The privileged members of the Knickerbocker Club can never climb too high up the social ladder. But for one charming New York bachelor, does the ascent take precedence over love in the Gilded Age?
As owner of a well-respected national newspaper, Calvin Cabot has the means to indulge his capricious taste for excess—and the power to bring the upper crust of society to its knees. So when a desperate heiress from his past begs for his help, Calvin agrees . . . as long as she promises to stay out of his way. Except, like the newsman, this willful beauty always gets what she wants . . .
Lillian Davies lives a life brimming with boundless parties, impressive yachts, and exotic getaways. But when her brother disappears, Lily knows that blood runs thicker than champagne and she’ll spare nothing to bring him back alive. Unfortunately, the only man who can help her is the one she never wanted to see again. Can Lily keep Calvin at arm’s length long enough to save her brother and protect her name . . . even when the tenacious powerbroker turns out to be absolutely irresistible?
“An entertaining, sexually charged romance complete with three-dimensional characters, rapier-sharp dialogue, dark secrets, sizzling tension and a gripping mystery. Shupe has quickly become a powerful voice of the genre.” — RT Book Reviews – 4 1/2 Stars! TOP PICK!
“Shupe doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to erotic sensuality in the latest, vividly written, intriguingly different entry in the Gilded Age-set Knickerbocker Club series.” — Booklist
“Does not disappoint! Not the sort of historical romance novel one comes across every day.” — Heroes & Heartbreakers
“Steamy! A rapid-fire plot and a smoldering love story produce Gilded Age gold.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Blew me away! An exciting, intense, passionate conclusion to an amazing series!” — Fresh Fiction
“This intricately plotted tale is awash in secrets and peppered with sassy dialog, erotic sex, and a fascinating bit of history.” — Library Journal
“My favorite one yet! An interesting and sexy story with lots of chemistry. Mogul shouldn’t be missed!” — Harlequin Junkie
Chinatown, New York City
She never expected to find her former husband in an opium den.
Lily inwardly cursed her terrible luck and turned to the person next to her, the man who’d found her quarry. “How long has he been here?”
“Two days, ma’am.”
Good heavens. Dark and depressing, the place reeked of a nutty, sweet scent, one that forced her to cover her nose and breath through her mouth. Men and women of all ages and skin colors reclined, glassy-eyed, on small cots, long pipes remaining within reach. Several scantily clad women hovered nearby, as did the owner, who no doubt wanted her gone.
Which made two of them. She would rather be sailing on the Chesapeake or lounging in her family’s home in Newport. Riding her horse in Palm Beach, or shopping in Paris. Anywhere but standing right here, looking at the one man she’d hoped never to see again.
Calvin Cabot. She peered at him while he slept and tried to assess the changes, if any, that had occurred over the last four years. Still long limbed and well proportioned. Impossibly handsome, despite the shaggy light brown hair and the whiskers covering his face.
He’d ignored her letters for almost two weeks, each one returned, unopened. Furthermore, every time she arrived at his office or his home, he’d disappeared. No matter the hour, no matter which day she chose, he remained one step ahead of her. Frustrating, considering they had a delicate problem, one he needed to help solve before someone else discovered it. There had been no choice but to hire Pinkertons to kidnap him. Yet she never expected to find him here. Was he addicted to the pipe? One of the East Coast’s most powerful publishers, Calvin was sprawled in filthy, wrinkled clothing, an unpleasant odor emanating from him. How did he possibly manage a hop habit and his empire?
Not that she’d ever understood him. Lily and Calvin had been oil and water—or, as he’d been fond of saying, oil and champagne. Though he hadn’t always hated the wealth and privilege her family represented. . . .
“What would you like to do, ma’am?” the man at her side asked. She’d hired twelve men to find Calvin, and this man Jessup had been the one to earn her two-thousand-dollar reward.
Lily turned to the den’s owner. “How much does this man owe?”
Avarice lit the owner’s dark eyes—far from the first time Lily observed that emotion when someone noticed her clothing and jewels. But she was her father’s daughter, not some silly, easily intimidated female. For goodness’ sake, she’d served as the president of the Davies Mining Company since her father’s death. No one got the best of Lillian Davies.
She laughed at the outrageous sum. “Now the real amount.”
The owner glanced at Mr. Jessup, obviously weighing his chances of flimflamming her out of more money without getting pummeled. Not that Lily would ask the Pinkerton to step in. Lily did not need a man to solve her problems.
“One hundred and twenty dollars,” the owner said.
Lily nodded, though she’d have paid more. She desperately needed Calvin.
The transaction was completed quickly and she turned to Mr. Jessup, who hadn’t left her side since they arrived. Pointing at the unconscious man on the cot, she said, “Throw him in the carriage, if you would.”
Four years earlier…
Hotel Fauchère, Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania
“Lily, darling, the skin on the side of my cock is beginning to chafe.”
“Poor man.” Lily bent and used her tongue to soothe the abused area. “Let me help you.”
Calvin, her husband of less than three weeks, fell back on the bed and let out a moan comprised of equal parts pain and bliss. “You’re not actually helping,” he wheezed as she dropped kisses along the sensitive skin.
His body responded immediately, with his erection growing, expanding beneath her lips. Instead of pushing her away, strong fingers threaded her blond hair, pulling the strands away from her face, exposing her ministrations to his hungry blue gaze. “This is what caused the trouble in the first place. A man needs recovery time, woman.”
Lily ignored him, fully focused on her task. She loved the way he tasted, how the smooth velvet length felt on her tongue. Soft skin stretched tight over hardness. Most of all, she loved how he responded to each and every thing she did, like he couldn’t get enough of her. She well understood the feeling; she didn’t ever want to stop touching or kissing him. Didn’t want to stop breathing the same air. In fact, since the honeymoon had begun twenty days before, they had barely even left the bed.
The courtship happened quickly, the two of them introduced a mere two months before they’d decided to elope. While many would call her foolish, Lily hadn’t been more certain of anything in her entire life. Calvin was everything she wanted. Intelligent and adventurous, he worked tirelessly as a reporter for the New York Bugle, where he championed the causes of those less fortunate. Exposed corruption. Revealed the hypocrisy in New York politics. He was handsome as well, with brown hair and bright blue eyes, and a tall, slim build that vibrated with energy and confidence. He had ambition and strong convictions, a man who would achieve wondrous heights in his lifetime. Lily looked forward to assisting him every step of the way.
No doubt her father would require convincing to accept the marriage, but Lily had her arguments ready. Calvin maintained that Warren Davies would be furious his only daughter had married a mere reporter, a man without money or prestige, but Lily had faith in her father. After all, he’d gone off to the Dakotas in his teens to earn his fortune and emerged with a prosperous silver mine. He respected hard work and determination, any man who relied on his wits and guts to make his way in the world. Undoubtedly he would come to like Calvin once the two became acquainted.
She released Calvin with a wet pop, and her husband’s erection dropped to his stomach. “Do you want me to stop?” she purred, dragging her fingernails up the insides of his thighs.
Calvin shivered. “God, please no. I know I don’t have much, but I’ll sign it all over to you if you’ll just let me in deeper—Yes, like that,” he groaned when she reapplied hot, slick suction. “Oh, if this kills me, it’ll be worth it.”
He rarely stopped talking, even during intimate moments. Words were not only his livelihood, they were both a source of comfort and a weapon. Intent on shutting him up, she reached below to roll his balls in her palm, squeezing gently, and he stiffened. “Faster,” he said. “Tighter. Jesus, Lily, I’m burning alive.”
She doubled her efforts, bobbing up and down, lips pulling, tongue fluttering, until his muscles began shaking. The rougher she was with him, the more she scratched and squeezed, the more he loved it. Soon he cursed, his hips rocking as he thrust into her mouth. With a shout, he spent down her throat, his body atremble.
When the pulses finally ceased, she shifted to press kisses to the red scratch marks she’d left on the taut plane of his abdomen. Her own core was wet with desire, arousal throbbing in time with her heart. How long would he need to recover?
“Come here, you witch.” Large hands slipped under her arms and lifted her over his body. His expression achingly tender, he pressed a kiss to her lips. She relished the taste of him, the way their lips fit together so perfectly, the rasp of his tongue as he invaded her mouth. Love burst in her chest, every pore filled with a sense of rightness that settled in her bones. “I love you madly,” she whispered when they broke apart.
The backs of his knuckles found her cheek and he rubbed the skin gently. His blue eyes were dark, drunk with pleasure, his smile crooked. “I love you utterly and completely, Lily, my love. Forever and always.”
Her heart swelled behind her ribs. “How lucky I am to have met you.”
“The fortune is entirely on my side. You’re Lillian Davies; you could have your choice of men—”
She placed a finger over his lips. “If that is true then I choose you, Calvin—and you’re being modest. I know there is a string of women in your past.” Though he may not be wealthy, Calvin was the type of man that women watched. Striking looks and a lithe frame, he exuded power and grace, with a swagger to his gait that stopped just shy of bravado. His sharp eyes missed nothing, while a twinkle in their blue depths hinted at a secret joke. This was a man who caused a woman’s mind to turn to wickedness. To wonder what the devil might be capable of inside a bedroom . . .
How fortunate that she no longer needed to stare and wonder. No, she knew precisely what talents he possessed in this area—and she had no intention of ever giving him up.
© Joanna Shupe