From unloved bride...
Caroline Besford will no longer be any man's pawn. Her father forced her into marriage with a man who refused to share her bed. In making her escape, Caro became Cleo--an untouched courtesan! Amazingly, the husband who ignored his plain bride is now pursuing her!
...to adored mistress!
But as Cleo is drawn into a web of lies and deception, she cannot deny her growing desire for her husband. And what will the colonel do when he discovers that his darling Cleo is his dowdy wife, Caroline?
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October 29, 2007
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Excerpt from An Innocent Courtesan by Elizabeth Beacon
Rob Besford shot the sardonic devil looking back out of his mirror an impatient look. There was no trace of the eager fool who had gone off to fight the good fight in his hard gaze now. Perhaps he should thank his wife for destroying his remaining illusions. His dark brows drew together in a straight line and he shook his head in brisk denial, before impatiently reducing his wayward chestnut locks to stern military order.
During the last two months he had honed his muscular frame to the peak of fitness at Jackson's Boxing Saloon, and refined his wits by putting his brother James's venture into trade successfully back on course, yet his thoughts still dwelt upon his abandoned wife far too often.
If Gentleman Jackson had sometimes seen raw fury in his client's eyes that made him glad not to face him in a public ring, he had tactfully kept his feelings to himself. There was a new hardness in the Colonel's famous green gaze and his sensual mouth was often set in a stern line that warned friends and enemies alike not to trespass on forbidden ground.
He had managed to ignore the youthful widows and matrons of the ton who made it clear more than their sympathy was on offer so far, but he knew odds were being offered in the clubs as to which one would snag him first. How on earth could he conduct any liaison with discretion, when half of London was anticipating it with such unholy glee?
The answer was that good taste forbade it while Caroline was living under his father's roof, so somehow he must persuade her to set up her own establishment while they tried to dissolve their fiasco of a marriage. If only his bride had been different, he could have hoped that some besotted fool would run off with her, so that he could sue the idiot for criminal conversation with his wife and perhaps gain his freedom. Unfortunately, only a complete lunatic would cling to such a forlorn hope when he was married to the former Miss Warden.
Well, tonight he intended to forget he was for one glorious evening, and the devil could fly away with tomorrow. He took the starched neckcloth his batman was holding out and deftly folded it, then tied it in the style he had made his own. Carefully shrugging himself into the dark blue superfine coat newly arrived from Weston's masterly hand, he thought wryly of times in Spain when a clean shirt would have been considered the height of sartorial splendour. Accepting his immaculate top hat and cane from his batman, he finally sallied forth to celebrate his new prosperity, and hopefully forget Robert the married man for a few short hours.
One or two bottles of fine claret later and he was well on the way to that happy oblivion. He stopped to count the strikes of a nearby clock with the determination of a man who had drunk more than he decently ought to, but not enough to examine his gold half-hunter in the uncertain light under the nearest lamppost. Although a good turn up with an enterprising thief might relieve his pent-up feelings, even three-parts drunk he knew the news that he had been brawling in the street would distress his father, and the Earl of Foxwell had enough to bear.
Midnight tolled out, and the intermittent moonlight was tense with an unhealthy mix of frost, fog and danger. As oblivious to such hazards as Rob himself, Captain Charles Afforde, RN, known to his friends as Rowley, detached himself from the clutch of drunken beaux and fell back to eye Rob dubiously.
'Y'do know serenading La Watson with you glowering like a thundercloud will only get us sent away with a flea in our ear?' Rowley demanded owlishly.
'As you do that she's Will's woman until one of them decides otherwise, I suppose?' he replied.
'Might know La Watson chose Wrovillton,' Rowley finally admitted, 'but don't mean I want to know it, if ya see what I mean?'
'You have got it bad, old man. Never mind, you'll soon be off to sea again and you might manage to pull a mermaid out of the Atlantic this time.'
'Mermaid in the hand, worth two in the bush,' his old friend averred, mixing his metaphors with the conviction of the very drunk.
Then Rowley noticed the others had forged unsteadily on, and sped after them in case virtue was contagious. Rob removed his fashionable top hat, ran a hand through his hair and suddenly the frosty air felt glorious on his face after all.
Either dirty, indifferent London was suddenly wafted by the fragrant airs of Olympus, or that last bottle was taking effect at last. All he needed now was a charming and clever wench to make him forget his wife, and his evening would be perfect. He conducted a mental review of London's courtesans and drew a blank. None of the fashionable impures currently angling for a new protector had the bearing of a goddess and the looks of Helen of Troy--so Will had swept the board again with Aleysha, the lucky dog.