By Lady Carlton née Katie O’Roarke, heroine of “The Blonde Samurai”
Will your lover send round a Valentine to make your heart flutter? Wrapped up in soft ivory tissue paper and decorated with red hearts and fancy Valenciennes lace? I refer not to your husband but to your lover.
‘Tis what Valentine’s Day is all about, is it not?
If you are a lady of quality, then I have no doubt you bemoan the fact that you didn’t marry the handsome young gentleman who gave you your first kiss on a swing under the apple tree. The fragrance of your sweet blossoms arousing you, his hands holding you around the waist so tight you could scarcely breathe. Now you try to re-create that moment with every new lover.
‘Tis a pity.
If you are in love with your husband, it is often a similar manifestation. Men are such forgetful fellows, not realizing that the simple gesture of a gentle kiss upon milady’s cheek can touch a woman’s heart.
But what if you were a maid of one and twenty and had never been kissed?
Such is the circumstance of Temerity Whitechapel, the granddaughter of a wealthy baronet and a studious lass with a delicate nature. Educated by a series of stern governesses, she spent her life caring for her invalid grandfather (recently deceased) within the dreary confines of Mottersby Manor, a grand old house in the hinterlands with nary a whiff of anything of interest to tempt passers-by to call. Not even a family ghost.
Until the day a gentleman came to call upon Temerity with a proposition, a very unsettling proposition.
She didn’t know why she allowed him to enter the grand hall but she did. Perhaps because he was tall. She liked tall men.
“I have here an offer from the railway company, Miss Whitechapel,” the gentleman said, drawing an envelope out of his breast pocket, his smile beguiling even if next words were not. “To purchase the eastern sector of your land.”
“And pray, who told you I was willing to sell?” she demanded in her finest mistress-of-the manor voice. Best she not appear vulnerable before this stranger. He could be a scoundrel out to take her land away from her since her grandfather’s estate had not yet been settled.
The tingling running up and down her spine belied her indifference to him. No young gentlemen called at Mottersby Manor.
“Have you not heard?” he drawled in an accent she couldn’t determine. Manchester, perhaps. “The railway is scheduled to come right through your property.”
“Is it now?” Temerity rubbed her hands on her tailored skirt with nary a pleat out of place. “I will not have a smelly, smoky locomotive upsetting the tenants on my land.”
If the truth be known, Temerity found the idea of a railway fascinating, but she would keep that notion to herself. She had promised her dear grandfather never to sell the property unless dire circumstances forced her hand.
“I beg you to reconsider, Miss Whitechapel.”
“No.” She held the door open for the gentleman, signaling their conversation had ended. “Please, sir, I entreat you to take your leave.”
Yes, leave, she finished silently, trying to deny that she was responding to the musky scent of masculinity invading her realm. She could feel her pulse racing, perspiration wetting the high collar at the back of her neck.
Where was Mrs. Greenville?
If the housekeeper had done her duty and answered the door, she wouldn’t have been placed in this awkward position.
“Miss Whitechapel,” the gentleman began, a sincerity in his voice that she suspected was all about the art of provoking, “I am aware that you are in mourning…”
She nodded. “Then best you respect my wishes, Mister–” She didn’t mean to be rude, but her sense of propriety dictated she send him away.
“Longhorn. Captain Jack Longhorn.” He tipped his hat and the late morning sun grabbed the dazzle out of his blue eyes and tossed it into her face, startling her. He was handsome, no doubt.
She blinked, determined not to come undone. “Now that we have been properly introduced, Captain, I insist that you leave.”
“If I may be so bold, Miss Whitechapel,” he continued, not taking his eyes off her and setting her teeth on edge, making her wish she could reach down and soothe the sweet longing burning between her legs, “the railway will be a good thing for you and your tenants.”
“I beg to differ with you, sir. The Whitechapels have tilled this land for hundreds of years and no railway is going to change that,” she stated boldly. Why did his gaze warm her in a way she had never known before? “Good day to you, Captain.”
With a deliberate swish of her black wool skirt, she slammed the door shut in his face.
Why did she wish she hadn’t?
Then, because she was a curious lass, her heart pining for male companionship, she dared to peek through the open shutter for one more look at him. That was when she heard him muttering about the townspeople warning him that she was a frumpy old spinster.
Such impertinence. Why, if she were a man, she would call him out and challenge him to a duel. She’d show him she wasn’t a silly woman who couldn’t protect herself or her property.
Her grandfather’s pistols, she thought in a panic. Where were they? She may have need of them if this Captain Longhorn returned.
A duel. Really.
Are you shocked by her actions, dear lady reader? Taken one too many sniffs of your smelling powders?
I dare say you believed Miss Whitechapel was a docile lass who would swoon at the idea of challenging to a duel a stalwart gentleman with the ripe, manly appeal of Captain Longhorn.
I must entreat you to allow me to point out a most significant aspect of Miss Whitechapel’s personality of which you are not aware. She has two vices, neither of which she will impart to you because she suffers from undue embarrassment, so I shall do it for her.
She adores silk petticoats.
And lurid literature.
I am not adding this beguiling information to tease you, dear lady reader. Look, there, under her skirts as she flies up the winding stairway to her grandfather’s room and ruffles through his old trunk looking for a set of matching pistols in a soiled, burgundy velvet box.
Scarlet silk petticoats hemmed with delicate lace.
Quite scandalous, but not nearly as much as the books she kept hidden in the wardrobe in her room.
Under her plaids and woolens.
Erotic tomes with such provocative titles as Miss Dooley’s Naughty Affair or When a Wife Becomes a Mistress, and my favorite, “The Misadventures of Molly Pearlbottom.”
But even the torrid thoughts produced by reading these books couldn’t get Captain Jack Longhorn out of her mind.
‘Twas with regret for her brash actions that Temerity sipped cold tea that afternoon and never touched the sponge cake Cook put out for her. She didn’t even scold Mrs. Greenville for taking too long in the village to purchase supplies. Her mouth was dry, her hands shaking.
Why had the untimely presence of Captain Longhorn upset her so?
She knew why. Though she was beholden to her promise to remain here on the family property, the idea of spending her days and nights at Mottersby Manor for the duration of her life was not a desirable one. True, she had Mrs. Greenville and Cook and old Brom to tend to the stables, but she had no man to stroke her cheek or hold her tight in his arms, kissing her neck and biting her bare shoulders.
Or pull on her nipples to make them erect.
A gentle stirring in her groin made her shiver. She couldn’t stop thinking about the tall gentleman who looked at her as if he could see the scarlet petticoats under her skirt.
Pray, what was she to do if he returned?
Will Temerity succumb to Captain Jack Longhorn’s masculine ardor? ‘Tis not the proper behavior of a writer of tales to do so, but I shall tell you that a madness overtook her when next she saw the captain. A madness that set off a series of events that will make you loosen your stays and reach for a glass of port to steady you.
The Blonde Samurai
“She embraced the way of the warrior. Two swords. Two loves.”