The Lustful Pianist’s Sonata (Preview)

Prologue

The melodic music of the pianoforte echoed throughout the London townhouse, Rose House, which had been Oliver Calhoun’s second home since he was little more than an infant. He had not set foot in its halls for some months, but it appeared to be just as he had left it, all painted and wallpapered in the most fashionable pastel colours, expensively furnished, with richly coloured paintings and tapestries hanging from every wall.

The music was also a familiar thing and one of the few that Oliver welcomed, stepping quietly into the entryway, and ordering that the player not be disturbed.

“As you wish, Lord Anbury.” The butler, Thomas Reeves, bowed and helped the earl to remove his travel coat. “I do hope you had a pleasant journey from the docks, My Lord. How was France?”

“I did, thank you, Reeves,” Oliver responded with a brief nod, “it was pleasant enough.”

“Your mother is in the drawing room,” Reeves announced, more out of respect and courtesy than anything else. They both had ears and could hear the music playing. The vigour with which the piano was being played might have suggested that his mother had guests, but if she did, Reeves did not mention it.

“I shall have your things sent directly to the master bedroom, My Lord,” Reeves announced, but Oliver shook his head and waved the idea away.

“My usual room will do just fine,” he announced. He might have become Earl of Anbury upon his father’s death many years earlier, but he still had never come to terms with the idea of sleeping in another man’s bed.

“As you wish, My Lord.” Reeves bowed even as Oliver began to make his way through the entryway in the direction of the hall drawing room.

The door was open just as his mother liked it when she played. As were the double doors that opened out from the drawing room onto the patio beyond. A fresh, warm breeze swept through, bringing the scent of roses from the garden.

The welcome sounds and smells of home made Oliver smile, but they also made his heart ache. The painful memories of losing his father were mixed with the happier memories of his time at Rose House.

As if she sensed him in the doorway, his mother began to play a more thoughtful piece, one that reminded him of his childhood, one she had been sure to play every time she touched the ivories.

When Oliver stood in the doorway and closed his eyes, he could almost imagine that he was a young boy again, sitting on the bench beside her on a Sunday afternoon, learning how to play. His fingers itched with the desire to join her, but as he began to approach, his mother’s hands suddenly stopped, and she looked up.

Her grey-blue eyes, so much like his own, widened with shock when she twisted on the bench to look over her shoulder.

“Oliver! What are you doing here?” she gasped, her hand clutching her chest as if he had given her a fright.

“I live here, Mother.” Oliver smiled teasingly back at her, though they both knew that was a matter of perspective. Since his father’s death, he had owned both the townhouse and the countryside manor that belonged to the Earl of Anbury, but he had barely visited either over the last few years, choosing to stay instead in the Oxford dormitory or take advantage of the hospitality of friends. Returning home was always just rather painful, even more so when the London Season began as it soon would be, and his mother would insist upon him accompanying her to every event.

“Well, I am more than glad to see you home!” she announced, gliding across the room in her olive coloured skirts to throw her arms around him. Oliver hugged her back, holding on tightly in the hopes that she might forget the rest of her welcome home ritual.

It was not to be. She reached up with her fingers, frailer than Oliver remembered, and pinched his cheeks.

“You’re thin,” she announced, “haven’t they been feeding you properly at school?”

Oliver struggled not to roll his eyes at his mother. Instead, he gripped hold of both her hands and forced them gently from his face.

“I am very well, Mother,” he assured her, giving her hands a reassuring squeeze before releasing her.

“And very smart, graduating top of your class. Your father would be mighty proud of you!” she announced, and Oliver was sure he saw a tear prick at the corner of her eye.

Oliver’s chest tightened at the mention of his father, and all he could do was force a smile, “I am sure he would.”

“Oh, he would, he would,” his mother assured him, half to herself.

“Are you well, Mother?” Oliver asked, sure that she looked paler than usual. Her fingers were definitely thinner now that he looked at her more, as was the rest of her. In the last few years of his schooling, his mother’s decline had been becoming more and more noticeable though up to now, it had been slow and steady. Now, something about it was more drastic, and Oliver couldn’t remove the niggling feeling from his gut that said something was wrong.

“Oh, yes, I am very well and most happy that you are home for good now that your schooling is over!” she said, her eyes sparkling with excitement, yet there was something more sinister beneath it, something Oliver couldn’t quite put his finger on. Perhaps he was imagining it. After all, being home meant being subjected to the London Season, a period his mother loved, and he loathed in equal measure.

“We already have invitations coming out of our ears,” his mother proudly stated, and the stone in his stomach grew. Now he couldn’t help rolling his eyes. The enthusiasm that his mother reserved only for the London Season and the members of the ton was laughable, yet as much as he hated it, he also adored her loyalty and determination to always be at the forefront of events.

“It is going to be a marvellous season,” she repeated the words she had stated every year since as early as Oliver could remember.

“I am sure it will be, Mother,” Oliver spoke through gritted teeth knowing the usual disappointment that was soon to follow his next words, “but you must remember I am only here for a few days before beginning my tour of London.”

There was always an excuse not to join the season’s balls, dinners, and afternoon luncheons. He always wormed his way out of it somehow, but as the years went by, his guilt at leaving his mother to attend alone was beginning to weaken him.

“Oh, Oliver, please, my sweet boy,” his mother pleaded. She reached for his face again, cupping his cheeks in her palms as she gazed up at him, her eyes round as teacup saucers, “Stay a little while longer. It has been so long since you attended. People are beginning to wonder whether the Earl of Anbury exists at all.”

Oliver scoffed at that. He knew very well those weren’t the kinds of rumours going around about him, but they were more acceptable to his mother’s ears than those of his rakish behaviour.

Closing his eyes, he gritted his teeth, knowing that he would regret what he was about to say. “Fine, I shall stay a little longer than I had planned.”

Elation lit up his mother’s face, and she practically bounced on her feet.

“Oh, yes! Good, good. Reeves, we must celebrate. Fetch us a pot of tea!”

Oliver wasn’t sure what there was to celebrate, but even if he was, he could imagine better things to celebrate with than tea.

“Why, Mother, you are showing your age,” he mocked playfully, guiding her over to the nearby couch.

She laughed with him, almost as if she knew exactly what he meant, but when she opened her mouth to respond, she was stopped by a sudden bout of coughing.

Concerned, Oliver dropped down onto the couch beside her and gripped hold of her hand.

“Mother?” he said softly, even more concerned by the trembling of her hand in his.

“Oh, don’t look at me like that.” She waved away his concern, producing a handkerchief from her dress sleeve to wipe some spittle from her lips. “I’m not dying.”

What an odd thing to say, Oliver thought with a raised eyebrow.

“It sounds to me as if you need to rest,” Oliver insisted. He knew that if he tried to march her up to bed himself, she would flat out refuse.

“Oh, no, there isn’t time. We only have a few hours until we are due at the first ball of the season.” She paused and looked as though she was choking back another cough before she added, “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Oliver was not convinced. The more he looked at her, the more he became certain that all was not well.

“I am so glad you are home,” his mother added, giving his hand a quick squeeze. Seeing the happiness on her face, Oliver couldn’t bring himself to question her further about her cough.

Two Weeks Later

“Lord Anbury?”

Oliver barely acknowledged the doctor standing behind him with his leather bag and his sincere look of anguish. Instead, he stood in the drawing room doorway staring at the bench of the pianoforte, the bench where he and his mother had sat playing only the night before.

He grimaced, remembering the way his mother’s fingers had stopped playing to reach up and clutch her mouth in a fit of coughing that made her entire body jerk.

He had only just stopped playing in time to reach for her and stop her from toppling backwards off the bench.

The ten or so guests they had been entertaining had been shocked into silence as Oliver’s mother collapsed in his arms.

The rest had happened very quickly after that, and Oliver couldn’t remember much other than the servants carrying his mother up to her chambers while his long-time friend and Earl of Rendell, Neil Dallaway, shoved a crystalline glass of brown liquor into his hand.

“She’ll be alright, old chap.” Neil had clapped him on the back, but Oliver had been numb to it all, numb to the guests hovering awkwardly around him and the quiet mutterings of them wondering what was going on upstairs. It was only when the doctor arrived that somebody had the good sense to ask his guests to leave, though he couldn’t quite remember who it had been. Perhaps Neil or maybe even the doctor himself. Everybody respected a doctor, especially one respectable enough to work in London.

“How is she?” Oliver asked, without so much as glancing away from the piano bench. He had been standing there for a long time, unable to bring himself to enter the room.

When the doctor did not respond, a shiver of dread rushed down his spine, and he was forced to take a long, deep breath before turning to the man.

He was an older man with salt and pepper hair, a well-trimmed moustache, and thin metal spectacles that sat haphazardly on the bridge of his nose.

“I am afraid it is not good news, My Lord,” Doctor Wick announced, and the way he bowed his head, averting his eyes, told Oliver all he really needed to know. “I am afraid the Dowager Countess of Anbury passed on from this world a few minutes ago. There was nothing I nor anyone could have done for her.”

Oliver’s mind spun with grief, and he reached for the door frame to hold himself up. Bile rose in the back of his throat, his stomach churning with instant nausea.

“Th-thank you, Doctor,” Oliver forced himself to say.

“I have already sent word to the funeral furnisher,” the doctor continued, though he kept his head respectfully bowed, “I can’t imagine that he will be very long.”

“Thank you,” Oliver forced again, unable to stop himself from thinking that it was such an odd thing to say thank you for as if he were thanking the doctor for not saving his mother’s life.

“It is late. I shall have a carriage brought up for you.” He forced himself to go through the motions, knowing it was down to him and nobody else to keep everything going. As his mother had always reminded him since his father’s passing, he was the head of the household.

“I would rather wait for the coroner if that is acceptable to you, My Lord,” the elder man responded, and Oliver thought, not for the first time, how odd it felt to have someone twice his age call him My Lord.

“Yes, yes, of course.” He nodded almost until his head spun, unsure of how he was supposed to react.

“If it is also acceptable, I would wait downstairs. Perhaps if I am lucky, one of your servants might make me a sandwich,” the doctor said suggestively, “I haven’t had a bite to eat since midday.”

“Yes, yes, Reeves will see you right,” Oliver insisted, gesturing the butler forward from where he had been patiently standing at the entryway door since having announced the doctor’s coming down from his mother’s room.

“Please, follow me, Doctor,” Reeves said, and Oliver was relieved when the two men had disappeared down the hallway in the direction of the servants’ stairs.

As soon as they were gone, he turned his attention back to the drawing room and the bench where he had sat with his mother countless times.

If he had known that the evening before would have been his last, he might have forced himself to enjoy the evening more. As it had been, he had been able to think of nothing he would have liked more than to say goodnight to his guests and be off to bed.

Maybe if she had taken the time to rest, she might still be here, Oliver thought silently, remembering the events they had attended in the past week; two balls, three dinners, and an afternoon promenading in the park. Clearly, it had all been too much for her.

Unable to contain his anger, frustration, and disbelief, Oliver lashed out at the door frame, cracking the skin on his knuckles with one blow.

Guilt froze him from the inside out, wondering whether she might have had more time if he had promised to stay longer if she had not tried to cram in so many invitations during his stay.

If only he could go back and tell her that he would stay for the entire season. If only he had more time to take her to all the balls, feasts, and promenading that she loved, perhaps she would still be here.

One thing Oliver knew for sure. He would hate the London season for as long as he lived.

Chapter One

The tranquil splashing of waves that had accompanied Oliver’s journey from France was drowned by the clanging of metal, of voices yelling, and of the general bustle of the docks. London was just as he remembered it, noisy and smelly. Even before he descended the ship, he could smell the distinct odour of the place he had once called home.

I’ll not have to suffer it long, Oliver promised himself. He readjusted the buttons on his jacket, waiting patiently for the ship to be moored. The ship crew were the most lively and energetic they had been for the entire journey, no doubt glad to be home to set foot on dry land and welcome the families waiting for them.

Oliver had no such hope. Though when he glanced over the ship’s side, he saw a glimpse of fine colourful clothing among all the drab brown and grey of the dock workers.

Neil Dallaway, Earl of Rendell, was always the only welcome sight for Oliver whenever he returned to London. The man waved up to him like a sweetheart waving down her lover after a long trip at sea.

Oliver knew it was all just an act to make him less prickly, but he had to admit that it worked. When he descended the ship, down the gangway, he was smiling.

Neil threw his arms around him, jostling him playfully.

“Well, I never!” he exclaimed joyfully. “It’s been four years since the Earl of Anbury’s feet have touched English soil!”

He clapped him on the back so hard that Oliver almost stumbled. “It’s good to have you home!”

“Alright, alright, don’t get too excited,” Oliver replied with a grunt. He had to adjust his jacket all over again after Neil’s roughhousing. “We both know I am not going to be on English soil for very long.”

“Are our whore houses and gambling dens not good enough for you?” Neil demanded, feigning offence. “Do you prefer a French Flower to an English Rose?”

Neil laughed and wrapped his arm around Oliver’s shoulder.

“Don’t let them hear you say that.” Oliver chuckled, pretending to glance over his shoulder in the direction of the nearest house of ill repute. He knew them all.

“Oh, tosh,” Neil scoffed, “They’ll still take our money whether they are angry or not.”

Oliver knew he was right. It didn’t matter where in the world he travelled. The women were all the same, eager to give anything so long as they received something in return.

“You can have a little fun while you are here, can’t you?” Neil asked, guiding Oliver by his shoulders down the dock, “I have a carriage prepared.”

Oliver paused, stopping them both dead in their tracks.

“Prepared for what?” Oliver demanded, one thick black eyebrow raised.

“To take us to a little party I am having,” Neil responded, and his eyebrows wiggled suggestively. “Come on; I can feel how tense you are. You clearly need it.”

Neil gripped Oliver’s shoulders in his hands and rubbed vigorously until Oliver realised his friend was right. He had knots upon knots of tension. A night of fun with the kind of company he and Neil liked to keep was much more than he had hoped for. He had been prepared to hole up in a nearby tavern, conclude his business, and be back on the ship ready to set sail for wherever it might be headed next.

A day or two longer in London spent with an old friend couldn’t hurt.

They hadn’t been in the carriage for very long before Oliver realised they were headed in entirely the wrong way.

“Neil, have you by any chance moved residence?” he asked, flicking the curtain away so he could gaze out the window. They were already headed out of the common streets of London, into the more residential area, but it certainly wasn’t anywhere near the place that Neil called home.

Neil sighed and began to shake his head. He lifted his hands in a mock sign of surrender, and Oliver’s stomach clenched with dread.

“You caught me,” Neil admitted, “I knew I could never get you to agree if I simply asked.”

“You couldn’t get me to agree to what?” Oliver asked though he had the sneaking suspicion that he knew exactly what was going on.

“You couldn’t very well expect to arrive in London at the beginning of the Season and not attend at least one ball,” Neil protested, and Oliver’s heart sank deep into his stomach.

The last ball he had attended in London had been the last one his mother had ever attended, a week before her death. Even the mention of a London ball reminded him of the coughing fit she’d had at the edge of the dance floor and how many of the guests had edged away from her as though she might have the plague rather than consumption.

“You know my view on balls,” Oliver said through gritted teeth, struggling to hold onto his self-control. “Besides, I am not wearing the correct attire, and I have been travelling for days.”

“Then it is a good job I have already had it arranged for us to sneak you in through the servants’ quarters to bathe and change.” Neil smiled smugly, looking more than a little pleased with himself.

“You are a devilish man, Neil Dallaway! I shan’t forget this!” Oliver snapped, but Neil continued to look pleased.

“I am sure you will thank me when you see how the ladies have blossomed over the last few years.”

Oliver cringed. The ladies were one of the elements of the London season that Oliver liked to avoid. They were as bad as the rest of their gender, all wanting one thing, a man to keep them comfortable. The only difference with the ladies of the ton was that they were used to getting what they wanted, making them even more dangerous. They were complicated and inaccessible without a proposal of marriage. Oliver preferred his dalliances to be quite the opposite.

“You have put me in a terribly awkward situation,” Oliver grumbled to his friend.

“I am sure I will find a way to make it up to you,” Neil said. He then sighed before adding, “But you must understand that it is time for you to return to society.”

I never wish to return to a society that is responsible for the death of my mother, Oliver thought silently, though he knew his friend would likely try to correct him if he spoke the words out loud.

Oliver was so used to his travelling attire that he found the silken clothing acceptable for balls to be tight and uncomfortable. He felt wrong, out of place, as he was dragged about the ballroom by Neil. The man insisted on his sticking close by, perhaps to enable him not to get lost in all the gossip and politics of London that he had missed. Though Oliver guessed it was more likely so that Neil could keep an eye on him. He had been known, even before his mother’s death, to slip out well before the end of the evening.

“My Lord, do my eyes deceive me!” An older woman with greying hair once golden blonde stepped through the crowd. Having been one of his mother’s closest friends, Oliver knew the woman well. She was not the first to have feigned astonishment at the sight of him. Many that night had already dragged him into inane conversations, beginning with how they could not believe they were seeing him with their own eyes.

“I don’t believe it.” She shook her head and looked him up and down, “Can it really be the Earl of Anbury himself? I had heard he had fallen from his ship and perished at sea!”

That was the first time any of the guests had described his supposed death, and Oliver couldn’t help forcing a smile for her. She and his mother had been so close that at one point in his childhood he had wondered whether the two were sisters.

“It is good to see you too, Lady Denton.” He bowed respectfully while she gave a quick curtsey in return.

“What is wrong with you, My Lord?” she said so outrageously that Oliver was shocked for a second. He had forgotten quite how outspoken his mother’s friend could be. “Why aren’t you dancing? There are so many young ladies here tonight. Hasn’t one of them taken your fancy?”

Oliver cringed at that. It was a comment so like those his mother used to make, reminding him once again of all the reasons he avoided such events.

“I did not come prepared to dance, Lady Denton.” Oliver shook his head and clasped his hands behind his back before shooting a glare at Neil, who was only a few metres away, talking with another noble and his wife.

Neil seemed not to notice the look on his face. Instead, he raised the wine glass he held in good cheer and returned to talking.

“Your mother would be displeased if she could see you,” Lady Denton insisted, “she always loved to dance. She danced at every opportunity, and so should you. After all, if she taught us anything, it’s that we never know when our last moment might be.”

Oliver was forced to bite the inside of his cheek to stop himself from saying something entirely inappropriate.

“I am sure you are right, Lady Denton,” he said through gritted teeth. “I am sure I will rectify the situation, if you will excuse me.”

Before she could make any further comment, Oliver bowed farewell and began to hurry towards Neil.

“Excuse me, I am afraid I must speak to Lord Rendell with the utmost urgency,” he announced to the group that had begun to linger around his friend. Before any of them could say anything, he yanked Neil’s arm and pulled him away to a quieter spot at the edge of the room.

“Whatever is the matter?” Neil demanded, gripping his wineglass more firmly. “I almost spilt wine all over you.”

“It doesn’t matter. I must leave,” Oliver snapped curtly.

“But we have barely been here an hour,” Neil protested. As if he saw the way the colour had drained from his friend’s face, he added, “What is the matter? Has something happened?”

No, but it will if one more person mentions my mother, Oliver thought silently. Out loud, he responded, “I am tired from my journey, and I wish to leave, but I cannot go without you and leave you without a ride home.”

“Well, I am not yet ready to …” Neil began but just then, the music that had been playing suddenly changed.

Oliver missed the end of his friend’s sentence, so caught up in the sound of such a familiar song that it made his heartache.

It can‘t be. He gasped, rising onto his tiptoes to look over the heads of all the guests.

There, sitting on the pianoforte bench, was a woman, and she played his favourite song as beautifully as his mother ever had.

Unbeknown to him, he began to make his way through the crowd, edging further and further forward until he stood only metres away.

He thought distantly that he heard someone call his name, but he could not take his eyes off the woman. All dark curls and focused eyes, she captivated him, and the rest of the room seemed to melt away into nothingness.

If he had closed his eyes, he might have been able to imagine his mother sitting in her place, playing the pianoforte just for him. But for the first time in years, he found he could look upon memories of his mother without simply feeling pain. He could not close his eyes and think of her because when he heard her play, all he could feel was hope.

Who is she? Oliver asked himself, intrigued. It had been a long time since he had bothered to know the name of a woman. None had captivated him the way that she had in a few seconds, and when she began to sing along with her playing, Oliver knew one thing for certain.

I have to know this woman. 

It was not a case of wanting to but needing to. A need that clawed at his stomach so intensely that he almost doubled over with the effort of remaining where he was. He would not disturb her playing. Nor could he. The beautiful focus on her face warmed his heart and reminded him of the way his mother had always insisted upon gazing at the noted music in front of her. She could have played the music with her eyes closed, and yet she still insisted upon it.

Who are you, brunette-haired beauty? he wondered again.

As if she had heard him, the woman stopped playing. She took in a deep breath as if to recompose herself.

Then her body twisted, and she turned to look at him. Her crystalline blue eyes reminded him of the tranquil blue waters of France, her skin as pale and creamy as milk.

She blinked, her eyes meeting his with a spark, something akin to recognition. She gave a brilliant smile that set Oliver’s heart alight.

Then she was gone. Lost in a sea of people and applause, all wishing to congratulate her on her beautiful playing.


“The Lustful Pianist’s Sonata” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Lady Diana Hampton has dedicated her life to music, choosing her precious piano over the glorious balls. When her parents decide to marry her to a lord she despises, Diana will see her dreams fading away at a glimpse of an eye. When everything seems to collapse around her, an upcoming ball will light the sparkle of hope, as her passionate piano performance will awaken a mysterious rake’s desires.

Could this wicked Earl be the key to Diana’s salvation?

As a man that never wishes to live by the rules, the wicked Earl of Anbury, Oliver Calhoun, accepts his horrifying reputation with gratitude. However, he will soon be forced to return to London and face everything he kept avoiding all those years… even love. There, at a Season’s ball, he will find himself mesmerised by the enchanting melody of the most ravishing woman.

He had an unbreakable rule, until he met her…

As Oliver and Diana’s lives intertwine, a journey of music and lust begins… Until an evil Lord and a cunning Lady lark to destroy their happiness. Will their tantalising affair turn Oliver into a better man or will it plunge him into eternal darkness? Can their lustful sonata find the right notes for a happy ending, or will they end up living in the shadows of loneliness?

“The Lustful Pianist’s Sonata” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!

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