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Submitting to the Baron Em Brown 2022/7/22 11:37:56

Her odd behavior had not attracted his notice at the time, but now he viewed it with great foreboding, for why would she display such disquiet lest she well knew what Chateau Follet was about?

He had not thought to hear its name again, though Diana had once teased him, suggesting that the four of them could have a ribald time there, but he had quickly quelled such a notion. Trudie was far from comfortable in the bedchamber. Their wedding night had been quite the disaster for both of them.

He had been as gentle as he could, and she had tried to contain her cries, but it was evident to him that she took no pleasure in their congress. He had hoped, after the initial pain, that subsequent attempts would prove more agreeable to her, but she had looked ready to leap from the bed at his every touch.

She would never engage in any of the activities at the Chateau Follet. Surely Diana, one of her dearest friends, knew this? The two women talked often, and their sex had a habit of leaving no subject unturned.

But then why were they headed to Follet? What could Diana intend but to make cuckolds of him and Charles? He knew Diana to be discontented in her marriage, but would Trudie acquiesce to adultery? He would not have thought it possible, but as he reflected on the past sennight, she had been behaving with all the indications of a guilty conscience.

Granted, he himself had not been faithful in the last year, though he did not brandish his affairs as Charles did. He was not a poor husband, in that he never spoke a harsh word to Trudie and always treated her with courtesy and kindness. She knew as well as he that their marriage served to satisfy their families. Their mothers had crafted their engagement at their births. The Bonnevilles had wealth, and the Spencers had breeding. Both families benefited from the match.

The excitement of the crowd rose, with Charles cheering loudly, as the horses came into the final lap. Leopold glanced at Charles, wondering if he should inform his friend of the need to depart Berkshire immediately to rescue their wives. Charles would be livid and want to lock Diana in her chambers, perhaps more cross at being pulled away from the races than at his wife’s infidelity.

Leopold decided he could fetch the two women and bring them home himself. The responsibility to inform Charles would then rest appropriately with Diana.

It was a good day’s journey to Chateau Follet, but if he departed within the hour, he could arrive before the women had to spend the night.

Charles leaped in triumph as the horses crossed the finish line. “Damn me, the Turk won! He won!”

After celebrating with the fellow beside him, who had made the same fortunate bet, Charles turned back to Leopold. “Here now, I know your horse finished down the field, but you look as if you lost more than a hundred quid. The day is young. You may recoup your losses yet. Lest your wife overspends her allowance, eh? I know Diana will with hers.”

Leopold managed a grim smile. “I shall have to take my losses for the day. I fear I have neglected a matter that, upon reflection, requires some urgency to resolve.”

Charles stared at him. “Eh?”

“Make my bets for me while I am gone and keep the winnings if there are any to be had.”

Knowing this to be an offer Charles could not refuse, Leopold took his leave. He ought to trust that Trudie, once she realized what Chateau Follet was about, would turn upon her heel in an instant to seek safer shelter. Surely Marguerite Follet, the proprietress, would see that Trudie was not a suitable guest.

But he could not risk it. And, perhaps, locking one’s wife in her chambers might yet prove an appealing option.

LEOPOLD PACED THE anteroom of Marguerite Follet’s boudoir. Little had changed since last he had stayed at the Chateau Follet some years ago. Despite a palpable nostalgia for the place, he was far from happy over the circumstances that currently compelled his presence. The roads to Chateau Follet had been favorable, and he had made good time, but throughout the journey he had felt the impending cuckoldry in the depths of his loins. Diana may not have provided specifics to her description of the chateau, but she could not have expected to conceal its purpose from Trudie. Given his wife’s recent behavior, it was more than likely she had agreed to the affair. Leopold had inventoried all the men Trudie knew. None appeared the obvious offender. If she had been unfaithful, she had hid it well, though he had never known her to be deceitful till now. He knew the hypocrisy of condemning Trudie for her faithlessness when he himself entertained a mistress, but her choice of the Chateau Follet for her tryst riled for reasons he could not name.

“She should not be here,” he insisted to Madame Follet after being admitted to her room.

The proprietress stood in her negligee while a chambermaid assisted with her toilette. Though his senior by many years, Madame Follet wore her age with grace and elegance, aided by eyes that sparkled with vigor, a smooth and pale complexion, and a trim figure. She narrowed her eyes at his hasty speech.

Recalling his manners, he quickly bowed and kissed her hand. “Your pardon, Madame. Comment allez-vous?”

“Leopold Spencer,” she remembered, her gaze sweeping over him with obvious appreciation of what she saw. “Je vais bien. Now, of whom do you speak?”

She raised a brow. “You are not arrived together?”

“She came without my knowledge.”

“Lost the reins to your wife, have we, Lord Ramsay?”

“Rather a surprise,” she continued as she examined the different pairs of stockings offered by the maid. “I remember you as quite the dominant.”

His hand twitched. He would have gladly returned to the Chateau if he had thought his mistress receptive to the experience. Few women had the inclination and fortitude for Chateau Follet.

Marguerite lowered her lashes. “As you know, we’ve plenty of leashes here.”