Read Taming His Scandalous Countess Online

Authors: Viola Morne

Tags: #Domestic Discipline, #Victorian Romance

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BOOK: Taming His Scandalous Countess
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Each brush brought her closer to
the brink. Each stroke of her fingers was echoed by Snow's, as he worked
himself. He swelled even larger; his member gleamed wetly in the candlelight.
Their eyes locked in shared ecstasy until she finally peaked, spiraling down
and down, while she shuddered with her release. She panted, eyes closed, and
felt his weight upon the bed.

Isabelle opened her eyes to see
Snow crawling along the bed between her thighs. He grasped them, opened her
wide, and shoved inside. Dear God, how he filled her with his hardness. The
sweet friction of his movements made her tighten against him. His answering
thrusts sent spikes of pulsating heat all down her thighs. Isabelle cried out.
He pushed into her with increasing fervor. So good. Sensation streaked along
her flesh as the tension wound tighter and tighter. Snow raised himself on his
hands, so that his pelvis rubbed against her with each thrust. So close. She
held her breath.  He ground against her and she came as his hot rush of seed
flooded her womb.

*
* * * *

She was in a dark room, lit only by
the remains of a fire smoldering on the hearth. It cast red shadows on the walls,
shadows that dripped and ran as she watched. She reached out to touch them, but
her hand came away wet. It was blood. Before she could open her mouth to
scream, an eldritch shriek rang out from the darkness. She had to run, away
from the dark, from the blood and the screaming.

Isabelle turned to flee and awoke
abruptly, bathed in sweat, heart pounding. The echo of the shriek still rang in
her ears. Then she heard it again from the connecting door to her husband's
room. She leaped off the bed, ran across her room and flung open the door. Snow
lay asleep amid twisted bed sheets, a bar of moonlight illuminating his face. 
He moaned and flung out an arm, as if to ward off a blow.

"
Angeline, ah, non,
Angeline
..." he groaned. "
Je vous en prie! Arretez, pour l'amour
de Dieu
." Snow continued to mutter unintelligibly in French for a few
moments.

He sat up suddenly, eyes wide and
fixed towards the foot of his bed. There was nothing there. Then he screamed
and kept on screaming. Isabelle ran to him, catching his arm. Snow tried to
push her away, but she hung on.

"Snow, calm yourself. You're
safe."

He didn't seem to be aware of her,
but he stopped screaming. His breath shuddered in his chest. Isabelle pressed
down gently on his shoulder, and he collapsed on the bed. Sweat rolled down his
cheeks. Isabelle grabbed a cloth from the shaving stand, wrung it out in cold
water and dabbed his face. He sighed, and his entire body relaxed into a deep
sleep. She straightened the blankets, and pulled them up over his chest. A lock
of hair spread damply over his cheek and Isabelle smoothed it back. In sleep,
all decision and severity were smoothed from his face. The finely carved
features were almost those of a young man. Her beautiful man. One last stroke
of his hair, and she turned to leave. His hand clung to hers.

"Don't go," he murmured.

She glanced down. He seemed to
still be asleep. She tried to unclasp her hand but his fingers tightened on
hers. Isabelle sighed and sat on the edge of the bed.

"I won't leave you," she
promised.

*
* * * *

There was something on the bed with
him, a warm weight against his leg. Snow opened a bleary eye and looked down.
Isabelle lay curled at the foot of the bed, her chest rising and falling with
each enticing breath. She was asleep. He frowned, trying to remember. Why was
she here? He'd been quite clear about them sleeping apart.

The dreams meant he never actually
spent a night with someone in his bed. Too dangerous, both to his hard-won mask
of self-possession and to the safety of the lady in question. He was Julian
Beaufort, the Earl of Snow, not some shattered shell of a man who cried out at
night to the phantasms conjured by bad dreams. He needed no witnesses to the
contrary. Who knew what he might do in his darkest hours?

Another breath, bosom rising until
the curve of one breast almost slipped from her nightdress. He reached towards
her, his cock already stirring. That soft skin of hers made him weak, made him
crave to touch her, always wanting. His fingers slipped down her throat. Her
eyes opened and she looked at him, startled, until awareness grew and he saw
the pity in her eyes.

He reared back, snatching away his
fingers as though burned.

"Get out!"

She blinked, her lovely blue eyes
still hazy with sleep.

"I told you not to come here.
When I want to be pleasured, I will visit you. Now get out." He pushed her
with his foot.

"I'm sorry, I'm so
sorry." She struggled to sit up. "You were dreaming, and I wanted to
help."

"I don't need your help. If
you won't go, then I will." Snow threw back the bedclothes and stalked
into his dressing room. He heard her stumble off the high bed and run to her
own room. His shoulders slumped in relief and despair. He should not have
married her.

*
* * * *

Isabelle slammed the door behind
her.
Ungrateful...bastard
. She'd gone to him as his wife, to comfort him
in his anguish. She'd slept as his feet, like a dog. And then he'd treated her
like one. Just when she thought they might be growing closer. She had even held
Snow's hand while he slept. It clearly meant nothing to him. Isabelle was
merely a convenience, a sanctified receptacle for his lust.

She walked over to the window and
braced her fingers on the sill. Her room overlooked the back garden. It was
beautiful: tended and cultivated, until every plant and shrub bloomed with
life. Isabelle took a deep breath. How could she expect her marriage to be any
different? She was barely acquainted with her husband. It would take time to
know him. And it would take effort to create the marriage she wanted, one where
both she and her husband respected each other.

Snow had been so vulnerable last
night. She'd seen his suffering and wanted to help him. That was only natural.
Blessedly normal, in fact. She was his wife. And Snow was her husband. She
hadn't imagined his fear and sorrow. Her formidable husband, so adept at
guarding his heart, had feelings. Deep feelings, which haunted him. At least
Snow knew
how
to feel. But who was Angeline, and where was she now?

Her maid knocked softly at the door
and then entered with a tea tray.

"Good morning, my lady."

Isabelle managed a smile. There,
she could do this. She just needed to give her husband time, time to adjust to
being married. To having someone care about him.

"Shall I draw your bath, my
lady?"

"Thank you, Nan. And would you
lay out a walking dress? I plan to visit Kew Gardens this morning."

The tea was strong and hot, just as
she liked it. Her husband's household, at least, had embraced her. She took
another fortifying sip. There. She wouldn't give up on her marriage, or on her
husband.

Her bath was exactly the right
temperature, fragrant with lavender. Isabelle pulled off her night rail and
slid into the water. She'd made do with a metal tub in front of the fire at
Larkspur Hall. A far cry from having her own luxurious bathroom. Isabelle
reached for the hand-milled soap Snow had imported for her from Paris. She
lifted an arm, soaping down its wet length. She heard the door catch and saw it
open, just a crack. Her maid checking on her?  Or her husband?

Isabelle suppressed a smile and
raised her leg, resting her ankle on the edge of the tub. She smoothed the soap
down her leg, her fingers lingering on her skin. She thought she heard a quick
intake of breath. She rinsed off her leg, put it back in the water and raised
the other one, repeating the same process. She sat up and soaped her breasts,
running her hands over them slowly and plucking at her nipples. The door opened
a little wider and she slid back under the water.
Let him suffer.

CHAPTER FOUR

 

Dear Countess Snow,

How lovely that title must sound
to you. After all, how could a mere baronet compete with an earl? Though why
two men of property would choose to wed a trollop like you exceeds all bounds
of common sense. Tell me, what does your new husband prefer, your loose morals
or your tight cunt?

You'll be hearing from me again,
Countess.

 

Isabelle let the letter fall from
numb fingers. It was unsigned. She turned it over. Her title and direction were
printed in block letters. Anyone could have written it, but who, and to what
purpose? The ugliness of it sickened her.

 The breakfast parlor door opened.
Snow. Isabelle folded the letter and hid it in her lap. She could not disgrace
herself by showing him the letter and letting him read that filth. She tried to
compose her features while her husband sat down. Isabelle raised her cup of
chocolate with a hand that trembled slightly.

"Good morning, my love."

Snow seated himself. He took a sip
of ale and selected a letter from the stack of correspondence beside his plate.
He did not indicate by word or look any of the events of the night before. They
might never have happened.

Isabelle lifted a slice of buttered
toast to her lips.

"What are your plans for
today?"

Isabelle started at her husband's
questions and dropped her toast on the plate. She moistened her lips.

Snow raised a brow at her silence.

"I... I'm going to Kew Gardens
to see the rose display. Then I have a final fitting at the
modiste
for
the gown she designed for our reception.

"Excellent. I look forward to
having this affair over and done with. These social events are tedious
things."

Isabelle forced a smile and sipped
her chocolate. What was she going to do?

"Isabelle, are you
unwell?"

"I am fine."

He stared at her for a moment.
"You are very pale."

She took a deep breath, determined
to master herself. She would deal with this new threat, she must.

"I didn't sleep very
well." She motioned for another cup of chocolate.

To her surprise, the merest hint of
color rose along Snow's cheekbone. He was ashamed of needing her, of showing
simple, human emotion. The thought depressed her. Why had she imagined this
marriage would be any different? And how could she tell him of this new threat?
Isabelle might have confided in the man last night, the one who'd needed her
comfort so desperately. This aloof aristocrat, who'd thrown her out of bed, and
now sat eating his breakfast without a care, no, she could never confide in
that man. He'd probably drive her back to her brother's house himself, if he
didn't throw her into the street first. Her throat constricted. Isabelle tucked
the letter into her sleeve and rose, her napkin crushed in one hand

"If you will excuse me, my
lord."

He nodded, his gaze intense.

"Mr. Trent will wait upon you
later today to discuss the reception."

"Of course." She had to
get out of the house. She would think about this new threat later. Figure out
some way to keep going, to keep this from ruining her marriage. Would Charlie
never let her go, even in death?

*
* * * *

Snow watched his wife leave the
table. She hadn't slept well. How could she, with her sorry excuse for a
husband calling out in his sleep like some madman fit only for Bedlam. And then
he'd treated her like a dog that displeased him, by kicking her out of his bed.
That was not the kind of husband he had promised her.

He was a mess. First, Isabelle had
entwined herself into his life, and now she was making inroads on his heart.
He'd thought that organ nigh impenetrable. She was like a damned drop of water,
dripping ceaselessly on the frozen lump, until it started to melt.

Snow threw down his napkin. He was
reduced to spying on his wife in the bath to assuage his near constant desire
for her. He had to find a way, for both their sakes, to protect and care for
Isabelle, without falling in love with her. That could only lead to disaster.
But every smile, every sigh as he made love to her, made more inroads into his
yearning heart.

Christ, he was getting maudlin
again. He must regain the upper hand, and exercise his authority as her
husband, as he had promised her. He must master himself, and then, he would
master his wife.

*
* * * *

"Hail to the groom!"
Leighton Frost lifted a bumper of brandy in a toast.

Snow threw himself into a chair
opposite. He'd noticed the glances and smiles from the other club members when
he'd walked in. The damned reception was in a couple of days, and then things
could return to normal.

"Discord in paradise?"
Frost had the tongue of an adder, but they'd been friends since the war, so he
simply shrugged.

"It's the gossip I can't stomach.
Pack of nosy old women." Snow signaled a footman for his own glass.

Frost took a sip. "Can't blame
them. You've given them so much to natter about. The elusive Earl of Snow weds
the Widow of Woe. That's what Grub Street called her. Quite the scandal in its
day."

"Don't call her that."
Snow picked up the Times and leafed through it.

Frost lifted a brow. "Do I
detect a frisson of dare I say it, loove?"

Snow snorted. "Love? I swore
off that long ago. Call it convenience with a touch of lust."

He remembered Isabelle's lush
curves in her bath this morning. He'd gone back to his room to spend himself,
helpless with desire.

"More than a touch."

"Ah, I'd heard she was
handsome. Thought she must be, to tempt you. Any money?"

Snow shrugged. "Her portion
was moderate. I need an heir and she's an enticing piece. She was living with
her brother, practically a prisoner. She wanted an escape and I wanted
her."

"And yet, I feel you are
leaving so much out." Frost looked him over shrewdly. "You've chosen
your shackles. I suppose you'll learn to live with them."

"I haven't tried shackles
yet." Snow grinned. "Silk scarves...now that might be more
appropriate."

"You intrigue me. Is she
docile?"

"Where would be the fun in
that? Her obedience is something we're working on."

Frost gave a wistful sigh.
"Almost you convince me to take the plunge myself. You must allow me to
meet your paragon."

Snow eyed him thoughtfully.
"Soon, but not yet, I think."

"You know how I always like to
share your enthusiasms, my dear Snow." Frost ran an elegant finger around
the rim of his brandy glass.

"I remember." Their eyes
met. Snow was the first to look away.

*
* * * *

Isabelle stared at the guest list
with increasing dismay. The elite of the
ton
were all there, including
many people she had known during her first marriage. Lord and Lady Merritt. No,
it was too much.

"You asked to see me, Lady
Snow?"

Her husband's secretary, Nigel
Trent, portfolio overflowing with papers, bowed awkwardly.

"Thank you, Mr. Trent. I have
a question regarding the guests for our evening reception. There is someone on
that list whom I do not wish to invite."

Trent frowned. "I'm afraid his
lordship himself has already approved the list."

"Do you mean you will not
honor my request?"

Trent blinked. "No, my lady,
of course I am only too happy to serve you. The dilemma is that only his
lordship can make changes. Those were his instructions."

Isabelle pressed her lips together.
"Thank you for your time, sir."

Trent stiffened slightly at the
obvious dismissal. "It was my pleasure, Countess." He bowed again and
left the room. Isabelle marched over to the bell pull.

"Warwick, is my husband at
home?"

"I believe he is in the study,
my lady."

"Very well, don't bother to
announce me." She stomped down the hall and hammered on the heavy oak
door.

"Enter."

Snow looked up from his desk.
"My dear, what a pleasant surprise. You do not usually beard the lion in
his den."

Isabelle stood in front of Snow's
desk. He remained seated, which made her feel like a schoolgirl about to be
chastised.

She clutched her skirts. "It's
about the guest list for the reception. There is someone on it whom I never
want to see again."

Snow leaned back in his chair.
"Pray enlighten me, my love."

"It's Lady Merritt. She was my
sister-in-law and she, well, she despises me. I don't want her coming
here."

Snow set down his pen. "And
yet I plan to invite her. Her husband is an old friend of mine, as well as some
sort of second cousin. I'm sorry."

Isabelle sucked in a breath.
"I won't have it. I won't have that odious woman here, spreading her
poison and ruining the evening."

Snow picked up his pen and made a
notation on the paper in front of him. "I don't believe I asked for a
debate on the matter. The invitation will stand."

Isabelle ground her teeth.
"No! You cannot invite that woman!"

Snow looked up. "I beg your
pardon?" he said in a soft voice that frightened her.

Isabelle clenched her fists and
paced in an agitated circle. "You don't understand! How she treated me
when I was married to Charlie, how cruel she is. I will not allow it."

Her husband stood up. Isabelle
swallowed. The glint in his eye was disquieting.

"As I said, I am sorry that
this woman's presence will be an inconvenience. However, in view of my close
relationship with her husband, they will be invited. Now we will address your
lack of respect in speaking to me in this extraordinary fashion. Madam, you
will be punished for your insolence."

Snow brushed past her and locked
the door. He placed a heavy chair in front of his desk and turned it around,
leaving a good distance between the back and his desk.

"Bend over the chair and lift
your skirt."

"I will not!"

"So much heat. I have warned
you that bad behavior will be treated accordingly. Over the chair, now."

Isabelle stood without moving for
several seconds, before she sighed and bent herself into position. She pulled
up her skirt.

"Your petticoat as well."

She started to speak, but he cut
her off.

"Don't bother to argue, it
fatigues me."

She sighed and shimmied up her
slip, bunching both skirts around her waist, feeling horribly exposed.

"Place your hands on the
seat." One hard hand stroked over her buttocks, while the other was placed
firmly on her lower back. Smack! The impact shook her frame. Another smack on
the other cheek. She braced her hands. The slaps came quickly after that, until
she had to bite her lip to keep from crying out. Finally the blows stopped. She
heard Snow move away.

"Maintain your position. I
have a few more letters to write."

"But..."

"Silence is also a
requirement."

She heard the scratching of his
pen. She stood there, bent awkwardly over the chair, with her sore, heated
bottom in the air. At times, Snow paused his writing and she could feel his
eyes on her. A wave of humiliation made her face feel as red as her buttocks
must be. The pen stopped again. She heard a drawer being opened and closed, and
sensed his warmth behind her. His hand closed possessively on her bottom and
squeezed. She flinched. Snow laughed softly. He walked around the chair to
stand in front of her.

"I had this made especially
for you, my love." He brandished a thin oval paddle made of a
light-colored wood. "I'm sure you will find the
sensation...stimulating."

He stood behind her once more,
rubbing her back. Dread of the paddle warred with the soothing sensation of his
hand. The paddle suddenly descended with a sharp sting. Isabelle hissed. That
hurt. The punishment started in earnest then, raining down on her already
smarting backside. Just as she reached the screaming point, he stopped. He
caressed her cheeks again before lowering her skirts and assisting her to stand
up. She felt a little dizzy and very sore.

Snow lifted her chin. "No
tears, my brave one?"

Isabelle gritted her teeth. "I
never cry."

Snow kissed her lightly before
whispering, “But never is such a very long time, isn't it?" He patted her
cheek. "I believe we are expecting callers. I will see you in the parlor
shortly."

Isabelle clenched her fists, torn
between pain and outrage. "You can't possibly expect me to entertain
visitors like this?"

"I certainly do. It is your
duty as my wife." He slapped her smartly on her bottom once more and
unlocked the door.

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