Many, many thanks to my editor Shauna Summers for
seeing the promise in this book and for being so enthusi-
astic as I developed the story into what it is here. Thank
you, also, to her wonderful assistant Jessica Sebor for the
many details she smoothed for me. And, of course,
thank you to the art department for the breathtaking
cover on The Club.
Much gratitude as always to my agent Jessica Faust,
who said the right things at the right times and who as-
tutely commented on the story as it evolved, and to my
wonderful critique partners—Candice, Teresa, Vanessa,
and Sandra—who looked at this book in its early stages.
Thank you to my husband for all his help and sup-
port, and to my children for giving me smiles that always
make me smile, too.
How am I going to explain to a man I’ve paid
that I do not actually want him to make love to me?”
Jane St. Giles, Lady Sherringham, asked the question
of her image in the cheval mirror, but her reﬂection
could provide no answers, obviously, that she could not
think of herself.
So speaking aloud to it was quite pointless.
Groaning, Jane stalked around the brothel’s bed-
chamber, biting her thumbnail, and dreading the knock
that was soon to come.
She had come here searching for her best friend
Delphina, LadyTreyworth. She had come for answers. She’d
paid a veritable fortune for the services of one of the young
men employed by Mrs. Brougham, the woman who ran
this Georgian house on the fringe of Mayfair, known simply
as the “The Club.” But since it had been a ruse, she now
had to convince the man to leave without touching her.
Would he be angry?
London, May 1818
Would he come to her aroused? Fear coiled, tight and
cold, around her heart. She knew—though she had
never experienced it with her own late husband—a man
could become belligerent when he was aroused and the
woman refused to play.
With Sherringham, she’d never had the courage to re-
fuse to play. She had always toed his line, terriﬁed how
brutal he would be if she pushed him too far. But he had
now been dead for thirteen months, and she no longer
had to endure the nights he came to her bedroom. She
no longer had to ﬁght to ﬁnd the nerve to send him
away, then despise herself when she couldn’t.
Jane paced, hugging her chest.
Surely a large tip would soothe any rufﬂed...well, what-
ever might be rufﬂed on a randy young man.The man she’d
hired ahd intimate relations for money, so wasn’t money
the most important thing? And there were dozens of soci-
ety ladies in attendance. Any reasonably attractive, healthy,
and erect young man wouldn’t be frustrated for long.
Oh, dear God, she thought, and she took hold of one
of the bedposts for support.
The ostentatious bed almost ﬁlled the entire room.
Shackles of iron—lined with velvet—hung from the carved
gilt bedposts. Jane’s stomach roiled as she stared at the relief
crafted on the posts: entwined serpents and something that
might be a sword, or could be the male privy part.
She remembered the afternoon two months ago when
her two dearest friends had told her their husbands brought
them to this club. Despite the sun pouring into her morn-
ing room and the cheery promise of the early spring day, a
shiver of dread had rippled down her spine. “But ladies do
not join a gentleman’s club,” she had said slowly.
“This one, they do,” Charlotte had breathed. Her
eyes had been wide and in their cornﬂower blue depths,
Jane had read surprising horror and shame.
“That is the novelty of this club,” Del had explained,
her voice as demure as if she were speaking of a success-
ful rout. “The gentlemen bring their wives—in costume.
Every Friday evening, the ladies are required to dress as
nuns.” Then her voice had lowered and her lashes had
dropped. “I still have the marks on my derriere from the
spankings with the crop.”
Jane had felt her mouth form a soundless O of horror.
She’d endured Sherringham’s punishments with the ﬂat
of his hand, but he’d never dared touch her with a crop.
Now, she shuddered as she gazed around the bed-
chamber. Del, is this horrible club the reason that you’ve
A sharp rap echoed on the door and Jane jolted so
abruptly she stubbed her toe on the post. “Madam? May
Her hired man possessed a seductive voice—low-
timbered, not entirely cultured, but with a growling note
that sent a shiver of fear... it must be fear... down her
spine. What did it signify that he spoke so politely?
Would the sort of prostitute who had an educated voice
be easier to manage or more difﬁcult?
“Y—yes,” she answered shakily.
She had not even removed her cloak and she had cho-
sen to wear her widow’s weeds, with the veil lowered to
shroud her face. But still, as the door opened, she turned
her face so no one would see her, and waited with rigid
shoulders for the door to click, the signal her male pros-
titute had shut it behind him.
While her husband had generally smelled of sweat,
drink, and other women’s perfume, this man was preceded
t h e c l u b 3
by a combination of citrusy bergamot and sultry sandal-
wood. She certainly couldn’t smell his perspiration, and
oddly, he didn’t smell as though he had come to her from
But really, that didn’t matter. All she had to do was get
rid of him. There was no reason to feel so unnerved.
She’d survived a whole half hour so far in this wretched
club, after all.
But before she could force herself to face him, he
asked, “Is—is there something wrong, love?”
Concern laced his gentle voice, and there was a sur-
prising vulnerability in his hesitation. Obviously he
wasn’t accustomed to a woman who looked as though
she wanted to hide from him.
Jane glanced to the cheval mirror to see what he
looked like, but the glass only reﬂected part of his side.
She saw a large hand clad in a black leather glove, and a
long, long leg in well-tailored trousers. A lean line of hip
that vanished into a tailcoat, a glimpse of a very broad
shoulder, and that was all.
Big. He was big and male. Panic ﬂared in her chest
and she struggled to breathe. He can’t hurt you. Here you
can scream. You can scream and bring help and he has no
right to hurt you.
She must search inside to ﬁnd greater strength. She’d
vowed to herself that this time—ﬁnally—she would take
action. How many times had she made that promise be-
fore, then taken the easy path, and slipped back into be-
ing a coward? And because she had been a coward,
Delphina had disappeared. Del was in trouble.
“Turn around, love.”
Grasping for that courage, Jane did. “I am so sorry,