Welcome to another Charity Sunday blog hop. One day per month, I and a handful of fellow authors make an small effort to spread our blessings to the rest of the world. Each blogger participating in the Charity Sunday hop chooses a worthy cause to showcase, then commits to donating a certain amount to that charity for each comment received on the post.
We also give you an excerpt from one of your stories, to thank you for visiting ... and of course, to tempt you to read more of our work!
My charity this month is the Refugee Health Alliance. This non-profit organization provides a wide range of assistance to refugees stranded at the U.S.-Mexico border, enmeshed in the vicious web of U.S. immigration regulations. Stuck in a no-man’s land where they can neither enter the country nor go back to their homes, these individuals are forced to live in sometimes horrific conditions.
The RFA provides a wide range of services to these people: not just primary and reproductive health care but also mental health services, hygiene and laundry services, potable water including public water fountains, natural medicine, medical-legal services and documentation, hot meals and clean clothing. I really admire their inclusive, integrated approach.
So, I will donate two dollars to RFA for every comment I receive on this post. You can comment throughout the next month, until the next Charity Sunday.
Meanwhile, as promised, here is a juicy excerpt from my recent release Incognito: Secret Lives, Forbidden Loves (which has nothing at all to do with refugees). This book has two parallel plot lines, one set in present-day Beacon Hill and the other in the Victorian period. This bit is from the secret Victorian diary discovered by the modern heroine, who happens to be a doctoral student in literature.
And just to thank for coming by today, I’ll give away an ebook copy of this erotic romance novel to one randomly selected commenter.
June 12, 1886
I scarcely know how to commence this account of my adventures and my sins. Indeed, I do not fully understand why I feel compelled to commit these things to writing. Clearly, my purpose is not to review and relive these experiences in the future, for in twenty minutes’ time these sentences will be invisible even to me. Perhaps in the years ahead, I will trail my fingers across the empty parchment, colored like flesh, and the memories will come alive without the words, coaxed from the pages by my touch like flames bursting from cold embers.
I have a secret life, another self, and that secret has become a burden that I clutch to myself, and yet would be relieved of. So, like the Japanese who write their deepest desires on slips of rice paper and then burn them, I write of secret joys and yearnings, and send that writing into oblivion.
Let me begin again. My name is Beatrice. The world sees me as poised, prosperous, respectable, wife of one of Boston’s leading merchants and industrialists, mother of two sweet children, lady of a fine brick house on fashionable Mount Vernon Street, with Viennese crystal chandeliers, Chinese porcelain, French velvet draperies, and Italian marble fireplaces. I devote myself to the education of my dear Daniel and Louisa, the management of my household, works of charity, cultural afternoons. In sum, the many and sundry details of maintaining oneself in proper society.
Though I have borne two children, I am still considered beautiful. Indeed, with my golden locks, fair skin, sapphire eyes and rosy lips, I am often compared to an angel. How little they know, those who so describe me. For in truth, I am depraved, wanton, and lecherous, so lost that I do not even regret my fall.
My husband is a kind, intelligent, and honorable man, for whom I have the deepest regard and affection. He treats me with the utmost consideration and respect; he rarely comes to my bed and when he does, he is profuse with apologies for his unfortunate lust. Alas, he hardly knows or understands me. I understand him to a much greater extent, enough to know that I must lie still and silent under him, not move or cry out as his manhood dances inside me. Everyone knows that for proper women, the rites of the flesh are a trial that must be endured; men are subject to carnal weakness, and women’s lot is to be the passive receptacle of their spending. This is what my husband believes. Knowing he believes this takes the fire from the moment, and makes it easier for me to play my frigid, compliant role.
I know better, though.
Today, I walked in Louisburg Square with Daniel, Louisa, and their nurse. The weather was glorious, sky of limpid blue sown with fluffy clouds, new leaves dancing in the breeze. My parasol raised against the sun, I did not see him until he was almost upon us.
He was of medium height, sumptuously attired, as fair-haired and blue-eyed as I. His mouth had a fullness that I liked, the look of someone who savors the sweet things in life, and a readiness to smile. As he swept off his hat and bowed, I noticed his hands, with long delicate fingers clad in beige kid gloves.
“Good afternoon, Madame,” he said courteously. “I trust that you and your children are enjoying this fine weather.”
Meanwhile, his eyes were sending me a different, more intimate message, which would have been lost on someone who was not sensitized to such things. There were no words in this message, only images, emotions, sensation, a quickening of breath, a heat, a tightening.
I am perpetually amazed at how we recognize each other, those of us who live beyond the pale of propriety. Is it some primal scent that we exude? Some subtle clue in posture or expression? Could it in fact be some spiritual connection, a mingling of thoughts in the ether? The mechanism is obscure to me, but I know the phenomenon only too well. I have sat in a concert hall with two hundred elegantly dressed, respectable members of proper society and found my eyes drawn to a single face in the balcony, a set of eyes that knew me, saw through my finery to the hungry flesh beneath.
“Good afternoon, Sir,” I said, my voice low and modest. “It is indeed fine, especially for so early in the season.”
“Of course, that may indicate that it will become hot sooner than usual.” The gentleman’s eyes sparkled with humor at his little private joke. Hot indeed, I thought to myself, adjusting my expression to signal some slight disapproval.
“I do not believe that I have the pleasure of your acquaintance, Sir,” I said.
“Forgive me for my lack of courtesy.” He reached into his waistcoat, withdrew a card and wrote something upon it. “Here is my card.”
“Thank you.” I examined the card. It was not, in fact, a visiting card, but a blank upon which he had inscribed the following few words:
Ten O’clock this evening
No. __ Beacon Street
With respect and hope,
His name was unknown to me. Clearly he must be one of the many visitors to our prosperous city. I gave him my most luminous smile. “Perhaps we will meet again, Sir.”
“I do hope so, Madame. Adieu for now.”
I swept past him, my silks rustling, my heart pounding deliciously.
My husband was away this evening, as he so often is, visiting his mills in Lowell or consulting with his agents in New York. I would never risk one of my encounters if he were at home. He is a pillar of Boston society, universally admired and esteemed. He has even been urged to stand for the Legislature in the next election. Never would I allow the slightest hint of scandal to tarnish his good name. I am scrupulously careful in my dark liaisons. Even these private words will vanish shortly, so that there should be no evidence of my shameful behavior.
Tonight, however, I was free to pursue my desires. After the children had been put to bed and their nurse was on guard at their side, my maid Pauline assisted me in my preparations. Pauline is the only soul who knows my secrets. I trust that she will take them with her to her grave. She is French, and experienced in the ways of the world. She does not condemn me for listening to the siren call of the flesh, though she sometimes regards me with a strange light in her eyes.
I chose my costume with care, a rich but somber dress of midnight blue poult de soie, with a cashmere mantle to match. I wished to appear proper, remote, and infinitely desirable. My hair shone like spun gold in contrast with the dark fabric, and my eyes had depths like the ocean. I donned my hat and veiled my face, then followed Pauline out the back door and into the alley where the hansom carriage she had summoned awaited me.
The address he provided proved to be a small townhouse facing the Common, with fine leaded glass windows. A sour-faced domestic answered the bell, took my wrap, and led me to the drawing room, which was furnished with indifferent taste.
My fair-haired Charles leapt up as I entered, his face glowing.
“You’ve come, Madame! I hardly dared hope.”
“I could scarcely refuse such an enigmatic invitation,” I said, holding out my gloved hand. He bent to touch it to his lips, then stopped himself. “If you will permit me,” he said with a shy smile. Then without waiting for my reply, he stripped the glove off my fingers and planted a delicate kiss on my bare palm.
This first exquisite touch sent shivers through my body and left me slightly faint. Already I was melting in the rising flames of my own desire. A sigh escaped me. In any case my companion already knew how he had aroused me. His youthful eyes sparkled as he perceived my flushed cheeks and the rise and fall of my breath.
“My apologies for the appointments here,” he said after a long moment, punctuated by the beat of my heart. “I am renting these lodgings while I have business in Boston. Can I offer you some tea, Madame? Or perhaps a glass of wine?”
“A sip of sherry would be delightful,” I answered, struggling to control my voice. “I find that my throat is a bit dry.”
“It will be my privilege,” he said. He went over to the sideboard and returned after a moment with two crystal goblets brimming with golden liquid.
“To chance meetings,” he said, raising his glass to his lips.
“To pleasure,” I countered boldly, looking deep into his eyes. They were the same clear blue of today’s sky, and equally full of promise. Between my thighs I felt the heat of the coming summer.
In case you’d like to purchase a copy of Incognito, you’ll find all the buy links at https://www.lisabetsarai.com/incognitobook.html
Don’t forget to leave a comment. And please do follow the links to visit the other authors participating this Charity Sunday.