The General’s Wife
An American Revolutionary Tale
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-9910166-1-7
Print ISBN: 978-0-9910166-0-0
[ Historical Romance, MF ]
The General’s Wife: An American Revolutionary Tale is an award-nominated historical erotic romance set in New York of 1777. Intermingling themes of erotica and erotic romance, The General’s Wife follows the sexual journey of the heroine culminating in a happily-ever-after.
New York, September 1777
From her usual perch on the second-story window seat, Clara looked out at the tops of the trees, their vibrant, fiery leaves accenting the scarlet coats of the British soldiers exercising in the yard below. She wrapped her woolen shawl more closely around her. Autumn had descended upon New York all at once one day in late September, a phenomenon so different from what she was used to back home in the Cotswolds. Home. She had to stop thinking of England as home. This was her new home now, her second autumn in these raw American colonies, and she would have to get used to it.
“Lady Strathmore”—well, she was finally used to that, after a little over a year. Papa had chosen the Viscount Jeremy Strathmore to be her husband, a highly regarded military man, a general who had fought with distinction and valor in the Seven Years’ War waged along the colonial frontier fourteen years before. He now led his troops in the new battle against American colonists obstinately demanding separation from the crown.
It certainly wasn’t the marital match she had hoped for.
The general had returned to his estate in Gloucestershire in the summer of 1776, and he had made no secret of his mission. A man in his forties, he had said, needed to find a wife to produce an heir or two: a boy to inherit the title, and another in reserve because life was so unpredictable and dangerous in the colonies that one never knew who would survive.
The general’s handsome features and commanding charisma made him the center of attention everywhere he went. He attended dance after dance, soirée after soirée, inflaming the passions of unmarried girls and flattering the egos of their mothers. His tall, lanky frame set him above the crowd, his scarlet uniform stood out against a sea of pastels, his shock of unpowdered gray hair unique amongst the wigs of the ton. All in attendance knew where he was and whom he was with at all times. Girls swooned under the gaze of his penetrating gray eyes and glared in jealous disappointment when he escorted another onto the dance floor. He danced with only the most beautiful of England’s young noble ladies. Fewer still were privileged enough to walk with the attractive officer in a host’s garden under cover of moonlight.
Then one night toward the end of the summer, the general noticed Clara. She had just turned eighteen, and Mama made sure she stood out, matching her dress to her eyes, daintily arranging her curls, pinching her cheeks pink. Mama’s efforts ensured a great many young men set their sights on Clara, but the watchful gaze of her older brother, Oliver, and the political ambitions of their father kept all lesser suitors at bay.
As the general approached, Papa bent his head in her direction. “Now Clara, be a good girl. General Strathmore is a valuable ally.”
And when the general was before her, she suddenly understood what all the fuss was about. His cool demeanor was intriguing, his presence magnetic. Her heart beat a little faster as her lungs tightened in their sudden need for air.
He nodded to Papa, “Lord Buckland,” then turned to Oliver, “Lord Thornton.”
“It is our pleasure, Lord Strathmore,” Papa responded smoothly. “May I introduce my daughter, Lady Clara Hastings?”
Clara held out her hand.
The general tickled her fingers with his own, causing such a thrill to course through her she feared she would faint.
When General Strathmore asked Clara to dance, Papa and Oliver nodded approvingly. When he took her arm to promenade her to the center of the floor, she watched the puppy-dog gapes of would-be suitors turn to crushing disappointment. The general himself barely took his eyes off Clara even during the moments when he was paired with another in the set. His attention was flattering, befuddling, prickling her skin to gooseflesh while melting her insides with disconcerting desires.
The night of the Millington family ball, the final dance of the summer, changed everything. The general chose to partner only with Clara, making it quite clear what his intentions were. She had never danced so much in her life. Weary and flushed in the ballroom’s heat, she begged for a break in the cool night air. The general brought her a glass of lemonade which she tried not to gulp down despite her nervousness and thirst. He then suggested they take a walk in the adjoining garden. Lost in pleasant chitchat, before long they found themselves very much alone amidst the tall boxwood shrubbery. He stopped near a bench, stripped off his gloves, and turned to her.
“I should like to kiss you, my lady,” he said in a low sultry drawl.
New heat rushed to her face. “General Strathmore, sir?”
“I think, Clara, you know my intentions.” His arms snaked about her waist and he drew her to him.
Her heart thumped wildly in her chest, racing with her quickening breaths. His hand at the back of her head held her steady as he took her in a savage kiss.
She had never been kissed before, had never known the wonderful sensations of a man’s lips and tongue tasting her own, of his hands clasping her body to press her more fully against his masculine form. It was extraordinarily delightful, but it was ever so wrong.
Her hands flat on his chest, Clara tried to push him away. “Please, my lord, we are not engaged. This cannot be right.”
He remained firm and unyielding, holding her just a little more tightly. “We don’t need formalities to express our mutual passions, Clara, my love.”
The seductive strains of his voice eased her into compliance. When he bent his head to kiss her again, she dared to cling to his shoulders, then, emboldened by his attentions, encircled her hands behind his neck.
“That’s right, my sweet,” he murmured against her mouth.
He lifted her up into his arms, took her to the garden bench, and laid her down. He covered her body with his own, enthralling her with kisses. He gently stroked her thigh as his lips trailed down her neck to her bosom.
Clara’s senses spun in a fog of confusion and craving. This could not be proper conduct even for an engaged couple! She pushed him away again to no avail. Instead, he pressed his hips against hers, grinding her into the marble bench.
“Relax, my love. I will give you a night more memorable than your wedding night.”
With that, he raised himself up to separate her legs, moving one to the other side of the bench until she was grossly splayed open. Her dress still covered her—for that she was thankful—but the general lay on top of her, crudely rubbing the stiffness in his crotch into the apex of her thighs.
“Please, sir, leave me be,” Clara whispered harshly. She struggled once more against his resolute form.
He held her steady as he untucked the sheer, lace-trimmed neckerchief from her stomacher, then nudged her sleeves off her shoulders, freeing her breasts from her daringly low-cut neckline. Exposed to the cool air, her nipples tightened, the sensation sending a shock of need to pulse through her, a sudden yearning for his attention. He murmured admiration just before drawing a delicate peak into his mouth. The wet heat surprised her, thrilled her, distracting her so much she did not notice his hand moving up her stocking-clad leg to lift her skirts until he tickled the naked flesh near her mons, then proceeded with one finger to the dampness between her thighs.
“You are so very wet, my dear,” he groaned. “I see you want me as much as I want you.” His tongue continued to torment her aching nipples.
His fingers tantalized her, exploring the folds until he found a spot that sent her senses reeling. He massaged and pressed in an exquisite rhythm as she lay enraptured, lightheaded, wanting something but not quite certain what, knowing somehow it simply mustn’t be this.
“Sir, this cannot be right.” Her voice was breathy, quivering, annoyingly not conveying her fear.
“Ah, my dear, then why do you respond so willingly?”
His truth stung. She was rocking her hips against his fingers, his ministrations eliciting little moans between her panting breaths.
And then he took his hand away.
Grim reality untainted by wanton pleasures descended upon her. The general unbuttoned his breeches. Clara lifted her head just enough to see the enormous rod of his manhood spring from the open placket.
She tried to get up but he was too quick for her. In one movement, her voluminous silk skirts were at her waist, his hands pinned her arms above her head, and his prick was at her swollen, heated entrance.
In an instant, he slammed inside her, tearing apart her virginal barrier, covering her mouth with his own to swallow her shocked scream.
For a moment he remained motionless as his very presence stretched her, impossibly so. After the initial surprise subsided, he began moving in and out, each movement deeper, more urgent than the one before, a battering ram seeking full penetration.
Clara was too stunned, too clouded to resist. The general thrust and grunted over her. Yet through the pain there was a pleasure so elusive that it enticed her to join her seducer in the tempo of his violation.
“Yes, my dear, yes. You see now how man and woman were meant to be.” He pushed further and faster, building to his own satisfaction.
Clara tried to match his pace, tried to grasp the summit her body was racing toward. But the general was too quick for her. With one final growl he emptied his seed inside her. A moment later, he unceremoniously grabbed a handkerchief from his coat and wiped his cock as he pulled out.
“Well, at least you really were a virgin.” He folded the stained square of linen and pocketed it.
Clara lay on the bench, regret, anger, hatred washing over her. She was no longer pure. She was a fallen woman.
“Get up, my dear. We mustn’t tarry too long in the garden. We might stir up rumors of impropriety.” He glanced over at her. “And for heaven’s sake do not cry. It is not the end of the world. I dare say you enjoyed it.” He pulled her up and fussed with her hair. “I see your coiffeuse foresaw that you might be seduced tonight. Your hair fared remarkably well through the encounter.”
After straightening out her neckerchief and skirts and checking the state of his own clothes, the general led Clara back into the ballroom. As she begged out of any more activity, the general took the opportunity to dance with a few more beauties that night. None of them, however, was invited into the garden. Once home, before going to bed, Clara washed the blood from between her legs, then vomited into the chamber pot.
A week later, Papa called her into his office. General Strathmore sat on the visitor’s couch, its bright yellow upholstery attractively setting off the red of his military attire. With crossed legs and one arm draped along the back of the seat he appeared far too relaxed, perhaps triumphant. She turned her back to him as she stood before Papa’s grand desk.
“General Strathmore has asked for your hand in marriage, Clara, and I have consented. It is a very good match for you.” Papa stood up and embraced her, then held her at arm’s length to look her up and down. “Ah, my child, I shall miss you.”
“Miss me, Papa? I can visit any time.” The Strathmore estate was not too far from their home near Cirencester.
Lord Strathmore coughed.
“A military wife must follow her husband. After your wedding, you will go to the American colonies. That is part of the arrangement, my dear.”
Clara panicked. Leave England? For a war zone?
Papa patted her on the back. “And now I shall leave you two alone for a moment.” He smiled. “Not too long. You and your mother have much to prepare.” He kissed her forehead and left.
Clara heard the general get up and come toward her. She did not turn around. She stood her ground.
His hands were hot on her shoulders. He briefly and very gently wrapped his fingers around her neck as if in warning, then sought the soft skin of her breasts under her kerchief. He delicately and expertly squeezed her tender nipples.
Against her better judgment, Clara let out a little whimpering moan.
He chuckled. “Why should I choose to marry a whore who spreads her legs for any virile rake demanding satisfaction—” he began in his seductive bass tone as his lips brushed her neck.
“—when instead I can have you whose virginity was certainly no pretense?”
Initial confusion curdled to comprehension. “Those girls … those girls you took into the gardens at dances … you did to them what you did to me, didn’t you?”
He turned her around to face him. “You were the only one who struggled, my dear.” He fixed the lace at her neckline. “If the others cared so little for their virtue that they were so willing to part with it, then none was worthy of being my wife.” He tipped her chin up with his index finger and moved her head side to side as if inspecting her. “Although now I consider the matter with hindsight, perhaps not all of them had done such unseemly acts before. I certainly did not want some other man’s cast-off, but I fear I may have made a few of my own.”
“You monster,” she hissed. “I won’t marry you.”
In one swift movement, the general pressed her against the desk and lifted her skirts, holding them in place just above her hips as he reached between her legs. Clara clenched her thighs shut, desperate to prevent him from discovering her body’s betrayal of her reason, but his heavy boot between her delicately shod feet and his demanding fingers thwarted her defense.
He smirked when he found her heated and moist. He held her eyes as he stroked her slick plumpness, seeking and uncovering her excited nub ready for his insistent touch, raising a brow in victory as she descended into lustful oblivion.
“You, however, were delicious in your pathetic struggle to preserve the only item a woman may truly possess as her own. I shall delight in your embrace in our marriage bed if it will be as exhilarating as that every time. But, as I have already taken your innocence, there will be far less excitement now.”
“You sicken me,” Clara said hoarsely, her mouth dry from her agitated breaths. Her body began its carnal climb, reaching to grasp an elusive sensual summit.
But once again, the general took his hand away. “Of course I do.” He let Clara’s skirts fall, then sucked lasciviously on his dew-covered fingers before her. “In two days’ time we shall be married by special license. Soon after that, we shall leave for America. There you will do your duty and provide me with two sons. I care not for any daughters, you may have ten of those. But you must provide me with two sons. Until you have done so, you will not be allowed to return home to England. I have written that into your marriage contract.”
Clara gasped. Two sons? The earliest possible time she could see her family again, even if she were pregnant at that very moment, would be in two years.
She had little time to grieve. Five days later she was on a three-masted ship heading toward America. It was during those weeks at sea she realized she was not with child, and, as her husband rarely visited her in bed, she would not very readily become so. He spent a great deal of his leisure time gambling with the other officers on board. Frustrated that he had not been to her bed in over a week, one night she went to his room only to spy him thrusting into another officer’s maidservant from behind. Betrayed and hurt, she closed the door quickly to avoid any confrontation. She had heard older married women gossiping at parties about such things, never thinking it would happen to her so soon after her wedding.
Once landed, chaos reigned. New York City had been burned and plundered and housing was scarce. Lord and Lady Strathmore would have to be located elsewhere. As most of Manhattan Island was a battleground, they were settled on Long Island. A month and a half later, the general received orders to head a little farther north to the recently captured Fort Washington, renamed Fort Knyphausen to honor the Tory victory. The general, however, did not want to expose his young wife to garrison life, especially not a garrison filled with Hessian soldiers. They were established near the village of Chesterton, a few hours’ ride north along the Hudson River, in a farmstead confiscated from a Mr. and Mrs. Cuyler. They were positioned not far from the neutral buffer zone between the largely republican upper Hudson Valley and British-controlled territory to the south.
Thus they lived as protectors of the reclaimed New York colony. Clara hated the colonies, so far removed as she was from civilization. She was comfortable enough, yes, as she lived in what passed for an elegant house. It was new, stone and wood, but the ceilings were much too low. Although the general outfitted the rooms with mostly imported proper English furnishings, what was not imported was sham and common befitting simple gentry as the Cuylers were. The fireplace had a mantel painted to look like marble; the woodwork was skilled but never gilded. The food was rustic, the fashions austere, and the people unsophisticated.
The Americans—loyalists in Chesterton, certainly not English-hating rebels—were all charming and nice to her in pointed contrast to her husband’s indifference. He had not allowed her to bring her own lady’s maid or any other servants from Cirencester. Instead, he hired the entire household staff himself. They were in the middle of a war, he reminded her, and the colonies were filled with spies. Their staff was kept to a bare minimum.
Her new maid, Annabella, was spirited and the only person Clara knew who could be called a friend. When Annabella wasn’t around chattering away about village life or her betrothed, Redmond, or Clara’s hair and clothes, Clara was lonely. She tried to amuse herself with her husband’s library—which was certainly insufficient as he left the most valuable books back in Gloucestershire—or some gentlewoman’s expected task like embroidery. But what she really missed were the long talks with Mama or the ambling walks with Oliver. Her husband took no interest in her. Had he done so, it might have lessened the pain she felt being away from her true home and family. The general’s neglect only served to heighten her despair and remind her that it would be a long time before she could return to England. She desperately wanted to be pregnant, especially pregnant with the requisite sons.
The general visited her bed once a week, on Wednesday nights, but there was never the emotion of their first encounter, never the tension, desire, or even the fear. His actions were perfunctory, a chore he had to perform. They both wore their nightdresses, never revealing their bodies. Try as she might, Clara could not charm her husband into her bed on a night other than Wednesday, and not just a few times he was unable to perform due to exhaustion or drink.
Then, quite unexpectedly, one Monday night, the general went to Clara of his own craving. He had won a little money at the gaming table, had joked and relaxed earlier with his friends, and smelled like tobacco and Madeira. He was in a playful and seductive mood. That night the general took off her nightgown and his own and, for the first time, touched her naked body. His lips and tongue covered each nipple in worshipful kisses, then trailed to her belly. Before he entered her, potently erect, his fingers played in the curls of her mons, dipping lower to spread the honeyed slickness to the sensitive nub, a feeling so rare and intense her body jerked and she let out a little cry. He calmed her with soothing words, then melded her mouth with his as he penetrated her slowly, letting her experience every inch in her eager, aroused state. For one night, their lovemaking was exhilarating, exhausting, and it was never to be such again.
That was the night, she was absolutely certain, she became pregnant.
When she told her husband, he merely thanked her with a casual air. She, however, was elated. She considered how far along she must be and counted the days, the weeks, the months the baby was inside her, and how many months she had left. She prayed to God it would be a boy, and secretly hoped it would be twins.
Clara spread her hand across the slight swell of her belly and looked down onto the yard. The reds and golds of the leaves were a reminder of summer turning into fall, of time marching forward. For once in this horrible backwater of a place, she was happy. Every day her child grew stronger, and every day brought her closer to home.