Tuesday, April 17, 2007

My Cherie Amour


Chapter One

Claude Bonnet had been a simple sailor. He never had illusions of grandeur, never wanted more than his simple lot in life. He had been perfectly content with his meager salary as a deck hand on a regular cargo ship that traveled from Savannah to New Orleans on to various ports in the Caribbean. That was before he met Agathe Durand. Many in Baton Rouge society considered her to be quite on the shelf and homely to boot, but what Agathe lacked in looks, she more than made up for in cunning and determination. Bullying a local boy into marriage was not an option, they knew her too to be the shrew she was and steered clear of her. She would have to find a husband from somewhere other than Baton Rouge. It was a stroke of luck for her when on one of many family trips to New Orleans to visit less well to do relatives she ran smack into a friend of a distant cousin-Claude Bonnet.

While many looking for a husband would insist on some sort of achievements, at the very least, money enough to support a family, Agathe did not have that option. She persuaded her father to buy them a small plantation along the Mississippi conveniently between New Orleans and Baton Rogue including a fair amount of his own slave stock; she taught Claude not only how to run the plantation, but also how to use their location between the two major cities to turn a tidy profit in trade goods.

The tiny plantation of Bellemere grew prosperous over the years. Agathe spent a great deal of time in Baton Rouge with her head held high. She had married beneath her, but now she was richer than the merciless bitches that had sneered at her behind her back. She loved flaunting her wealth in front of those who, in her mind, had wronged her. Life was perfect-almost. The one thing Agathe had not been able to succeed in doing was giving her husband a son.

In the beginning of their marriage, Claude had been attentive. He visits her room nightly, treating her with gentleness she would not have expected from simple sailor. But the months ran into years, and still she could not conceive. Claude’s visits began to decrease, slowly, but definitively. After five years of marriage, he ceased to darken her bedroom doorway. He still treated her with the utmost respect, though Agathe secretly thought he should be a hell of a lot more grateful. After all, she made him what he was, a wealthy landowner, the crème of Creole society, didn’t she? All in all she could not complain. He allowed her to go into town for weeks at a time, even buying fashionable townhouses in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. So what if she could not have a child? Perhaps it was for the best. Claude was not exactly descended from aristocracy as she and her family were. He had served his purpose; he was her husband, ensuring her place in society. She would never have tolerated being delegated as a poor, pitied spinster. He had more than he ever could have hoped for. He should be thanking her on bended knee.

Had Claude been aware of his wife’s train of thought, he have would probably been amused. He knew Agathe believed she had convinced him to marry her using promises of wealth as persuasion, but in truth it was Monsieur Gasper Durand, his good wife’s father who had given him the incentive. For marrying the painfully plain spinster, he had received his true heart’s desire, Amélie As beautiful as Agathe was plain, Amélie was the product of Monsieur Durand and a woman who had been his slave before she became his mistress. Amélie was everything Agathe was not. Her caramel colored skin glowed with health and vitality, turquoise eyes twinkled with laughter, sultry lips begged to be kissed. She was the reason Claude had given up life at sea; it had been thankless true, but nothing Agathe had to offer could have made him give up the adventure. But for Amélie he would give.

Claude spared very little thought for his wife while she was at Bellemere, and much less when she was away. Amélie was for intents and purposes the mistress of Bellemere. It was she who convinced Claude and his cousin, Luc to have all of the slaves on an incentive program, where they could receive their freedom after five years. Agathe had never noticed the high rate of turnover. Most of the newly freed slaves went north, but some stayed and worked for a decent salary. Some families received large four bedroom cabins and worked as sharecroppers under the protection of Bellemere. It was this that made Bellemere so prosperous. The workers gave their all because they were not abused or misused and hard work was always rewarded. Amélie had a natural gift with numbers, so she handled all of the plantations accounts and finances.

Agathe believed she was the brain behind the remarkable wealth Bellemere had begun to accumulate, but in reality it was Amélie , with a shrewd business sense learned at her father’s knee. Monsieur Durand was a pragmatist; the world was a cruel enough place, but it was damn near impossible for his half-breed children. All six of the sons born of his mistress, Solange, were successful businessmen in France. Their only daughter chose Claude Bonnet, but she would not go without her own skills. Amélie was everything Claude could ever want, just as Monsieur Durand had planned.

Claude and Agathe had been married for seven years before Agathe found out about her husband’s lover. What had started as a few weeks away here and there had gradually progressed to just about all of her time spent away from Bellemere. She was in Baton Rouge during the rainy season, New Orleans for the winter and at her father’s largest plantation in Natchez with the majority of the extended family (excluding Monsieur Durand, of course) for the entire summer. It just so happened on a jaunt from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, the steamboat was traveling a little too close to shore and ran aground. Agathe considered it providence that they just happened to be a few miles from Bellemere. She imperiously informed the hassled captain she would be spending the night at her plantation and if by chance the steamboat was towed out of its current predicament, he was to wait for her return. She was after all, the only daughter of the richest man in all of New Orleans.

After hiring a sad old, musty carriage that broke down at least five times on the way, Agathe finally made it to Bellemere after full dark. There were no houseboys to assist her luggage from the dilapidated carriage, there were no lanterns lighted outside, the front door was unlocked and unguarded. After imposing on the elderly Cajun who drove her home to drag her luggage into the foyer, Agathe made her way up the winding staircase to her husband’s suite determined to get answers. There were no servants anywhere in the house, which was totally unacceptable. She was going to have to set the house to rights in the morning, but for now Claude would have to bring her luggage upstairs and go find Luc to have him bring a ladies maid immediately.

Agathe sailed through the sitting room that adjoined Claude’s bedroom in high dungeon. This entire situation was too much to be borne. Why she had ever expected a peasant to care properly for all she had given him she would never know. She had just swung the bedroom door open prepared to wake her errant husband when the words died on her tongue. There on the huge four-poster bed was her husband kissing some slave woman with all the passion he had never once showed her, while Luc had his head buried between her shapely thighs. Claude was caressing her rather full breasts as the woman whimpered into his mouth.

As much as she wished she could, Agathe could not turn away. She was both repulsed and fascinated by the scene unfolding before her. Her heart sped in her chest, her mouth felt dry, and an uncomfortable moist heat began to pool between her legs. The woman had begun to moan in earnest as Claude moved from her lips to trail kisses all over the woman’s face, down her neck, to suckle the nipple on one breast while his hand moved to pinch the nipple of the other. Agathe watched in fascination at the way her husband’s fingers alternately squeezed and rolled the chocolate protrusion while nipping and suckling the other as if it were some delectable treat. The woman was thrusting her hips into Luc’s face in earnest while her head rolled back and forth on the pillow, waves of silky black hair spilling across the virginal white of the crisp cotton sheets. Her gasps and moans increased in pace and tempo until she screamed clutching Claude’s head as she did so.

Luc moved up the woman’s body, kissing a trail from her thighs to her stomach as Claude lay on his back, pulling her to a sitting position on top of him. Were they done? But no, Claude lifted the woman up slightly as Luc reached between Claude’s legs to clasp his impossibly hard manhood placing it at the woman’s opening. Claude had never been so eager for her, Agathe thought peevishly while pressing her thighs together tightly. The achy heat was becoming unbearable. Never in her life had Agathe felt the feverish feelings now coursing through her body. She had to press a hand to the V where her legs met, trying to rub the throbbing ache away.

Claude was moaning as the woman rocked gently back and forth on his lap. Luc was kneeling behind her rubbing her backside while whispering encouragement, while Claude was telling the woman how beautiful she was and how much-

He loved her?! How dare he?! One did not love a slave! Only the most ignorant of women did not know that gentlemen often relieved their baser needs in the slave cabins. The point was to keep it in the damned cabins! Perhaps this could not wait until morning. She should take care of this right this second! Squaring her shoulders, Agathe prepared to march forward when Luc parted the woman’s backside and slipped his root inside her nether regions.

Agathe could not withhold the gasp that escaped from her gaping mouth. The trio on the bed remained blissfully unaware of her presence. Their moans increased, as did the tempo of their glistening, writhing bodies. Passionate kisses passed indiscriminately between them, hands caressed, kneaded, pulled and plucked. Their groans and sighs mingled in the most beautiful symphony she had ever heard. This was not some sweaty lustful coupling. She could not help but admit that to herself, though she would never utter such a thing out loud. The love between the three of them was palpable with every touch, every kiss. Never had anyone wanted her the way they wanted one another. No one had ever looked at her the way Luc and Claude looked at the woman between them.

Agathe wished it was as evil and sordid as any decent woman would have thought seeing the three lovers; just hearing of such a thing was beyond the pale. But she knew what she was witnessing was the one thing all of her money could never buy her and that was love. As she backed away slowly unsure where she would go or what she would do, she caught a sound she had heard in many homes but never her own. It was coming from the adjoining room. The same damnable room she had vacated at Claude’s suggestion that she take a larger suite on the other side of the house. At the time, it seemed perfectly reasonable-she could not conceive so there was no reason for her to “do her duty” as there would be no fruits for her labor. But now she knew the real reason. He had installed his mistress, his Negro mistress, in her home! In a room no slave had the right to sleep!

The noises emitting from the bed began to rise from soft, sensual moans and sighs to become frantic gasps, grunts and whimpers. Agathe was transfixed as Luc and Claude slammed their hips up into the curvaceous woman between them in perfect tandem with urgency, as if seeking something. Agathe’s hand was drawn to her own woman’s place of their own accord as she rubbed at the agitating ache that only seemed to grow worse as the passion between the three lovers intensified. Her own breath was coming in pants in concert with the sounds emanating from the room.

The rubbing through the clothes was not enough! Without a thought, she lifted her skirts to stuff her hands down her drawers. At any other time, had she encountered the sticky wetness at her core she would have been horrified but now the dampness was a blessing as she massaged herself in time with the men’s stokes. Agathe could not remember ever feeling so very hot, so deliciously wicked. Her skin felt taut, entirely too tight for her body. Leaning against the door she bit her bottom lip as she twisted her painfully rigid nipple the way she had witnessed Claude do to his lover. Her finger slipped into the place Claude had once placed his manhood as her thumb grazed the tiny nub on top causing her to moan softly.

What were these feelings? Her heart beat furiously against her chest as she watched the increased tempo from the bedroom with half closed lids. Why had Claude never managed to inspire anything other than pain and embarrassment in her while he obviously inspired this woman to participate in the most degrading of acts? Another finger slid to join the first inside her as Agathe thrust them in earnest, twisting a little to increase the friction. Her opposite hand squeezed one breast, then the other revealing in the tiny shockwaves it sent down her back. Oh, but it felt so good! Claude suddenly slammed upward with a harsh groan, grapping the woman’s hips as the same time Luc rammed her backside, his buttocks squeezing tight against her. The woman howled, but it was anything but pain. Agathe felt a wave of the most intense pleasure she had ever felt crash over her body as she bore down mercilessly on her fingers. The added sensation of her thumb rubbing in circles over her little nubbin had her seeing stars. Sagging against the door Agathe’s gaze slid back to the bed. The woman was now reclining on thick white pillows while her lovers caressed her fevered body. Oh what Agathe would not give to have hands gently soothing her naked flesh!

She had to get Claude back! Gathering herself Agathe quietly slipped from the room and down the hall toward her wing of the house with new purpose. Claude was her husband! She would see to it the little slut in his bed was sold off immediately and that Luc would understand any carousing would be done outside of the big house. She would obviously have to spend far more time here at Bellemere and of course, Claude would have to be kept on a tighter leash. Perhaps she had yet to conceive due to lack of passion, but now that she had a general idea of how it was done that would be rectified. Agathe refused to contemplate a single night she would be without at least some of what she witnessed tonight. It was her right after all. And if Claude needed to invite Luc in their marriage bed to be as …vigorous as he had been tonight – well, she would just have to endure it. She refused to admit that the delightful tingle racing down her spine stemmed from sweet anticipation. Once again she felt her skin grow tight and hot. Yes, just as soon as she composed herself she would straighten this little situation out.

Of course there would be no water for her to freshen up, but that was neither here nor there. There was just enough light to straighten her graying hair back into a severe bun at the base of her neck. Smoothing her dress as best she could Agathe took deep breaths to clam her pounding heart. Now she understood what she was missing. Most women of her class would have never witnessed the erotic scene she had been privy to. Most would never be so bold as to demand such things from their men. But Agathe could and she most definitely would. She was not some weak-kneed twit who did not know how to provide order to her own life. She would take every pleasure her husband had to give, even if that meant she had to welcome his cousin also. With her back upright erect with determination, Agathe marched with purpose down the hallway straight into her husband’s room.

“Claude! You will dismiss this…”

Agathe stood frozen in horror. The woman she had written off as some nameless half-breed slave was anything but. Standing in a vibrant green silk robe that she knew cost a fortune, cuddling a baby in her arms while Claude’s limbs surrounded both mother and child. Luc was nowhere to be seen. Both heads turned toward her as soon as she stomped in the room. The one thing Agathe had always held as a physical vanity was her eyes. Pure blue/green in shade, her eyes were the only genetic gift from the heartbreakingly beautiful people of her father’s side of the family. Staring back at her as if she were the intruder was a pair of eyes that mirrored her own

One did not grow up in Creole society without knowing of the Plaçage system. Although proper women did not discuss it, nor did they even acknowledge its existence, it was a simple fact of life. This woman was the very image of her father, though whereas he was masculinity personified; this woman was all that was feminine. Where Agathe was sturdy, solid yet hopelessly flat the woman before her was softly rounded in all the places a woman should be. Agathe had not noticed how petite the woman was until now, standing in the sheltering arms of her six foot plus husband as if she belonged there. Her dark honeyed skin was flushed, but from embarrassment or her very recent exercises, Agathe could not say. The woman’s eyes, every bit as clear and pure as her own were framed with impossibly thick, long black lashes, matching the wild masses of soft curls that fell from her head to her hips. She was a dark golden/bronze version of the portrait that hung over the main sitting room mantle at the family mansion in Natchez; her very own grandmother.

“I will have her out of my house,” Agathe growled at the disgusting specimen that was her husband. The fire that now rushed through her body had nothing to do with desire or need this time. How could he? How could he bring that daughter of a whore into her house?!

Ma amore, give me a moment,” Claude murmured to his lover dropping a kiss on the top of her head, then leaning down to kiss the baby in her arms.

Agathe fumed. The man actually had the audacity to caress the creature’s cheek as he placed a soft lingering kiss on her pouty lips. Even as she turned to disappear through the connecting bedroom door his hands loitered as if loath to let her go. Her vision went red as she witnessed the look of tenderness as he watched his whore. With a snarl Agathe raised her hand to slap the look off her face, only to have it seized in an iron grip before connecting.

“What are you doing here Agathe?”

All the blind rage boiling just under her skin a mere second before was quickly turning to ice as Claude turned frosty blue eyes towards her. All traces of affection and love wiped away as if they had never been. A muscle jerked in his square jaw filling Agathe with the ridiculous urge to caress its hard strength. Taking a deep breath she girded her loins for the fight she saw coming. Strange, Claude had never so much as argued with her before.

“This is my home!” Agathe hissed through her teeth trying in vain to yank her wrist out of his grasp. “After all I have done for you! After all I have given you, you dare bring some half-breed here?!”

Claude dropped the offending woman’s wrist as if it burned. He should have foreseen the possibility of something like this happening, but Agathe never came to Bellemere anymore. He had foolishly believed they would quietly lead their own lives as long as he kept Bellemere and the investments thriving. He seriously doubted she had any idea how wealthy he had made her. Monsieur Durand had been grooming him far longer than she realized. He had wanted to marry Amélie , he would have taken her to France where they could live as husband and wife freely, but the old man had convinced him otherwise. He could live in relative peace and prosperity here, being able to give Amélie an easy life. It had worked beautifully thus far.

Scrubbing his hands over his face Claude willed himself to calm down. It wasn’t Agathe’s fault she had stumbled across the very intimate scene between Luc, Amélie and himself. Although Luc had not been part of the equation originally, the three had grown extremely close over the years in blessed isolation. That closeness had simply grown to something else. Agathe would never understand it; he really didn’t expect her to. He should have taken more precautions. He could have had someone on some kind of night shift. But because the only visitor Bellemere ever had was Monsieur Durand, there had been no point. Half the workers at the plantation were freed slaves at this point who worked for an honest wage. They simply didn’t run things here the way other plantations did. The household staff all had cottages close to the house that Agathe probably hadn’t noticed yet. She would probably pop a blood vessel when she found out. But the simple truth was Bellemere did not belong to Agathe. She had a substantial amount of wealth, yet she owned no property. Almost all of the assets he had acquired over the years were either in his name, one of his children’s (from Amélie) or Amélie’s. Agathe would never want for anything, but other than the town homes in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, nothing was hers. With a sigh he considered the now pacing, fuming woman in front of him. She had been caught in the crossfire, he must remember that.

“And as it is a decent home, or was until you brought your whore here! I cannot imagine what you could have been thinking!” Agathe raged. “If you must lay with dogs, install her and her whelp in a discreet house in New Orleans or Baton Rouge like everyone else! This will…”

A sharp slap across the cheek stopped her tirade cold. Clasping her hand to her flaming cheek, Agathe could do no more than gape wide-eyed at the man she had always considered acquiescent, weak.

“You will never speak of Amélie, or my children in such a manner!” Claude thundered.

Children? Agathe felt her knees give way as she sank to the ground. Of course, he went to find the one thing she could not give him. Pain sliced through Agathe making it difficult to breathe. Tears burned her eyes as she struggled to take it all in, rationalizing in her somewhat warped brain. He had gone to her father’s bastard. Surely that meant something? Surely this entire episode was some kind quest for progeny.

“I understand your anger, Agathe, but this house happens to be Amélie’s home and I will not have you maligning her in her own home. You have your life, let me live mine!”

Agathe heard none of it. Her mind raced with possibilities. This was not a man to be placed on the shelf hidden away on the plantation. They would be the rage of society. He would have to accompany her to New Orleans of course, leaving the management of the place to Luc. They would have to take an “extended trip” someplace far, France perhaps, in order to come here collect the child, then come back in a year or so, claiming the child legitimately. She would even consider allowing the woman to come back in a year or to for the express purpose of bearing them another child. Yes, yes, it could work.

“I will claim the child,” Agathe announced regally. “I will arrange it with Papa to send us off somewhere for a year or so, we will come back blessed with a child.”

Agathe rose excitedly clapping her hands together. Claude took a cautious step back, alarmed by the unnatural light in her eyes. She began practically skipping around the room in her excitement.

“It will be perfect! Perfect!” She turned to Claude, ignoring the way he flinched away from her touch. “Oh, I forgive you. You wanted a child, and naturally, you would want your child to a part of me in any way you could. Poor, poor Claude. I have not been a good wife to at all have I? Well, that will all change now, I daresay! I have left you out here all alone to rot. How neglectful of me. You must pack! You will of course accompany me to New Orleans. We will leave from there. Luc can arrange for the child and its nurse to bring her to town in a couple of days, after we have made our appearances…”

“Agathe!”

Agathe looked up from her fantasy dream to her beautiful husband, who had captured both of her hands and was holding them close to his chest.

“Yes, Claude?”

She smiled up at him with such hope, such insanity. Strange how she almost looked beautiful in her psychotic break. He bitterly regretted what he was about to tell her. Would it push her over the edge?

“I will not be going with you to New Orleans,” he told her gently. “And you will not be coming back here.”

He simply didn’t understand, she thought.

“Claude, I told you...”

“No Agathe,” Claude said firmly, “it is you who does not understand. I love Amélie, she is my life. Bellemere is not your home, it never was. Your father gave Bellemere to me. Actually, to Amélie and me. I am sorry we did not explain the full details of this…marriage of ours sooner, but we thought to spare you.”

Agathe felt icy fingers of dread dance down her spine. What did he mean his and that woman’s? Explain the details of their marriage? What was he saying?

“I don’t understand,” she whispered, terrified that he would explain further. She did not want to here this, she would not accept this. “Whatever are you talking about? You belong to me…”

“I belong to Amélie. She is the reason I agreed to marry you. I had been-negotiating with your father for her for some time before you…before it was decided this situation would be for the best.”

“Surely you can’t mean that!” She steeped back, shaking her head. No! No! No! He was bought and paid for to be her husband! She was her father’s heir, his legitimate child not some by-blow from a slave! “It is the child,” she babbled desperately. “I told you we would deal with that. It appears almost white, surely no one would ever know. I will arrange everything. I told you that!”

“Children, Agathe! Amélie and I have children. And the baby is a girl, her name is Cherie.”

“Children?” A loud ringing sounded in Agathe’s ears, her head was throbbing. This is not happening! She was entitled to this man. He was hers! She was a member of the elite of Creole society! How could prefer some half-breed whore to her, no matter how fertile she was? And her father was involved with this gross injustice? Sinking into a chair Agathe stared blindly into space. What was she supposed to do?

She must have said it out loud because Claude answered her thought.

“You go one with your life as usual. What are you doing here now anyway?”

In daze she explained about the disabled steamboat and her trip to New Orleans. In her head she searched for solutions to this horrible mess the betraying men in her life had made. She could not go to her father. Any mention of his other life with his placée would only get her slapped. No decent woman was supposed to know about that. Maybe she could kidnap the whore and sell her to a whorehouse in Storyville. Unfortunately, her father was the richest man in the region, which meant he had immense power. No one would dare lift a finger against him for fear or horrible retribution.

All she had left was her pride. With her shattered heart piercing her chest with every move she rose gracefully to her feet and headed for the door. She had to have time to think.

“Send someone to my room to see to my comfort,” she threw imperially over her shoulder. “I simply cannot deal with this right now. I will let you know what I decide later.”

Claude shook his head at the defeated woman. He really had not meant to hurt her. Hell he wasn’t aware she had a heart to hurt. Agathe had always been a proud, cold woman. In the beginning when he had tried to have at least a peaceful, amicable marriage if nothing else she had respond with orders, demands and complaints. He had breathed a sigh of relief whenever her “trips” away from the plantation had become more and more frequent until they finally became permanent. Still, this could not be easy for her.

However, when all was said and done he would not have her here upsetting Amélie, Of all the players involved in this base little play, she was the most innocent. Her and the children.

“Agathe, I am sorry.”

She turned around and stared down her nose at the handsome little nobody she had lifted far above his station in life only to be slapped down like some wayward dog. “As well you should be,” she sneered, unable to keep the spite out of her voice.

“You don’t understand,” Claude replied every inch the Creole gentleman she had believed herself to have created. “I am sorry you will have to be gone tomorrow, disabled steamboat or no. You can wait onboard with the other passengers.”

“People know I have a plantation here!” She fumed in reply. “Why I would not be surprised to find a few visitors here if they cannot fix the blasted boat by tomorrow! You will have to just keep you’re…”

Agathe’s words died on her lips at Claude’s furious visage. He was magnificent in his anger, she must admit. Bitter bile rose in her throat. He was magnificent and bewitched by a whore; none of his manliness had ever been for her.

“I expect you to observe the dictates of society,” she amended quickly.

“You will return at first light,” he informed her. Hell no there would be no busybody society matrons interfering with his family. “I don’t give a damn what you tell people, but they are not welcome here.”

Agathe turned once more in an attempt at a regal exit, but Claude was having none of it.

“And Agathe,” Claude added softly stopping her in her tracks. The voice was deliciously dangerous in its mildness. “This plantation belongs to me and my family. You really should read some of the documents your father is forever having you sign.”

With that Claude turned on his heal and marched through the door his whore had went through earlier. Agathe supposed he had gone to offer that woman comfort while she supposed as she would be left all alone to lick her own wounds.

Oh that bitch would pay! If it took until her dying breath, Agathe would bring both them to their knees.

6 comments:

Jay said...

Hi Shara!

I got your link from Jon Bradbury's group. This is an excellent start to a very interesting story. I really like this. Hoping to read more.

Jay

Shara Azod said...

Thank you Jay! I am currently reworking it, so I can't post Chapter Two, so
I will probably start posting a story a little farther along. I really
appreciate your comments. It is difficult to be a beginning writer, plus I
really am a little shy about posting on any of the groups I belong to, so I
really, really appreciate comments!

Jay said...

I understand and you're welcome. You've found a fan in me, Shara. Thanks for sharing your gift.

Jay

trickiegyrl said...

Love it! Love it! Love it!!!!! Please continue the story. I am very hooked on this!

Shara Azod said...

Thank you! Actually, this is done but I am going back over it to add some depth to certain characters and provide a fuller view as to who tha main characters are.

Anonymous said...

I just read this story also. It really is ashame b/c Agathe is innocent also. She may be a bitch, but she honestly didn't know. This is going to be good.

Ljay