Giles Warrington Hale, Marquess of Ashcroft, was born to do two things. Paint and rut. But lately, nobody but Miss Patience Emery has inspired him. The moment he sees her, he knows he must paint her and have her-- anywhere and everywhere.
After a lifetime of trying to appear smaller, Patience no longer cares what anyone thinks. She’s resigned herself to a life having a man in her dreams only. But when the mysterious Lord Ashcroft approaches her with a chance to act on her bold, scandalous, and depraved desires, she suddenly sees her opportunity to indulge in every wicked fantasy she’s ever had...
Note: This erotic romance features a BBW heroine and a scandalous hero.
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|File size:||3 MB|
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London, Spring 1814
Miss Patience Emery had run out of the virtue for which she'd been named. She'd left the crush of the overheated ballroom for the terrace, taking a moment for herself. The thousands of candles burning in the huge chandeliers made the windows behind her glow. The outside air was blessedly cool. The gardens beyond the terrace were dark, empty, and beckoned her closer.
Before she could take another step, the murmur of cruel words surfaced from the shadows. None were anything she hadn't heard before. Didn't matter. Each was a needle to her heart.
Patience faced three tittering chits. All the fight in her she'd denied for a lifetime rose like a mountain shooting up from the sea. She had been raised to be kind. To hold her tongue. Turn the other cheek. Indeed, in most circumstances, she readily agreed with such a philosophy. But neither was she a fool. And as to normal circumstances, well, this was not one of them.
She was large, and she knew it. So why did she have to pretend to be something else in order to be liked? Today was her twenty-fifth birthday. Enough was enough. To perdition with people who couldn't see past her girth. Enough with always being an object of amusement. She wasn't a joke. She was a person. With hopes and dreams of her own. Under the expanse of her waistline, her feelings were no different from anybody else's. They could be hurt.
Simmering from head to toe with rage, Patience marched up to the trio of girls. They were young and slender as reeds. Willowy, with long, graceful limbs, swan-like necks, and delicate features.
That did not give them the right to mock her. Patience arched her brows at them. "Would you care to repeat that? Perhaps to my face this time?"
The leader of the three smirked, the horrible expression not marring her beauty in the least. She had flaxen hair and gentian eyes. Like an angel. An angel of hell sent to stir bedevilment into the night.
"I said, 'I do hope she doesn't crack the stone. It would be a shame if this lovely terrace came crumbling down.'"
One of the other two, a petite brunette no bigger than a bird, tittered nervously.
"You know what else would be a shame?" Patience smiled her sweetest smile. "If that goat your father fucked to breed you stopped giving milk. Where else would I get my best cheese?"
Horror echoed around them, threatening to swallow Patience whole. No sooner were the words out of her mouth than she sank into the murky waters of regret.
Her mother appeared in her mind, and Patience's eyes shut. Mrs. Emery, with cunning tactics that would have made a general mad for her schemes, had spent weeks maneuvering to secure this invitation, plying mercilessly upon her uncle, who was a special friend to a newly appointed admiral. If the tale came back to Mrs. Emery of what Patience had said ...
Mother aside, the language was horrifyingly unladylike. She shouldn't have known the word "fucking." Moreover, she shouldn't have returned cruelty with cruelty.
This was exactly why Patience should have held her tongue.
Apparently, she wasn't the only one present who knew the power and gravity of "fucking," because three pretty mouths fell open. The leader of the group recoiled as if Patience was covered in horse muck and likely to smear it on the gauzy white muslin of her gown.
The trio picked up their skirts and disappeared through the glass doors back to the ball in a huff, noses in the air.
Patience sighed, going emotionally limp while regret for her ugly words remained sour on her tongue. She shouldn't have stooped to their level. Why couldn't she simply have ignored them? She'd spent years silently enduring such remarks, going back as far as she could remember.
"That girl is big as a cottage!" The speaker always followed the statement by laughter, as if he were the soul of wit. As if Patience hadn't heard the joke already — ad nauseam. As if she weren't bathed in sickly shame by the words. As if she was supposed to laugh, too.
That might have been the worst of all. In the name of good manners, the defects of others were never mentioned. As if they didn't exist. Her so-called defect was considered fodder for one and all to do with what they pleased. Why? She'd never given them permission.
"Patience will have to sit by herself on one side of the carriage. Nobody can squeeze onto the bench with her. Do you think she'll break the springs?" Then laughter.
"No, of course she can't ride a horse. She'll hurt the poor creature." Invariably, laughter again.
"Don't look like that, Patience. Come on now. Can't you take a joke?"
Patience stared out into the night. It did no good to feel sorry for herself. But the pain lurked dangerously close to the surface. All the old hurts. The injustices and indignities. The wishes, the prayers ...
She'd tried to reduce. About a thousand times. Invariably, someone would say, "Oh, Patience, you're going to be so pretty when you're slim!"
And she would feel proud. Right up until the point she found herself devouring a whole cake, alone and helpless and — once again — awash with secret shame in the knowledge she was letting everyone down.
Why wasn't Patience good enough now? If nobody ever loved her because of her size ... well, that would be too bad.
She had her family. They loved her. Besides, many women went through life without knowing what it was like to have a man inside them. Spinsters. Nuns.
All right, that wasn't what she wanted. But if that was what was in store for her, she would have to accept it.
Wouldn't she? Men paid women to open their legs for them. Did it work in reverse? Were there men a woman could pay to fornicate with them? Not the male analogue to the poor creatures and the seedy goings-on down by the docks. Something better. It seemed a reasonably good idea. She could save her pin money. But how would one discover how to go about such a thing?
Bother it. She should have gone with her first instinct and stayed home tonight — with her feet up before the fire and her nose in a book.
Her thoughts fled as a dark figure emerged from the shadows. The air around her vibrated with the sheer force of his presence. Her hair stood on end.
Tall. Surely that was the first thing anyone would notice about such a man. Large, but not like she was large. Broad in the upper body, tapering to a perfectly lean waistline.
Once when she was just shy of two and twenty, she'd sought quiet refuge from a noisy social gathering and happened upon two people coupling on the floor of the library.
It had changed her world. The woman's legs wide-open, her thighs bare above her stockings, and the man between them. The way they'd been breathless, eager, moving fast and hard, and calling for more ...
It wasn't how Patience had imagined it the one time her mother had explained a married woman's duty to her husband. Then it had seemed ... curious. Awkward, at best. Mortifying, certainly.
Witnessing those two had revealed something Patience could never have imagined — something in her. She wanted that — the intimacy those two people had taken with each other in that stolen moment.
The man before her now was exactly the sort she could imagine in the dark of night when, alone in bed, she pictured herself under a man. The sort she conjured when she put her hand between her legs and touched herself in places for which she had no names.
"Have you been there the entire time, sir?"
"I have. And I have to say, you handled those young fools admirably." His voice was so low, the smooth words and the lazy drawl pouring through her veins like warm honey. And his gaze — well, men didn't look at her like that. Like he might ...
Oh dear. Her face flushed. Other bits flushed, too. Or whatever it was when it was happening between the legs — warm and inviting. It was the same sensation that came when she was particularly eager to touch herself.
He was the most interesting thing that had happened in ... well, ever. "It's terribly rude to listen to someone else's conversation."
"So I've been told." He didn't appear the least abashed. In fact, he looked rather gratified.
"I don't think I should be here with you." She cringed. Being here with him was suddenly the only thing she wanted. But he was dangerous. She knew that to the center of her bones.
"Why ever not? We're merely two people in a respectable place at a respectable time having a perfectly respectable conversation."
Respectable, indeed. Nothing about him was respectable. Even the way he enunciated the word "respectable," each consonant sinful as the lips moving to form the sounds — like it was a joke he could exploit for his amusement at any moment.
He spoke before she could respond, narrowing his eyes slightly in frank curiosity. "Why have I never seen you before?"
She might as well make the admission. "Events of this caliber aren't usually for people like me."
He didn't recoil. Didn't even flinch. "And what like is that?"
"My father is a printer and runs a small periodical."
"What a sorry age it is we live in if being a printer's daughter is enough to condemn a person."
"I don't quite know what to say to that."
"Let me see your hands."
She stared at him.
"Come, come. Your hands."
Patience should have said no. Although not wholly appropriate, what he asked wasn't wicked, per se. The current between them said differently. That everything he thought, said, and did was far beyond the limits of acceptable behavior.
She was tired of acceptable behavior. She was curious about what he wanted to see. She should test if what she perceived about him was anywhere near correct.
She began by plucking at the fingers of her white gloves one at a time. She'd embroidered the gloves prettily with a floral pattern in ivory silk thread. All too conscious of his attention upon her every tug, she kept her gaze fastened to her hand.
Fingers of the gloves loose, Patience untied the tapes atop the arm, and, with a rush of brazen daring, slid them down. Slowly, she bared her skin to him.
She chanced a glance up. Their thoughts must have matched. The intensity of his stare when their gazes met spoke of all the things going unsaid between them.
With her gloves tossed over one arm, she held out her hands for inspection.
He studied them. "Not a spot of ink to be found. Quite without fault." He lifted his eyes, his penetrating gaze full of heat and roguish hunger, like she was a being of utmost fascination. "Might I have the honor of knowing your name?"
"Miss Patience Emery."
"Lovely. Well, Miss Emery, first I would like your permission to say something rather shocking to you."
Shocking? A thrill skittered up Patience's spine. Stripping her gloves away had only made her want more.
She kept her features disinterested as she bestowed a regal nod. "Do your worst, sir."
"Allow me to offer you a certain ... proposition."
Her throat went dry. Proposition? Like ... that kind of a proposition? Because she didn't need to think on the matter. The answer was yes. If he wanted to slip away with her into the gardens and take her on a bench, she would throw him over her shoulder and run into the night.
Except she couldn't. What foolishness. She wasn't a wanton. She didn't want to be, at any rate.
Very well, correctly speaking, she didn't want anybody to know she was a wanton.
Because it was difficult to deny wantonness when she was wet between her legs. Far wetter than any proper female should be — maybe ever. In the space of a few minutes, he'd done that to her. If she responded that quickly to him, she'd better flee before something worse happened.
Her lips parted. She had to remain sensible. This man was dangerous. But it wouldn't hurt to hear what he had to say, would it? Maybe she could use it tonight when she went to bed and thought of him as she did it to herself. "Yes?"
"I want to paint you."
Her hopes crashed. "You want to paint my portrait?"
"In a manner of speaking, yes." He considered a moment, looking at her first one way, and then the other. "But you're imagining something tame, aren't you? Banish it from your mind this instant. It will be far more exciting, I promise you."
Far more exciting? "And by that you mean ..."
"Without your clothes."
Between her legs, she clenched with excitement. "You can't be serious."
"I assure you, I'm entirely serious."
She had to remain rational. A man like him and a woman like her — it was impossible. "You're making a joke of me."
"You don't know me, so I'll forgive you your erroneous supposition. But remember this, Miss Emery: when I engage in pleasantries, I don't make them at the expense of other people."
"Forgive me for being so blunt and impugning your word, but I don't believe you."
He looked curious, not offended. "Why not?"
"Because I'm large."
"Yes. So you are." A tiny smile curled at the end of his lips, and he spoke with plain matter-of-factness. And when he raked his gaze slowly down her body and slowly back up again, she would be damned if he didn't like what he saw. "What of it?"
"Do you mind your size?"
"Yes. No." She sighed. "I don't know. It's complicated."
He came close. Too close. She could smell the masculine scent of him. The starch from his perfect cravat. And the faintest undertone of soap. Expensive soap.
His eyes were large and clear. A shade of jade green one read about in books but never saw in a person. It was like part of him wasn't real. Like he'd been conjured from her fantasies. His lashes were long, the architecture of his face refined and regal.
Everything about this man held the smooth assurance of confident male. Virile male. Like he'd been born a rutting stallion in a man's body. "You're beautiful, Miss Emery."
His voice was shimmering starlight over her skin. The hairs of her neck stood in anticipation — of what she didn't know. Him touching her?
"You mean, I would be if I were slender."
"No, I do not."
Not knowing what to make of that, she ignored it. "But how would I — I mean, I can't just go to your quarters to be painted."
She paused. A man like him didn't live in quarters. A man like him should have a lair. "Nor can I run off with you. People would do far worse than talk. They would shun me. I'd embarrass my family."
"Ah. Then you are tempted then, aren't you, my lovely thing?"
"You didn't give me an outright no. You're thinking of practicalities."
Patience turned warm from head to toe. It was too much. "I can't believe you think I'd agree to such a preposterous idea."
"No? You told the girl who slighted you just now that she was begotten when her father fucked a goat. A woman who speaks to a lady in such a way is a woman I think would do many shocking things. With the right provocation." His voice dropped, and his eyes glowed with the promise of sin. "Pray allow me to be that provocation."
"That was just something I said to send those awful harridans in training on their way."
"Are you lying because you think I'll believe you, or because you're trying to convince yourself?"
"I — I —"
"Because it would be so simple. You make arrangements to stay with a friend. Tell your family you're going and go. Except, instead, you come to me."
"So you can paint me. But not a portrait."
"So I can paint you — but not a respectable portrait." When he smiled, he became the personified god of lust. Before the birth of Christ, he could have overtaken the whole continent with a pagan cult upon the power of those quirked lips alone. "But don't forget what the best part of it would be, Miss Emery."
She blinked. The undercurrent of his words hinted at something that went well beyond impropriety in the dull old ordinary way. "I can't possibly think what you could be talking about."
"No? I'm the Marquess of Ashcroft. Can't you guess?"
"You're a marquess?" Patience nearly choked. She'd heard of Ashcroft. Even she, who paid little attention to the goings-on of the upper ten thousand. But she knew little about him. There were hushed whispers, but none she'd ever credited. There was eccentricity and then there was impossibility. Now that she'd seen him, however ... "That marquess?"
"That marquess." He flourished a courtly bow.
"And what would be the best part of your ... proposal?"
His wicked smile turned all too dangerous. This man had a devil inside him — a lascivious devil that he enjoyed all too much. He was a sinner. And he would dance all the way to hell.
The idea of tumbling down with him wasn't half bad, so long as he never stopped smiling at her like that.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Willful Depravity"
Copyright © 2019 Ingrid Hahn.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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