“You may leave me.”
Lady Hypatia Montague Bartlett-Mobb smooths her bejeweled hands over her cashmere dressing gown and averts her gaze as her lady’s maid curtsies and departs for the evening. Hypatia cherishes these hard-won moments alone in her boudoir; it’s so difficult to find time for herself between the demands of running an estate of such size and managing a husband like hers. Not to mention the on-going schemes and adventures of the Neptune Society…and the incubus Hypatia is ever more convinced dwells within the shadows of Mobb Manor.
As a lady of means and virtue, she will never express the things she thinks in the privacy of her suite; she is above such impropriety. Tawdry manners have no place in her world, nor in Her Majesty’s England. Therefore it must be an incubus; nothing less than the very devil could persuade the Lady Hypatia to salacious action.
At least, not these days.
She spares a thought, as ever, for her beloved manservant Robert who championed her so fierce and fearless through all the greatest terrors of her life. He’s below her, certainly: In station, in education, and even spiritually; what working man can understand noblesse oblige? What manservant can think of a broader and more complex hierarchy of justice than service to his lady?
Terrible lust awakes in her belly. She will not sleep this night without certain relief. A spontaneous paroxysm will quell the incubus-driven hysteria that troubles her private hours.
So she turns to the well-worn letters kept in the secret compartment of her favored jewel box. Red silk ribbon binds the small stack of buttery-soft envelopes, each addressed to Venus of Albion. That is, in Hypatia’s most unknowable heart, the identity she has claimed for herself in these middle years. Each of these missives was sent to a most discreet solicitor in London and smuggled to Hypatia with great care; no one would believe Hypatia to be under the sway of such a venial smut-peddler as the Colorado Cowgirl, and she must never give them proof otherwise.
Double and triple checking that all her doors are locked, her tread silent and her hand on the knobs feather-light, giving nothing away, Hypatia moves about la chambre à coucher, the train of her robe dragging lightly over Persian carpets and polished mahogany. She feels her power in these moments as well as her vulnerability: She is a magnificent ship under full sail, burdened with might and glory, and if she will be sunk, it will like as not be by her own mistakes of captaining.
Settling on the chaise longue at the foot of her great poster bed, she lounges against the upholstered armrest and sighs before trailing her fingers over the cherished letters. Then, as if drawing tarot, she shuffles them and chooses one at seeming random.
This will be her bedmate tonight, her boon companion.
Ah, and it is her favorite of all Colorado Cowgirl’s tales of New World debauchery in the far wilds of the newly recognized Colorado Territory. Though Hypatia is as cosmopolitan as any fine lady of England, the Colorado Territory is on the very edge of Creation, in a place as lost to God’s light as any.
That excites her unconscionably.
She shouldn’t think it, shouldn’t engage with it, and yet… She opens the letter and reads the unschooled hand whose words she long ago committed to memory. These pages exist forever in the liminal spaces at the verges of her mind, unacknowledged and inescapable.
The beastie’s eight feet if an inch, hirsute, brutal, and yet there’s about him an air of humanity. Those big eyes hold remarkable intelligence. I’ve loved many a horse and hound, but not this way. No critter could make me feel as this two-legged monster does, and I can only give in to his swift, ravishing advance.
Hypatia’s cheeks flush hot, and though she’d never admit it, faint perspiration beads at her hairline, caught by the Valenciennes lace of her nightcap. Her belly tightens and flutters, and that abominable pulsing drums in her nether regions. She reads faster and faster, bending all her considerable intellect and will toward the single-minded pursuit of forbidden pleasures.
Imagination flaring bright as Foucault’s mirror, she’s transported. She transcends the fragile trap of the flesh, eclipsing all that could be seen or known within her fettered world of politesse and wealth. In the beyond, there is a Bigfoot waiting for her, wild and free among a field of alien stars. He smells of horses and saddle leather and tobacco, the way Robert always used to smell, and their frenetic coupling carries her through her spasms of joyous, poisoned satisfaction until she sinks back into the delicate female shell that houses all her incomparable spirit.
Then she puts away her letters, mindful to be silent, mindful always to be discreet; she is Lady Hypatia Montague Bartlett-Mobb, and she does not make mistakes. Soon the doors are unlocked with none the wiser. She snuffs the candles and retires to bed, grateful for the blessed lassitude that comes at once when her weary, sated body slips between fine linen sheets.
And so she drifts toward dreams, praying with her final conscious thoughts that she not betray herself with a misspoken word in sleep nor an unbecoming nocturnal repeat of that blighted incubus’s temptations. For a scant moment as she slips under, she remembers those fellows of the Neptune Society who preferred to finance that scoundrel Fydaq’s quest over securing her precious peace of mind.
They will regret it when her belly distends with the get of the cosmic Bigfoot.
It will be too late.