House of Sin
Her most important duty—serve the master’s pleasure.
Emily’s dreams are simple: a life of dedicated service at a respectable estate, and a strong marriage filled with love and devotion for one man. Portage Place, the manor where her parents apprenticed, seems the perfect place to start. Though it is whispered that all is not as it seems behind its grand façade.
The rumors, it turns out, ring with truth. The halls are saturated with sensuality, desire and lust. Despite the scandalous duties she is asked to perform, she is determined not to stumble on what could be her first step toward her dreams. Dreams that, lately, have included the manor’s fiery haired groomsman.
A promise to watch over his younger half-brother brought Adam to Portage Place. For the first time in five years of enjoying the delights of the manor’s unbridled debauchery, Emily’s innocence touches the protector that still lives deep in his core. This house of sin may have ruined him, but he will see to it that it doesn’t ruin her.
It seems, however, that behind every door lurks a conspiracy to bind Emily in velvet chains of desire. Until the only way out is for Adam to take the biggest risk of all…
Read an Excerpt
Cornwall England, 1879
The ancient butler who sat across the narrow wooden desk stared at her with harsh green eyes. His lips turned down and pursed, twitching the flesh in his oblong face. “Is this your first position, miss?”
“Y-yes, sir.” Emily inwardly cringed. She should have kept her voice strong yet quiet as her mother had instructed when in the company of those she should respect, but she was nervous and the way that man kept looking at her gave her very little to respect.
She glanced at the doctor, who stood not two arms’ lengths away. His fair hair and sideburns washed out the smooth, pale skin of his face. If it were not for his startling blue eyes he would have appeared an apparition. His eyes… She lowered her gaze to the stained whitewashed floor. His eyes captivated.
“Remove your chemise, miss,” the doctor said in a calm and reassuring tone.
Her knees shook and her heart pounded. She didn’t want to remove her shift and expose her body for the doctor and butler to inspect. She swallowed hard. She would anyway, as houses of quality inspected their unwed female hires for virtue. It was a sign the servant would uphold the house’s morals.
Her fingers grasped the thin fabric, and she lifted the cotton up and over her head. From all her mother had said, Mr. Waterton demanded respect in his household. She would obey him and his rules explicitly. Even if standing before him with nothing but her drawers, stockings and boots on was a bit alarming.
“You come from a good serving stock. Both your parents were employed by our late master and used those skills to enter grander establishments,” Mr. Waterton stated in a flat tone.
Emily stood still and continually rubbed the tips of her fingers against her palm in an anxious gesture. Goosepins raced her skin as she glanced around the tiny, windowless room and swallowed hard. The space was cramped, and the heat from three bodies pressed in on her. Her head spun. She had fainted before in small spaces under less vexation. She inhaled a steadying breath. Not now, Emily. This is too important for your prospects. No one hires inexperienced servants, and this is your only answered inquiry. It is this or begging your existence as a cock-chafer in the streets.
“Please remove your drawers, miss.” The doctor’s intense blue gaze lowered down her body to the tapes that held her knickers in place.
Her drawers… The way his eyes lit when he looked at her… Distasteful. Her heart jumped against her breast, and she stared at him with wide eyes. Do as he asks, Emily. With shaking hands, she pulled the tapes about her knees and then the ones about her waist free. The white linen fell to the floor in a heap. She straightened her spine. One less bit of proper clothing to hide behind. She trembled and diverted her gaze to the same stained spot on the floor. When would this embarrassment end?
“You are doing fine, miss.” The doctor’s cold, smooth hand grasped her wrist.
Her muscles flinched. Stay still, Emily. His touch was as icy as the ghostly illusion she wished he could be.
His fingertips pressed to the underside, and he looked down at his etched silver pocket watch. His thick, golden hair fell in ringlets covering his stunning blue eyes.
Emily swallowed hard. Here she stood before an oddly striking man her own age as he inspected her as if she was a broodmare he wished to breed his stallion to. She inhaled a steadying breath. A mix of clean honey soap and eucalyptus waved as if mist between them. Oh, but he smelled good. Stay focused on the task. You should be thinking of why this kind of scrutiny is necessary for a position as maid. She was hired to clean the pots, for gracious sake. A hasty check of her virtue was all that was appropriate, even if a bit humiliating. This kind of inspection seemed inordinate.
“You shall follow Miss Lamber in her daily activities. Those activities shall include washing the linens, cleaning the pots and, when requested, doing anything the master, his sons, or guests ask of you. Is this understood, Miss Grey?” Mr. Waterton glared at her from the other side of the ever-shrinking desk.
She wanted this position in life. To serve. She had known this since birth. She would follow by her parents’ example and find the fulfillment she craved in service. Yet she had no inkling what to expect here.
“Yes, sir.” Anything_… Emily nodded as the word buzzed around in her ears. She was good at following orders. However, what _anything could entail raised all the hairs on her neck. Her brows pinched together as the doctor’s fingers traveled up her arm to her neck. A ripple of goosepins followed in his wake, and her nipples tightened. Anything certainly included this monstrous scrutiny. This entire morning could easily pass as a fictional inspiration or a fantastical dream. Served her right for reading all those silly romance sheets about doctors and handsome rakes. Heaving bosoms and palpitating orbs. She glanced down at her pointed buds. Hers were anything but.
“Miss Grey.” The doctor called her back calmly to reality. “Please sit back on the edge of the desk so I may inspect your…” His cheeks turned bright red, setting off the contrast of his piercing blue eyes. He cleared his throat. “Your nether regions.”
Emily’s eyes widened. Her nether regions? The check of her virtue and her worth as an unwed servant. She turned her head toward the butler, who continued to scribble a note on the very desk on which she was about to display herself. He didn’t seem remotely out of sorts by the doctor’s orders. This appeared to be his wish.
She swallowed hard. Do as they request. This is what is required for the post. She stepped backward until her bottom cheeks touched the edge of the cool desk. Her fingers gripped the curve of the carved edge, and she glanced back at the butler.
He continued to scribble on the parchment, unmoved by the closeness of her bare bottom.
Her hands trembled as she pushed her bottom up to do as the doctor requested. She shivered as the cold, hard surface supported her rounded bum.
“Only a moment more, Miss Grey.” The doctor stepped toward her with a reassuring smile. “Please scoot back a bit and put your heels on the edges so your legs are spread, miss.”
He wanted her to display her innocence to him. She closed her eyes, and her face blazed with heat that shot straight down her gut to the flesh between her thighs. She squirmed. It was not as if she was an unfortunate woman they were hiring as a favor. She was the daughter of two highly respected servants who Mr. Waterton had trained himself.
“Only a moment more, miss.”
Did he feel repeating the short duration of her humiliation would somehow make it better? She pulled her legs up and out, placed the soles of her favorite pink boots on the ungiving wooden surface and squeezed her eyes closed tighter as her fantastical dream was about to turn nightmare. Her heart pounded and she held still. She displayed herself for a man other than a future husband.
A touch pressed to her thigh.
She trembled in unease and fear. No one besides herself had touched her there. Certainly the thought of a doctor’s touch was less than impelling. No matter how differently striking he was, he was not the man she would wed. She bit her lip, and fever raced her skin. The flesh between her thighs tingled, and she fought the desire to close her legs on his hand.
His fingers glided through her hairs and parted her flesh, then slid into her.