Minerva had spent a little over three hours preparing for her first visit to the Nightingale Club, only to discover upon her arrival that she had to change into something that very much resembled a silk nightdress. Although no nightdress she’d ever worn revealed as much or caressed her skin as lovingly as this one did. After a maid had assisted her in changing, she’d caught sight of her reflection in a mirror. With no undergarments or petticoats between her and the silk, she almost changed her mind and quit this place. Grace no doubt had the right of it, and she should just return to her world, proposition someone she knew, someone she liked even if it was only a little bit—­

But that seemed even more awkward and unsavory than her present course. What if he wasn’t interested in the least or things between them were . . . awful? He would know who she was. What if he told ­people, his best mates, of their assignation? Grace said men boasted of their exploits. Minerva suspected they made sport of women who did not live up to their expectations. They certainly weren’t likely to confess to any shortcomings of their own. No, coming here was the way to go. The anonymity assured it remained her secret. No one would ever discover what she had done or with whom she’d done it.

Not to mention there was a bit of titillation to the notion of his not knowing, to her being secretive. Surely men found it provocative as well when an air of mystery was involved.

Glancing around the dimly lit parlor, she was struck with both curiosity and a dash of irritation. The men were completely clothed in trousers, jackets, waistcoats, shirts, perfectly knotted neckcloths. Why weren’t they forced to wear something that might make them feel as though they were standing about almost naked? Perhaps because a gent’s clothing didn’t leave as much to the imagination as a lady’s might. Still, it seemed rather unfair. Surely, if given the chance, ladies could appreciate muscled arms and bared chests. She fancied wide shoulders. And eyes that glinted with the ability to tease. Most of the men who had visited in her parlor had dull eyes or ones that revealed their thoughts drifting off to other places.