by Kiki Howell
eBook ISBN: 978-1-60982-443-3
Print ISBN: 978-1453816899
Fraught with scenes of explicit intimacy, romantic spells and mystical shapeshifting, Torn Asunder is a unique blending of the age of manners with sexual magic.
Note: Prologue omitted.
The roses, elegant in their refinement, fell from one another with little grace as she undid the paper around them. Staggering back a few steps until her back met the wall, she slid down to the floor letting the wrapping and flowers fall where they may. Aubrey wrapped her arms tightly around her midsection. Her chest ached more with each beat of her heart as she swallowed hard, blinked away the mistiness over her eyes, and remembered.
It had been the beginning of the season, a bit over a fortnight ago, when she first encountered Edmund Bryant, the Marquess of Dalysbury. Although she rolled her eyes still at the title, she felt compelled to live through it all again—through the days of fantasy in which she had allowed herself to participate. Love at first sight didn’t always give way to rational thinking. The feelings did, however, make possible the wavering delusions of believing impossible dreams could come true.
At the time, she had just come to London to live with her cousins, Lord and Lady Sanderly. They had paid for her travels under the guise of giving a poor relation of marriageable age a chance to find a good husband. The truth of the matter was, she had shown a great aptitude for learning the magical powers inherited through their line. The good Lord and Lady, while holding the public titles of Earl and Countess, were descendants of one of the notorious Pendle witches. They were to teach her to harness and utilize her innate talents in secret while flaunting her about from various parties and balls in the public eye.
She recalled with a weak smile the first ball Lord and Lady Sanderly had thrown to immerse her into proper society. Gripping her hands before her waist to resist fidgeting, she had tried hard to fix to memory all of the titles of those to whom she was being introduced. Her level of discomfort had increased. An unsettled awareness of someone in the room, an almost haunting premonition, had made her heart race and her mouth dry. She had paid no mind to the successive shivers which rushed the length of her spine until they pooled as heat in her tightening stomach.
Reminded she was holding her breath only when she was forced to speak, she found her ribs had begun to ache. When a chill more pervasive than any she had ever known, even in the drafty county cottage she had been raised in, permeated her shoulders, she had turned in the direction of the source. Her eyes met with a man standing just across the room looking back at her. She immediately felt challenged to not look away from the gaze of his dark eyes. They radiated a raw energy unlike anything she had ever encountered before, even among those with her own esoteric abilities.
A connection was made. Her heart beat at a frantic, uneven pace like a horse racing over shoddy roads. At the same time, a vague forewarning had made her break out in a glistening of sweat. She fought the urge to escape the room as well the need to move toward the man. She had given merit to her reactions based only on the fact she had captured the glance of an aristocratic gentleman. He had a lady on his arm, one of obvious higher circumstances in a lavish satin gown.
Engrossed in the man’s fine manners, she watched as he removed himself from his current audience. His tempestuous form in posh attire spun on the heel of his expensive footwear to find her again with his haunted and hungry eyes. He seemed an odd mix of rugged and refined. She had felt the thrill and danger of being pursued by a beast which lurked inside of the man.
As if he was just happening by, he had paused before her and spoken greetings to Lady Sanderly. If his perfection could have been improved upon, he had managed it. Charm sang from his mouth. The spicy smell of him embraced her.
“I thank you, my Lord. Allow me to introduce to you to my cousin,” Lady Sanderly said as she moved between them. She placed her hands upon both of their arms. “May I present The Most Honourable, The Marquess of Dalysbury, and this, My Lord, is Miss Aubrey Griffen. She is lovely, is she not?” A touch of electricity had tingled up her arm, and she remembered Lady Sanderly had teased her of her overabundance of excitement later.
Aubrey had curtsied as Lady Sanderly taught her to upon meeting men of his rank, albeit he appeared a bit exaggerated in stance to suit her tastes. All the while, she had blushed while the Lady went on about her so. She had thought, at the time, she was putting it on a little thick even for their purposes. This train of thought was shattered at the memory of the Marquess taking her hand to lightly brush a kiss over the back of it. A capricious sting of tears threatened behind her eyes.
“She is,” he had said with an indistinct, but sonorously grave tone. “I was caught by her beauty from across the room, and could not force myself to wait my turn in meeting her.”
“Lord Dalysbury,“ Lady Sanderly had tittered in a way Aubrey had never heard before. She would have often wondered at the aristocratic pomp if she had not known her cousin so well. However, since she did, she knew it could only be an air she assumed because it was much expected of her. “You are such a gentleman. Is your mother to be in attendance tonight?”
“She is, but I fear she likes to make late, but grand entrances.” His smile had been charming, and yet, she could see he had stifled it to some degree. Since some things become clearer the more one thinks upon them, and given what she knew now of his mother, it seemed no longer strange at all. The Dowager Marchioness of Dalysbury liked to make good use of her standing to intimidate the masses beneath her in order to amass her whims.
At the time, however, she had wondered at the curious nature of his many discrepancies. Having fought the need to touch him in order to decipher further the divergences of his feelings, she had focused on her own unfounded fears. She sensed her own frailty in his presence despite the supernatural power she knew she could wield over him.
Her sudden, intense desire to know him had infiltrated her usual cautiousness even as she idly listened to the conversation continuing between him and Lady Sanderly. Since the Lady had brought up his mother, his tone had switched to a suave satin while his answers had became gruff and monosyllabic.
Aubrey had tried to emulate a Lady’s refinement, chiming in when she could until Lady Sanderly was abruptly called away by Lord Sanderly. This left her standing with Lord Dalysbury. She feigned meek and timid, although in the usual play of things she had no lack of the assuredness of her own character.
“What have you most liked about your first days in London? The weather has been most agreeable for you, I do believe,” he stated.
She appreciated his diversion.
“It has, but I fear I am more of a bluestocking lady myself. I daresay, I have not ventured much past the garden to read.” While she perpetuated the bluestocking persona to cover her intense study and practice of magic, it could not be a truer representation of her nevertheless.
“What have you read since you were here?” He stammered the words as if he was not used to discussing such a lofty subject with a woman.
“Just this morning, I finished Hester Chapone’s Letters on the Improvement of the Mind.” She squared off her shoulders and smiled demurely as she could manage.
“Such a keen consciousness.” He shook his head as he spoke. “Do you read Mary Shelley?”
“Yes. I last read Loves of Poets.”
As she reflected on their conversation, she sighed at the haunting vision of him. She seemed helpless to stop the antics of her mind. Never had she quite let herself think upon the why of their relationship. She had merely been swept away by love at first sight and given leave of rational thoughts for moments of bliss she may never have the chance at again. Looking back with a clearer vision now, she had pushed aside all propriety to follow the desires of her quickly won heart. She had followed the needs of her body for what she knew could only be a short-lived, secret affair. Better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all had been the faulty proverb of her days. More like bad advice, or an easy excuse to have relations with a man with whom she could share no future.
In those first days, there had been numerous moments of inappropriately stolen kisses, improper grazes of his hands, and lengthy glances across crowded rooms all at the most dangerous of moments. This shocking behavior, despite the fact that he was believed by society to be openly courting The Lady Elizabeth Ward, the daughter of a duke, for the love of all that is holy! Their courting had been more of a family business arrangement than a veritable romance. A Marquess and the daughter of a Duke to be wed for a gain in social standing and in covering over a mounting disaster of family finances. He had raged over the situation just days into their torrid affair while he walked with Aubrey at a garden party.
In her mind, they walked and talked again.
“Since meeting you, I see the faults of a marriage of convenience, one to gain station and to please the obligations set out by family. How, after knowing such passion with you, can I allow myself to be a mere pawn in a parental game of who shall marry whom? I cannot surrender my life for family alliances!”
“But, you must. There is no way around it. You have obligations, and thus it seems aristocratic children end up…”
“Powerless,” he cut her off. “I feel utterly powerless over my own future, like I was just sold to the highest bidder for position and reputation.”
“The Lady Elizabeth Ward…” The name had burned her throat burgeoning a barrage of tears she fought to suppress, “is better suited to be your wife than a poor relation of an Earl.” With secrets that await scandal if brought into the limelight of those of your rank.
She recalled how his sigh had meshed with her own. His tone became more forlorn in recognizing the truth of her words.
“Before I met you, I used to think the same. If one considers the facts as they could be scrolled onto parchment then she does suit. Her lineage is as faultless as her manners. She has been trained to be the wife of a Duke or a Marquess and the mother of heirs. We do produce easy conversation, although we never share words of importance. I dare proclaim it is much the same with any talk within the ton.”
“This is why marriage within your own rank will make your life easier. It is the practical and the wise choice. Other than meeting you, I do prefer my own world to being whirled about in yours. This knowledge, I have gained from my time in London. Do not worry for me. It is far preferable to have had the chance to shower love upon that person who fulfills you like no other and to hurt once they are gone than to have never known or made love to them at all.” Her string of words had tumbled from her mouth. She had tried to express what was in her heart, but she was making a cake of herself in the attempting of it. Yet, her use of the word love had been intentional. She had wanted to say it to him, but known better. It would only cause problems for them both, having known even then she would have to leave. She could not bear to see him marry another, and that was the one thing which would dictate her future.
As if he had read her thoughts, which seemed an uncanny habit of his, he had said, “We all know of at least one person who has stood for love and married beneath them. It could be me! I can weather the scandal of walking away from an advantageous marriage and still fulfill the obligations of my position. I do not care one wit what society thinks of me! Often one is surprised to find society is not as harsh a council as one thought it to be.”
“I love you for even thinking it, but you are dreaming, my Lord. And, what if it all falls apart around you? What then? You have others to think of. We have only just met. We do not know of each other enough to make such rash decisions.” Those were the only choices she did make where he was concerned, but in this one matter, she could not allow it to be so. She tried to maintain some distance between them for his sake.
“There is time for us to decide. I am not being pressured with a time frame to ask for her hand as of yet. I could make you fall in love with me in time. I could set us up a house in the country. Could you not see me in a shabby coat with a few shaggy dogs at my feet when I do not have to be in attendance in London? Or, we could flee to America and be done with it all.”
“How absurd both ideas are. You are banking a lot on a few illicit meetings. Besides, you could never live with yourself having hurt Lady Elizabeth and your mother. You shall have to let me go. Honestly, I am not the lady of your youthful dreams, am I?”
“No, you are so much more than I ever dreamed possible for myself. You are truly a rare person, and I am in awe of all I know you to be. You have humbled this aristocrat. So, then let me ask you, am I the man of your dreams?”
“No,” she had laughed fully. “I had more in mind a man with no wealth and no title to speak of. I…” she had left off before she could slip and admit to having thought she would marry a man of magic. It did not seem to matter to her now. There was another sort of magic she had then not been aware of. It is the magic of uniting two souls meant by the universe to be together even if society claims they are not to be permitted such happiness.
“I must be with you, fully as a man and a woman can. I must have at least that, please. I must know one night with you. I must have it in my memory to endure the lot which is my life. Please tell me you want me as much as I desire to have you.”
His words had sounded scandalous. Yet, the sexual tension between them had been so viable she could actually see the sparks stemming from the energy which grew within her each day. She knew he had a part in that as if he had powers of his own and was gifting them to her. Although, a sillier notion there never was. Just being with the man who dominated both her heart and soul had made her better for the knowing of him.
“How can we take such a chance? There are too many to be hurt.” Like me, she thought, although she did wonder upon which choice could possibly make her future without him worse. She cringed at the idea of what he would be able to do with his wife each night once they were wed. The torture in the days to come would be set upon such thoughts each night.
“A single decision can forever change how it is we bear the rest of our lives. We will not get the chance back. I shall be married, and you shall be gone. You have said as much, have you not?”
“Where and when?” She had heard the words come from her mouth and chose to let them be. There would be dreadful consequences in their future either way. Why not have a moment of pure bliss, utter happiness, before our lives are torn asunder for our remaining days.
The tears now fell freely along with her memories. Only days ago they had shared a first night of passion, as they had discussed. What was to be their first and last sexual relations had continued through successive nights. They had found more times and more ways to slip into each others arms, naked and free.
She picked up a rose which had fallen to the floor and put it to her nose. The fragrance brought back that infamous moment when they first joined. Roses, much the same, he had given her on that night too.
Even though the reminiscing was killing her, she let herself go back to the intimate party she had attended while staying the weekend with Lord and Lady Sanderly at the grand estate of The Earl of Gainsborough. To her delight, they had found another moment to walk a garden together. This time he had begged her with his eyes and then his words. She had become momentarily hesitant about such a monumental happening, the loss of her virginity. Since she knew she would suffer the loss of him the remainder of her days, this was probably her only chance to feel a man hard inside of her.
“Please forgive me, but I must have you. I must make love to you,” he had begged.
“I want the same, but it feels most improper, still. Years of teachings, I suppose, of how to be a proper lady.”
“I can feel the heat radiating off of you. I know you want me.”
She blushed, not understanding how he could have known of the wet heat building thick in her core, making her damp with desires she had only heard about.
“Your blushing tells me I am right.”
“My blushing is only confirmation of your sincere impropriety,” she countered, not meaning the words.
“You want me.”
“How can I want what I know not of?” It had been a lie of course. She had studied the grimoires of many witches who had written of using the energy gotten of sex to power spells. She had become mesmerized in all of the lurid details, feeling her body tingle and pulse much as it was doing now.
“Say yes. Please! I apologize, I know I owe it to you, but I can’t help myself. It is as though you have bewitched me, and I can’t hold back my desires.”
She had gone stiff at his use of the word bewitched. She recollected the raw lust coming from him as something she had never felt, even around the most lecherous of men. Did I do something unknowingly to him? She fretted the idea now as she did then. Could it be why he wanted me? Did he not have his own true lusts and desires?
“I am sorry. I won’t ask again. Relax.” He had rubbed her arms, sending the warm remnants of friction meddled with touch through her body. “I will gain control over myself somehow.” She had seen the obvious bulge in his trousers and turned to go until he had released a moan of anguish.
“I am afraid,” she offered.
“I won’t hurt you anymore than nature necessitates.”
“I don’t understand why I am even considering throwing away a lifetime of propriety on this moment. It is insane.” What if I have bewitched you, and you are not acting of your own volition?
Her chest tightened, suffocating her. In her mind she had always thought love would have no place in her magical life unless she happened upon a man with her powers. She had thought she could not give herself to a man who knew not the whole of her. Men like him, normal men, could never understand. She had been through these arguments in her head a thousand times since meeting him, and she knew it was only her fears seeking them out again. Her final thoughts on the matter had gone as such. If they were to be together only once, and she must leave him anyway, it would not matter if he knew not the truth.
She let the scene move forward once again as she brushed her fingers over the silkiness of a rose petal, lost in her recollection as if it was happening once more. She remembered their breath meshing between them, coming out fast as they stood facing each other, frozen in their desires. His visage had been as grim as her treacherous heart in want of him. All the appropriate responses had left her, and she wondered the harm that could come of such a tryst.
“Come to me tonight after all others have retired. My door I will leave slightly ajar once the house is quiet.” Her words had tumbled out before she had time to finish thinking it all through. She abruptly left him to find a quiet bench to compose herself upon.
He had done as she had instructed. Her current existence darkened around her once more, and she stood there again when he shut the door to her room that fateful night. He had been but a gentleman for one more moment. He had proceeded to stalk her back toward the bed as he asked, “Are you sure? I may have but one last ounce of restraint to get me out of here if you are not.”
The word had barely left her mouth when, in one heart-stopping expanse of time, he picked her up off of her feet and pinned her body under his. His eyes had darkened as something raged behind them. He ran his hands down her sides in a gentle caress that had an ounce of violence to it, laced within pressure and intent. She felt him holding back a huge amount of energy. The power came at her in surges, overwhelming her sensibilities and catching her breath.
She was overflowing, on the other hand, with many unfamiliar yet wondrous emotions as his mouth descended upon hers. A pulse beat more frantically in her most secret of places as he wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her lower body more fiercely against his. Her softness gave way to his hardness, and she became as pliable as his cravat, which was falling from his neck despite all the starch. The bulge of his cock from earlier now filled the space between her thighs.
Whatever shyness she had, whatever reservations, they had misted from her like steam from her heated skin. She started ripping at his coat and shirt. When her hand hit the skin of his chest, a spark of electricity went through each of her fingers.
He had let go of her then, moving off of her and to her side as he started to pull on her gown. She helped him by moving as needed until he had divested her of her corset and chemise and stockings too.
“My, but I have never seen one before so beautiful,” he had exclaimed in a faltering voice as he knelt beside her. He stared like she was food to be devoured. She had not even the will to move her head back and forth in rebuttal.
When he grabbed for his trousers, he begged, “Please don’t turn away.”
He proceeded to remove them along with his stockings and boots. His cock stood out, proudly bouncing a little with his movements. There was nothing that had ever prepared her for the sight of this naked man in front of her. He was brawn under a shroud of satin skin, with chiseled muscles accentuating each curve of his abdomen, legs and arms. She had tried to wet her dry lips as he reached for her hand. Brushing across the curve of her belly, his touch sent a current of electricity that set what already pulsed to twittering.
Next, he had moved her hand to his arching erection, running her fingers over the reddened staff. The skin was soft while the bulk of it was unyielding. He guided her over him, showing her what to do, then cupped her hand and moved it to the tight sacs at its base. She touched lightly upon the tight band of skin beneath them. With his teeth clenched, he growled, alarming her. He never allowed her to remove her hand from him while he climbed back up on the bed.
He rubbed over her breasts, making her yearn more for him in the lower regions of her body. Her nipples tightened and pebbled under his touches. Erotic sensations mingled then merged into pure ecstasy when his mouth finally came down to suckle her. She had never felt so perfectly warm. The rhythm of his deep pants increased as she felt her way around his cock in an untaught manner which seemed to make it twitch in her hand. He shuddered against her.
Soon, he had moved from her reach as his kisses trailed lower. His fingers met with the curls at the apex of her thighs. They drifted over the soft folds, opening them to discover her most secret spot. Thus, he released the most wanton of desires she had no idea she even possessed. She was grateful to be lying down as she felt she would swoon when she let her legs fall apart as far as they would go. When his fingers caressed her wet skin, her hips arched up toward him. Then, he caught the swollen nub there in his lips and flicked at it with his tongue. A wave of contractions had tightened her stomach. She let free a cry which he moved up her body to stifle quickly with his mouth. His lips were wet with her juices. The contractions continued with the fall of his erection over the highly sensitized nub. His tongue plundered her mouth.
He lifted his hips, setting his cock at her opening. She tensed, awaiting the pain she had heard would now come. He had been patient as much as he was frantic, moving in slowly until he pierced through the last piece of her which could give him any pause for concern.
“I am so sorry,” he whispered gently when she tensed. She knew he had ceased moving while he waited for her to confirm it safe for him to continue. The ache died away as she felt her body conform and grip around his.
“I am fine, My Lord.”
He pulled back, looking upon her quizzically, but an evil smile took his face. He thrust in and out of her, drawing ripples of pleasure. The sensations had built and built until she tumbled with them over the edge of the precipice to ride out the waves of the most indefinable, exquisite bliss she had never fathomed. His seed had shot warm into her, moving her back to the build again for a moment before her core contracted in tiny ripples. Leaving her relaxed and sated, he fell flat onto her. She had felt all-encompassed by him, and safe in all that had just happened because of it.
“I cannot apologize for what just happened here. It was too perfect, too unbelievable, to utter such insane words for.”
She had sensed mutual adoration, hesitant then to call it love even in her mind.
“You never have to,” she had answered.
All Romance eBooks