories had been so grisly that they had even climbed into the rumor mill of the upper classes. And therein was his dilemma. He was in debt to the worst sort of people, and he couldn’t pay up—not since his family had drained their old money coffers by buying expensive cars and throwing lavish parties. But he’d never let on, not with his reputation as one of the city’s richest bachelors at stake. And certainly not when he needed to maintain the glamorous image of his prized hotel, the Hotel Pierre.

But he had a plan...and so he was still waiting with his eye on the door.

“Goodness, man!” Lucas exclaimed, his voice only slightly muffled by his dancer’s chest, “Why are you slouching around like a sack of old potatoes?”

“I don’t slouch,” Harry corrected smartly. “And I’ll have you know that I am waiting...for a future business partner to arrive.”

“Oh? And who might this mystery guest be?”

“Our newest arrival to the New York party scene, of course,” Harry said with a debonair wink. “The Parisian Widow.”

Lucas nudged the woman on his lap to the side so that he could lean in excitedly. The so-called Parisian Widow, Elise Rousseau, had arrived in New York only a week ago—and she had already caused quite the buzz. Depending on the source, she was rumored to be a decrepit old shrew or a dazzlingly gorgeous young woman. But most importantly—at least in Harry’s eyes—she had reportedly inherited a massive fortune from her late husband.

“Then she’s making an appearance here tonight?” Lucas asked eagerly.

“So I’ve heard.”

“My ladies tell me she’s a right old hag covered in gaudy baubles,” Lucas said.

“So?”

“So, I’m afraid you won’t be finding a new bed partner tonight, Harry.”

“This is business, as I told you.”

The words had barely left his mouth when a gust of fresh air announced the arrival of the very woman herself. Both men turned to observe the commotion, their eyes widening.

The Parisian Widow was not even remotely elderly! In fact, she was as young and tender-looking as any college girl. She was tall, slim and willowy, with jet-black hair cut into a severe bob and fair, nearly translucent skin. Her lips were painted a daring red, and her sharp blue eyes were framed by dark, heavy eyelashes. She walked into the club confidently, the tassels of her slinky, glitzy dress brushing her bare knees.

A smirk worked its way up Harry’s lips. He definitely knew how to handle women—and weaving his way into this particular woman’s life could be both lucrative and enjoyable.

“A mix of business
and
pleasure,” he mused aloud as he rose from his seat.

Harry moved through the crowd effortlessly. Just as the widow reached the bar, he slid up behind her and placed his palm at the small of her back.

“What are you drinking tonight?” He asked as he suavely maneuvered his way into her field of vision.

The woman turned to look up, her blue eyes widening. A rosy blush bloomed on her cheeks as she took him in.

Yes
, Harry thought to himself smugly. That was the exact reaction he had been hoping for.

“Barkeep!” Harry called, leaning his forearm on the bar, “Something sweet for the lady!”

He turned back to the young woman. She was still staring at him, her plump red lips slightly parted in surprise. He cocked an eyebrow and leaned closer. The scent of her sweet French perfume filled his senses, and he inhaled deeply.

“Like what you see?” Harry murmured huskily, savoring the way she blinked and reddened even further.

To his surprise, the widow pulled back a fraction, a cloud passing over her fine features. She arched a slender brow and lifted her dainty chin.

“Oh, you’re the bee’s knees, all right,” she said in perfect English...with not a trace of a French accent.

Harry frowned—could he have been mistaken? He handed her the drink.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said carefully, “I thought you were Madame Rousseau.”

“The Parisian Widow? At least I hear that’s what they’re calling me.” The woman laughed dryly. “You’re not mistaken. I am indeed Elise Rousseau.”

“But your accent-”

“I came from Paris,” Elise cut in, eyes narrowing, “but I wasn’t born there.”

“Well, forgive my rudeness, Madame Rousseau,” Harry said, inclining his head and holding out his hand. “Let me introduce myself. I’m Harry McMahon.”

Elise Rousseau did not immediately accept his handshake; rather, she stepped back a pace, her eyes assessing him from top to bottom. And just when it began to feel awkward, she placed her hand in his and allowed him to squeeze her small fingers in his large palm. Then, with a mischievous half smile, she tipped back her drink, draining it in one gulp, and pulled him away from the bar and into the fray of the dance floor.

“Great,” she said with a sly wink. “Now shut up and dance!”

Harry let himself be towed away by the girlish heiress. Together, they easily slid into a frenzied Charleston rhythm. Elise whooped and shouted with the rest of the dancing women, her movements practiced and confident.
Not your average widow
, Harry thought wryly as he hungrily devoured the sight of her long, creamy white thighs as they peeked from her flapper dress with each dance step. She shimmied and shook with the best of them, her smile electric. Then the band switched to a slower, sultrier blues piece, and Harry slid his arm around her tiny waist, pulling her close. It was an almost intimate embrace, their bodies twining together in time to the deep bass notes—and Harry knew immediately what he had to do.

He would take her body. Then her heart. And finally...her money.

Chapter 2

Elise Rousseau did not know whether to be relieved or irate. Harry McMahon had not recognized her—he, of all the people in New York! At the bar, they had stood close enough to kiss, and there hadn’t even been a flicker of recognition in his eyes!

She studied him from under her thick, black lashes. It was obvious that he fancied her—from his overtly flirtatious gestures to the subtle way his fingers lingered at her waist. How interesting, she thought bitterly, that he should find her so irresistible now.

No, he did not recognize her, but Elise certainly recognized him!

Aristocratic prat. Audacious. Arrogant. Presumptuous, lazy and entitled. A list of unflattering adjectives raced through her mind as she observed his self-assured demeanor, carefully schooling her own features so that her thoughts remained secret.

Not that he wasn’t the epitome of physical perfection. That simply could not be denied. He was tall, and his trim figure was accentuated by his tailored, three-piece suit. His gleaming dark hair was carefully combed back, and he had fiercely set, intense brown eyes and a strong, clean-shaven jaw. Yes, he was a very desirable man.

After all, Elise had once fallen in love with him.

Four years ago, she would have given anything to have him look at her the way he was looking at her now. Four years ago, she would have swooned at the thought of his hand touching her waist. Four years ago...

Four years ago, she had confessed her love to him at their college graduation ceremony—and he had cruelly brushed her off, leaving her with nothing but the broken pieces of her innocent heart.

Granted, she had been a different creature then; a gangly mess of thin limbs with mousy-brown hair and a slight stutter. But then she had escaped her shame across the ocean—to Paris to study—and everything had changed. In France, she had been courted by a rich, older French gentleman. They’d come to an understanding, the two of them. He needed a young wife on his arm, and she needed to reinvent herself. And so, within a year, she had transformed from Miss Elise Burke, bumbling college girl from New York, to Madame Elise Rousseau of Paris, fashionista and high-society gal.

As they swayed to the bluesy tunes, Harry let his hands drift from her slim waist, and his heated palms molded firmly to the swell of her hips. With a deft jerk of his arms, he pulled her deeper into his embrace, his thighs rubbing sensually against hers. He leaned in with a smile, letting his lips graze her ear as he whispered meaningless flatteries in her ear. Elise threw her head back and laughed aloud.

Who would have thought that swanky Mr. Harry McMahon would ever be fawning over little Miss Elise Burke?

Let him think he’s won me over
, Elise thought, a plan forming in her mind.

The pulse of the deep bass and sultry saxophone quickened in tempo. The dancing all around them grew frantic, but Elise and Henry were locked in a slow, seductive pace all their own. He smoothed his hands down her shapely thighs as she slowly hooked a leg over his hip. He twisted and thrust his hips against hers, and she twined her slender arms around his neck.

“Come to a party tomorrow night,” Harry said coaxingly as they danced. “I’ll show you what New York has to offer a woman such as yourself.”

“A party?”

“The likes of which you’ve never seen in Paris, I assure you,” he said, leading her back toward the bar.

“Sounds jazzy,” Elise replied, her smile sharp as she let him pull her away from the dance floor.

His pleased smirk was at once gratifying and infuriating. Feelings she’d long-forgotten awoke deep in the pit of her belly, and she found herself relishing the sensation. It has been
so long
since she’d felt much of anything. After her gentlemanly husband had died two years back, Paris had lost much of its glamour. So, she’d come back to America, hoping to immerse herself in pleasurable diversions.

Harry’s fingertips lightly trailed the ridge of her shoulder blade and down her spine, and a tingling rush of heat flooded her thighs. It was...unexpected. And then Elise immediately knew what she had to do.

She would make him want her body. She would make him give her his heart. And then she would break it.

BOOK: A Dance with Indecency
8.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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