Gabriel's Woman

PUBLISHER: 
RS
ISBN-10: 
1575666987
ISBN-13: 
978-1575666983
Book Series: 
Les Anges Series

Would you cry for an angel?...

Penniless and desperate to escape the London streets where a mysterious man stalks her, Victoria Childers auctions off her virginity at the infamous House of Gabriel, a night house where every carnal pleasure can be satisfied.  But Gabriel, the untouchable proprietor who outbids his patrons, doesn't want her innocence.  Too late Victoria discovers she is a pawn, sent to Gabriel by the very man he will do anything—sacrifice anyone—to kill.  Or will he?  Irresistibly drawn to the beautiful, dangerous proprietor who has walled himself away from human touch, Victoria vows to free Gabriel.  Their passion plunges them into a masterminded game of death and desire where their only hope for survival is to embrace the past and the devastating truth it hides...

 

Chapter One

 
Gabriel knew the woman in the lusterless cloak.
 
He knew her because he had once been her.
 
Cold. Hungry.
 
The Perfect prey and the perfect predator.
 
She came to kill an angel.
 
She wouldn’t live to see the dawn.
 
Jumbled voices spiraled upward on ribbons of yellow fog and gray smoke. Men in black dress coats and white waistcoats and women in shimmering gowns and winking jewels shifted inside a flickering maze of candlelit tables: standing, sitting; leaning back in Honduras mahogany chairs, slanting forward over white silk tablecloths.
 
They did not know they were bait, the English ton who sought pleasure and the London whores who sought their wealth.
 
They did not know that a woman stalked them.  Gabriel’s body throbbed with knowledge
 
Of pleasure.  Of wealth.
 
Of life.  Of death.
 
By reopening the House of Gabriel—a tavern where every carnal desire could be satisfied—he invited both patrons and prostitutes.
 
Sex and murder.
 
White flame shot upward.
 
Twenty feet below him, a man snared his gaze.
 
A man whose hair was as dark as Gabriel’s was fair.
 
A man with violet eyes instead of silver.
 
His right cheek was pitted with shadow.
 
Twenty-seven years of memories arced between them.  Images of war-hungry France instead of winter-shrouded England.  Of two half-starved thirteen-year-old boys instead of two forty-year-old men in tailored black dress coats and white waistcoats.
 
My two angels, the madame who had plucked them off a Paris street had said. A dark one, for the women.  A fair one, for the men.
 
She had trained them to be whores, and they had excelled at it.  She had taught them the eighth deadly sin, and they had broken it.
 
The flare of candle flame dimmed, abruptly recalling Gabriel to the pistol that weighted his left hand.
 
Michael, the scarred angel had come to protect Gabriel, the untouchable angel.
 
Revenge would not be possible without him.
 
Without him there would be no need for revenge.
 
The woman would die because a dark-haired angel lived.
 
And loved.
 
A pulse tattooed a relentless rhythm against the rosewood grip:  men, women; pain, pleasure; life, death.
 
The Adams revolver was equipped with a double-action lock: manual cocking for accuracy, self-cocking for rapid fire.
 
He could manually cock the revolver.
 
He could release the trigger in a single, precise shot.
 
One bullet would kill Michael.
 
One bullet would stop the twenty-nine-year-old cycle of death.
 
Gabriel did not cock the revolver.
 
He could not kill Michael.
 
The second man had sent a woman to do the job Gabriel had failed to do six months earlier.
 
A sharp report ricocheted down his spine.
 
The woman halted on the edge of candlelight, Michael in her sight.
 
Out of the corner of his right eye, Gabriel saw a waiter in a short black cloak and white waistcoat bend over, straighten with a white silk napkin. Immediately below Gabriel, two waiters inched closer to Michael.
 
Their hands remained at their sides: they were not prepared to shoot a woman.
 
Four tables over, a waiter poured champagne from a newly uncorked bottle, crystal glinting, liquid sparkling.
 
Of the second man, there still was no sign.  But he was down there, a chameleon in a black dress coat and white waistcoat. Disguised as a patron or a prostitute. Leaning back in a Honduras mahogany chair or slanting forward over a white silk tablecloth.
 
Hard. Erect.
 
Turgid with the heat of sex and the thrill of murder...
 
Time slowed to the beat of Gabriel's heart.
 
The cloaked woman brought her arms forward and clasped a dull, dark object between her hands.
 
A blue-plated pistol did not reflect light. Gabriel knew that because his own pistol was blue-plated.
 
The thundering roar of sexual parley dimmed.
 
Her head was concealed by the fold of a dark hood: Gabriel could not see her features.
 
Regret knifed through him.For the men and women who had died; for the men and women who would die.
 
For the woman below who was about to die.
 
Perfect prey and perfect predator.
 
Gabriel aimed at the pale blur of her face.
 
At the same time a clear, feminine voice rang out:  "I offer you my virginity, gentlemen.”
 
Gabriel froze.
 
The woman dressed like a streetwalker; she spoke like a well-bred woman.
 
One by one the tons’ genteel guffaws and the prostitutes’ practiced titters died.
 
Silk whispered. Candle flames fluttered.
 
Uncertainty immobilized his waiters.
 
Duty dictated they expel the woman in her cheap black cloak; experience warned them it was too late:  she had attracted the  attention of rich patrons.
 
Virgin flesh was prime produce.
 
The waiters would not interfere.
 
“The man who tenders the highest bid shall possess their reward this very night,” she continued in a clarion voice, hands still, body poised, death just a bullet away. “Shall we start at one hundred and five pounds?”
 
One hundred and five pounds tumbled through the fog and the smoke.
 
On London streets a maidenhead—whether real or manufactured—sold for five pounds, not one hundred and five.
 
Sudden recall smashed through Gabriel’s consciousness: of a French maison de rendezvous instead of an English night house;  of  a woman in luxurious purple satin instead of a woman in  a  dark,  worn cloak.
 
Twenty-seven years ago the madame had sold his virginity for two thousand, six hundred and sixty-four francs.
 
One hundred and five English pounds were equivalent to two thousand, six hundred and sixty-four French francs.
 
The woman could only have gotten her information from two men: Michael or the second man.
 
Gabriel did not doubt for one moment from which of the two she had gained her knowledge.
 
He manually cocked the revolver with his thumb.
 
“ ‘Ere now!” Malice unveiled a female prostitute’s  Cockney origins. “Ain’t no fish bladder worth one ‘undred five pounds, dearie!”
 
Light and shadow jittered in a burst of masculine and feminine laughter.
 
The cloaked woman did not laugh.
 
Did the second man?
 
Did he train a revolver on Michael while Gabriel aimed his pistol at the woman, or did the cloaked woman slowly squeeze the trigger of a gun through her reticule, unaware of her fate?
 
Had the woman come to kill an angel . . . or had she come to distract one?
 
“I assure you, madam,” the woman coolly returned, “my maidenhead does not come from a fishmonger. I am indeed a virgin.”
 
It was possible.
 
Circumstances forced chaste, educated women out  onto  the  streets, just as it did gay, uneducated ones.
 
It was of no consequence.
 
A weapon wielded by a virgin was just as deadly as one wielded by a streetwalker.
 
Curved metal cradled Gabriel’s middle finger.
 
“Then remove the cloak, girl, and show us what you’re selling,” Lord James Ward Hunt, Earl of Goulburn and home secretary, crudely challenged.
 
Gabriel did not spare him a glance.
 
In the candlelight, the man’s greased hair shone like black oil.
 
Shadow turned red into black.
 
The woman’s blood would shine like the home secretary’s hair.
 
“I see no reason to exhibit myself, sir,” the cloaked woman calmly rejoined.  “It is not my body that is of value, but my virginity.”
 
Shock halted the remaindering snickers.
 
Whores desiring purchase did not refuse to show their wares.
 
Gabriel knew that because he had been a whore for over twelve years.
 
Dressing.  Undressing.
 
Enticing.  Seducing.
 
Sex had seemed a small price to pay for food  and  shoes  and  a  bed to sleep in.  In the beginning.
 
In the end he had fucked merely to prove that  he  wasn’t  the  whore he had been trained to be.
 
The second man had proved him wrong.
 
“By jove, she’s got bottom!”  Gabriel focused on the woman instead of the newly elected parliament member who spoke.  “I’ll  give you twenty pounds, eh, what?”
 
“A woman’s virginity is her dowry,” the cloaked woman said evenly, body turning away from Michael toward the parliament member. The change of position revealed the dark object  she  clutched: it was a reticule, not a weapon. “Is  that  all  that  a  woman’s maidenhead is worth to you, sir? Twenty pounds? Would  you  sell  your daughter—or sister—so cheaply in marriage?”
 
Disapproval turned the tide of masculine interest.
 
Male or female, prostitutes did not compare their worth  to  those  of the ton.  No matter how high of a price their flesh commanded.
 
Trilling laughter sliced through the candlelit darkness.
 
An English gentleman and a London prostitute climbed up the  plush red-carpeted stairs that edged the saloon, black coattails flapping, bustled silk gown sashaying.
 
They  had  reached  an  agreement while sipping  vintage   cham-pagne; their flesh would seal the bargain in an upstairs bedroom.
 
Gabriel’s  body  coiled  to  fire the Adams revolver while the heat  and the scent and the sound and the sight of men with women squeezed his testicles.
 
He did not fear for his own death this night.
 
That would come later.
 
Watching Michael die would be his punishment.  Death would be his reward.
 
For the pain, for the pleasure . . .
 
“I will give you one hundred and five pounds, mademoiselle, for your . . . innocence,” volunteered a silky, masculine voice.
 
Electric awareness tightened Gabriel’s scalp.
 
When he had last heard that voice, it had spoken fluid French instead of clipped English. There was no mistaking who it belonged  to: the second man had bid on the cloaked woman.
 
Black and white movement slashed through his peripheral vision.
 
Gabriel’s head reflexively snapped toward his right, heart pounding, left hand steady, the waiting over.
 
A man in a black dress coat leaned across a white silk tablecloth.  Blue and orange fire flared between a blunt cigar and a tapered candle.  Gray hair shone in the dual play of light, disappeared in a wreath of smoke.
 
He was not the man who had bid one hundred and five pounds.
 
He was not the man whom Gabriel would kill or be killed by.
 
A distant bong penetrated the wood, the glass, the throbbing sexuality and the pending death that the House of Gabriel was built from: Big Ben announced one hour, two, three . . .
 
“I bid one hundred and twenty-five pounds.”
 
A balding pate shone like a gibbous moon above gleaming gold studs.
 
“I bid one hundred and fifty pounds.”
 
Teardrops of fire ricocheted off crystal and glinted off dark hair.
 
“Mein Got,” Baron Strathgar shouted  from the middle of the saloon. His round face was dark from alcohol, his German accent heavy with excitement. “I bid two hundred pounds.”
 
The feel of  Michael’s  keen  alertness  squeezed  Gabriel’s  chest  while the second man’s anticipation fisted inside his stomach.
 
Low  murmurs  rose  to  a  dull cacophony,  the sound  of two  hundred voices raised in conjecture.
 
An auction had never taken place in the House of Gabriel. Yet one did now.
 
Men did not pledge two hundred pounds to pierce a woman’s hymen. Yet Strathgar  just had.
 
Gabriel prepared for the next bid.
 
Watching.
 
Waiting.
 
Remembering . . .
 
. . . Reading  the name Gabriel  for  the  first time,  printed by  Michael while they waited for day to turn into night.
 
. . .Writing his first word,  Michael,  practicing  the script in-between the women who purchased a dark-haired boy and the men who purchased him.
 
Wondering . . .
 
. . .When the need for sex would die and he would stop throbbing with what he could never have.
 
. . .Why  he could  not  forget a woman’s  benediction:  that  he find  a woman to give him pleasure.  To make up for everything he endured.
 
The waiting ended with a flurry of motion.
 
Scooting back his Honduras mahogany chair, the German baron rose to claim his prize.
 
“I will give you five hundred pounds.”
 
Strathgar halted mid-stand.
 
The gray-haired man had bid.
 
Gabriel’s  gaze glanced  off  the back  of  the gray-haired man,  leaped  over  the  blond-haired  woman  who  sat  across  from  him,  and settled on the man at the table behind them.
 
The back of his hair was so black that it glinted with blue high-lights.
 
Gabriel did not need to see his irises to know their color: he saw them every time he closed his eyes to sleep.
 
Suddenly the saloon came alive with masculine speculation and feminine spite.
 
A bid for five hundred pounds had been placed on the cloaked woman. Every male patron determined to have her.
 
Jangled voices called out in rapid succession: “Five hundred twenty-five pounds.” “Five hundred seventy-five pounds.” “Six hundred  pounds.” “Six hundred fifty pounds.” “Seven hundred pounds . . .”
 
An internal snick cut through the uproar, a door opening. Light slashed the darkness, the end approaching.
 
One man halted two feet behind him.  From twenty feet  below  him, Michael pinned his gaze.
 
“One thousand pounds,” scraped  across  Gabriel’s  too tightly drawn skin.
 
It came from the second man.
 
Stunned incredulity washed over the saloon.
 
Only two whores had ever commanded that high  a  fee.  Michel  des Anges—Michael of the Angels, a man named for his ability to bring women to orgasm—and the man  who  for  the  last  twenty-seven years had been known only as Gabriel.
 
Gabriel, the whore.
 
Gabriel, the proprietor.
 
Gabriel, the untouchable angel.
 
Sputtering candlelight dimmed the comprehension that flowed across  Michael’s face: he realized that the second  man  had  twice  bid.
 
But did he recognize his voice? Gabriel wondered.
 
He aimed the Adams revolver at hair that was so black it glinted blue.
 
Would Michael recognize the second  man’s  features  after  a  bullet entered the back of his head and exited through his face?
 
“Monsieur.” The man behind Gabriel  did  not  step  closer:  Gaston had been in Gabriel’s employ too long to make that mistake. “Monsieur, he has come, just as you said he would.”
 
Everyone who worked  for  Gabriel  knew  to  expect  the  second   man.  It was why he had  rebuilt the  House of Gabriel,  to lure  him   with sex . . . murder.
 
Michael.
 
Gabriel.
 
But they didn’t know what he looked like.
 
They didn’t know what he smelled like.
 
They couldn’t feel him,  as  Gabriel  felt him,  a cancer that devoured  hope  and despair, love and hatred.
 
“How do you know that he is here, Gaston?” he asked neutrally, pistol unwavering.
 
“He wrote un message for you, monsieur.”
 
Gaston spoke with a native French accent.
 
Michael spoke French like a Frenchman, yet he was English.
 
Gabriel spoke English like an Englishman, yet he was French.
 
He did not know from what country the second man came.  Gabriel had killed the only man who could tell him.
 
It did not matter. It was not necessary to know a man’s  nationality in order to kill him.
 
Gabriel squeezed the trigger . . .
 
The gray-haired man suddenly stood up, body shielding the second man. He assisted the blond-haired woman to her feet.
 
She stood taller than the gray-haired man, elegant as only a successful prostitute can be. Diamonds sparkled at her neck and ears.  Fog and smoke twined about her hair—hair that was almost as fair as Gabriel’s.
 
It dawned on Gabriel that he had seen the gray-haired man and blond-haired woman before. But where?
 
“When did he give this message to you, Gaston?”  he asked  shortly.
 
The second man had bribed his two doormen, else the woman would never have been allowed entrance.
 
The House of Gabriel did not cater to the destitute.
 
He wondered if the second man had also bribed his manager.
 
And knew it was all too possible.
 
Every man and woman inside his house had a price. They would not be in Gabriel’s employment if they did not.
 
The gray-haired man and blond-haired woman unhurriedly wound through the candlelit tables. A trail of gray smoke followed them.
 
The cloaked woman remained statue-still.  Untouched by the danger that crackled around her.
 
“A waiter picked the message up off the floor,”  Gaston said stiffly, hurt by Gabriel’s unspoken suspicion. “It is written on une serviette.”
 
An image of a waiter leaning over and straightening with a napkin in his hand flashed through Gabriel’s mind’s eye.
 
His flesh crawled with sudden apprehension.
 
The waiter had not been near the man with the blue-black hair.
 
He wanted to pull the trigger.
 
He wanted to kill the second man.
 
He wanted the cleansing finality of death.
 
Gabriel did not pull the trigger.
 
Instead, he watched the gray-haired man. He watched the blond-haired woman.
 
He watched the pair pause at the exit.
 
Behind Gabriel, Gaston tensely waited. Below Gabriel, the blond-haired woman gracefully turned, pale silk gown swirling.
 
The gray-haired man stepped through the doorway.
 
The moment he disappeared from sight, Gabriel remembered who he was: he was a member of the Hundred Guineas Club, an establishment that catered exclusively to homosexual men who assumed female personas.
 
The blond-haired woman netted Gabriel’s gaze.
 
Recognition slammed through him.
 
They were not the eyes of a woman who stared up at him; they were the eyes of the second man.
 
Disguised as a prostitute instead of a patron.
 
A woman instead of a man.
 
Realization followed recognition.
 
The second man had not brought the cloaked woman to kill Michael,  the dark-haired angel:  he had brought the cloaked woman for Gabriel, the fair-haired angel.
 
Smiling, the second man blew a taunting kiss and stepped back.
 
Out of Gabriel’s reach.
 
Out of Gabriel’s house.
 
While Gabriel watched. Unable to stop him.
 
As he had been unable to stop him when chained in an attic while he taught Gabriel what the French madam had not been able to.
 
Rage tightened his muscles.
 
He had set a trap, only to be trapped himself.
 
The second man would not kill Michael tonight, but he would kill.  He would leave no one alive who could identify him.
 
No one save the cloaked woman . . . if Gabriel took her.
 
“What does the note say?” Gabriel asked tautly.
 
“Il dite . . .”  Gaston cleared his throat.  “It says: ‘Gabriel, I quote to you from Shakespeare, a man who no doubt would have been inspired by both your beauty and your expertise: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”
 
‘You have set a delightful stage, mon ange, now I bring you a woman. A leading actress, if you will. Laissez le jeu commencer.’ ”
 
Directly beneath Gabriel, Michael perused the saloon in search of the second man.
 
His innocence knotted Gabriel’s stomach.
 
Michael had only ever wanted a woman to love.
 
Gabriel had only ever wanted to be like Michael.
 
A man with passion.  A man with innocence.
 
A man with a soul.
 
The cloaked woman stood alone, seemingly impervious to the furor she had created.
 
Fear feathered Gabriel’s flesh.
 
I bring you a woman, reverberated inside his ears.  It was followed by, Laissez le jeu commencer.
 
London streets were cramped with streetwalkers; women slept on the steps of poorhouses.  Yet the second man had chosen this woman.
 
She was a virgin. Or she was a whore.
 
She had been hired to kill Gabriel. Or she had been hired to be killed by Gabriel.
 
She was the last living link to the second man.
 
There was nothing Gabriel wouldn’t do to catch him.
 
And he knew it.
 
“I bid two thousand pounds for the woman,” rang out over the volley of noise below him.
 
The voice belonged to Gabriel.
 
He felt the impact of two hundred pairs of eyes.
 
Gabriel had not been with a woman in fourteen years, eight months, two weeks and six days.
 
The patrons knew it.
 
The prostitutes knew it.
 
The man who would save him knew it.
 
The man who would kill two angels knew it.
 
The woman’s face was shrouded in darkness.
 
Gabriel did not know what she knew.  Yet.
 
But he would.
 
Before the night was over, he would know everything there was to know about her.
 
He hoped, for her sake, that she was an assassin.
 
It would be far better for her if she were.
 
If Gabriel did not kill her, the second man would.
 
It would be a far, far worse death than that which Gabriel would deliver.
 
Laissez le jeu commencer.
 
Let the play begin.

 

Comments 4 Add yours below

i enjoyed prevoius books of the author. its very good reads. would like to read Gabriel's Woman

RobinS's picture

Thank you, Zelda. I hope you enjoy my untouchable angel.

i want toread this book

RobinS's picture

Thank you. I hope you enjoy my untouchable angel.

What the Critics Say

  • [The Men And Women's Club] is not what comes to mind when I think of erotica, although the sex scenes were really well done, and they basically talk about nothing but sexuality. Honestly, it’s so much more than erotica, because Schone tells a really fascinating story that deals with sexual repression and how dangerous it can be.

  • Awaken, My Love provides a refreshingly funny commentary on the time-travel genre. Elaine’s trials regarding chamber pots, makeshift maxi pads, and social sensibilities like unshaven legs underline such astounding oversights in other books that readers may never again be able to accept a sloppily written, unrealistic experience of waking up in another century.

  • Emotionally Believable.

  • There's a lot more than explicit sex—although there is plenty of that—to this frankly erotic romance, which takes a hard look at Victorian double standards and the penalties for women who ignore them and with feminist aplomb puts everything into perspective.

  • Schone again displays her talent for highly erotic scenes and descriptions—even without the sex. Before Rose and Jack engage in sexual play, their passion burns the pages. The research of 19th century marital laws and women's rights [add] texture to the plot.

  • ...Probably the first 53-year-old eunuch to be a romantic hero.