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Authors: Marilyn Kelly

SoundsofLove

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Sounds of Love

Marilyn
Kelly

 

Wanton Widows, book one.

 

Widowed baroness Cathryn Sibley
craves financial security, scholarly recognition and passionate love equal to
that of
Fanny Hill
. To marry Julian Ahlquist, the forceful earl who
promises to fill all her lustful needs, she must break a marriage contract to a
distant baron who promises only grief. But when the baron reveals her one major
sin and spoils her chances for love, Cathryn must forgive herself before she
seeks exoneration from Julian. In the meantime, a light-fingered duke sets his
sights on her and she hasn't the power to refuse him.

Julian has his own past to shed—he’s
been in love with his father’s beautiful mistress for twenty years. Cathryn
soothes his old wounds and frees him to love again, but he discovers her secret
in a distressing manner. A matchmaking novelist shows him the error of his ways
and he humbles himself to secure Cathryn’s freedom.

 

A Romantica®
historical erotic romance
from
Ellora’s Cave

 

Sounds of Love
Marilyn Kelly

Dedication

 

To my husband, partner and hero, Dana. Our love will Not
Fade Away.

To my talented critique partner, Lynn Gutierrez, who
nurtured this book along with me. Her own stories will delight you, as they do
me.

To my family and friends who encouraged me during the long
journey to publication. Historical romance is a genre I love, but I’m not
offended if it’s not your cup of tea. Someone you know is going to love my
books.

 

 

Acknowledgments

 

To all the fabulous female writers and characters who have
enlightened us throughout the ages and continue to inspire me.

 


Golden-minded
, eternal Aphrodite,

Daughter of Zeus, enchantress, I now implore thee,

Don’t pierce my spirit with pain and anguish,

Exquisite lady of love.”

Hymn to Aphrodite
by Sapphos (author’s
interpretation)

 

“There’s a kind of natural attraction at work on earth which
draws men to women and women to men. This isn’t a social law but an instinct of
the flesh: stimulated by carnal desire, it makes the two sexes love each other
in a wild and ardent way. Neither sex has any idea what it is that causes them
to fall for each other like this, but they succumb in droves to this type of
emotion, which is known as passionate love.”

The Book of the City of Ladies
by Christine de Pizan

 

“Truth! stark, naked truth, is the word; and I will not so
much as take the pains to bestow the strip of a gauze wrapper on it, but paint
situations such as they actually rose to me in nature, careless of violating
those laws of decency that were never made for such unreserved intimacies as
ours.”

Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure
by John Cleland

 

Chapter One

University of London

Monday, September 24th, 1838

 

“What word would you use to describe the sound
mmm
?”
Lord Ahlquist read flatly from the letter in his gloved hand but there were
crinkles around the corners of his hazel eyes. Although he fought a smile, the
earl’s tone held no hint of mirth, and the dozen members of the British
Philological Society followed his suit and maintained a decorous manner
suitable for the austere, ancient meeting room.

Cathryn straightened in her chair and studied the handsome
wordsmith carefully for further signs of ridicule. His lips twitched upwards
and confirmed her suspicions. Clearly, he did not take the question seriously.
She glanced around the mahogany table and noted several gentlemen nearly
smirking. Her heart sank, and she hoped they never learned of her involvement,
however indirect.

“A sigh?” offered one robust gentleman.

“A throaty sigh?” amended a second equally stout aristocrat.

A man near Cathryn raised his hand, and a waft of stale
tobacco drifted her way. “A hum?”

Ahlquist paced at the head of the table, shaking his head at
each suggestion. “I think not. Although throaty sigh is close, it is not a
word, and not always accurate.” His eyes met hers and he addressed her in his
deep, baritone voice. “Lady Sibley, have you any thoughts on the matter?”

Cathryn’s face heated as if she’d been caught reading one of
her naughty French novels in public. She wished the influential man had asked
her a more intellectual question after a year of steady attendance at the
academic meetings, but she managed to say evenly, “I don't believe such a word
exists as of yet, Lord Ahlquist, or the person requesting it would have found
it by now.”

Ahlquist glanced at the missive. “Mrs. Burns—the
novelist—yes, I see your point. She has certainly searched for such a word all
the years she has been writing her more…well, torrid scenes.”

Cathryn’s mouth went dry at the attention and she moistened
her lips—instantly regretting it as Lord Ahlquist’s eyes darted her way. She
struggled to maintain the floor. “The sound is often used beyond passionate
encounters, as you well know.” Taking a deep breath, she again regretted her
action as several men allowed themselves to stare at her rising bosom, but she
persevered, determined to take the slim opportunity offered to participate. “That
would seem to be pertinent to the difficulty of attributing a single name to
such a diverse sound.”

“Indeed. Well, this needs no further discussion. I shall
notify Mrs. Burns that no word has been coined for the elusive vocalization.”
He started to put the letter aside and Cathryn felt that she, and Mrs. Burns,
were being unfairly dismissed. Her ears pricked and her flush shifted from
embarrassment to indignation.

“I believe Mrs. Burns is asking more of this meeting.”

All eyes were again on her, and she hunched her shoulders
slightly in an attempt to minimize the effect of her overlarge breasts, glad
for the wool cloak she wore in the frigid room. “I believe you said she had
coined a word, and she is asking for the Society’s approval.”

Ahlquist glanced at the letter, and Cathryn could see his
struggle to take the situation seriously. She suspected that if she had not
been present, the men would have either ignored the communication completely or
made a mockery of it and the author. He’d chosen a lightly attended meeting to
discuss the letter, with Parliament adjourned and most of the members having
left London to return to their country estates. Perhaps that was why he invited
her to speak for the first time.


Murr.
” Ahlquist said it with a lazy drawl and the sound
emerged as a rather feline purr. A twitter passed around the room as the
gentlemen imitated him. Englishmen took great delight in downplaying the
accomplishments of women, and Melina Burns’ public success was undoubtedly a
thorn in their egotistical sides. In fact, the rise of the female writer in the
last hundred years could not be easily ignored, but these scholarly men seemed
intent on doing just that.

Ahlquist’s eyes met Cathryn’s and the challenge was
tangible. “Can you imagine us recommending such a word for Dr. Johnson’s
dictionary?” He shook his head. “No. I believe Mrs. Burns is asking for us to
help her define a common utterance, and we must reject such a request.”

He’s never been quite so arrogant before. What’s come
over him?
“I beg to disagree, Lord Ahlquist. We have moan, groan and murmur
in the current dictionary.
Murr,
” she said with deliberate diction, “seems
a very reasonable addition.”

The oak-paneled room fell silent as Ahlquist turned the full
force of his masculinity on her and growled, “Reasonable?” He resembled a lion
disturbed from slumber as he shook his head slowly. His distinctive mane of
thick auburn hair, kept long and loose in an obvious touch of vanity, seemed to
grow even wilder as he moved. He stepped away from his podium in an agitated
manner, and Cathryn could not resist a small smile of amusement. Was he really
so threatened by her?

“Yes. Reasonable.” She was intent on holding her own now
that she had the floor, and she rose to meet him when he arrived at her seat.
He was only a few inches taller than she was, but he appeared twice her size,
with his voluminous tan greatcoat settling around him as he came to a halt.

A bust of Shakespeare on a shelf behind him gave her
inspiration. “The great bard himself coined dozens of words—
bump
,
foppish
and
zany
amongst them.” Several men chuckled aloud and Cathryn
repressed a triumphant smile. Her hobby had just paid a great dividend. How she
loved making lists of words.

Ahlquist glanced at the marble sculpture, and his demeanor
softened a tad. “I believe you’re correct.”

The letter hung in his hand, and she braved another round. “May
I see her correspondence, please?”

He moved closer and she could feel the warmth that radiated
from him. Common sense told her to back away, but a stronger attraction pulled
her towards him. His clean, masculine scent clouded her senses as she reached
out and gingerly took the vellum from him. She pretended not to notice his
glare as she scanned the contents of the letter, nearly identical to the one
she’d received from Mrs. Burns last spring.

Cathryn could feel the tension among the gentlemen and knew
the earl was not used to being challenged. She didn’t want to make an enemy of
him, or any member, and she considered her next words carefully. The letter
gave her the answer. “It seems Mrs. Burns is anxious to speak with
representatives of this esteemed society and has offered to host a gathering at
her estate, Gorham House.”

A buzz circled the room.

Cathryn knew that these erudite men might dismiss Mrs. Burns
as a dilettante, but their wives all read her works and there would be the
devil to pay if they knew their husbands had ruined their chance to visit the
reclusive novelist.

Cathryn met Ahlquist’s eyes. Rage simmered there below civil
good humor like fireflies in a glass jar, primal yet contained. She gave him
her most charming smile, and the lightning in his eyes flashed brighter. Not
certain such a reaction was desirable, but unable to stop her momentum, she
persevered. “I should like to visit her, Lord Ahlquist. With your permission,
of course.” She faced the influential men seated around the table—any one of
them could help her find a publisher for her works. “Perhaps we could go as a
group. It would provide an opportunity to discuss the deficiencies of our
current dictionaries at length, in what I’m told is a rather unique setting.”

Gorham House was a rambling mansion rumored to have some of
the most decadent accoutrements in England, including spring-fed bathing
chambers where men and women cavorted together and a Greek folly where nudity
was encouraged in warm weather. The country estate only four hours from London
was a tribute to the self-indulgent Regency years, which were remembered fondly
by many in attendance.

An uncertain fascination flickered around the table.

Cathryn could sense their weakening. She searched for the
argument that would tilt them in her favor. Shakespeare had no more insight for
her, but an oil painting of hounds chasing a fox sparked a thought. “Mrs. Burns
is said to be a most magnanimous hostess, with the finest hunting in England.”

The group burst into agreement. Hunting. That was the key.
She’d given them all a respectable, manly reason to join her venture.

Ahlquist leaned over her and snatched the letter back. For
an instant his broad chest brushed her shoulder and she felt rather rudely
accosted. The respect she held for him as president of the society diminished
as she turned and pushed him away.

The assembly was chattering loudly, so she muttered, “What
is vexing you, sir?” He hadn’t moved far and she gasped at the sparks in his
gold-flecked eyes as he glowered down at her. Even the dimple in his chin
quivered slightly. The smell of heated wool and starched linen emanated from
him, and she wondered briefly if his skin would be hot to her touch.

He wanted to subdue her—that was now clear.

And she wanted to touch him, to cool his savage nature with
a soft caress. She brushed aside the flirtatious thought.

“At the moment, you.” His voice was low and rough. He gave
her one final glare before returning to the podium and calling the meeting back
to order.

A few gentlemen seemed to have noticed the heated
interaction and now shot her furtive glances. Cathryn resumed her seat and
settled her dark cloak around her. She knew she must be red as beet soup, and
she struggled to relax.

Why was he so irritated?

Oh, yes.
He’d just told her, quite frankly.

Perhaps she had been a bit heavy-handed. That trait wouldn’t
help her gain full acceptance into this society, and that was her ultimate
goal. Today was her first day out of dreary mourning clothes—perhaps the new
dress made her act so bold. A month’s savings well spent, even if the
rust-colored gown hid under her dull brown cloak.

Ahlquist put one hand on either side of the podium and looked
straight at Cathryn. “This request is outside the charter of our society, but I
bow to the ladies’ wishes. Lady Sibley and I will make the arrangements with
Mrs. Burns and notify each of you.” He glanced down at the papers in front of
him without waiting for her reaction to his announcement. “I believe that will
conclude our business for this meeting.” He scanned the men at the table. “Unless
one of you has something further to discuss?”

Not a word. Even Cathryn bit her tongue.

“Remember to forward your nominees for society president to
Lord Waldemere. We meet here again in two months, gentlemen, baroness. Meeting
adjourned.”

The men gathered their things and slowly began to file out
of the room, with many of them discussing Mrs. Burns’ appealing offer. A dapper
gentleman seated at Cathryn’s right placed his hand on her arm and spoke in a
voice so low that she had to lean in to make out what he was saying. “Beware of
Ahlquist, Lady Sibley.” This seemed an overly dramatic statement until he
added, “He’s set his sights on you now, and he has a quick temper.” He bowed
his blond head. “Out of deference for your late husband, whom I considered a
friend at Oxford, I’m warning you. Be wary of the earl.”

She nodded as she considered his counsel. “Thank you, Lord
Waldemere.” Ahlquist was standing in the arched doorway, saying goodbye to each
of the members. Another confrontation loomed, and she glanced around the sparse
room, attempting levity. “Is there a hidden exit out of this chamber?”

Waldemere chuckled. “I’m afraid not.” He helped her with her
chair and followed her to the door. “I would be glad to share a carriage if
you’re headed west.”

With a sigh of relief, Cathryn shot him a quick smile. “West
is fine. You could drop me near Grosvenor Square.”

As they approached Ahlquist, Cathryn felt her color rising
again. He seemed larger than life guarding the door. “Lady Sibley.” He extended
his warm hand and engulfed hers. “Now that we have a project to work on
together, I look forward to deepening our acquaintance.” Cathryn sensed a
veiled threat in his words and responded with only a nod before he continued, “Do
you need a carriage?”

She did not want to be alone with this man, certainly not
now, and she was grateful a second time to her elegant blond friend. “Lord Waldemere
has already offered, thank you.”

Ahlquist shot the baron a hard look, which quickly softened.
“Please relay my warm regards to Lady Waldemere, and congratulations on the
birth of your son.”

“Thank you. I am much relieved they are both well.”
Waldemere cleared his throat, twice.

A twinge of envy hit Cathryn whenever she heard people speak
of their children, or show affection for their spouses. Life had been cruel to
her in both regards.

The new father seemed embarrassed by his comment and continued
quickly, “I’ll notify you if you have a challenger for president, but I doubt
that will be the case. You’ve done a fine job this year.”

“Thank you. It’s a great deal of work for little gain. I
doubt many would want the bother.”

Waldemere nodded in agreement. “I know I don’t.”

Lord Ahlquist returned his attention to her with a pleasant
expression that set her blood pulsing more from longing than fear.

Dear Lord, he’s a handsome devil when he smiles.

“May I call tomorrow at eleven?”

There was no socially acceptable reason to deny him—other
than his labeling her “vexing”, Waldemere’s warning and her own instincts to
avoid intimate contact with him. She would ask Violet to join them.

“Eleven-thirty would suit me better, Lord Ahlquist.” There
was no conflict with eleven, but she sensed she should never give in easily to
this man if she wanted to earn his respect. She lifted the hood of her cloak
over her head. “Thank you for a most engaging meeting.” She ducked out the door
into a blast of cold before she could hear his response, but Waldemere chuckled
as he followed her down the stairs to the street.

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