Author Mariana Gabrielle’s upcoming release La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess is featured in Amy Rose’s parlour today. Read on to find out what Viscount Fitzmarten thinks of the mysterious Kali…
Schuyler Gildeforte, Viscount Fitzmarten, known as Fitz to his friends, accepted the invitation to this house party purely at the urging of his good friend, Jasper Hargreaves, Lord Arlington, with whom he shared quarters at school. All week long, he has found himself beset with fortune-hunting chits and their terrifying mothers, all of whom wish nothing more than to snare the heir to the Marquess of Coventon—long before he wishes to be snared.
In defense of his virtue—such as it is—he has invited Arlington to the library, where they can lock the door against importunate females and make a dent in their host’s supply of brandy.
“Brandy, Arlington?” Fitz searches through the decanters. “Perhaps whiskey? The claret at dinner was execrable, and one builds up a strong thirst playing at charades.” Taking the stopper from one of the cut crystal carafes, he pours a tall measure of brandy, than adds a bit more.
“Brandy, if you don’t mind, my friend.” Arlington loosens his damnably tight cravat. “I would rather build up a thirst engaging in more salacious activity, though. It’s a shame Lady Montagu left so early.”
“Lady Montagu?” Fitz raises one brow as he pours a second tumbler. “She’s finally taken up with you, has she? Does she not prefer her men a bit… dimmer?” Flipping the tails of his black dinner jacket, he seats himself on a de Cuvilliés sofa, swirling the amber oblivion in his glass. “Though I suppose your randy spaniel imposture carries sway with a certain type of… lady.”
Arlington smirks as he takes the glass. “Well, it takes one to know one, Fitz. Wasn’t your nickname at school, Fitz-terrier? But as far as I know, Lady Montagu’s tastes run to men with stamina.” He sighs and takes a sip of his drink. “Although, perhaps it is best she left when she did. I’m not sure if I’m up to anything much tonight, after all.”
Fitz unties his cravat and unbuttons his waistcoat as he reclines on the sofa, resting his well-shod feet on the arm, putting his free hand behind his head. “Now, that is worrisome. One hates to think you might be losing your stamina.”
Arlington shrugs and grimaces. “Old war wound. What’s your excuse?”
“Oh, I have plenty of endurance, which any of the young ladies at the Masala Rajah would tell you, were we there and not at this miserable house party. Did you hear the hostess going on about battledore and shuttlecock?” He shudders. “Perhaps if we drink enough, I will be too ill to take part in the festivities on the morrow.”
The long-case clock in the corner chimes eleven, and they both studiously ignore it. It has been far too long since they had the chance to make each other bosky.
“I would like to get back to London soon,” says Fitz eventually. “I have a bit of business. Do you think it would be taken amiss were I to make my excuses?”
Arlington yawns and stretches out his legs toward the fire. “Hard to say really, unless our hostess was counting on you to be her source of amusement this week.” Arching his brow, he casts his friend a speculative look. “Must be something quite urgent if you’re ready to cut and run so soon. It wouldn’t be unfinished business at the Masala Rajah, would it?”
Fitz bolts his drink and rises to go back to the decanters, hoping to hide the blush he can feel stealing up his cheeks. “Unfinished… or rather, not started.” Pouring slowly, to give himself time to gather his dignity, he mumbles, “If it ever will be…”
Arlington snorts with laughter. “Oh, how the mighty have fallen. If you feel the need to unburden, I’m all ears.”
Fitz thumps back onto the couch, dropping the glass so hard onto his knee he nearly spills it on his trousers. “Never in my life have I been told by a procuress not to touch the merchandise! Can you imagine? I am a viscount, and a wealthy one at that!”
Arlington sits upright, his brow creasing with concern. “Steady on, Fitz.”
Without acknowledging the comment, Fitz continues, waving his hand so expansively there would soon be whiskey soaking both couch and carpet. “If the girl weren’t so… God help me, she is so young. She can’t be but a year or two older than my sister. I have no wish to be one of those depraved men who preys on innocents, but she is the most… I cannot stop thinking about her. It cannot be long now before Madame Falodiya—Mayuri, the owner of the establishment—offers her contract to someone, and I will be damned if it’s not me!”
“Good Lord. You are in a state, man. What’s the chit’s name, if you don’t mind my asking? She must be quite a houri.”
“Kali. Her name is Kali. Presumably named for the Hindu goddess of destruction, which should be some sort of divine portent, but is somehow no deterrent.” He bolts the second glass and pours a third, holding out the decanter to Arlington.
Arlington frowns as he pours himself another sizeable brandy. “Sounds like a moral dilemma, indeed. Forgive me, I can’t quite recall the age of your sister. So how young are we talking here?”
“Oh, good God, man! You cannot think that of me! The girl would be old enough for a come-out, were she not… were she not… unfit for the haute ton. But she is an innocent, nonetheless. I would be contracting, in part, for the pleasure of relieving her of her virtue. And Devil take me, it would be an unimaginable pleasure.”
“Sounds like you find her quite imaginable to me.”
With another blush rising, Fitz stands and wanders, a bit unsteady, to the hearth, where he stares into the fire, following the flames with his eyes. Finally, he admits, “You should see her dance, Arlington. I’ve never seen anything like it. And if not I, then some other man at the Masala Rajah will buy her contract—some brute who will not treasure her as he ought.”
Arlington rises from the settee and approaches Fitz. “I must say, I’m rather surprised at your reaction. I’ve never seen you so… affected by a female before,” he remarks in a gentler tone. “This young lady—Kali—if you care for her… wellbeing, why not offer for her? You are between mistresses, are you not? Better you than some other devil who might mistreat her. The way you describe her, she sounds like a rare jewel indeed.”
Fitz wipes a hand down his face. “I have offered! More than I paid my last five mistresses combined. It is Madame Falodiya. The damned woman will not give a yea or nay!” He drops with a huff back onto the couch, elbows on his knees, twisting the glass between his fingers, reaching toward, then away from, then toward the brandy decanter, wrapping his numbing fingers around the neck, once more filling his glass. He is feeling the effects—finally and gratefully.
“She just keeps telling me Kali is too young to entertain offers. But she is dancing in the kotha now, once in a while. Madame Falodiya is introducing her about. Everyone knows she will be contracted soon, but when anyone says a word about it, the accursed woman just says,” he mimics the older Indian woman’s heavy accent, “Kali is much too young to think of such things.”
“Well…” Arlington returns to his seat and a grim smile twists his mouth. “It seems to me blackmail might be your only other option if this Madame Fallow—fallow-whatsit—won’t be swayed. The question is, how far are you prepared to go to get want you want?”
Fitz looks up from the fourth glass he was draining much more rapidly than was prudent. “Blackmail? Whatever can you mean by that?”
Arlington shrugs. “Hire an investigator, find out what you can about Madame—the woman’s business. You say Kali is young. Perhaps there are other tastes Madame caters to, tastes she would prefer to keep from the more fastidious elements of society. It couldn’t hurt to try.”
Fitz laughs into the glass, keeping himself from choking by only sheer luck.
“Nothing at the Masala Rajah would pass muster with the fastidious elements. No one wants to believe rarified gentlemen of the ton, such as my exalted self, might consort with dark-skinned women inside the borders of England. But tempting as it is to force Mayuri’s hand, more lives than Kali’s would be put in danger if the Masala Rajah were closed. And quite frankly, I simply can’t stomach the iniquity. I prefer to keep the illusion I am still an honorable man.”
Swilling the last of the drink, Fitz sets the tumbler carefully at the edge of the table, only just managing not to drop it on the floor. Lying back on the sofa to keep the spinning at bay, forearm across his eyes, he concludes, “No, better I leave for London at first light and simply haunt the place until she writes the contract.”[Note: Jasper, Lord Arlington appears in Amy Rose Bennett’s Regency Christmas novella ‘All She Wants for Christmas’ due out in November 2015 as part of a Bluestocking Belles’ Christmas boxed set. Stay tuned for further details…]
Meet Kali and read her story in La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess, to be released June 10, available for pre-order now.
Sired by a British peer, born of a paramour to Indian royalty, Kali Matai has been destined from birth to enthrall England’s most powerful noblemen—though she hadn’t counted on becoming their pawn. Finding herself under the control of ruthless men, who will not be moved by her legendary allure, she has no choice but to use her beauty toward their malicious and clandestine ends.
When those she holds most dear are placed in peril by backroom political dealings, she enlists some of the most formidable lords in England to thwart her enemies. But even with the help of the prominent gentlemen she has captivated, securing Kali’s freedom, her family, and the man she loves, will require her protectors stop at nothing to fulfill her desires.