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Authors: Anya Richards

Tags: #erotic romance, #IDS@DPG,, #Historical, #Victorian


BOOK: Bellissima
4.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

His seductive rhythm calls to the passionate soul hiding within…

Jane Rollins is anything but plain, but to keep her position as housekeeper to a wealthy family, she is content to hide her beauty behind a dull façade. This deception has become second-nature to her—until dance master Sergio Fontini waltzes into her life.

While the other inhabitants of the house see him as a foreigner and beneath their notice, Jane sees strength, barely leashed power, and an aura of iron control—an irresistible, arousing combination.

Sergio sees through Jane’s disguise to the woman beneath, and the desires in her veiled gaze call to him like the utterly irresistible strains of a beautiful symphony. The circumstances couldn’t be worse, for seducing her will endanger both their livelihoods.

Yet there are lessons he cannot resist teaching her, steps of a dance that crescendos to her final surrender…

Warning: A deliciously seductive Italian unmasks a supposedly respectable Victorian woman and leads her into a lust-filled pas de deux.


Anya Richards


For my darling Phillip, my rock and my soft place to land. My beautiful man.


Chapter One


Uno, due, tre
Uno, due, tre

The deep voice came up from below, rising and falling with the sound of the piano, insinuating itself into the corridor where Jane walked, working its way into her ears and weakening her will. There was no reason to open the door to the minstrels’ gallery, to slip through, holding her chatelaine so it wouldn’t jangle, but Jane couldn’t help herself. The draw of watching Sergio Fontini move, of being able to do so unobserved, was too strong.

The small balcony, with its arched opening and wooden railing, provided scant cover. Even knowing from experience it was unlikely any of the occupants of the room below would look up, Jane still stood to one side, shielded from view by the side of the arch. Glancing down, she saw Signor Fontini whirl by, flowing and turning in time to the music, arms extended as though holding a woman. Even beneath his coat, the movement of muscles in his shoulders and back was evident, and thick thighs tightened and bunched the fabric of his trousers with each gliding step.

With a turn and a flourish, his face came into brief and startlingly clear view. His eyelids drooped over half-closed eyes, his lush mouth moved as he counted the steps, his swarthy skin emphasizing the whiteness of his teeth. Even after he’d spun away, the image stayed with her, left her caught in the grip of emotion so strong she could barely breathe. The expression on his face made her think of a man on the verge of ecstasy, controlled and yet filled with abandoned delight.

For a moment, the rush of her heartbeat and heat of her ardor drowned out the music, the rhythmic clap of Miss Lowell’s and Miss Mary’s hands as they kept time, even the sound of his beautiful, melodic voice. For that moment, Jane became mere sensation, kindling set ablaze by his fire, molten wax waiting for the stamp of his seal upon her body.

So easy to imagine the touch of his fine, firm lips upon hers, the caresses of his strong, wide hands, the thrust of his cock into her cunt, stretching and rubbing her within. Curling her fingers into claws, she pictured them imbedded in his fine, tight rump, holding on, forcing him to move faster, harder. The agonizing throb of nipples longing for the touch of his tongue and teeth, the empty, needy space between her legs, which she craved for him to find and fill, was almost too much to be borne. Sweat soaked into her padding as heat rushed from her belly over her breasts to warm her face. Not for the first time, she wished the bulky, quilted and stuffed bodice she wore to disguise her true shape to perdition. For if it weren’t there, covering the flesh beneath, she would touch herself through her clothing, slake even a little of her need, or push it higher.

Jane’s legs were shaking, and she clutched the wall to hold herself upright, so as not to sink to the floor in a heap of desire. Why, oh why did she torture herself this way? It was past time to walk away, to push aside this awful, debilitating yearning overtaking her. Yet, even as she thought it, her eyes remained fixed upon the beauty of the man circling the ballroom floor, and she squeezed her thighs together, savoring the pulse the motion brought to her damp and aching flesh.

With one final trill, the song came to an end, and Signor Fontini finished his demonstration with a graceful, courtly bow to his imaginary partner and the two young ladies watching. Both clapped enthusiastically, as their aunt, Mrs. Moorecroft, who served as both chaperone and accompanist, looked on with an expression caught somewhere between suspicion and boredom.

“That is the motion you aspire to, Miss Lowell, Miss Mary. Poised, elegant. Like a swan upon the river, or a leaf caught in a warm, soft breeze.”

“I’m sure I would do much better, signor, if you were to partner me.” Miss Lowell’s voice was pitched low and sweet and made Jane’s teeth clench. “Mary is such a tumble-tud.”

“No.” Mrs. Moorecroft’s swift response overrode Mary’s cry of outrage at being so maligned. “Behave yourself, Jemima.”

The little tart needed a slap, not that gentle remonstration, Jane thought with a rush of venom. If the Lowells weren’t careful, she’d be fucking one of the footmen in the linen closet ere long. At seventeen, Jemima Lowell was recently testing her wiles on every man she met, and there were some who, unlike Sergio Fontini, wouldn’t play the gentleman.

Ignoring the entire matter, Signor Fontini clapped his hands and moved to the side, unfortunately out of Jane’s view.

“Come now. Let us begin. Miss Lowell, since you believe your sister incapable of leading, I think you should play the gentleman this time.”

Such was the authority in his voice, the Lowell sisters came together immediately and their aunt turned back to the keyboard without question. Jane gasped silently, his tone driving straight through what was left of her control, rendering her no longer Mrs. Jane Rollins, unflappable, capable housekeeper, but just Jane, who remembered what it meant to be taken and to revel in the taking.

Although she was quite sure the encounters of the past would be nothing in comparison to what would occur could she get the Italian dance master into her bed. John Preston had been old, his desires often outside what most would consider the norm, his ability to get and sustain a prick-stand unreliable at best. Her old master’s hand had been firm but kind, his control of her and himself sometimes sliding into a comfortable softness she had understood but never enjoyed.

No. Something in the Italian’s glinting, black eyes, the set of that almost impossibly perfect mouth, told Jane he would demand and coax and insist until a woman could take no more. That as a lover he would never give up his authority, and should he use kindness or softness or sweetness, it would be to increase his power, not nullify it.

As the piano once more struck up the strains of the waltz, Jane took a deep breath and raised her slightly shaking hand to smooth her already perfectly restrained hair, giving the flush of arousal time to fade from her cheeks. Summoning all her control, she rearranged her face into the workaday mask of solemnity and retraced her steps to the door. With another deep breath and a twitch of her modest, gray skirts, she turned the handle and stepped back into the corridor, pulling the door shut behind her. Turning left toward the servants’ staircase, she saw the butler, Mr. Grimond, making his creaky, ponderous way toward her. Instinctively she allowed a hint of a smile to touch her lips, even as she raised her chin a tiny notch.

“Making your rounds, Mrs. Rollins?”

Grimond always sounded as though he had a length of silk in his throat and a poker up his arse, the dulcet tones never falling away. The underlying querulousness often evident was reserved for the other servants.

“Indeed, Mr. Grimond. As I always do.”

Grimond nodded, his light blue eyes sliding to the door of the minstrels’ gallery and then back to her. Jane felt a trickle of ice down her spine but held his gaze and her straight-backed, unyielding posture.

“I believe our intentions are the same.”

There was a question behind his words, and Jane suppressed the shiver trying to overtake her. Neither had any real business in this part of the house during this time of the day. Both would, under normal circumstances, be overseeing the disposition of the rooms most usually used, checking to ensure all the morning and early afternoon chores had been satisfactorily done and there had been nothing overlooked. She knew what
was there about, but, unless Grimond had developed a taste for buggery, she had no idea why he was here.

“Indeed,” she said again, pitching the words to fall between agreement and gentle query, giving nothing away.

Grimond nodded, a sharp gesture, which somehow registered both pleasure and disgust. “It’s a good idea to keep an eye on that fellow, make sure he doesn’t pocket anything while he’s here.”

Jane lowered her gaze, hiding the flash of hatred she wasn’t sure she could fully mask. Swallowing the vitriolic words she really wanted to spew over the old bastard’s head, all she said again was, “Indeed.”

Grimond shook his head and, as Jane stepped past him, turned to fall in alongside her, keeping pace with her as she walked away.

“It’s a shame they have to employ a bloody foreigner to teach the young ladies how to dance. Disrupts the house, it does, having him here three times a week. I’m always on the lookout after he’s gone, to make sure nothing is missing.”

They reached the green baize door, and Jane stopped, allowing Grimond to open it for her, and the butler continued speaking as they made their way down the stairs. She was so glad he was behind her, for she may be tempted to boot him down the stairs had he been walking ahead.

“It’s a shame they couldn’t find an Englishman to do the job, but then it’s not surprising. That’s not a job any self-respecting Englishman would have.”

No Englishman she’d ever met moved with the grace Sergio Fontini so effortlessly displayed, and she bit her tongue in an effort not to say so. Everyone knew if you wanted a competent and skilled dancing master, you looked to the Continent—France or Italy, to be precise—yet she also knew her countrymen’s distrust of anything un-English ran deep and wide.

“I was so pleased, as I’ve said before, when you suggested you would give him a spot of tea in your sitting room before he left.” Grimond sucked air in through his teeth. “Made the housemaids jumpy to see him in the kitchen.”

They were probably all jumpy because they were creaming their drawers for him, instead of being afraid or worried, Jane thought. There wasn’t a woman alive, whether she thought his foreignness an asset or a detriment, who wouldn’t be attracted to Sergio Fontini, whether she’d admit it or no.

“I don’t like to see the household disrupted any more than you do, Mr. Grimond. It seemed the best compromise between following the master’s orders to give him refreshment before he left and keeping the staff happy.”

And keeping herself happy too. Recently she seemed to be living for those days Signor Fontini came to the house, that blissful half hour where they sat on either side of her tea tray and made polite conversation. It was both pleasure and pain to have him so close, to have his scent invade the room, to be able to look into his dark, often slumberous gaze. To be spoken to as not just a servant—even a superior servant—but as a person. What had started out as stilted chitchat to pass the time slowly evolved into discussions on subjects Jane had never been able to explore with anyone else.

They spoke of art, after she admitted to spending some of her half-days at the National Gallery. He was a wealth of knowledge that she eagerly absorbed, and now, when she stood before one of the beautiful pictures, it was his voice she heard in her head, describing and explaining what she was seeing. One day, seeing an old copy of
Bentley’s Miscellany
on her desk, the signor asked her opinion of Dickens, which led to another avenue for debate between them. On one memorable occasion, he even spoke of the passage, earlier that year, of the
Religious Opinions Relief Act
and what it meant to him, as a Papist. It was not something Jane would have even noticed or, even if she had known, cared about, until he explained it removed the final impediments stopping people not of the Anglican faith from participating fully in public life.

He had opened her eyes in so many little, and not so little ways, as they sat on either side of her tea table. Yet, although she admired him for so many different reasons, there was no escaping the effect he had on her physically, the primitive, all-encompassing desire that burned beneath her skin when she was near him, or thought of him. At night, when she lay in bed, the imaginings her brain conjured—of Sergio above her, under her, in her, doing the most lascivious, deliciously disgusting things to her—all started with the pouring of tea. She may have tried to bury her bawdy past in John Preston’s grave, but Signor Fontini had resurrected it with a vengeance.

BOOK: Bellissima
4.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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