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Wild & Lawless Writers are pleased to welcome our elegant and esteemed friend Ms. Eden Myles to the Writer's Guest Room. Eden is the brains and beauty behind Courtesan Press. She writes spicy, sweet erotica with romance and smut entwined. I highly recommend you check her out. Today, we're lounging in the salon with Eden, sipping coffee and listening to birds sing while she tells us about Lady Luck. A taste of her story is offered below.
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(The Dollhouse Society Origins)
About: Discover the origins behind The Dollhouse Society, a collection of powerful men and the courtesans who service them…
Lucille “Lucky” Van der Meer is in dire straights. Her father has gambled away the family fortune and she must turn to his ex-partner, Tiberius Sloan, for a loan in order to start up her father’s failing textile business and save herself from an unscrupulous moneylender. But Mr. Sloan, also known as the Ogre, drives a hard bargain and he’ll take his payment in full…from Lucky herself!
Excerpt: Smithtown, New York, 1805
My horse Pepper and I lanced through the deep woods surrounding my father’s estate. Up ahead, I could hear the huntsmen cornering the fox near the ravine, their trumpets and the baying of the hounds echoing around the valley. I spurred my horse on and the branches of the old maple and pine began to lash at me as we tore through them. The woods let out to the edge of the ravine, a sheer drop to the sandy edges of the Nissequogue River.
As I came upon the other huntsmen, I saw my cousin Rupert at the head, with a musket rifle drawn. He was sighting down the fox that had eaten dozens of our farmers’ chickens in the village. It was an old, ragged fox, and my heart went out to the creature who was no longer capable of trapping its own prey and had to, instead, feed on hapless chickens. But I also knew that for every chicken that was lost, someone would go that much hungrier this winter. The winters in Smithtown were brutal, and despite being the daughter of one of the bigger landowners, I, too, was facing a meatless winter.
Rupert’s arms shook. “I can’t do it,” he said and gave a nervous, whinnying laugh.
Cousin Rupert had always been a bit of a milksop. Then again, Cousin Rupert was only here because of my father’s funeral. He was going back to the city in just a few days. Then the fox would be no concern of his. I clucked Pepper forward and took the rifle from him. “For heaven’s sake, Rupert!”
“Lucky, have a heart. It’s just an old fox.”
“And old fox that’s making this village go hungry!” I said, my anger brimming over, though what I felt was neither for the fox, nor for poor Cousin Rupert. Instead, it was for my father. He had passed on just the month before, leaving the Van der Meer estate in dire financial peril. I used to think that was a phrase to be used in books of romance—dire peril—but now I knew it intimately. My home, my whole world, was in dire peril because my father couldn’t stay away from the casinos on weekends.
I was now the Lady of the Van der Meer estate—but I was as penniless as the villagers under my charge. I wouldn’t let a fox take more meat from their mouths—or mine. With a longsuffering sigh, I sighted down the fox and shot it squarely in the head. Quick and merciful.
I knew my own demise was certainly not going to be that.
Mr. Smit, my father’s attorney, was waiting for me at my father’s house when I returned from the hunt. I’d hoped I might be able to avoid him, but as I let myself into my father’s once-lavish study (many of the antiques and fine Oriental carpets had been auctioned off in the past few weeks), striking the dirt from my skirts, I found him sitting at my father’s desk, going over his accounts once more. “Mr. Smit, now what are you after?” I cried.
Mr. Smit looked up out of his half moon glasses and said, “Lucky…what have you done to yourself?” He looked appalled by the state of my dress.
“I gave my lady’s maid the day off,” I joked, and he looked at me sadly, knowing I had no lady’s maid anymore. I had let her go two weeks ago, though my nanny, Nellie, had begged to stay on, even though I had no money to pay her for her services. She had been the only mother I had ever known, my own having died in infancy. She was the only remaining servant at our house now, and poor Nellie had resolved herself to attending to household duties that were utterly beneath her station.
“I thought you might like to have an account of your father’s books.”
“Which is to say, you want more money to pay off his debts.” I dropped onto the divan against one wall of the study and just looked at Mr. Smit. “How much this time, Mr. Smit?”
He hmmed and hawed a bit before blurting out, “It looks as though your father may have had financial relations with Mr. Van Tassel.”
“I don’t believe that,” I said. Mr. Van Tassel was Father’s direct competitor in the textile business. Father would never have taken money from him. More to the point, Mr. Van Tassel was a salary lender. A disreputable one, at that! “Mr. Van Tassel is a criminal and a gangster. My father would never have stooped that low…”
“Nevertheless…it would seem they had…a relationship.” Mr. Smit sat back in his seat and fiddled with his glasses. Like my poor joke about my missing lady’s maid, Mr. Smit always played with his glasses when he knew he was right but trying to be polite instead.
After I was done ranting, I circled the library where my father had done business for decades, wondering what my mother would say, were she alive. Or maybe she was giving him an earful in Heaven even as we spoke. Finally, I just sighed. “How bad is it, Mr. Smit? How much do you need?”
He glanced down at his ledger and said, “With interest, you owe Mr. Van Tassel approximately sixty thousand dollars.”
I felt the room take a half turn around me. I tottered and Mr. Smit almost sprang to his feet. I help up a hand to stop him. “Mr. Smit… the only thing I own which comes even close to that amount is the Van der Meer house.”
“I’m aware of that.”
“I can’t give you my house.”
“I’m aware of that, as well.” He shuffled some papers. “However, I may have a solution.”
“And that is?”
“Have you considered marriage, Miss Van der Meer?”
I guffawed. “Mr. Smit, you know that’s quite beyond me.”
“Miss, we’re in a new century, and there are more and more ladies marrying later in life. Why, I know a lady personally who waited until she was twenty-two before marrying…”
“It’s quite out of the question,” I told him, cutting him off as I stomped in my dirty clothes across the carpetless floor, much to the nose-wrinkling chagrin of Mr. Smit. Only Nellie knew my reasons for avoiding marriage, and I wasn’t about to go into explicit details with Mr. Smit, that was for sure!
“Well, then,” said Mr. Smit, “the only other option I can suggest is that you look toward your father’s partner overseas…Mr. Sloan, I think he’s called? The man from London?”
I shuddered and went to straighten up some books on a shelf. I had sold the crystal that had acted as bookends and now they were in disarray! The last thing I needed was to involve Mr. Tiberius Sloan in anything. He was twice my age, and growing up, he used to frighten me when he visited my father at the house. He was a huge, towering man with a deep, loud voice and a terrible scar he’d received in some rapier duel when he was younger. Ugly and frightening, everyone in the house called him the Ogre when he showed up. I used to have terrible nightmares about him abducting me, and I used to avoid him at all costs when he stayed at the house. Then again, I was living a nightmare now, wasn’t I?
I bit my lip. “Does Mr. Sloan have any controlling interest in my father’s business?”
Mr. Smit looked surprised by my language. He needn’t have been. When it was determined I would become a spinster, naturally my father wanted to know what it was I planned on doing with my life. I had always known in my heart that he’d wanted a son to help him with the family business, because, to put it bluntly, my father was good at making money, but excellent at spending it. Consequently, I had acted as his secretary and conscience for years. Obviously not enough, or I wouldn’t be in this situation now.
When Mr. Smit didn’t immediately answer, I started toward him, but unfortunately, my riding skirts caught on a nail in the shelf, and before I knew it, I’d not only ripped my skirts but shaken the shelf so the books in them started falling down. I held up a hand to forestall Mr. Smit’s aid. Things like this were always happening to me. When I was still a little girl, my father had fired a woman in his employment who was reputed to be a witch. As a result, both he and I had been cursed for life, he with the talent for losing money, I with incessant clumsiness. The only things I could do with any amount of talent were balance my father’s books, ride a horse, and shoot a gun. Unfortunately, none of those skills was likely to take me very far in this world. “I know what controlling interest is, Mr. Smit, so please save your explanations,” I said as I shoveled books back onto the shelf.
Again Mr. Smit consulted his notes. “It doesn’t seem so. I believe your father cut all ties with Mr. Sloan years ago. Still, he may take interest in your plight on a personal, more nostalgic, basis.”
“You’re suggesting I beg to Mr. Sloan based on his previous business relationship with my father.” I played with the locket my father had given me on my sixteenth birthday, a kind of consultation prize when he realized I would never have neither a debutante party, nor a husband. But as I did so, the chain broke and the locket slithered to the floor at my feet.
Mr. Smit nodded as he looked at the locket. “Yes, Miss, perhaps…a personal loan to tide you over?”
I bent to pick up the locket and examine it. Of course, the chain was irrevocably broken.
Mr. Smit cleared his throat. “It is that or you must allow me to prepare the house for auction. Is it your choice, of course. But keep in mind that Mr. Van Tassel won’t wait forever for his money.”
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