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Lord Brian Kinney cuddled his son to his chest with one arm, tracing the child's small features with his fingertip. Pleased with the attention, the child cooed happily, grabbing at his father's hand.

"Augustus. Lord Augustus Kinney." Brian's voice was a gentle murmur. Most of his acquaintances would have surprised to hear the tenderness in his voice. Outside of quiet moments in the bedroom, Brian Kinney rarely displayed his soft side. And even those bedroom moments were strictly limited since he preferred sexual gymnastics to romantic cuddling.

Despite the sweetness of his tone, Brian's thoughts were in turmoil as he studied his beaming son. As his domineering father had always demanded, he'd married a good woman and to all appearances, settled down. He had a son to carry on the family name and title. His father never had a chance to appreciate his grandson, having passed away only a few weeks after the wedding, his death transforming Lord Brian and Lady Lindsay Kinney into the Earl and Countess of Longdon. Though the fulfillment of his responsibilities would have thrilled his patriarch, Brian suffered from mixed emotions. He cared more than he imagined for this small trusting person but the rush of paternal awakening didn't make him feel young and vibrant. Being a father just made him feel old.

"My lord."

"Yes Edgar, what is it?" Augustus scrunched his brow, hearing the displeasure in his father's voice as his introspection was interrupted.

"Your guest has arrived, sir."

"My guest?" Brian turned away from the window to glance at his butler and the young man hovering in the doorway behind him. "Oh yes, let him come in."

The butler sniffed at the young man's presumptuousness in not remaining in the entry way as he had been directed but stepped aside to let him pass. Without further permission, Justin Taylor crossed the room and walked straight up to Brian, gazing down at the infant in his arms.

"Hello," Justin said, fixing his attention on the child as a distraction against the dominant presence of the man. Even in the relaxed atmosphere of the country, his lordship's clothes were of the finest materials and with his superb body, brunette hair tied back, and observant hazel eyes, Brian exuded an elegance and sophistication that fascinated and intimidated the young man. "What's your name?"

"His name is Augustus. Lord Augustus Kinney," Brian replied for his son, his eyes caught and held by the young man's striking good looks. Though he was dressed in casual clothes for traveling and his blond hair curt unnaturally short, nothing could disguise the beauty of his face or the attractiveness of his lithe figure.

"Gus. Cute name."

"You're a rude boy, giving him a nickname without asking," Brian scolded, though he sounded more amused than upset. He swung Gus into both hands, raising him over his head. "But I like it. Gus. Lord Gus." Gus waved his hands in glee as his father swung him in the air.

"Everyone gets a nickname in school. He wouldn't survive with Augustus anyway. Not if he's going to Eton," Justin replied, unperturbed by the rebuke. With Brian's attention on Gus, he took advantage of the freedom to stare at his profile, the wide brow, straight nose, and slightly tilted smile.

"Lord Gus?" The woman's voice from the doorway didn't share Brian's pleasure. "Gus isn't a proper name."

"Kinneys don't live by society's rules of what is proper and what isn't."

"At least you don't."

Justin flinched from the harshness in the woman's voice, surprised that someone would be so blunt when addressing a lord of the realm. He tried to guess her status but failed. She wasn't in a maid's uniform, but her light green day dress was plainer than he would have expected a member of society to wear.

"My wife also has been known to be somewhat unconventional," Brian replied, cuddling Gus back to his chest as the child sensed the unpleasant undercurrent and started to sniffle. He was definitely mocking the woman and Justin guessed she was his wife, despite her clothes appearing so plain next to his elegant attire.

"Speaking of your wife, Lindsay would like her son. It's time for him to be fed." The woman held out her hands, her words disproving Justin's assumption.

With a kiss on his brow, Brian surrendered Gus to her. "Oh, this is Melanie. Melanie, this is – "

At Brian's pause, Justin said, "Justin Taylor."

"Justin Taylor. Justin, Melanie. Melanie, Justin. He's come to visit."

Melanie dismissed Justin with a toss of her head, snuggling Gus to her bosom and turning to leave the room. Brian began speaking before she walked out the door. "You'll have to excuse Melanie. She likes to lecture me but believes she is above such considerations as politeness herself."

"Who is she?" Justin asked curiously. He was fascinated by Brian, his attractiveness, his commanding presence, and wanted to know everything about him, even about the people in his life that he apparently disliked.

"She's my wife's…friend. Lindsay wanted someone with her while we waited for Lord Gus to be born. Come, sit down." Following his own instructions, Brian flung himself into one of the leather armchairs. "So – Justin. I received a letter from your mother. I understand you've been sick."

"Yes, pneumonia. The doctor bled me several times. It took me weeks to recover. My hair," Justin stopped, running a hand self-consciously through his closely cropped blond hair, as he dropped into the other armchair by the fire, "they cut off my hair, I was sweating so much."

More abrupt than flattering, Brian said, "It looks good on you."

"Thank you."

Brian studied the young man as earnestly as he'd examined his son. Though a man, Justin was still young enough that he didn't move with that refined ease dictated by society but instead allowed his youthful energy and vigor to shine, shifting awkwardly as he settled in the chair rather than perching delicately on the end. He may have been deathly ill a few weeks ago but his pent-up energy belied the need for further recuperation.

"Your mother thought the country air would benefit you." The letter had arrived only three days ago from his mother. Brian cynically realized its convenient timing prevented him from stopping Justin's visit, since he would be well on his way before Brian could respond. The words had been couched in carefully elegant handwriting, but Brian could read the meaning behind the words and interpret the desperation that drove Jennifer to this act.

Justin grimaced, obviously unimpressed with his mother's feelings. "She thinks town life is dangerous for me."

Beautiful Jennifer, blond Jennifer. She had loved town life once upon a time, reveling in the soirees and balls, her hair piled high in powdered ringlets, her elaborate ball gown swirling around her ankles as she danced around the room. But those days were long ago, when beautiful Jennifer loved handsome Lord David Kinney, the future Earl of Longdon, and Brian was a second son destined for the church or the military. Before David's death, Jennifer's marriage for money to a trade baron's son, and Brian's lengthy evolution from ungainly boy to wild young man about town to staid married Earl.

"Town life is full of decadence. Don't you know that?"

The knowledge was there in his eager eyes, in the shy yet bold tilt of his head as he met Brian's stare. Oh yes, Jennifer was right to worry. Justin may not have experienced the decadence of high society, but he was fully ready to rectify that omission. No wonder her phrasing was so delicate. 'Justin is a high-strung boy' and 'his father doesn't understand him.'

Justin was a dueling pistol primed and ready to fire, eager to run rampant and taste all the mortal sins that the body is capable of committing. His father undoubtedly understood that fact very well and would have been quite happy with youthful indiscretions if those wild oats had been directed at the parlor maids or even eligible young misses. Justin's father would likely crow with pride if his son impregnated a young lady and connected himself to a titled family through a hasty marriage.

Fooling around with the stable boys and other young bucks was simply beyond the pale.

Not unless you were Brian Kinney and didn't give a damn.

"My mother had her debut in society. She met my father at a ball. I don't understand why I can't go to parties."

"Perhaps when you're well. After a little country air has restored your spirits."

The mockery was so clearly directed at his mother rather than him that Justin didn't get upset with Brian. He grinned cheerfully. "So will you expose me to this fresh country air?"

Brian stood, holding out a hand. "I think I'm exactly the man to expose you to what you need." As Jennifer had asked in her letter. 'He needs to consider his future in life. Help him find his path.'

Did she really think a wife and child would stop him from taking advantage of this delectable morsel? That his shackles had changed his inclinations? That a year spent rusticating in the country, first observing the conventional niceties of mourning the loss of his overbearing father and then waiting for his child to be born had tamed him? Transformed Lord Brian Kinney, the scandal of polite society, from a sleek panther into a little housecat? Was she that naïve or just willfully blind?

Brian didn't really care what Jennifer thought. She was only someone who once might have been his sister-in-law. Someone who long ago seemed very golden and mature when he was a young brat, trailing in the footsteps of his adored older brother. But oh yes, he would respond to her plea. He would be delighted to help this young man find his path. Living as a member of high society - or as the son of a trade baron and a Lady, accepted by society for his money and connection to a title - was an elaborate game, full of ruses and strategies. Brian knew them all, including when to play, to bluff and to fold.

Today he felt like he had been dealt a royal flush.

Justin looked nervously at Brian's hand as if trying to see the danger hidden in the open palm, the secret ace up his sleeve. Then he put his hand in Brian's and stood, accepting whatever Brian wanted to show him.

"Come, let me take you on a tour of the house. You've seen my den."

By unspoken agreement, their joined hands separated as they reached the doorway and walked past the footman standing stiffly in the hallway, waiting for orders. The tour was brief, Brian idly gesturing at doorways but not stopping. "The parlor … the library … the dining room … the ballroom … the kitchen."

Justin followed, smiling and glancing curiously into each room, following closely at Brian's heels as he walked up the grand staircase, their feet muffled by the Oriental rug running down its length.

"My wife's bedroom … the nursery … Melanie's bedroom … guest bedroom, guest bedroom ….my bedroom."

"You and your wife don't share a room?" Justin gazed around as he asked the question. His family was wealthy and he was accustomed to a life of privilege, but this house and its furnishings were beyond even his expectations. Even someone as uninterested in such things as Justin could determine that the furniture, the drapes, the rugs, the paintings, and the porcelain ornaments were of the finest quality.

"My wife prefers to have Melanie close by when Gus awakens her," came Brian's bland reply as he strolled to stand by the bed. He loosened his cravat and undid the buttons on his jacket and shirt before stripping them off. "The servants' quarters are on the third floor."

"This is a great room," Justin said, but his eyes were captivated by Brian's muscular chest rather than the decorations.

"I'm fond of it." Brian tugged off his boots, pushed his breeches over his hips and down to the floor, removing his silk socks last. He straightened, standing boldly in front of his visitor. "Are you ready to be educated?"

A small part of his mind whispered to Justin he should be shocked. Grown men simply didn't undress in front of each other. The last time he'd seen another fully undressed male body, he had been playing with his friend Geoffrey in the snow. Drenched from falling and tumbling into the white piles as they wrestled, they'd finally staggered inside for hot chocolate and warm scones. The housekeeper had taken one look at the ragged and wet 8 year olds and dragged them upstairs, stripping them down and redressing them both in clean clothes of Justin's.

Those moments giggling with a naked Geoffrey as the housekeeper scolded them had been all youthful naivety. Friends enjoying themselves, too innocent to make deeper connections as they laughed at the other's scrawny form and impatiently squirmed while clothes were pulled on their bodies, absorbed in anticipating jam and cream on freshly baked scones. But as he matured, wanting to see a man naked became a familiar sensation for Justin. In the summer, he frequently dallied at his father's stables, chatting up the stable boys, hoping one of them would take off his shirt while he worked in the heat. His mother encouraged his interest in art and drawing, taking him to London's finest museums, where he studied the marble works of art with fascination for hours and hours until his mother grew impatient. Convinced that he was well on his way to becoming a great artist, she finally stopped chaperoning him, unable to tolerate the long hours.

Even to himself, Justin couldn't fully articulate why he wanted to see a man's body, why he often found himself squirming in his bed, stroking himself, aroused at the mental images of the deities of the Greeks and Romans captured forever as exquisite statues, rippling muscles preserved for eternity in polished marble. He couldn't even explain what he wanted to do with another man, other than a vague desire to kiss and caress and touch. As the only son of a relatively wealthy family, Justin's adolescence had been mostly happy, but the feelings of uncertainty had slowly grown, consuming him with confusion, knowing he was different, but being unable to discuss those feelings with anyone.

But as Brian Kinney, an Earl, a lord of the realm, and a god of physical perfection that outshone even the most majestic works of the Italian Renaissance bared himself for Justin's pleasure, Justin knew that he had found the man who would explain everything to him. Brian would show him how to release these feelings. Brian would be his guide, his teacher, his lover.

Brian released the tie from his hair, the long brown hair with golden highlights falling to his shoulders. His body was sheer beauty, his muscles well-defined, his skin smooth. He placed his hands on his hips, canting one slightly to the side. "Well?"

That one word broke Justin from his spellbound rapture. He copied Brian, pushing his own jacket off, letting it drop to the floor, but he couldn't wait long enough to remove the rest of his clothes. Couldn't wait for a taste of those lips, to be caught in those strong arms, and held close to that handsome face and strong body. He rubbed his clothed body against Brian's satiny flesh, his hands frantically roaming over the supple muscles of Brian's back as Brian devoured his lips.

Brian shoved him away and Justin froze for a second, suddenly petrified he'd misunderstood, before he realized Brian was pushing him toward the bed and ripping at his clothes. As he fell onto the bed, Brian's larger body pinning him down, stealing his lips again, Justin was the happiest he had ever been in his life. All the answers to the questions he didn't even know how to ask were finally going to be his.

********

The unaccustomed sensation of a warm body next to his woke Brian and for a moment he couldn't think who it could be. He didn't sleep with Lindsay. Both had entered marriage with their eyes open. Brian's family line must continue; Lindsay wanted to avoid being the spinster in her brother's household. Her background and wealth were respectable and most importantly, she didn't expect him to fawn over her. Neither was romantically attracted to the other but sex was reasonably enjoyable and necessary for conceiving Gus. In a year or two, they would have sex again. Brian understood the need for 'an heir and a spare,' having been the spare himself until his brother broke his neck in an unfortunate accident. But he always went back to his own bed afterward, not caring if Melanie filled his place.

Snuggling and cuddling made Brian vaguely uncomfortable. Affection had not been a strong element of his relationship with his parents. His mother had hugged him every year or so and his father pounded him on the back once or twice during his lifetime. His brother had been the most affectionate member of the family, often teasing him and ruffling his hair. Then he died, leaving Brian to finish growing up alone, missing that supportive presence. Curling up after sex always made him feel as if there was commitment involved, as if the act had meant more than physical enjoyment, and Brian wasn't into games of pretense. Sex was sex. It was fun and then it was over.

He surprised himself by not immediately detaching himself and pushing the encroaching body away. For once, it felt good to hold someone. Long legs were trapped between his own, an arm lay across his chest, and a blond head was cradled on his shoulder. Blond. Oh yes, Jason. No, that wasn't right. Crispin? Christian? Justin. Justin Taylor. One of the few virgins he had the privilege to deflower. Privilege? Yes, even though the emotion was overly romantic, it had been a privilege, to have been the first man to kiss Justin, to position him with those lanky legs on Brian's shoulders, to see the dawning awareness and understanding in those pale blue eyes as Brian penetrated him, taking it slow out of consideration for his untouched status. The slowness made the experience even more exquisite, letting Brian watch every nuance of expression that crossed Justin's face as he learned what it was like to be taken by a man.

The grandfather clock chimed in the hall. They must have napped for several hours and Brian's arm, trapped under Justin's body, was starting to fall asleep. He slithered from under Justin, putting a pillow against the headboard and resting his back on it. Justin murmured sleepily. Brian stroked the short hair, encouraging Justin to fall back asleep with his head pillowed on Brian's thigh.

Squashing the unexpected sentimentality he was feeling, Brian grinned savagely. Justin was in a perfect position for what Brian wanted next. But first, his mouth was dry. He pulled the covers up to his waist and tugged the bell rope. Within seconds, the upstairs footman Steven entered the room, standing respectfully in the doorway. "I think it's time for some dinner."

"Yes, my lord."

"And I'd like some brandy."

The footman crossed the room, picking up the decanter off the dresser and pouring a snifter for Brian. Without conversation, he brought the snifter to Brian and set it down on the nightstand, discreetly glancing to where Justin's head formed a lump under the covers. Brian ignored the unspoken question. He rather liked the idea of sharing one glass with Justin. "We'll need dinner. In twenty minutes. Here. You can let my wife know I'll be occupied tonight. I'm sure she won't mind eating alone with Melanie."

Clasping his hands behind his back, Steven gave a half-bow in response. "Yes, my lord."

Brian didn't bother giving further instructions. The footman would explain his desires to the cook and within twenty minutes a meal fit for nibbling with fingers would appear. "And you'd better take care of that," he said, his meaning clear.

Steven stiffened slightly, making the bulge in his breeches even more noticeable. "Forgive me, my lord."

Brian waved a hand wearily. The months trapped in the country had been long and tedious but perhaps making use of a servant had been unwise, even if he was eager to be used. Still, for men who shared his inclinations, Brian considered an erection a normal reaction to the sight of Brian's naked chest and another naked man hidden under the covers. Brian couldn't blame him. The footman turned sharply and left.

Taking a sip of the finest French brandy that was smuggled into England, Brian tossed the covers down to his knees. Justin was awake, looking up at him. "Good evening," the lad said calmly.

"And good evening to you too. Dinner will be coming soon."

"I heard." Justin started to move, meaning to sit up, but Brian pressed a hand on his shoulder, keeping him in place. Justin didn't protest, expectantly looking at his lover for further explanation.

"There's time for you to learn one more thing."

Licking his lips, Justin stared at Brian's cock, which was bringing to twitch with life. "You mean?"

"Yes." Brian deliberately made himself remember tedious conversations with fat matrons at boring dinner parties. He wanted this pleasure to last and was finding himself too affected merely by Justin's wide-eyed gaze and open mouth.

Even as Justin asked, "What do I do?" he was rolling between Brian's legs, angling his upper arms on Brian's thighs, his hands on Brian's hips, his lips a mere breath away from Brian's cock.

"Lick it." Justin obeyed, his tongue wetly caressing the head, lingering in the slit. "Kiss it." Soft lips pressed delicate kisses to the tip. "Lick it all." The order was followed in excruciating detail, as Justin's tongue learned every inch of Brian's cock. Brian sipped his brandy, the burning in his throat and gut caused by the alcohol a pale reflection of the fire created by Justin's tongue.

"Caress me. My thighs. My balls." Those slim fingers slid along the long muscles of Brian's thighs, cupped his sack, rolled his balls. They could be the fingers of an artist, Brian thought, sensitive and delicate yet strong. "Now suck." It was the first order not instantly obeyed as Justin hesitated. Brian ran a head through the short blond ruff. He wanted to see it grown out and properly styled. "Suck."

"I'm not sure - "

The hesitation seemed more nervousness than disobedience, reminding Brian of Justin's youth and inexperience. Maybe he needed more instruction and encouragement. "Take my dick into your mouth. Swallow as much as you can. Suck. Use your tongue. Not your teeth. I want to fuck your mouth."

The guidance reassured Justin and he resumed his task, opening his mouth wide, taking first the flared head into his mouth, then swallowing the shaft until it touched the back of his throat. He didn't understand how it could feel so good. Brian's hand was only resting on his head. He wasn't kissing or touching Justin. Still, Justin could feel Brian all over his body, as if the dick in his mouth was possessing him, all of his senses concentrated on the substantial length. His nipples tightened and his cock hardened as he bobbed his head up and down. The action was his but it felt like Brian's, Brian fucking his mouth as he'd fucked his ass earlier, Brian taking control, Brian owning Justin.

Brian was beginning to move now, his hips thrusting up, burying his dick even deeper. Justin undulated on the bed, rubbing his cock on the sheets, trying to relax his throat, at once proud of how much he could take and frustrated because it wouldn't all fit. He wanted to please Brian in every way.

Even without swallowing the entire length, Brian's satisfied groans and moaned encouragement reassured Justin that he was doing it decently, even if not perfectly. He sucked as hard as he could, imagining Brian's cock buried so completely in his body that they could never be separated. The sudden spurt of warm liquid in his mouth surprised him but he recovered quickly, swallowing the bitter-sweet taste as fast as he could. He could have wept as Brian's cock slipped free of his mouth but he had his seed to replace it. Rearing back on his knees, he concentrated on drinking the remainder, his tongue flashing out the catch the drips on his chin and cheeks.

Brian's smile was as lazy and pleased as Justin felt. At least, as lazy and pleased as he could have felt if his own cock wasn't hard and ready. Brian opened his arms and Justin scrambled into them, resting his head on Brian's shoulder. "Did I do that right?"

The "Pretty good," was clearly teasing and the, "You'll get better," promised Justin future opportunities to practice.

The knock on the door was discreet but firm. Brian pulled up the blankets, this time covering them to their necks. Steven may know what Brian's bare chest looked like but Brian wasn't going to give him the added visual treat of Justin's creamy skin. Today it was only his.

"But I haven't - " Justin whispered frantically, his hardness on Brian's thigh making his point.

"Later," Brian said, slapping Justin on the butt. "Anticipation is part of the pleasure."

"Like the pain was?" Justin asked. His ass still ached from Brian's cock plowing into him, but it was a good ache, a sensation that made him feel powerful. Even when he didn't know what he was waiting for, he had yearned all his life for that feeling, the knowledge that he could make a grown man tremble and cry in unbearable ecstasy. He wanted to keep the physical pain as an eternal reminder.

"Yes, like the pain was. I knew you'd be a good student."

"I have the best teacher." Justin risked initiating a kiss on Brian's mouth.

Brian responded, his tongue thrusting back aggressively before he pinched Justin's nipple. Justin flinched back, a wavering cry of pleasure and pain escaping. "Later, I said."

Justin tucked his head back on Brian's shoulder and Brian resettled the blankets so that Justin was covered up to his chin. "Enter," he called.

Steven carried a dinner plate into the room, setting it down on the nightstand and automatically refilling the snifter. "Will there be anything else?"

His staff was superbly trained. The plate was full of meat and cheese and fruit, cut into easy bite-size pieces. Enough food to sustain their strength but not enough to make them sluggish. And there was even a small bowl of strawberries and clotted cream. The berries were a rarity at this time of year, carefully grown in the estate's hothouse.

"You may go," he said, dismissing the footman from the room and his mind as he pictured the end of the meal. The perfect dessert - strawberries and cream a la Justin.

*******

His life was over, Justin decided moodily two weeks later. Over. He curled up in the window seat in Brian's den, his arms wrapped around his legs as he cradled them to his chest. A pistol would end this miserable existence. He couldn't survive without Brian's presence, his touch, that sleepy smile after they made love and Brian held him close. Even the days spent tramping around the estate, overseeing the tenants, listening to Brian discuss being responsible for hundreds of people were special memories to Justin, haunting him with the loss of their time together.

Brian hadn't been smiling yesterday. His expression was an irritated frown as he lectured Justin. 'What we've shared isn't love, it's sex. I told you that the first morning.'

Well he had, the first morning they woke up together after an incredible afternoon and night of loving and refreshing naps. Justin hadn't believed him. Something so profound and moving couldn't be mere physical calisthenics.

'I have a wife and a son. The season is beginning and Lindsay wants to hold a ball in honor Gus' birth. We have to go to London.' Justin began to protest but Brian overrode him. 'And you are still recovering. You're supposed to stay in the country another two weeks.'

'I want to be with you! I love you!'

Brian had seemed to relent for a brief moment, his expression softening as he cupped Justin's face, 'And I've enjoyed being with you. But now it's over. I have obligations and your mother wants you to stay in the fresh air.' He kissed Justin, their lips gently meeting. 'Remember me in your dreams.'

Justin had followed Brian out to the drive, continuing to argue. He was healthy, he could stay with Brian in London, they belonged together, he loved Brian. Brian listened but didn't agree or argue, just supervised the loading of the carriages. Between the luggage for Brian, Lindsay, Melanie, and Gus, one carriage was completely filled with trunks and boxes. The housekeeper tucked treats to sustain the passengers on their long journey into the other. Justin kept his voice low but everyone understood the cause of the disagreement. The servants averted their eyes as they scurried back and forth. Lindsay smiled sympathetically and Melanie shook her head sadly.

The packing completed, Brian helped the women and his son into the carriage, gave Justin one last hard kiss, and joined the other three, slamming the door shut. The driver started the horses moving and short of throwing himself in front of their hooves, Justin couldn't prevent himself from being abandoned.

His lips still tingled from that last kiss and Justin almost wished he had let himself be trampled to death. At least death wouldn't be so incredibly bleak as life without Brian.

The two of them were destined for each other. He could sense the connection between Lindsay and Melanie. If they could be together and fulfill society's expectations, why couldn't he and Brian?

Sighing, he uncurled himself and stood. Being in Brian's den wasn't filling the emptiness in his soul. Furniture and books couldn't replace the man. He strolled upstairs, heading for Brian's room. The footman was inside, polishing the carved wood of the dresser. Justin leaned in the doorway watching him. It was Steven, the footman that one time Brian had admitted fucking. Steven was taller than Justin, his build more solid, with black hair and hazel eyes. Would Brian have him again? Steven would always be here, waiting, any time Brian wanted him. But Justin would return to his parents' house in London, hoping for a glimpse of Brian and never knowing when he would have that treasure.

"I thought the maids were supposed to clean."

Steven jerked around in surprise, obviously not realizing that Justin was watching him. "His lordship only likes certain people to clean his room." The tone was deferential but the eyes were assessing.

"Really? Why?"

"It's the books. And his things. Didn't he show you?"

Admitting that Brian hadn't would reveal that there was something they didn't share, and Justin was reluctant to confirm that deficiency in their relationship. Only the consuming curiosity made him say, "Show me."

Steven didn't respond, standing there in the room with his hips resting against the dresser, his expression judging.

Stepping in and shutting the door behind him, Justin demanded, "I'm a guest in this house. His lordship said I was to receive every courtesy."

Despite all the hours spent in this room, the bookcase had escaped Justin's notice. It was almost hidden behind the door and the dark wood blended into the paneling on the walls. The bookcase was designed with special covers to keep the books dust free, but rather than the glass that would normally be used so the tomes could be admired, the covers were solid wood, hiding the bookcase's contents. Steven flipped one open to reveal a neat line of well-read books.

"They're his private books. Filthy books." Steven trailed his fingers over the bindings. "And there's some - toys."

"You can't read, can you."

"I can, a little. His lordship is a good master. He has all the servants and estate children taught how to read and write. But I'm not allowed to touch these, just polish the wood."

Justin reached down, curling his hand around Steven's cock, not surprised to find it thickening. "He's had you, hasn't he."

His eyelids fluttering as Justin began stroking him, Steven admitted, "Yes, once. But not like you. You had him for weeks."

The envy in Steven's voice filled Justin with a giddy pride. "What did he do? Tell me."

"He wasn't dressed one morning when I brought his breakfast. He was late waking up. He got out of bed, all nude like, and he caught me looking at him. I mean, I knew I shouldn't, but I couldn't help myself. I'd never seen anyone like him."

The precisely formal accent used by all members of the staff was coarsening as his words ran together. "I was embarrassed to be looking, even though it's no secret what he likes. He's such a good master, everyone accepts it. We just don't talk about it, though the housekeeper and some of the others don't like it. But I had to look and he just smiled. He spread his arms wide, like he was inviting me to look more."

Steven's breath hitched as Justin unconsciously tightened his grip. He didn't like the thought that Brian had made that same gesture to someone else. Even worse, a servant. Driven to learn more despite his jealousy, Justin loosened his hold and nibbled at Steven's lips in apology. "What did he say?"

"He said, 'Do you like what you see?' And I said, 'It's not really my place, is it?' But he just smiled and came close to me and buried his hand in my hair and pushed me to the ground and said, 'Is your place here?' And I was right there, with that cock of his inches from my face."

Justin sped his strokes, aroused himself, remembering the sweet pleasure to be found on his knees in front of Brian. He moaned softly but Steven didn't need any encouragement to keep recounting his tale. "I opened my mouth and took him. Damn, he's big, isn’t he?"

"Huge," Justin agreed. "Why did you do?"

"I sucked. I took his big cock in my mouth and sucked him, trying to swallow it all. It was so good." Steven's word lapsed into incoherent rambles as Justin stroked him harder. "So good…so stiff…so big…I took and took…and then he fucked me…oh god…fucked me…"

Steven was breathing harder and harder, rocking on his heels, one hand braced on the bookcase. As Steven gave a last final moan, his organ pulsed in Justin's hand, releasing his seed. Justin wanted to crow with heady delight. His hand and Brian's image brought this man to climax. Even apart from each other, they were strong together.

They both went silent as the door opened and the butler peered in. "Steven? Where are you? I won't have you dawdling in his lordship's room. Oh, Master Justin," he moderated the scolding tone on the last words.

Justin hastily withdrew his hand from Steven's breeches as the footman dropped the hand holding the cleaning rag over his groin and blanked his face, the ecstasy replaced by a bland mask. Aware that the butler could not find fault with a guest, Justin was quick to speak. "It's my fault, Edgar, I was asking Steven about things to do on the estate."

"Perhaps you should talk to the housekeeper or the estate manager, Master Justin."

"Thank you for your suggestion, Edgar. You may go now."

They obeyed, leaving Justin behind in Brian's bedroom. He kicked the door shut and raised his hand to his nose, taking a deep breath of Steven's smell. Tangy and masculine, but not as powerful as Brian's, a fact that didn't surprise Justin.

He scanned the books, reading the titles, before flipping open the other covers. There were mostly books on the other shelves, but the bottom one held a variety of objects, items shaped liked cocks and leather ties and other strange things for which Justin couldn't figure out their purposes though his imagination was stimulated by intriguing images.

Why hadn't Brian shown him these things? Read him these books? Was it because Justin was enough, that the pleasure to be found in Justin's body satisfied Brian without needing more? Or did he reserve these things for special lovers and Justin didn't fit Brian's exceptionally high criteria? Was that why Brian could so easily abandon him, because Justin was too ignorant and didn't please him enough? Their time together flashed in his mind, a whirlwind of touching, shivering, gasping, and hard fucking, the things Brian taught him and did to him and made him do to Brian. If Brian hadn't shown him these things then it was because Justin was enough. But, perhaps, not enough for forever?

He had two weeks left, two weeks on the sentence imposed by his physician and which, short of walking back to London, he had no means to end. The time had seemed interminably long but now he had a purpose to occupy his days. He would read these books and explore these toys and prepare for his next meeting with Brian, adding sophistication and knowledge to his arsenal. Locating Brian's house in London shouldn't be hard to do. Even if he had to march up and pound on the door, he would make a chance to confront Brian, to prove that he could be the lover Brian deserved.

******

Rescue came sooner than Justin expected. He was snuggled in Brian's bed, reading his books, as was his normal practice for the afternoon. The morning had been spent riding and walking around the estates, the housekeeper having taken a motherly interest in the young man and insisting that the fresh air and exercise would restore his strength. She left him alone in the afternoon and those precious hours he spent doing his research and plotting ways to win Brian's heart.

He only grunted at the knock, irritated to be disturbed at a good passage. One of the servants called out, "There's a visitor for you, sir. A young lady from London."

"A young lady?"

"Yes, sir. She arrived in a carriage. Her name is Daphne Chanders."

Justin leapt out of bed and dressed with haste. Daphne was his dearest, oldest friend. Their families lived on the same block and they'd often played as children. Since their social position and wealth were reasonably well matched, her title balancing his greater wealth, their parents hoped a romantic relationship would develop between the two, but both Daphne and Justin realized long ago that they were good friends, not lovers.

He took the stairs three at a time, earning a look of displeasure from the butler as he reached the bottom, skidding as he dashed into the parlor. "Daphne!"

"Justin!"

For a second, they were children again, and hugged each other tightly. Then the formal manners drilled in by their tutors kicked in and they stepped back, she to elaborately curtsey and he to bow so deeply his forehead almost touched the floor. She giggled and he laughed as they stood straight and they dared another hug before Justin guided her to the sofa by the fire, throwing a casual, "Tea and scones, please," to Edgar.

"Thank you, I'm famished. It's such a long trip!"

"I'm so glad you came. Are you alone?"

"I'm going to enter society this year! My mother let my tutor go, but she's hired me a companion. She was ill on the trip and the housekeeper took her to a room to rest."

At this news, Justin looked at Daphne, really looked at her in a way he hadn't for many years. She was a beautiful young woman, with her midnight black hair and eyes and faintly olive skin. Though the family denied it, rumor insisted a distant ancestor had married a gypsy, adding an exotic beauty to the family heritage. Only a few months younger than Justin, she was already eager to attend formal balls and dances, be introduced to eligible men and other young maidens, hopefully to be engaged within a year, married within another year, and if very lucky, a mother before she was 19. Daphne fairly glowed with excitement, well pleased with her future.

Daphne would get what she wanted and be happy with her life because it fit society's expectation while his mother tried to deny the truth about Justin by confining him to the schoolroom. Justin firmed his lips. It wasn't fair and he wouldn't accept it. He would plunge into society and he would get Brian, even if it didn't conform to what was deemed to be his proper role in life. True love had to mean more than mandates handed down by stuffy old cats. "Can you take me back to London? Tomorrow?"

The abrupt request made Daphne blink. "But we've just arrived! My mother said I could visit for a week, if it was fine with his lordship."

"Daphne, please," Justin clasped her slim hands in his own, "You have to help me. Brian's already gone back to London. I must join him."

"Tell me."

Justin didn't hesitate to pour out his heart. He'd never talked to Daphne about his strange feelings but now that Brian had taught him so much, he could explain everything. She would understand and help him. After all, what else were best friends for?

******
In his London townhouse, Brian concentrated as he tied the folds of his cravat. The tailor had done his normally superior job, the new black breeches and jacket clinging to his body like a second skin, the white shirt and socks in stark contrast, the black shoes with tactful diamond buckles and the diamond stickpin completing the ensemble. The material was silk and Brian loved the feel of it caressing his skin, almost as sensual as Justin's touch.

Justin's touch. When did he begin measuring everything by its relation to that young man? Life had been frantically busy since returning to London, re-opening the townhouse, preparing for the party, consulting with his banker on his investments, seeing his friends, visiting his clubs, getting new clothes ordered. And yet, throughout the days, a memory of Justin would drift through his mind. His smile, his laugh, a comment he made, the way his eyes shut and he gasped when Brian entered him…

"Are you okay? You look so intent. I didn't realize tying a cravat was such complicated business."

Lord Michael Novotny's beaming face appeared behind him in the mirror. Brian's best friend since they were boys, Michael was allowed license to roam freely through the house and often interrupted Brian at his dressing, being more inclined to timeliness than his friend. He was not as rich as Brian, nor as well titled or handsome, but Michael's honesty, openness, and loyalty endeared him to Brian.

'Why should anything be wrong? I'm one of the richest men in the country. I have a beautiful wife, an adorable son, the respect of my peers, and the latitude to do almost anything I want. But what I really want I can't have. I want Justin. I want him in my life, by my side, walking around the estate with me, going out to parties with me. I want that utter trust and faith in someone that Lindsay and Melanie share. I want someone who claims to love me, not just my position.'

But he didn't say those things. Michael wouldn't understand. To Michael, Brian was a god. He could see in his expression, hear it in the flattering phrases Michael used when he talked about Brian to other people. The advantages of being admired were outweighed by the disadvantage of not being able to be truthful. Trying to talk to Michael would mean first breaking down Michael's idealized perceptions of Brian's life, a chore Brian found impossible to contemplate. Michael seemed to need Brian to be perfect and Brian refused to hurt him by destroying his illusions.

To Justin, Brian was a god too. But one Justin naively believe he could have.

"Nothing," he said, clasping Michael's arms around him and hugging back, determinedly pushing Justin out of his mind. "Nothing is wrong. And you would understand how difficult tying a cravat is if you would try it." It was a common joke between them that Michael was hopeless at fashion, leaving such tasks to his valet, a servant that Brian finally insisted on personally selecting and hiring after several of Michael's fashion disasters. "I'm glad you arrived early."

"I wanted to see Gus before everyone else. He's adorable."

"Yes," Brian smiled fondly. "He takes after Lindsay."

"He looks like *you*," Michael objected, almost as Brian could have predicted. "I'm so glad your mourning period is over and you are back from the country."

"That makes two of us. Now let me finish this." Michael released Brian at his instruction, freeing the other man to finish the deft twists and turns that made a length of white silk into a waterfall of beauty.

"There, you look perfect," Michael said, brushing at an invisible hair on Brian's jacket to have an excuse to touch his broad shoulders. Like Brian, his ensemble was black and white, the fashionable colors for male evening clothes. But unlike Brian, Michael didn't carry himself with confidence and energy. His good looks tended to be described more by comparison to puppy dogs than Greek gods and lack of confidence always made him appear uneasy in his own skin. Michael would never titillate society with a scandalous string of male lovers, keeping his personal life carefully hidden from prying eyes. That course of action was wisest for Michael; he didn't have Brian's title, wealth, or sheer panache that made society tolerate his eccentricities.

Wisdom wouldn't stop Justin. Justin would insist on being at Brian's side as firmly as Melanie stayed by Lindsay.

Brian sighed inside, wondering where that stupid idea originated. Trying to have Justin in his life would be asking for his destruction. Closeness between two women was unexceptional; many regarded women as frail creatures who clung together for companionship and support. Two men would eventually be questioned as suspect and driven from all polite society if they failed to modify their behavior. Justin must be expunged from his brain and an evening of dancing and drinking was a good way to start. "The other guests will be arriving soon. Let's introduce Gus to society."

******

The majority of guests arrived unfashionably on time, everyone eager to see if Brian and Lindsay's parties would be as renowned as Brian's exclusive soirees for his bachelor friends had been in the past. The Earl and Countess didn't disappoint immediate expectations, Brian's brunette handsomeness even more striking next to Lindsay's slim figure, clothed in an sapphire blue ballgown, her blond hair styled in a smooth chignon. Melanie disdained the pastels deemed appropriate for her unmarried status, wearing a gown of emerald green as she held Gus for all the arrivals to admire. Even Gus in his white lace gown and cap cooperated with making a perfect impression, gurgling happily and waving his tiny fists.

Perhaps playing the role of a married man wouldn't be completely horrible, Brian decided, looking over the crowded ballroom. All of society's leaders were present, satisfying his sense of pride, as well as much of the second strata of society as could fit, ensuring a full house that would discuss this party for weeks. The men wore elegant black and white, the maidens white and pastels, the married ladies in richer colors. Emmett Honeycutt was the peacock in the crowd, Brian thought almost fondly. Emmett's flamboyance could irritate Brian, but he certainly helped to liven a party. In bright pink breeches and jacket with a maroon waistcoat, Emmett could be easily spotted from any location in the room. Emmett and Michael's mother Deborah, whose hair was dyed bright red and piled six inches high on her head, her dress a yellow-gold more vibrant than the sun.

As the arrival of guests dwindled to an end, Gus began to fuss and Melanie suggested she should return him to his bedroom while Brian escorted Lindsay onto the floor to begin the dancing. He turned to Lindsay to take her hand as his butler stepped forward to announce, "Lady Daphne Chanders and Mr. Justin Taylor."

Brian glared momentarily at his butler. Justin wasn't on the guest list and he didn't know a Daphne Chanders. Neither should have gotten past the front stoop. The butler avoided his eyes. Then Brian saw Justin and found breathing difficult, his chest compressed with unfamiliar longing. In casual clothes designed for a juvenile, Justin was handsome. In formal evening clothes, he was magnificent, the excellent cut of his attire displaying his slim young figure to its best advantage.

The girl at his side clutched his arm nervously as they walked up to their hosts. Brian couldn't say anything and it was left to Lindsay to break the silence by stepping forward. "Mr. Taylor, it is so good to see you again."

"Your ladyship," Justin said politely, "this is my friend, Lady Daphne Chanders."

Introductions were exchanged, Justin chucking Gus under the chin and proudly announcing his responsibility for the name. He seemed impervious to Brian's silence but Daphne kept shooting him surreptitious glances as she dutifully admired the baby.

"Well, we must begin the dancing, mustn't we, dearest wife?" Brian clasped Lindsay's elbow and swept her onto the dance floor with barely a glance at the other three. Melanie left to take Gus upstairs.

Daphne's fingers digging into Justin's elbow made him wince as she hissed. "This was insane!" Simple neighborhood proximity had brought them together as children but it was their differences from others that united them as friends, Daphne forced to suffer the whispered lies about her indecent ancestress, Justin with his unearthly fey quality. However, sensing that a friend was unique and having him confess to behavior so far outside her expectations had thrown her completely off-kilter and she still couldn't accept she had allowed herself to be dragged into this madness.

"I have to be here. I have to make him notice me."

"Oh he's noticed you alright - and my parents are going to kill both of us if he ostracizes us from society! We've crashed an Earl's party!"

The two began drifting around the outside of the room, nodding and curtseying politely as they exchanged hushed whispers. Justin was studying the crowd, Brian's lessons on people and cynical view of society resounding in his memory. Life was a game to be played for winning and Justin was going to stack the deck in his favor. Men of their persuasion would be here, along with many young maidens. Which would disturb Brian more, Justin attracting other men who could do the same things to him that Brian had done, or engaging females who he might openly romance? Justin needed an ace in the hole to capture Brian's attention.

"He won't," Justin replied with confidence. "Brian wouldn't hurt anyone deliberately. He's too honest."

"He didn't even say hello! I don't even understand what you see in him. He's so skinny! You could do better than him."

"There's no one better than Brian Kinney."

"So what are you going to do?" Daphne asked as they arrived at the punch table and accepted glasses from a servant. Though she wouldn't admit it to Justin, she was beginning to enjoy this daring escapade. Her parents would rage if they learned of this night but it was exciting to be among all these grown-ups, acting as one of them, taking her rightful place in society.

"Just what you suggested. Make him jealous."

Daphne could hardly believe Justin had taken her lighthearted comment seriously. The advice was offered mainly in jest to calm Justin's erratic mood as he alternated between mourning the loss of Brian and wildly pleading with her to leap back into the carriage and head to London before her companion could even recover from the trip. "But with who?"

Maybe several aces would be even better. "With anyone and everyone possible," Justin said grimly, giving Daphne a brief bow and heading straight for his first target.

******
"Who is that fellow and what is he doing here?" Michael snapped at Brian as the two of them sipped wine while taking a break from dancing.

"Who?" was Brian's idle response.

"You know who I mean! That boy. It's rumored he and the girl crashed the party."

The boy in question was dancing, partnered to a beautiful strawberry blonde, the daughter of a Count and rumored to have ten thousand pounds to her name.

"He didn't crash the party," Brian said calmly. "He's Jennifer Bettencourt's son. Jennifer almost married my brother, if you will recall." Even as he uttered the words, Brian screamed at himself to confirm the gossip. Justin and Daphne were accepted only because everyone was dying with curiosity, sensing a mystery in this unknown couple who arrived last. With a few sentences, Brian could have them shunned forever.

Of course, he could have said, 'Get them out,' when they walked in and the butler would have removed them immediately. Alfred might have pretended to be oblivious, but he would never risk disobeying an absolute command.

"You didn't tell me he was on the guest list. Didn't Jennifer Bettencourt marry out of society?"

"She's Jennifer Taylor now and yes, she married for money. We all do what we must for the family fortunes. And I don't recall discussing the guest list with you at all, Michael. Justin visited us in the country while recovering from an illness. It was only natural he attend the party."

"Oh god, you've had him haven't you?"

Brian merely shot Michael a look but Michael understood.

"You have! He crashed this party to get close to you. He's not even aristocracy! It's like - you're an actress and he's hanging around the stage door." At Brian's scathing look, Michael relented, "Okay, that's a bad example. But you know what I mean."

"He's aristocracy through his mother's line, Michael. I believe that I'll join this dance." Brian handed him his glass and Michael took it, standing helplessly with his hands full while Brian cut in, forcing one of the other gentlemen to step to the side.

The pattern of the dance required little concentration. Even as the second son, Brian received strict instruction in many subjects while young. No Kinney would be allowed to disgrace the family by appearing incompetent at a social function. Brian and his brother were taught to dance, sing, ride, hunt, shoot, make polite conversation and bow elegantly. He knew this dance, including when it would place him close to Justin.

A turn, two steps, and a foursome formed, the ladies curtseying as the men bowed. 'The gazebo' Brian mouthed as they faced off.

Justin didn't reply merely turning to his partner, taking her hand and strolling off to the music. The avoidance irritated Brian but he waited his time. A few more beats of music, the lines of dancers crossed, and the foursome joined together again. 'Midnight.'

A lavish repast would be served at midnight. Lindsay planned to take a break and visit Gus; his absence would be attributed to the same reason. The men faced their partners again, clasping both hands and dancing to the side. Brian was amused to note how Justin's partner managed to twirl wildly enough her skirts raised, flashing a discreet view of trim ankle.

As if a female limb could excite Justin's interest. Justin, who had seen, caressed, and licked all of Brian's body. Unfortunately, he wasn't having any more success at capturing Justin's attention than Miss Trim Ankle, whoever she was. Lindsay had been in charge of the portion of the guest list that contained all the most eligible young ladies.

The foursome united and this time Justin mouthed 'Daphne.'

Daphne? Oh yes, the girl he'd escorted. She was probably his dinner date. Brian nodded, hoping Justin understood to leave it to him. He could find a way to keep one little virgin occupied for a meal.

Michael could entertain Daphne while Brian was busy with Justin.

*******
Brian saw Justin slipping away but as host, required more time to establish an exit. Michael wasn't happy, but his mother had immediately liked Daphne. His last view of the party was Michael's reproachful glance as he filled plates for the two women while they animatedly chattered at each other. Brian headed up the front stairs, apparently seeking out Lindsay and Gus, but passed that bedroom and went down the back stairs.

Justin was waiting when Brian reached the gazebo. There was little light in the garden, only distant rays from the torches close to the house for guests who wished to step outside and get a breath of cool air after dancing. The light was enough for Brian to see Justin's shadowy figure, to see him lunge off the bench toward Brian and catch a glimpse of that devastating smile before Justin was in his arms, trying to kiss him. Brian pushed him away. This meeting was intended not as an illicit rendezvous but to shake some sense into Justin's blond head. No matter how much Brian liked to live his life as he saw fit, he was conscious that an Earl was forgiven many indiscretions that would haunt a trade baron's son the rest of his life. Money could buy many things, but not everything.

He tried to speak, the cool, collected words that would convince Justin to stop this madness. Or maybe the scathing, cutting words that would send Justin flying back to his safe life. But Justin was nipping at his throat and the words wouldn't come. He shoved Justin away again, determined to bring some rationality to this meeting.

Then Justin dropped to his knees, nuzzling at Brian's groin and despite the cold temperature that penetrated the thin silk of his clothes, Brian's body was burning with fire. Would it be so very bad to succumb to his own wishes and desires? To feel Justin's passion scorching him one more time?

Self-denial was not a prominent facet of Brian's character. He tugged awkwardly at Justin's arms and the youth rose, perhaps understanding that Brian was no longer protesting. They kissed, intensely and hotly, but only briefly before Justin was back on his knees, burrowing his hands and mouth into Brian's breeches, swallowing his cock as soon as it sprang free.

Brian stopped thinking and surrendered to sensation. Isolated in the garden, there was only the two of them, Brian accepting what Justin wanted to give him. Justin had been good as an eager beginner but now he was an expert, a veritable master of pleasure. He knew what Brian liked, when to switch from gentle kisses to hard sucking, when to stroke and how hard he should be, and he devoted himself to the task with an enthusiasm and energy that was overwhelming.

'Practice makes perfect,' Brian thought wildly, remembering one of his tutor's favorite maxims, and Justin certainly achieved perfection. His cock was entirely within Justin's mouth, Justin's nose pressed against the crinkly hair of his groin, Justin's throat massaging him as Brian was coming and coming, strangled laughter ripping from his mouth.

Only his hands on Justin's shoulders kept Brian from collapsing to the ground. The orgasm made his hands spasm, before clenching hard. Justin's hands caressed his, the tenderness helping coax Brian down from that earth shattering ecstasy.

He could barely see Justin's smile as he waited for the plea, the request for Brian to relent and the two of them to be together. But pleading wasn't in Justin's plans. The younger man leaned forward and gave him a light kiss before saying, "That was delicious."

'Delicious?' Brian wasn't sure whether to be flattered or annoyed as Justin kept talking. "And now I think I'll go inside and meet Daphne for dinner. I've heard you serve a fantastic meal." Another kiss and Justin said smugly, "Though I think I've had the best dish in the house."

With that remark, Justin turned and strolled toward the lights and music, leaving Brian standing, his breeches still undone and his cock exposed, watching him as he returned to the party.

*******

One of the few times that Brian wished he could give a woman a big kiss occurred at 3:00 that morning, when the Duchess of Gravestone announced loudly that the party set the standard for the season that all other parties must strive to surpass and that she was tired. She gathered her whey-faced daughter to her and marched out grandly, the signal for the rest of the exodus.

The pretense of being a respectable Earl and devoted new father was wearing thin and Brian was ready to escape the boring crowd. Lindsay, he decided grimly, could attend the majority of parties with Melanie. He would make whatever brief appearance was necessary before retreating to one of London's exotic clubs that offered amusements more to his taste.

Spending the entire evening pretending Justin didn't affect him hadn't made the affair easier. The young man seemed determined to charm every female, young and old, eligible and taken, in the house. He had even managed to ferret out which of Brian's friends shared his preferences. Emmett had been positively swooning over Justin and even quiet Theodore was enraptured. Only Michael, loyal, obstinate Michael, was impervious to Justin's charm.

Brian continued carefully ignoring Justin's whereabouts and maintained his genial host facade as the guests trickled out, shaking hands, thanking everyone for coming, devoutly hoping to see them again. Michael stepped closer and whispered, "This is the last time Brian! The last time I’m helping you out."

Brian only shook his head in confusion as Michael's mother called from nearer the door, "Michael, we're leaving!"

"The last time, Brian!" Michael affirmed before calling out, "Yes mother, I'm coming."

Turning to the next guest, Brian ran through his list of stock phrases, smiling until he feared his face would freeze in a permanent rictus of politeness. He would talk to Michael tomorrow and find out what was bothering him.

Another hour passed before all the guests said their goodbyes, collected their cloaks, and piled into their carriages. The servants were restoring the room to rights, moving the furniture back into its proper place, picking up scattered cups.

Clapping once to gain their attention, he said, "Bed, everyone." For a moment, they all froze, disbelieving.

"But your lordship - "

"Everything will still be dirty in the morning, Alfred. And I intend to sleep in. I suggest you do the same."

Alfred stiffened his spine, drawing himself up to his full height, half a head shorter than Brian. "It would be inappropriate for us to rest with the house unclean, your lordship."

The old man's unrelenting dedication to service almost made Brian laugh. Perhaps his reluctant acceptance of the master's wild ways made him cling even harder to establishing the perfect household. "Live dangerously, Alfred. Go to bed. No," he said, waving his hand dismissively as he headed for the stairs, "that's an order. All of you. Go. To. Bed."

And that would probably be the only time he would need to order a man to bed, Brian mused. Usually it was sufficient to point the way. He opened his bedroom door to find candles lit in his room and Justin sound asleep.

Well that explained where Justin disappeared to and what Michael was carping about, undoubtedly the Lady Deborah insisted on escorting Daphne home. Order a whole slew of servants to bed, order another man out of his bed. He shook Justin's shoulder roughly. "Wake up."

Justin raised his head, opened his eyes blearily, and smiled before yawning, turning over and falling back asleep. Tempted to shake him some more, Brian reconsidered. The grooms would have gone to their beds once the last carriage rolled away and he'd ordered the house servants to do the same. He could hardly toss Justin out the door and let him wander London alone at night. Despite the wealth and sophistication of many of its inhabitants, the city was dangerous. Footpads prowled the streets, seeking easy targets. A young man in fancy evening clothes would be mugged at the least, killed at the worst. Which meant either waking someone to get a carriage or going out with him to find a cab. And then what? Take him back to his mother or Daphne's just as dawn was breaking?

Giving up, Brian stripped, dropping his clothes over a chair, and crawled into bed. He could deal with Justin in the morning. As if sensing his warmth, Justin rolled over, settling his head on Brian's shoulder and laying one arm over his chest. It continually surprised Brian, how good it felt to have Justin sleeping next to him.

He was asleep before he could wonder why.

*******

His first awareness was of gentle breath on his face. He opened one eye, decided he could tolerate the light shining in from the windows, and opened the other. Justin was facing him, his head on the other pillow, his arms tucked in front of him, his knees touching Brian's. He wasn't snoring but his mouth was slightly open as he breathed, emitting soft puffs of air.

Asleep, the muscles of his face relaxed, Justin looked even younger than usual. Brian stroked his cheek with his index finger, marveling at the almost invisible stubble. His own growth would be more noticeable, scratching anyone he kissed. Justin's would be barely a sensual tingle.

Brian's finger trailed to Justin's lips, tracing them softly, lingering on the slightly fuller lower lip. Justin's tongue darted out pulling Brian's finger into his mouth. With his eyes still shut but mouth closed firmly, Justin sucked on Brian's finger.

The pleasure shot straight from his finger through Brian's body and down to his cock. He groaned, a sound he could swear caused the corners of Justin's lips to curl up in a smile. Deciding to give as good as he was getting, Brian shifted, half-covering Justin, forcing the youth onto his back. Justin's erection stabbed his stomach, belying the sleepy pretense. Bracing himself on one elbow, the other hand still caught in Justin's mouth, he began rocking, sliding his body on Justin's, their cocks rubbing together.

The loving was lazy and relaxed, Brian nibbling at Justin's face, brushing his stubble on Justin's smooth skin, marking it. Justin kept sucking fiercely on Brian's finger even as his legs wrapped around Brian's hips, cradling the larger body to his own. It was tamer than Brian's usual encounters, a peaceful morning tenderness that allowed him to concentrate on Justin's face, watching as the orgasm overtook Justin, his eyes flying open and widening, the gasping forcing him to free Brian's finger, his lips trembling as he struggled to breathe and finally came with a shout.

One thrust and another and Brian joined him, keeping his head up so Justin could watch his expression, experience the same joy of seeing pleasure fulfilled. He slumped heavily on Justin's slim form, crushing him, before rolling them both over, Justin cradled in his arms.

"This has got to stop," he said, realizing his words would have more impact if he could force himself to toss Justin out of the bed.

"Why? You're Lord Brian Kinney, you can do anything you want."

Forcing himself to be brutal, Brian said, "I've had you enough now. I have a wife, a child, and plenty of other men to love. I'm not interested in a commitment."

If Justin was hurt, it didn't show on his face. "You liked me enough in the country. You liked being with me all day and all night."

"You were the only one around."

"No, I wasn't. There was Steven. And others who wanted you, who would have let you have them." Snuggling close to whisper in Brian's ear, Justin said, "You know what I want to do one day? I want to go back to your estate. I want to sit in your leather chair. I want you to order Steven to suck me. And while he does that, I want you to fuck him. He'll suck me and you'll fuck him. And then we'll go to your bed and we'll make love. Because I know the difference between loving and fucking. I love you and you love me and we're going to enjoy both together for a long time." Justin bounded out of bed, picking up his clothes and dressing with brisk motions.

Brian clenched his hands into fists, fighting to control the hardness created by Justin's vivid image. When he was satisfied he wouldn't embarrass himself, he sat up in bed, the covers bunched at his waist.

Justin was perched on the edge, putting on his silk socks. "I have to go. I promised Daphne I wouldn't be too late."

"Justin, this isn't going to work."

With the arrogance of youth, he replied, "Yes it will." More determinedly, he said, "I'm going to make it work."

"Maybe I don't want it to work."

"Yes, you do." Justin smiled, that smile that lit his face and the room with it. "I'll see you soon."

And with that, Justin was gone, dashing out of the room.

Staring after the retreating figure Brian laughed, an honest laugh rather than his normal ironic snicker, remembering that first morning he met Justin. He had been feeling so old and settled down, a father, a husband, a respectable peer. Then Justin appeared like a unexpected wild card in the deck and for a few wonderful days, Brian understood what it would be like if he could have the partner in life he wanted, someone who shared his interests and enthusiasms, not just someone of the opposite gender for the purpose of making babies.

Buoyed by innocence and confidence, Justin believed they could have a real long-term relationship, ignoring Lindsay, society's disapproval and his own family's need for him to marry and have children. Unless he did something drastic to squash Justin, Brian was going to find himself chased for the first time, chased by someone with as much determination as himself. Sooner or later, Justin would undoubtedly manage to cause a scandal and set all the tongues wagging. It would be interesting to see if Justin's charm and money would gain him as much forgiveness as Brian's title and money.

Michael would be beside himself.

Suddenly, Brian didn't feel old any more. He laughed again before sliding back into bed and pulling the covers over him. There was time for another hour or two of sleep before his valet woke him to dress for afternoon calls. He had a feeling he would need to keep his strength up to play the new hand of this game.

~ the end ~