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Excerpt from The Disciplinarian

"You don't have to fear me, Clarissa," The Disciplinarian murmured.

      Clarissa Babcock stared at the dark and dangerously handsome man seated across from her. No matter how attractive she found him, she must remember that he was her enemy. "I don't fear you," she said, her chin coming up a notch. "I hate you."

      The Disciplinarian gave a small shake of his head. "You don't hate me," he said low. "I haven't harmed you. I haven't starved you. In point of fact, I'm here to help you."

      "You're The Disciplinarian. You're here to --"

      "-- instruct you, yes. Men send their wives to me to teach them a lesson. And I do. But perhaps not exactly the one their husbands expect."

      She made a small scoffing sound. 

      "What I teach women," The Disciplinarian continued, ignoring her sign of disbelief, "is how to control their husbands. Subtly. I help women learn to exercise what limited freedom they have within the strictures of the Victorian marriage state. To enjoy what they can inside the tight bonds of matrimony."

      "What are you saying?" Clarissa demanded. "That you don't hate women? That you -- you help them?"

      "Yes," he agreed in his deep, rich voice. "Usually my lessons are very straightforward. But you are a special case, Clarissa. It seems your husband wants more than just a meek, biddable wife. He wants an heir."

      "I know that," she admitted reluctantly.

      "But you may not know that he blames you for the lack of success these last two years. He thinks it's due to the bedroom. He's asked me to make you more receptive to his attentions."

      Clarissa shot up out of her chair. "Bastard!" she shouted, although The Disciplinarian wasn't sure she was referring to him or to her own husband. "And you agreed?!"

      "Sit down, Clarissa," he said calmly. "I'm on your side, remember. Let's figure out a way to deal with this."

      The fury in her face didn't subside, but she sat.

      "Now," he said with a businesslike nod, "was there ever any physical attraction between you?"

      She gasped at that. "I beg your pardon!"

      "Perhaps at the beginning," The Disciplinarian prompted. "When he was courting you."

      "Courting? There was never any semblance of that! My marriage was a bargain made between my father and my husband. An arrangement that suited all concerned. Except, perhaps, myself."

      "Basic physical satisfaction then? Does your husband take time to give you pleasure during your marital relations?"

      She looked at him blankly. "Pleasure? His sweating, heaving body should give me pleasure?"

      The Disciplinarian sighed. He knew very well that in this day and age love had little to do with marriage. Unions were made for social connections, business deals, political advancement, to pay off debt -- there were a host of reasons. Still, he despised the men who made their women miserable and bitter, when with just a little effort it didn't have to be that way.

      "Clarissa," he began. "These are the cold, hard facts we are faced with: a woman is basically the property of her husband. He can do with her what he will. Your husband wants an heir, and he believes preventing it. It doesn't matter that he may be as much at fault -- or more so -- than you yourself. He wants me to warm you up to the sexual act so that he can produce an heir and be done with his duty.

      "You have two choices. You can either allow me to tutor you in the ways of passion, or you can go on as you have been, risking your husband's wrath, his fists, and possibly worse."

      The Disciplinarian held his breath as he waited for her answer. He had never feared a woman's response as much as he feared Clarissa Babcock's because he knew her choice could mean life or death.

      And he prayed she realized it.

© by Leigh Court

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