Authors: Delilah Marvelle
Tags: #Romance, #History, #Erotica, #French Revolution, #Historical Romance
Although the rain had finally stopped, the roads were too dark to travel on, because there was no moon light peering through the thick, cloud-ridden sky. So they stayed in the forest and talked about everything but nothing in particular.
It was going to be a long night.
Gérard quietly watched the fire he managed to start by flint despite the wet branches. He had strategically burned whatever blank parchments of paper he could find from within the large stacks of documents he swiped out of his godfather’s desk that had remained untouched within the secret room of the palace back at Versailles.
The vandalism and missing furniture, shattered chandeliers and slashed portraits that had once graced Versailles’ pristine façade had been shocking. Gérard had grown up running through those corridors whenever he and his family had been invited to stay. He’d been fortunate. Except for some vagabonds looking for a place to sleep, no one was there. Walking through that echoing silence of a marble palace that might never see another king made him realize he was running out of time. And hope.
But he had found his hope. And it was brilliant.
Glancing toward Thérèse who had grown quiet, he dug into his leather satchel, which he had earlier set on the blanket they sat on. That lone tear of hers that had trickled down her face shortly after they made love, made him achingly realize he never wanted to see another tear roll from that eye again.
He carefully nudged past the stack of documents and, pushing aside several empty silver flasks, he removed his very last flask that was still full of brandy. He closed the satchel to ensure the documents remained hidden.
Uncorking the flask, he hesitated and held it out toward her. “Here.” He softened his tone in the hopes of winning back her attention. “Have some.”
She shook her braided blonde head, setting her chin primly on the bent knees of her arranged skirts. She stared at the fire, her flawless pale skin glowing against the flickering light. Her sultry, heavy-lidded azure eyes gave the illusion she was trying to seduce the flame.
She was so beautiful. It almost hurt looking at her.
Gérard took a swig of brandy, savoring the stinging warmth of its spicy oak flavor.
When they first met, he had weighed the possibility she had been hired to lure him and take the papers. But an array of wavering, niggling, unabating doubts led him into realizing the
would not have hired a woman to seduce him who was clearly
doing the job.
So what did he do? He lost what little was left of his rational mind.
He had been too damn aroused by her presence to pretend he wanted anything else but sex. For he knew if death was going to take him for the papers he held, he was going out in style. With her. Now. Here. For hell only knew what awaited him in Paris.
“Did you always want to be an actress?” he asked.
Her eyes flicked over to him. “Yes.”
Prior to his bold advance of proving to her sex didn’t require love, she had been incredibly chatty.
chatty. And now? She barely offered complete sentences.
He blamed himself. He had a tendency to dig his teeth in deep and quick when it came to a particular woman he wanted. And she had sparked far, far more than his body. She had sparked his mind and soul into believing in the power of women again. Within the first hour of meeting her, he had quickly fit this Thérèse into the ‘soul on fire’ category.
And together, they were going to take over Paris and slit the throat of the Republic.
He leaned toward her and corked the brandy, knowing he had to focus on her and not drinking. He set the flask beside him. “So what made you want to be an actress?”
She returned her gaze to the fire, her slim finger absently tracing the hem covering her feet. “Why did you want me to tell you that I loved you? Knowing it was a lie?”
He scrubbed his face in exasperation. Him and his misguided fantasies. “I just like feeling I belong to someone. Women have a tendency to flock to me for all the wrong reasons, and I wanted to pretend I found the right one.”
Her lips parted. “I see.” Averting her gaze, she chewed on a nail. She kept chewing.
“Are you hungry?” he softly chided.
She gave him a withering look, dropping her hand. “No, I— You baffle me.”
His chest tightened. “How so?”
“With your talk of wanting to be with someone, why settle for a mistress? Why not marry?”
He shifted, sensing she was probably probing for what chances she had. Like women always did. “Marriage is not for me, dearest. It would complicate my life.”
She snorted. “How does marriage complicate a man’s life? It really only complicates a woman’s life. She becomes
children and is
life-long servant to all
“Not true.” Tapping at his chest, he humbly confessed, “If I were to marry, I would become the servant. Which is why I will never do it.”
She squinted. “What do you mean?”
He lifted a brow. “What is this? Are you hoping to be my wife? What happened to all that talk of men being disgusting, wanting nothing but food, wine and
She eyed him, her pale cheeks flushing. “I hardly find you disgusting.”
Uh-oh. This one had just elevated him above the male population. Which meant she would expect him to leap higher than his boots would allow. He swiped at his mouth. “I ask that you not place such lofty expectations on me. I disappoint enough people in my life.” Or what was left of them.
She searched his face.
He reveled in those sultry eyes that didn’t look real. As fiery and stubborn as she was, he was surprised he had been able to seduce her. Either he was that damn good or she was that damn naughty. “You are the most beautiful woman I have ever met. Ever.”
She pinched her lips in an attempt to hide a smile. “Do you always flatter women after you seduce them?”
“Only if they are worthy of it.” He tilted his head. “You never answered my question. Why did you want to be an actress? Hm? When did that start?”
She set her chin on her hand. “When I visited my cousin in Paris at the age of twelve. He let me sing for a crowd opening night. My parents about boxed his ears bloody when they heard of it, but it was the most glorious moment of my life. When my boots touched the apron of that stage, I knew it was what I was destined for. I, with but a song, was in command of more than their eyes. I was in command of their minds and their hearts. I was able to make them believe I was more than the mere daughter of a butcher. That I was, in fact, born a queen.”
He knew she was perfect for what he planned.
She was the stronghold he had been looking for who defined everything bourgeoisie.
With her on the stage of
, the epicenter of all life and gossip in Paris, she would have access to all sorts of people. Bourgeoisie and Legislative Assembly members alike. And if
was having trouble breathing around her, he could only imagine what this siren could do if they formed an alliance. Men
put their cocks first.
He was proof of it.
Grabbing up his flask, he uncorked it. He took another swig of brandy and draped an arm over his bent knee. “Allow me to get to the point of what I really want from you.”
“You mean sex was merely you getting started?” She smirked. “Do go on
Make me an offer.”
He held her gaze, taking another swig of his brandy. “I will give you everything you want, from dirt to sky, and in return, you will do what I tell you.”
“Which is what?”
“I need someone who will not betray me. And I am asking you to be that person. I am about to entrust my very breath to you and am asking that you entrust your breath to me.”
She eyed him. “Mighty words given we are not married.”
“Mighty, indeed. Everyone in my circle still seems to think that what is happening across France is temporary. That once the king has been completely removed from power, the country will settle back into a state of peace and calm. I, on the other hand, have proof that something far bigger is happening. Something that will change France as we know it. Given who I am, the people who usually confide in me, tell me nothing. Whilst certain people of the
and lower classes revere me, they fear the new Republic too much. I therefore need someone they can relate to. Someone who will be able to inform me of what is happening on and off the stage, so to speak. Someone like you.”
She stared. “Are you asking me to spy for you?”
He met her gaze. “Yes. Judging by your wit alone, I am utterly convinced you are more than a pretty face. Prove it. I am asking you to help me put an end to some of the bloodshed. My brothers were actually the two aristocrats you spoke of who were butchered on the side of a road. Marceau and Julien are not even being given a burial because the Legislative Assembly commanded the
to hold their remains as evidence. Which means their bones will remain locked in a back room until they decide to throw those bones into an underground pell-mell bone repository better known as
Her eyes widened. Clasping a pale hand to her mouth, she held it in place before choking out through her fingers, “Gérard, how can they do that?”
He shrugged. “The people of France gave this new government permission to do whatever it needs to. By eliminating our existence, there will be no opposition.”
She chewed on her lip.
“And things are about to get worse. The Legislative Assembly is about to become a single-chamber assembly of power held by a select group of men. Whilst titles have already been done away with, I have heard rumblings that these particular deputies plan to altogether abolish royalty from France. Which means I and every aristocrat in the land will cease to exist by the mere stroke of a quill.”
Gérard rubbed at his chin in a riled effort to remain calm. “There are over a thousand royalists being held in Parisian prisons that have yet to stand trial. And based on the closing of the borders, I firmly believe a mass genocide of the aristocracy is planned. Which means they will find a way to kill us all, including the king whom I mean to save.
is like a father to me and has been for many, many years.”
Her features stilled. “And you think a mere actress is going to stop all of this from happening?”
He rolled his eyes. “No. All I need is information. I have a group of young aristocrats I am working with. We started assisting each other in trying to unearth information about what is happening to this country and to us.”
“I see.” She leaned toward him. “So if I help you, our earlier agreement stands? You will put me on stage and pay for everything, yes?”
So much for thinking she cared about anything else but the offer. He thought
there was more to this woman after she had enchantingly insisted on feeding him the apple he had been too proud to ask for. It was obvious, however, she fed all of the men apples in return for what she wanted: money. He was astounded she had actually been a virgin. But then again, she was bourgeoisie. Her priorities were typical of her kind. Money and fame.
Gérard tried to keep his tone polite. “Yes. If you help me, our earlier agreement stands.”
She fiddled with her fingers, glancing up at the branches above them, then held out a hand. “I will spy for you.”
A breath escaped him. He grabbed her hand and squeezed it hard, willing her to accept that there was no going back. “Are you certain?”
“How difficult can it be to prod men for information I want?”
He released her hand, leveling her with a stare. “Whilst I admire your never-ending confidence, try not to be overly presumptuous. This can and will get dangerous.”
“Women know a bit more about danger than men ever will. Have you ever thought you were going to get raped merely because you walked past a man at the wrong hour?”
Very good point. Swiveling toward the edge of the blanket they sat on, he withdrew the rosewood pistol he had set beside his leather satchel. Holding it by the barrel, he held out the handle toward her. “I want you to keep this with you at all times. Take it.”
She wrinkled her nose. “Absolutely not. Pistols make my skin crawl.”
He wagged it at her. “If you plan on living in Paris, I suggest you get comfortable with the idea of holding a weapon. Take it. I will show you to load it and prime it tomorrow morning. Practicing with it every day is important.”
She leaned back. “If you insist on giving me a weapon, give me a cleaver. Cleavers can be as equally effective and require no other skill other than swinging. The less I have to think about, the better off I will be.” She paused. “I can also use it to make dinner.”
There was no doubt she was the epitome of the sort of woman he needed to get this job done. “I will ensure you get that cleaver.” He casually flipped the pistol and set it aside. “A weapon is only a precaution. In truth, our association will not require much. All I want is information pertaining to any plans that involve the aristocracy, and in particular, anything related to the king. Which means once we get you into
all you have to do is flutter those pretty eyes and get the men to talk politics.”
“Will I have to do it in private?” she echoed. “As in my
Sensing her discomfort, he skimmed his hand across her thigh. “No. There will be no compromising of yourself. They are not allowed to touch you or be alone with you. Always ensure you are with others in the name of your safety. Because I am not one to tolerate anyone coming in on what is mine. Which you now are given this association.”
She eyed his hand and her thigh and adjusted her braid, smoothing it against her shoulder. “Staking your claim, are you?”
He captured her gaze. “I only make love to a woman I am interested in keeping.”