Married once to a Baron who needed a young bride to bear him an heir, Cordelia Astley found herself in an untenable situation after his death until Philip Stanley, the Marquess of Dunbury, asked her to be his bride. She knows he didn't marry her for love, but he was her white knight and, once they're married, she finds herself falling in love with him. It would be a fairy tale ending if it wasn't for her stepdaughter Gabrielle.
Having observed his cousins Hugh and Eleanor find happiness in their respective marriages, Philip doesn't see why his marriage should be any different. Especially since he managed to find a giving, submissive, delightful woman that drew him like no woman had ever done before. Everything would be perfect, except that she allows her stepdaughter to denigrate her and manipulate her. His method of correction for both Cordelia and Gabrielle isn't what either lady expected, but Cordelia finds confidence in his support and care of her... if only she would put him first instead of Gabrielle, Philip's life would be everything he'd hoped.
A sexy spanking tale of desire, passion and love, Philip's Rules is the first of a new series spin-off of the Domestic Discipline Quartet (you do not need to read the quartet to enjoy this book).
Philip's Rules is an 80,000 word standalone novel set in Victorian times with a HEA and contains domestic discipline, spanking, birching, paddling, anal play and sex, the exciting danger of illicit situations, and some seriously delicious alpha men.
A knock at the door had Philip turning his head and Marshall growling under his breath as the stiffened fabric of the cravat was pulled in an incorrect manner.
"Come in," Philip called.
His butler opened the door and stepped inside. "Mr. Hood has arrived, my lord."
A wave of relief flowed over Philip. "Well I suppose if you've already let him in the door..."
With just a hint of a smile, the butler stepped to the side, allowing Felix to enter. Third son of the Viscount Hood, Felix had no honorary title and was a mere 'mister,' however thanks to his investments in the railways, he was also a very wealthy mister. His advice had also made Philip a tidy sum of money, which had saved the coffers of the Dunbury estates when he'd been new to the title. They were the best of friends, and Philip had begun to doubt that Felix would arrive in time to stand beside him.
"Cutting it a bit fine, aren't you?" he asked his friend as Felix came in, standing and looking Philip over with a judgmental eye. Whereas Philip relied on Marshall to keep him in the current style, Felix was something of a clotheshorse and one of the trendsetters among the young men in their set. With his striking black hair and eyes so dark that they looked black as well, not too many could pull off the same colors and styles that Felix could, and many couldn't afford the level of his tailoring either.
Felix snorted at Philip's admonishment. "Well I could have done with more notice." He gave Philip a somewhat exasperated look. "I was in Scotland you know, with no idea that you'd have some hare-brained idea about getting leg-shackled. As it was, I had to leave a whole set of baggage behind."
"Oh the horror," Philip mocked, grinning. Felix always traveled with twice as many clothes as he needed anyway. Looking at him today, in his dark plum waistcoat, navy trousers and superfine jacket, no one would think he'd been rushed in his dressing. "I didn't know I'd be getting married when you left for Scotland or I would have told you."
"So how'd she do it?" Felix asked, settling himself down in the chair across from Philip. Some men would sprawl comfortably in such a casual setting, but never Felix. He was never less than perfectly presentable.
"Trick you into proposing, of course," Felix said, raising his eyebrow at Philip. "Unless of course, you were caught in a compromising situation, although I hadn't heard anything to the effect. But I have been in Scotland."
To Philip's amusement, Marshall shot Felix a dirty look. Most of the time his best friend and his valet got on admirably, but his staff had been quite entranced by Cordelia, and Felix's insinuations had apparently struck a defensive nerve in the man. Even more amusing, he felt quite pleased by it.
"She didn't trick me and she hasn't been the least bit compromised."
Well. Mostly. There had been some very passionate kisses exchanged in the past few weeks, but Philip had conducted himself admirably, considering how easy it would have been to sweep her away and... Remembering where he was and seeing how closely Felix was watching him, Philip shut down that line of thought. Marshall gave Felix a superior kind of look as he finished off Philip's cravat and went to get his jacket.
"Well, I did hear she was a widow, so it would be hard to compromise her."
"A very respectable widow," Philip said. Almost too respectable. Keeping their encounters to kisses and caresses had done a number on his willpower, but it had been worth it. In some ways, Cordelia was quite skittish. While she wasn't an innocent, he didn't think she'd gotten much in the way of experience in the old Baron's marriage bed either. Open-mouthed kisses had shocked her the first time, but she was quite eager with them now. There was a passionate houri buried under her respectability, one which he was looking forward to unleashing tonight.
"Dear god," Felix exclaimed, rolling his eyes. "You've become a romantic."
A small smile curved Philip's face as he held out his arms so that Marshall could help him into his jacket. "Perhaps a bit. You'll understand when you meet her."
Although Felix made a derogatory noise, Philip could tell that his friend was highly intrigued. Despite the fact that Philip had shared his thoughts on marriage, after talking with Hugh and Edwin, Felix had remained unconvinced that Philip was serious - or that he would be able to find what he sought.
"All ready, my lord," Marshall said, smoothing down the lapels of Philip's jacket and giving him a last once over. "May I extend the congratulations of the staff? We're very much looking forward to you and your ladyship's return this evening."
"Very good, thank you, Marshall," Philip said with a nod of dismissal. The staff couldn't possibly be looking forward to their return more than he was. What had possessed him to agree to an afternoon wedding rather than a morning? There was still at least half an hour before it would be time to leave for the church. Ah yes... he'd been hoping to give the reprobate in front of him more time to arrive.
Seeing Philip's gaze landing back on him, Felix grinned. "You're looking very good, old chap. I'm glad to see Marshall's keeping you in tip-top shape."
"As if he would allow anything less," Philip said with a snort. He gave himself one last glance in the mirror before turning away. Although he knew he was good-looking, he wasn't given to Felix's kind of vanity. "I have a favor to ask of you."
"Oh-ho," Felix said, his eyebrows rising. Philip was not the type to ask for favors, usually preferring to do things on his own. "And on your wedding day no less. How can I refuse?"
Ignoring his friend's joking sarcasm, Philip pressed onward. Today was too important for Felix's levity and he wanted to impress the seriousness of the situation on him. "I need you to keep an eye on Cordelia's stepdaughter, Gabrielle today and keep her out of trouble."
Felix groaned. "You want me to baby-sit some schoolroom miss? What, you couldn't employ a governess to mind her?"
"Unfortunately, Miss Astley is too old for a governess," Philip said, a trifle grimly. "Gabrielle is nineteen and about to embark on her first Season. Cordelia and I will be postponing our honeymoon until the Season is over."
"Hoping to get the stepdaughter leg-shackled so you can have some privacy with your bride?" Felix asked with amusement, but his curiosity was obviously piqued.
Although Philip didn't want to denigrate his soon-to-be bride in anyway, even obliquely, he decided it was best to be entirely frank with Felix. The man couldn't be too prepared to deal with Gabrielle, as far as Philip was concerned. It was his private opinion that Gabrielle was the main reason that Cordelia hadn't received any offers of marriage before his, in the years since the Baron's death.
The little hussy had even had the nerve to throw herself at him when they were introduced, despite the fact that she'd just been told that he and Cordelia were engaged. He could only count his blessings that she hadn't been at the house party where he'd met Cordelia and had been on a trip with a friend instead. Making Cordelia's life more difficult seemed to be Gabrielle's main pursuit in life, despite Cordelia doing everything she could to make Gabrielle's life easier.
"If anyone will have her," Philip said. "She's quite beautiful, but she's a viper, and she's wretchedly jealous of Cordelia. It comes out at the worst times and in the worst ways."
"Make her dowry high enough and there will be plenty who don't care how waspish her tongue is."
"It's fit for a duke's daughter," Philip said quite seriously. Felix let out a low whistle, seeing the grave expression on Philip's face. "But for today, I just need to ensure that she does not cause a scene and that Cordelia has no reason for upset."
"Then I'm your man," Felix said with a loose salute. Checking his fob watch, he got to his feet. "We should be off, since you're apparently in earnest over this woman."
"Bloody right," Philip said with a grin, a little bubble of excitement filling him. All his life he'd thought he would be apprehensive over his marriage, but the truth was that he couldn't wait to make Cordelia his.