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In this cleverly retold classic, sex collides with corsets in a burst of erotic, mash-up fiction, bringing the searing heat of Fifty Shades of Grey to the dark secrets of one of literature's finest novels, Jane Eyre.
A cold winter wind began to blow, bringing with it clouds so sombre and rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question. Bessie called at me to turn back, and I abandoned my search for John and joined her and my younger cousins in walking back to the house. John and I had agreed to meet beside the willow trees this afternoon, but something had clearly waylaid him.
I was glad of it since it was a chilly afternoon and I did not relish the thought of lying under the wet willow tree with him for a further hour, always conscious that at any moment we might be discovered, our cheeks burning with the knowledge that we were doing something wrong yet unable to stop ourselves. Instead, I returned to the house, my heart saddened by the chidings from the nurse Bessie, and humbled by the consciousness of my physical inferiority to the beautiful Eliza and Georgiana Reed, my younger cousins.
The said Eliza and Georgiana clustered around their mama in the drawing-room as soon as we returned. She lay luxuriously on a sofa by the fireside with her darlings about her (for the time being neither of them quarrelling nor crying), and looked perfectly happy. Me, she had dispensed from joining the group saying, "She regretted to be under the necessity of keeping me at a distance; but until she heard from Bessie that I was endeavouring in good earnest to acquire a more sociable and childlike disposition—she really must exclude me from privileges intended only for good, pretty, little children."
"What does Bessie say I have done?" I asked, wondering if it was my trying to wander off on our walk that had angered the nursemaid.
"Jane, I don't like cavillers or questioners," returned Mrs. Reed. "Be seated somewhere and until you can speak pleasantly, remain silent."
I pursed my lips and left the room, knowing where I would go; where I stole to whenever I had a rare, free moment to myself.
A breakfast-room adjoined the drawing-room and I slipped in there. It contained a bookcase and, checking that I was not watched, I snatched a favoured volume from the shelf. I mounted onto the window-seat, my heart thudding in my chest and my fingers shaking in anticipation. Gathering up my feet, I sat cross-legged and drew the red curtain around me, its silken material slippery in my hot, wet grasp.
Folds of scarlet drapery shut in my view to my right; cascading undulations of fiery red that mirrored the tingling rush of heat I could feel pumping through my body. To my left, the clear glass offered a pale blank of mist and cloud; a scene of wet lawn and storm-beat shrub with ceaseless rain sweeping away wildly before a long and lamentable blast. I shivered. The droplets of rain trickled down the pane and I turned and pressed my damp back against its shocking coolness, gasping.
With eager, trembling fingers I leafed through my book, the familiar pages sliding softly against my thumb like a caress until I reached my desired place. There I gasped again.
A pair of deep, dark eyes burnt into mine.
I pressed my back harder against the chilling glass pane and felt a rush of heat sweep through me. I had seen the portrait many times since discovering it a few months ago in a worn copy of collected paintings. I had slowly been making my way through the contents of the bookcase in the drawing-room, devouring each book as I went when I came across it. The corner of this particular unnamed portrait had been turned down, and it had caught my attention immediately.
Those eyes. They smoldered into mine, penetrating deep into my soul and laying bare my naked core. Upon first seeing them, I had felt a jolt of pleasure beneath my petticoat; a tingling throb that I wished I felt when I looked upon John Reed, but he did not compare.
Slowly my finger traced the figure's strong jaw-line, rubbing the smooth, crisp page. I did not even know his name. I imagined by his rich, black clothing and jeweled adornments that he must be wealthy and the way that he stood reclining against a paneled wall with his broad shoulders hunched made him appear arrogant and dangerous. The sweep of rough stubble across his chin and his unruly dark hair assured me that he would not be taken in by the neat, constrained prettiness of Eliza or Georgiana. His spirit desired a kindred wild, screaming soul.
A scarlet blush scorched my cheeks and a throb tore through my stomach. I put my hand to my chest, imagining it was his, and traced the delicate curve of my collarbone, leaving a burning trail across my skin. I tilted my head back, letting my mouth drop open as I pictured his full lips sweeping feather-light kisses over my neck. I moved my hand down lower, caressing the bodice of my dress, feeling myself swell in my stays.
Suddenly the breakfast-room door flew open and I jumped, snatching my hand away.
"Jane!" cried the voice of John Reed.
He paused, finding the room apparently empty.
"Jane?" he continued. "Where are you? Mother thought she saw you come in here. I am sorry I did not meet you at the willow trees but something came up. I am free now."
Relieved I had drawn the curtains, I fervently wished that he would not discover my hiding-place for I was still upset that we had not met under the willow trees. With my book balanced on my knee, those dark eyes still boring into me, I waited, pleading he would go away. I suspected that one of the serving maids was what had 'come up'. Master Reed had an unquenchable appetite and he was a fool if he thought I did not know about the others that laid down with him. He said that he loved me, but surely he would not seek solace in others if he did.
He was about to leave when Eliza suddenly burst into the room. "Are you looking for Jane?" she asked coyly. She had caught him once with his hand knotted in my hair and though she was young; but ten years old, she suspected something. "Jane is in the window-seat, to be sure, Jack," she said.
And I came out immediately, for I trembled at the idea of being dragged forth by the said Jack. He had a temper and if he knew I had ignored his whispered pleas, he would not be happy. I closed my book and tried to hide my secret lover in the folds of my dress.
"What do you want?" I asked.
"Say, 'What do you want, Master Reed?'" was the answer. He told me that he treated me harshly in front of his sisters to ensure secrecy, but I knew enough of his controlling ways to realise that this was not entirely so. I wished that he would always treat me as he did when we were alone and he was tenderly pressing his lips against every freckle across my chest.
"I want you to come here," he added, seating himself in an arm-chair. He intimated by a gesture that I was to approach and stand before him.
John Reed was a schoolboy of eighteen years old; two years older than I, for I was but sixteen, although treated as if I were much younger by Bessie and the rest of the household. He ought now to have been at school, but his mama had taken him home for a month or two, "on account of his delicate health." Mr. Miles, the master, affirmed that he would do very well if he had fewer cakes and sweetmeats sent him from home; but the mother's heart turned from an opinion so harsh, and inclined rather to the more refined idea that John's sallowness was owing to over-application and, perhaps, to pining after home.
Habitually obedient to John, I came up to his chair and he spent some three minutes staring at me and running his eye up and down my body as he was aware how I hated it. This was punishment for disobeying him just now and not showing myself when he called me.
I mused on the slightly ugly appearance of him compared to my dark-eyed lover. When he kissed me, I tried to forget it, but it was hard not to notice the slack nature of his jaw and the hardness of his eyes. My dark-eyed lover's dashing, rugged countenance slipped into my mind and I imagined that it was he standing in front of me instead, appraising my slight but lithe figure and the independence of my look.
"What were you doing behind the curtain?" he asked.
"I was reading."
"Show the book."
I felt a roaring in my ears and suddenly my knees trembled. I thought he noticed the change in my manner for a smile came across his face. He liked to unnerve me in front of his sisters and when we were alone. I think he liked to feel that he controlled me. Gently, I took the book out from the folds of my dress and he snatched it from me. Unfortunately, the page of my dark-eyed lover with the corner turned down piqued his interest and he turned to it first. Abruptly a jealous look gleamed in his eye, for he guessed I had been looking at that page and why.
"You have no business to take our books; you are a dependent," he growled. "Now, I'll teach you to rummage my bookshelves, for they are mine; all the house belongs to me, or will do in a few years. Go and stand by the door, out of the way of the mirror and the windows."
I did so, not at first aware what was his intention; but when I saw him lift and poise the book and stand in act to hurl it, I instinctively started aside with a cry of alarm. Not soon enough, however since the volume was flung and it hit me. I fell, striking my head against the door and cutting it. The cut bled, the pain was sharp and I jumped up, all terror gone. I could not believe that he had treated me thus, this was further than an act purely to hide our love from his sisters.
"Wicked and cruel boy!" I said.
"What! What!" he cried. "Did she say that to me? Did you hear her, Eliza and Georgiana? Won't I tell mama? But first—"
He ran headlong at me and I felt him grasp my hair and my shoulder. I shut my eyes and imagined it was my dark-eyed lover, clutching me as I had often dreamed he would late at night when everyone else was asleep. I felt a drop or two of blood from my head trickle down my neck, and I imagined him kissing them away with his full, smooth lips. He tugged a lock of my hair fiercely behind my head and I yelped. I became limp, allowing him to take me.
Plunged from my imagined embrace, a pair of strong hands dragged me backwards and I heard the words, "Dear! What a fury to fly at Master John!"
"Did ever anybody see such a picture of passion!"
Eliza and Georgiana had alerted their mother and a servant.
Still reeling from my fantasy, I stood panting and looking up into the eyes of Mrs. Reed.
"What has—" she began, before her gaze fell on the book, discarded on the floor.
Her eyebrows raised just enough for me to realise who had turned the corner of my dark-eyed lover. Her cheeks flushed and she glared at me, her grip on my shoulder tightening and the nails sinking deep into my skin.
"Take her away to the red-room, and lock her in there," she commanded.
Four hands were immediately laid upon me, and I was borne upstairs.
Excerpted from JANE EYROTICA by Charlotte Brontë Karena Rose Copyright © 2012 by Karena Rose. Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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