Bound to be a Groom
Sometimes our wildest dreams come true.
In the tumultuous summer of 1808, Spain and England are close to war and four young lovers are close to ecstasy.
To carve out an independent life with the woman she loves, ANNA knows she must leave her quiet Spanish convent to become a courtesan. To gain experience, she sets her sights on . . .
SEBASTIAN, whose powerful, aristocratic confidence suits Anna’s mercenary goals. But his arrogance masks a craving for submission that Anna instinctively satisfies. Sebastian soon begs for her hand in marriage, even if it means sharing her with . . .
PIA, who trusts Anna completely—with her body and her future—until she learns of Anna’s hasty marriage. Pia questions their commitment to each other as they leave for London to meet . . .
FARLEIGH, the seemingly feckless duke who thinks he’s over Sebastian, the potent Spanish soldier he bedded two years ago.
What begins as a series of erotic escapades soon evolves into a deep, unbreakable bond. Two men and two women who yearn to explore are about to make their wildest dreams come true.
This title comes with no special warnings.
Caution: The following details may be considered spoilerish.
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Badajoz, Spain – June 1808
Anna Redondo was unaccustomed to feeling at a disadvantage. It was not in her nature. She knew she’d been born on the wrong side of the blanket, but that had never prevented her from knowing her own mind. Having spent her first eighteen years within the walls of a convent might have limited her experience, but it had not curtailed her imagination.
And she could imagine all sorts of things with this man.
Regrettably, imagining would only take her so far; she needed to act. Taking a fortifying breath, she turned to face him.
“It’s going to be quite a long afternoon for those two, don’t you think?” she ventured, gesturing toward the bride and groom. Isabella and Javier were walking at the front of the wedding party with the bright morning sun, so particular to this part of southern Spain, glinting off the beautiful silks and polished leather of the aristocratic guests all around them.
“Pardon me?” Sebastian de Montizon asked, clearly surprised at the audacity of a polite young miss speaking to him so directly.
“They look miserable, don’t you think?” Anna mused. She had left the convent in Burgos two weeks ago and traveled to Badajoz in a carriage, chaperoned by one of the older nuns. Apparently, the short time away had already emboldened her.
Sebastian stared down at her as they walked, assessing her through hooded eyes while the clank and clop of horses and regal hardware around them seemed to fade. “I think they look blissfully happy. Whatever do you mean?”
But she suspected he knew what she meant and was only pretending to be confused by the demure front. “Of course they’re happy to be married,” she said brightly, then, in a lower voice, “but now they have to wait and wait until they can be alone . . . on their wedding night . . .”
Over the past week, dignitaries and aristocrats from all parts of Spain and Portugal, and even a few from France and England, had filed into Badajoz. Sebastian had swept into the main hall shortly before supper three days ago, looking like he had spent the past month splitting his time between a bar and a brothel. His dark hair had been too long even by today’s liberal standards, and the scruff of his beard had looked untended. For the wedding, he had reacquainted himself with his valet, and he now looked like many of the other perfectly turned-out aristocrats. But there was still a look of something wild about him.
Anna’s first thought upon seeing him had been that he needed to be taken in hand . . . and that she’d be the one to do it.
“What do you know of wedding nights, little convent girl?” He smiled and stood straighter as he kept walking alongside her through the winding cobbled streets. He clasped his strong hands confidently behind his back, as if he’d assessed her and seen all he needed to see of the little flower.
Perfect. Think of me like that.
“Nothing firsthand, of course. Only what I’ve imagined.”
That got his attention.
“Imagined?” His voice cracked.
She smiled at the small victory. Anna needed experience, and here was a man who obviously had it. She assumed he would be discreet—he was a devoted and loyal friend of Javier de la Mina, her friend’s new husband—so he wouldn’t betray Anna’s secrets. In short, he would suit.
Sebastian continued to look at her, and she felt her cheeks flush. The slightest narrowing of his eyes told her the rising color pleased him.
“I have a very vivid imagination,” she whispered with throaty promise. She licked her lower lip, tipping her face away from his, hoping it was just enough to make him want to dip his head to look longer. “And I know how it feels to postpone my own desire.” Finding her pace, she sallied forth into his stunned silence. “I think once you feel something, it’s easier to discern in others.” She paused for effect. “Do you agree?”
When he nearly stumbled on a cobblestone she feared she’d gone too far. Neither she nor Pia had any experience with men, of course, but they’d convinced themselves that if they could make each other shudder and beg, surely a brutish man would succumb to far less.
It appeared they had been quite right. Sebastian looked as if he were about to make love to her reticule as it bounced back and forth against the apex of her thighs with each of her steps.
She held it slightly away from her body. “Do you fancy my reticule?”
His eyes flew up to hers.
Spectacular eyes, she had to confess. They were just like Pia’s—that familiar greenish blue that made her think of the Caribbean Sea and the places the two of them had dreamt of spending their future. Places like Cartagena or Hispaniola, where she and Pia would live a quiet life of spinsterhood, disguising their passion for one another behind practical worsted dresses and massive studded doors that hid all manner of things.
“Such eyes . . .” She hadn’t meant to say it aloud, but the color reminded her so much of Pia. Regardless, Sebastian seemed to enjoy the attention. Useful information, she thought. He likes to be noticed.
His smile encouraged her to go on admiring him. It should have been irritating that he wanted his ego stroked—that such a gorgeous man seemed to crave endless praise—but Anna found it endearing. She was surprised to realize how much she liked the idea of Sebastian softening under her care, bending to her will. She wanted to stroke him.
“The blue of your eyes reminds me of—” She hesitated, then continued more carefully. “—places in the New World, places I’ve heard of but never seen.”
He looked interested then, and not merely in the flush of her cheeks or the moisture of her plump lower lip. “I was on my way there . . . before this transpired.” He said the last with an impatient toss of his gloved hand in the general direction of the bride and groom. She admired the way the kidskin molded to his strong fingers.
“Your hand is quite something, as well,” she said in a slightly rougher voice.
He smiled again, turning his hand this way and that, as if he’d never before taken a moment to look at it. “Really? I have two in fact.” He presented his left hand as evidence, then lifted his right forearm for her to rest her hand upon. “May I escort you into the alcázar, Lady Anna?”
“I’m no lady, I’m afraid. A lowly miss.”
He kept his arm extended. “The offer still stands . . . my dear Anna.”
And there it was. My. For a few minutes or hours or days, she would be his. He had knowledge and experience.
She needed both.
She placed her gloved hand on the fine fabric of his dark-green jacket, lightly at first, then with a grip borne of excitement as his muscles flexed and shifted beneath her fingertips. She was loath to admit that the low, throbbing heat between her legs was not entirely the result of conjuring her passion for Pia.
His eyes came to rest on her lower lip, wet from her constant back-and-forth nervous licking with the tip of her tongue. “Do stop that, please,” he begged.
But she didn’t stop. She only paused for a moment, and instead of withdrawing that flicking little pink tip, she challenged him with her eyes. The flare of her audacity sent fire into his blood. She opened her lips wider and let her tongue drag a leisurely circle around the entire red, wet opening.
He did stumble that time.
Sebastian was no longer deceived by all that virginal frailty—that impossibly elegant neck with the birthmark at the base near the lacy edge of her gown, the arms and legs that moved like delicate damselfly wings. “I see you use a convent education and a pale dress to disguise yourself, much as I use a family name and a sword.”
Her eyes widened at his brash speech, but she didn’t reply.
“I know what it is to live behind a mask, Anna.”
He also knew what rested behind her careful shell: something hot and honest and demanding.
The man he presented to the world was the strong, strapping soldier; the agile, competent horseman; the eldest son of a powerful landowner; the heir being groomed to follow in his father’s illustrious footsteps; even the rebellious rogue. Not one of them was the real man, the lover who craved nothing more than to be completely subdued by a powerful, knowing partner. Or two. To be taken in hand and made to fulfill every outrageous need, to experience the freedom he only found in submission.
He must have sighed at the thought as he looked ahead to the castle in the near distance.
Anna squeezed his arm to get his attention. “Perhaps the two of us shall find one another behind the mask, then?” she offered.
He took his time meeting her gaze, letting his eyes slowly caress the turn of her bodice. Her breasts were small, but he saw them respond to his consideration, two firm, puckering tips forming beneath the pale silk as he rudely stared. If he could please her with a look, he could only begin to imagine how he might please her with his fingers or lips.
When their eyes met, he was certain she knew the nature and extent of his thoughts. “I should like that very much,” he replied softly.
Their intimate conversation had slowed their pace somewhat, but they were nigh on the castle walls when one of his friends jabbed his ribs as he passed. “Step lively, Seb. Don’t want to hinder the lady.”
This was no lady, he wanted to call after his mate. This was a hidden world of sensual delight, his for the plucking.
“Where did you learn to do that with your tongue?” His voice was rough around the edges, hard from repressing the urge to drop to his knees and burrow under her gown right there in the shadow of the castle’s portcullis.
She smiled, tightening her lips around her teeth, then spoke with that soft convent voice he was coming to recognize as another subtle layer of her nuanced disguise. “I’m sorry. My lips . . . they tingle sometimes, and it helps to . . . soothe them.” She tested the theory, letting her tongue pass slowly across her upper lip. “Yes. It makes them feel better somehow.”
Enough. Enough about tongues and desire and soothing the tingling feelings or some such rot. He hustled her into the castle along with the sea of other guests.
He knew the layout of the alcázar from several visits in his childhood. Guiding Anna gently away from the masses of people, down a separate hallway, as if he were innocently leading her to a view of the mountains from a particularly scenic balcony, he turned the black wrought iron handle on a heavy wooden door and pulled her inside.
He shut the door behind him and peeled off his gloves. The two of them were in a vast library with thousands of volumes and nary a human in sight.
“Do it again, please,” he asked. “With your tongue.” Slowly untying the silk ribbon of her bonnet, Sebastian let his knuckles trail along her milky skin as he spoke. She was distracted by the grandeur of the room, marveling at the countless books.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” she whispered.
“Neither have I,” he agreed, touching the sensitive edge of her lower lip with two fingers.
She gasped briefly and looked so genuinely surprised by his touch that he faltered. “You can’t possibly play the blushing virgin now . . . after you . . .” But he didn’t move his fingers, and she didn’t pull away. Her dark-amber eyes were now fixed on his.
Then she did the most miraculous thing imaginable. She opened her mouth wider and drew his bare fingers into that wet, succulent warmth. Her eyes were still wide for a moment, but then they fluttered closed in sensual delight. She worked his fingers with her mouth, letting her tongue swirl and lick as she sucked and moaned.
He could have come from that—from looking at the way her cheeks drew in and from her guttural moans vibrating from the tips of his fingers to the throbbing tip of his cock.
“Good God, woman!”
She emerged from her temporary reverie—eyes glassy, lips wet—and slowly withdrew his fingers from her mouth. She still held on to his wrist with both her small hands. She’d grabbed him in that way at some point in her ecstasy, controlling his pace in and out of her mouth.
“Did it feel as nice for you?” she asked, almost innocent.
He shook his head in stunned disbelief. She was an angel from heaven. From some carnal heaven, he amended, that produced an angel born wanting to suck a man’s cock for the sheer pleasure it brought her.
“Yes,” he croaked, then cleared his throat. “It felt very nice.”
“For me too,” she said, but she released him and wandered away toward the endless shelves of hand-tooled leather, as if her enjoyment of the act had been somewhat unexpected, something to be examined rather than indulged.
Sebastian followed her. That in itself was remarkable. He could not recall willingly following a woman. In bed, of course—more than willingly—but not like this. Anna was a lady, no matter how lowly a miss she claimed to be, and it was as if his two distinct worlds were colliding. Social obligation and base desire were finally making one another’s acquaintance, like two people who turn a corner and hurtle into each other.
She was trailing her fingertips lightly across the bindings of a complete set of Shakespeare.
“So you can read, I take it?” He came up behind her and circled her waist with his arms. She leaned back into him, but again, it was almost absently, as if he offered a convenient perch for her to use while she perused the library. Nothing more. The idea pleased him, the idea of making it his purpose in life to be of use to this woman.
“I can. I love to read.” Her finger came to rest on The Tempest. “But I’ve had very little access to . . . so many things.”
She turned in his arms, staring into those blue-green eyes of his, wondering how honest she could afford to be. Some version of the truth would free her to ask all sorts of relevant questions, to make him an accomplice of sorts. He seemed like he’d be game.
“Sebastian . . .” They’d been properly introduced, but it was wholly improper for her to call him by his first name. Then again, she was already alone with him, unchaperoned, having recently lost herself in the sensation of sucking his fingers until her sex was throbbing so hard she’d forgotten her own name. Calling him by his Christian name did not seem to sit quite so high on the long list of improprieties. What with one thing and another.
“Yeeessss . . .” he drawled. He’d begun swaying her gently in his arms, as if they were on the deck of a slow-rolling ship.
“I . . .” She hesitated and then cursed her unfamiliar cowardice. He was quite right in letting her know she couldn’t very well play the blushing virgin when she’d more or less lured him into their current embrace. He was staring at her mouth again—making love to her mouth with his eyes, really—which made it easier to blurt out a portion of the truth. “I would very much like to . . . do things . . . with . . . to . . . I would . . .” Well, this is going abominably.
He smiled and kept up that gentle motion, pulling her nearer with each sway. “That all sounds positively delightful,” he said, “but perhaps a bit vague.”
“Vague?” she prompted.
He inhaled. “I tend to prefer very clear directions.” He was quite close by then. In fact, the hard pressure of his cock was resting against her stomach at that very moment.
“You do?” she asked, surprised and delighted at her good fortune.
He nodded and then looked adorably sheepish as he pressed his length along her belly.
I can do this, she thought.
He felt big, but certainly no bigger than anything she and Pia had used to penetrate one another. Fingers at first. Then tongues. Then more fingers. Anna’s whole hand one time, after much patient, delectable coaxing. Anna felt the heat pool in her belly at the memory, at the way their shared desire had ultimately opened Pia up to her so completely.
She closed her eyes, overcome with memories.
Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas, Burgos, Spain – September 1807
Initially, they had tried to ignore the heat that flamed between them. For many months in the spring and summer, they would catch one another’s eyes and quickly look away—in vespers, in the library, at mealtimes. They would speak of art and nature and herbal remedies, books and political ideas and astronomy . . . but never of feelings.
Anna had tried to quash her feelings through petition and penance, with prayers for forgiveness and relief from her agitation. She had tried to deny how deeply she loved Pia, to convince herself that she only loved her as a friend. She had tried to persuade herself that her physical desire was part of a childish infatuation or sinful temptation, a brief flare of unfamiliar lust that would pass soon enough.
But it hadn’t passed. It had grown.
So, when she began to suspect that Pia felt the same way, there was nothing for it. Anna finally decided to declare her feelings one warm afternoon in September, when the two of them were sent to the surrounding forest to collect some late-summer herbs that would be dried during the long winter. Pia appeared serious and thoughtful as always, but Anna’s heart thudded wildly, emboldened by their exceptional solitude. The novices were rarely granted times to speak privately, so Anna saw it as an opportunity to dash her foolish hopes. Perhaps she had imagined Pia’s answering gazes, and Pia would put an end to her madness once and for all.
“Do you look forward to spending your life in the convent, Pia?” Anna tried to sound casual as she bent to snip an herb.
Pia turned her head slightly. “I never think about it one way or another. It will be my life whether I look forward to it or not.”
Her moderate, equable nature was something Anna had come to love about Pia because it was the shell she wanted to break apart, to see what roiled beneath.
Choosing her words carefully, Anna said, “I think about it.” I think about taking you away with me.
Bending to pick a stalk of malva, Pia spoke without looking up. “As well you should. That is your future, is it not? To be a lady-in-waiting at court next year?”
Anna couldn’t look away from the turn of Pia’s long back and strong shoulders. She could stare at her for hours. She was desperate to touch her. Her breath caught in her throat.
“Anna?” Pia was standing in front of her by then, stepping closer.
“Yes?” She licked her lips in the one nervous gesture she’d never been able to conquer.
Pia looked at her mouth for a split second. “Are you unwell?”
“I don’t know . . .” Anna whispered, her heart pounding.
“What is it?” Pia’s voice had softened to a near whisper, as well.
Anna gathered all her courage. “I believe I’m in love with you.”
Pia didn’t gasp or step back, as Anna had half hoped she would. They stood like that in the dappled glade—staring at one another—until the autumn noises of the forest were like clanging cymbals all around them. Insects skittered and dried leaves crackled into the air. An acorn falling might as well have been a hundred-year-old oak crashing to the earth for how the small sound resonated.
Finally, after what felt like an entire rotation of the moon, Pia’s eyes blinked slowly, then drifted shut. The sparsely filled basket slid out of her weak hold. “Touch me,” Pia pleaded. “I beg you.”
That was all the encouragement Anna needed. Within seconds, she had pinned Pia against one of the large oak trees. After so many months of wondering and hoping, the reality of Pia’s lips and skin and hair threw Anna into a sort of frenzy. Kissing her lips and then along the strong turn of her ivory neck, nipping at her ear, Anna reveled in the physical reality of Pia in her arms. The smell of her—a mixture of fresh autumn air and spices from the convent kitchen where Pia had baked bread that morning. The sound of her—a loving compilation of supplication and devotion.
Anna began removing Pia’s clothes without asking permission, pulling desperately at her tightly wound coil of hair. The more Anna pushed, the more Pia bent. As if they were both perfectly attuned to the moment and its meaning: that they were both discovering their true natures. Pia was made to soften and sway into Anna’s controlling, greedy hands.
“You are so beautiful, Pia, so strong and wise,” Anna gasped between kisses and fumbling fingers. “I watch you all the time, how you manage everyone without flouting the abbess’s authority.” Her lips trailed down Pia’s neck. “I’ve seen your lovely drawings and your modesty about them. I’ve seen your patience with the younger girls. I love watching you.”
“I’ve watched you too, Anna,” Pia confessed, her breath shallow. “I’ve watched you grow into this woman who knows her own mind. I see how you look at the world. How you will take what you want.”
“I will take you. I know that now.” Anna’s voice was low and demanding, and she watched as Pia’s body responded to its strength—her strength. “My wild ideas about you have become so real to me.” Pia whimpered at the words, and Anna kissed her full on the lips, savoring the texture and taste, the feel of Pia’s tongue against hers.
Anna broke away for a moment. Pia leaned her forehead against hers and said, “I’ve dreamt of you so many times, Anna.” She reached tentatively to hold a strand of Anna’s silky blonde hair between her curious fingers. “You come to me at night, into my bed, like an angel.”
Anna laughed, low and mischievous. “If I am an angel, I’m an angel of darkness.” She spoke as she worked, removing the last of Pia’s clothes with rough, tugging movements. Every time she gave a firm pull at a piece of fabric, Pia seemed to come emotionally, as well as physically, undone. “The thoughts I have about you, Pia, they are dark and heathenish. Beautiful and raw.”
“Oh God,” Pia whispered after Anna removed her coarse overdress and her well-worn underclothes. All that remained was the long skein of linen that Pia used to bind her large breasts. She had never been naked in front of anyone. Out of fear or habit, she reached up quickly to prevent Anna from removing the last vestige of her modesty.
A stormy look of disapproval passed across Anna’s face, and she took a step away from Pia. Many years later, when Pia would look back over the course of their life together, Pia knew this for what it was: the first small punishment for her defiance. At the time, Pia was confused, both timid and exhilarated at once.
“Don’t ever do that again,” Anna said, in a gritty voice that Pia felt in the deepest parts of her throbbing body.
Pia had spent her entire life in the convent, where her very existence had been defined by obedience; this felt like something else altogether.
“Drop your hands and open yourself to me, Pia.”
The submission Anna was demanding of her was something far more complex—far more rewarding—than the monotonous conformity of her daily life. Anna’s voice elicited a kind of sensual obedience that required strenuous complicity, not complaisance. A shiver ran down Pia’s spine.
“Do you like when I tell you what I want?” Anna trailed a single finger along Pia’s neck. “When I am firm with you?”
Pia nodded, almost weeping with the truth of it.
Anna held her chin. “Answer me, my sweet. So I know you feel it, too. I want to hear your gentle voice crack under the weight of it.”
“Yes, Anna . . . I love when you speak to me thus.” Pia gave herself to Anna in that moment, gave herself into the other woman’s keeping. With her head tilted back against the rough bark of the tree and her hands hanging loosely at her sides, Pia arched slightly forward, offering herself to Anna. It was as if they had become one in mind and spirit before they had even begun to explore one another’s flesh.
“Remove the binding, my love.” Anna’s hands grazed over the linen where it was pulled tight and firm across Pia’s breasts. “Slowly.”
Pia wanted to do as she was told. Resolved, but with trembling fingers, she began to unravel the fabric from around her ribs. She feared her heart was unraveling right along with it and hoped Anna was not orchestrating their mutual destruction. The possibility was distinct, if not deterring.
When the fabric pooled at her feet, near the overturned basket, Pia didn’t know what to do with her hands. Seeking something to ground her, she reached her hands behind her and let the rough bark of the tree dig into her palms, as if she were tying herself to the mast and Anna was the siren.
Her heart pounded madly as Anna stepped closer and said, “You are the most gorgeous creature, my wild forest nymph.”
Pia arched her chest closer to Anna’s outstretched hand, her body begging for contact. “Please, please, please touch me.”
When Anna’s small delicate hand finally caressed the bare skin of Pia’s breast, they both stopped breathing. Pia’s eyes were heavy with desire, an unfamiliar thick warmth that pounded through her veins and prickled her skin.
“Pia . . . I want to do so many things . . . with you . . . to make you feel . . .” Anna pinched Pia’s nipple and watched as her skin tightened in response.
Pia could do nothing but gasp.
Then Anna looked down at the thatch of black hair between Pia’s legs. “Do you touch yourself here?” Anna reached with her other hand and cupped Pia’s mound before she could answer. The sensation was explosive and grounding all at once. The physical contact of Anna’s hand pressing against her most private self—imprinting Anna’s ownership upon her body—had Pia shuddering as if she’d been struck. A seeking finger slipping into her moist channel had her crying out. Anna’s assault was a declaration that Pia was hers—as if she were silently asserting, These breasts, this moist heat: mine. It was a consummation.
“Yes,” Pia confessed, her voice reedy. “At night. When I think of you. I tried to stop, but when I imagine you—” Pia gasped again when Anna’s finger began to circle her sensitive nub.
“It’s torture, isn’t it?” Anna asked.
“Mmm hmm.” Pia bit her lip at how sweet the torture was, all the sweeter now that it was really Anna’s hand and not Pia’s imagination.
“Hold on, Pia. Hold on for as long as you can. And then let me take you.”
“Yes, Anna . . .” The words floated out of her.
When Anna’s lips captured Pia’s hard sensitive nipple and her tongue mimicked what her fingers were doing below, Pia wasn’t able to contain her reaction. A cry of complete surrender ripped through her. From that moment on, Anna’s hands and mouth took complete possession of Pia’s body. The hard bark pressing against the flesh of her back contrasted with the press of Anna’s soft mouth and demanding hands.
“You are so slick and hot, Pia. So good for me.” Anna’s narration heightened Pia’s response; warm liquid heat slid down her inner thigh. “Ah, you like when I tell you how good you are, don’t you?”
Pia nodded helplessly.
“You are very good,” Anna whispered in her ear as she put a second finger, then a third into Pia’s throbbing, swollen sex. “I want to know every inch of this body of yours. I want to make it sing for me.”
“Oh God,” Pia whispered. “It’s coming over me, Anna. I’m going—”
Anna kissed Pia’s lips and plunged her tongue into Pia’s mouth while she turned her fingers against the sensitive inner walls of Pia’s channel.
“Anna! Stop!” she protested against Anna’s sensual assault.
But she didn’t stop, and Pia was glad. Anna kept stroking that inner place she must know so well from taking her own pleasure. The desperate pleading of Pia’s voice only seemed to drive Anna harder to prolong the agonizing pleasure.
“Never,” Anna whispered. “I’ll never stop loving you.” She moved her fingers in and out several more times until Pia was completely spent, the final reverberations of her climax shuddering through her.
Anna kissed Pia more gently, then helped her settle to the ground. She spread out Pia’s dress, and they used it as a blanket to rest upon. Anna lay back and pulled Pia’s naked body alongside hers, rubbing her bare back in long soothing strokes to warm her skin against the cool air.
When Pia began to come back to herself, her hands started wandering over Anna’s slim body. “You are so much better than any dream.”
Anna laughed. “I certainly hope so.”
Pia blushed. “I meant . . .”
Anna softened and kissed her again. “I know what you meant. I’m sorry to tease. You are so sweet and perfect. So natural. I feel as though you have always been mine.”
God, how those words soothed and excited Pia. “I feel it too, as if I have always been preparing for you, to be yours.” And there they were: no negotiation, no confusion, only the simple realization that that was the nature of their relationship, the fabric of their love for one another. That Pia belonged to Anna.
Anna stared up at the canopy of autumn leaves, her heart more full than she’d ever thought possible. Pia was hers.
Then thoughts of the outside world began to crowd up against her as she held Pia close.
“What is it?” Pia asked softly, her fingers lightly tracing the lines of tension in Anna’s forehead.
Anna relaxed into her touch and turned to face her. “I don’t want you in stolen moments like this. I want you with me all the time. I want us to be together, like man and wife . . .”
Pia looked taken aback, as if Anna had gone mad.
“I mean . . . Ugh. That’s not what I mean.” Anna shook her head to reorganize her thoughts. “We can never marry in the eyes of the world or the church, of course. I meant I want us to be together as we are now, not furtively.”
“I know what you mean.” Pia relaxed deeper against her chest. “But we both know such a dream is impossible.”
“Nothing’s impossible,” Anna said with a bit of harshness that seemed to surprise Pia. “I am a planner, not a dreamer.”
“I suppose if you were able to stay in the convent, rather than go to court in Madrid, we could be together. Sometimes.”
Anna reached out and tenderly fondled Pia’s breast. She felt her own sex flutter in response to Pia’s immediate reaction. They were already part of each other.
“When it comes to you, my darling Pia, I will never settle for sometimes. I have a plan.” She leaned down and began kissing Pia’s lips and then her neck and then, for quite some time, her breasts, and then lower, until Anna had her mouth against Pia’s full, wet center, and she brought her to the heights of pleasure again. And then again.
Anna’s own release would come soon enough. Her self-denial was a joy in itself. For that moment, she loved the way Pia melted beneath her touch, the way Pia’s hips rose to meet her lips, the way Pia’s soul flew into Anna’s keeping.
“I will never give you up, Pia. Never.” She licked and taunted and nipped at the swollen lips between Pia’s legs. She brought her to one last climax and finally relented when Pia’s voice was shredded from screaming and her face was covered in tears of ecstasy.
For several months after that, though, they were required to settle for sometimes. They planned the occasional clandestine meeting. They carved out a few blessed nights when one of them feigned sickness and the other came to her aid. Pia continued to beg Anna to take what little pleasure they had and be grateful for the crumbs.
But Anna refused to settle for the rest of her life.
Finally, after many weeks of stolen conversations and heated debates, Anna was able to convince Pia that her plan to amass a small fortune—by becoming a courtesan—was the only one that promised a realistic path to an independent future for both of them. Anna hated the idea of leaving Pia in the convent, but Anna’s aristocratic—if tainted—blood meant she was destined to live amongst the upper classes, with ready access to the men who would gladly pay for the pleasure of her company. Pia had no such connections, sullied or otherwise.
Occasionally, Anna faltered, wondering if she should take the less treacherous path, if she should accept the measly life the convent offered. But she never let Pia see those doubts. One of them needed to be unequivocally strong, and that role suited Anna far better than it suited Pia. When their last night together was upon them, the night before Anna was set to leave for the wedding in Badajoz, she tried to keep her spirits high for Pia’s sake.
“If I’m to become a courtesan in Madrid—or if I’m particularly lucky, perhaps the mistress of a wealthy nobleman in Paris or Naples or London—I’ll need more experience, darling.” Anna dragged her hands lazily through her lover’s long, dark hair, Pia’s head resting on her chest.
“I know you do, but I still hate it.” Pia’s hands roamed across Anna’s smooth stomach and then up to one breast. Pia leaned down slightly, taking the pert nipple between her lips.
“Oh, Pia,” Anna sighed. “What else am I to do?”
Pia released her breast and expelled an answering sigh. “You could remain here.”
“If it was always like this—” Anna squeezed her closer to make her point. “—then of course that would be perfect.” The two of them were whispering intimately in the narrow single bed in Anna’s sparse room in the convent. “But I shan’t spend my life hiding, sneaking around behind the abbess’s back, taking a night here or there—like tonight—when one of us pretends to be ill and in need of the other’s aid. We deserve to live together, always.”
“I know,” Pia agreed reluctantly.
“It’s a terrible bargain but one we’ve reasoned through so many times. It’s the most expeditious route, don’t you agree?”
“Yes, up here.” Pia tapped her head. “I know it’s the quickest way for both of us to escape, but so much can go wrong. What if you fall in love with someone else?”
“Oh, Pia.” Anna leaned down and kissed Pia’s forehead lightly, then trailed kisses down her cheek until she reached her mouth. Pia groaned, and her strong body softened and bent into Anna’s. “How could that possibly happen? You are everything to me.” Anna reached her hand between their bodies and began touching Pia’s breasts, pinching and toying with her nipples until Pia was squirming and halfheartedly pleading for her to stop.
Anna and Pia had fallen horribly, madly in love over the past six months. They both knew the night might be their last in each other’s arms for many, many months, or even years. The abbess had arranged for Anna to spend several weeks with Isabella in Badajoz, and then Anna was scheduled to travel directly to Madrid to take a position as a lady’s maid in the retinue of the off-and-on monarch, King Ferdinand VII.
As they spoke of the future, Anna did her best to hold fast to the last precious moments of the present.
“You must believe me, Pia. I will prevail.”
“I trust you,” Pia whispered. “I know you can accomplish anything you set your mind to, but it’s quite awful for me to imagine you with . . . under . . . some horrible man.” Pia shut her eyes.
“Perhaps I'll learn something that will please you,” Anna teased.
Pia groaned and turned her head into the pillow. “How can you joke at a time like this?” she said into the linen.
Anna sobered. “If it means the two of us will live together eventually, I am willing to do almost anything.”
“Oh, Anna.” Pia looked up and kissed her again. “I know it’s true, but it’s still miserable. I know the sooner you are able to accumulate some savings—with the gems and baubles I’m sure every man will shower upon you—the sooner we will be together. Men will fall at your feet. I know it.”
“I will always be thinking of you. I will always picture you. No matter what they do to me, it will be your lips and hands and skin that I feel.”
Pia was crying again. “I will miss you horribly. Please think of me and know that I am thinking of you.”
“I will. Of course I will.” Anna’s voice was almost stern as she looked down into Pia’s moist eyes. Holding Pia’s chin firmly in her hand, Anna watched as her lover’s sadness turned to beautiful submission once Anna was back in control. It took all of Anna’s conviction not to waver. She was sorely tempted to simply give in to that look, the look that fired Anna’s blood and made her powerfully aware of what the two of them shared, the look that made Anna feel whole.
“May I show you how much I shall miss you?” Pia whispered, always tentative and painfully shy when she wanted to please Anna.
“Yes, my love. Show me.”
Pia worshipped Anna’s body, taking slow, reverent care as she kissed her way down Anna’s lean frame. She was incredibly patient, protracting every moment of their dwindling time together. She licked Anna’s small breasts, and they both moaned when she pulled one firm nipple into her mouth. Anna ran her fingers through Pia’s unbound hair and encouraged her with whispered words and humming sounds of pleasure.
When Pia moved lower, she looked up at Anna, wanting both physical and visual contact.
“I see you, my love,” Anna whispered. “Go on.”
Hesitant and eager, Pia began to slowly lick the seam of Anna’s sex. Anna’s fingers flexed and then relaxed against the back of Pia’s head. “Yes, my sweet girl.”
As Pia’s eyes closed in submissive pleasure, Anna nearly wept, once again questioning her wild plan. During their time together, Pia had proved to be the most exquisite, delectable lover. She moaned, a combination of carnal satisfaction and bittersweet regret. Pia looked up from between Anna’s legs with sadness in her eyes.
“What is it, love?” Anna reached out and touched Pia’s moist lower lip.
“Please don’t let anyone else do this.”
“Men will want to touch me, darling . . .” Anna’s voice trailed off, not wanting to hurt Pia but not wanting to promise something impossible, either.
“I know.” A single tear trailed down Pia’s cheek. “But not with their lips.” Her expression veered toward anger. “They’ll want to fuck you with their pricks or prod you with their thick fingers. Please . . .” Pia kissed Anna there, then sucked lightly on her clit before speaking again. “Let my mouth be the only one here.” Her eyes were begging.
“Very well. Only your mouth will touch me there, sweet Pia.”
Pia’s eyes drifted shut, and Anna could feel the curve of her smile as she pressed her lips with renewed fervor against the throbbing lips of Anna’s sex.
Badajoz, Spain – June 1808
In the library with Sebastian, Anna tried to conjure the same warmth low in her belly that a look from Pia had always produced and transfer it to this dark-haired, arrogant aristocrat. She hoped to feel even a hint of that kind of passion while he held her in his arms.
Sebastian’s length twitched against her, and she felt her desire fade. Unfortunately, the idea of intercourse—or more accurately, penetration—left Anna cold. It was too invasive, too one-sided. Even the words—fuck . . . prick . . . needle—sounded inelegant at best and violent at worst. Crude.
Not to mention the possible consequences, which led to ruined lives and unwanted wailing bundles left at convent doors. In addition, she dreaded the way the act itself called for her own nonexistent passivity, to be pinned down and poked. Or at least, that’s how it had always seemed to her.
“Come here,” Sebastian said, gently drawing her toward a large velvet sofa in the center of the room. He tried to lean her back into a partially reclined position, but she immediately sat upright.
The buttoned front of his straining buckskins was right at eye level. Quite convenient.
Then he touched her—stroking down her neck—and Anna instinctively reached for the fall of his trousers. When she palmed the straining fabric, he gasped, and she snatched back her hand.
“May I?” she asked, looking down, unsure if his shock was physical or a matter of etiquette. She tried to remind herself to be more polite, but the idea that she was about to make these discoveries in broad daylight, with a willing partner, was more than she could have ever hoped for. If she were to arrive in Madrid with a modicum of sexual experience, perhaps she could secure a position as someone’s mistress more easily. Still, as much as she wanted to learn what she could from this man, the idea of being his acquiescent pupil was anathema. She wanted to be in charge.
As usual, Pia would have said in that throaty voice of hers that always bordered on a shy laugh when remarking upon Anna’s dominance.
He chuckled and folded his arms arrogantly across his chest. “Do with me what you will.”
She felt she’d been granted free access to El Escorial, with no pricking or poking in sight. She palmed him through the fabric first, wanting to get a sense of his size and what pleased him, and if she were lucky, what pleased her. In future, she knew her control of a lover would derive from her ability to sense his likes and dislikes, but from her time with Pia she also knew her own pleasure could be equally arousing to her partner.
Sebastian’s groan was immediate. She pressed harder, and he pushed his hips toward her. She licked her lips, and the thought popped into her head that this might be entirely delightful.
Keeping one hand firmly against his considerable length, she used the other to undo the surrounding buttons. The front flap came loose, and she slid it down to release his straining cock.
She looked up at him to make sure he was still . . . pleased . . . and the gleam of lust in his eyes assured her he was. She’d been in this position often enough. She loved the feeling of Pia’s frantic hands in her hair when Anna kissed and licked and loved her swollen petals. She loved making Pia wait and wait and then break apart—against her demanding lips—only when Anna finally let her.
She wondered aloud, “May I take you into my mouth? Perhaps you’d like to grab hold of my hair . . . or my neck?”
He looked shocked. Probably a result of her forwardness. She was consumed with a spontaneous terror that she had stepped so far beyond the pale that he’d never—
He dug his fingers into the base of her skull, giving her a fierce tug that only granted her a split second to open her mouth and receive his enormous shaft flush up against the back of her throat. She almost gagged, but he pulled back enough for her to breathe through her nose, then, more slowly, he went deeper. Petting her and gently asking her to relax, he trailed his hand along her neck, occasionally dipping the tips of his fingers into the edge of her bodice.
She let him set the pace at first, but she was eager to experiment. She braced her small hands against his bare hips, then trailed them lower until one hand found the base of his cock. She circled it with delicate fingers that barely connected, squeezing once to get a sense of his resilience. He groaned again—a deliciously deep, primitive sound—so she squeezed him harder.
“Oh dear God . . .” His voice sounded almost angry, but she knew it for what it was. Raw pleasure. She worked his cock like she’d worked his fingers—like she worked Pia—at times giving him deep, hard suction and at other times taunting him with featherlight licks, edges of teeth, air.
“Anna . . .” It was a warning of sorts.
Breaking the suction, she said, “No, no. You must be patient. I have so much to learn.”
His thighs quivered, and he reached for the back of a nearby chair to keep himself standing.
“That’s right,” she directed. “Be a good lad and hold on for me . . .” She nodded her approval of his restraint, then dipped back to take him full and hard to the hilt. Her throat was already softer and more relaxed, able to take more of him without resistance. The power she felt at his desperate compliance was beyond anything she could have hoped for.
She found his sac with her other hand and fondled him there as well, learning the feel of the skin and the weight of him. She tried hard and soft pressure, tugging and lightly scratching until she knew what brought him the most pleasure. He liked it rough.
Delighted shivers rippled through her. If he reveled in her coarse treatment, she was thrilled to oblige.
She reached further around. Her hands were already slick with her own saliva and the salty, smooth cum that seemed to be seeping out of him with every pull of her greedy mouth. Their earthy scents and fluids were mixed together. Her nostrils flared with pleasure, and then she pushed her wet index finger against the pucker of his arse.
He cried out, a fierce animal sound that escaped from his beautiful lips before he could repress it.
She released his cock from her mouth, but she kept up the pressure at that intensely sensitive spot, taunting him as she spoke in a near-careless tone. “You like that?” She pushed against his tight hole. Her voice was a throaty purr from having the head of his cock so far down into her.
When he didn’t answer, she started to pull her hand away.
“Oh, God, yes! Don’t stop . . . please,” he begged.
The sight of him at this point of heedless, shameless entreaty thrust her into some glorious place of wanting to ride him hard, to push him to the absolute limits of what he could bear. Her body hummed in anticipation of the liberties she wanted to take with his desperate body.
“I like it when you say please.” She took him deep again, and his answering moan snapped through her body. With one hand at the base of his cock, she used the other to circle his tight arsehole with two slippery fingers, straining her eyes up to watch the way his face contorted and smoothed in lovely agony.
She wanted to penetrate him. She loved all the ways she could get inside Pia’s body—her mouth, her pussy, her arse—all the ways she could devour her and be devoured in return. She wanted to be inside Sebastian in the same way. To reach into him, to grab what she felt was—already, bizarrely—rightfully hers. And then watch him break apart in her hands and explode. She wanted to make that happen, to be the one who made him feel things that no one else had ever made him feel.
Pia always told Anna that she was such a generous lover, but the truth had nothing to do with generosity. Anna was greedy. And arrogant. She knew how to do this. It was as if she had been born for it. She had worried she only had this intuition, this ability to seduce, with a woman’s body, Pia’s body, because the reaction she could tease and strum from Pia’s eager, smooth flesh was nothing short of miraculous.
But Sebastian’s responsive enthusiasm was equally delicious. She didn’t know him, of course. She certainly didn’t love him the way she loved Pia, but the way she made his body dance and sway was quite divine. His pliancy was beautiful.
Without bothering to ask for permission, she circled his arsehole one last time, then pushed her slick fingers inside him right as she drew his cock deeper into her mouth and sucked and bobbed her head. She kept up that pushing and pulling, front and back, in and out, until she felt the hot gush of his release against the back of her throat and the clenching echo of his pulsing climax around her fingers in his arse.
She was cruel, relentlessly prolonging his sweet, convulsive repercussions. She sucked on him harder, swallowed every drop, and then she slowly licked him clean. She suspected he was sensitive, as she always was, as Pia always was, so she became gentler then, but still persistent. She licked him tenderly, circling the base of his softening cock with her tongue to lap up the saliva and semen there. And it was splendid. He was so satisfied, exuding a throbbing energy of pure, satiated bliss.
That she had provided, that she had given and taken from him.
She removed her finger from his arse even more carefully, petting his hip slowly with her free hand as she did. Praising him in some unspoken way.
When she had finished smoothing his shirt back into place and buttoning up his trousers, she finally worked up the courage to look him in the eye. “I think that was a decent start, don’t you?”