Her Enticing Muse
Her Enticing Muse
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- Age gap
- Opposites attract
She’s promised to a stranger, but it’s her gorgeous teacher who catches her eye. Can two accomplished women help each other bloom?
England, 1792. Maria Balcombe refuses to forsake her talents. Fleeing an unwanted arranged marriage, the gifted young artist hopes to make a name for herself in London’s competitive streets. So when a celebrated portraitist agrees to her pleas for mentorship despite their clashing styles, she gratefully accepts the beautiful woman’s strict conditions.
Stella Wesley needs an obedient student. But with limited opportunities for creators of the fairer sex, she reluctantly bends her ideals for a confidante who’s willing to flaunt society and act as a living anatomy model. And she soon finds the hours she spends exploring the artistic intimacy of the female body are turning into an undeniable, smoldering attraction.
Angry at a world that demands conformity over innovation, a conflicted Maria throws their future into jeopardy with her stubborn frankness. And when Stella is torn between abandoning her protégé for a one-in-a-lifetime offer or succumbing to her deepest desires, she fears more than one heart will end up broken.
Will their forbidden strokes reveal love’s vivid promise?
Intro Into Chapter 1
Intro Into Chapter 1
Maria had not technically arrived in Sudley House with nothing but the clothes on her back. She also had a folder under her arm.
Nonetheless, she felt tired. She did not take that much money with her before her dash to the capital, and the inn she found agreeable to accommodating an unaccompanied young woman was not the best in town. Even there, the innkeeper’s wife eyed her suspiciously. She must have seen too many young ladies arriving by stagecoaches from north, south, east and west only to end up swelling the numbers of the frail sisterhood plying their trade in Covent Garden.
That was the first time anyone had called Maria a young lady. The daughters of barbers were rarely deemed worthy of the title. She could only hope she wasn’t viewed suspiciously here too. Maria waited on the sofa and looked at the paper-thin folder she held.
‘What is the matter?’ a woman said from the corridor, and Maria squeezed her fingers around the paper-thin folder with new determination.
‘There is a visitor,’ the housemaid who had let Maria in earlier replied hurriedly.
‘A sitter?’ Her tone turned interested.
‘No, a – I’m not sure. She said she wanted to become your student.’
The hour of truth was coming. This was the woman she had come here to see. Maria forbade herself to think of what would happen if this last attempt failed.
‘A student?’ Stella Wesley – for that could have only been Stella Wesley – replied incredulously. ‘Did you not tell her I have no need of disciples?’
‘I tried to, Miss Wesley, but she was so stubborn…’
‘I am starting to grow interested.’ Despite the words, the portraitist’s voice was cool as silk.
In her mind’s eye, Maria could see her slowly peeling off her soft gloves, baring the white flesh beneath. Why are you so sure? her inner voice whispered. She could be old and withered, for all you know. Just because her subjects are young and fair, it doesn’t mean she is.
The steps were getting closer. She straightened her spine.
‘So,’ Stella Wesley said behind her, making Maria turn upon the sofa at an uncomfortable angle, ‘you are my mysterious guest.’
Stella Wesley was not old and withered. She looked younger than thirty. Her chestnut curls were piled high upon her head, a testimony to a hairdresser’s art. Her skin was smooth and touched with blush from the fresh air. Although fair, it bore no trace of that sickly pallor noble ladies who spent most of their lives between perfumed four walls often sported; Maria had seen a lot of them in Bath. At the start of each autumn, whole waves descended upon the city of her birth, and they all bore a sickly pallor.
Most of all, Miss Wesley’s eyes drew Maria’s attention. Dark as chocolate, they were vivid and vivacious, looking at her not so much with imperiousness as with curiosity.