Read Love's Misadventure (The Mason Siblings Series Book 1) Online
Authors: Cheri Champagne
“The story itself is fascinating. It’s about a young woman who finds herself lost in a forest but comes across some very disreputable scoundrels who kidnap her for ransom. Then the blackguards learn that her parents are deceased and left her penniless, so instead, they attempt to sell her to a pirate captain as a female slave! Meanwhile, her closest friend’s brother, who has been missing for years, appears from nowhere and turns out to be the very same pirate captain!”
Lane listened to her continue on about her newest book acquisition, his heart pounding in his chest. There was something about the passion in her expression—her eyes bright with enthusiasm and her body language at ease with her wild gesturing.
It had him…
His gaze lowered to her lips—her full, luscious, tempting lips.
He couldn’t count how many times he had fantasized about those lips on his, her hands on his bare chest, her body moving beneath his… His breeches began to tighten, and he internally scolded himself.
Neither the time nor the place, Lane
If only he hadn’t that
“…just happened to be the same place that he had gone missing!” Anna finished breathlessly.
Lane grinned, a bead of sweat forming on his upper lip. “That sounds like quite the grand adventure,” he improvised. “I would be pleased if you would allow me to borrow the book from you once you have finished reading it.”
“Oh yes, you must read it! I am so anxious to finish it myself, I could hardly tear myself away.” She paused, smiling. “Of course, you are worth the distraction.”
His heart pounded like the smithy’s hammer on an anvil. How she could not hear it, he would never know. That teasing smile of hers always put his heart to beating erratically.
He schooled his expression into a mild smile. “Why thank you, my dear. Now let us eat; I’m afraid our food has gone cold.”
“Goodness! I had forgotten all about it.”
They both turned their attention to their meal, eating in comfortable silence. The cherry blossom tree provided shelter from the unseasonably warm April sun while the breeze blew its petals around them. The stream, rustling leaves, and nearby birds provided a pleasing ambient noise.
Lane finished first and sipped at his Madeira while Anna licked berry juice off of her fingers. Lane grit his teeth before finishing his drink in one large gulp.
“That was delicious. Thank you for inviting me, Lane.”
“You are quite welcome. I shall have to pass the compliment on to Cook.” He began returning the dishes to the basket.
“I should be very happy if you did so.” She smiled at him, and his stomach knotted. What was the matter with him? “Would you care to take a stroll about the garden?”
“Indeed I would, as long as you promise to let me trounce you in a game of chess when we return home.” He wiggled his eyebrows.
Annabel laughed, shaking her head. “Ah, now that I cannot do. I can promise to play the game with you, but I shall
allow you to win. You will have to achieve that on your own…if you can.”
“A challenge! I accept.” He stood and held his hand out to her.
The touch of her skin sent his blood thundering through his veins, raging through him.
When she was balanced on her feet, he quickly let go of her hand and offered his elbow, instead. The material separating them allowed a trifling comfort that he would not scandalize his friend and embarrass himself.
You cannot have her
, he reminded himself.
You cannot have
woman. Not until you’ve fixed yourself
. Anna was his friend, besides. He would not dare to risk their friendship for the sake of a small amount of lustful feelings.
They left their basket and blanket to stroll through the garden. They spoke of literature, the new works of their favourite authors, the flowers and sights that surrounded them, life, and the agreeably warm weather. All the while, Lane was aware of her…the way she moved, the way she smiled, the way she gestured with her hands while she spoke.
He had known her since they were children; they played together, learned together, and yet he still adored the way she looked at the world and went about living and loving life. He had gained and lost countless friends from Cambridge and Oxford, the majority of the friendships ending in a slow separation due to boredom or change of interests. Yet his friendship with Anna had never waned.
They reached the portico of his large town house and entered into the empty family parlour.
“What a lovely day,” Anna breathed as she removed her bonnet to place it on the side table near the door.
“It is.” He went to the hallway to summon Geoffrey.
“My lord? I trust your luncheon was satisfactory,” Geoffrey said from the door.
“Indeed. Please send our compliments to Cook.”
“As you wish, my lord. Shall I arrange refreshments? Some tea, perhaps?”
“Please do. And if you would be so good as to have someone fetch the basket and blanket; we left them among the cherry blossoms.”
The butler bowed. “Right away, my lord.” Geoffrey hesitated slightly, catching Lane’s attention.
“Is there something amiss?”
The butler cleared his throat. “I should inform you, your lordship, that there is a new addition to the family.”
Lane refrained from rolling his eyes. “What has Emaline brought home this time?” His younger sister was forever bringing home sick, injured, or lost animals.
“It is a small tabby that she has named Whiskers.”
“Thank you for informing me, Geoffrey.”
“Not at all, my lord.” He bowed and quietly exited.
As soon as Geoffrey closed the door, Lane gestured for Anna to precede him to the chess table. “If you dare.” He winked.
She sent a sly glance and a smile at him as she took her seat at the table.
He sat across from her, and they played in earnest. A maid came with their tea tray, which sat on a side table, cooling and untouched. They each took time with their turns to ensure the best possible move, both focused, both dedicated to the challenge of the game.
As the final moves of the game came into view, Lane realized that he was going to lose. He looked up at Anna across the table to see a smug smile on her beautiful face.
“What do I win?” Her blue eyes twinkled with humour.
“I was not aware that we had agreed to wager anything.”
“We hadn’t, but I would still like to win something.”
“Isn’t being the victor prize enough?” His lips pulled upward in a grin.
“No,” she stated baldly. “I would like proof that I am the victor. Prestige isn’t enough when I have no one to tell other than you.”
One loud bark of a laugh escaped him as his mind worked. “Tell me, what do you feel about a surprise gift?”
She outwardly feigned consideration, but Lane could tell from the glint in her eye that she was both intrigued and excited by the prospect.
“What sort of surprise gift?”
“It would not be a surprise if I told you what it was. Besides, I have yet to think of what it will be.”
She nodded once. “I accept. Shall we shake hands?” She reached her right hand out across the table.
Lane’s gaze locked with hers as he clasped her hand. “Congratulations.”
It happened again. It blasted well happened again!
“Hell and blazes,” Lane muttered. Head resting in his hands, he sat on the edge of one of the beds in Madame Bordeau’s flash house, and cursed his inability to take care of his needs.
“’Appens te lots ’a gents, love,” the perfumed whore named Harriet said from behind him on the bed.
The room was adorned in deep red and darkened wood furnishings. The stench of stale perfume, sex, liquor, and smoke permeated the air. It was nauseating.
Lane grabbed his breeches off the rumpled counterpane and stepped into them. “I apologize for wasting your evening, Harriet. I will pay you for your time nonetheless.”
“T’was a pleasure, love. Though not
much of a pleasure, if’n ye get my meaning.” She winked at him.
He hid a grimace.
His chest tightened, and he filled with self-loathing. “Bloody hell.”
He tucked his shirt into his breeches, pulled his waistcoat and coat on, and began tying his cravat in a simple knot. He tossed his soiled condom in the hearth.
Why the devil does this always happen?
Something must be physically wrong with him. This wasn’t normal, and it certainly wasn’t healthy. Perhaps he should consult a doctor. Surely men were supposed to be able to have sexual relations without so much trouble.
He was able to get himself going well enough; it was keeping himself going that was the difficulty. He was damned tired of paying women extra money to keep their mouths shut about his problem. He’d visited every flash house in London and its outskirts at least once. He’d travelled to Scotland and tried several there as well, yet his problem continued.
He was still a virgin, for Christ’s sake.
Not that he hadn’t any experience. He had done plenty of other very interesting and entertaining acts, but he had never once been able to complete the act of lovemaking. He left every establishment feeling unclean, and in dire need of a stiff drink to rid his senses of the taste and smell of his own failure and heavily perfumed whores.
With a groan, he reached into his breast pocket and handed the lightskirt a small purse with her pay, in addition to the extra amount he offered to keep the story to herself.
Running a frustrated hand through his hair, he bid her good night and left.
Lane met his coach around the street corner, climbed in, and rapped on the roof with his fist to signal his coachman to take him home. He sat back against the squabs with a self-deprecating sigh.
“Bloody rotten hell!” He ran a hand over his face and pinched the bridge of his nose in the vain hope that he could stop the headache forming behind his eyes. He was certain that no other man at the age of eight and twenty had never had sex. In fact, he was certain that many men lost their virginity before their twentieth birthday.
How was he ever to take a wife if he could not perform his husbandly duties? How could he ever recite his vows before God and his family if he knew he could never produce an heir?
Shame burned through him, weighing heavily on his heart. At this rate, he would never be the man a wife would need him to be. He would never be a father.
He groaned and shook himself from his miserable reverie. His thoughts were too damned depressing.
He forced himself to change the course of his musings. He’d had another lovely time with Annabel. Her triumphant grin at winning their chess game flashed through his mind. He made a mental note to think of something special to award her with as a prize.
His lips split in a toothy grin. She always brightened his mood, no matter how ill his humour. Having Anna for a best friend was the greatest thing in his life; she knew him better than anyone, though she did not know about his…
. He, likewise, knew her better than anyone. He knew that she adored books, chocolate, teacakes, and cherry blossom trees. She was an adequate artist and a terrible pianist.
Lane’s grin turned into a smile as the coach rolled to a stop in front of his town house. He loved how she felt free enough to laugh at herself. He stepped down from the carriage. In fact, he loved her sense of humour; her alluring, crooked smile; their long talks; the way she always smelled like lemons and soap; and her expressive way of talking. He loved…
He halted mid-step, his foot poised in the air over the front steps of his town house. His heart began a rapid, staccato beat in his chest, and his eyes grew wide.
Good God. He loved her!
“My lord?” Geoffrey stood waiting with the door open.
“Not now, Geoffrey,” Lane mumbled absently.
“Very good, my lord.”
How long had he loved her?
“Oh, Lane.” A fourteen-year-old Annabel opened her arms to him.
He rushed to her and held her close, tears welling in his eyes.
“I am so sorry, Lane,” she whispered into his collar.
Her shoulders shook, and he knew she was doing her best to be brave for him. He would be the man of the house now. With three sobbing younger sisters and a mother to take care of, his work would be great indeed.
But he had Annabel. He hugged her tighter and let her soft warmth seep into him. He had Annabel.
Lane staggered slightly at the bottom step. Eleven years. How could he have been so blind? For
! What a fool he was!
He started up the stairs and marched past the butler. He needed a drink.
“I won’t be going out again tonight, Geoffrey; you are free to retire.” He paused. “Oh, but please have a bath sent up to my chambers.”
“Thank you, your lordship. Right away.”
Lane stormed into his study and went straight for the brandy in his Tantalus. With shaking hands, he poured himself four fingers of his best French brandy and took a large gulp, relishing the burn as it went down.
He left his empty glass on the Tantalus and retrieved a cigar from the box atop his desk. In a daze, he lit it on a sconce and returned to his seat before the fire.
What was he going to do? Annabel. Sweet, lovely Anna. He thought about her luscious lips. Did she taste as sweet as she smelled? He wanted to run his lips down her neck and dip his tongue in the crevice between her breasts. Her perfect, full, rounded… He shifted in his chair as his cock sprang to life.
Now is not the time.
He puffed on his cigar as a kitten leapt to his lap, making itself comfortable as he absently stroked its fur.
This sudden realization posed a great problem. What if his physical difficulty continued? What if he could never father children? Annabel deserved better than that. She deserved better than
. He could never court her.
Damn it, he could never be with Anna.