What happens when a young, headstrong girl defies the wishes of her parents and tests the boundaries of her small, stuffy town? It is 1898, and Jonquil is nineteen, beautiful, and bored with the boys in her village. One drowsy August morning, she takes a walk through the woods and discovers a seemingly abandoned cabin, where she will meet the three hunters that will widen the boundaries of her world and show her what she has been missing. (F/M+)
|While it supports our authors more if you buy directly from the publisher here, you can also follow the links below to purchase the work from distributors:
“Enough,” Emile sighs. Jonquil looks to him, face flushed from the upbraiding, mouth pushed up in to what she hopes is a pitiable moue. He regards her for only a moment, before resting his palms on his knees and leaning forward. “Listen to me, mademoiselle,” he says in a low voice.“There is nothing to be done. My friend Marceau here will take you back to the town and release you to your papa.” The stocky one, Marceau, shoots her a humorless smile. “I’m afraid we will have to alert the gendarme, but I’m sure they will be merciful. You are, after all…” A curl of his lip. “Very young.”
Jonquil says nothing. The gendarme do not scare her—Chastain is a good name, irreproachable enough to serve as effective armour. But being brought to her chateau by the rough-hewn Marceau, she calculates, could cause her parents to revoke her hard-won freedoms—her books, her bike, her slow afternoons wandering about on her own. And the reaction of her grandmother, she realizes with a twinge, doesn’t bear thinking about. Her mind hums. She searches Emile’s handsome face, probing for weakness, then glances over at Marceau; his eyes are fastened on her stockinged leg, which has slipped from beneath the stolen pelt. She glances down and sees what he sees—black silk, pale skin, blonde fur.
Her dream suddenly surfaces through the noise of her mind. She sees those three photographs as clearly as if they were in her hands, held to the light. The woman’s smile. The men’s bodies. The way they came together. She has not thought of them in waking life for years, but she thinks of them now. As Emile waits for her reaction, everything becomes simple. Her heart quickens. Her smile, for the first time since she awoke, is genuine.
“Gentlemen,” she says, glancing back to Emile. “Delivering me back to my home like a parcel? The gendarme? Surely none of this is necessary.” Her eyes slide over the breadth of his shoulders, the cut of his arms. This could be the most foolish thing she has ever dared. Or, she thinks, the most fun.
“I’m afraid it is out of our hands,” Emile shrugs. “You have done wrong, so now you must be corrected.”
Jonquil bites her lip. Emile is still staring at her with those dark, keen eyes. With a small shock, she recognizes his expression. It is the expression of the men in the picture. It is hunger.
Now or never, she thinks.
“So correct me,” she whispers.
There is a silence. He looks at her for a long while, before exchanging a significant glance with Marceau, who remains still and impassive. When he turns back to her he is wearing the barest hint of a smile.
“I beg your pardon,” he says with exquisite civility. “What did you say?”
Feeling blooms in Jonquil’s body, sweeping up from her toes and settling in her belly. Emile is broad, powerful, and handsome—he makes Guillaume look like an infant. Hesitantly, she uncurls her legs and stretches them out before him. Her heart pounds in her ears.
“Correct me,” she says. Her voice does not tremble.
He does not smile, but his eyes flash as they travel down her gartered thighs, her calves sheathed in silk, and her boots, modestly pressed together. She hears Marceau murmur something to the younger man; they both break out in laughter. But she does not dare look away from Emile.
After what seems like an age, he pushes himself to his feet, places his hands on the footboard, and leans forward. Jonquil lifts her chin and meets his eye.
“The first thing you must learn, mademoiselle,” he says in a low growl, “is never to wear your boots into a man’s bed.”