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Training Lady Townsend(13)

By:Annabel Joseph

“You must be honest now, Aurelia. How are things with you and the marquess?”

“They’re fine,” she hedged. “Really, everything is perfectly fine.”

Georgina glanced at Minette, then back at Aurelia. “The wedding night was...?”

She could not, could not, meet their eyes. “I’m not sure it’s proper to discuss it. Minette is unmarried.”

“But I won’t be for long,” she protested. “Please discuss it. How else will I know what goes on?”

“Why don’t you say what goes on, Georgina?” Aurelia gestured toward the woman’s waist. “In your case, things seem to have worked.”

“Aren’t they working in your case?” Her sister-in-law seemed concerned.

Aurelia forced a smile. “Everything worked. I can certainly tell you that. I’m just not sure that... Well... He... Things are still a bit awkward between us.”

“Oh, dear.” Georgina rubbed the back of her hand and then squeezed it. “It takes time to become used to it, it’s true.”

“Used to what?” Minette asked in frustration.

“Used to being in bed with your husband,” said Georgina. “You’ll see what we mean in a year or two.” She turned back to Aurelia with a thoughtful expression. “The marriage bed can seem strange, even frightening at first, but that will change.”

“But you loved Brendan,” Aurelia blurted out. “You loved him when you married him. Lord Townsend is a stranger to me. It’s very disconcerting.”

Georgina nodded in sympathy. “I know he wasn’t your first choice of husband, but he’s been kind, hasn’t he?”

Aside from spanking me and forbidding me to resist his attentions...yes.

“I’m sure in a month or two all of it will seem very comfortable,” said her sister-in-law. “Everything will be absolutely well.”

Aurelia smiled and nodded, because she knew it was expected, and that Georgina and Minette would be put out if she continued to fuss about her marriage. What Aurelia really wanted to do was fall into her mother’s arms and beg her to take her home.

Which was probably why the duchess had sent the three of them outside.

“I’m sure everything will be very well a few months from now,” Aurelia said with a conviction she didn’t feel. “And perhaps your baby will have a cousin on the way. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”

“I would like more tea cakes,” said Minette with a pout. “If you’re just going to talk in these vague generalities, let’s go back.”

*** *** ***

Hunter struggled with the decision to return to his former erotic haunts. Well, struggled for a minute or so. Honestly, she’d practically begged him to slake his lusts elsewhere. That was what considerate husbands did.

He believed he’d demonstrated admirable patience, waiting an entire week before he stepped out, and he made sure to leave after she had already retired to her rooms. It was his right, of course, to do whatever he wanted, but she was so naive... She might raise questions he didn’t want to answer. It had been a week now, a week of bedding her while she shivered and shrank away. He needed to indulge in some raucous, cathartic sex before he lost his mind.

He and his friends gave most of their custom to Pearl’s, a well-appointed and well-managed sex parlor catering to a menagerie of tastes. It helped that it was on the right side of town, so gentlemen who went there preserved a certain dignity in the exchange. Hunter approached the brothel’s artfully concealed back door and performed the appropriate three-part knock. A bruiser of a working man thrust his head out. “Good evenin’, milord. How can I help ye?”

“Good evening, Fletcher. You can help me by letting me in.”

“One moment, please.” The burly man disappeared, leaving Hunter on the step to twirl his hat in his hands. This was odd. He was normally admitted as soon as he knocked. Perhaps Pearl was cross that he’d stayed away nearly three weeks. He would just explain the situation, his recent betrothal and marriage. Pearl understood married men and how the world worked.

Within a couple of minutes, the portly matron stuck her head out the door and then propped it open upon one of her ample hips. “Oh, milord. Fancy seeing ye here. I thought you got married last week. ”

“I did, Pearl. I am being perfectly honest when I say I’m here with my wife’s permission. Her urging, even.”

The old woman laughed, though he wasn’t joking. For some reason, she still didn’t let him in.

“See, the thing is, milord, I hate to tell you, but...”

“Tell me.”

“The Duke of Lansing says I’m not to admit you anymore. He says you belong at home with yer wife and you’re not to come here.”

“What?” It took Hunter a moment to realize he was being had. He threw his head back and laughed. “Pearl, you’ve always had a hellish sense of humor.”

“I wish I was jestin’ with you, luv. Believe me, I wish it were a joke but it ain’t. The duke says yer not to come here.”

This was preposterous. Ridiculous. “The duke can’t stop me,” said Hunter. “I’m a grown man. I can go wherever I like.”

She grimaced. “Well...err...about that.”

The first poking fingers of panic, or perhaps fury, traveled along his spine. Jolette, Colette, Paulette, Odette, all the most skilled ladies worked here. All of them knew how to arouse and satisfy him beyond his dreams. “Did he pay you to keep me out?” he asked Pearl. “I’ll double it. Although I think it’s not well done of you, old girl. I’ve been coming to your establishment for years now.”

Her face wrinkled in sadness and regret. “Ye can’t pay me to get in. You can’t do anything, milord. That man Lansing, he meant business. He came hisself, he did, and sat in my drawing room looking like ’e was smelling rotten eggs. Said if I let you in here, he’d see to it that my parlor closed and that no one who worked for me could ever do business again. He was right specific, milord. He said I wasn’t to let you over the door step, that ’e would know and take away me livelihood.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“But sir, why would I make it up? You been one of my best customers. It’s breaking my heart to say this to you, but you can’t come to Pearl’s no more, nor no other place, I reckon. The Duke of Lansing, he doesn’t believe in men messing around on their wives. He says to me, Honor begins at home. That’s just what he said. Made me feel two feet tall, an’ I’m trying to run an honest business here. I told Madam Curtis what he done, how he come here and threatened me, and she said his men done the same to her. Then Mrs. Church said the same, and even Mrs. Purefell what runs that horrid place down near the docks. I imagine you could still get some doxy off the streets if you was sneaky enough—”

“I don’t want a doxy off the streets,” Hunter thundered, then turned away. Some other gentlemen had materialized and he stepped back to let Pearl do her business, feeling like a mockworthy piece. The lucky young bucks were admitted posthaste while he was barred from taking his pleasure because he had married Laudable Lansing’s daughter. It hadn’t even been his choice!

“Lansing isn’t here now,” he pleaded with Pearl when the men had gone inside. “Let me in, please. I’ll pay you twice what I normally do. Four times.”

“Milord, it can’t be. I’m scared of that old duke, I am. He has the king’s ear and more.”

“Then let me set one of the ladies up in a private arrangement. I’ll reimburse you for her loss.”

“I can’t,” Pearl said, genuine worry making her voice quake. “And I don’t dare stand here talking to you a bit longer. I’m sorry, milord.”

With those words, she shut the door on him, and on his dreams of a pleasurable night. Madam Curtis too, and Mrs. Church. All his usual haunts. He’d never heard of this Mrs. Purefell near the docks, but if Lansing had gone to her he must have gone to every establishment Hunter might plausibly attend.

Damn the duke and his godforsaken moral compunction. Not only was he saddled with an ice cold wife, now he had no outlet for his more perverse desires. It was an impossible situation.


There had to be someone who would defy the duke for enough money. London had fifty or more parlors for gentlemen of questionable tastes, as well as numerous actresses and courtesans for hire. If the Duke of Lansing thought he could curb Hunter’s habits because he’d married the man’s pure-as-snow daughter, he would shortly be proven wrong.

*** *** ***

Three nights later, Hunter stumbled up the stairs of his friend Lord Warren’s town home. He pounded on the great oak door so violently that Warren himself answered, looking grim.

“Do you have company?” asked Hunter. “Am I interrupting?”

“My company left hours ago, Towns. It’s four in the morning.”

“I need a drink.”

Warren shied away, waving a hand before his nose. “I think you’ve had a drink. Plenty of them. Come in and tell me where you’ve been.”

“Where I’ve been?” All his fury exploded out of him as he stumbled into his friend’s dimly lit drawing room. He waved his arms about, yelling at the top of his voice. “I haven’t been anywhere. I’ve been denied. Everywhere.” He couldn’t believe this was happening. “Three nights now I’ve been slinking around town trying to get into some house of ill repute. Trying to hire girls. Mistresses. Whores. Warren, he’s put them all off limits, every single one in London.”