His eyes became flat and unreadable. “Might I ask why you are walking alone in this forest?” His French was upper crust, well-educated and immaculate. “The closest village outside of Paris is a few hours away. Either you are stupid or you seem to think I am.”
Her brows went up. She knew these well-to-do fils de basts were known for being overly righteous, but she didn’t expect them to live up to their reputation. “Be careful with those insults, monsieur. Back in my village, I can skin a pig in less than thirty minutes. My father is a butcher, and I will warn you, he taught me everything I know. So refrain from annoying me. I have a paring knife.”
A tremor touched his lips as if he were fighting an amusement he didn’t wish to feel. “I have been duly warned.” He skimmed her appearance, including her bare feet and hesitated, lingering on the exposed skin above her breasts her knitted scarf didn’t cover. His jaw tightened. “The tops of your breasts are on full display. Is that intentional?”
Her eyes widened, realizing he had a direct view down her sizable cleavage given he was up on a horse. “Of course not. How dare you look.” Thérèse rearranged her fichu over her décolletage and patted it into place, tucking it into her bodice. “It slipped,” she tossed back. “The wind is a bit strong. Or did you not notice given how fast you were going?”
He puffed out a breath. Leaning back in the leather saddle enough to showcase his broad chest, he adjusted the reins in his large gloved hands. “Seeing you have no shoes, mademoiselle, and that the weather is about to turn dire, I suggest you make haste and go home.”
Thérèse snorted. “Home is the last place I wish to be.” Rather pleased with herself for seizing her own independence, she cradled the basket against her corseted waist, knowing a little advertisement was in order. “My cousin is graciously giving me an opportunity to be part of an upcoming performance he thinks will change all of Paris. I am to be his leading actress in a controversial script he wrote called…The Delights of Life. I will be performing on stage this Friday at Spetacle des Variétés Amusantes. Would you like to hear a few lines and maybe consider coming to a performance? Tickets will be selling for three sols a piece. Quite the bargain.”
His gaze snapped to hers.
Without giving him a chance to decline, she breathlessly announced to her audience of one, “Is it possible for a mere commoner, like myself, to attain a measure of good cheer in a world dominated by men, politics, wealth, murder, intrigue and greed? Most certainly! Under the new Republic, one must simply know how to make these aristocrats in power crawl.” She slapped her derriere and gripped it. “And crawl you shall, o lords of this ravaged land. For I am your new harlot better known as the queen!”
She grinned. “You ought to see my rendition of Calderón. I make death look real.” She curtsied and regally held out an open palm with the roll of her bare hand. “Might you offer an aspiring actress a few sols for her journey into stardom? It would be greatly appreciated.”
He lowered his chin. “I only give money to those in need.”
The cheeky bastard. “I am in need. I left the house without a single sol.”
“And how is that my problem?”
She dropped her hand to her side in exasperation. “I was hoping for a sliver of generosity. What else will you have me do? I sing. I dance. I also do a variety of impersonations. The only thing I will not do is bare my breasts or offer up sexual favors. However, if you insist, you may kiss my hand. But not with an open mouth or your tongue. I had a man once lick my hand and I swear I can still feel it.”
An inexplicable look of withdrawal came over his face. “You and I are clearly at an impasse.”
She pointed. “You really ought to work on that comedy routine. You are far too serious in nature.”
He leaned back against his saddle, still staring her down. “What the hell is this? A forest and a show? Are you lost?”
She puffed out a breath. “I dare not say it, but I could be. I have been walking for over two days now following signs that appear to be misplaced. I am trying to get to Paris.” She held up her basket and brightly offered, “I have apples. Might I barter a few in exchange for directions? Or maybe even a ride?” Still smiling, she enthusiastically patted the sleek, soft neck of his horse with one hand, while still holding the basket up. “He is so magnificent. I can barely breathe in his presence.”
He edged his hand away from where she had been patting the horse. “Are you referring to me or the horse?”
About THE DUKE OF ANDELOT
For fans of Tom Jones and The Scarlet Pimpernel comes a twisted, sexy tale that takes the French Revolution to smoldering new heights.Long before becoming the flamboyant courtesan known to men as Madame de Maitenon, Thérèse Angelique Bouchard, dreamed of becoming an actress capable of commanding not only the stage but all of Paris. Until she meets an extraordinary aristocratic gentleman who sweeps her into his arms and the danger of his life, while offering her the sort of wealth she never imagined. What starts off as a seductive alliance, ends in her giving him the one thing she cannot afford: her love.
After the murder of his older brothers, Gérard Antoine Tolbert, becomes the last heir to the powerful dukedom of Andelot, leaving him to fight for not only his life, but the allegiance he holds for the crown. During the final rise of the French Revolution that whispers of the violent change about to shake the entire country, Gérard
meets an aspiring actress who introduces him into wanting more out of himself and life. In trying to protect her from their overly passionate alliance and those that want him dead, he must decide what matters most: his life or his heart.
AUTHOR NOTE: This sweeping saga will follow Madame de Maitenon and the Duc of Andelot from their youth in 1792, France, to what they ultimately become when the School of Gallantry series first starts in England, 1830.
Check it out on Goodreads.
USA TODAY Bestselling Author Delilah Marvelle is the winner of the Reviewer's Choice for Best Sensual Historical Romance of the Year and had Booklist name her historical romance 'Forever and a Day' one of the TOP 10 Romances of the year. When she isn't writing, she's digging through inappropriate research books that include anything in history having to do with courtesans, brothels, sexual contraptions that were never properly used and other fascinating forms of dirty history that never made it into college textbooks.
You can visit her at her website at www.DelilahMarvelle.com
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AND on a super exciting note, there's a giveaway!!
Delilah is giving away Amazon gift cards in the following denominations:
5x $10 Amazon GC
2x $25 Amazon GC
With a GRAND PRIZE of a $100 Amazon gift certificate!
Enter now! And tell us below, which is your favourite book in the School of Gallantry series?
The Duke of Andelot is the seventh installment in Delilah's School of Gallantry series.
Check out the other books!
Check out the other books!