Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Now Available - Beguiled by Paisley Smith

My first erotic lesbian historical, Beguiled, is now available at Loose Id. I am super thrilled because this story combines all my favorite things. Civil War history, goats, a spunky heroine who masquerades as a Union soldier, and a beautiful Southern belle struggling to keep her home and family together against all odds.

The Civil War has torn Belle Holloway’s world apart. Left to manage her Georgia plantation with little help, she is exasperated when the Union Army adds to her burden by leaving a wounded soldier behind. But upon closer examination, Belle is shocked to discover the soldier is actually a beguiling woman.

Clad in male attire, stubborn, brash Alice O’Malley awakens a passion in Belle she never knew existed. Alice dominates Belle’s lonely existence with taboo pleasures and erotic escape. Soon Belle realizes she is more than willing to submit her body and her heart to the woman whose strength and compassion she admires -- until those very attributes prove to be the catalyst that could destroy their newfound love.


Alice’s eyes were open when I reached the room. She sat in the bed, propped on two pillows. I glared at her. “Do you need anything?” I ground out.

“No…thank you,” she said, her voice weak and barely discernable.

I started to turn to leave.

“Wait,” she rasped.

I hesitated.

“I…thank you for everything you’ve done for me,” she said softly. It was the first time I’d recognized anything feminine about her, other than her anatomy.

My shoulders rose and fell with a deep breath. “You’re welcome,” I muttered. “Now, if you don’t need anything --”

“Wait,” she said again. “Would you…would you mind keeping me company. Just for a little while?”

I stared. While I dreaded the thought of spending one waking minute in the company of this woman, I knew I couldn’t go downstairs where the smell of goat stew would waft in from the kitchen.

Besides, her sudden vulnerability stunned me. She had fought alongside men. She’d killed a man to put him out of his misery.

I’d expected the same acerbic hauteur I’d gotten from her the first time we met. Not this. Anything but this.

With a sigh, I sat on the edge of the bed. “Are you feeling better? Do you still have fever?” I reached over her and touched her forehead. This time, she didn’t swat my hand away. She was cooler than before but still warm to the touch.

Her gaze met mine, and the look in her blue eyes startled me. Her stare captivated mine and held -- direct, penetrating. Her eyes seemed to take me in all at once. Immediately, I wondered if my hair had escaped my chignon, if tears stained my cheeks, or if spittle dotted my chin. As I withdrew my hand from her brow, I tucked a loose strand of my dark hair behind my ear. “What possessed you to join the Union Army?” I blurted, uncomfortable with the silence and with her keen gaze on me.

“After the emancipation proclamation was issued, I felt I needed to help right an injustice,” she said after a moment of thought.

“That was over a year ago.” I could scarcely imagine she’d pulled off her farce for more than a year. “How’d you hide…your identity?”

“When you can shoot straighter, ride farther, and fight harder than any man, they don’t really question you,” she said.

I believed her and snickered at the thought of a woman fooling so many men. I glanced at the remnants of her uniform with its distinctive red, blousing breeches and blue, cutaway jacket decorated with gold piping. “Why the Zouaves?”

She shrugged. “A good many other Irish were in it. I knew they’d accept me. Besides, the uniform concealed…more.”

“Laws of mercy! You’ve all but ruined your chances of making an advantageous marriage,” I told her as if I were scolding a wayward child. My heart had begun to race, and I didn’t know why.

She pursed her chapped lips. “I don’t think keeping women from fighting or voting is right either.”

I laughed outright. “Women? Vote? Or fight? And even if a woman was foolish enough to want to do those things, that day will never come.”

“Are you not as educated as your husband?” she asked gesturing at the gold wedding band on my finger.

“Don’t be silly.”

“Shouldn’t you have as much say as he does about the laws concerning your rights?” she asked.

Of course I did, but I wasn’t about to admit it to this brash Yankee girl. “Everyone has their place in this world.” I smoothed my palms over my apron. “And I’m sorry to say it, but your place was -- is -- not among a bunch of filthy men.”

She jerked her chin. “Those men were my comrades.”

“Is that why they left you here to die?” I couldn’t hide my spite.

Her full lips parted, and she finally -- finally -- averted her gaze from my face. I released the breath I’d been holding. Guilt pricked me. I’d been cruel to her. “Can…can I put a pillow under your leg? Are you comfortable?”

“A pillow would be nice.” She lifted the covers as I pushed one of the smaller feather pillows under her knee. Her thigh was muscled and hard, not soft like mine. My fingers brushed her bare skin. Inexplicably, a blush heated my cheeks, and I knew it had something to do with the fact that she seemed more a man than a woman. “Would you like to wear one of my nightgowns?” I gestured to the man’s shirt she wore.

She sniffed at her shoulder. “Do I stink?”

“No. I merely thought you might want something more…feminine…to wear.”

She shook her head vehemently. “Nobody will ever put a dress on me again.”

“It’s not a dress,” I snapped back at her. “It’s a nightgown.” Visions of her standing in the darkness with the hem of that shirt hitting her about midthigh intruded on my thoughts. It was simply indecent to be so exposed.

She heaved a sigh as she considered my offer. The ungrateful thing half sneered. “I suppose I would like to wear something clean for a change, but I doubt anything you own would fit me.”

I hadn’t thought of that. Quite a bit taller and quite a bit broader than I, her build reminded me of a sixteen-year-old boy’s. Not even Grayson stood as tall as Alice. But Dalton did.

“I have something that might fit you.” I slid off the bed to rummage in the chest of drawers. When I pulled open the bottom drawer, Dalton’s scent filled my senses. I breathed it in, longing to feel his strong arms, yearning to feel safe and sheltered again.


A lump welled in my throat as I withdrew one of his neatly folded nightshirts. “This was…is…is my husband’s,” I said. “It should fit you.”

Again, those stormy eyes collided with mine and held. The way she studied me with that deliberate stare unnerved me. She winced as she shifted in the bed to drag her shirt out from under her bottom. At once, I moved to help her, placing Dalton’s nightshirt on the bed as I gathered up Alice’s shirt and dragged it off over her head.

I easily saw how she passed herself off as a man now. Her broad, angular shoulders looked as strong as any man’s. Muscular biceps defined the shape of her long arms. But my gaze drew magnetically to her breasts. All peaches and cream, they were small and boasted dark, velvety nipples. I swallowed thickly, realizing I couldn’t stop staring -- and also realizing Alice didn’t seem to care.

Instead, she leaned back slightly as if to give me a better view. Her nipples rose as she inhaled a deep breath. If I hadn’t known any better, I would have thought she intended her pose to be provocative. Was she that shameless?

A wave of heat settled in my neck, and, hands trembling, I unfolded Dalton’s nightshirt and slipped it over Alice’s head. At the same time, we both reached for the ties at the neck. Our hands clashed once and then twice, and I let out a nervous laugh. I swatted her hands away. “Let me.”

Her hands dropped to her lap, and she watched me as I looped the thin ties into a perfect little bow. I sat beside her once more. “What was it like?” I asked. “Fighting?”

“Very boring,” she replied.

Her answer surprised me. I would have thought battles and seeing other places besides my little corner of the world to be quite the opposite. “Boring?”

She nodded and then leaned back against the pillows, resting her head on the headboard. “A lot of picket duty. A lot of hurrying up only to wait. And wait. And wait some more.” She smiled. “Not the battles though.”

“Did you see much action?”

“A few skirmishes,” she said. “Mostly we stood guard duty in Decatur, Alabama.”

I tried to imagine what it would be like to charge into battle amid the cannon blasts and blazing colors. “But you must have seen fighting here.”

She nodded. “I fought all through this campaign. Those Tennessee boys weren’t about to give up an inch of ground. The worst was at what we named the Dead Angle.”

I’d heard of it. Confederate General Cheatham had dug in on the top of a hill a few miles north of Atlanta, and the Yankees had fought tooth and nail for that ground. So many had been killed, and in the sweltering summer heat a temporary truce had been called so the dead could be buried. “You were there?”

The horror in her faraway gaze indicated she had. She forced a fake-sounding laugh. “If I’d been told it was so bloody hot down here, I might still be in Boston handing out pamphlets.”

“Boston?” I’d been as far north as Saratoga but never to Boston.

Storm clouds gathered in her eyes. “Well…maybe not Boston. Not anymore.”

Silent, I stared, hoping she’d reveal more about her fascinating life.

“I-I always felt like I was born in the wrong body,” she whispered. “That I should have been a boy instead of a girl.” Her eyes caught mine but only for a second before she looked away. This time, she was the one who had trouble maintaining eye contact. “Do you ever feel that way?” she asked.

“No,” I said, my voice but a breath.

A smile played on her lips. “No. A woman like you wouldn’t.”

A woman like me? I didn’t understand. “What do you mean by that?”

She shrugged. “You’re… Well, look at you. You’re feminine. Pretty.” Her gaze raked me in such a way it made me blush.

I felt I needed to change the subject. I sensed something unspoken and dangerous was about to surface. “Do you regret leaving home?”

She wrung her hands. “I couldn’t have stayed where I was. My folks brought me over from Ireland during the great famine.” Her eyes misted.

“I was only five years old at the time, but I remember the Bostonians laughing at our clothes and our accents. We were poor as poor could be. My da took a job as a stable hand, and my ma worked as a seamstress. I even had to do odd jobs to earn money. We weren’t much better off in Boston than we had been in Ireland.”

“Is that why you left Boston?” I asked.

“No. I grew up there. We lived on Batterymarch on the waterfront in a house with three other families,” she said. “There were no schools for us and at night, my ma taught me to read by the light of a single coal-oil lamp.”

I thought back to my own education. I’d had the best tutors. I spoke three languages with fluency. I could cipher. My hand was neat, and I knew how to keep the plantation books. From an early age, I’d been well versed in literature and mythology and could even read Latin and Greek. When my tutor wasn’t present, Uncle Hewlett had seen to it that I could recite Shakespeare and a plethora of poems. Learning had been a fun pastime for me. I realized I had taken my education for granted.

Alice continued. “I read everything I could get my hands on. I dug newspapers out of the garbage so I could keep up with what was going on in the world. That’s when I began attending the abolitionist meetings at the church. And that’s when I fell in love with someone I shouldn’t have.”

I bit my tongue to keep from asking her for the details. Part of my education had included etiquette. “I see,” I said, giving her license to resume, but already my mind filled with wild imaginings. A rich boy? A politician’s son? A priest? The possibilities loomed endless.

“So, I left Boston and went to New York,” she said simply, omitting all the delectable details I craved.

“But your parents --”

“My da died when I was fifteen, and my ma…well…she turned me out.” She blinked a couple of times, and I recognized just how close her tears lurked.

“And then you joined the Zouave unit?” I asked, hoping to redirect her maudlin thoughts.

She shrugged. “Like I said, the Zouave uniforms concealed more than the standard-issue uniforms.” Her hands moved over her breasts, and she cupped them, drawing my gaze there once more. “Unlike you, I don’t have a hell of a lot to conceal.”

I looked at my own well-defined breasts. “If I could trade with you or give you some of mine, I would,” I admitted truthfully. “My corset’s so tight right now I can hardly breathe.”

Her stare dropped from my face to my chest and lingered uncomfortably long. “Yours are beautiful just as they are,” she said softly.

Despite the humid summer heat, a chill swept down my arms. No one had spoken to me or looked at me in that way since the day Dalton rode away with Cobb’s Legion. I couldn’t decipher what lay behind Alice’s eyes, and I certainly couldn’t figure out my own thoughts.

I changed the subject. “Granny’s poultice should help your leg.”

Alice chuckled. She lifted the covers and looked at the clean bandage. The nightshirt had only dropped to her hips, and I caught a glimpse of the dark auburn curls at the apex of her thighs.

“What’s in this thing?” she asked, wrinkling her pert nose. “It stinks to high heaven.”

“There’s no telling with Granny.” The tension melted out of me when she lowered the covers.

She leaned forward conspiratorially. “You don’t think she’d poison me, do you?” she whispered.

“No. Granny talks big.”

“She called me a scourge. A scourge!” Alice railed, but her tone was in jest.

“She’s called others much worse,” I assured her.

“The army doctor wanted to take my leg off,” Alice said.


Alice snickered. “He changed his mind when I pulled my revolver on him.”

I could hardly believe I got on so well with this strange woman. She and I talked like old friends. I’d almost forgotten that moments ago, I’d sworn to hate her. No matter how easily we conversed, my heart ached for my kid.

“Your revolver?” Wild images danced in my head.

“It worked. I still have my leg. But it made him so mad he refused to give me any laudanum.”

“You must have been in terrible pain,” I commiserated.

“I wasn’t about to let any of them know it,” she said through clenched teeth. “Especially after he called me a disgrace. I’d fought as hard as any man in my unit. Harder than some.”

“He called you a disgrace?” I understood her anger.

She snorted. “Yes. But I told him I hadn’t hidden behind the lines like he had. I shouldn’t have said that, but I was damn mad.”

An awkward silence fell between us, and I steered the conversation back to her stint in the army. “How’d you do it? How’d you keep all those men from finding out you are a woman?”

“Oh that?” She grinned. “That was easier than I thought.”

“But…what about y-your monthly?” I asked, blushing at the mention of such a personal thing.

She waved her hand in dismissal. “The bloody piles were so common no one thought anything about it.”

Imagining the lengths she’d gone to in order to conceal her body, to relieve herself, even to sleep at night made my head swim.

“The only thing they really questioned was my age, but that was only when I enlisted,” Alice said.

“Weren’t you lonely for female company?” I asked.

Something flared in her eyes at my question. “I visited the fancy ladies like any of the other soldiers.”

My mouth fell open. “You what?”

“When the other soldiers went to the whorehouses, I went along,” she stated plainly.

“Weren’t you shocked?” I tried to envision her in the room with a…a fancy lady. What on earth could they have done together?

Alice winked. “The girls were more than happy to keep my secret.”

I’d hardly had a worldly upbringing. I even bordered on being somewhat naive. But something told me Alice had done more with those women than she admitted. The thought of it caused a strange stirring inside me. My mouth went dry. My channel clenched involuntarily. I shifted on the bed in an attempt to assuage the throbbing under my skirts. The movement only made it worse.

Had Alice made love with a woman? I couldn’t dare ask her.

As if sensing my consternation, she placed her hand on my bare wrist and gave it a reassuring rub. “I was joking,” she said. “I never meant to upset you.”

Relieved, I nodded.

“You know my name,” she told me. “But I don’t know yours.”

“Belle Holloway.”

She smiled. “Belle.” She said my name as if she liked the way my name felt in her mouth. “The name suits you.”

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