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Heartbroken and hungry for revenge, the innocent, freckle-faced beauty runs blindly from the scene of the crime - and straight into the arms of Harry's worst enemy, the cruel and cunning Lady Margaret Carlton. Proud and icy, Lady Margaret is furious at Harry for jilting her. With Charity in her power, she plans a subtle and satisfying revenge, employing all her vast wealth and her seductive skills to transform Harry's feisty little redhead into a willing sex-slave.
Living in luxury within the posh confines of Lady Margaret's stately country home, Charity's emerald-green eyes are soon opened to all forms of pleasure. The crafty older woman pushes all manner of eligible males her way, from lusty country lads to kindly old squires, while at the same time disciplining Charity and pleasuring her to the edge of total submission. But no amount of pleasure can make Charity forget her true feelings for Harry. And as the cruel Lady Margaret attempts to lure Harry into a trap, she discovers that flame-haired, freckle-faced Charity has a fiery desire for freedom - and a few sexy tricks up her sleeve.
"What's the matter, baby? Think Lola's gone soft? Think I'm not . . . with it?"
The killer beat kicked in right after the sexy female voice murmured those challenging words. The music video started with a growl and finished with a roar, complete with flashing lasers and an incredible dance number. "With It" was already racing up the UK pop charts, and schoolgirls all over England were tearing their skirts and mussing their hair and trying to look exactly like Lola Montez.
But right now, backstage at the Albert Hall, sexy Lola was saying those words for real.
"You think I'm not with it, Harry? You think I'm� not still down with you and Uncle Mike?"
The husky-voiced, dark-eyed singing sensation wore an old gray pair of sweat pants and a blue NYPD t-shirt, very different from her glamorous stage attire. Her incredible body was still most definitely on display, however. And when she moved up close to him with her hips swaying and her dark eyes blazing, her beautiful breasts just millimeters away from his hard-muscled chest, Harry Edgewell knew he was being offered both a challenge and an invitation.
"I get why you cancelled the trip to Afghanistan," Harry told her, resisting the urge to step forward and let his body do the talking for him. "You've got a single climbing the charts, and you want to make sure to push it all the way up. But the troops are counting on you to come through."
"You and me, Harry, we can push it all the way up together," Lola purred, letting her voice drip honey and letting her true meaning show in her bewitching dark eyes. The videos hyped her sex appeal, seducing the multitudes who flocked to her arena shows by playing up her primitive allure. But the videos didn't even tell half the story. Lola Montez was even hotter up close. "You and me, Harry," she purred, licking her lips like a hungry leopard eyeing her kill. "Just like the old days."
"Not a chance. I'm with someone now." Harry snapped the spell by thinking of Charity Hill. The adorable little red-head was counting on him to be true, just the way the vets were counting on rich and famous Lola to remember all the guys who didn't come back. Guys like Lola's uncle Mike, a truck driver from the Bronx who gave his life to save a village full of Afghan children . . . plus one foolish and very wealthy aid worker from Great Britain.
"You are a fool, Harry, you know that?" Even though they weren't sleeping together anymore, there were times when street-smart Lola could still read well-born Harry's most intimate thoughts. Sensing that the British billionaire was beyond temptation, the bronze-skinned beauty shut off her sex appeal with a snap of her fingers. Without a backward glance, without even bothering to check if the door was locked, she flounced over to the sofa in the corner of her huge dressing room.
"Lola, what the devil are you up to now?" Harry wasn't shocked when he saw Lola kicking off her sweat pants, her long legs scissoring back and forth and sending them sailing high in the air. He knew the fast-rising young superstar well enough to know that she was absolutely uninhibited and had no hang-ups at all about displaying her fabulous body. But what was the sexy Latina up to?
"You don't think I'm down? You don't think I'm with it? What you call this, man?"
The sight of her rounded bottom sticking high in the air got Harry's heart beating faster. There was no getting away from the fact that he was basically an ass man, and that spanking a shapely female bottom was the one thing that always got him hard as hell, good and fast. Lola remembered the old days, and she knew how to push his buttons. She was offering him everything he wanted right here and now.
But she was also showing off her tattoo.
Less than a hundred meters away from the star's dressing room, totally unaware of her boyfriend's battle with temptation, Charity Hill was taking selfies with the backup band. Raised by a jazz musician in New Orleans, the free-spirited redhead knew quite a few of the boys in the band. Harry had even been nice enough to lend her his silver smart phone, an amazing device that could take pictures, make videos, send and receive e-mails, and a whole host of other functions as well.
"Girl, you got to marry this man right away!" Grinning from ear to ear, a coal-black saxophone player named Brutus Jones pulled Charity close for another impromptu photograph.
"Harry's the best!" Charity shouted, as the camera captured the moment forever. Well, it was better than saying "cheese," wasn't it? A second later, she and her father's old friend were laughing together over the picture of the pale, freckle-faced redhead grinning in the arms of the tall black sax player. Charity loved the photo, and she loved that Harry was letting her hang out with her old friends before he called her up to the fancy backstage dressing room to meet gorgeous superstar Lola.
It was all so perfect. In fact, it was all just a little too perfect. Harry was the perfect boyfriend, and Charity loved every minute she spent with him. Except that every now and then, he wanted to start off a round of fabulous sex by taking down her panties and spanking her. Charity wasn't hung up about the spanking itself, but did Harry love the games they played, or did he love her?
Just then the device in her hand made a buzzing noise, vibrating warmly against her palm.
"Take five, cats!" There was a roar of laughter as Charity quoted the old jazz expression. Ducking into a quiet corner, she tapped the screen of Harry's device, wondering if he was texting her to come up and meet his glamorous ex-girlfriend. But wait, that didn't make sense. How could her boyfriend text her when she was using his device to take photos? The little redhead was still trying to work that one out, her lightly freckled features wearing a puzzled frown, when suddenly
* * *
Suddenly her whole world fell apart.
The text wasn't a text, it was an e-mail. And it wasn't from warm and gorgeous Harry, but from Harry's worst enemy, the cruel and cold and very sexy Lady Margaret Carlton. There was an attachment, too, or rather a whole series of attachments. Suddenly Charity wasn't reading an e-mail, she was looking at pictures. And the pictures got sexier and sexier as she tapped the screen.
"No! Oh, no!" It wasn't anything to do with Harry cheating on her. That was the ultimate nightmare, but at least it was a nightmare she could understand. Because who was she, really? A freckle-faced little nobody, an American girl backpacking through England who had miraculously fallen into the enchanted world of London society. That was all down to Harry's aunt, Lady Edith Edgewell-Beddington, a wealthy older woman who was really just as sexy as Lady Margaret but kind and sweet instead of cruel and spiteful.
Lady Beddington was sort of like a fairy-tale godmother in real life. She was just like Galadriel in Lord Of The Rings but without the pointed ears. The willowy, golden-haired older woman believed in virtue and honor. She was the last woman in the world you could imagine wielding a whip in a leather dominatrix outfit, kneeling over a bound male captive who looked to be enjoying his degradation thoroughly, even if he was a timid, boyish-looking chap about half her age.
Charity could never have pictured any of that, if she hadn't had the pictures sent right to her. And here they were, each one more steamy and naughty and provocative than the last. Someone must have planted a bug in the room, or something. Because the pictures showed everything, leaving absolutely nothing at all to the viewer's imagination. Charity recognized Lady Beddington's classic profile, the poised set of her slim shoulders, even the tiny blue butterfly tattooed on one shoulder.
Each new revelation was like another boulder, crashing down around her head, so that she felt just like a primitive cave girl being buried in a prehistoric avalanche. And of course it only made things more horrible when she recognized the male in the picture, the one wearing the look of dazed ecstasy in every single shot. Warren DeMontague was half Lady Beddington's age. And he worked for her. And he was Charity's ex-boyfriend. So much for Lady Beddington keeping him on the payroll out of kindness! So much for her secret trips to York being all about fundraising for good works and charitable causes! Lady Beddington was a liar. Worthless Warren was obviously her sex toy. The horrible facts kept tumbling down, burying Charity under a mountain of unpleasant truth.
Her adored mentor had a dangerous double life, one that could endanger all her good works. Of course, Charity wasn't entirely taken by surprise. As innocent as she was, she'd had suspicions, and not all of them had been planted in her mind by the artful insinuations of Lady Margaret. Her own instincts had warned her that kind Lady Beddington was just a little too interested in sweet, gentle Warren DeMontague. But suspicions were not as devastating as proof. Nothing in the world made sense any more, if a noble, refined lady like Harry's Aunt Edith could be a closet sex-maniac. Charity felt dizzy, disillusioned and disoriented, as if her whole world was spinning out of control.
With trembling fingers, the girl tapped the screen until the pictures went away at last. She was back to the message itself, which was meant not for her but for Harry. Lady Margaret's tactics were shady, and her mind was devious, but her style was simple. She always got right to the point.
Your aunt's been naughty, Harry. But I don't want money. I want you. Where shall we meet?
"Fat chance," Charity muttered, tucking the expensive English smart phone into the back pocket of her faded American blue jeans. She knew there was more to this than sex. Lady Margaret had dated Harry once, and she was still furious at getting dumped. But she also had all sorts of business ventures going all around the UK, the kind where cutting corners could cause talk, but having a well-born and respected male partner would smooth the way for her at once. Charity knew when Harry heard about this he'd take steps to ruin Lady Margaret once and for all. And that would serve the woman right. But what would happen to poor Lady Beddington? Would she be exposed? Would her secrets come out in the crossfire?
Charity's head hurt just thinking about it. She could imagine the tabloid headlines, "Society Slut Spends Hospital Money On Shady Sex Toy." "We Give It Up, She Lives It Up." Lady Beddington would be made a laughingstock, not so much for the sex but for spending money she'd raised for good causes on sex with a younger man. Charity didn't know how she could save her benefactor and dearest friend. But she had to try. And the first job was to tell Harry everything. The little redhead was in shock and reeling, but the one thing that still made sense to her was the idea that her boyfriend knew best. Harry would never let his women folk down.
"Hey, girl? Where you going?" The broad, black face of Brutus Jones wore a friendly grin.
"Got to see my man, Uncle Brutus!" Charity called out, forcing a tone of gaiety. She grinned and waved over her shoulder as she left the orchestra pit. "Look out for all those Lola-maniacs!"
The London press called them Lola-maniacs, even though they seemed harmless enough to Charity. All over the city there were silly schoolgirls who dressed like Lola, talked like Lola, mussed up their hair like Lola. There was a huge crowd of them lurking outside the Albert Hall right now, a host of girls desperate to catch a glimpse of the sexy singing star before her fabulous concert tonight.
Even though learning about Lady Beddington had knocked her for a loop, Charity was the type who could never stay sad for long. As she trotted up the ramp that led to the dressing room suite, the optimistic redhead told herself that she was pretty lucky after all. A million girls in London would kill to be able to go where she was going, to walk right into Lola's dressing room and . . .
For a split second Charity felt like she was looking at another one of Lady Margaret's filthy pictures. The sight of Harry's hand, resting on Lola's bare ass, made her want to scream with rage. Yet at the same time, it didn't seem real. Harry had his back to her, and didn't see her standing in the doorway. He was frozen for a moment, as still as a statue, kneeling over the girl on the couch. It all looked like a staged photograph, an illusion, something that was horrible but wasn't real.
That was how Charity felt for about two heart beats, until Lola's coffee-dark eyes met hers. It was horrible, but it wasn't real. Wasn't real. Wasn't real. And then the superstar grinned, showing off a beautiful smile and a mouth full of white teeth. It was a shark's mouth. All ready for the kill.
"Bastard!" The brutal word exploded from Charity's chest, not a scream but a roar of rage.
"Charity?" Harry looked stunned, as if he'd had no idea his girlfriend was in the room. Or that she would have any objection to his fondling another woman's backside. Or even spanking her!
"You told me it was special," Charity whispered. Her freckled face was streaked with tears. "You told me that spanking was just for you and me."
"It is special!" Harry got to his feet, clearly in a big hurry to explain himself. "Charity, Lola and I were just talking about her uncle, who served in Afghanistan. You remember, I told you all about him in Winchester. He's gone now, but Lola's just got a new tattoo�"
"Fuck Lola's tattoo! Fuck Afghanistan, and fuck you!" Somewhere in the back of her mind, Charity realized that she was not being entirely reasonable. But she didn't care. She had just used the f-word three times in a row. And now Harry was looking at her like she'd gone crazy. And the sexiest woman in the world was lying right next to him, and she was naked and laughing at Charity.
There was really no reason to stick around.
"Charity, wait! Come back! You don't understand�" Harry was a tall, strong, athletic man, with long legs and the lean type of body you saw on the cover of romance novels. He should have been able to catch the tearful little redhead before she could even left the posh dressing room suite. But Lola Montez immediately snaked her long, slender arms around his waist. It took a moment to break free from her sly, entangling embrace, to slap away the knowing hands that held and stroked.
Charity knew that Harry was hot on her trail. As she ran down the darkened ramp, she could hear his hoarse cries, and she sobbed even harder, knowing that once he caught her she was done. There was no way she could keep from believing anything he said, not once his arms were around her. She was weak, weak and stupid, like all foolish young girls who believed in love and fairy tales.
But just then she saw an emergency fire exit at the bottom of the ramp. And she heard the voice of Lady Margaret Carlton, crisp and cool, so different from sweet, romantic Lady Beddington. "Don't listen to your heart, my dear. Use your head instead. Take control of your own emotions. Learn to do that, and no man can ever hurt you again."
"Charity, wait! Please wait!" Harry saw her at the bottom of the ramp, and saw the glowing red sign above the emergency exit. He was in despair, yet he knew he could catch Charity because she wasn't the type to break the rules and force her way out of the building. And then she raised her leg and gave a savage kick, spilling light from the late afternoon sun into the backstage service area.
"Lola! Lola! Yeaaaaahhhhhhhh!" The fire alarm went off just as a mob of screaming girls entered the building. Harry had a quick flashback to the bombs and rockets of Afghanistan. He froze, hesitating a fatal second. Everything was happening so fast! Snapping out of it, Harry raced down the ramp, trying to slip by the hysterical mob of screaming females. But the frenzied mob didn't let him pass unmolested. The Lola-maniacs were all over him, out of their minds and screaming for Lola Montez. They surged up the ramp, rampaging and yelling, scratching and clawing, in a frenzy no man could fathom or resist. Before Harry could dodge they swept over him like a school of piranhas, pinning him to the floor, trampling him with their high heels, knocking the breath from his body.
Harry's last thought was that he'd lost everything. And it served him bloody well right.
There was a large park across from the Albert Hall, part of the famous green 'belt' that wound its way gracefully through the heart of London. Charity Hill was in no mood for scenic beauty, yet the lush softness of the greenery all around gradually calmed and soothed her. Her hands were steady and her sobs had stopped by the time she took Harry's device out of her back pocket.
Your aunt's been naughty, Harry. But I don't want money. I want you. Where shall we meet?
After reading the taunting message three times, Charity calmly texted a reply.