To my brother, Ki,
for giving me constant love, support and understanding,
and for always being there when I need you.
I’m so lucky to be your sister.
What is your preferred style, Miss Briars?
Amanda knew exactly why the man on her
“Wait,” Amanda said in a flash of panic, turning…
After the death of Amanda’s father, the decision…
I’ll send a carriage for you tomorrow at ten.
“No, you didn’t kill him,” Devlin said in response…
To Amanda’s surprise, the contract from Jack…
Devlin meant, Amanda realized, that he was be…
“Here we come a-caroling…
Amanda had little awareness of time for the rest…
“Hell, yes, I want an affair.” Jack stared at her…
Amanda’s relatives were not pleased by the news…
The London Season, with its rituals of suppers…
Making his last rounds of the day, Oscar Fretwell…
A gentle breeze rustled through the leaves, bringing…
As Amanda laid out her plans for…
“Papa, you’re supposed to catch me!”
About the Author
Other Books by Lisa Kleypas
About the Publisher
“What is your preferred style, Miss Briars? Would you prefer your man to be fair-haired or dark? Average height or tall? English or foreign?” The madam was astonishingly businesslike, as if they were discussing a dish to be served at a supper-party rather than a man to be purchased for the evening.
The questions made Amanda cringe. She felt her face flame until her cheeks prickled, and she wondered if a man would feel this way the first time he visited a bordello. Fortunately, this bordello was far more discreet and tastefully furnished than she had imagined. There were no shocking paintings or vulgar engravings, and no clients or prostitutes anywhere in sight. Mrs. Bradshaw’s establishment was quite attractive, the walls covered in moss-green damask, the private receiving room filled with comfortable pieces of Hepplewhite furniture. A small marble-topped table was positioned neatly beside an Empire sofa adorned with golden dolphin scales.
Reaching for a little gold-painted pencil and a tiny notebook perched on the edge of the table, Gemma Bradshaw stared at her expectantly.
“I don’t have a preferred style,” Amanda said, mortified but determined. “I will trust your judgment. Just send someone on the evening of my birthday, one week from today.”
For some reason, that entertained Mrs. Bradshaw greatly. “As a gift to yourself?…What a delightful idea.” She stared at Amanda with a lingering smile that illuminated her angular face. The madam was not beautiful, or even pretty, but she possessed a smooth complexion and rich red hair, and a tall, voluptuous body. “Miss Briars, may I ask if you are a virgin?”
“Why do you wish to know?” Amanda countered warily.
One of Mrs. Bradshaw’s ruddy, perfectly plucked brows arched in amusement. “If you are indeed willing to trust my judgment, Miss Briars, I must know the particulars of your situation. It is not often that a woman like you comes to my establishment.”
“Very well.” Amanda took a deep breath and spoke rapidly, driven by something close to desperation rather than the good sense she had always prided herself on. “I am a spinster, Mrs. Bradshaw. In one week’s time I will be thirty years old. And yes, I am still a v-virgin—” She stumbled over the word and continued resolutely. “But that does not mean that I must remain one. I have come to you because it is general knowledge that you are able to provide whatever a client asks for. I know it must be a surprise, for a woman like me to come here—”
“My dear,” the madam interrupted with a soft laugh, “the time has long passed since I was capable of being surprised by anything. Now, I believe that I understand your dilemma quite well, and I will indeed provide an agreeable solution. Tell me this…do you have any preferences as to age and appearance? Any particular likes or dislikes?”
“I would prefer a young man, but no younger than myself. And not too old. He doesn’t have to be handsome, although I would not wish for him to be unsightly. And clean,” Amanda added as a thought occurred to her. “I do insist on cleanliness.”
The pencil scratched busily in the notebook. “I don’t foresee that will be a problem,” Mrs. Bradshaw replied, with a glimmer of something in her pretty, dark eyes that looked suspiciously like laughter.
“I will also insist on discretion,” Amanda said crisply. “If anyone should ever find out what I’ve done—”
“My dear,” Mrs. Bradshaw said, arranging her body more comfortably on the sofa, “what do you think would become of my business were I to allow my clients’ privacy to be violated? I’ll have you know, my employees cater to some of the most highly placed members of Parliament, not to mention the wealthiest lords—and ladies—of first society. Your secret will be safe, Miss Briars.”
“Thank you,” Amanda said, filled with equal parts of relief and terror, and a terrible suspicion that she was making the greatest mistake of her life.
Amanda knew exactly why the man on her doorstep was a prostitute. From the moment she had ushered him inside in the manner of someone harboring an escaped convict, he had stared at her in dumbfounded silence. Obviously he lacked the cranial equipment necessary to pursue a more intellectually challenging occupation. But, of course, a man didn’t need brains to do what he had been hired for.
“Hurry,” she whispered, tugging anxiously on his muscular arm. She slammed the door behind him. “Do you think that anyone saw you? I hadn’t thought that you would simply appear at the front door. Aren’t men of your profession trained to show some discretion?”
“My…profession,” he repeated in a bemused manner.
Now that he was safely concealed from public view, Amanda allowed herself to stare at him thoroughly. Despite his apparent dullness of wit, he was remarkably good-looking. Beautiful, really, if one could apply such a word to an obviously masculine creature. He was big-framed and lean, with shoulders that seemed to span the width of the front door. The layers of his gleaming black hair were thick and neatly cut, and his tanned face glowed from a precise shave. He had a long, straight nose and a voluptuary’s mouth.
And he had a pair of remarkable blue eyes that approximated no other shade she had ever seen. Except, perhaps, at the shop where the local chemist made batches of ink by boiling Indigofera plants and copper sulfate together for days until they formed a blue so dark and deep that it approached violet. And yet his eyes did not have the angelic quality one might usually associate with such a color. They were shrewd, seasoned, as if he had gazed far too often at an unsavory side of life that she herself had never seen.
Amanda could easily understand why women would pay for his company. The thought of hiring this masculine, opulent-eyed creature to do one’s bidding was extraordinary. And tempting. Amanda was ashamed by her secret response to him, the hot and cold chills that chased through her body, the burning color that rose to the crests of