It had been some years since Kali Matai, The Black Goddess, met Mrs. Rose Darling, known as The Rose of Frampton, and it was a meeting neither wished to remember, both having been at the mercy of protectors with no morals and less conscience. During that earlier meeting, Kali had taken it upon herself to protect the sweet, young girl from the worst of the abuses at the gentlemen’s party. Kali, after all, knew better than any woman in London how to feel nothing.
When they came upon each other at Mrs. Marlowe’s Book Emporium, however, not only their prior encounter bound them, but also a mutual understanding of the way the world treats women of easy virtue—as though they have no virtues at all. Now, in an effort to help the girl again, Kali has invited her to tea to discuss a topic of great import. Or so Mrs Darling’s note had said.
(To read the first half of their conversation, go to part 1 of 2.)
“Lord Aldridge returns to me several times each week. And…” Becky colors, “he seems to need very little sleep.” Choking on the words, she finally spits out, “Truth be told, Miss Shaheen, I fear the pox.”
Kali sits back. At least the girl was not such a fool as she appeared at first glance. Falling in love with the man was forgivable—somewhat. It had even happened to Kali once. But allowing herself to be polluted by his excesses? That was a much more serious kind of folly.
“Forgive me if I offend,” Becky stammers, “but I have heard that ladies of the Orient know remedies, preventatives…”
“You are right to be concerned,” Kali says in measured tones. “On this subject, however, I have no more knowledge than any other woman well-versed in our trade. Tell me, does he wash the part of himself that is of concern? Wash it well, I mean, with strong soap?”
Becky nodded, hiding her eyes behind her lashes and allowing the hair falling across her forehead to drop like a curtain to hide her face. “Yes. He is very thorough. He… Never mind… He… Yes.”
“Good. You can, of course, ensure such cleanliness by offering to attend him in his baths. He will never decline, and it will provide you some measure of control.”
“That… I already… He rather likes me to…” Becky was scarlet to her ears
Kali smiled and patted her hand. “Of course he does. As I have said, men are simple creatures. Does he use sheaths when you have relations? As a matter of course? With all of the women with whom he—?” She stops short, not wanting to hurt the poor, wounded bird any more than her protector already had.
Becky gathers her dignity. “He gives me to believe that he always wears a cundum. He is not unaware of the dangers, and he wishes no mo—er, no children out of wedlock.”
“If he is consistent with you, his regular mistress, you can guess that he does with the others.” She frowns. “But do not forget that a man will say anything to lie with a woman he desires.” Sighing, she follows with, “Of course, you cannot insist. As you say, he owns the lease on your body. There are risks… to this way of life. This is one… your beautiful daughter is another.”
Kali had met Sarah briefly on one occasion, which reminded her of her own loss. Nevertheless, the girl was sweet and charming and a bright spot in her mother’s otherwise sad life.
Becky shuddered. “Sarah is only eight, Miss Shaheen. I worry about her living in the house where I… where I sell myself. And I am determined to escape this life with enough money to give her more options.”
“Many would send her away,” Kali suggests, in a tentative manner. “To school, perhaps? To a friend or family in the country?”
“I have no family—I have no friends. I fear to send her to strangers. Of course, I am also afraid to keep her with me. You will think me silly to be so uncertain, but she is the one treasure of my life, and I would do anything for her. But the best thing? I do not know.”
“I do not think you foolish, and you have a friend in me. As such, I must tell you: you have fewer choices than one might hope. You must make your own luck and control your own future, my dear. You must subtly suggest Lord Aldridge give you jewels and gold and silver ornaments, for emeralds and rubies may be sold to keep you, no matter his inclination. Should he be generous enough, you may give Sarah and yourself any life you choose.” Eyes narrowed, lips thinned, she continues, “You do not protect yourself, Miss Winstanley. This is a mistake of the most immense proportions. Much more concern than the pox.
“You allow yourself to be defined by the gentleman in your life, most of whom do not have your interests in mind. Lord Aldridge is better than some, but he is inconstant, and will leave you in the street when he tires of you. You are a strong woman—” She holds up one finger. “No, do not think to argue that point when you have survived so much. You have a mind and heart worth cultivating, and your protectors will not do so. So then, you must do it yourself. That, my dear, is the legacy for your daughter. That is what you will give her and why you will keep her safe with you.”
Becky opened her mouth, thought again about what she wanted to say, and then closed it again. After a moment, she looked up from the glass she had been examining intently.
“You are right. You are right, Miss Shaheen. He has purchased the use of my body, but his needs do not define me. Indeed,” Kali could see her intent thoughts crossing her face, “it is not my body that keeps him visiting. He has never before signed a two-year contract. Did you know that? His… a relative of his told me.
“And he comes back to me from his other women. I have something that he needs. If I can work out what that is, Miss Shaheen, then I can… I can negotiate… Jewelry, yes. A separate house and a governess for my daughter, so she be can safe and… uncorrupted. And another two-year term. I have but a year left of this one. Three more years of using his purse as he uses my body will do quite nicely. Yes. Those requisites will serve. They will serve very well.”
“All of those, my friend,” Kali laughs, “are as simple as the man himself. I will call for tea, and we shall begin today.”
Sired by a British peer, born of a paramour to Indian royalty, Kali Matai has been destined from birth to enthrall England’s most powerful noblemen—though she hadn’t counted on becoming their pawn. Finding herself under the control of ruthless men, who will not be moved by her legendary allure, she has no choice but to use her beauty toward their malicious and clandestine ends.
When those she holds most dear are placed in peril by backroom political dealings, she enlists some of the most formidable lords in England to thwart her enemies. But even with the help of the prominent gentlemen she has captivated, securing Kali’s freedom, her family, and the man she loves, will require her protectors stop at nothing to fulfill her desires.
Meet Becky and Lord Aldridge in A Baron for Becky, to be released August 5, available for pre-order now.
Becky is the envy of the courtesans of the demi-monde – the indulged mistress of the wealthy and charismatic Marquis of Aldridge. But she dreams of a normal life; one in which her daughter can have a future that does not depend on beauty, sex, and the whims of a man.
Finding herself with child, she hesitates to tell Aldridge. Will he cast her off, send her away, or keep her and condemn another child to this uncertain shadow world?
The devil-may-care face Hugh shows to the world hides a desperate sorrow; a sorrow he tries to drown with drink and riotous living. His years at war haunt him, but even more, he doesn’t want to think about the illness that robbed him of the ability to father a son. When he dies, his barony will die with him. His title will fall into abeyance, and his estate will be scooped up by the Crown.
When Aldridge surprises them both with a daring proposition, they do not expect love to be part of the bargain.
Pre-order now for August 5 delivery: