Cry For Passion

Cry For Passion book cover
PUBLISHER: 
Berkley Trade
ISBN-13: 
978-0425225936
Book Series: 
The Men And Women's Club Series

Parliament is not going to break the vow you do not have the courage to break yourself.

Rose Clarring sacrificed passion for love.  Jack Lodoun sacrificed love for power.  She is the perfect wife, married to a man who does not desire her.  He is an ambitious Member of Parliament, privately mourning another man's wife.  When Rose asks Jack to procure her a divorce, he challenges her to prove a woman's need for intimacy is worth a man's reputation.  But in 19th century London, it is a woman who pays the price for sexual congress.  When Rose's husband exerts his legal rights, Jack must choose between politics and law, ambition and love...

 

Chapter One

 
Men and women mobbed the Old Bailey Court house, voices joined in jubilation.
 
James Whitcox had won. Jack Lodoun had lost.
 
Again.
 
“Mr. Lodoun.” The clattering footsteps that dogged Jack’s heels picked up speed. “If I might have a moment of your time.”
 
Chill, damp air licked his cheeks.
 
He turned up his collar: The soft wool blocked neither the cold nor the woman he had earlier examined, and who now followed him.
 
But the trial was over. And so was Jack.
 

He lengthened his stride.

 
“Mr. Lodoun.” The hurried heel taps were losing distance.  “Please.”
 
He had only three more steps . . . two more steps . . . one more step to reach the curb and hail the approaching hansom.
 
Jack raised his umbrella.
 
“I am murdering my husband, Mr. Lodoun,” froze his arm.
 
Before Jack, a sweat-streaked dun hurtled down the cobbled street, ears flattened, mouth working to expel a sawing bit.
 
“Please don’t turn away.” Behind Jack, the clear, cultured voice reverberated over the pounding of hooves and ringing celebration.  “I need your help.”
 
Need gripped his testicles. Simultaneously, the acrid stench of hot, damp horse slammed into Jack’s face, freeing him from his paralysis but not the desire with which he daily lived.
 
“There are police patrolling the court house, Mrs. Clarring.”  Jack hoisted higher the furled umbrella. The sweat-streaked dun passed him by, spittle blowing from its mouth like cobwebs. The two-wheeled hansom cab rattled after the protesting horse. “If you need assistance in saving your husband, I suggest you inform them, rather than I, of your murderous intentions. If you need representation after you kill him, I suggest you solicit James Whitcox.”
 
Each closing heel tap spiked his ear drums.
 
“You remember my name.”
 
He had subpoenaed her. He had questioned her.
 
Now all he wanted to do was forget her.
 
Jack ignored the woman who would not be ignored.
 
Rose Clarring halted behind him, a throbbing reminder of the trial he had not won and the man to whom he had lost everything.  “I don’t want to murder my husband, Mr. Lodoun.”
 
A four-wheeled cab edged closer to the curb.
 
Pain fused Jack’s spine.
 
Seven months and three weeks earlier a woman had hailed a Clarence cab.
 
That day, also, had been a Wednesday.
 
She had died penned in muck underneath four wheels while Jack, cock satiated, drowsed between clean sheets damp with their sweat and their sex.
 
“I want to divorce him,” jolted Jack out of the past.
 
Debilitating pain instantly gave way to castigating anger.
 
He could not board a four-wheeled cab, no matter that the cries of men and women who jeered his loss rode the crowded London street. He could not get on with his life, shackled by grief as the sweat-streaked dun was shackled to the two-wheeled hansom.
 
All he could do was lower his umbrella and face the woman whose testimony continued to knot his stomach. “Is your husband a bigamist?”
 
“No,” she said, pale oval face rouged with cold. “Of course not.”
 
There was only one certainty in Jack’s life: parliamentary law.
 
“Has he deserted you?” he curtly probed, knowing the answer.
 
Small, black leather-gloved fingers curled around the black gores of a slender umbrella. “No.”
 
“Then I suggest you murder him, Mrs. Clarring, because no barrister can win you a divorce; whereas, should you rid yourself of your husband, I have no doubt Whitcox would win you an acquittal within a week of your arraignment.”
 
She did not step back from his biting sarcasm. “I love my husband, Mr. Lodoun.”
 
“So you said in the witness-box.”
 
Rose Clarring was thirty-three years old, a golden-haired, blue-eyed woman who stood ten inches shorter than his own five-foot, ten-inch frame. She looked like a pocket Venus in her stylish black bonnet and worsted wool cloak, a woman who would crumble at the slightest provocation.
 
Jack knew differently: In the witness box she had not once looked away while he deliberately baited and belittled her.
 
Rose Clarring stepped closer still until her femininity choked his cock and the churning mob at the end of the street shrank to the size of dark, bloated maggots. “You did a very great thing, sir.”
 
A bark of laughter joined the cheers and jeers of those who thought otherwise; it came from Jack’s mouth, but it contained no mirth. “I lost, ma’am.”
 
“Because it was the right thing to do.”
 
The bitter dregs of laughter dried up in his throat. “Are you accusing me of malfeasance, Mrs. Clarring?”
 
“If you intended to win the trial, Mr. Lodoun”—a sharp breeze rifled through the white egret feathers crowning her bonnet; it carried upward a faint waft of roses—“all you need have done was say that Mr. Whitcox and Mrs. Hart were lovers, and you would have done so.”
 
And Frances Hart, a forty-nine-year-old widow who had joined the Men and Women’s Club—an eclectic society of men and women who discussed sexology—instead of mourning the death of her husband with her family, would have been remanded into the care of her son, Jack’s client, who would have committed her to an insane asylum. And James Whitcox, a man who never lost, would have learned what it was like to lose the woman he loved.
 
But Jack, sworn to uphold English law, had withheld key evidence.  And he did not know why.
 
“Coventrys ’n chonkeys! A ha’penny, a ha’penny!” tumbled down the cracked pavement; it was chased by a masculine rumble. “Ginger beer, git it ’ere!”
 
The street vendors had found the mob.
 
“I can’t help you,” Jack said, breaking free of her gaze.
 
“If you were Mr. Whitcox, you could not,” halted him mid-pivot.  Watery sun rays burst through scuttling gray clouds. The translucent gleam of a pearl earring riveted his gaze. Immediately the single gem was superimposed by a pearl necklace, a wife’s recompense for bearing a daughter. “But you aren’t Mr. Whitcox, Mr. Lodoun:  You’re a member of Parliament.”
 
Rose Clarring’s response was a sharp slap of reality.
 
Jack’s gaze jerked upward.
 
Anemic light aureoled her black bonnet and danced on the tips of white feathers.
 
“And so you want me to petition Parliament for a private act,” Jack harshly deduced.
 
“Yes.”
 
There was no hesitation in either her gaze or her voice.
 
Only once, he remembered, had Rose Clarring hesitated in the witness box.
 
Is your husband here with you today? Jack had asked.
 
Her answer had been damning. The pain inside her eyes had kneed him in the groin.
 
“No,” Jack said flatly.
 
Society did not approve of divorce. And neither did Parliament.
 
His position in the House of Commons was the only thing Jack had left.
 
Deliberately he turned his back on Rose Clarring and faced Newgate Street.
 
“Have you ever loved, Mr. Lodoun?”
 
A trill of laughter drifted on the grumbling passage of a carriage. Through the window he glimpsed the curve of a feminine cheek.
 
Silvery blond hair glinted in the shadows.
 
Jack’s heartbeat accelerated, even as his mind jeered that he would never again hold the woman he loved.
 
Immediately the laughter and the carriage were gone, taking with it the spark of hope.
 
“Unlike you and the other members of your club, Mrs. Clarring,” Jack bit out, fingers fisting around the wooden grip of his umbrella, “I am not compelled to share my private life with strangers.”
 
The sudden blockage of the relentless breeze alerted Jack that Rose Clarring had stepped closer still.
 
“You do not approve of the Men and Women’s Club,” she said.
 
“I do not approve of women who deliberately jeopardize their husbands’ good names.”
 
“Would you rather a woman murder her husband?” prickled his shoulder blades.
 
Across the street, a man wearing silver-rimmed spectacles ducked inside Bailey’s Book Shop.
 
Jack knew the man: He was a court usher. Jack knew what he sought: pornography.
 
One month, one week and four days earlier Frances Hart, James Whitcox and eight other members of the Men and Women’s Club had sought the same sexual titillation at the Achilles Book Shoppe.
 
Rose Clarring had been among them.
 
But Jack had withheld that evidence, too.
 
“You said you wanted to divorce your husband”—he concentrated on the closing door of the book shop instead of the woman who stood behind him—“not kill him.”
 
“But I am killing him,” glanced off his left arm.
 
Rose Clarring stepped around Jack.
 
“The love I bear him is killing him.”
 
Rose Clarring stepped in front of Jack.
 
“The love he bears me is killing him.”
 
Rose Clarring’s pale, cold-rouged face turned up to his; the top of her head did not quite reach his chin. Her cloak, black as a widow’s weeds, molded her body even as a blast of chill spring air battered his bowler.
 
“Every day he is dying, Mr. Lodoun, because I have not had the courage to stop it.”
 
In the witness box—underneath the flickering gaslight—her eyes had been midnight blue. In the watery wash of sunlight, they were the pure, untarnished blue of cornflowers.
 
“Yet here you are, Mrs. Clarring”—Jack gazed over the white feathers blowing in the wind and searched the approaching stream of groaning, clattering conveyances for a hansom—“positively brimming with courage.”
 
“Because of you,” snapped his head downward. “And the way you looked at Mrs. Hart and Mr. Whitcox."
 
“I looked at them as what they were,” Jack sharply rebutted, “a plaintiff and a colleague.”
 
“You looked at them with envy.” Her gaze did not waver from his; the feathers crowning her bonnet danced a macabre rite. “You know what they’ve found with one another.”
 
Jack’s lips curled cynically. “I can go out and buy what they have any night of the week.”
 
“But you can’t,” she said quietly. Decisively. The scent of spring and roses teased his nostrils. “You can’t buy passion. No matter how much one might wish to do so.”
 
Her unshakable resolve exacerbated the loss that pulsed through his veins.
 
“And just how did they find this passion, Mrs. Clarring?” Jack’s derision slashed through the stinging wind and the bump and grind of metal wheels skimming cobble. Amid the mob and over the street vendors’ calls scattered voices sang, '. . . Oh what a happy land is England!' “By passing around French postcards? By sneaking into pornographic shops? Or did they discover it while reading so-called academic books that serve no other purpose than to detail sexual perversions?”
 
Rose Clarring did not glance away from him.
 
He realized with gut-clenching certainty that she saw within his eyes the secrets of the thirteen members of the Men and Women’s Club; secrets he had been duty-bound to reveal, but which he had not.
 
The neatly written minutes detailing their weekly meetings were indelibly scrawled on his mind.
 
Provocative discussions. Damning disclosures.
 
Men and women questioning. Women and men revealing.
 
Loneliness. Desire.
 
“You’re frightened,” Rose Clarring surmised.
 
Jack was a barrister, but he was also a politician. Men whose lives depended upon popular opinion did not admit to fear. Grief.
 
Guilt.
 
“And what are you, Mrs. Clarring?” Jack riposted. “Your name will be in the papers tomorrow. You’re a very pretty woman. Perhaps even your likeness will be printed. You will no longer be able to hide your clandestine meetings from your husband. He can put you away, just as my client attempted to put Mrs. Hart away. Only there will be no Whitcox to save you. I would be very afraid, were I you.”
 
“Would you, Mr. Lodoun?”
 
“Yes,” he said, fighting the sudden drumming of his heart and the soughing of his lungs.
 
She searched his gaze, as if she were the barrister and he an adverse witness. “What is more terrifying than living without love?”
 
Nothing, Jack thought. Nothing was more terrifying.
 
But he could not say that.
 
“You said your husband loves you,” he shot back.
 
Pale sunlight infused her face. Shadow darkened her eyes.
 
“The first time I saw my husband,” she unexpectedly confided, “I was watching my two youngest brothers. They were only nine and eleven. I took them to the park. They were quite a handful. When I warned them not to whip their hoop in the street, they laughed.  They would have been run over by a cab had it not been for Jonathon.”
 
The man to whom she had been married for twelve years, one month, three weeks and two days.
 
“This is not necessary,” Jack brutally interrupted.
 
“But it is, Mr. Lodoun,” Rose Clarring said, white feathers whipping the air; a guinea-gold curl lashed the slender curve of her neck. “He snatched them up, one under each arm, and whirled them around until their laughter filled the park.”
 
Unwitting images flitted before Jack’s eyes: Pictures of a woman weighted down with packages instead of two children whipping a hoop; the figure of a forty-four-year-old man instead of the twenty-one-year-old boy Jonathon Clarring had then been.
 
But Jack, unlike Jonathon Clarring, had not been there to cheat a cab of death.
 
Forcefully he beat back the images. “The trial is over, Mrs. Clarring:  Go home.”
 
But Rose Clarring did not hear him, caught up in her own past.
 
“I laughed, too.” The innocent happiness that flooded the cornflower blue eyes stabbed through him. “It was impossible not to be happy when I was with Jonathon.”
 
But now she proposed to divorce him, a husband she loved.
 
“I don’t want to hear this,” Jack said harshly, suddenly choking on the scent of coal and manure, and the asphyxiating perfume of springtime roses.
 
“But I need to tell you,” catapulted through the air. The brief glow of happiness drained from Rose Clarring’s face. Inside her eyes he glimpsed the pain he had evoked in the witness box. “I need you . . . I need someone . . . to understand.”
 
But Jack didn’t want to understand this woman when the woman he loved lay dead in the ground.
 
A heavy omnibus lumbered past them, wood creaking, wheels groaning.
 
The barrister inside Jack noted that Rose Clarring’s breasts heaved with the force of her breathing. He felt no triumph at finally shattering her composure. Not when the man inside him stared at those breasts and appraised their size.
 
Stoically Jack met her gaze.
 
Black vulnerability dilated her pupils; instantly it was swallowed by determination.
 
“I need to tell you,” she repeated.
 
But no need went unpunished.
 
Jack couldn’t say that, either.
 
“When Jonathon set the boys down, staggering and giggling,” she continued, sunlight gilding the tips of her lashes, “he looked at me and said, ‘I want you to give me a dozen just like these.’
 
“And I wanted to give him sons, Mr. Lodoun.” The castigating wind drove home her earnestness. “I wanted to give him little boys with whom he could play. I wanted to give him little girls he could pamper. I wanted to make Jonathon as happy as he made me.
 
“You accused me of joining the Men and Women’s Club in order to learn about prophylactics, but it wasn’t preventive checks that robbed my husband of children; it was the mumps.
 
“I am a living reminder of every dream he ever dreamed. Every night when he is home alone with me, he drinks himself into a state of unconsciousness. As long as we are married, he will look at me and see only his inability to create life.
 
“Yes, my husband has the legal authority to do as you say.” Jack watched dispassionately as Rose Clarring took a deep breath—small, round breasts rising . . . falling . . . egret feathers flogging the wind—and regained the inner resolve that had defied his earlier examination, and which had won the sympathy of twelve jurors, all men with wives and children. “But I have the moral obligation, surely, to end the pain that is crippling us both.”
 
A distant bell pierced the whining, grumbling traffic and the muffled shouts interspersed with song. Three more strikes followed, Westminster Chimes announcing the quarter hour.
 
It was fifteen minutes after five: The trial had ended sixteen minutes earlier. In six hours and forty-five minutes, the first of June would end and the second day would dawn.
 
And where would he be? Jack wondered.
 
He had never fathered a child, but he had never wanted children.  He had loved a woman, but he had not wanted marriage.
 
Jack stepped around Rose Clarring and raised his umbrella.
 
The flagellating breeze abruptly died.
 
“Who was the woman you loved?” catapulted through the stillness and stopped a hansom cab.
 
Jack stepped up onto an iron rung, spine straight; the cab tilted with his weight, instantly righted, his left foot anchoring the wooden platform. The gaze that followed him pierced the wool of his clothes, the flesh stretched taut across his body, the bones that held him rigid.
 
Swinging open the door, keenly aware of the cabby who was a potential witness—every move he made, every word he uttered a matter of public record—Jack turned his head and caught Rose Clarring’s gaze. Clearly, coldly, he enunciated: “Cynthia Herries Whitcox.”
 
Daughter of the First Lord of the Treasury and wife of James Whitcox, Barrister, Queens Counsel.
 
Shock widened her eyes. Understanding slowly ate up her surprise.
 
He had represented one man for the sole purpose of destroying another. He had not cared that he would also destroy the members of the Men and Women’s Club.
 
In that, at least, he had succeeded, Jack thought: Their lives would never be the same.
 
Jack had butchered their reputations in the witness box. The papers would serve them up piecemeal to a public hungry for scandal.
 
The condemnation Jack expected did not blossom inside the cornflower blue eyes. Instead Rose Clarring asked the question that every night robbed Jack of sleep: “Do you ever wonder, Mr. Lodoun, if she would be alive still had she divorced Mr. Whitcox?” . . .
 

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.