by Jena James
Daisy Delevigne is spending the summer in Grand Isle with her fiancé. Away from her family, friends, and her typical life in New Orleans, Daisy finds herself experiencing a strange longing in her soul. She struggles to put into words what her body wants, but she knows that she desires romance. When Christian Blackwell, a renowned Parisian painter comes to town and offers to paint Daisy’s portrait, Daisy plunges into an unexpected and scandalous affair with the handsome artist. Night after night, Daisy and Christian engage in passion-ridden trysts that awakens Daisy’s darkest sexual desires and helps her to discover the power of her sexuality.
Release Date: November 7, 2017
Genre: 1920's Romance
Red Satin Romance
It was a summer day. Bright light and cloudless sky. The white diaphanous sheers billowed in and out like cresting waves against a sandy shore as the breeze came through the window carrying with it the gentle scent of lilac from the garden below. A beautiful day. One that had that lazy languor attached to it and made a young woman in the prime of her life longingly dream about the endless possibilities in the days that lay ahead.
Daisy Delavigne reclined a short distance from an interesting painting. The image captured the form of a skeletal woman who sat in a wooden chair and stared perpetually out the window. She was elderly and appeared nearly delusional from years of solitude. She had long ago lost the will to live and merely existed, bound to her chair, listless, and waiting to die. The woman wore the same ebony gown with dark jewels decorating her sagging neck and thin wrists, as if she wished to be transported back to a time when she had the gift of youth and its advantage of innocent gaiety.
Daisy serenely stretched out her lean body on a blue velvet settee and fanned herself dramatically with a sakura hand fan spun from pure silk. Her fiancé, a man with an impressive stature, stood beside the portrait of the timeworn woman. Every so often he would rub the dark stubble along his chin and shake his head as if weighing the magnitude of a thought passing through his mind. He was a handsome man, wealthy and well-educated, but he was not an affectionate sort that women would find irresistibly endearing. Daisy was familiar with his quiet charisma and had become accustomed to it over time.
“It is quite remarkable how this painting arrests me each and every time I stay at Magnolia Heights,” Robert Lansing said, bemused. “I cannot imagine the emotion the artist must have been feeling when he painted the old woman. It would be wonderful to learn more about it.”
Robert turned to settle an introspective gaze upon his betrothed. Daisy was a sight to behold. Her appearance provoked appreciation from every person with whom she came into contact. She owned her splendid beauty, but remained humble in the face of constant admiration. Her dense locks shone with the color of a burnished garnet. Daisy often wore dresses in rich jeweled tones that made the coquelicot shade of her hair shimmer even more like a ruby gem under the starlight. Right now, she wore an emerald slip dress made of the finest satin, which matched the jade hue of her eyes. On her feet, gold pumps emphasized the long length of her slender legs. Even with only a specter of a smile on her face, she was fetching and somehow radiated a zest for life.
“You could always ask Heath how he procured the painting. Maybe he would know more of the artist’s story,” Daisy suggested, leaning her cheek against her hand. A metallic bracelet dangled around her wrist and when it caught the glint of the sun, the cuff shimmered like a band constructed of diamonds. The plastic bobble was not worth much money, but Daisy wore it richly.
“What a smart idea. Why did I not think of it? In any event, how did you sleep, ma cherie?” Robert asked Daisy.
Daisy flushed as she noticed that Robert took a long moment to admire his lovely fiancée as she slowly unfolded the elongated lines and shapes of her figure like a peacock unfurling its feathery plume. Her appearance always seemed to draw complimentary observation from him. This morning was not any different as Robert lit a cigarette and discoursed on the aesthetics of Magnolia Heights.
“I slept just fine. I know that you are concerned about the accommodations here, but I find them to be suitable for a brief sojourn,” Daisy replied. “We are still only staying for a little while, right?”
“Yes, ma cherie, just a brief stay.”
If only he were being honest and the stay was to remain brief, Daisy thought. Knowing Robert, he would extend their layover, because he would find some ridiculous reason to overstay the couple’s welcome. He had this undesirable habit whenever he visited the Hathaways. Robert valued time with his good friends, Heath and Anastasia, who were brother and sister. Being so fond of them, Daisy had the suspicion that he could not stand to tear himself away.
This was Daisy’s first time staying at Magnolia Heights in Grand Isle, and although she found the house and its owners delightful, she ached to return to New Orleans if for no other reason than she wanted to deliberate wedding plans with her mother. There were so many plans to make and Robert did not wish to partake in any of the formal preparation for their upcoming nuptials. Some men think wedding planning is for the women,Daisy told herself again and again. She encouraged herself to not take it too personally that Robert did not wish to be involved.
The drawing-room paneled doors swung open and in swept the young mademoiselle of the house. She was of a bonny appearance with sunlit bobbed hair and a fair complexion. Anastasia bore a joyful smile on her face as she greeted her guests most agreeably. She placed a tray of iced beverages upon an oval table. “Lovely morning, is it not?” Her lilac skirt swooshed about her ankles as she pirouetted on the kitten heel of her shoe. “I have been listening to the oriole’s song since dawn and it has filled me with a desire to stroll through the garden. Daisy, can I tempt you?”
Daisy sat up and affixed Anastasia with a lovely grin. Her slender arm muscles flexed as she extended her arms up and over her head. She sighed and said, “I suppose a short stroll outdoors would be nice. What about you, Robert?”
Robert shook his head as he blew out a final circle of smoke. Daisy watched as he then gratefully helped himself to a chilled glass of water with lemon. “No, darling, Heath and I have plans to smoke many cigars, play card games, and talk politics. My amusing little magpie should go on alone with the gentile Mademoiselle Hathaway.”
Daisy stiffened just a touch. How she hated when Robert characterized her by using child-like monikers. She was far from droll and loathed the very act of gossiping, which so many other women like her in their early twenties seemed to enjoy doing with amusement when they were left in community with one another. She would never show her displeasure with Robert in public, but perhaps when she had him alone Daisy would remind him how the patronizing nicknames offended her. She was to be his wife soon enough. He would have to learn to treat her more like his equal.
The outdoors felt wonderful as the sun’s warmth affectionately tickled Daisy’s skin. She immediately forgot her annoyance with Robert. Anastasia was an amiable sort of young lady who hooked her arm through Daisy’s like they were the best of friends. Together they walked nearly hand in hand. There was so much charm in the garden that Daisy felt kindled with energy. Tall trees created a shelter of suitable shade from the stark rays of the Southern sun. Airy clusters of wild blue blooms were strategically planted along the cobbled walkway. Butterfly bushes of various purple hues propagated in a copious bunch alongside violet hydrangeas, yellow potentilla, blushing plantain lily plants, and pink oleanders.
After a suitable ambling that satisfied both women, the pair situated themselves on wicker chairs under a canopied portico where clematis and wisteria dangled heavily along the archway to drop down like a flocculent rope ladder. Anastasia had donned a wide-brimmed floppy straw hat for the casual promenade and when she peeked out from under it, she had a mischievous gleam on her face. Her eyes were the color of early spring, mostly olive, but flecked with little traces of gold.
“What sort of things do you talk about with Robert when you two are alone?” Anastasia asked Daisy.
Daisy figured that the young woman was not wholly interested in learning about the striking couple staying in her home, but rather she was more invested in accumulating general knowledge about romantic relationships since she had yet to experience one of her own.
Daisy shrugged as her eyes followed a colorful swallowtail until it alighted upon a fragrant bloom. “We hold conversations about many topics. Usually whatever Robert wants to discuss. I doubt much of it would be of any interest to you.”
“Be an open book with me, Daisy. I have very few friends here in Grand Isle. It is always just me and Heath. I do crave intimate conversation with a woman,” Anastasia admitted.
“I wish that I could entertain you, Anastasia, but the fact is Robert and I are very much just like good friends. We can spend hours in contemplative silence with one another and it can feel quite perfect.”
Daisy admitted the truth to Anastasia. No need to mince words. Her relationship with Robert had been founded mostly upon a trusted friendship that they had developed as adolescents. Their fathers had been colleagues, so naturally Robert and Daisy were introduced into each other’s lives at a young age. Once they had grown up, it seemed logical for the pair to marry. Both Mr. Lansing and Mr. Delavigne were thrilled with the decision that their children had made about pledging a future of marital bliss to each other.
“Does this type of relationship satisfy you?” Anastasia asked. Her face had become flushed and her heavy-lidded eyes had taken on a quixotic appearance as she looked up at Daisy from under dark plumose lashes.
Daisy shifted her posture and nervously dandled the pearl necklace fastened around her neck. “Whatever do you mean to imply?”
“How ungracious of me!” Anastasia apologized. “It is just that I had always thought of marriages based on friendships as so utterly boring. Where is the passion in such an arrangement?”
Daisy stifled a disdainful frown and reminded herself that Anastasia was not deliberately provoking her. The young woman showed a simple naiveté in this branch of scholarship. “Companionship with another who lives with you in your home is far more enduring than physical passion. The ability to hold conversation about literature or religion or music helps a true partnership of marriage to succeed.”
“Sex does not play a role at all in a marriage’s success or failure? I was so certain that it must.” Anastasia’s eyes were round and wide, exclaiming disbelief with what Daisy was suggesting.
“When one has graying hair and brittle bones, a romp in the bedroom will hardly be a possibility,” Daisy countered as she adjusted the downy fabric of her dress around her curves.
“Does it not bother you that so much information regarding passion and sexual urges is kept secret from us women as if we are not permitted to have physical desires like men?” Anastasia pouted. “We always must prepare some excuse if we avail ourselves sexually. For example, we must say that an insatiable lover forces us onto our backs night and day, or a lover has a fetish which encourage us on our knees, so that he does not go off and seek the company of a different woman.”
“I had not thought about it much, but it is not my disposition to seek libidinous gratification. I am satisfied and I believe in my heart that Robert is as well,” Daisy said, almost starting to wish she had never agreed to the stroll with Anastasia. This was exactly the type of conversation that Daisy so often purposefully evaded. “Look, not every relationship boils down to the satisfaction of sexual urges.”
“Are you certain?” Anastasia asked the question with a hint of indignation. “There was an older woman who used to vacation here in Grand Isle. Her name was Madame Lucetta. She was of Italian descent and big-boned. I will tell you, quite truly, she was not attractive at all. But she would always have swarms of men following her around. I think my own father rather liked her a little. The rumor was that she serviced husbands for a minor fee if their wives were unyielding in the bedroom.”
In a tree not too far off, a cardinal settled upon a swaying branch and began to titter noisily. Daisy sat quietly now and listened to the bird’s strident song. Seconds later, as if frightened by some predator, it took off as swiftly as it had arrived. Daisy was not terribly concerned with regards to Robert’s faithfulness, but yet a seed of insecurity had just been planted in her mind. Could Robert be such a man who would seek out more fleshy satisfaction if she could not meet his carnal needs? She had always assumed that he derived his greatest pleasure from her beauty and wit. Robert, of course, pleased her with his charming good looks and knowledge on many different subjects.
No, they were both willing to wait to be married before exercising their curiosity about bedroom affairs. At least, this was the general impression Daisy received during the two years of their courtship.
“Robert and I are on the same page. We both like our relationship to be proper during the interim between betrothal and marriage.” Daisy was once again composed with familiar confidence. “Once we are married, circumstances will change.”
“Then you and Robert have never consummated your love for each other?” Anastasia continued to probe.
“No, we are waiting for marriage to share a bed,” Daisy explained. For some reason, the companionable aura the young women had briefly created under the tumbling clematises’ quiet shade now seemed infected. Daisy carefully balanced her words to avoid wounding Anastasia’s inquisitiveness. “If it is all the same to you, I would prefer to no further discuss my choices in regards to me and Robert’s relationship.”
“Very well, Daisy, I will not pry any further. However, I must share a story with you. I have read Heath’s diary.” Anastasia gleefully giggled and plucked a purple petunia from a terra-cotta planting pot beside her feet. She pulled the petals apart and twirled the stem as if it were a garden fairy’s parasol.
“How did you come to read your brother’s diary?” Daisy asked.
Anastasia stroked her knee with the thin green stalk. “It lay open upon his bed. Oh, Daisy, do not look at me like I have broken a law! I know that it was quite wicked of me, but Heath and I have always been extremely close. He has kept almost nothing from me, so imagine my despair when I learned that he was keeping a romantic affair so hush-hush?”
“Is Heath not permitted to have secrets?”
“No, not ever!” Anastasia put a hand to her breast. “I am his only living relative. If he was so happy with a partner, why did he not tell me about her? Daisy, you should read the way he transmits on paper about this woman. He describes her as ‘the most vivid of les fleurs in his garden’ and ‘the most delicious drop of water to ever dribble down his throat.’ Indeed, this woman must be remarkable.”
Daisy came to feel reluctant about continuing along the salacious course of the conversation. She was not certain that being privy to a man’s most private thoughts was appropriate given that she had a nearly nonexistent relationship with the gentleman at the center of the discussion. Her mouth became dry. “Anastasia, do not read your brother’s diary again. In time, he will introduce you to this flame he waxes so poetically about.”
“I am afeard that perchance he will not, and I will never learn the identity of the only woman to have ever claimed my brother’s tender heart. I must tell you, Daisy, my brother’s heart is quite tender and if ever a woman was to break it apart, well, I do not know what would become of Heath.”
Daisy almost laughed at her companion’s dramatic display of worriment for her brother, and she forgot all of her earlier vexation. “Let us go back. I think the summer sun is burning away some of your good sense. I, for one, could really go for a drink.