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The Hunter and the Rose

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The club was considered almost crowded at this time of the afternoon, fully half of the plush leather chairs filled with men drinking glasses of port and smoking cigars, restoring their spirits before venturing home to their wives and children. Philip knew where he would find Quinton, and headed unerringly toward the massive brick fireplace located at the back of the room.

"Quinn?"

His friend glanced up at him, looking as impeccable and elegant as always in an outfit of gray, his somber features and haunted blue eyes instantly revealing that he knew the reason for Philip's visit. "Yes, it's true."

Philip sank heavily into an armchair, reaching out for the crystal decanter and one of the glasses on the side table, pouring himself a healthy dose. "I'd almost hoped that it was all wrong, all a terrible misunderstanding."

"Edward's lawyer contacted me this morning."

"No doubt then. Waverley never made a mistake in his life. I don't think the word is even in his vocabulary."

"He's arranged for the bodies to be shipped back for burial. I'll send you the details as soon as I have them."

"And the boy?"

"Is my responsibility now. I'm picking him up from school tomorrow. He'll stay with me until after the funeral."

Philip shifted uneasily in the chair, knowing what he needed to say but dreading the rejection. He hated anything that could be interpreted as arguing with Quinton, even though the other man was never impolite or belittled him. He was simply so…dashed absolute. "A young boy is a lot of responsibility."

"I promised Edward."

That was it then. When Quinton made a promise, he kept it. But Philip's own loyalty to their departed friend drove him on. "Maggie and I would be willing to take him. He's only a few years older than Letty, and she loves to play with him. She'd love to have a big brother."

"I promised Edward."

"I know." He sipped the port, savoring the taste, staring into the fire, remembering when Quinton had made that promise, seeing Edward's handsome face smiling in wonder as he held his son. He's so amazing. Isn't he amazing? I'm a father now.

And Quinton's retort, You'll have to be responsible now. Philip's own smile must have been goofy in the extreme, sharing in Edward's happiness, all of them knowing the absurdity of Quinton's response. Edward had been born with responsibility entrenched in his very bones, almost as much as Quinton. Philip was the thoughtless one of the three. But if anything happens, you'll be, won't you? You'll take care of Benjamin and Vicky.

Of course. Not that anyone had expected anything to happen. Edward was young and wealthy and handsome, with the perfect wife and the perfect son. He had had the perfect life and would continue to do so, until he died a distinguished, admired old man at his estate.

But now the bodies of him and his beautiful wife had been hoisted out of a lake and his son was an orphan. "Still…if it gets to be too much, you'll let us know?"

Leaning forward in his chair, Quinton clasped his hand around Philip's forearm, squeezing in reassurance. "I will. Thank you, my friend."

Philip covered Quinton's hand with his other one, squeezing back, wondering if he imagined the little hint of uncertainty in Quinton's blue eyes. "I have to reassure Maggie I made the offer. But don't worry. I know you'll do fine together."

~~~~~~

Quinton strode into his study, tired after a good day's hunting, and expecting only to make a quick check on his correspondence before changing for dinner.

What he saw stopped him cold in his tracks. Cold… and hot. His ward, Benjamin, was sitting with his buttocks perched on the table, his clothes in disarray. The long-sleeved white shirt was opened to reveal his slim chest, while the red hunting jacket was draped around his forearms. The top button of his white breeches was open, and his shaft was defiantly pressing on the other buttons, straining to be freed. A pink rose was tucked behind one ear, its many petals looking as soft as Benjamin's skin.

"What do you think you're doing?"

"What I tried to do last year," Benjamin said more bravely than seductively, though his very image was an enticement to sin. "And the year before. But which you kept ignoring, just sending me back to school like nothing had happened."

Quinton had recognized Benjamin's previous attempts to seduce him, of course. Known and ruthlessly ignored the lad's wavering gestures. "Embarrass yourself?" He made his voice level and flat, knowing he must once again quash this insanity, hoping that this scene wouldn't create a permanent disruption in their relationship.

But Benjamin didn't rise to the bait as Quinton would have expected. He didn't debate Quinton or appear flustered. His back arched a little, forcing more of his shirt to drift further away from his chest, revealing one peaked nipple. "I've never seen your eyes so dark. They're almost purple. Is that because you want me?"

Shocked, Quinton looked into his own reflection in the mirror behind Benjamin. He had changed little over the years of being Benjamin's guardian, his short brown hair showing only small signs of gray, his beard and mustache always neatly trimmed, the red hunting jacket hugging his broad shoulders as closely as the white breeches conformed to his trim hips. But indeed his normally blue eyes were darkened by passion, shaded to an intense purple. "I don't want you. You're my ward."

Languidly plucking another rose from the vase on the table, this one as dark red as their hunting jackets, Benjamin brought it up to his face, inhaling the fragrance, twirling the petals against his lips before slowly drawing it down the length of his chest, the action emphasizing the lean, shapely muscles covered by luscious pale skin. "I think you do," he challenged.

Watching Benjamin's lazy, seductive spectacle, Quinton's hand clenched desperately on the riding crop he still carried. As the red rose came to rest on Benjamin's lap, nestling on the bulging front, Quinton's hand flashed out, cracking the crop on the table. "Stop this."

The sharp noise made Benjamin flinch in reaction, but he gave a little breathless laugh before taunting, "Am I hitting too close to the bone?"

The truth seared Quinton. He did want Benjamin, wanted him so badly he could almost taste his lips, his skin… Sometimes he thought he would be driven mad by the ghostly Benjamin who haunted his dreams, satisfying his every desire, while his days were filled by the real person, the boy who had become more handsome in his face and form, and more attractive in his character as he grew into a man. "I made a promise to your father."

"To take care of me. And you have. Now take care of me completely. Show me what it really means to be a man."

He spoke harshly, insultingly, needing to send Benjamin scurrying away. "You have no idea what it means to be a man. You're only a boy. A boy playing at being grown-up."

"I have some idea. I know what it's like to wonder what your lips taste like. To want to know whether your beard would feel soft or rough on my skin. I know what it's like to ride behind you, to watch your hips as your horse canters and wonder what it feels like to have those hips thrust against me. I know what it's like to wake up in the night, hard and aching and craving your arms around me. I know desire. I know need. What I don't know is fulfillment."

The power of Benjamin's words made his shaft swell, filling his breeches, mirroring Benjamin's own state. He stepped closer, as if his height could intimidate Benjamin into silence. Snapping the whip on the table again, he ordered, "Stop this. Stop this foolishness."

Benjamin laughed, a shaky, breathless sigh. Dropping the red rose to the floor, he rolled his hips off the table and stood, leaning into Quinton's taller body. "Maybe you should use that whip on something more vulnerable. If you really want to convince me."

Quinton looked at their reflection in the mirror behind Benjamin. The drape of the red jacket hanging from Benjamin's forearms hid the top of his white breeches, but Quinton knew what he was missing. White wool caressing round, firm buttocks, outlining tantalizing perfection. Buttocks that begged for his hands to squeeze them, caress them… he groaned and shut his eyes, as if he could bar the knowledge of what he wanted by closing himself off from the vision.

Benjamin's head came to rest on his shoulder, his body touching the length of Quinton's, one of his legs between Quinton's. There was a rustle of material and something settled around their booted feet. "We're beautiful together," came Benjamin's soft voice.

At that, Quinton had to open his eyes and look at the two of them. Benjamin's jacket was on the floor, leaving him clothed all in white except for the black boots. His reddish-blond hair was tousled, resting on Quinton's shoulder but turned so that he could see their reflection. The pink rose was caught between them, the color a perfect transition between the bold red of Quinton's hunting jacket and the creaminess of Benjamin's face. Benjamin's eyes were bright green, their color clearer and more defined than Quinton had ever seen them.

Quinton tightened his grip on the whip, trying to release his desire to squeeze Benjamin into the inanimate object. Its thin shape was unsatisfying.

"Don't you think we're beautiful?"

"You're beautiful," Quinton whispered. As if in a trance, he watched his hand float through space, carrying the whip toward Benjamin, the tip finally coming to rest on his buttocks. He poked the firmness, then rubbed the tip over one cheek. "We need to stop this."

The response wasn't the deterrent that Quinton sought. Benjamin reached up, clasping the pin that held Quinton's cravat in place, slowly undoing and tossing it to land on top of the table. The removal of the cravat followed, floating to rest on Benjamin's red jacket.

Did Benjamin think Quinton would simply stand quietly and let him strip off his clothes? Quinton wanted to, oh how he hungered to let Benjamin have what he wanted, what he'd wanted for the last few years. "Stop this," he tried again.

"Make me," was the fast taunt.

Without thought, his hand holding the whip rose, bringing it back down forcefully on Benjamin's rear, protected only by the thin white breeches. The whip connected, making a fast, sharp noise like a slap.

Benjamin moaned, his pink mouth open, his cheekbones flushed, his eyes wide and emerald bright. "Again."

Quinton obeyed, giving Benjamin's buttocks another good crack, trying to command obedience, trying to stop him from being the living embodiment of temptation. The strike made Benjamin's entire body writhe, his hips bucking, trying to escape the whip by thrusting urgently into Quinton's body, Benjamin's young hardness digging into Quinton's hipbone.

Benjamin laughed, his breath exhaling on the skin of Quinton's neck. "Of all the lessons I'd hoped you teach me, I never pictured starting with this one. But our relationship started like that, didn't it? One day everything is normal and the next day I'm yours. Make me completely yours, Quinton. Please."

At Benjamin's quiet pleading, at the thought of all he could teach Benjamin, all that he'd craved to teach him for years, Quinton lost a little of his struggle against temptation. Touching the tip of the whip to Benjamin's chin, Quinton tilted his head back. "You're right. We started too fast, didn't we? I want to start here, with your mouth, your sweet succulent mouth." He brought his lips close to Benjamin's, their breath mingling for an eternity before Quinton allowed himself a taste. Benjamin's lips were everything that Quinton had dreamed they might be. Soft, warm, and oh so sweet…the purest masculine innocence melded with Benjamin's unique spark and fire.

Quinton kept the kiss slow and hesitant, still fighting his base impulses, trying to allow Benjamin time to consider, to withdraw if he desired. Tossing the crop onto the table, he embraced Benjamin, loving the feel of having this man wholly in his arms. Benjamin met Quinton's hesitancy with impatience, thrusting his tongue into Quinton's mouth. His kiss was untutored, his tongue awkwardly stabbing into Quinton's mouth, an inexperience that thrilled Quinton. His tongue met Benjamin's and coaxed it along, showing it how to explore the depths of Quinton's mouth, how to combine demanding need with sensual pleasure.

They were both breathing heavily when Quinton separated their lips, staring intently into Benjamin's eyes. "One last chance. One last time to say no. I don't know if I can stop if we go farther."

"I won't want you to. I want to know."

His sense of responsibility drove Quinton to fight against Benjamin's total capitulation, to try to force him to retract his wishes by throwing the past at him. "You've always been so like your father, except that you're more reckless. He was rarely reckless. The last time was the day he took your mother out boating."

Benjamin obviously recoiled at the mention of his parents. His eyes jerked away from Quinton's face, staring absently at the floor. He shuddered a little, his face contorted with remembered grief, but when he glanced back at Quinton, his green eyes were alight with revelation. "You're really scared of me, aren't you?"

It was Quinton's turn to feel a flinch shudder through his body at Benjamin's accuracy. "Not of you…but of letting you down. Of letting your parents down."

Benjamin smiled, looking wiser than Quinton had felt in his entire life. "You won't. Don't worry. This isn't reckless or ill-considered. I desire this. I desire you."

No sane man could fight such pure, determined sincerity. Quinton groaned as he pulled Benjamin to him, murmuring, "This is insanity," before his lips claimed Benjamin's again. This time Quinton's kiss was hard, needy, and Benjamin responded unreservedly, exploring Quinton's mouth aggressively.

Benjamin's lips slid down Quinton's face, rubbing into Quinton's beard before latching onto his throat. Quinton gave an urgent hiss of pleasure as Benjamin's lips and teeth sucked on a small patch of skin. He cradled Benjamin's head in his palm, seeing the two of them in the mirror, and knew what he wanted for this time, their first time, a way to make certain Benjamin's participation was whole-hearted and informed.

"Turn." There was no response to his command, so Quinton took Benjamin forcefully by his shoulders, turning him to face the mirror. "Look at us." He splayed his hands on Benjamin's chest, his thumbs not quite touching his nipples. "Do you want this?"

"Yes."

He drifted his hands up and down Benjamin's torso, feeling the lean muscles of his stomach, caressing the peaked nipples. "Do you want this?"

"Yes. God, yes."

He brought his hands to the front of Benjamin's breeches, slowly undoing the buttons. "I'll do nothing that you don't want."

"I want this. Please, Quinn, please."

Quinton shoved Benjamin's breeches and undergarment down, away from Benjamin's lean hips, exposing his groin, the already swollen shaft swinging out toward the mirror.

"Quinn, please." Benjamin grabbed onto one of Quinton's big hands, and curled it around his penis. "Touch me, damnit. Stroke me."

"Like this?" Quinton asked, his touch a mere token, his fingers holding the shaft too lightly.

"Harder," Benjamin pleaded.

Quinton conceded to the request, tightening his grip, his hand moving surely and firmly up and down Ben's length. His shaft was so like Benjamin himself. Warm and vibrant, firm and solid inside, soft skin, delicate in surprising places… Quinton used his other hand to explore the hanging sac, rolling it through his fingers. Already he could feel the tightening that signaled Benjamin's ultimate explosion. For all his determination, the younger man had little control over his body and its need.

"Are you ready for this?"

"Yes. Yes. Yes." Benjamin's eyes were wild, blazing green, his lower lip reddened from where his teeth had bitten into the skin. "Please, Quinn."

"Then come for me, Benjamin. Come and watch yourself in my arms."

On command, Benjamin's entire body quaked in Quinton's arms, pearly fluid splashing from his shaft, caught in Quinton's palm. Benjamin gave a wounded cry, a sound that Quinton treasured and knew he wanted to hear many more times. Collapsing in Quinton's arms, Benjamin was the picture of youthful decadence and passion with his shirt dangling open and his breeches twisted around his thighs.

Quinton uncurled his hand from Benjamin's shaft, bringing his fingers to his lips. He took one lick at the moisture there, learning Benjamin's flavor, knowing it would be even sweeter when he drank it the first time with Benjamin's shaft in his mouth. "Do you want more?"

Benjamin leaned forward, pushing the vase of roses aside to rest his forearms on the table. "I want it all." His bare rump jutted out at Quinton.

The intent was plain, the declaration impossible to resist. One-handed, Quinton unbuttoned his own breeches, shoving them down, taking himself quickly in hand, coating his hardness well with Benjamin's seed. He bent his knees, lowering himself, and in reaction, Benjamin spread his legs slightly apart, granting Quinton access, but rising a little on his toes to lift his buttocks.

"You understand what we're going to do."

"I've listened to my friends at school talk. I know what I want."

"Good." Quinton's hand almost trembled as he reached forward, finally touching the supple curves that had invaded his waking dreams long before they should have. He traced the dark valley, unerringly finding his destination, one slick finger breaching the muscled opening, pausing to judge Benjamin's response. There was no fear, no doubt in the green eyes that met his in the mirror, only nervous impatience. Quinton breathed a little easier and twisted his finger, massaging the muscle and loosening it.

They were both trembling by the time Quinton determined Benjamin was well-prepared, and removed his fingers, leaving the opening empty for only a second before inserting the tip of his shaft. Benjamin moaned and Quinton froze.

"More, damnit Quinn. More. Please. Are you determined to make me beg?"

Quinton rolled his hips, his shaft inching a little deeper into Benjamin. "You never have to beg me, love. You only have to ask. Ask me."

"Then all the way, Quinn. Let me know all of you."

Steadily, inexorably, Quinton gave Benjamin what he asked for. The difference in their heights could have been awkward, but Quinton held Benjamin's hips in his big hands, keeping him on a good level. Quinton pushed with his hips, thrusting himself further and further until he was completely enclosed within Benjamin's body. He watched Benjamin's eyes the entire time, waiting for any hint of pain or resistance, but seeing only the wonder of innocence becoming experience.

Quinton laughed, his hands squeezing on slim hips. "I have never felt so good in my life."

"Finish it, Quinn. Show me the rest."

"Yes, Benjamin. Yes." And Quinton took Benjamin, took him hard and long, claimed him over and over, plunging forward tirelessly, his shaft plowing into Benjamin, his hands moving Benjamin back and forth, to meet him, to retreat from him, to meet him again with the full force of their bodies. Benjamin's forehead pressed against the mirror and his panting breaths misted the glass, but he kept his head up, kept his eyes meeting Quinton's, vouching for his continued desire.

It could have taken only a few seconds; it could have lasted for infinity. Quinton couldn't measure the time, only knowing that it was painfully sweet and immensely powerful, seeing Benjamin shaking with sweat and desire, feeling the tight, hot grip surrounding his shaft, clasping him close, aware that this was the true beginning of their lives together. His entire body contracted and spasmed as he pulsed deep inside Benjamin, filling him with his seed, groaning in a pleasure close to anguish as Benjamin's muscles squeezed, milking the last drop from him.

Benjamin's seed spilled forth, landing in a white streak on his red jacket, as Benjamin gave another wounded cry, a longer, more broken one. Quinton rested his chest on Benjamin's back and cherished the sound. It almost hurt to withdraw from Benjamin, to step away and lean against the wall to prevent himself from falling as he restored his breeches into place. He watched Benjamin, still concerned, alert for signs of regret.

Benjamin's every move was lazy, as if he was too satiated for quick action. Standing straight, he kept his hands on the table a moment longer to assure his steadiness. Finally, he pulled up his underclothes and breeches before tucking in his shirt, and doing all his buttons. He shrugged into his jacket from the floor and picked up Quinton's riding crop, all without speaking, as if realizing Quinton was waiting for his first words. His hands caressed the length as he gave Quinton a look that combined adult sensuality and mischievous glee. Striking the whip on his boot, he murmured, "I'll be upstairs, in the master bedroom. I trust you can send our excuses on the hunt dinner?"

"I'll let them know we're very sorry for our unexpected absence. Something…came up."

Benjamin laughed. "Something certainly did. And will again." Whistling the trumpet call played to sound the beginning of the hunt, Benjamin swaggered out of Quinton's study, idly tapping the crop on his boot.

Quinton retrieved his cravat from the floor, tying it loosely, using his gold pin to keep it in place. He smoothed his jacket down, covering the front of his breeches. Except that the cravat was less elaborately tied than before, his appearance was exactly the same as when he had walked in the room. Nothing revealed that his entire world had been turned upside down and remade into heaven. Nothing except his eyes, which glittered with an intense purple hue overlying the normal midnight blue.

Amazed at what had occurred, anticipating the pleasures that the rest of the night promised, and tasting Benjamin on his lips and in his mouth, Quinton sat at his desk and scrawled a brief note. He stuffed the card in an envelope, and melted the red wax to seal the flap.

After dropping the card on the silver platter, he started to walk toward the door but stopped and returned, picking up the vase of flowers. He breathed the heady fragrance, wondering how their petals would feel rubbed on Benjamin's skin. Which was softer?

His eyes caught his reflection and he grinned. It was time to continue Benjamin's lessons, and Quinton had a feeling that both teacher and pupil would learn many new facts about themselves, each other, and the world around them.

~~~~

The club was considered almost crowded at this time of the afternoon, fully half of the plush leather chairs filled with men drinking glasses of port and smoking cigars, restoring their spirits before venturing home to their wives and children. Philip felt slightly desperate as he searched for a good chair, ready to join his fellow club members for some quiet relaxation and a stiff drink. A very tall stiff drink.

Letty was getting married in six months, and since the engagement had been announced, their household life had revolved around arrangements for the big day. Philip had never realized how much his dearest Maggie could put Napoleon to shame for sheer tactical organization. For the first time in his life, he was quite glad that only his oldest was a girl. When his boys got engaged, he would be thrilled to let the mothers and fathers of their fiancées have this joy.

Sighting Quinton and his ward, Philip smiled and headed toward the leather chairs by the massive fireplace. "Mind if I join you?"

Quinton smiled in return, raising his glass of port in acknowledgement, but Benjamin stood, shaking Philip's hand. "Uncle Philip, it's so good to see you."

"I saw that Quinton had sponsored you to the club. Pleasure to see you here."

"It's a pleasure to be here. I've always wondered where Quinn spent his time away."

"Thank God women ain't allowed." Philip shuddered. "I don't think I could handle another discussion of wedding ribbons."

Benjamin laughed, his smile so resembling his father's that Philip's heart ached, remembering his dear friend. "Letty's always talked about her dream wedding. I'm glad she's enjoying it."

"Yes, damn yes. Maggie and Letty are over the moon. I never knew there were so many things to discuss. Colors and styles and who should sit where and what should be played… it's enough to drive a man mad."

"Sit down and share some port with us, Philip," Quinton offered.

"Don't mind if I do, but I need something a little more bracing." He raised a finger toward one of the white-jacketed attendants. "Whiskey, please. A double."

Sitting down, Benjamin asked, "So when is the wedding?"

"Mid-June, I think. All depends on the vicar and the organist and the church and all sorts of nonsense. But seems to be settled for mid-June."

"Quinn's taking me on a tour of the continent, but we'll be back in plenty of time."

"You'd better," Philip threatened. "I'm going to need the support." The attendant handed him a whiskey and Philip sipped, sighing in blissful relief. Feeling more fortified, he took a closer look at his friends, pleased and a little jealous. They were both dressed impeccably, Quinton in gray and Benjamin in dark blue. They appeared happy, healthy, and extremely comfortable, enjoying their afternoon port. "You're dashed lucky, you two."

"Are we?"

"A bachelor household. Trust me, it's the best thing ever."

"We were sitting in the same chairs that day," Quinton said unexpectedly.

"What day?" Philip asked, confused. The only day he'd been thinking about was Letty's wedding day.

"That day that we heard the news about Edward. That day that I knew I would become Benjamin's guardian. You said we would do fine together."

"Yes, I did, didn't I? And I was right." Philip felt a glow of satisfaction. He might not appreciate why pearls couldn't be worn on a wedding day, but he'd predicted that Quinton and Benjamin would get along well, and he'd been right. A man had to cherish these little victories.

"Yes." Quinton and Benjamin spoke the word in unison, and clinked their port glasses. "You were right," Quinton added. "We've done very well together. We always will."

~ the end ~