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WICKED DESIRES
by Eliza Lloyd

Genre: Historical Erotic Romance, Erotic Romance

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Clarissa recognized that Alice DuPuis was a consummate manipulator and a skilled abbess, yet Clarissa complied, since she could see no other way of solving her problem. The woman seemed too matronly and kind and honest to be a threat, and perhaps she, more than anyone, understood men in the most base and meaningful way.

Finally, Alice spoke. Clarissa sat up to listen, believing that her happiness—her life, her existence—was at stake.

“Just so you understand, I’m offering these suggestions in a purely mercenary capacity. You will pay me if you accept, just as the earl will continue to pay me.”

Clarissa nodded.

“The earl seems devoted to you and you seem interested in pleasing him. Perhaps we could come to an arrangement whereby you are the woman in his room.”

“I’m sorry?” Clarissa had heard her correctly, and even though she’d seen enough tonight to cause blindness, she still gaped at the madam’s suggestion.

“Of course, you’d be alone with the earl. I believe I could work up a sufficiently erotic tale about my newest French whore to keep the earl unsuspecting for a few weeks while you, shall we say, entice him? You are French, are you not?”

Oui, on my father’s side.”

“Perfect.”

“Why would I do such a thing? Michael obviously finds a satisfaction here that I cannot provide.”

“Men change. He’s gotten older. Perhaps he is worried about keeping you, satisfying you. Perhaps his taste in entertainments has changed and he is worried he will hurt or offend you. The children are gone. He has a little less stamina. A little less hair.”

“He does not! He has perfectly fine hair.”

“I think you understand what I’m trying to say. Men put a lot of stock in their virility. It’s a blow when they discover they aren’t the stallions they thought they were.”

“My husband is quite virile. Obviously it is his appetite for the unusual, as you suggest.” She bit at her fingernail. “And perhaps he is bored with me now that I’m old and done bearing his children.”

Alice smiled. “Somehow that seems to me to be the least of your worries.” The madam allowed her appraising gaze to wander over Clarissa’s figure. “I think you look as good as some of my best whores.”

Clarissa gasped. “Madame DuPuis, I take exception to your statement.”

“Calm yourself, Lady Dunnaway. We have to look at all of your assets if you are to win your husband back.”

“I haven’t said I would agree.”

“Do you have a choice?”

“Yes.”

The calculating madam smiled again. “Yes, go home to your empty bed and worry whether the next time he visits he will have the same restraint. That he won’t give in to those base urges that cause men to cheat on their wives and lose fortunes. You are right. It’s a chance you can take. He’ll surely come home to you tonight and stay for good.”

“You mock me.”

“No. I’m trying to help you.”

Choices seemed nonexistent. But even if she agreed to the madam’s plan, how could she be sure Michael would take her? She could be discovered. Ruined. And how would she untangle the mess? Because eventually, no matter how discreet she was, he would find out. Some things could not remain a secret forever. And after eighteen years of marriage, Michael would eventually put the puzzle pieces together.

“What would you have me do?”