The Corrupt Comte
Bourbon Boys, Book 1
A word from her lips can bring him to his knees.
Gaspard Toussaint is known throughout 1820 French society as the “molly comte”, a foppish throw pillow of an aristocrat. But his entire life is a twisted mass of secrets and lies as a spy for the Crown. His final covert act will have him fleeing his broken country forever…but before he can escape, he needs the power and safety that only money can provide. And no one has more money than English heiress Claudia Pascale.
The only child of a wealthy tradesman, Claudia has continually failed to catch a husband—due in large part to her uncontrollable stutter. Spurned by a dashing French lieutenant and desperate to escape her parents’ household, she joins forces with the seemingly harmless Gaspard to learn how to properly ensnare a spouse: through seduction.
All too soon, Gaspard’s lessons in delicious domination and sinful submission make Claudia suspicious that he is not what everyone believes him to be. And Gaspard realizes his quest to possess her is becoming less about her dowry…and more about the woman herself.
Warning: Contains an aggressive Frenchman with extremely loose morals, a determined heiress who can’t refuse a dare, and bedroom games where boundaries were made to be crossed.
“Bon s-soir, my lord.” Regardless of the stumble in speech, there was no trace of uncertainty in her husky tone.
Euphoria sprinted along his nerve endings. “Do you have something to tell me?”
She tilted her head to the side but said nothing.
“Oh, kitten, do not test me tonight.”
“And what was t-tonight, if not a t-test?”
How many people had dismissed Claudia as slow because of her stutter? She was quick, quicker than anyone gave her credit for, and a sharp spike of adrenaline slithered down his spine. She was going to fight him, even though she’d already implicitly offered her surrender by seeking out Gaspard in the ballroom and not Sabien.
He inhaled deeply, catching the faint scent of tea leaves clinging to her. He found the fragrance as pure and refreshing now as he had in the linen closet. “Clever girl. But I know you want to tell me something.” Hesitation wrote itself across her face, but Gaspard wasn’t about to allow her to hide in silence any more than he had done at the first moment of their meeting. “Last night, I said to decide,” he prompted. “Did you decide?”
Her gloved hands flattened over her middle. “Yes.”
The muscles at the back of her jaw bunched and flexed. “I p-prefer you.”
It wasn’t exactly what he’d hoped for, in terms of declarations, but it was progress. “Prefer, or choose? We do not want you changing your mind later.” Or ever.
“Fine. I choose you.” She rolled her eyes at him, something he doubted she would have dared to do at any other man. It seemed that a couple of orgasms from him had given Claudia confidence.
His body tensed at the thought. “Prove it.”
She frowned. “What?”
“Prove you chose me. I dare you.”
Her glare was full of frustrated heat. “I’m st-standing in front of you, not him. I d-don’t know what more p-p-proof you n-need.” Anger colored her cheeks, turning her pretty blush splotchy with each rise and fall of her chest.
“Simple.” There was nothing simple about it, really, but the euphoria sluicing through his veins had turned him slightly mad. “Return the favor I did you last night.”
He raised an eyebrow, waiting.
Realization was not a trickle but a flood across her now-familiar features. “You c-cad.”
“Do not say you have not thought about it.”
She moved to stand at his side, her back to the guests, and turned her head to glance up at him before scowling down at the floor.
With his gaze on the crowd, watching for any undue interest in their conversation, he inched his body closer to hers. Leaning in, he traded wicked, whispered words for the chance to inhale her warm scent, a scent which both comforted and aroused. “Do not tell me you are not curious about licking my cock. Sucking it.” Drinking him dry.
He barely stifled a shudder of longing.
Her gasp told him how reckless he was being, and perhaps a better man would have retreated, averse to scaring or intimidating a woman he needed to woo. But Gaspard had neither the time nor the patience for wooing, not with the culmination of five years’ worth of covert efforts taking place tomorrow night.
Besides, Claudia wasn’t scared. Frustrated, yes. Irritated with him, probably. Excited? Nervous? He supposed those were normal reactions for a sheltered virgin raised in a wealthy household. But he didn’t feel fear from her, and Gaspard knew himself to be a master of fear, manipulating it at whim. He brokered in fear, his sense of it as finely tuned as that of taste and smell, and nothing in her right now called to that dark, sick part of him.
He didn’t want her afraid, he realized, his gaze locked on the whirling rainbow of dancing guests. He just…wanted her.
She sighed, and he almost smiled. She stood at the edge of his vision, a miffed pastry frosted in pink satin, and his mouth watered with the urge to nibble at her. “I hate you,” she muttered.
“I am certain you believe you do.”
There was a pause as she pondered that. “Wouldn’t you rather d-dance?”
He bit back a scoffing laugh. “No.” No man, no matter his sexual preferences, would ever choose waltzing over willing lips wrapped wetly around his member.
Though her lips might not be so willing. Part of him—a very small, dusty, hidden-away part of him—hesitated, but when her gloved fingers tangled discreetly, tentatively, with his… She didn’t try to hold his hand, to clasp or grip or squeeze, but satin scraped against the calluses on his fingertips, and the lace at his cuff shifted over his scars as she wandered and explored.
A stroke down his middle finger, and he instantly hardened, as if she had given the same slow, purposeful touch to his cock. “Claudia.” His fingers clenched around hers.
“You sh-should know…I’m choosing th-this. You.” He heard her swallow. “You’re not f-forcing m-me, and it’s not a game, like the c-c-closet.”
“This is no game to me.” With his hold on her hand, he led her away from the partygoers, walking backwards and keeping an ever-watchful eye on their surroundings. It wouldn’t do for people to notice. This dare was for her alone, and voyeurs were not invited.
She followed, and he felt her stare on him as they trod a course plotted in his mental schematic of Max’s home. He backed silently through a doorway, listening for chatter and laughter and instinctively rerouting them away, until they reached a secluded corner—a dead-end, darkened hallway that was nothing more than useless architectural space between two rooms. Frivolous, wasted footage, he’d always thought.
Gaspard’s shoulders hit the rear wall, pulling Claudia with him as the shadows cloaked them. “So this is your choice.”
The faint glow of lamplight from the sconces in the main hall crept through into their dark corner, glinting in the facets of her bourbon eyes. “Isn’t that what you w-wanted?”
It was, but he was greedy over her, constantly wanting more—the next splintered confession, the newest sensual discovery, the higher leap and greater fall. He needed to push her further with each word from her hesitant lips, his gut whispering, Nip her, and she’ll bite back. Swipe a paw at her, and she’ll claw your world to shreds.
His justification in singling out Claudia Pascale was nothing elegant or calculated, after all, and it was time he admitted that to himself. This was the bestial, desperate instinct that had kept him alive in the bowels of hell. Instinct called him to action the very first moment he saw her, and instinct had him by the balls now.
This is how you survive.
She tugged at her hand, still caught in his, but he didn’t release her. “M-my lord—”
“Tell me what you did in your bed last night. After I left.”
She glanced over her shoulder, as if worried someone lurked nearby, someone who would overhear. But she was safe in their corner, and she couldn’t escape his demand. A huff of air left her nostrils in a rush. “D-don’t m-m-make m-me.” Her stutter grew more pronounced as her frustration mounted.
“This is your choice, yes?” She hated talking, had every reason to hate it—but as he’d told her in the linen closet, he would never accept silence from her. Not when he could see she had so much to say.
“I thought I was g-going to…” She gestured toward his groin.
Christ. “You are. But first, I want words. Your words.” Where once desire had stemmed from his need for dominion over her—and what heady power it was, turning a mute into an orator—now he livened to the sound of her voice. Husky from lack of use, vibrant with checked emotion, with painfully precise Englishness rounding every consonant.
Each word from her was special, because each word belonged to him. Gaspard. He owned them.