Beneath Lily Layton’s sweet and charming exterior beats the heart of a vixen—one with shocking and scandalous secrets and desires. But as a genteel lady, she confines her forbidden fantasies, like those about her employer’s devastatingly handsome son, to her diary…until she loses it.
Oliver Carlyle, Marquess of Ambrose, has finally found the perfect wife, a woman who will not hide from his dark, carnal cravings. He just needs to figure out who she is. When he has a secret rendezvous with a mysterious stranger, suddenly he starts to believe she might be the author of the diary.
He’s determined to find out who his mystery woman is…
His biggest fear—and deepest fantasy—is she may be the one woman he cannot have.
Each book in the Sweetest Taboo series is STANDALONE:
* Sin and Ink by Naima Simone
* Passion and Ink by Naima Simone
* The Scandalous Diary of Lily Layton by Stacy Reid
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Hampshire, England Belgrave Manor
The small, dark brown leather book appeared quite innocuous until one dared to fold back the worn cover and skim the first few pages. Oliver Simon Carlyle, the ninth Marquess of Ambrose, had been reading the same entry for the past several minutes, unable to credit the words written in such elegant, flowing script. Absolutely nothing at all indicated the lascivious and shockingly arousing content of what had revealed itself to be a diary of the most scandalous sort.
My husband, God rest his soul, said my desires are abhorrent and unladylike and had admonished me most severely. I tried so hard to be proper, but it seems I am destined to be damned. Last evening, I stood in the eastern secret passage in Belgrave manor and watched as Lord R parted his lover's legs and licked her glistening slit. Lady W screamed, grabbed his head, and rocked onto his face. She appeared so wild and so wonderfully free.
To my utter shame and pleasure, I got wet, so achingly wet. I ran as quietly as possible through the hidden passage to my chamber and flung myself under the covers. God help me, I touched myself. I was not ladylike ... I thrust two fingers deep into my slippery channel and —
Oliver closed the slim black leather volume softly, a harsh breath hissing through his lips. He had been reading the diary for the last hour, unable to stop, though he was consciously aware these were the private thoughts of someone who would never have shared such private and wanton feelings with him. Or anyone else, for that matter.
These were the deepest secrets of a lady attending his mother's weeklong house party. The party had, in truth, been at his request, so that he could view a potential bride in an intimate setting instead of the more public marriage marts of the season. If Oliver recalled accurately, there were only fifty guests in attendance, and at least thirty were of the fairer sex. Now he was consumed with one question: who was the author?
The idea that a lady of the ton, even if she was a widow, had written such thoughts was positively indecent, and — since he was being honest — vastly intriguing and titillating to his jaded tastes.
With a rough scoff, he dropped the diary onto the stone bench on which he reposed. He would leave it where he'd found it, and possibly the owner would retrace her steps and recover it soon. Clearly, it had not been left to the elements and discovery for long. A light rain had fallen earlier in the morning, and the pages of the diary were dry ... and arousing ... and sinful.
Cursing himself virulently for his weakness, Oliver grabbed it and randomly picked a page.
Sir Elliot offered for me today. I confess to being surprised, for though he paid calls upon me a few times, the baronet never expressed a romantic attachment of any sort. There is a distinct appeal to remarrying a man who already has his heir. I would once again be the mistress of my own home, and I would have the amiable companionship of Sir Elliot, without the expectation to produce issue, since he has his heir, a spare, and the most delightful little girl. If only he were not twice my age and more of a father figure to me. It is quite distressing to imagine running my tongue over his chest and down to his manhood as I had attempted with dear Robert. Perhaps Sir Elliot would be similarly disgusted with my wantonness and —
Oliver snapped the book closed and tilted his head to the sky. Bloody hell. She was young if she considered the baronet, who couldn't be a day over fifty years, old enough to be her father ... and her dead husband had been called Robert. That should narrow down Oliver's search.
What the hell am I saying? He had no interest in discovering the identity of the author. To what purpose? He couldn't return her diary with any explanation that would not cause her great distress. Even if he lied and said he hadn't read the pages, her mortification would be great, indeed.
Nor could he leave it where he found it on the grass under the cypress tree by the gazebo for another unsuspecting soul to stumble upon her lusty and scandalous musings.
Perhaps he should simply burn it.
He glanced toward where he'd found the damning journal, his gaze assessing each young lady who strolled by. None looked anxious, and a few gave him inviting smiles, no doubt hearing wedding bells, since it had been made known he was on the hunt for a wife. He was two and thirty and was quite bored. The usual debauchery that privileged gentlemen of his ilk enjoyed no longer seemed exciting. The pleasure gardens, the reckless racing, scandalous pursuits, and even the rousing debates in Parliament hardly moved him anymore.
There was an emptiness in his soul he couldn't understand, and nothing of late seemed to fill the void. He had bid his last mistress adieu over eight months past and been without a lover since. Oliver had seen no point in searching for another when his last three had left him so uninspired and frustrated. His mother had even clucked and urged him to take the waters in Bath to cure his ennui.
It was as if the world were painted in shades of gray, and he was waiting for a ray of something ... anything to burst through the bleak dreariness and inspire him to simply feel.
One of his closest friends, the Duke of Basil, had taken the plunge into matrimony several months past, and the man seemed at peace and happy with his new duchess. The arrow of envy that had pierced his heart whenever he spied them together had stunned Oliver.
He had never begrudged a man more in his life. The duke had found love with Elizabeth Armstrong, an American heiress, and had shocked society. His Grace also seemed content and not likely to procure himself a mistress, which meant the duke's American satisfied his darker cravings. And Oliver had some notion of what they were; after all, they had both shared Lady Wimbledon for a night or two ... at the same time.
Oliver wanted a similar happiness. In fact, he quite hungered for a wife ... and eventually, children. That need was tempered by his keen desire to find a lady who would appreciate all his desires — even the ones a few of his mistresses had labeled as depraved and shocking. That had been his main reason for not rushing recklessly into matrimony.
His father had taught him at the age of sixteen that a wife must never be subjected to his base and darker urges. Mistresses were designed for rough and carnal tupping, and it was to be expected that he should have two women to sate all his needs.
Except ... Oliver did not want that. He'd seen how it had torn up his mother and put a strain on his parents' marriage. But this was a notion that would have sent his father to an early grave, had he not already passed a few years ago.
Oliver stood, the book gripped lightly in his hand, and strolled down to the lakeside. The waters were blessedly empty, as most of the guests were playing croquet or already indulging in a light luncheon on the freshly mowed lawns. A few boats had been prepared for rowing, and he untied the ropes tethering one and climbed aboard. After securing the diary on the inside of his superfine jacket, he grabbed the oars and propelled himself farther out onto the lake. Once he was a safe distance from the shoreline, he stopped rowing and allowed the boat to drift at its own speed atop the placid waters.
Though he had decided to destroy the diary, he would first consume its pages. Interest had taken hold of his mind, and he wanted to read as much as possible, perhaps everything, before he chucked it away. He opened the slim volume once more and started to read. After a few minutes, a few truths made themselves evident.
The author was familiar with the inner workings of Belgrave Manor and its secret passages. Perhaps she had visited before and not just for this weekend's house party. A friend of his mother?
Oliver's closest friend, Thomas Pennington, the Earl of Radbourne, had been in residence for a few weeks, and the little minx had sojourned in the secret passages of the east wing, which led to the guest chambers Thomas stayed in. Oliver was positive he was the Lord R referred to in her diary entry. Apparently, his friend had a mole on his left backside and a manhood that could have been more impressive. Sweet Christ.
A rough chuckle escaped Oliver. What would Thomas say if he knew one of Oliver's lady guests traversed the hidden hallways and spied on him while he had his pleasures? No doubt the earl would be amused and seek to uncover her identity so he could seduce her, too. Thomas was a notorious rake and libertine who enjoyed the challenge of a conquest far too much.
A swift denial roared through Oliver at the very idea. If anyone were to seduce his mysterious author, it would be him.
He paused as that awareness settled inside him. He was vaguely startled to feel the prickling of heat rushing through his veins, since there had been a distinct lack of interest on his part for any female companionship of late. Oliver delved into the pages, engrossed in her musings. He vacillated from anger to amusement.
Her husband had slapped her because of her unladylike desires, and the shame she expressed for having them made Oliver wish the man were alive so he could call him out and put a bullet through his priggish soul. What a blathering fool, to have been blessed with a woman of unrestrained passion, only to reprimand her harshly for what appeared to be her natural sensuality. Her husband had been a man like Oliver's father, who believed wives should display no cravings of the flesh — those were reserved for mistresses.
As he read further, a pattern in her artful words emerged. Each time his mother had hosted an event, the mysterious author had made use of the secret passages of his estate. The widow was, indeed, someone intimately familiar with his mother, for her to have been invited to the last two balls and the garden party last month.
His heart slammed hard inside when his name leaped from the pages.
The Marchioness of Ambrose introduced me to her son a few months past at her garden party, and I do not believe he even glanced at my face. I, however, was inexplicably aware of him, in a manner I have never felt with another man. He hardly notices me, nor do I recall the marquess ever favoring me with his charming sensuality. But I notice him — the width of his shoulders and the power in his body. I've found no flaw in those wide shoulders, lean waist, and long limbs. Ambrose intrigues me. There is something lonely about his eyes, and those unsmiling lips have been haunting my dreams of late. What would it be like to be held, kissed, and taken by such a man? This inappropriate need I can feel stirring inside must stop. However, I am at a loss how to do so. No doubt the marchioness would be appalled if she had an inkling of the cravings her son has been inspiring inside me.
Oliver chuckled. Sweet Mercy. With one entry, his interest multiplied infinitely. What he would do if he discovered her — or what he would say — eluded him, but now it seemed as if his entire existence hinged on meeting her. His mouth went dry, and anticipation scythed through his heart, the eager feeling making him falter.
He was not a reckless man, nor was he the sort to be controlled by his desires. If that had been the situation, he would have been haunting the darkest and most decadent brothels in London to purchase women to sate his rougher cravings. His friends had never understood the desire he had for a lover ... someone with whom he had more of a connection than simply riding them to fulfillment and never seeing them again.
He'd tried it once, had traveled to Soho Square and visited London's premier brothel and pleasure palace — Aphrodite. After several hours of debauchery, he had been wrung dry and his cock had hung limply, but inside there had been the echo of emptiness and unfulfillment that had lingered for months. He hadn't repeated the experience, to his friends' dismay.
Find her ...
The temptation whispered in his mind and arrowed down to his cock. Oliver scrubbed a hand over his face, unable to accept that he wanted to act with such recklessness. For it was certainly foolhardy to be so consumed with trying to find the author. Where in God's name would he even begin? The secret passages spanned both wings of Belgrave Manor, but from what he could tell, she only seemed familiar with the eastern one. What could he do? Haunt the corridors of his house simply to uncover her identity? And then what ... seduce her?
If his mistresses had been unable to accommodate his needs, he doubted a genteel, respectable lady would be willing to indulge them without hysterics.
What if she is the one?
He tumbled the idea through his thoughts. Without a doubt, she was a lady of society, young and seemingly willing to remarry. She wasn't a virginal debutante who would be prone to hysterics the first time he pushed his cock between her lips and farther down to massage the back of her throat. A groan escaped as the image blared through his mind. Frustration surged as the shadowy figure bent on her knees sucking his cock drifted away like smoke in the wind. He wanted her face, her hair ... it was this unknown woman he wanted to picture.
He glanced down at the diary clutched in his hands. He would probably regret the impulse, but he would find her. She was here in his home, perhaps traversing the secret hallways. Oliver had to start acting now. The house party would be over in seven days, and then she would vanish. He tucked the book inside his jacket, grabbed the oars, and pushed himself to the shore.
A few moments later Oliver strolled across the lawns toward the side entrance. A few short minutes later, he entered his manor.
"My lord," Branson, the manor's at times pompous butler, intoned.
Oliver handed him his jacket and top hat. "Where is the marchioness?"
"Her ladyship is in the Rose room, my lord."
Oliver ambled down the hallway, bypassing the library for a smaller and more intimate drawing room his mother favored. After a perfunctory knock, he pushed open the door and entered. His mother was seated by the windows, knitting, and the only other occupant was her lady's companion, Mrs. Layton.
His mother glanced up and, warmth lit in her hazel eyes. "Oliver, what a marvelous surprise. I thought you would have been in Town until Friday. I know you deplore house parties, and I believed you'd only be coming down for the ball. I'm quite pleased to see you are dedicated to the pursuit of a wife."
"Mother," he greeted her, bending low to press a brief kiss on her cheek. "I thought it prudent to be here as early as possible." She beamed in approval. His mother had wanted him to find a wife and fill the nursery ever since he reached his majority. Over the last few years, she had been encouraging him to make his choice, more like a thorn in his side than a loving matron. He'd made her the happiest mother in society when he had announced his intention to settle down.
There was a rustle, and he glanced around in time to see her lady's companion chewing furiously to get rid of whatever edible she had consumed. The lady quickly washed down the remains with a few healthy swallows of her tea. After setting the cup back in its saucer, she launched to her feet.
"My lord," she said a bit breathlessly, dipping into an elegant curtsy.
The dark blue muslin dress she wore seemed a bit tight, and her breasts strained delightfully at the top. He snapped his eyes upward, appalled at the direction his thoughts had taken. This was the second time he'd had an inappropriate thought about his mother's companion. The first had been a month ago, when he had come upon her on her knees in this very room, trying to reach for a button under the chaise. Her rounded ass had been temptation itself, and a visceral image of sinking his cock into her while she was in that very delectable position had blasted through his mind.
He had blamed his reaction on the fact he had been without a woman for several months. Oliver had suppressed the chaotic urges in his body and had departed without a word. He had never been the type of man to seduce servants or dependents in his own household. No, that had been his father, who had tupped every chambermaid he could get his hands on, humiliating Oliver's mother without regard for her honor and sensibilities.
"Mrs. Layton," he said, a bit too icily, for in her widened eyes he spied confusion at his terseness. Directing his attention back to his mother, he asked, "Have you compiled the list of eligible ladies?"
"Oh, Oliver, I am so pleased you are taking such interest. Mrs. Layton and I were just discussing the best candidates," she said, plucking a sheaf of paper from the small table and handing it to him.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Scandalous Diary of Lily Layton"
Copyright © 2019 Stacy Reid.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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