Introducing, without further ado, the players:
~ Samuel Yorke, the fourth Earl of Hardwicke ~ (possessed of a number of fine tracts of land in Devon, an impeccable manner, and a bad attitude) – Genjyo Sanzo
~ The honorable Harry Churchill, esq. ~ (cousin to the Earl of Hardwicke and secretive matchmaker) - Cho Hakkai
~ Mr. Guy Shaw ~ (A rake and dandy, flawlessly attired, with a keen wit and very fashionable boots. Also the owner of an apparently untamable black gelding won during a game of cards) – Sha Gojyo
London, July 1814
Samuel Yorke, fourth Earl of Hardwicke, sighed heavily and crossed his arms. He glowered at his cousin, Harry. "Could you please explain to me once more why I am standing in a clearing watching two grown men try to kill each other when I could be eating dinner instead?"
Harry turned his head slightly, his green eyes still intently focused on the duel. There was a screech of metal as the blades of both opponents met, followed by a sigh of excitement from the admiring crowd. Harry dragged his eyes away and fixed Samuel with a smirk. "Well," Harry began. "It would appear that Mr. Harding," he waved his hand toward the portly gentleman to the right, "took exception to Mr. Shaw's comment regarding his sister." Harry gestured toward the tall redhead who was clearly winning the fight – not that Samuel wasn't aware of who Mr. Shaw was; rather, Mr. Shaw's reputation preceded him.
"What exactly did Mr. Shaw say?" Samuel uncrossed his arms and arched his back, stretching slightly. He had to admit Mr. Shaw was doing a damned fine job of toying with his opponent; not only was he the better swordsman, but for some reason Mr. Shaw was determined to leave Mr. Harding enough of an opening to make the duel to appear to be less of a one-sided farce.
Harry appeared to note Samuel's interest. He quirked his eyebrow suggestively, and Samuel resisted the urge to blush. Gentlemen did not blush like schoolgirls, especially over another man, no matter how attractive he was.
"Hmm," Harry replied, clearly mulling things over in his head. "I understand that Mr. Harding accused Mr. Shaw of trying to seduce his sister. Mr. Shaw replied, and I quote, 'You must be mistaken, sir, as I would rather fuck your lapdog than your sister'. Mr. Harding took exception to Mr. Shaw's comment and immediately requested a second so he could challenge Mr. Shaw to a duel."
"Hn." Samuel watched with interest as Mr. Shaw easily parried another thrust of Mr. Harding's sword. Mr. Shaw's fine linen shirt started to slip off one muscled shoulder, revealing skin that appeared tanned. At some point in the last ten minutes, Mr. Shaw's hair ribbon had also slipped loose, revealing a wealth of long red hair which was now damp from his exertions and clinging interestingly to his exposed shoulder and his cheek.
"Wait." Samuel glanced away from the duel long enough to ask, "Whose honor is Mr. Harding fighting for? His dog or his sister's?"
"Ahahaha, that wasn't exactly made clear in the letters exchanged between the seconds." Harry looked slightly embarrassed.
Samuel glared at Harry. "One wonders exactly how you know so much of the actual circumstances behind the affront to Mr. Harding's honor, Harry."
Harry suddenly appeared to be rather interested in the play of evening sunlight through the leaves of the beech tree. Samuel would bet his estate in Devon that Harry was stalling for time. When he finally looked back at Samuel, Harry wore a mischievous look. "I have the honor of being seconded to Mr. Shaw for today's duel."
Samuel sighed deeply and resisted the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose. He could feel a headache starting. "So, if I have this correctly – and please do feel free to interrupt my train of thought at any time – you have agreed to be the second in a duel between the notorious rakehell, Mr. Guy Shaw, and another gentleman, all because of a dog?"
"That would be correct, yes."
"God help me," Samuel muttered. He returned to watching Mr. Shaw, trying to figure out what made the man so appealing. Mr. Shaw was everything that Samuel Yorke admitted he was not: carefree, prone to gambling and drinking, and well versed in the art of seduction – if gossip was to be believed – of both sexes. Mr. Shaw's every action seemed designed to seduce: the way he moved, the fact he wore his unfashionably long red hair in a queue and didn't give a damn about it – not to mention the expensive yet understated cut of his clothing. And his boots. Samuel frowned. He had no idea what he could possibly find fascinating about Mr. Shaw's riding boots, yet there it was.
His musings were interrupted by the squealing of two excitable females who were clutching each other and bouncing up and down, their fashionably pale cleavage threatening to spill from their bodices at any moment. It appeared that Mr. Shaw had allowed Mr. Harding to draw first blood, judging by the tear in the sleeve of Mr. Shaw's shirt and the thin trickle of blood dripping down past his wrist.
"Do excuse me," Harry said, wandering off to intercept Mr. Harding's second while both parties took a breather.
Samuel observed from the shade of the tree as a heated discussion began between Mr. Harding and Harry. Mr. Shaw pushed his hair back over his shoulder and arranged his shirt. It took Samuel only seconds to realize that Mr. Shaw was watching him – not just glancing at him – but with a hungry look bordering on the obscene. The man seemed to radiate desire, and Samuel felt rather uncomfortable being the sole object of his attention. He met Mr. Shaw's heated gaze with a look that could freeze the Thames in July and hoped to God the man couldn't read his mind or discern his own interest.
Harry stepped back from Mr. Harding and addressed Mr. Shaw. Mr. Shaw had the gall to wink at Samuel before turning his full attention back to Harry, and Samuel felt the tension drain from his body as soon as Mr. Shaw looked away. Samuel was relieved not to have Mr. Shaw's attention on him for the time being. The insipid, bouncing women fixed him with a glare, followed by a keen, calculated interest. He could almost see the thoughts in their vapid minds, trying to figure out if he was worthy of their attention. God forbid they realize he was actually a titled lord – he'd be done for.
Harry returned to Samuel's side. "It would appear that Mr. Harding is content with first blood having been drawn. He feels his honor has been assuaged, and will withdraw."
"Thank God for small mercies," Samuel muttered. "I hope his spaniel is happy with the outcome."
Samuel watched as the observers broke into groups, intent on going over the duel blow by blow. No doubt, come morning, the gossips would have it a fight to the death with Mr. Shaw losing gallantly before bleeding out on the grass or some such nonsense.
Samuel was about to find the carriage when Mr. Shaw came over. Harry shook his hand warmly, and they exchanged conspiratorial grins, which Samuel found rather disturbing.
"Samuel, may I present Mr. Guy Shaw. Shaw, this is my cousin Samuel Yorke, the Earl of Hardwicke."
"I'm honored, my lord," Shaw said, executing a neat bow worthy of St. James's Court.
"Likewise," Samuel drawled, letting the sarcasm show. Samuel had discovered early on that people tended not to look past the tone of his voice, preferring to keep an easy distance; it was an excellent mask to hide behind. However, judging by the blinding smile Shaw directed at him, the man wasn't at all put off.
Instead of doing the proper thing and withdrawing, Shaw pulled his shirt over his head and began to wipe himself down. There was a slight squeal behind Shaw and someone shouted for a doctor; it appeared that one of the ladies had fainted at the sight of so much bared flesh.
"You really should get that looked at, Shaw," Harry said, grabbing Shaw by the arm and examining his wound.
Shaw looked down at the offending appendage and shrugged. "It'll be fine, Harry, it's only a slight cut, nothing serious."
"Still, it could get infected if it's not looked at."
Shaw grinned. "I'll have someone look it over later. I'm sure the resulting scar will give the ladies something to talk about."
Samuel rolled his eyes. "Idiot," he muttered under his breath.
Shaw had the gall to laugh, his deep brown eyes showing much amusement. "Are you concerned for my wellbeing, my lord?"
Samuel snorted. "On the contrary, it's none of my business what stupidity you indulge in, Mr. Shaw."
"Please, call me Guy."
"I'm afraid we are not that well acquainted, Mr. Shaw." Samuel needed to leave now; as time passed, he felt further out of his depth, and he wasn't sure why.
"As you wish," Shaw replied with a final bow. "Harry, I'll see you at Brook's tomorrow?"
"Of course. Nine o'clock?"
"As always. Good day, my lord. Harry." Shaw sketched a quick bow and took himself off, walking swiftly through the trees, shirt tucked under one arm and his sword brushing against those damn fashionable Hessian boots.
Samuel watched him leave, only noticing after the fact that Harry was staring at him with something akin to calculation. "What? I think it's positively barbaric that a gentleman should walk around in public without his shirt on," Samuel attempted to bluster.
"Really, Samuel? So you believe Mr. Shaw to be a gentleman?"
"That's what I thought you'd say," said Harry.
"What are you implying?"
"Nothing at all. Shall we find the carriage before full dark sets in?"
Samuel recognized when Harry was stalling, or even worse, up to something. He'd have to be on his guard over the next couple of days; that much was obvious.
Guy Shaw wandered into the main room at Brook's Club for Gentlemen and glanced around, taking note of who was present and who was not – and which gentlemen present owed him money, which didn't, and who might make an easy mark during tonight's game of cards.
Guy had not had an easy life. He was the illegitimate son of the Baron Sunderley and, upon his father's death, had been granted a small piece of unentailed land with a pleasant house. Everything else he'd had to fight for on his own, which made his present wealth that much more satisfying, and that which he had to earn was much more worthwhile than something given freely without thought. Despite his reputation of a rake and a dandy, Guy Shaw was not content with scraps thrown his way; they never held his attention for very long, and most of his affairs were short lived but much talked about. He was popular with the London set and had even been introduced to the Prince Regent earlier in the season. The court was fascinated by him, and Guy was determined to keep their interest for as long as possible, if only to amass as much wealth as humanly possible before retiring to France to live a gentleman's life.
At least that had been his plan up until yesterday evening. Like so much delicate thread, Guy had watched his carefully laid plans simply fall apart the moment he set eyes on Yorke. The Earl of Hardwicke was the reason he'd come away from the duel with the cut on his arm: a slight moment of inattention and George 'Fatty' Harding had managed to get first blood on him. Usually Guy would have been mortified by this loss of face, but since the duel itself was a farce – a way to amuse himself – a slight lessening of dignity was nothing compared to the honor of being introduced to Samuel Yorke. God, if he'd known Harry was the Earl of Hardwicke's cousin, he would have wangled an introduction a lot sooner.
What made Samuel Yorke even more fascinating (apart from his good looks) was his attitude. Samuel Yorke was a glorious mixture of well-bred distain and cutting wit with a keen intelligence and a sense of delightful repression simmering under the surface. The man was like ice, and Guy badly wanted to see how deep it ran. He found himself quite unable to resist Mr. Yorke's charms.
Guy had partaken of three separate card games, dinner, and a half bottle of wine by the time Harry arrived with a clearly reluctant Samuel Yorke. It was quite obvious the man was seething under his polite veneer of indifference and, like any well-bred gentleman, was refusing to show it. Guy wondered just how irritated he'd have to make Yorke before the indifference faded and revealed the fire inside. It would definitely make for an interesting evening.
Guy stood up and gestured to Harry, who came over immediately with Samuel Yorke in tow. Guy bowed to them both and resumed his seat, keeping his laughter to himself as Harry seated himself opposite, which left Mr. Yorke to take the chair next to Guy.
"A good evening so far, Shaw?" Harry asked as a waiter appeared with three glasses and a bottle of port.
Guy shrugged and leaned back in his seat. "So far the cards have been good to me. I won a horse from Mr. Davy. He seemed rather put out, to be honest."
Harry looked amused. "Not that bloody black gelding, I hope?"
"The same. Why?" Guy chanced a glance toward Yorke, who appeared to be overly interested in his glass of port, rather than the conversation.
"I heard that thing is the devil to ride, Shaw. You'd do best to sell it on as quickly as possible." Harry appeared to have noticed his cousin's lack of interest in the conversation.
"I like a challenge, Harry," Guy drawled. "One cannot hope for a good ride unless one breaks the horse of its bad habits first. Or so I heard." He allowed his gaze to linger on Yorke strictly longer than was necessary – or polite.
Yorke placed his glass back on the table and glared at Guy. "Are we here to discuss the finer points of horsemanship, Harry, or to play cards? I have an engagement tomorrow morning, and I'd rather not piss around here if there's no need."
"My, my, such language," Guy said. "Very well, Harry, are you in?"
A few rounds of cards later and Guy was down over five guineas. He'd never quite figured out how Harry always managed to beat him. Yorke had managed to hold his own, but was frowning intently at his hand of cards before he folded.
Guy began to shuffle the cards again when Harry stood up. "Would you both excuse me for a moment? I have a bill to settle with the management." He sketched a quick bow and left, leaving Guy to try to fill the strained atmosphere with some kind of conversation.
"How about we play for different stakes, my lord?" he asked, dropping the deck onto the table.
Yorke frowned. "Like what? I'm rather disinclined to waste any more money than strictly necessary."
Guy noticed that Yorke seemed a little looser than before. Perhaps the port was finally starting to affect him. Guy was feeling pleasantly relaxed himself; Yorke's attitude was a little easier to bear. "A simple bet. One card each, the winner has the highest card. Yes?"
Yorke shifted in his seat, his gaze becoming sharper with suspicion. "A single-card bet? Only if I get to reshuffle the deck." It was not a request.
Guy nodded and pushed the deck toward Yorke. "Of course."
Yorke began to shuffle, biting his bottom lip as he concentrated. Guy wondered if the man was aware he did so; he found it quite captivating.
"Highest card wins?" Yorke confirmed. "What are the stakes?"
Guy allowed himself to smirk, making sure Yorke noticed his expression. He was in the mood to toy with Yorke. He rather fancied seeing if Yorke's pale complexion would redden with rage, or if he would blush prettily. Guy would bet money that with such fair coloring and fine blonde hair, Yorke would be more of the blushing kind. So, how to get him all riled up? A delicious idea entered Guy's head and he found he couldn't shift the notion. Rage or not, it would be worth the gamble if he played his cards carefully. He paused for a moment, letting the dramatics of the situation play out, before he said, "If I have the highest card, you owe me three kisses."
Yorke's entire body stiffened in shock, his hands stilling on the cards before they resumed shuffling moments later. "And if I win?"
Guy knew that in order to get Yorke to play along, the stakes had to be high – very high. Yorke would not consent to play for anything trivial; it would have to be something that Yorke thought he desired greatly. "If you win, my lord, I will withdraw from London society for the rest of the season."
Yorke raised an eyebrow, the first sign of true interest at Guy's proposal. Carefully he placed the shuffled cards on the table, leaving one finger resting on the top of the deck. Guy fought to hold back a grin. He knew he had Yorke at that very moment.
"Very well, I'll play your little game, Shaw." Yorke paused, obviously running the idea through his head. "The card must be drawn from the top of the stack. Agreed?"
"A gentleman never goes back on his word," Guy agreed.
"Of course not."
Guy watched as Yorke slid the top card toward himself, keeping it face down on the table. Guy reached out and took the next card, pulling it closer but not turning it over. "Shall we?" Guy knew this single card could make or break him. To have to bow out of society this early in the season would be pure suicide, but on the other hand, if he won, it could make for an extremely pleasant diversion.
He flipped over his card and tried to breathe. A damn five: he was ruined. He glanced toward Yorke who, it appeared, had already seen his card. Yorke's hand was resting over his own card, his eyes shut as though he was trying to collect his thoughts. No doubt the icy prick was already imagining a complete season free from Guy's presence and reveling in his victory.
"Well?" Guy had to see the card, had to know what had trumped his.
Slowly, Yorke removed his hand and leant back in his chair, looking rather boneless with what Guy realized was not victory but shock. Guy leaned forward and tried not jump out of his chair with relief and excitement. It was a goddamned three! He immediately schooled his face into an expression of polite disbelief but allowed himself a small chuckle just the same. Yorke glared at him, fully aware of what the future held yet clearly unwilling to break a gentleman's agreement and stain his honor in the process.
Harry apparently had perfect timing, returning from the back room and seating himself at the table, glancing expectantly between his two friends. "Playing for smaller stakes while I was absent?" he enquired, noting Guy's winning five. "How much did you lose, Samuel?"
Guy shuffled the two cards back into the deck. "Nothing he won't miss, something of little consequence," Guy remarked, noting the way Samuel froze at the insinuation.
"Ah, I see," Harry replied, clearly not understanding but refusing to outright ask. "We should call it a night, Samuel. We have to attend the Duchess of Devonshire tomorrow morning," he explained to Guy.
"Of course, I won't keep you," Guy said, standing. "However, there is the little matter of settling part of our debt, so I shall be requiring the attentions of his lordship for an extra five minutes."
"Now?" The sound of Yorke's chair scraping back as he stood was loud in the sudden silence of the room, drawing an unwelcome number of interested gazes from various onlookers.
"I'm afraid so," Guy said smoothly, raising an eyebrow. He turned to bow to the other members of the club in apology. His gesture only seemed to irritate Yorke even further; the man was radiating pure fury. "Perhaps it would be better to settle this somewhere less … public?"
Yorke stormed toward the back of the club, clearly expecting Guy to follow him. "My apologies, Harry, for upsetting your cousin. I fear he'll be quite unmanageable for the rest of the evening."
Harry looked mildly concerned. "Is there something I should be aware of, Shaw? What little games are you playing now?"
"Gentlemen cannot kiss and tell, Harry, and this is a private bet. I'll see you later." Guy could hardly keep the skip out of his step as he took his leave and headed for the club's back entrance, determined to track down his quarry.
Samuel threw open the door to the club and let it slam behind him. He was quite aware it was ungentlemanly behavior to be seen acting like a child, but his emotions were in turmoil and he didn't trust himself to speak with anyone for the time being. He began to pace up and down the narrow cobble lane that ran behind the club, keeping his head down and refusing to look toward the door. The soft glow of the new gas lamps off Pall Mall gave a faint illumination, allowing him to avoid the worst of the puddles from the recent rain.
He'd played directly into Mr. Shaw's hands, and it was galling to think he'd allowed himself to go through with the bet. However, he acknowledged that a season free of Mr. Shaw was a precious prize in itself, and he'd let that thought rule his head rather than thinking the entire thing through carefully. It was not his honor he was worried about; any gentleman of his age had visited at least one house of ill repute during his time at university. No, he was more furious with himself over his nervousness, and he'd bet a year's income that the damnable Mr. Shaw was very aware of what his presence did. Samuel vowed on the spot that he'd never let Mr. Shaw see how much this bet had affected him. He tried to school his face into an expression of bored disinterest and kicked a loose cobble across the lane.
The sound of the cobble hitting the far wall of the lane echoed as the door from the club opened. Samuel turned around and squared his shoulders, determined to meet his fate like a gentleman should. One did not renege on a bet, no matter how distasteful the outcome was.
Shaw walked slowly toward Samuel, his attitude the same as one might use to calm a frightened animal. Samuel could feel his hackles rise even as his mind made the connection. He pushed down the sneer that threatened to break across his face and let his expression go blank. His back hit the wall behind him, and he curled his hands into fists, trying to ignore the way his heart was racing.
"I believe you owe me a kiss, my lord." Shaw's voice had dropped until it sounded low and rough.
"I owe you three." The words were out of Samuel's mouth before he could think. "Get it over with."
Shaw leaned in until he had a hand resting on either side of Samuel's shoulders. Samuel could feel Shaw's warm breath across his face, and his eyes flickered closed, only to snap open when Shaw spoke.
"I think not," whispered Shaw. "You owe me three kisses, but I do believe it will be a lot more satisfying to collect them individually. One shouldn't rush such things."
"You absolute bastard," Samuel spat.
Shaw laughed. "You can call me whatever you want, my lord, but it doesn't change the outcome of the bet. You made no provisions on how the kisses should be collected, so as the winner, I choose to set the rules. Or perhaps you'd like to back out?"
"Are you doubting my honor?"
"Not at all, my lord."
Shaw leaned even closer until he was just a breath away. Samuel watched as Shaw licked his lips and found himself unable to look away. He felt a hand rest on his shoulder and push him back flush against the wall. He was about to protest when he felt warm lips on his, a soft touch that grew bolder when he didn't attempt to throw Shaw off. Shaw's tongue teased at the seam of his lips, and Samuel made to protest, opening his mouth. He gasped as Shaw took the opportunity to nibble at his lower lip, a hand coming up to card through his hair, keeping him in place with a hand at the back of his neck. Samuel froze in shock when Shaw pushed his tongue further in, exploring his mouth, tipping his head slightly to the side to get better access.
Samuel realized he had gripped the front of Shaw's jacket; the fabric felt soft in his hand. Shaw moaned and pressed forward, his hand sliding beneath Samuel's coat and his waistcoat, under his shirt, and touching Samuel's skin. Samuel gasped at the sensation on his bare skin, hand fisting hard against Shaw's chest. He let Shaw explore his mouth, finally losing himself enough in the pleasure to tentatively push back with his own tongue. That drew a sound of almost carnal pleasure from Shaw, who continued to take liberties, stroking fingers against the skin of Samuel's abdomen and making butterflies dance in his stomach. After a few moments, Shaw drew back, making a pleased Hmm sound.
"Now that was a kiss," Shaw almost purred.
"That was the end of our bargain," Samuel bit out, trying to get this breath under control and his brain working again. "That was more than one kiss."
Shaw stepped back and rearranged his coat. "I beg to differ, my lord." He made Samuel's title sound almost obscene when he spoke. "Contact was not broken; therefore, that counts as one kiss. You still owe me two, which I will collect at my leisure. Enjoy the rest of your evening."
Samuel watched in disbelief as Shaw bowed and strode down the alleyway, walking toward Pall Mall. He stood there until the bastard had disappeared around the corner. Only when Shaw was gone did he give into the pure fury he could feel simmering inside. He embraced the anger. It was better to dwell on that rather than the fact he was hard in his breeches – and all from a stupid kiss.
Guy paid his shilling entrance fee and wandered through the gates of Vauxhall Gardens. The place never ceased to amaze him or fill him with an almost child-like delight. It was if his every sense was engaged: the heady smell of summer roses, almost fully blown over; the twinkle of hidden lamps in the boughs of leafy trees; and the chatter of couples as they wandered through the forested aisles, content to walk off a late supper. Dusk had fallen, and he could almost taste the anticipation in the air. Most people came to watch the fireworks which were set off every evening after dark; others came for assignations, both of the business and the sensual variety. Guy was here to locate Samuel Yorke and, if he played his cards right, claim another kiss from him.
Harry had been disturbingly eager to share the news earlier that sometimes Yorke liked to take the air at Vauxhall and watch the fireworks. Guy could only speculate as to Harry's motivations. For a brief second he wondered if Yorke himself had instructed Harry to reveal it, but just as quickly Guy disregarded this notion – Yorke was simply not the type to allow his plans to be made known to casual acquaintances, not without a reason.
It was fully dark by the time Guy reached the quieter areas of the gardens, having stopped to converse with a couple of friends. Most of the family groups had made for the Turkish Tent or the Rotunda, hoping to get a better view of the fireworks and some of the nobility who would still be dining in the supper boxes.
The lamps in the trees offered some illumination among the twisting pathways and groves, perfect for romantic assignations. Unless you knew your way around, it would be easy to get confused and perhaps even lost. Guy was far from lost. In fact, Harry had all but told him beneath which tree Samuel Yorke liked to watch the fireworks from.
The low illumination and the sultry atmosphere allowed Guy to approach Yorke without the man even realizing it. It wasn't until a particularly bright (and loud) set of fireworks went off that Yorke even noticed him standing there. As soon as Yorke recognized Guy, his entire posture changed from lazy indolence to one of tight, barely constrained suspicion.
"What are you doing here, Shaw?"
Guy sketched a polite bow. "Merely watching the fireworks, the same as yourself, my lord."
Yorke looked away, clearly unwilling to continue with the conversation; however, his suspicious nature appeared to win out. "I find that hard to believe. I'll ask you once again, Shaw. Why are you here?"
Guy smiled. It was very clear that Yorke knew why he was here, and yet he obviously wanted Guy to admit it aloud. Was the man masochistic, or was it something else? Suddenly Guy understood, and he had to stop himself from grinning like an idiot. It occurred to him that Yorke was nervous – not just nervous, perhaps, but also trying to hide his own interest in Guy. This was turning out to be a lot more diverting than Guy had ever hoped for.
"I've come to claim another kiss, my lord," Guy confirmed, stepping up to Yorke and resting one hand on Yorke's wrist. Guy watched the man's body language for signs of fight or flight, but Yorke did neither, only a faint tremble giving him away. This further cemented Guy's suspicion that Yorke was at the very least marginally interested, even if he refused to acknowledge it to himself. There was another loud bang, and then a wash of gold and red light as more fireworks went off. The sighs of the admiring crowd could be heard in the distance, and the noise only served to highlight the deep hush of the tree-lined walkways that surrounded them here.
Guy tightened his grip on Yorke's wrist and pulled him away from the path, deeper into the wood until they were far from the crowds and the lanterns hanging in the trees, now surrounded by the hush of velvet darkness. Yorke attempted to pull his wrist from Guy's hand, but Guy held tight, refusing to relinquish his grip.
"You don't want anyone seeing you in such a compromising position, do you, my lord?" Guy whispered, pushing an unresisting Yorke against the nearest tree.
Yorke said nothing, but to Guy's experienced eye, he didn't have to. Yorke's body spoke for him as clearly as any conversation, and it was enchanting. Yorke licked his lips nervously as his fringe fell across his eyes. Guy reached forward and brushed Yorke's fringe back, revealing eyes darkened with both desire and distrust. His skin was warm where Guy's fingers touched, and Yorke's breath was uneven, almost ragged.
Guy surged forward, his lips meeting Yorke's almost hard enough to bruise, reveling in the way Yorke surrendered immediately, opening his mouth and allowing Guy access. Yorke made a noise halfway between protest and longing, and Guy was lost. He let his hands wander as they kissed, pulling Yorke's shirt loose and sliding his palms over the smooth skin of his lower back. He felt Yorke's body arch against him and felt his erection against his own hip. Guy slid a leg between Yorke's and pressed upward, groaning when Yorke pushed back, rubbing up against Guy's thigh.
Guy almost lost his composure when he felt Yorke's fingers on the buttons of his waistcoat, pulling at his shirt to reach Guy's skin. Yorke was mindlessly rocking against Guy's thigh, spreading his legs without even realizing it, giving Guy more room to move. He gasped when Yorke's fingers ghosted over his stomach, making his muscles clench involuntarily at the almost ticklish touch. Guy deepened the kiss, starting to feel lightheaded with desire, but he'd be damned if he was going to stop this before he was ready.
His hands slid down Yorke's back, over the swell of his ass in almost obscenely tight buckskin breeches. He squeezed Yorke's ass, and pulled him closer. Yorke's hips rocked into his, and they both broke the kiss for air, gasping into each other's mouths, lips almost touching. Guy took advantage of the fact that Yorke hadn't noticed they were no longer kissing and began to nip and lick along Yorke's throat, pulling his neckcloth open so he had better access.
God, he was so close to coming in his pants like an inexperienced schoolboy. Guy squeezed his eyes closed and let Yorke continue to rock against him, sending jolts of electrifying pleasure through his cock every time he moved. Judging by the sound of Yorke's ragged breathing and the way his hands were gripping Guy's hips, he was close to orgasm as well.
Another especially loud bang rang out, and the sky was filled with a wash of red light as the final crescendo of fireworks went off. Yorke's whole body immediately stiffened, but not from orgasm, which was terribly disappointing. The hands that had been gripping his hips like a lifeline abruptly came up to Guy's chest and pushed violently, making Guy stumble as he stepped backward.
Guy waited for Yorke to begin yelling, to say something. As it was he could hardly think himself; his brain was almost selectively shut down, the pursuit of lust the only thing it was willing to entertain at the moment. Yorke was panting with the effort to control himself, and Guy wondered if Yorke was facing the same difficulty as he was.
The sound of enthusiastic clapping in the distance signaled the end of the fireworks display and, apparently, the end of the assignation. Yorke fixed him with a wild-eyed glare, rearranged his neckcloth and shirt, and stalked off. Guy was tempted to go after the man, to try to calm him down. His body was on a knife-edge, tight with the need to climax, yet his brain was telling him to follow Yorke and to explain. But explain what? Yorke definitely hadn't been complaining, and if Guy were to be technical about things, they had still been kissing through most of it. Therefore, this little tryst still fell within the boundaries of the bet.
"Dammit," Guy muttered, running a hand through his hair. He spent a few minutes trying to calm down by rearranging his clothing, unwilling to appear in public looking rumpled enough to give anyone the need to question his appearance. It was simply against his nature to be seen in town less than perfectly dressed, though if he thought he had a chance in hell of tracking down Yorke, he probably would have done. Guy sighed. Better to appear the gentleman, even if sometimes one was not.
He made his way out of the woods and back onto the lit paths, following the crowds toward the entrance. Perhaps he should give Yorke time to cool down before he claimed the last part of the forfeit, he decided.
"Goddammit, Harry! I am not 'fleeing' town, as you so eloquently phrase it!" Samuel slammed a book on ancient Greece back on the side table, causing a small statue of Apollo to wobble. He watched as it teetered on the edge of the table, a perverse part of his mind simply not caring when it finally lost the battle to gravity and fell, landing on the marble floor and breaking apart.
Calmly, Harry walked over and bent down, retrieving the statue. He held the main part of the figure in one hand and the smaller part in his other palm. "Clearly Apollo won't be frolicking with the ladies in some Dionysian grove any time soon," he said with an unsympathetic look, placing the broken statuette back on the table.
Samuel ignored Harry's comment and sat down on a couch. "I'm simply returning to the estate to look over the accounts and talk to my steward about certain things. That is all."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "You're going all the way to Devon to discuss summer crops and the planting schedule with your steward? I'm quite sure that's already been arranged – your man is more than capable of his job, Samuel. And besides, this could have all been done by correspondence, without a need to leave town in the middle of the season. This has something to do with your bet with Shaw, doesn't it?"
Samuel sighed and refused to answer the question, or meet Harry's gaze. "Just ring the bell for tea, please."
"As I thought," Harry replied, crossing to the corner of the room. He yanked on the bellpull and took up position leaning against the fireplace mantel, where he could examine Samuel's expression properly.
Samuel resisted the urge to squirm uncomfortably beneath Harry's gaze. When Harry got it in his head that something needed fixing, no amount of persuasion could be brought to bear on the situation until Harry had gotten his way. It was very vexing. The key to the whole thing was to play it calmly and hope Harry got diverted by something more important.
"Are you going to tell me what this bet was about, Samuel?"
"And yet for some reason, you feel threatened by Shaw. I am going to be rather annoyed if he's done something that requires me to break off my friendship with him. In the same vein, I shall be very put out if you have offended one of my better friends. Shaw may appear to cultivate an image of the disinterested libertine, but I can assure you he's nothing of the sort. You'd be hard pressed to find a more loyal, trustworthy friend if you'd only give him an opportunity."
"Then how do you account for the rumors, Harry? I'm quite sure it's not by accident there are so many stories to attest to his ways." Samuel started to pick at a thread that had come loose from an embroidered cushion.
Harry glared at him. "And if you took the time to dig beneath the gossip, Samuel, you'd find most of it is simply smoke and mirrors. I cannot vouch for all of it, but do you really think I would remain friends with a person whose character was so tarnished? I think not." Harry crossed his arms. "Besides, you can be assured that the Prince Regent would not have made Shaw's acquaintance if that was the case."
Samuel's reply was interrupted by his housekeeper, Mrs. Miggins, bringing in the tea. Both men waited in silence as she poured the tea, set out biscuits, curtseyed, and withdrew.
Samuel wondered if he was being unreasonable. It was not so much Shaw's character that bothered him as such, he admitted. It was the reaction Shaw pulled from him whenever they met. It was even worse that the last two times they'd had contact had been to fulfill part of their bargain. Samuel did not like relinquishing control, and that was what Shaw seemed to do: make him lose his head and damn the consequences. It was embarrassing enough to have to admit, in the privacy of his own thoughts, that Shaw drew some kind of reaction out of his body that paled alongside anything he'd experienced before. He wanted to experience more of that feeling, but Samuel was concerned that if he let Shaw take liberties, that wouldn't be the end of things. He was concerned that he might be the one to push the boundaries of the bet and see exactly how far he could persuade Shaw to go.
He'd had too many sleepless nights this past week already, imagining what Shaw would look like, lying sated on the bed, flushed from exertion, his breath unsteady in his chest, eyes half-lidded with returning desire. He'd wondered what it would be like to have Shaw beneath him, body writhing in the throes of passion, begging for release.
"Are you quite all right, Samuel? You look rather flushed," Harry commented dryly.
"I'm fine." Samuel released the pillow he'd been fussing with and took a biscuit off the plate, more to give himself time to regroup than any need for refreshment. "All this is beside the point anyway. I'm quite determined to return to Devon for at least a fortnight. No doubt after that I shall join you in Brighton for the rest of the season. You are more than welcome to use this place as your residence while I am away."
Harry sighed and moved to pick up his cup of tea. He sipped it carefully, clearly enjoying the aroma and the pleasant taste, judging by the expression on his face. "Thank you for your concern, Samuel; however, I am for Lyme Regis. I fancy taking in some sea air, and I heard the Dorset coastline has an amazing variety of fossils to be had. Apparently one can simply wander the beach and pick them up from the sand itself."
"It's hardly a fashionable place to be seen, Harry, especially out of season."
"Like I said, Samuel, I am not shopping for a spouse, merely going fossil collecting. I trust it's not a problem?"
Samuel knew when to quit while he was ahead. Getting Harry going on the state of the marriage market was clearly a mistake, as was trying to prevent the man from doing something he'd already set his mind on.
"Fine. I shall finish packing and be off first thing in the morning. The sooner I'm for Devon, the better."
"And the sooner you can return, Samuel, to complete your business with Shaw. Then we can all be done with it," replied Harry, getting the last word as usual.
Chapter 2: Manners & Physique Part II
Guy had had only the best of intentions when he had decided to not press Yorke further and leave him to cool his head. However, it was somewhat shocking to discover via a carefully worded letter from Harry that Yorke had, in fact, claimed a pressing business matter with his estate agent and left London. Guy was not completely sure how to feel about this turn of events. Firstly, he was concerned that his behavior may have driven off Yorke for good, but then remembered the man was possessed of a remarkably fiery temper and a quick fuse, and would have called him out at the first opportunity if he'd given real offense. Secondly, Guy was somewhat vexed by the fact that Yorke had fled before he himself had had the chance, too; a sudden withdrawal from society was always good for gossip and keeping the fickle London set on their toes.
Most of society was now done with the steady rotation of balls and parties in London; with Parliament taking a break, it was now off to Brighton to indulge in further excess and perhaps even some sea bathing. Usually, Guy would have taken a house in Brighton and joined the crowds, but he had decided it might be for the better if he took a well-deserved break and went home to check on his own property. A mitigating factor in his decision was that Lyme Regis was no more than five miles from his estate, and a visit with Harry might cheer him up; in addition he would be able to put his time to good use and get to the bottom of why Yorke had fled London.
It was with this thought in mind that Guy set out from his estate and made for Lyme Regis early in the morning, hoping to catch Harry before he left for his morning walk along the cliffs. Guy had always enjoyed the ride from his small estate down to Lyme Regis, admiring the way the softly rolling countryside gave way to forested copses and woods, and thence the land began gently sloping toward the cliffs, ending with a glorious expanse of white crested waves, set amongst a deep blue sea. That sea was rather changeable, as Guy well knew. He'd seen it change in the howling gales to a morass of roiling grey and spitting foam, the horizon blending into the never-ending sky. At other times it was almost peaceful, a deep blue that seemed to stretch for miles without pause.
The day was somewhat warm, and Guy was glad he'd decided to wear a cropped riding coat, rather than that damned wool greatcoat he habitually wore in London where the weather was less temperate. He crested a hill and let his horse walk on a loose rein, content to enjoy the morning and not rush.
A cloud of dust atop of the nearby hill signaled another rider. At first it appeared as if the rider was trying to break a record for speed, and Guy wondered if it was a London courier on urgent business of some sort. As the pair drew closer, it was apparent the rider was keeping to a leisurely, if fast, canter. Guy admired the way the man rode, in perfect control of his horse, his seat almost textbook as he moved gracefully with the animal as though they were one. Guy applied his heels to his horse and continued his slow pace, losing sight of the rider as he entered a wooded copse that straddled the road.
He could hear the rider before he came into view, and then finally caught sight of him, his white horse moving amongst the trees, one minute visible and the next vanishing in the foliage. Guy purposely moved to the side, not wanting to get run down by the other rider, and also conscious of the fact he didn't wish to be covered in grime by the time he arrived in town.
As the rider hove around the corner he slowed, finally coming to a stop only a few feet away. It took Guy a few moments to realize that the other rider was none other than Samuel Yorke himself. Yorke was panting from exertion, his skin flushed from the exercise and the fresh air. He looked slightly mussed, but then a hard ride tended to do that. Guy fought to keep his expression neutral, considering the way his thoughts were going, and finally remembered enough of his manners to bow from the waist in his saddle.
"My lord," he said, hiding his grin.
"Shaw." Yorke seemed to choke on his name and had a hard time keeping his surprise from his voice. "What the hell are you doing out here?"
Guy allowed himself a smile, knowing it would no doubt send Yorke into fits of indignation. "My estate is but four miles or so from here, my lord." He pointed back up the lane that bisected the main road. "I was heading into town myself, thinking I would call on Harry."
Yorke appeared to consider this, as if he was mentally piecing together a rather difficult puzzle. His face clouded and he muttered under his breath, but Guy couldn't catch what was said.
"Are you heading for Lyme Regis yourself, my lord?"
"What?" Yorke frowned. "Oh, yes. I've been visiting my steward and was on my way to London."
"I see." Guy raised an eyebrow.
"Is that horse the same black gelding you won at cards?" The words seemed to leave Yorke's mouth before he'd fully thought them through.
Guy grinned again. "It is indeed, my lord. I decided to name him Ukoku."
"Ukoku?" Samuel seemed to consider this. "He looks a bit of a bastard; it's a fitting name. Have you finally broken him in?" Yorke was obviously striving for normalcy, having realized his error in mentioning cards and betting.
The thread of the conversation was laden with unintentional innuendo, and Yorke appeared to be beyond agitated but trying not to show it. If he had been the better person, Guy would have made small talk and left Yorke to his own devices. However, Yorke did still owe him a kiss and had fled town before he could pay the forfeit, so Guy felt no small amount of enjoyment in being able to fluster the man further.
"I decided not to break the horse in, my lord. Rather, it seemed more expedient to simply allow him to have his head and run where he would. I knew he'd return to me and be all the better for doing so willingly. As you can see, he seems rather resigned to his fate, wouldn't you say?" Guy looked down at the gelding, which appeared somewhat bored and was currently snatching at some long grass in the hedgerow.
"Quite." Yorke was flushed and having a terrible time hiding it.
An awkward silence fell between them, and Guy considered making further small talk. He wondered if Yorke was waiting for him to say something – it seemed likely; otherwise, he would not have stopped but would have continued on his way. Refusing to stop to talk would have been the ultimate snub, but then Guy would have known exactly where he stood in regard to Yorke's feelings toward him. So why had Yorke paused in his journey?
As the silence stretched, Yorke's horse shifted, swishing its tail and leaning its weight on its right back foreleg, obviously grateful for the rest. Guy's horse snuffled and chewed on some grass, prompting him to decide a hunter bit might be rather more appropriate than a simple snaffle to keep his horse in line.
"Look, Shaw," Yorke began, his voice tight with anger. "Are you going to bloody well kiss me, or do I have to provoke you further? I thought we had a bet!"
Guy stared at Yorke with something akin to surprise, but which was closer to open-mouthed amazement. "I hadn't thought to press you further, my lord, considering your flight from town. Although we had a wager, I don't wish to push you into something you truly despise doing. That would make me nothing more than a cad and a general bastard." He paused, thinking rapidly, but knowing he had no choice when he said, "Therefore, I hearby release you from your promise."
Yorke's response was not what Guy had anticipated. He supposed that Yorke would sigh with relief and then spend the rest of his life publically snubbing Guy and making Guy's social life excruciatingly painful. Instead, Yorke flushed a glorious shade of red, probably from rage and thwarted desire, and kicked his horse forward until they were side by side, facing each other. Yorke grabbed Guy by the collar, pulled him close until he was almost leaning over Yorke's horse, and proceeded to kiss him senseless.
Somewhere in the back of Guy's mind, he noted that he had a death grip on the reins of his horse and one hand fisted tightly in its mane, mainly to avoid falling forward. The other part of Guy's mind was engaged in surrendering fully to Yorke's kiss, which was both overwhelming and completely unexpected. He wondered if he may have misjudged Yorke's intentions and had been artfully played right from the beginning.
Yorke released Guy as quickly as he had grabbed hold of him, leaving Guy a panting, desire-filled wreck and barely able to keep his seat. "God, you're beautiful," Guy said before he could think properly. Yorke smirked, leaving Guy in no doubt that the tables had been turned thoroughly.
Guy reached out, intending to pull Yorke closer once more. He needed to touch Yorke, wanted to feel his hands on Yorke's body and kiss him silly. Guy's gelding shifted beneath him and stretched its neck, teeth bared as if to bite. Yorke pulled his horse back, but Guy's mount nipped at Yorke's horse's flank anyway, causing Yorke's horse to squeal and kick out, separating the riders.
"That black gelding really is a bastard," Yorke commented dryly. He seemed to appraise Guy, tilting his head to one side. "How far did you say your estate was from here?"
Guy was still trying to get his brain to catch up to his libido. "About four miles up that track. Why?"
Yorke turned in his saddle and narrowed his eyes. After a moment he turned back to Guy and gathered up his reins. He kicked his horse forward, circling around Guy until they stood facing the same way. "Catch me if you can, Shaw. You'll only get the opportunity once."
With that, Yorke was gone, urging his horse into a fast canter down the track. Guy wasn't sure what had just happened, but he recognized a command when he heard one, and the thought of catching Yorke outweighed his rapidly degenerating common sense. He kicked his horse forward and thundered off down the track, determined to catch up with his quarry before he lost sight of him.
Guy kept Yorke's white horse in sight as he made the corner, only to notice Yorke glance behind him and then veer sharply off the track and across a field. Cursing, Guy urged his horse faster, the canter giving way to an all-out gallop. The hedgerows raced past in a blur, and Guy felt a bubble of sharp excitement in his chest, partly from the chase and partly from the sheer joy of being at one with his horse and feeling the wind against his skin. He felt the ribbon come loose from his hair, the strands pulling as the bow gave way, but he ignored it and grinned wolfishly. His prey was in sight, almost within arm's reach.
Yorke turned sharply again and made for the gate that separated this field from the next one. Guy raised an eyebrow, watching as Yorke's horse cleared the gate, his horse's hooves rapping the top bar. Guy felt the bunching of his own horse's flanks and the powerful push as his gelding jumped the gate, landing with an almost bone-jarring thud on the other side. The gelding didn't pause, and Guy let the horse have its head.
He maneuvered the gelding until it was on the outside of Yorke's horse, pushing man and beast toward the wooded copse that surrounded his estate, knowing that Yorke would shortly run out of options for escape. He felt his horse put on an extra burst of speed as they drew closer, until Guy could almost reach out and touch Yorke. Yorke glanced over his shoulder and cursed, but it was clear he wasn't angry; his eyes shone with the excitement of the chase and his cheeks were flushed from the fresh air, his hair tangled by the wind. He looked more alive than Guy had ever seen him, and he felt his desire double in that instant.
The edge of the copse rapidly approached and Guy let Yorke run. He veered to the left as if to escape, only to realize he had run out of field. He turned sharply back to the right, and Guy let his laugh carry on the breeze, knowing Yorke would hear it and recognize the triumphant tone, know he'd been expertly run to ground and had nowhere left to go.
Yorke dismounted just as his horse came to a stop, its flanks heaving from the run, sweat standing out against its twitching coat. Yorke turned to face Guy and began backing up, just as out of breath as his mount. Guy brought the gelding to a stop and dismounted, dropping the reins. He walked forward slowly, grin still in place as he loosened his neckcloth and dropped it to the ground. He unbuttoned his riding coat and let that fall to the ground as well.
Yorke continued to back up, his expression almost unreadable. "You have yet to catch me, Shaw," he said, raising an eyebrow. His elegant fingers loosened his own cravat and fumbled with the buttons on his coat. Yorke glanced behind him quickly and noticed he was now almost at the edge of the wooded copse.
"I'm biding my time," Guy replied smoothly. "I'm waiting for you to either make a mistake or surrender."
"That's rather unlike you, isn't it?" Yorke responded, discarding his jacket and working on the buttons of his waistcoat.
"Hmm, it does rather go against my nature, but I can honestly say I'm thoroughly enjoying the experience," Guy replied. He looked down, watching as Yorke's booted feet touched lush grass instead of the thick soil of the field.
He moved quickly, adrenaline surging through his body as he tackled Yorke, pulling him to the ground with an arm around his waist. Yorke's fists tangled in Guy's waistcoat as they fell, and Guy went down willingly. They struggled for dominance, neither willing to relinquish control, tugging at each other's clothing. Guy felt the delicate buttons on his waistcoat come loose and struggled out of the garment, sliding a leg between Yorke's thighs, trying to pin him down. Yorke's fingers tangled in Guy's hair, pulling him down roughly, his hips surging up to connect with Guy's just as their tongues met for a deep kiss that was bruising in its intensity.
He moaned into Yorke's mouth, letting Yorke grind up against him. He pushed Yorke's shirt up, his fingers sliding across warm skin at last, brushing against a nipple and causing Yorke to make a strangled noise in his throat and tug on his hair.
He smoothed his palm down over Yorke's abdomen, past his navel and fumbled at the fastenings on Yorke's breeches, pulling the fabric apart so he could slide his hand inside and grip Yorke's erection.
"Ah!" Yorke bucked up into Guy's hand and threw his head back, breaking off the kiss and panting hard.
Guy took the opportunity to kiss and lick at Yorke's exposed neck, grazing his teeth over the sensitive skin and feeling Yorke's cock twitch in his hand. Guy observed that Yorke seemed to be rather responsive in that one particular spot on his neck.
He released Yorke's cock, sitting up to tug off Yorke's boots, followed by his breeches, which he tossed to the side. Guy desperately wanted to see the rest of Yorke naked but was still cognizant of the fact they were in his neighbor's field. Instead, he returned to kissing Yorke, distracting him long enough to slide between his parted legs and press spit-slicked fingers to his entrance. He pushed one finger inside, then two, twisting and thrusting, feeling Yorke's body clench involuntarily and then relax beneath him.
His kissed his way across Yorke's jaw line and nibbled on his ear. "I want in you," he breathed.
Yorke responded with a bitten off curse and began to rock himself onto Guy's fingers, but there was no denial. Guy pushed up until he was resting on his arm, hovering above Yorke. He admired Yorke's expression, noting the flush that had spread down his chest, and his eyes, glassy with desire.
Yorke's eyes focused and he frowned. "Goddamit, just fuck me, Shaw. I'm not going to break," he said, letting his head fall back on the grass.
Guy grinned, even if Yorke wasn't paying attention. "My pleasure," he replied. He removed his fingers and undid his breeches, freeing his erection. Guy stroked his cock, eyes fluttering shut as tight desire twisted in his gut. He slicked his cock with spit and shifted closer, guiding his cock to Yorke's entrance, then pressed forward, teasing Yorke until he rolled his hips impatiently. Guy's cock slid inside smoothly after an initial resistance, and he kept pushing forward until he was seated fully, balls brushing against Yorke's ass.
Guy closed his eyes momentarily and tried to find his control, which was rapidly fraying. It was no good; Guy couldn't hold back. As a rule, he liked nothing more than a leisurely fuck, but Guy knew this was going to be fast and intense. Yorke wrapped his legs around Guy's waist and pulled him forward, locking one ankle under Guy's ass, keeping him in place. Guy surged forward, placing his hands by Yorke's shoulders, snapping his hips forward and pushing Yorke up until only his upper back was still on the ground. Yorke threw his head back and arched his back further, an animalistic noise torn from his throat in the process.
"Damn it, Yorke. Ngh." Guy continued to thrust hard and fast, reveling in the feel of Yorke's muscles as they tightened around his cock, the way Yorke's thighs trembled against his waist.
Yorke reached up and gripped Guy's biceps, trying to get some leverage. His fingernails dug into Guy's skin, even through his shirt, and the pain only added to Guy's desire. He spread his legs further and let himself go, thrusting into Yorke's trembling body. His hair slid forward, curtaining them both in red strands, seemingly hiding them from the world. The desire in Guy's belly tightened, becoming almost painful with the need to come. He let himself go, orgasm whitewashing his brain momentarily.
He pulled out roughly, ignoring Yorke's gasp of surprise, and slid down between Yorke's legs. Guy took Yorke into his mouth – all the way down, with no finesse – and sucked hard, drawing his tongue up Yorke's erection and back down again. He thrust two fingers into Yorke's ass and bent his fingers, pressing upward.
From a distance he heard Yorke yell and felt his cock twitch. Yorke's body seemed to go almost rigid, and Guy concentrated on swallowing, savoring his taste and the heady feeling of having Yorke come undone beneath him. He continued to lick until Yorke began to soften, finally pulling back with a satisfied smirk on his face, and then stretched forward and rolled to the side, letting his body go slack as he fought for breath, listening to Yorke panting next to him.
Minutes passed and Guy watched the clouds pass by above him. Eventually he turned onto his side and propped himself on one elbow, watching Yorke, mainly for signs of impending violence. Yorke seemed to be disinclined to move, however, and only turned his head to stare back at him.
After a few moments, Guy couldn't help himself. "You look rather disheveled, my lord," he pointed out.
"As do you." Yorke stretched languidly.
Guy cocked his head and grinned. "I suppose it would be polite to offer you the use of my manor and perhaps a bath. Being seen in public like this might be damaging to your image."
Yorke blinked as he appeared to consider the idea. "Are you providing dinner as well?"
"Dinner, my lord? Have you worked up an appetite?" Guy was openly grinning now, enjoying the teasing.
Yorke put on his best bored expression, which didn't quite fit with his debauched attitude, or the desire in his eyes. "If you feed me dinner, I may be persuaded into further dishevelment," he suggested.
Guy buttoned up his pants and sat up. "Well, well," he replied. "You should have said earlier, my lord. I'm sure I can persuade my housekeeper into preparing a proper meal."
Yorke stood up and pulled on his breeches and boots. He paused for a moment, looking out over the fields. "Samuel."
"I'm sorry, my lord?" Guy got to his feet and brushed his breeches down, pausing to look at him.
"My name is Samuel. I don't mind you using my first name when we're in private."
Guy was surprised. The Earl of Hardwicke seemed determined to catch him off guard once again. It was rather refreshing. "I suppose I'm going to have to keep you in private a lot then, Samuel." He grabbed Samuel by the shoulders and kissed him, pleased when Samuel opened his mouth and returned the kiss, wrapping his arms around Guy's neck.
Guy could feel his cock start to harden again and pulled away, determined not to ravish Samuel in the field once more, though it certainly had been entertaining. "Dinner, then," Guy said breathlessly. "But first I have to find my horse; he seems to have disappeared."
Samuel began to pick up his clothing, which was scattered nearby. He stopped and looked up, his gaze searching across the field. Samuel seemed to relax when he noticed his own horse grazing contentedly near the hedgerow.
"I told you that horse was a bastard." Samuel raised his eyebrow and tried to hide a laugh.
Guy grinned despite the fact he was now horseless. "You'll just have to share your horse then, Samuel," he said.
"I think not. Why don't we walk instead?"
"Dinner will be extremely late if we walk," Guy pointed out mischievously.
"Then you had better make it worth my while, Shaw."
Guy licked his lips suggestively and calculated the distance between himself and Samuel. Perhaps dinner and a bath could wait until they'd really worked up an appetite.