About Title The Mistress and Her Men
Author: Minerva Howe (BDSM pen name for Julia Talbot)
Word Count: 39700
Page Count (pdf): 138
Pairing: MMF Menage
Date Published: 2nd edition 03/27/2017 (First edition released by Samhain 2015)
Publisher: Turtlehat Creatives
File Types available: Epub, pdf, mobi
From Julia Talbot, writing as Minerva Howe
When Simon realizes his dearest friend Matthias is in danger from his reckless lifestyle, he decides to provide Matthias with an outlet for his self-destructive needs. While Simon would be more than willing to take on the task himself, Matthias has always fought their attraction to one another.
As Georgian London’s Mistress of Discipline, Felice Grey is happy to take on Matthias for one night as a favor to Simon—even break her own rules to let Simon watch. She never expects to feel drawn to both men, especially since Simon’s dominant nature makes it unlikely he’ll bend to her will.
Simon barely makes it through their play, and he knows it’s time to withdraw to his country estate in hopes that his two favorite people will find each other. Felice and Matthias must make a decision. Will they let happiness fall by the wayside, or pursue it and damn the risk?
Note: This is a previously published title. The publisher has changed.
Simon sat in the depths of a smoky gambling hell, his cravat undone, his coat tossed carelessly across a stool near his feet. He knew he presented the very portrait of a debauched noble gambling his night away.
That was precisely what he wanted, because he was in the gaming hell as a spy tonight, rather than a full participant.
Tonight he was watching his dear friend Matthias wager away every bit of good fortune the man had ever possessed. Indeed, Simon saw a note that no doubt represented every bit of Matthias’s remaining land in the pile of loot at the center of his table.
What Simon really wished to do was to go over to that table and wipe it clean with his arm, dramatically saving Matthias from himself. He knew, however, that his friend would not thank him for it, so instead he would wait until a destitute Matthias left to drown his sorrows in whatever drink he might yet afford. Then he would buy all of those notes back from the winners, whether they wished to sell or not.
A roar from Matthias brought Simon’s attention back from his thoughts. Matthias’s gaming table spilled over, notes and coins flying. “You’re a damned cheat,” Matthias shouted, and in finally seeing Matthias’s opponent’s face, Simon could not but agree. Lord Chalmsley was, indeed, a terrible cheat. He was also armed with a dagger in his sleeve, which snicked into place against Matthias’s breastbone in less than a heartbeat.
“How dare you, sir?” Chalmsley said calmly. “I have beaten you over and over this evening because of your lack of skill, not chicanery.”
“That’s a load of shite.” Matthias pressed against the blade until a red spot appeared on his lawn shirt. “Had you nothing to hide you would not conceal a weapon and use it so readily.”
Chalmsley backed away slowly. “I only protect myself, you insolent bastard.”
“Ah, but I am no more a bastard than you are,” Matthias stated. “Fight me fairly.”
“I did. With the cards.” With a flourish of his blade, Chalmsley bent to pick up the notes before stuffing them into his coat. “Good night, all.”
Matthias lunged, only to be held back by a few acquaintances. Not an easy task, considering his stature, his heavy muscles. Simon watched him thusly restrained, and the kernel of an idea took hold in his mind.
The image of that bright spot of blood crystalized in Simon’s thoughts. Good God, his friend had a death wish. Yes, Matthias had a need to castigate himself. To punish himself for his perceived failures in life. How many times had Simon seen Matthias throw the first punch or toss a note in someone’s face? How many times had the man courted danger to his person simply because he didn’t think he was worthy of his life?
He wondered why it had taken him so long to realize that he knew of a solution. Oh, God help him, he might just be able to save Matthias from another night such as this, from giving away his land and his life to fulfill some sort of fatalistic desire.
Matthias needed to explore this need for violence, for self-punishment, in a safe place. Would that Simon could become that place, but he knew Matthias would never accept such games from a man, let alone one he considered a close friend.
There was someone, though, someone who would give Matthias what he needed.
Simon stood, assuming his jacket before he left the room so that Matthias never saw him. He dropped his own blade into his hand when he approached Chalmsley from behind, then pressed the dagger to the man’s ribs.
“I’ll take those notes, my lord,” he said, smiling when Chalmsley stiffened. “I would have bought them, but I do abhor a cheat.”
“You cannot be serious.” Matthias stared at Simon, his gambling companion and best friend in London, who had just offered him a bet he might be unable to resist. “One night, and you’ll forgive all my debts?”
“One night,” Simon agreed, sitting back with one booted foot crossed rudely over the opposite knee. “A whole night, with no arguments. Meanwhile, I shall be allowed to watch.”
That bit rankled, Matthias had to admit, but then, he and Simon had done many crazed things together in the past year, including racing in Hyde Park, liberating a boat and rowing the Thames, and participating in a duel over a lady of rather ill repute.
Why not this as well?
More to the point, Matthias’s debts had begun to pile up in a manner that might force him to retreat to the country, or worse, flee to the Continent. Hell, he was lucky he still had a place in the country to retreat to, as many times as he’d lost the crumbling manor house in a card game. Simon held the majority of his notes, and if he could wipe them out with one night of rather pleasant work, then how could he resist?
“Only you, correct? No one else would see my shame?”
Simon flicked a hand in a languid gesture completely belied by the masculine shape of the palm and fingers. “No one but the lady in question.”
The lady in question posed an interesting conundrum in her own right. The mistress, as she was called, was a widow who owned her own property in Mayfair, much to the chagrin of all the important men in Town. She did as she pleased, when she pleased, and had a reputation for turning men inside out before booting them out on their backsides.
“How do I know the lady will be amenable?” Matthias smoothed his hands down the front of his coat, taking comfort in the smooth nap of the claret velvet.
“Because I asked her, naturally.” Simon smiled, something hard and calculating flashing in his gray eyes for a moment. “During our last literary salon.”
“Literary salon. Of course. The lord and the widow with a whip, reading Fielding together and having long conversations about Matthias and his backside.” He had heard the tales of the mistress and her games. Frankly, the idea of spending a night playing them made Matthias’s balls try to crawl up into his body even as his cheeks heated with hot blood.
“You’re stalling.” Foot clomping down on the floor, Simon leaned forward, elbows on his knees. The man always managed to look as though his coat and neck cloth were natural accoutrements instead of stifling, stiff bindings. “Yes or no, Matthias?”
“You know I need to have those debts forgiven.” He sighed. “I agree.”
Simon did not crow or drive home his victory with any sort of facial tic. He simply stood and walked across the space separating them to hold out a hand for Matthias to shake. “Your word on it.”
He took Simon’s hand and nodded. “As it is yours to me.”
“I shall speak to Felice.”
Matthias did not answer, but he did wonder what he was getting himself into when Simon was on a first-name basis with the most notorious mistress of discipline in all of London.