Available 21st April 2017!
Lady Lavinia Carstairs’ exploits are the talk of London society, and not always for the better. Stubborn, willful, and totally without fear, she is quickly endangering her chances of a good marriage to a suitable man!
Lady Lavinia has a husband in mind, however, and there is only man able to control her behavior. William Evans is not afraid to take the lady over his knee and teach her the error of her ways, and she loves him for it.
But William’s past holds a shocking secret, one that he has worked hard to protect from prying eyes. To finally make Lady Lavinia his own, once and for all, he must reveal his true self to the world and suffer the consequences.
Is Lavinia’s love worth exposing his secret past? Will William sacrifice passion for privacy?
Read Spanking Lady Lavinia, the fourth book in the bestselling Victorian Vices series, to find out!
Publisher’s Note: This work contains depictions of adult sexual activity and adult domestic discipline. If you would rather not be exposed to such topics, please don’t read this book.
The Victorian Vices Series, Book Four
Spanking Lady Lavinia Louise Taylor
For Review Purposes Only
May not be shared or disseminated in any way. Copyright 2017 by Louise Taylor and Blushing Books®
William Evans looked at himself in the small mirror of the rented room and nodded nervously to himself. The barber had done a good job with his hair, clipping it neatly. One of the maids employed by the rooming house had ironed his shirt crisply and brushed his best frock coat well. He, himself, had shined his own shoes until they gleamed.
He was ready for his interview.
His rooming house lay in Bayswater, a respectable part of the city, if not the most desirable. It was not a long walk from Bayswater to the Mayfair home of the Earl of Beaumont, but he decided to take a cab. Although the crowded roads of central London would add time to his journey, he dared not risk the muddied streets of the Oxford Road, full as they were with rubbish and horse droppings.
The cab took him past the long walls surrounding Hyde Park and past the Marble Arch at Cumberland Gate. He’d expected white marble and classical sculpture, but was disappointed to see how grey and weather-beaten the monument actually was. Despite the slow speed of his cab, William could not make out much of statuary.
It was not the only disappointment he’d found in coming to London from Yorkshire. There he was used to clear skies, wide moorland, and clean water. London, in comparison, teemed with life like a dog with fleas. There were people everywhere, and most seemed to try to sell, beg, or steal something from him. The roads were a disgrace, mostly packed earth covered in foul horse dung that nobody bothered to remove.
The Thames was the worst of all; like any visitor to the capital, he’d made a beeline for the Palace of Westminster, where the Houses of Parliament sat. The building work was near completion after a great fire more than twenty years previously, and he’d looked forward to looking on the building with his own eyes. The building sat on the north bank of the Thames, right next to the river, but William had not been able to go near it.
The stench from the river was appalling; those who were forced to walk past it covered their faces with their handkerchiefs and picked up their speed until they were away from the sludgy brown waters. It was, quite simply, the worst smell that William had ever experienced, and it had left his eyes watering. How the hundreds of boatmen who sailed their craft up and down it daily managed, he had no idea!
The newspapers reported that Parliament had been forced to abandon the Commons chamber, despite the hanging of curtains soaked in lime chloride to disguise the smell. There was talk of removing to Oxford or St Albans until the matter could be dealt with.
William was glad that the Earl of Beaumont did not live by the river, but instead in the fashionable Mayfair area of the city. Smaller houses and terraces gave way to grand mansions, removed from the street by high iron railings and enclosed courtyards.
He had been recommended to the earl by his previous employer as a capable private secretary, despite his youth. At twenty-three, he should, by rights, have been a junior assistant or even a humble clerk.
He got out of the cab and paid his fare, being careful where he trod. The streets of Mayfair were cleaner than those of Bayswater, but not by much. Beaumont House loomed above him, elegant in proportion and made of fine Portland stone. The windows sparkled in the clear May sunlight, and the brass door knocker gleamed as he rapped it smartly against the large black door.
William was admitted to the foyer by a very severe butler, who told him that he was to wait there until admitted to the presence of the earl. He took the time to appreciate the beauty of the room; although merely the entranceway to the grand house, time had been taken to beautify the room with bowls of sweet smelling roses and large paintings on the walls.
He stopped himself from tugging at his necktie, carefully folded into a neat bow. He was wearing his best suit of clothes for the occasion; his trousers and frock-coat were of the same fine grey material, and his waistcoat was of a similarly sober shade of blue that matched his necktie. Nerves, he thought to himself as he stroked his moustache self-consciously. He must not give in to his nerves.
He knew that he was young to be considered for such a position in the household of such an important man, and he felt that the moustache added an air of gravity to his youthful features. He was too young for whiskers, however, no matter what his aunt said on the subject.
He walked up and down the foyer, admiring the artwork on the walls. One in particular, right at the back near the discreet door for the servants’ use, caught his eye.
It was a Titian, he thought, although he could not be sure. The incredibly minor public school he had attended had not spent a great deal of time on the study of art. The painting was of a woman with reddish-blonde hair that fell loosely over one bared shoulder. She was wearing a sort of nightgown, William thought, one that dipped scandalously low over her breasts and off one shoulder entirely. A reflection of colour from the pink shawl draped over her left arm drew his eye—or, wait—was that a hint of rosy nipple that could be seen?
He couldn’t be sure. Without realising what he was doing, he peered a little closer at the picture, and started back in alarm when a rather young, cultured, female voice said loudly,
“It’s her nipple, you know. Well, not the full thing, just the bit around the edge. Mama and Anthony had a huge row about whether it was indecent or not. Anthony played the earl card and got it hung in the foyer, but Mama made Nash move it to the back. It’s ridiculous, don’t you think? It’s not as if we don’t know what nipples are, after all.”
William whirled around to see a confection of a young woman standing on the staircase that led up to the private family rooms of the house. She was tall and quite striking—not conventionally pretty, not with that nose and that chin in combination with each other—but she was possessed of a wicked smile that lit up her eyes. She was dressed in the height of fashion, William could tell, although he knew nothing about how women clothed themselves. She was wearing pastel shades, which rather made her resemble a flower, although with that mouth on her, she was very much a wild flower rather than a hot house rose.
He didn’t think that he had ever heard a woman say the word nipple before, especially not one who couldn’t have been more than sixteen years old.
“I wasn’t—” he began, his words starting to trip over themselves. “I mean I was looking for the artist’s name. I’ve never seen—”
“Oh, it’s one of the Italians,” the girl said dismissively, descending the stairs and floating across the marble floor to stand beside him. “Titian, I think. It’s called Flora. It’s not a patch on some of the ones we’ve got upstairs. She’s rather wishy-washy, don’t you think? All that staring off into the middle distance with an enigmatic look on her face. You can’t tell anything about her, except that she must be a bit chilly.”
“A bit chilly?” William said, bewildered.
“Her clothes are falling off, so she must be cold,” the young woman said helpfully. “Although she is in Italy, after all, so perhaps she’s warm.”
A mischievous look crossed her face, and somehow, instinctively, William knew what she was going to say next, probably because he was also thinking it.
“She must be warm,” she said decisively, “otherwise her nipples really would be showing through that dress!”
She burst out laughing, a real, unadulterated laugh, not the pretty giggles that the very few young women of his acquaintance seemed to be in favour of. William hesitated, partly horrified at her lack of decorum, partly intrigued by her forthright nature.
“Lavinia!” a female voice called from above.
“Blast,” she muttered. “Caught in the act.”
“Mr Evans,” the butler said, reappearing silently through a door on the other side of the entrance hall. “His lordship is ready to receive you now.”
Another woman descended the stairs, a much older woman. Her hair was grey, compared to Lavinia’s honey-streaked brown, but she had the same nose and chin.
“Lavinia, you were told that you must be accompanied when you leave the house,” the woman scolded, coming down the stairs and ignoring both William and the butler.
“I’m only going to Bond Street,” Lavinia said crossly. “I don’t need a maid to show me the way. I’m not addled!”
“No, but the last time you snuck off shopping by yourself, you somehow ended up in the middle of that horse race in the middle of Hyde Park!” the older woman said crossly.
“I would have won if that blasted groom hadn’t ridden up next to me and grabbed the reins,” Lavinia said, pouting.
“Your placement in the race is not the issue in question!” the older woman said, her calm countenance finally stretched to breaking point.
“Mr Evans,” the butler said, a little more forcefully.
William started a little, so completely lost in the argument as he was. Had this young woman really entered one of the illegal horse races in Hyde Park favoured by the young bloods of the ton? And she nearly won? She couldn’t be more than sixteen years old!
He stepped away from the women who were so lost in their own argument that they didn’t notice him leaving. He followed the butler down the corridor away from the foyer, through a set of double doors, and along another long corridor.
“May I ask who those ladies were?” William asked politely, taking note of the finely polished vases that stood on plinths and more Old Master artworks that adorned the walls. It was clear that this was a house of wealth and refinement. He decided not to walk too close to the vases, in case he accidentally knocked one over.
“The dowager countess and her youngest daughter, the Lady Lavinia,” the butler said, not bothering to turn his head.
“And they both reside here?” William asked.
“Along with the earl and the countess and the young master,” the butler said. “Several of his lordship’s sisters also stay here when they are in Town.”
A busy household, then; a young family, his mother and several sisters, as well as a full complement of staff.
“Not that you would have any call to converse with any of the family,” the butler said sharply, stopping suddenly outside a closed oak door. “Personal secretaries are still servants, and servants don’t mix with their betters. You’d do well to remember that, Mr Evans.”
“Yes, sir,” William said deferentially.
It didn’t do well to annoy any of the servants, especially one as important as a butler.
“Although,” he added, “I didn’t engage Lady Lavinia in conversation. She spoke to me first.”
“Ah, well,” the butler said, a strange look coming over his face. “When it comes to Lady Lavinia, it’s best that somebody remember the rules of polite society.”
Because she certainly won’t hovered in the air between them.
He suddenly rapped his knuckles on the door, paused for a moment, and pushed it open.
“Mr William Evans, your lordship,” he announced, and William entered the room.
It was a pleasant room, full of light from the large windows that looked onto the quiet residential street outside. Leather-bound books lined large bookshelves, and portraits hung on the wall. One was of a petite, pretty blonde woman set against a wild seascape with a half-ruined castle in the distance. The other was of a chubby baby, the sex indeterminate, as it was wrapped in layers of white clothes, caps, and lace frills. The baby had a blond curl in the middle of its forehead and eyes the exact shade of those of the man who had stood from behind the desk to receive him.
William bowed to the Earl of Beaumont, the Anthony who had hung the Titian in the foyer.
“Mr Evans, good to see you. Please, take a seat,” the older man said.
William was waved into a chair opposite the earl, who was scrutinising several documents in front of him.
“I am looking for a private secretary,” the earl said. “Somebody to take charge of my correspondence, organise my diary, all that sort of thing. I used to do it myself, but I find since my marriage that I have less time and less inclination but more blasted engagements.”
William nodded politely.
“I see from your references that you have worked as secretary for Lord Burnish,” the earl said, picking up one of the letters.
It was written in the shaky hand of his previous employer, the writing very familiar to William. The writing, never neat or legible, had worsened as the illness he suffered had ravaged his body.
“I had that privilege,” William said, nodding. “I grew up on his estate in Yorkshire, and Lord and Lady Burnish always tried to help their tenants in whatever way they could. His lordship sponsored my education and gave me a position when I left school. I’ll always be very grateful for his kindness.”
“I always liked him,” the earl said thoughtfully. “He and my father were of an age, although my father passed when I was very young. He always offered me good advice on practical matters. He must have known he was dying when he wrote me this letter, telling me that I’d do very well in hiring you as a secretary.”
“His lordship consulted several London doctors,” William said gravely. “He wanted to put his affairs in order before he passed, so as not to distress Lady Burnish too much. He was a good man.”
“One of the best,” the earl agreed. “He always gave me sound advice, and I am inclined to take it now. I have interviewed other applicants, you understand, just to make the process fair.”
“Of course, my lord,” William said, nodding.
His heart started to beat a little faster. He knew that just because old Lord Burnish had vouched for him with the Earl of Beaumont, he wasn’t guaranteed a place in the Beaumont household, but he had very much hoped he would get it. His aunt was an old woman, and her money didn’t stretch very far. He needed to be able to support her.
“Tell me something of your background,” the earl said, peering at the old lord’s letter. “Burnish has written something here, but it’s damn near impossible to read.”“My great
aunt brought me up on Lord Burnish’s estate in Yorkshire, my lord, after my mother died when I was ten,” William said.
“Your father is also deceased?” the earl asked, frowning.
“They died on the same night,” William replied.
It was very close to the truth; any small scraps of love he might have had for his father died the night his mother was murdered at his hand. As far as William was concerned, his father was dead to him, and had been for these last thirteen years.
“My condolences,” the earl said softly, and William could tell the man meant it.
“My great-aunt is the only family I have, and she took me in,” William went on.
It had been a shock for the old woman when ten-year-old William had appeared on her doorstep one morning, half-starved after making the long journey from Scotland alone. He’d set out with the clothes on his back and all the coin he could find in his mother’s belongings. He’d kept a few pieces of her jewellery, things she had told him were hers from before her marriage. Those had been too precious to sell, even though they could have bought easier passage to Yorkshire than the series of kind-hearted railway guards who looked the other way when he crept into the luggage van, or the farmers who had given the tired boy a rest from walking by giving him a ride in the back of their wagons. He’d also brought a stack of her letters with him, to prove his identity to his great-aunt, who had never seen him in the flesh before.
She was some sort of distant cousin to Lord Burnish, the last fruit of a branch of the family tree that had fallen on hard times. He let her stay in a grace and favour cottage, the old man too kind hearted to see a family member living in reduced circumstances. He knew William’s true identity and had questioned the boy thoroughly about the death of his mother. He had believed his story and kept William’s identity a secret, suggesting that he take a different surname. He should have returned William to his father’s custody; that was the law of the land. Thankfully, the old man obeyed a higher law, that of common sense and kind heart.
“Lord Burnish saw to it that I was well educated and gave me a position in his household. Lady Burnish has her own secretary, a very capable young lady who runs her affairs well. There was no need of me in the household any longer.”
“You took care of Lord Burnish’s correspondence?”
“I did,” William confirmed. “I also organised all of his lordship’s travelling arrangements and dealt with his lordship’s appointment diary.”
“I have a small test for you,” the earl said, indicating a second, smaller desk pushed against the right hand wall of the room. There were stacks of papers loosely arranged on it.
“I’d like you to organise these and indicate to me what you think are the three most important pieces of information from them. You will have ten minutes.”
The earl pulled his fob watch from his waistcoat and looked at the time. “You may start now,” he said, and watched as William stood and made his way to the desk.
There was a jumble of papers there—letters addressed to the Countess of Beaumont, bills from modistes and milliners, as well as letters from the earl’s land steward and notes from the Palace of Westminster regarding the earl’s presence being needed to vote in the House of Lords.
As William began to hurriedly shuffle the jumble of paper into distinct piles, the door to the study flung open, and Lady Lavinia strode into the room.
“Anthony!” she shouted. “Tell Mother that I am perfectly capable of leaving the house unaccompanied!”
She was quickly followed by the grey-haired dowager countess, who was also shouting.
“Anthony! Tell your sister that she is a disgrace to the family name and should be locked up in the dungeon of that castle of yours in Cornwall!”
A blistering family row followed, the noise drawing the younger Countess of Beaumont, who was the young woman in the portrait on the wall, into the room. She had a toddler on her hip, whose riot of blond curls identified him as an older version of the baby on the opposite wall.
The noise abated somewhat as the two shouting women stopped to coo at the baby, but then each appealed to Lady Jennifer to take her side in the argument. She put the toddler down, and he wobbled over to William and grabbed his leg for support. William paused in his frantic paper sorting and regarded the infant cautiously. He was entirely unused to children. The child seemed happy enough to sit on his foot and hold onto his calf, so William carried on sorting.
“Enough!” Anthony finally shouted, his voice reaching over the noise of his mother and sister, who were both reaching a crescendo. “Lavinia, you cannot leave the house unaccompanied. No, I am sorry, but that is final,” he said firmly. “If you insist on creating havoc wherever you go, we need at least one witness to post bail. Mother,” he continued, over Lavinia’s splutters of outrage, “other young women of Lavinia’s age are accompanied by a maid, I believe. I suggest you select a member of staff you think capable of reining her in, if necessary. A chaperone, if you will. Maybe one who weighs twenty stones and can arm-wrestle for England.”
His mother, who had been outraged at the thought of the need of posting bail money to release her child from gaol, suddenly looked thoughtful.
“Jennifer, my darling, you look more radiant every day. Do have a good meeting with the Board of Trustees at the British Museum,” Anthony said finally, pecking his wife on the cheek. “Give them what-for about this National Library business.”
The petite blonde woman smiled at her husband and swiftly left the room.
Lady Lavinia stamped her foot and announced, “I will not tolerate a chaperone!” and flounced from room.
The dowager countess let out an aggrieved sigh and followed her. Blessed silence reigned.
“So, Mr Evans,” the earl said at last. “What three important things have you learned in the last ten minutes?”
“Well, my lord,” William said, sending a quick prayer heavenward that he wouldn’t offend this genial man, “there is a vote in the House of Lords at three o’clock this afternoon that four peers have asked you to attend, two from each side of the House. I would recommend a handkerchief soaked in some strong scent, my lord, to mask the stench of the Thames.”
“Yes,” the earl said, smiling. “What else?”
“Both your Cornish land agent and your Somerset land agent want you to visit the estates you hold during the same week, which clashes with a ball that the countess has arranged, if these bills from the modiste are dated correctly,” William said. “A clash of the calendar that should be avoided, I suspect.”
“Most certainly,” the earl said with feeling. “And the third thing?”
“I think you should install dead bolts on the inside of your office door,” William said bluntly. “And hire a nanny to keep better track of your heir.”
He leant over and picked the solid toddler up into his arms. The child immediately reached for his father, who looked surprised to see him.
“Peter! What were you doing down there?” he said in amazement.
A knock at the door followed, and a flustered nursery maid appeared.
“Oh, here he is, your lordship,” she said in relief. “Lady Jennifer was playing with him,
then she went to see what all the fuss was about, then her carriage just left.”
“No harm done,” the earl said affably, kissing his son on one of his rosy cheeks and handing him over to his nurse, who departed with the child to the nursery.
“You’re hired,” the earl said after a moment. “One hundred and fifty pounds a year, to start immediately.”
William couldn’t keep the shock from his face; that was an incredibly generous salary, far more than personal secretaries were usually paid.
“You’ve seen what life is like around here; this is a quiet day,” the earl said frankly. “If I paid you less, you’d leave after a month. Besides, you have an aunt to support, and I know what it’s like to have that responsibility.”
William nodded, still in shock.
“Go back to your lodgings and collect your things,” the earl said kindly, patting his pockets until he found some coins, which he handed to William. “Take a cab. When you get back, you can get on with your first task.”
“What’s that, my lord?” William asked.
“Get those damn bolts put on my door!”