Saved from certain ruin in the back streets of Paris by the wealthy Rutledge Bentley, identical twins Colette and Camille are now members of London's elite. Besotted with their beauty, Rutledge has taken Camille for his bride and married off her twin to his son, Heath. But while Colette can barely keep up with the sexual demands of her prodigious lover, Camille is left unfulfilled by her husband and desires much more...
And so it occurs to them...why not exchange places?
As Colette shares with her twin all the intimate details of her sexual escapades with Heath, Camille learns how to tease her "husband" into a state of arousal that will ensure the sensual release her body is so desperately longing for. It's a wickedly dangerous plan that promises deliciously erotic delights...
Kensington Aphrodisia (November 1, 2009)
"I see a time of cataclysmic change for you. A time of sexual upheaval so pronounced as to produce a whirlwind—no, a hurricane—of passion! You will feel like a volcano as you erupt with new sensations and delights!"
Camille Bentley gaped at the medium seated beside her and then burst out laughing. "Passion? Erupting like a volcano? Do you forget who I'm married to, Rubio?"
Rubio Palladino's gaze didn't waver. "Listen well, my dear. Sex isn't about marriage, nor is marriage about sex. And you, Colette—you are not to be left behind as your sister revels in untold pleasures, for I sense the coming of a dark stranger . . . " His eyes went slightly out of focus as he gazed inward. "A charismatic foreign man . . . a mysterious woman veiled in white . . . betrayal and revenge—even a death, perhaps! And they will stem from the dissatisfactions you now find in the marriage bed."
Colette Bentley glanced at her twin sister and then focused on the seer who sat between them. "How much opium did you smoke last night?" she teased, but then she turned deadly serious. "What's this talk of betrayal and revenge? Someone's death? And what gives you the right—the nerve—to insinuate such intimate knowledge of my so-called dissatisfaction?"
"Have I ever been wrong? Have I ever misled you?" Rubio's eyes refocused and shone like jet black diamonds. He swept his mane of chestnut hair back from a face accentuated by chiseled cheekbones and a nose pierced with a tiny gold ring, like a gypsy's. "I have laid out the cards you both selected with your own hands, and, as I do each Monday, I interpret the wisdom the Tarot reveals. And I'm telling you," he added with a furtive laugh, "your lives about to be turned upside down."
"When? And what shall we do?" Camille asked in a thin voice.
"Within the week." The medium swept his cards into his hand with a quick, practiced movement. "Consider your situations with your husbands very carefully indeed, for all you have believed is about to be overturned. Things are not what they seem. Good day, ladies." With that, the slender man rose from his chair and walked out of their shop, his purple duster a-flutter. Only the exotic scent of his cologne lingered to torment them further.
Camille blinked. Every Monday morning before they opened the couturier they consulted with Rubio about the week to come, but this! Today's reading made her head spin! "What on earth do you suppose he meant?" she whispered. "Rutledge is so old—so impaired—he shows his affection only when others are watching. Only to make his friends believe he's quite the man, to be satisfying a woman young enough to be—"
"You think I don't know that?" Colette stood suddenly, her cheeks flaring. "Rubio has his moments—his dramatic little habits—but betrayal! Death! Talk of dark, foreign strangers and women in white? I don't believe a word of it! He's toying with us."
Camille watched her twin snatch up her ledger and pen as a signal it was time to get to work. "We can't deny Rubio's predictions concerning world events," she mused aloud, "and how all the Queen's court hangs on every word he—"
"The court can believe as they choose! We have a shop to run. Alice!" she called out. "Alice, where are the gowns Lady Etheridge ordered? She'll be here within the hour for her fitting!"
"On my way! Comin,' I am!" Their young seamstress bustled from the back room, her eyes widened as though she hadn't been eavesdropping on Rubio's reading. She quickly hung three basted gowns on pegs along the salon wall. "Here they be, ready and waitin'! You and your sister approved ‘em Friday afternoon and said that if Lady Etheridge keeps eatin' like a greedy pig at so many parties—"
"Alice Furling!" Camille waved a finger in warning. "She'll be here any moment. Please fetch us some of those lemon curd tarts she prefers, and then set on the water for tea when you return. It's in our best interest to provide our clients with everything they desire."
"And if her mouth's full she can't complain about how you miscalculated her measurements, eh?" The seamstress giggled before ducking out the door, leaving the twin sisters in a strained silence.
"Cheeky chit," Colette muttered as she took up her pen. "You know damn well she'll come back late, looking like she's just taken a tumble—"
"Because Rubio can't keep his hands off her?"
"Because Rubio . . . " Colette raised an eyebrow, sensing her sister's mockery. "Why do we tolerate Alice? She's unpredictable and constantly eavesdropping and flighty and—"
"All the things you're not, dear sister?" Camille felt her usual good humor returning now that their seamstress was the butt of her sister's testy mood.
"And what do you mean by that?"
"I think Rubio's predictions have struck too close to home. And you don't like it one little bit," Camille replied lightly.
"And I think your imagination's taking flight again, dear sister! You're the one who laughed at the idea of passion and pleasure erupting like a volcano, after all!"
"And because Lord Bentley married me—and set us up with this couturier—you have a husband, too. And a job that gets you out of his bed once in a while!"
Colette smirked. "Envy doesn't become you, Camille. You'd be hopelessly in debt and behind in your designing, were it not for my accounting talents. You'd have no idea what fabrics you have on hand, or whether the mills have overcharged you. You'd be awash in a sea of—"
The clatter of the brass knocker made them both stand straighter and head for the front door. It was business as usual now; time to set aside sisterly quibbling over predictions uttered by the medium who lived upstairs. What did he know about their marital satisfaction or lack of it?
Sex isn't about marriage, nor is marriage about sex.
Camille smoothed the front of her gown before opening the door. Truth be told, Rubio Palladino sensed far too much, and as she greeted their morning's first client, she was greatly relieved to see a plump, matronly redhead rather than a dark foreign man or a lady veiled in white.
"Good morning, Lady Etheridge," she cooed, allowing her accent to flirt with her words. Never mind that Mama had taught English language and grammar in a French academy: LeChaud Souers clients paid more for the prestige of working with a Parisian designer. "You're looking lovely today! But just wait until you see the magnificent gowns we've designed for you! Gowns we've seen on the likes of Empress Eugenie herself!"
She wasn't lying, after all. It was her calling to create silk purses from sows' ears, and she did it well.
Let go of me, Heath! I must dress for the day's work—"
"You take your shop far too seriously, my sweet. Those ladies you and your sister sew for can't possibly appreciate you the way I do." Her husband reached around her from behind to lift her breasts from her black corset. His eager hands felt more insistent than usual as he teased her nipples between his fingertips. "Colette . . . Colette," he breathed against her ear. "You can feel my need. My yearning for your ripe, lovely body."
"You kept me up half the night—"
"Because I never get enough, my love. I'm insatiable, like a wild stallion who must take his mate every time he catches a whiff of her." Heath inhaled raggedly while gyrating against her backside.
While his large cock resembled those she'd seen in pictures of stallions—and during matings of his horses, which he'd shown her to excite her—Colette suddenly resented him. It was always his own pleasure he sought, even as he murmured his endearments and pleas. She was merely his outlet. His receptacle. And she was getting damn tired of it.
But these feelings got her no closer to meeting her twin for the ride to their London shop. If she expressed displeasure—let on she was dissatisfied—Heath Bentley would ride and lunge and penetrate all the more urgently until he believed he'd fulfilled her every fantasy, which would take much longer than she had right now.
More than this lifetime.
Her sister was no doubt fidgeting in the vestibule, glancing repeatedly at her watch. Lady Etheridge had been so excited about Camille's latest designs, she'd ordered four more gowns at her fitting yesterday. Her twin had a great deal of drawing and cutting to do, and every passing moment would make her more jittery and irritable. Artistic types were so damned temperamental! And Rubio Palladino's predictions of sexual hurricanes and volcanoes had only whipped Camille into more of a whirlwind than usual!
Colette placed a foot firmly on the stool of her vanity. She watched Heath's face in the mirror as she lifted her skirts . . . thrust her breasts into his hot, massaging palms as she rubbed against his erection. His nostrils flared. His dark eyes narrowed with triumph as his hands spanned her waist.
"Let me in," he rasped. "Lean forward and open yourself, Colette. God, how I love the sight of your twat between your white thighs in their black stockings."
Colette gasped as he plunged inside her, feigning passion to spur him on. Placing her forearms on the vanity put her at the angle he loved best—and it gave her a place to rest her head, so she didn't have to watch in the mirror as he took his pleasure.
Sex isn't about marriage, nor is marriage about sex.
The medium's words tormented her as she mechanically returned her husband's thrusts. It was a damn shame, too: Heath Bentley was more than she could've caught for herself in the streets of Paris. His thick, dark hair framed a face that could've graced a painting by Michelangelo. His body was strong and firm from hours in the saddle, and the thighs slapping against hers could wrap around her like a trap when he wished to keep her in her place. His hands were those of a gentleman, for Heath Bentley had never worked a day in his life nor, as Lord Bentley's only son, would he ever need to.
Yes, she could've done much, much worse than marry the son of the man who'd set them up in business. Colette fixed a smile on her face and grunted in earnest. This was no time for him to prove how long he could last! Did every encounter have to be a marathon?
"Heath," she breathed raggedly. "Heath, I'm going to—I can't hold out much—oh...ohhhhh!"
His features tightened. He buried himself deeper inside her, and when his head lolled back she took it as her cue to make more noise. "Take me!" she urged him. "I want you to explode inside me! Want you to erupt inside me like a—a volcano!"
She bit back a laugh. She'd made Rubio's insane predictions come true, even if it was Heath who erupted! The images spurred her husband into a climax that was noisier and more boisterous than usual and she had to admit he was a fine piece of work, a handsome stallion of a man, when caught up in the throes of passion.
With a satisfied grunt he slipped out of her and threw himself on the rumpled bed. "My God, Colette! Did you feel how hard I came? It's a wonder you could withstand that—that volcano, indeed!"
Colette bustled to the adjoining bathroom to straddle the bidet. Thank God Camille had told Lord Bentley his opulent home would never approach true gentility until these French fixtures were installed in their separate wings of the mansion. She quickly rinsed herself and then aimed the warm water up and inside, flexing as she gyrated to rinse out Heath's seed . . . increasing the temperature, and then gasping as the force of the jet brought her to a sudden, intense climax. Her husband had once expressed his disgust at the sight of a pregnant woman, so by rinsing this thoroughly she was satisfying both of their preferences, wasn't she?
She dried hastily and scurried into her dressing room before Heath could think up any more distractions. As always, Daisy awaited her with the day's freshly pressed gown and her shoes. Her maid feigned patience, but Colette suspected the sly girl would slip into the bedroom with Heath as soon as her footsteps died away. She clattered down the marble stairway, hoping to set her appearance to rights once she reached the shop.
And there—as always—sat Camille in the vestibule, her lips twisted in a scowl as she checked her watch. She stood up with a dramatic sigh and then the heels of her stylish pumps click-clack-clicked across the floor to punctuate her anger. "Of all the days to dally with Heath when you know I have four new gowns to create for Lady Etheridge!" she sputtered. She paid the randy young footman no mind as he leered at her cleavage while handing her up into the carriage. "Honestly, Colette, I sometimes think you goad your husband into rutting with you at the last possible moment just to irritate me!"
"As it obviously has." Colette lifted a conspiratorial eyebrow at the footman, who was fighting a smile as he shut the carriage door. "I'll have you know I was carrying out those outlandish predictions Rubio made about volcanoes erupting. So perhaps I've put all his nonsense behind us now."
Her sister settled on the seat across from her, looking perfectly coifed and petulantly pretty in her simple gown of cerise silk faille. "I'm telling you he's right!" Her eyes widened in her flawless, china doll face. "I can feel that upheaval he was talking about!"
"Which might account for the way you're about to upheave from the front of your dress. Really, Camille! You look absolutely shameless this morning!" Colette teased. "Why, that new footman was ready to—"
"Never mind him! I chose this gown to see if Rutledge would even glance up from his breakfast."
Colette settled back against her seat as the carriage rolled down the driveway. Were those tears in her twin's voice? "And?" she prompted more gently.
Camille quickly looked out the window to focus on Briarcliffe, the imposing Bentley stronghold. "I might as well have been wearing mourning—black from head to toe with every inch of me covered! I might was well be an old crone with no teeth or—"
"I'm sorry, dear sister. Sorry I was late, and sorry you feel so neglected."
"Invisible! Not even worth looking at, if I'm any gauge of my husband's reaction to—"
"He's old, Camille. Oblivious to your needs, and—" Her twin's expression made her nip her lip. This was more serious than Camille's usual pity fits, if her furrowed brow and tear-streaked cheeks were any indication.
"Needs?" her sister demanded in rising hysteria. "You have no idea of my needs! Why, I was so damned needy—so damned frustrated—I . . . I watched you this morning! Your hair's a rat's nest, and I know how it got that way, and I wish mine looked as raucous for the same reason!"
Colette blinked. She patted at her hair, a futile effort until they reached the couturier. "What do you mean, you watched?"
Her sister's cheeks flared to match her bold pink gown. "I . . . I came upstairs, knowing what you and Heath were doing. And I saw the whole blessed thing. My God, Colette, the man's a monster! I've never seen such a pole!"
Camille's face flushed more deeply. "How do you accommodate all of his . . . it's so long!"
As she fought a grin, Colette leaned forward, coaxing Camille to do the same. No need for their driver to catch every juicy detail of their intimate talk, after all. "How do I accommodate the length of what, dear sister?" she whispered.
Her twin swatted her cheek and then flicked the loose tendrils of hair from her face. "His cock, damn it!" she rasped. "Do you have any idea how badly I wanted to be—how much I ached inside for—"
"For Heath?" Colette quizzed slyly. They sat nose to nose, stretched across the carriage's interior as they gripped each other's hands. Camille's frustration was so intense, so vibrant, it enveloped them both.
"For any man! Do you think I'm proud that I went to your wing to haul you out of bed and ended up gawking at you instead? There! I've confessed it!"
They fell back against their upholstered seats and crossed their arms.
Colette considered her sister's admission, feeling slightly irritated and yet intrigued. While she'd been looking away from Heath's reflection in the mirror, refusing to acknowledge how he'd triumphantly seduced her to make her late, her impish sister had been spying! Ogling! Lusting! "Where were you standing?"
"In your doorway. Looking in through the crack."
"And Daisy didn't stop you?"
Camille's lips twitched. "She was watching, too. I had to swat Miss Adair's hand away from my backside."
So it was true! Her maid had eyes for Heath—but that was a matter to take up with Daisy at a later time. Camille was shifting in her seat like a guilty young schoolgirl . . . or a randy young woman whose longings had never been fulfilled. The thought almost made her pity her pretty twin, but Colette hadn't finished her inquisition. "And how did you escape without my knowing? Those shoes make such a racket—"
"I run faster without them."
The image of her prim, sophisticated sister racing away barefoot, to wait in the vestibule as though she were thoroughly irritated, made Colette laugh out loud. But she needed to hear more. And to demand penance. "And what did you observe? And how did it make you feel? Do tell, sister. Did we learn anything from our little foray into voyeurism?"
Irritation rippled Camille's brow, but she recovered quickly. "I watched your facial expressions—"
"From where you stood, you were staring at my bared backside! And Heath's!"
"And I know you were merely tolerating his advances, making all the right noises—"
"And did our noises excite you? Did you wish he were making those advances on you, taking out his selfish, arrogant needs just to prove—"
"Yes!" Camille cried. "I wanted to be the one he was pumping with that magnificent piston! That long, hard—cock! Because Iwould welcome Heath's invasion! Why, I nearly climaxed just watching the way he thrust into you and then pulled it out to thrust—"
"Well, maybe you should just take him!"
"Well, maybe I should!"
The carriage door swung open before either of them realized it had stopped behind the shop, and the footman slyly swept his blond hair back from his eyes. "Ladies?" he crooned as he positioned their step stool. "The morning feels rather warm already. If you need me to open some windows, to circulate some air—"
"Circulate the story you've been eavesdropping on, and you'll be singing soprano in a boys' choir. Understand me?" Colette muttered. She gripped his hand pointedly as he helped her to the street.
"Yes, milady. Clearly."
Camille sniffed, avoiding his leer as she stepped from the carriage. As soon as the shiny black brougham clattered away, Colette grabbed her wrist. "Maybe that's the answer! Maybe you should be with Heath, while I keep company with Rutledge!"
"Switch husbands? Don't be ridiculous! That's not only improper—"
"What's so ridiculous about each of us getting what she wants?"
Camille's eyes shone like blue china plates in her rosy face. "But that's fornication! A sin!"
"It's a sane, convenient answer to both our predicaments and you know it!" Colette vibrated with sudden inspiration, energy she hadn't felt in months. She might be the left-handed twin, the more logical and grounded and purposeful one, but she also possessed the candor her more artistic sister lacked. "Alice! Alice, it's stuffy in here!" she called out as they entered the back door. "After you've opened the windows, please leave our tea to steep while you fetch us a fresh custard tart from McGilley's."
Alice popped out of the sewing room, buttoning her blouse. "And will I be sharin' that custard tart, milady?" she asked pertly.
"Can't do that until you fetch it for us, can you?" Colette arched her eyebrow at the young blonde, wondering if she'd just come downstairs . . . perhaps from Palladino's apartment. "And have you sewn the lace and ruching on the two gowns for Mrs. Redding?"
"Yes'm, I did! And I stayed up half the night completin' Helena Farquar's
weddin' gown, too," she replied as she scrambled up a short ladder. With an energetic shove, Alice raised the windows on either side of the storefront and then twisted the transom rod to open the window above the door.
"Thank you, Alice. What would we do without you?" Camille smiled kindly at the young woman and then nodded pointedly at her chest. "You might finish dressing before you step out, dear. Unless, of course, you're advertising our divine new Belgian lace on your camisole."
"Yes'm! Thank you, milady!" Alice dashed out the front door, still fastening the top of her blouse.
Colette stood silently beside her sister until the buxom seamstress had gone. It was a wonder the scatterbrained Miss Furling accomplished anything, despite her boundless energy. And how had that expensive new lace from their latest shipment shown up on Alice's underwear?
"And what was that all about?" Camille asked quietly. "Since when do we indulge in a custard tart before we work?"
"I had no breakfast, you know. And you and I are going to indulge in much more than Mr. McGilley's best confection." Colette grabbed her sister's slender hands, unable to contain her excitement. "While Alice is away—probably stopping to see Rubio before she returns—you and I will figure out how to switch husbands! You know you want to!"