(Lesbian Victorian Romance. Re-release of 2013 title)
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After eight years, Lucy Endcott has finally returned to London to visit her dying father, a cold disciplinarian who never approved of his eldest daughter. Lucy is a respected widow, residing in the countryside away from the wicked excess the city has to offer and her unscrupulous ex-lover, the Marchioness Irena de Macey.
When Lucy finds out her youngest brother has gambled away his inheritance at the Pythos Club, she enters the den of iniquity in order to save him. Inside the club she meets the owner’s alluring daughter, Tisha McGrath, who is more than willing to help her brother…for a price.
Tisha longs to introduce Lucy to those secret passions she’s kept hidden away for so long. But dark secrets and transgressions from the past connect their families in shocking ways. Both women will work together to resolve this scandal before it unravels further but Irena is waiting for the right moment to strike, and Lucy may have no other choice but to give into Irena’s demands in order to save the ones she loves from utter ruin.
“You’re trembling. Why? I’m not here to blackmail you or make fun of you.” Tisha squeezed Lucy’s hand. “You look like you need someone to talk to, and I’m willing to offer you that.”
“Why? We just met a few minutes ago. I don’t know you at all. Why would I trust you about my father’s illness and Colby’s guilt over it?” She shut her mouth. She couldn’t believe she’d divulged such a private matter to a stranger!
“You could always blame the alcohol you drank for your slip- up or how upset you were at seeing an acquaintance you hadn’t been expecting,” Tisha murmured.
She shook her head, not comprehending. “What do you mean? I don’t know anyone here. Why would I? I would never associate with anyone here.”
Tisha rolled her eyes and finally released Lucy’s hand. Lucy still felt the phantom touch seeping through her gloves. Tisha stretched back, resting on her elbows. She kicked up her leg and dangled her slipper off her toe.
She started to stand. “I’m feeling much better now. I should go see—”
“Irena, better known as the Marchioness of Macey, and make sure she doesn’t seek you out before you find your brothers?” Tisha rocking her leg, and her slipper landed on the floor.
She curled her fingers in her palms and glared at the audacious woman. “What are you implying? Just come out and say what you mean.”
Tisha sat up and pressed her palm on the cushion, moving her arm behind Lucy. Her face was far too near.
“I’m good at observing people and figuring out how they’re feeling or what they’re thinking, based on their movements and posture. Before I rescued you from that drunken ass, I saw the way you reacted to the marchioness and she to you.” Tisha’s mouth touched Lucy’s ear, and she shuddered. She dug her fingers deeper in her palms and inhaled deeply.
“You’re asking if Irena and I know one another? Yes. We did. Once.” She glanced at Tisha from the corner of her eye for her reaction.
“Irena has been a guest at Pythos for many years. She came here with her husband before he died. She’s now good friends with my brother, Aidan, which I find surprising. She prefers the company of women.”
“Yes? She enjoys female companionship as most women do.” Lucy became more confused by the second. “I’m not following you.”
Tisha twined a stray strand of hair around her finger. “I really don’t think you’re so innocent, seeing as you’ve been married and have known Irena, perhaps on an intimate level. I don’t mean to shock you, but the marchioness, with her husband’s permission, enjoyed the female companionship we provide.” She ran her tongue across her bottom lip. “The girls would tell me stories after her visits. The woman has quite the appetite, and I don’t mean for the selection of foods we offer.”
Lucy sat as straight as if a hot poker had landed on her back. A shrill whistle echoed in her ears. Tisha couldn’t be implying such a thing, unless she had accepted Irena’s company in the same manner. Had Lucy’s reaction to her former friend given her away?
“Irena and I lived across the street from one another and were friends growing up. After we both married, we lost touch. I was just shocked to see her here, that’s all. For you to imply such a thing is dis—”
Tisha laughed and bumped Lucy’s shoulder with her own. “You’re not a good liar. Your flushed face and heavy breathing tells me otherwise. Either you’re nervous because of our conversation, or I’ve caught you in a lie. Again, you don’t have to worry about me snitching on you. I’m good at keeping secrets.”
“I-I don’t have any secrets,” she whispered.
“We all have secrets. Some more than others.” Tisha curved her arm around Lucy’s shoulder. “There, there now, I don’t mean to make you upset. I went too far. It’s obvious Irena means something to you, and, from my point of view, she must have hurt you horribly. She’s the type of person who would stomp on another to get what she wants.”
“Why are you telling me this and asking me all these questions? Is this your idea of a cruel joke?” Lucy’s voice broke, and she lifted the mask to wipe the sweat from under her eyes.
“Here, take it.” Tisha produced another handkerchief.
No longer caring if Tisha knew what she looked like, she took off the mask and patted her face.
“Better now?” Tisha ran her palm down Lucy’s back.
She nodded, and her shoulders slumped. She was exhausted. All she wanted was to go to bed. First she had to find her brothers. But for some reason she kept herself from running from the room like before. Perhaps it was because Tisha hummed in her ear. Instead of irritating, it soothed her.
“I’m so tired. It’s been such a long day.”
“There’s no need for you to leave yet. Here, rest your cheek on my shoulder.” Tisha ran her fingers on the side of Lucy’s face. She nestled comfortably against Tisha, who only a moment ago frightened her with her insightfulness. It had been so long since she had confided her darkest fears and secrets to someone. And that someone, whom she once gave her heart to, waited outside, possibly searching for her. Never again would she trust anyone like she had Irena. But a small part of her wanted to reveal what lay hidden in her heart.
“I don’t know what’s come over me. It must be the stress of dealing with my father’s illness and being back home, surrounded by so many memories.” She twisted the handkerchief and shut her eyes. I could fall asleep right now and—
Tisha laid her palm on the side of Lucy’s neck. Lucy opened her eyes and lifted her head. Tisha smiled tenderly and placed a soft kiss on Lucy’s mouth. She gasped and moved back, but Tisha curved her arm around Lucy’s waist, restraining her.
“I can help you forget your burdens for a while if you’ll let me. No one will ever have to know,” Tisha whispered and kissed the tip of Lucy’s nose.
She didn’t struggle or stop Tisha when she lowered her on the chaise. She dropped her arms to her sides and stared up at the woman who ran her fingers across Lucy’s cheek and then her lips. She became lost in the spell of Tisha’s touch and the likelihood of what was to come.
“You don’t have to do anything at all. Let me take care of you.” Tisha’s lips met the middle of Lucy’s chin. Her tongue came out and flicked the skin. Lucy moaned.
“How does that feel?” She moved up to Lucy’s mouth.
“Strange,” she croaked, and before she cleared her throat, Tisha’s mouth came down on hers.