Read An Excerpt

by Chloe Harris

Genre: Historical Erotic Romance, Erotic Romance

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Jaidyn took the cup Madame Poivre offered, her mouth as dry as parched leather. The sleeves bit into her shoulders and upper arms. The stomacher was too wide and the skirts ended above her ankles, but what could you expect from a borrowed dress? “Actually, I’d like to talk to you about something.”

“I can only imagine.” Madame Poivre let out a grave sigh that sounded a bit too exaggerated. “And if you don’t mind me asking, it vouldn’t be because you ‘ave fallen for Monsieur O’Driscole, vould it?”

Jaidyn’s cup shook slightly in her hand, so she set it back down. “No, of course not,” she retorted quickly.

“Tut-tut-tut!” Madame Poivre clucked her tongue. “I alvays tell my girls that is the number one rule!” She flicked her wrist and rolled her eyes, gasping, “But there you go vith your very first client.”

“But I didn’t!” Jaidyn protested. Perhaps if she denied it often enough, she’d believe it herself.

Madame Poivre waved her objection away and that blasted turban jiggled like flotsam, chiming in the Madame’s disapproval. “Oh please, you think after all this time in the business I can’t tell.”

“Fine.” Suppressing a grumble, Jaidyn crossed her arms on her chest and tapped a foot a few times. There was no point in contradicting any more.

“So now maybe you’ll agree vith me that this isn’t the best vay to earn your passage north?”

Squaring her shoulders, Jaidyn thrust her chin up. “Yes. But what can I do?”

Madame Poivre patted her knee in a soothing manner. “There must be something else. Vat other skills do you ‘ave?”

Jaidyn searched her brain for something else she could be of assistance with here. Sadly, nothing came to her mind. She wasn’t even fit to clean carpets never having done such chores before.

“As I said before . . . ” Jaidyn hated that her voice sounded so meek. “I’m best with--”

“Yes, yes, ‘orses, I know. I can’t use that. And you don’t make ‘ats.”

Jaidyn shook her head. “I never especially liked hats. Neither wearing nor embellishing them.” In her frustration, Jaidyn picked up a currant cake and took a huge bite.

“Sew or embroider?”

Ridding the corner of her mouth of a few stray crumbs with the tip of her tongue, she gulped down the bun. “I kept pricking myself too much.”

“Hmm.” Madame Poivre tapped the side of the sugar cone with her teaspoon. “Maybe you could entertain clients in some vay vile they vait. Do you sing?”

“Not well, no.” Jaidyn was tempted to reach for another roll of currant cake.

“Do you play the pianoforte?”

“I quit my lessons when I was ten. I couldn’t stand the boredom,” Jaidyn conceded and forced her uncommonly greedy gaze away from the plate of sweets.

Madame Poivre raised an eyebrow in disbelief. “The fiddle then? Surely an Irish girl like you can--”

“Sorry.” Jaidyn blushed.

“Vell, I can’t imagine you vere on ‘orseback your entire life. Is there not anything else you did to pass the time?”

“I did catch toads and hid them in my mother’s bed.” Was that a talent to be exploited here? Jaidyn wondered. “The maid making her bed always gave such a funny squeal.”

Then Jaidyn thought of another thing she was good at. “My cousins taught me to use a bow and arrow.” It was still so painful thinking of what a wonderful life she’d had back in Ireland and how far away it all seemed now.

Non, non, non.” Rolling her eyes, the Madame pulled a small flask from her pocket and added the contents to her tea. When she offered to add the liquor to Jaidyn’s cup as well, Jaidyn held her hand up to say no.

“Did you never ‘ave ‘ouse guests or parties? Is there not anything you did for entertainments?”

Jaidyn stopped short. “Yes, of course we had parties.”

“And?” Madame Poivre nodded with glee to encourage her to continue.

“Plays,” Jaidyn stated. “We would stage plays or just collections of scenes people were familiar with, sometimes musicals--but I only helped with the scenery and costumes on those.”

Madame Poivre rose from her seat. Teaspoon still in hand, she paced the room, tapping it on her chin while the turban bobbed in thoughtful unison.

“Scenery . . . and costumes . . . staging . . . ” Jaidyn was convinced the Madame’s mumbled soliloquy was actually a dialog between her and her turban.

When Madame Poivre slapped the spoon loudly on the palm of her other hand, Jaidyn jumped in her seat.

“My dear, I think that’s it!”