He hated being in this house. It was smothering him. His uncle's constant harping was going to drive him mad. He needed to escape, and he knew exactly to where.
It was a place that every gentleman knew of, but was never discussed. Tessa's Salon was known for the hospitality that was provided there. A gentleman could take care of needs that one just didn't talk about in polite society.
He surveyed his appearance in the mirror that stood in the corner of his dressing room. The cut of his jacket spanned shoulders that needed no padding; his pants hugged thighs that proclaimed his avid love for horseback riding. I'll suit, he decided.
As he strode towards the front door, he could hear his uncle, "Leopold! Where do you think you are going?" Ignoring the grating voice, Leopold mounted the black stallion that had been brought up for him. With a throaty, "Ya!" he was off to Tessas.
Soft light shone through the downstairs windows. It was an inviting sight to the young duke astride the midnight horse. Here was a place that nothing was expected of him. Nothing he wasn't willing to give. At Tessa's, he could drop all pretense. He didn't have to be anyone but Leo, a man who wanted to indulge in a little pleasure.
He entered the parlor to survey this evening's choices, but none appealed to him. A tall blonde approached him with a come hither smile. "Your Grace," she said softly as she curtsied, "How nice to see you again. Shall I tell Miss Tessa that I will be occupied for the evening?"
"No, Cherie. I don't think so." He softened his refusal with a slight smile. "Maybe another night. Can you tell me where I might find Miss Tessa?"
"I think shes in the library," Cherie answered.
Leopold's long strides took him further back in the grand house to the library. Traditionally, this was a male dominated room, but not here. Miss Tessa held court here. In this room, she reigned over her domain with gentle smiles and gracious ways. If you were from out of town and met her on the street, you would never guess what she was.
Tessa looked up and saw the handsome Duke of Albany entering her lair. He was an infrequent albeit welcome visitor to her humble establishment. As customers went, he was an ideal one- always paid, never harmed any of her girls, and he always sought her out to pay his respect. They had become friends, of a sort.
"Good evening, Miss Tessa," Leo said with a bow.
"It's nice to see you again, Your Grace."
"Might I have a word with you. In private," he requested.
"Of course." She dismissed everyone else from the room. "I hope there is nothing amiss. If so, please tell me so that I may correct the situation."
Leopold shook his head slightly. "No, nothing is wrong. I was wondering," a faint blush stained his cheeks as he paused, "if you would be agreeable to spending some time with me."
His uneasiness charmed her but she replied, "Leopold, you know my rule. I run this house, I do not take part in what goes on upstairs."
His blush deepened. "I know. I was just hoping..." He let the thought fade.
"Leopold, please have a pleasant evening." He knew when he was being dismissed.
Two hours later, Tessa emerged from the library to see how the evening was progressing. She was shocked to find Leopold sitting in a chair by the fireplace. It appeared he had been there for some time. Had Leopold not taken advantage of the services offered? Could he have actually been sitting there all this time, just because she had refused him?
If she was going to break her one steadfast rule for any man, it would be this one. She longed to know the weight of his body pressing into hers, the texture of his hair sliding through her fingers, of his lips ravaging hers. She shook her head to clear it of these thoughts. She was a strong, determined woman, and even the gorgeous Duke of Albany would not sway her from her path.
Leo sat, staring into the hypnotic dance of the flames. He could hear the sounds of the house all around him, but he was not part of it. He was in his own world. Tessa had refused. He had finally gotten up the courage to ask her and she had refused him. He had been coming to Tessa's Salon for quite a few years and always, the one woman he wanted, he never could quite ask her to be with him. Until now. 'Damn, Tessa and her rules!' he thought, bitterly. Up to now, he was content to avail himself with the other young women who called this place home, but not anymore. Tessa was the only one he wanted, and he was going to find a way to have her.
In the wee hours of the morn, Tessa was closing up. Some of the men would stay but no new guests would gain admittance. It was a strange policy for a house as this, but Tessa liked to give the girls some rest before the sun rose. She also could find her way to her private room and relax as well. As she wandered aimlessly through the various rooms, she came upon Leopold, sitting in the same chair she had found him in earlier. She got the distinct impression he hadnt moved.
"Leopold," she called softly. "Why are you still here?" She gasped as he turned and fixed his eyes on her. They burned with lust and longing.
"I've been waiting for you."
Tessa's knees turned into gelatin. The need in his voice called to a like need deep inside her. "Leopold, I told you. I will not be with you."
His eyes scorched her. "Every rule has its exception."
"Not this one." She could feel her resolve crumbling. She turned to escape the room, and him, before she gave in.
But suddenly, he was there, before her, taking her in his arms while he murmured, "Especially this one," then his lips crushed hers in a demanding kiss. She resisted at first, but it was too hard to fight her own desires.
Leo felt the moment she acquiesced. Her hands slid up into his hair and her lips parted slightly. He took advantage and slid his tongue in to find hers. Tessa sighed into his mouth. "Will you break your rule?" he whispered against her lips.
Unable to speak, Tessa nodded. Leo started to guide her to the stairs. She found her voice. "No, I will not go up there." Thinking she had changed her mind, Leopold was ready to kiss her until she was willing again. But Tessa had a soft smile on her face. "I want to take you to my rooms." She took his large hand in her small one and led him to her private wing.