About the Author
Mia Gabriel is the pseudonym of a best-selling author of historical fiction. Lord Savage is her first book for St. Martin's Press. She lives with her family in Pennsylvania, where she working on her next erotic novel.
Read an Excerpt
There are nights when a crowded ballroom can be the loneliest place on earth, when every happy face belongs to a stranger and every smile is meant for another, and love is as fleeting as the latest waltz.
I had not made the long voyage from New York to London to be lonely like that. Yet, that was exactly how I felt as the Honorable Eustace Smithson led me through the dance, his feet only slightly less plodding than his conversation.
“I trust you find our weather agreeable, Mrs. Hart?” he said, the words barely making their way past his thick bristle of a mustache. “To be sure, London must seem quite different from America, where you are accustomed to tropical climes and palm trees and such.”
“Palm trees, Mr. Smithson?” I repeated, perplexed. I was trying to make the best of this evening, I truly was. “Perhaps to the south, in Florida, but I am from New York, and we New Yorkers know nothing of palm trees and tropics. Our weather is much the same as yours here, except that it doesn’t rain nearly as often, and we’ve never much fog to speak of.”
“Ah.” Mr. Smithson scowled and puckered his mouth beneath his mustache, clearly at a loss. “No fog and little rain. Well, well.”
“Indeed, Mr. Smithson, it is so.” I concentrated on keeping my smile bright and without the disappointment and dismay growing within me. “No fog at all.”
I hadn’t come to London to speak of the weather, either. Only a few weeks before, I’d at last put aside my dreary mourning for my husband and sailed to London with dozens of letters of introduction to the grandest ladies of English society. By New York standards, I’d traveled modestly: I was armed with only forty trunks of my most fashionable gowns and jewels, three maids, a private chef, and a secretary. The city’s society pages had breathlessly (and a bit disapprovingly) reported all the details of my trip, but only I had known the true purpose for my escape.
An escape was exactly what it was, too, my long-overdue escape from the solitude that had been my too-constant companion. Here in England I hoped to find all the things my stultifying marriage had denied me: adventure, freedom, excitement, independence, and intrigue.
Tonight was my first grand ball in Belgravia, at the home of the Viscount and Viscountess Carleigh, and I’d scarcely slept the night before from anticipation. Though the elegant company was brilliant with jewels and thick with titles, I had found myself trapped on the dance floor with one dull partner after another, a parade of gentlemen who saw me not as a woman but only as a prize.
“I say, Mrs. Hart,” Mr. Smithson said, his pale eyes popping as if struck with sudden inspiration. “I’d venture you’ve seen those palm trees yourself, haven’t you? I’d venture you’ve seen a great deal of that enormous America of yours, what with your father’s trains and all.”
I smiled, even as the sting of his predictable words jabbed at me. Of course he’d mention Father’s railroads. Everyone did, and they usually mentioned my late husband, Arthur, too. Arthur and Father together had created a vast fortune from iron and steel and other men’s sweat, an empire proudly documented by the maps in Father’s library in our Fifth Avenue mansion.
But to me the railroads represented only the impenetrable isolation of our family’s great wealth, of being the solitary passenger in a private train car muffled in red plush and mahogany. Too well I remembered my life as an only child, with neither brothers nor sisters for company, and even Mama had died so long ago that I’d no memory of her for consolation, nothing beyond the stiff and formal portrait that hung in the drawing room of our Fifth Avenue house.
Father had spoken of the railroads as if they were his true family, his face lighting up in a way it never did for me. The intricacies of his ever-spreading empire were what had mattered most to him. If it hadn’t been for the railroads, then Father wouldn’t have forced me to marry his partner when I was seventeen and Arthur Hart forty years my senior. I hated the railroads and always had. Because of them, I’d never had a chance at being happy—until now.
“Railroads are the future,” Mr. Smithson was saying, blissfully unaware of my thoughts. “You must be proud of your father’s achievements for the betterment of your country.”
“What you mean to say, Mr. Smithson, is that I should be proud of my father’s money,” I said, my voice tart though I smiled still. “That is your real reason for dancing with me, is it not? Not because I myself am of any true interest to you, but because of the dollars I represent.”
Mr. Smithson’s mouth fell open with astonishment. “Not at all, Mrs. Hart!” he protested. “You are most charming, ma’am, and such delightful company that I am honored to have this dance.”
“Thank you, Mr. Smithson,” I said. “But what a pity it is that I cannot say the same of you. Now if you will please excuse me.”
I turned and left him, slipping gracefully between the other dancers. Some turned to look, surprised and curious, but I didn’t care. I was twenty-five, and at last I was my own woman. I was done with pretending to be meek and obliging, and as I walked through the crowd I kept my head high and my expression serene. I’d no wish to return to the acquaintances who’d brought me to the ball, and instead I stepped through the tall open doors to the gallery that overlooked the garden. The shadowy figures of other guests were visible at the far end of the gallery, but they weren’t looking for company, nor was I.
With a sigh of frustration, I rested my gloved hands on the stone balustrade and stared out into the moonlit formal garden.
Where were the handsome and worldly gentlemen whom I’d come to London to find? Where were the charming, seductive rogues whom I’d read of in novels, the dashing noblemen with generations of hauteur and breeding to give them the confidence not to be intimidated by the power of my wealth?
I’d hoped to find men who possessed the strength to match my own spirit, or even surpass it. Yet so far all I’d found were the same sorry breed of males that I’d left behind in New York, an uninspiring lot of self-centered dolts and impoverished younger sons who were attracted only to my fortune, not to me. Where was the adventure, the intrigue, the men, and (most daring of all!) the love that I’d so desperately hoped to find?
One man, that was all I wished for, but it was the single thing that all the money left by my father and husband couldn’t buy. One man who’d be drawn to me for who I was as a woman, not as an heiress. One man who would become my friend, my partner, my lover, in every way that mattered.
I sighed again, slowly opening my ostrich-plume fan. I knew I should return to the ball. There was nothing to be gained by remaining here, alone in the dark.
Then suddenly I realized I wasn’t alone. There was a rustling in the bushes in the garden below, the breathy little cries of a woman and the deeper voice of a man. Frowning, I shifted a few steps along the balustrade to see if I could discover the source of the sounds.
As soon as I saw the pair, I knew I should look away, and yet I didn’t. I couldn’t. I had never observed anyone else … coupling like this, and I was shocked and fascinated and oddly excited, all at the same time.
The gentleman—for from his impeccably tailored evening clothes, he surely was a gentleman—held his partner by her bare hips, her lace-trimmed petticoats thrown over her body and head. Her silk drawers were puddled around her ankles, and the jeweled buckles on her garters sparkled above her blue silk stockings. A lady, then, and likely a beauty, confident enough to be so daringly engaged. Bent over the back of a garden bench, her buttocks gleamed pearly white in the moonlight, and with her legs parted for the gentleman’s convenience, the rosy petals of her most private self blossomed like a midnight rose. Her cries were soft and mewling, muffled beneath her skirts as well as by the strains of the waltz drifting through the open windows.
The lady’s face was hidden and her identity with it, but I didn’t care. All that mattered to me—all that I saw, really—was the gentleman. His face was hidden by the garden’s shadowy branches, leaving me with only his back and arms to consider, well muscled and powerful even though shrouded by the civility of his evening coat.
I could hear him better now, too, not his exact words, but his voice, a low, deep rumble of desire and seduction to the woman beneath him. I didn’t have to know the words to feel them, and the masculine mixture of coaxing praise and command that made me shiver.
He had remained clothed, only unfastening his trousers to free the magnificence of his cock. The moonlight spilled upon that, too, thick and strong as it drove hard into the lady, and glistening wetly with her juices. He fucked—for that vulgar word seemed so much more apt than the mealy lovemaking—her purposefully, masterfully, with an unyielding rhythm, nearly withdrawing the full length of his cock, teasing her with the thick, blunt tip before driving deep again, making her cry out and arch with undeniable pleasure. He paused, buried deep, to let her feel his presence, and with obvious appreciation swept his hands from the swell of her hips to the narrowness of her corseted waist and back, his thumbs tracing along her spine. He began to move again, thrusting hard, and impatiently he tossed his hair back from his forehead: black hair in the moonlight, as sleek as a raven’s wing over the white collar of his shirt.
My lips parted as I watched, my quickening breath betraying my own growing arousal. This was the kind of man I had imagined finding here in England, the kind of man who would think first of passion, not railroads.
My nipples tightened above the top of my corset, my breasts aching to be caressed as they pressed against the delicate silk of my gown. The gentleman’s cock fascinated me, so ruddy and pulsing with virility. Restlessly I pressed my thighs together, feeling the heat growing in my own empty passage in sympathy, even envy.
The gentleman quickened his movements, not bothering to hide his groans of rising passion as he pounded against the woman. Arthur had always insisted on complete silence and tedious decorum in our bedroom, but this gentleman was shameless both in how completely he used and possessed his partner and in how he clearly did not give a damn if anyone saw or heard them together.
No wonder I leaned farther over the balustrade, desperately wishing I were the one he desired, the one bent over that bench, feeling his fingers holding tightly to my hips, bracing myself against the pounding thrust of that cock as he—
“Ah, here you are, Mrs. Hart,” said the Viscountess Carleigh as she appeared through the tall doors to join me on the gallery. “I rather wondered where you had vanished to, but one of the footmen said he’d seen you go outside. Are you not enjoying your evening?”
Swiftly I left the balustrade, hoping the other woman would not realize that I’d been such an eager and shameless voyeur. Although as an American I wasn’t required to defer to English nobility, I still sank into a graceful curtsey to the viscountess to be polite, and also to give myself another few seconds to collect myself.
“My lady,” I murmured, keeping my head bowed until the viscountess motioned for me to rise, and to reply. “On the contrary, Lady Carleigh, I have been enjoying the evening immensely. But the company has been so brilliant that I became a bit overwhelmed, and required a fresh breath of night air to recover.”
Lady Carleigh smiled, benignly accepting my social fib for what it was. Considered the epitome of aristocratic beauty, the viscountess had a flawless complexion and masses of auburn hair, but what most men noticed first was her voluptuous figure, which not even the strictest of corsets could fully subdue. She was a particular favorite of King Edward, and I’d heard rumors that she’d shared his majesty’s royal bed. The viscountess was definitely part of the fast, fashionable set around the king, a lady who clearly did whatever she pleased, and exactly the kind of person that I had wished most to meet here in London.
“I did not believe New Yorkers were overwhelmed by anything,” Lady Carleigh said, bemused. Lightly she fingered the thick dog collar of pearls around her throat. “Unless, perhaps, it was the number of eager young bucks you had surrounding you in the ballroom.”
I smiled, too, one beautiful woman speaking nonsense to another.
“There was a crush of them, yes,” I admitted. “Doubtless I am the novelty of the evening, the poor widow lady fresh from America.”
Lady Carleigh chuckled, her gaze taking in my silk evening gown by Worth and the diamonds around my throat and wrists and pinned into my dark hair.
“You are too modest, my dear Mrs. Hart,” she said. “There is nothing poor about you, as everyone knows perfectly well. You are the enchanting merry widow who has sailed among us on a wave of gold. True, you have youth and beauty to recommend you as well, but money is always most alluring to eager bachelors. You need only look at the success of the former Misses Astor and Vanderbilt. I’ve no doubt you’ll be engaged to some dashing peer of your own by the end of the season.”
“Forgive me, my lady, but you misunderstand,” I said, determined not to leave such a grievous misconception hanging between us. “I have neither wish nor need of another husband, even one with a title.”
“None?” Lady Carleigh asked archly, not believing me.
I shook my head. “My first marriage was not a love match, but an alliance for trade, contrived by my father to cement his business assets. My late husband was a distant, dispassionate gentleman, and I shed no tears at his death. Now that I have at last earned my independence, I refuse to be shackled to another tyrant in trousers. I wish for—for something more.”
“Heavens, such a speech,” said Lady Carleigh, more than a little condescending in the way that the English often were. She raised her brows as she openly appraised me. “You American women are so very frank.”
“Indeed I am, Lady Carleigh.” I wouldn’t apologize for what I’d said. I’d only spoken the truth. I had been forced to sacrifice my youth and innocence to a much older man who’d no use for either quality, and I was determined to make up for the time I had lost in my loveless marriage. Once again I thought of the gentleman in the garden below, the man who was as tempting to me as the Devil himself.
“Your fortune-hunting bachelors are quite safe from me, my lady,” I continued. “I have spent my first twenty-five years pleasing others. Now I am determined to please only myself.”
Before the viscountess answered, the gentleman in the garden suddenly roared with his release, a deep, guttural sound of such purely male satisfaction that it made me gasp, more with longing than surprise. Lady Carleigh hurried across the stone flags of the gallery to lean over the balustrade in the place that I had discovered earlier.
“Oh, that must be Savage,” the viscountess declared, peering into the shadows. “I would recognize his triumphant war cry anywhere.”
“‘Savage’?” I repeated, unable to keep from joining Lady Carleigh at the balustrade. Clearly I needn’t have feared that she would find offense or mortification in the sight of the two lovers. Instead, the viscountess appeared as eager as I had been to glimpse the couple below. “‘Savage’? He is dressed quite like a gentleman, so I assumed that—”
“Hush, hush, there he is,” the viscountess said eagerly, lowering her voice to a whisper and motioning for me to do the same. “That is the Earl of Savage, my dear, Savage by name, and likewise by inclination. There is such an air of danger about him that makes him quite irresistible, as any woman who has been possessed by him will attest. Ah, what a splendidly male beast!”
She spoke with such authority that I wondered if Lady Carleigh herself had been one of the women possessed by this same lord. In New York, such an appraisal would have been unspeakably shocking, but here it seemed only one more worldly observation. I had been presented to the viscountess only a few hours before, and now here I was being her confidante in a most intimate—and most fascinating—conversation.
I craned my neck to see over Lady Carleigh’s shoulder. To my disappointment, Lord Savage had already tucked his member back into his trousers, and was standing to one side while his partner sat on the bench and attempted to put her disordered dress back to rights.
Finally the lady rose, still patting her hair. But no matter how many small repairs she made to her appearance, she wouldn’t be able to change the expression of wanton satisfaction on her face, her eyes heavy-lidded and her mouth swollen with it. If she returned to the ballroom now, there wouldn’t be a man or a woman who wouldn’t guess immediately what she’d been doing in the garden. From the adoring way she was gazing at the gentleman, she didn’t seem to care if all of London knew it.
He reached out and brushed back a stray lock of her hair, tucking it back into place. He said something that made her laugh, and then bent to kiss her quickly. She tucked her hand into his arm, and together they vanished into the shadows.
Lady Carleigh straightened, and nodded briskly.
“Lady Cynthia Telford, used and discarded once again,” she said with obvious relish. “A sorry creature who grovels for male attention—completely unworthy of Savage. He knows it, too. Contempt mixed with carnality never makes for a pretty dish, nor one to be savored at length.”
As my thoughts were still occupied with Savage, I said nothing. Lady Carleigh’s dismissive comments surprised me. Savage hadn’t appeared exactly contemptuous, considering the way he’d seen to Lady Telford’s satisfaction as well as his own, nor had the lady acted as if she’d been either used or discarded. Far from it—so far, in fact, that I would have given much to trade places with her in a heartbeat. I wanted this kind of intimacy, this kind of trust, this kind of passion, with a man like Lord Savage.
No, I wanted it with Lord Savage.
“They are not lovers?” I asked carefully, not wanting to betray too much.
“Those two?” Lady Carleigh chuckled, still gazing into the now-empty garden. “Hardly. She was a passing amusement for him last summer, and it would appear she longs to renew their affaire. But it’s clear that Savage has no interest in that, or in her, despite what we have just seen. He is a restless man, one who lives for the thrill of the hunt. It will take a far more interesting woman than Lady Telford to capture him.”
A strong wave of relief swept through me, but still I needed to make certain I hadn’t misinterpreted.
“You are sure, my lady?” I asked. “I thought Lord Savage seemed rather charmed by her ladyship.”
“Oh, I am sure there is nothing between them, Mrs. Hart.” Lady Carleigh turned away from the garden to study me shrewdly. “But tell me, my dear. Exactly how much of that little engagement did you witness? No false modesty, now. You were already watching when I found you here, weren’t you? How much did you see of Lord Savage’s, um, equipage? Enough to engage your own fancy?”
I looked evenly at the viscountess. There was nothing to be gained by denial, and yet my nature was to hold back, to retreat to the safety of privacy, especially from someone who was, really, still a stranger. To confide like this was a risk, and yet, if I didn’t, this opportunity might be lost.
“What did I see of him, Lady Carleigh?” I repeated slowly. “Why, I saw … everything.”
“Quite everything, my dear?” Lady Carleigh smiled, thoughtfully trailing her furled fan along the curve of her cheek. “A sufficiency to inspire you to long to see more?”
I opened my fan again, the ivory blades clicking softly one by one as the ostrich plumes fluttered apart. I was acutely aware of the significance of her answer. With the scandalous Lady Carleigh to lead me, doors to every kind of adventure—including those that I’d still no words to describe—might swing open to welcome me.
“I have been inspired, yes,” I said cautiously, sharing more than I’d dreamed possible of myself, but far less than Lady Carleigh obviously expected. “But I am still such a newcomer to your country, and hope to be similarly inspired many more times in the course of my visit here.”
Lady Carleigh laughed. “Oh, you shall, Mrs. Hart, you shall. I have taken an instant liking to you, my dear, and I am sure we shall become the fastest of friends. Now come with me, and let us see what manner of inspiration we can arrange for you this very evening.”
We returned to the ballroom together, and at once we were both carried off to the dancing by eager partners. Yet, as one dance led to another, and a new partner with it, I became aware of a change in the gentlemen asking me to dance, and it was clear that my new friend Lady Carleigh had already kept her promise.
Gone were the callow bachelors my own age and younger, respectfully wooing me as a future wife and investment. In their place were a different kind of gentlemen, confident men in the powerful prime of their lives who made little secret of their desire not for marriage but for seduction. Each open look of appraisal, each suggestive whisper in my ear, excited me further. I had always thought the waltz a slightly insipid dance, but now I wished the orchestra would play forever.
“You must come riding with me in Hyde Park,” my current partner was saying. He was an officer in a splendid uniform that emphasized his broad chest and the numerous medals that hung there. “You Americans do ride, eh, Mrs. Hart?”
“Of course we do, Colonel Roberts,” I said, willing to acknowledge the obvious double entendre to his question. The colonel had potential, enough that I saw no harm in encouraging him. “I have always enjoyed the feel of a high-mettled steed beneath me.”
The officer laughed heartily, his teeth showing beneath his clipped mustache. “I’d wager you do, Mrs. Hart. How I’d like to see you well mounted when—”
“Stand aside, Roberts,” interrupted another man, tapping the colonel on the shoulder. “This is my dance with the lady.”
To me this seemed the very height of rudeness, especially since I was enjoying the colonel’s risqué banter. But as soon as I turned to confront the interloper, my rebuff vanished. I’d never seen this man’s face before, yet I knew him immediately.
“Now, Roberts,” the newcomer said, faintly bored, his manner belonging to a man accustomed to being obeyed. “There are plenty of other ladies who will welcome your leaden style of flirtation.”
The colonel scowled and glared, clearly considering standing his ground and defending it. But he, too, knew the other man’s identity and his rank with it, both sufficient to take precedence over his own pride. The colonel had no choice, really. He bowed curtly in concession and backed away, abandoning me to the other man.
The other man: no, he was the only man, making all the others in the room fade away and vanish in my eyes.
He was taller than the colonel, tall enough that by merit of his height alone he would stand out in any gathering of ordinary men. His hair was black and sleek, his eyes hooded with ennui, and, ignoring the fashion for mustaches and beards set by the king, his jaw was so clean-shaven as to gleam faintly blue-black. His face was severe, all bones and hard planes, and in contrast his mouth was sensually full.
His features could be called patrician, and indeed he was by birth an aristocrat. But there was also a ruthlessness to his expression that did not belong on a man who had been born to wealth and privilege. Rather it was the rapacious look of a man who would take whatever he wanted, no matter the cost or the risk, and never be denied.
It was the look of the man that I had always desired without realizing it. Why not, when it felt as if I’d been waiting my entire life for this exact moment?
“Lord Savage,” I murmured. “I am honored.”
I began to dip into a curtsey. He, however, did not wish to wait for such a nicety. Now, I was neither small nor delicate, yet he swept me up into his arms and back into the waltz and the center of the crowded ballroom, leading me away with such authority that I’d no choice but to follow.
I felt both captured and captivated, and as I gazed up at his handsome face, I felt as dazzled as any schoolgirl. His eyes were pale, blue and gray and the color of mist, and ringed with dark lashes. Beautiful, mysterious eyes with a startling intensity, a gaze that could equally intimidate and fascinate.
“I must compliment you, my lord,” I said, more breathlessly than I wished. Striving to recover my composure, I glanced down from his face to the beautifully knotted white silk tie at his throat.
The collar of his dress shirt sat precisely against his neck, with the black superfine of his evening coat tailored to perfection over his broad shoulders. To all the world, he was the epitome of a civilized English lord, yet as his large fingers completely enveloped my hand and I felt the heat of his palm through my gloves, I was reminded of what he’d done, what I’d witnessed, not an hour before.
“You are an excellent dancer, my lord,” I said. “I am fortunate to have you as a partner.”
He nodded in acknowledgment but did not smile. “I demand excellence of myself in all things, Mrs. Hart, no matter how trifling.”
I smiled anyway, determined to charm him as I’d charmed all the others. “I can tell that of you already, my lord.”
“How?” he asked. His voice was deep and rich, the kind of voice that could charm with only a handful of words. “From spying upon me earlier this evening?”
I caught my breath with surprise. “Did Lady Carleigh tell you that—”
“She did not,” he said. “There was no need. I saw you myself, Mrs. Hart, leaning over the railing for a better prospect.”
Speechless, I blushed furiously, looking away from his face to my white-gloved hand on his shoulder. I’d expected him to be angered by what I’d done, but instead he sounded almost amused, in a dry and very English manner.
“Is that how you entertain yourself?” he continued. “Watching, instead of participating? Is that what gives you the most pleasure? To be a voyeur?”
“I—I do not know what you mean, my lord,” I stammered. In truth I had never before observed others making love, because I had never had the opportunity. This had been the first time, and though I had enjoyed it immensely, I was not going to confess that to him. “I had stepped out of doors for air, and heard, ah, curious sounds in the bushes.”
“The sounds of a man taking a woman?” he said, bemused, as he deftly guided me through the steps of the dance even as my feet would have stumbled. His voice dropped a fraction lower, his words more confidential and meant for my ears alone. “As a married woman, Mrs. Hart, you must surely have recognized the nature of those ‘curious sounds.’ If you were drawn to them, then they must have intrigued you, and made you wish to see more. Perhaps you even imagined yourself making those same curious noises, unable to stop, nor wanting to.”
His audacity stunned me, as did the frankness with which he spoke of such matters. I had wished for adventure, true, but I had not expected him—or any gentleman here tonight—to speak so directly to me, without the genteel gloss of a witty double meaning.
“I am sorry, my lord,” I said, striving to draw the conversation back into my control, “but I do not believe that is a suitable topic for this company, in this house.”
He laughed softly, a deep, rumbling sound in his chest that I found appallingly seductive.
“I can assure you, Mrs. Hart,” he said, “that this house has been a haven to far, far less suitable pastimes, performed by this same company, than what you witnessed earlier.”
“Does your assurance come from experience, my lord?” I said defensively. “Was that scene in the garden only one of many in your past?”
“Is that what you imagine of me, Mrs. Hart? Is your fervid mind envisioning such a scene even now?”
Sharply I drew in my breath, for in fact I was imagining exactly that. Was I truly so—so transparent? He was toying with me, teasing me, twisting my words around for my own entertainment, and I did not like it.
“You flatter yourself, my lord,” I said, “if you believe that I would devote my thoughts so exclusively to your—your dalliances.”
“‘Dalliances,’” he repeated, faintly mocking. “I do not dally, Mrs. Hart. As our acquaintance grows, you’ll discover that I am far more purposeful than that.”
“Indeed, my lord.” I swallowed, and licked my lips, which had suddenly grown dry. “But only if I cared sufficiently to make such findings.”
He raised a single dark brow. “What a singular show of spirit, Mrs. Hart.”
If having spirit meant I must challenge him, I’d do so. “I’m American, my lord. Spirit has been bred into me.”
“I have met a good many American women, Mrs. Hart,” he said, “and none of them have possessed what you call spirit to the degree that you appear to do. You are, in fact, not like any of them at all.”
I couldn’t tell if this was intended as a compliment or not. “You are exceptionally bold in your judgment of me, my lord, given that our entire acquaintance has been the length of this waltz.”
“Not at all, Mrs. Hart,” he said easily, ignoring the rebuff in my words. “Judgments, true judgments, can be made in an instant. I can see that you are not like the other American women, nor are you like the English ladies languishing in little groups about this room. You are not afraid of being alone. You are independent, a renegade, and you answer only to yourself. Is that not so?”
I caught my breath again, stunned that he had in fact assessed me with such accuracy. I’d never been a girl surrounded by a pack of giggling friends, and because of my solitary upbringing, I’d accepted my lack of close acquaintance, even embraced it as I’d grown older. Yet how had he guessed?
“You are silent, Mrs. Hart,” he continued when I didn’t answer. “You believe I have insulted you.”
“No, my lord,” I said, striving to recover. “Although to be called a recreant is hardly flattering to a lady.”
“I called you a renegade, Mrs. Hart,” he said. “A recreant acts from craven cowardice, but a renegade has made a conscious choice to exist beyond convention and expectations.”
“I see I must choose my words with more care, my lord,” I said, deftly avoiding admitting how correct his estimation had been. “You speak with a pedagogue’s precision.”
“I speak from experience, Mrs. Hart.” His eyes were intent upon me, holding my gaze. “I consider myself to be a renegade as well. It is the reason we are drawn to one another. The Turks would call it kismet.”
I shivered, feeling too vulnerable. To blame what I was feeling on kismet, on fate, seemed so easy and pat, and yet I had no better explanation myself for why I felt so inexorably drawn to him.
“I am disappointed, my lord,” I said, determined to regain some semblance of control—of myself, if not of him. “Only the most callow of ballroom swains invoke fate as a way to win a lady’s favor. Americans believe in plain speaking.”
“Then speak plainly to me, Mrs. Hart,” he said, unaffected by my reproof, “and I shall speak plainly to you. Did watching me arouse you? Did your pulse quicken, your breath catch? Did your nipples stiffen and ache? Did your cunt tighten and grow wet with desire for my cock, Mrs. Hart?”
I stared into his pale eyes, shocked that he would dare say such words to me in the middle of a crowded Belgravia ballroom, the blunt vulgarities all the more potent in his aristocratic accent.
Yet what stunned me more was how my body was responding exactly as he described, now, as I danced with him. Beneath the layers of lace and silk petticoats, I felt shamefully wet, swollen, and empty.
My sex wept for his cock. There was no other way to describe it. With each gliding step I took, my now-damp thighs rubbed together, then released, a gentle friction transformed into an inadvertent caress that was growing increasingly unbearable. My breasts felt full and heavy as they pressed against the bones of my corset. As much as I was trying to assert myself against his arrogance, my body was shamelessly betraying the excitement that same arrogance roused in me.
“You are silent again, Mrs. Hart,” he said, the most ordinary observation in the world under other circumstances. “What has become of your plain speaking now, I wonder?”
He was watching me closely beneath his dark lashes, seeing far more than I wished him to. Resisting the spell that he’d cast over me, I looked away to search for the acquaintances who had brought me in their carriage tonight.
If I parted from him now, the way I had earlier from Mr. Smithson, there would be a minor scandal and fuss, but it would be preferable to remaining here to listen to—
To what? The most devastatingly seductive man I had ever met, saying the exact forbidden things to me that I’d always wished a man would say? If his words alone could do this to me, what would it be like to feel those hands on my bare flesh and that cock driving its way deep into my body?
“Mrs. Hart?” I thought he sensed my wish to escape, as his hand tightened around my slender, corseted waist to hold me fast. “I await your reply, Mrs. Hart.”
“Yes,” I blurted out abruptly, yes to the truth, yes to everything he’d asked of me and other things he hadn’t. I felt dizzy, almost light-headed, with my heartbeat thundering in my ears. Suddenly the waltz ended, leaving me wondering if he’d somehow planned it this way all along.
“Thank you, Mrs. Hart,” he said, bowing like every other gentleman. “For the pleasure of this … dance.”
For the first time, he smiled. His eyes lost their wolfish intensity, his expression softened, and he looked much younger. He offered me his arm and I took it, clasping tightly to his well-muscled arm as he guided me across the floor.
I supposed I was grateful for his support, considering how my knees wobbled beneath me. I could not begin to explain what had just happened between us, and I was conscious of how, for the first time all evening, no other gentleman stepped forward to ask to dance with me next. Instead they all hung back, watching me with Lord Savage, as if he’d made some kind of unspoken, primitive claim on me that the other men understood and respected.
And in spite of how warm I’d become from the dance and his nearness, I shivered again.
“Ah, Mrs. Hart,” Lady Carleigh said, smiling over her spread fan. “How glad I am that Lord Savage has brought you back to me!”
Savage smiled in acknowledgment and slipped his arm free of my hand. At once I felt not only unsteady but bereft. Was the earl done with me, then? One dance and a single wicked conversation, and that was all?
“I was only now telling Lord Carleigh how much I enjoyed your company earlier, Mrs. Hart,” the viscountess continued, waving vaguely toward her husband. “He suggested that I invite you to join us next week for a sojourn in the country. We intend to make a small party of it at Wrenton—that’s our place in Hampshire. We all do what we please, with whom we please, and because we all swear one another to silence, it’s all great fun, and no tedious regrets afterwards. No more than twenty, carefully chosen to exclude the bores.”
“Oh, of course,” I murmured. “Bores can be so—so boring.”
“Exactly,” said Lady Carleigh, chuckling. “Besides, I do detest a huge crowd. It destroys the intimacy of the country, don’t you agree?”
I nodded. With the London season coming to an end, the nobility retreated to their country houses for the hunting season and for visiting one another’s estates. I’d already received a small pile of invitations from other noble hostesses, but none was as intriguing as Lady Carleigh’s.
“You must not hesitate, Mrs. Hart,” said Lord Savage, his voice deep and confidential. “The viscountess’s house parties are most extraordinary. You will not be disappointed.”
I turned to face him. “Will you be a member of the party at Wrenton, Lord Savage?”
He held my gaze for a long moment—long enough to tantalize me. I understood, and so did he.
“If you will be there, Mrs. Hart,” he said at last, “then nothing would keep me away.”
Kismet, I thought, certain he was thinking the same.
Copyright © 2014 by Mia Gabriel
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was a very different kind of Historical Romance that I think most of us are used to reading. It was very much a BDSM kind of book. I'm not exactly sure whether I really liked it or not and I don't know whether or not I will read another books in this series. It had some really good sex scenes but many of them were on the verge of being really sleezey and vulgar. Some of this book was a little out of my personal comfort range, and I don't mean the sex either. The submissive nature of the female lead and how she was always so concerned with how he was going to respond or what he thought of her, just doesn't mix well with me.
Well that wasn’t quite what I anticipated when I picked Lord Savage as my historical romance read for the month … and no that is not a complaint. I’m much more accustomed to the demure historical romances in which an unmarried female alone in a man’s company is cause for scandal if he’s not a blood relative. But I must admit that I found this work of historical erotica to be a rather stimulating example of the sub-genre. Of course, we still have the trappings of a typical historical romance with the aristocracy, the sheltered heroine, the titled rake, the villain, and the gossiping servants, but the bulk of the book takes place during a hedonistic week in the country in which the Protector “schools” the Innocent (a newcomer to the parties) on the pleasurable delights of the human body. I found that having an American heiress as the sheltered heroine to be a delightful twist and that despite having been married, she was still quite innocent when it came to sex, but I suppose that’s what happens when a 17 year-old is married off to her father’s business partner who is 40 years her senior. As for the manner in which Eve first encounters Lord Savage, let’s just say that it set the tone for the remainder of the book. Lord Savage, of course, is all that I would expect from the hero in a regency romance – arrogant British nobility with just a bit of an edge that makes him irresistible to all women – in short, a rake. Because of the nature of “The Game” there is a LOT of sex in Lord Savage, which is why I would categorize it as erotica. While the sex is most definitely hot, it is the developing relationship between Eve and Lord Savage that has me ready to read the next book in the trilogy now. Speaking of, this is a trilogy and while the ending is not a cliffhanger per se, I was unprepared for it thus making it a definite “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” moment. Initially I was rating this as a four-star read, but it is has become clear to me as I wrote this review that I will definitely reread Lord Savage again as I await the release of book two. Well done Ms. Gabriel and please write quickly. I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Reviewed by Angela at Crystal's Many Reviewers!
I'd never felt so vulnerable, at once both lost and found, as I now did sprawled across Savage in this foolish throne-chair. His strength was my solace, my comfort, and there was nothing better than hearing the beating of his heart beneath my ear. Once trapped in a loveless, pleasure-less marriage, Evelyn Hard leaves her home in New York for the glittering ballrooms of London. However, when she arrives she meets the Earl of Savage, a dark, powerful man who seems to live up to his name, despite his noble trappings, a man who possesses her with just one look. Soon Evelyn finds herself pulled into Savage's world—a world of passion unlike any she has ever experienced. Evelyn's heart is captured with no hope of escape. But can they overcome the tortures of the past together? Savage never imagined someone like Evelyn walking into his life. As soon as he sees her he knows he must have her, no matter the cost. Review: When I picked this story from Netgalley, I had no idea it was a trilogy....Phooey! Now I have to wait until next year for the next book. It was a good book, was it my favorite erotic historical? No, but I enjoyed it and it kept me engrossed until the very end. I liked Evelyn "Eve", I appreciated that she was finally free of her husband and father and is young and wants to experience life. She questions everything and is basically a bratty sub. Savage, I still have mixed feelings for him at this point. He came off as not the best "Master or Dom", he let Eve get away with a lot. I equate it to his experience with his dead wife. I think he does really care and want Eve, he is just so confused and fighting his feelings. So many times their miss-communication lead them to stupid fights that I just wanted to smack both of them up-side the head. The story was full of sexiness and really liked when they were not thinking too hard and enjoyed themselves and each other. The ending has a happy ending for now, it was there that I found I had not paid attention about this being a trilogy. The mechanics of the story was good and you can tell the author has experience in writing historicals. Well, now to wait almost an entire year for the next book...ugh, really June of next year. 3Stars
Loved this story!!
Lush And Decadent Evelyn Hart has finally broken free from her life in America, a lonely one that was defined, first by a father, and then by a husband. Now at twenty-five, a beautiful widow and heiress of a vast fortune, she desperately wants to shed all the constraints that has ruled her in high society New York. Settling in England, she hopes to experience things denied her in marriage: adventure, freedom, excitement, independence and intrigue. Specifically, sexual pleasure which Evelyn has not truly experienced since being married to an older husband. After stealing a glimpse of a couple “rutting” in the gardens while at a ball, Evelyn can’t deny the arousal and excitement she feels as she watches. That, is exactly what she means to explore. Lady Carleigh joins Evelyn, noticing how interested she is after Savage is identified as the man in the garden. Lady Carleigh invites Evelyn to her country manor for an unconventional house party, with a promise that Lord Savage will attend. There, Evelyn is determined to make up for lost time and lose herself in sexual amusement with Savage as her tutor. Lord Savage is an erotic historical romance at its finest. From the first page until the end, I was mesmerized by this gem of a story because it pushed all the right buttons for me. When it comes to erotic historical romance I expect a titillating story with chemistry, intensity and emotion, that is well thought out. Ms. Gabriel gives us that, in spades, with Lord Savage, and much more. Her writing is flawless, and her descriptions are lush and beyond beautiful. I saw places and felt emotion as if I were there. And she gives us two desperately flawed and complex characters, Evelyn Hart and Lord Savage. I loved the engaging narrative, as written in Eve’s POV, as she laid out the week of debauchery while members played the game of “Protectors and Innocents”. Eve’s passionate seduction by Savage as Protector is more than she bargained for, and she was truly the Innocent, as untried and inexperienced as she was. Savage is unabashedly alpha male, he exudes power, confidence in a sexual manner, and dominance as he takes Eve in hand for her lessons. There are times I felt Eve’s confusion over Savage’s behavior and aloof attitude while he struggled to control his inner demons. Throw in an unsavory character in the house party who wants Eve for his own dark and twisted designs, and Savage is forced to possess and protect her as his. Eve is surprised that Savage makes her feel desired and treasured. Lord Savage is a perfect blend of light kink, conflict, intrigue and lots of hot, inventive sexual scenes. I thoroughly enjoyed reading a beautiful, smartly written story, and highly recommend it to fans who like a lot of heat in their historical romance. I can’t wait for book two in the continuing story of Eve and Savage. Great job, Ms. Gabriel. Copy provided by Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. My rating: 5