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The Journal of Lieutenant James McGraw

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3 March, the year 1705

Admiral Hennessey insists I keep a diary during this extended period of shore leave. I will be in London for several months at least, and he claims that keeping a log of my activities will help me retain the discipline of my mind. He also hopes that I will save my more acerbic comments for these pages, rather than keep spouting them at my superiors, as is my habit. Always he has one eye on my career, and I am grateful for it.

I have taken the precaution of writing in a code of my own devising, as the mistress of these lodgings seems inclined to speculate about my life. I do not trust her to come and go from my room without interfering with my possessions, and I cannot bear the thought of that powdered bitch reading my thoughts.

So to today’s activities. First I paid a call at the home of Miss Casson, who remains vacuous. I probed her mind desperately for some kind of substance, asking her opinions on everything from the union with Scotland to the price of coffee, but the poor bewildered thing managed only to swallow and blink. She is very biddable though, and would be a respectable match for me if I could bear it. Her father is angling for a marriage proposal, which I suppose I must consider although she stirs me so little. But then few women do.

Later I called on Captain S.J. at his lodgings in Castle Street. Once again he pressed me to stay longer, saying that when I am done I cannot get my boots on fast enough. ‘What would you have me do’ I said, ‘walk hand in hand with you to the Haymarket and listen to the balladeers? How would that look?’ He became upset then, so I was immediately sorry. But even so, the truth – that once my desire is spent I cannot look at him without feeling wretched – would be no help to him.

I had best leave off writing now and get some sleep. Tomorrow I start my new appointment as liaison to Lord Thomas Hamilton, another meddling toff trying to make his mark in government. How many more fools in wigs must I suffer?

4 March

Vice Admiral Berwick called me to the royal shipyards in Deptford this morning, to assist him in preparing a report to the Sea Lords. He is an effective commander and has my respect, but the man can scarce write a coherent dispatch without the assistance of his clerk. There are three new third-rate ships of the line under construction, with room for seventy or eighty guns apiece. And many more ships in for repair and refurbishment (including the Mermaid, which has been shot through and through, with several guns dismounted). I made a swift assessment of the works done to date, and helped him frame his account with some eloquence.

This afternoon I met Lord Hamilton at his father’s offices in Whitehall, and it seems that I had a false notion of him. He is rather disarming in person, very open and unceremonious, unlike any other gentry I have met. Certainly not a fool, although somewhat naïve I think.

His father the Earl holds title to New Providence Island, and has tasked his son with formulating a plan to see it pacified. A poor move it seems, as the young Lord has no conception of the sea of blood he is wading into. I have a plan to make this clear to him, of which more anon.

10 March

The Thames is malodourous today and Villiers Street is wrapped in a stinking fog. Not for the first time, I regret lodging so close to the river.

This afternoon I accompanied Miss Casson and her sister to a dreary house party in Soho. She is ghostly pale at the moment, which is pleasant to look upon, and is wearing less paint at my request.

19 March

Today I watched a pirate hang, with Lord Hamilton standing at my side. When the condemned man dropped and the crowd screamed, I felt nothing, having seen and heard it all so many times before. But the young lord went pale and flinched against the noise.

I had thought to teach him a clever little lesson about people and how their base natures can be manipulated. But as the crowd assaulted us all around with their howling and baying for blood, I realised that it was cruel of me to bring such a sensitive man to witness these horrors.

He wouldn’t be persuaded to leave though, and instead plunged into heated debate with our neighbours on the natural rights of man and the nature of forgiveness. I think he honestly believes that if he had sufficient time, he could talk any person out of their barbarism with a well-framed argument. And it does seem to work, for a short time at least. Although I suspect they return to barbarism with renewed vigour once he is gone and the spell is broken.

Later I will go to Castle Street again to see Captain S.J, despite resolving not to go so often. I am restless and agitated and I know what medicine will fix me, so I will seek it out once more. He is due to leave for Plymouth soon, and what on earth will I do then? Frustrated desire can wreak all kinds of mischief on a man. Before I encountered the Captain, my lust would often drive me to act recklessly. On one occasion I picked up a willing youth at the Royal Exchange and fucked him in the doorway of a Draper’s shop. I paid for his services in ale rather than coin, but the distinction is a fine one.

23 March

A letter from Lord Hamilton arrived first thing this morning, requesting that I meet him at the coffee house in Whitehall. He sent a coach for me, which I felt foolish taking for such a short distance.

It is a well-run establishment, but much associated with his father’s faction in parliament and suffers frequent vandalism as a result. Hamilton likes it because it is quiet and they carry all the latest daily newspapers and pamphlets. The face he pulled when he tried my bitter Turkish coffee was a picture. He will drink only chocolate, which amuses me greatly for some reason.

We passed several hours in heated conversation about the pirate issue, and when it was all over I felt like a wet rag having been wrung dry. He learns quickly, so it is no hardship to educate him about Navy matters despite his unfamiliarity with the subject. When the house closed, we were still talking animatedly, so we walked for a while in order to continue our discussion.

He has asked me to address him by his first name, Thomas, which I will endeavour to do although it seems improper.

30 March

If I should ever encounter our commissioner of drains in the street, I will kick him so hard up the arse that he must shit through his mouth. The standpipe will bring up only brown and brackish water again, and any man fool enough to wash in it would end up fouler than he began.

Consequently, I am forced to cancel my appointment with Thomas today. It is bad enough that the material of my uniform is coarse and the braid is cheap, but now I must go about unclean? I will not be seen in such a state, especially not by a man who is groomed to the point of gleaming.

4 April

Miss Casson grows impatient with my long absences, so I attempted to make up for it by taking her to one of Britton’s subscription concerts this evening. But the music was melancholy and seemed to dampen her spirits even further.

7 April

This morning Thomas accompanied me to the Royal Shipyards at Lambeth, in order to see something of my world. ‘You talk about your men of war as though they were members of your own family’ he said, ‘and I would like to meet these creatures that gave you birth.’ It is an odd notion of his, but then he has so many where does one start?

As we stepped out of his coach, a host of wretches clustered around us hoping to beg silver. I moved in to beat them away, as I must, but he astonished me by giving away the entire contents of his purse, and all with a smile on his face.

I am so used to hearing the gentry talk loud and long of their charitable works, whilst grinding the faces of the poor beneath their boots. I never thought to meet one who talks of charity not at all, but seems to have generosity at the core of his being.

14 April

Rumours abound regarding Lady Hamilton, but although they all mention her beauty and her immorality, not one mentions how bright and articulate she is. Perhaps not quite her husband’s match, but still a rare sort of person.

I met her for the first time today when she came to collect Thomas in their coach. He had entirely forgotten an engagement, so engrossed was he in speaking to a family of leatherworkers who rent rooms from his father.

Even with my poor knowledge of fashion, the opulence of her dress was unmistakeable. And she wore a distracting perfume which must cost Thomas a fortune. As we spoke, I found myself standing a little straighter and trying too hard to be clever, which I suspect she noticed.

16 April

It is late, and I am just returned from a Salon at Thomas’s House in St James’s Square. I hesitated before going, out of fear for my reputation - officers of my station, without patronage or family money to fall back on, must always be cautious - but in the end, a mixture of curiosity and Thomas’s kind insistence drove me to attend.

The house is huge and forbidding from the outside. Thomas says his father does not own it, but merely leases it. The Earl insists that Thomas lives at only the most fashionable addresses, and you cannot tell what an area may become from year to year. There are so many new developments hereabouts and many of them become slums before the last brick is laid.

Once inside, I found myself in the company of scientists, politicians, writers and even actors. To my surprise, most of the wives chose not to retire, but sat through the discussion and even contributed to it. Lady Hamilton was first among them of course, as she has the benefit not just of her wits, but also the free use of her husband’s library.

The subject was Hobbes’ Leviathan, which Thomas has been studying of late. I was concerned that the debate might leave me behind, since I have not read it. But in the event, neither had most of the other guests so I was in good company. Thomas began by outlining the chief arguments of the book for our benefit, and then launched into his own critique of it.

He addressed us with such authority and passion that it worked a strange alchemy on me. I felt that a better world was possible, and that it was somehow in our power to create. But the feeling was fleeting. Now I am returned to my rooms, in darkness and cold, with drunken brawlers to look upon instead of Thomas’s smiling face, I see his dream for the mirage it is.

17 April

I asked Thomas why he does not write his own book, since he clearly has sufficient talent and ideas to fill several. He beamed to hear me say it, but explained that his father would not suffer to see his son’s outrageous views in print. The more I hear of that man, the blacker is my impression of him.

23 April

Thomas continues to wrong-foot me. Having held my tongue up to now out of respect, today I felt I owed it to him to outline the reasons why his vision for Nassau is doomed to fail. This I did, and at some length. Having said my piece, I asked if he would rather be assigned a liaison more closely aligned with his views, but to my surprise he declined. If anything, my constant opposition seems to invigorate him.

I think I am finally beginning to understand the significance of this project. ‘The New World’ he said, with eyes shining, ‘is a sacred opportunity to right our wrongs and begin anew’. Truly, that is how he put it.

I had assumed that my function was to assist his family in securing the income from their property in New Providence, and that is the limit of the Earl’s intentions I am sure. But for Thomas, our work has a quite different purpose. For him, Nassau represents a fresh beginning for humanity. A place where his abstract ideas - the work of his life - can take solid form. In short, it is everything.

I left having fully committed to help him achieve his dream, in whatever way I can. And now that I am home, I wonder if I have not been very subtly manoeuvred to this conclusion. If so, I am not angry about it. Well played sir.

25 April

My last visit to Captain S.J. before he leaves for Plymouth.

I wish I did not want this terrible carnality so, but it seems to be as much a part of me as my hand or my foot. Even as I climb the stairs to his bedchamber the shameful heat rises in me like a fog. As I enter his room he takes hold of my shirt and strips me, there is scarce time to close the door. Then when I am naked he spins me around and embraces me from behind, taking my cock in his hand. All the while he kisses the back of my neck and whispers to me, ‘look how hard you become,’ and ‘will you command me to stop Lieutenant? I wonder if you can.’

I tell myself I will go no further, just spill into his hand and be done with it. But he keeps withholding his pressure just at the point I need it most, bringing me back from the brink time after time until my brain is addled and my legs have lost the power to hold me fast.

Then having weakened my resolve so expertly, he takes me by the hand and leads me to his bed. ‘The candles,’ I say, to remind him that I prefer to be in darkness when we lie together. But he is bolder this time, ‘Please James’ he says, ‘let one candle remain lit, where is the harm?’ I want to say no, but this time I cannot deny him. The structure of his body is so fine it is a pity not to look upon it, but I am afraid to see my own lustful face reflected in his eyes.

Once we are in bed, he removes his own clothes and seats himself in my lap, making such moans as I enter him that I fear he will be heard out on the street. And even worse are the sighs from my own lips, which I press against the smooth muscle of his back. He tastes of soap and salt and smoke.

‘Will you not take me in your hand’ he says ‘see how stiff you make me.’ But I don’t want to see. I tell him no. I am trying so hard to forget that this is another man’s body I am enjoying, I cannot suffer to feel his cock all hot and eager in my hand, it is intolerable. I close my eyes and try to quiet all my senses, so that I can let the weightless feeling in my head take hold. It is like bliss and terror combined, and for a brief moment I love this sickness of mine. I love the sinfulness of it, and the terrible risk. And the way he moves, oh god his writhing and twisting around me. I empty myself deep inside him, and the relief is so profound I feel I might die of it.

Later, as we are dressing he says ‘you are changed James, and I do not think I am the cause of it.’ I cannot make out his meaning and I have no desire to. I simply wish him goodbye as fondly as I can manage.

27 April

Yesterday I spent several hours with Thomas in his study, working at a furious pace. The bare bones of the plan are outlined, but there is still much meat to be put on them before we will be ready to submit a proposal to the house.

When it was late enough for the candles to be lit, I became weary and Thomas suggested we set our papers aside and go looking for entertainment. There is a new play on at Drury Lane, he said, and having no better ideas I agreed to accompany him.

The play was of a very poor sort, all pompous speeches and clumsy rhymes. As it dragged on, Thomas leant over and began whispering humorous verses of his own in my ear, in parody. He is so quick-witted, I had to laugh and soon he had me doubled over. I have never enjoyed a shit play so much.

Thomas is so serious in his study; I never expected to see another side to him. I suppose he has a talent for joy, just as he has a talent for most other things.

Some of his verses were quite crude, which gave me an odd feeling.

28 April

Fuck, fuck, fuck. What compels me to pollute every good thing I am blessed with? I have never loathed myself more, and am like to reduce everything in this room to splinters in my rage.

I have destroyed my friendship with Thomas. And it is only now, too late, that I realise how much I have come to value and rely upon it. I have done little but pace the floor and punch the walls since returning home, and I am still no nearer deciding how to broach the matter with him. Should I go now and address him in person? That is probably the best way, but how I dread looking into his eyes.

It is all the fault of Lady Hamilton, who turned up at my lodgings unannounced today and caught me half dressed. She insisted on coming in, and then invited me to attend an exhibition with her alone, as her guest. I knew her real intent, and an exhibition was only the beginning of it.

I hardly knew how to behave, as there are no rules established for such an encounter. And she looked almost ridiculous in my room, like a colourful bird caged in a shabby grey box. Part of me was anxious over the stir she had created in the street and how tongues would be wagging already. But another louder part could only drink in the sight and scent of her, and marvel that she stood a stone’s throw from my own bed.

She implied that Thomas was aware of her visit and did not disapprove, but until I hear it from his mouth I will not be convinced. And even leaving that aside, there is my own reputation to consider. She is wealthy enough that she can pay no heed to the rules of decorum and civility that govern the rest of us. But I do not have that luxury, and I said so. And yet, my delight at being propositioned had the effect of twisting my mouth up into a smile, no matter how I fought it.

I should have sent her away at that point, and then I would not be in this state. But like a fool I insisted on traveling with her, and once comfortably enclosed in her coach my resolve weakened fatally.

All the way down the Strand, with every jerk and roll, I became more restless and uncomfortable. I could not breathe for her scent. I could not control the wandering of my eyes across her curves. I don’t know if it was excitement that a woman could be so coarse or simple flattery, but every time she opened her mouth to speak I wanted to lunge at her and press it shut again with my own. I have always been able to master myself in these matters, why have I suddenly lost the ability?

The touch of my hand was all the invite she needed, and from that point I lost all reason. She lifted up her skirts and sat astride me, guiding me in and making no secret of her enjoyment. There was no opportunity to fear that my inexperience might show, I had only to lean back and let her use me for her pleasure like some inanimate object.

She was slippery already and reached her peak in very quick time, which she put down to having prepared herself at home before setting off. Imagine a woman could even think of such a thing! I told her she was presumptuous but she laughed and said ‘and did you refuse me then Lieutenant?’

I thought I would not finish, as I tend not to when I am with women. But she would have none of it. ‘I want to feel you running down my legs all day,’ she said, and then plunged her tongue into my mouth, fully and forcefully like a man might do. I felt myself spilling then, and as I gasped and twisted beneath her she looked down on me triumphant.

If there is a woman alive that I could make a life with it is her, but if the price of my friendship with Thomas is to never see her again, I will pay it. Nothing could be worse than his having a poor opinion of me.

I will go there now, on foot. It is not so late.

29 April

All is well. My feet have regained their solid foundations. Such relief, that I struggle to express it.

God alone knows what a wretch I must have looked in Thomas’s drawing room last night. My hands were bruised and cut, and my hair hung all over my face, having come loose in the wind and rain outside. I was some way into my stilted confession before I noticed the amusement in his eyes.

‘Dear James’ he said, ‘I want only to see you happy, and I want no less for my wife. If the two of you can find happiness in each other, I am doubly content.’

Truly, here is a man like no other.

When I had drunk a very large glass of wine against the cold, he sent me upstairs to Miranda’s room to get out of my wet clothes. ‘I’m sure she will make short work of it,’ he said, and so she did. I lay abed with her in a state of bliss, all night and much of the morning, and every kiss from her was the sweeter for knowing that she placed it with his blessing.

2 May

I paid my last visit to Miss Casson this morning, and brought our attachment to a close formally, which she took in good part. Her father less so.

I can scarce look at the poor girl without recalling the softness of Miranda’s mouth or the sweet taste of her cunt. I have used her too long as a cloak for my other liaisons, and it is a cruel thing I have done.

10 May

The London season is at an end. And although my own Villiers Street is not much changed, the better parts of town are quiet as the grave. Even Miranda has gone to the country for a short time. Although I miss her presence, it allows Thomas and I to work uninterrupted most days, and probably much later into the evenings than is healthy.

We are making excellent progress, with just a few questions still to answer. But for me, our success is bittersweet. Every time I sit in my customary chair in his study, or browse through the books on his shelves, I ask myself ‘is this the last time I will sit here?’ or ‘is this the last book I will borrow?’ When our work is done I will see less of him, and gradually it will taper down to nothing at all.

15 May

Good news from Gibraltar, where Leake has led the fleet to a decisive victory against the French. As soon as I saw the front page of the Gazette, I hurried to the Navy office in search of a full account of the battle, eager to learn the fate of my friend Captain Ellwes who has command of the Revenge. (He fares well it seems, there were few casualties on our side.)

Were it not for my work with Thomas, I might have been there serving under him. And the thought makes me restless to be at sea again, and in action. I well remember the first time I took command of the Revenge’s upper gun deck, shouting my orders amidst a hail of splinters and screams, with 24-pounders thundering all about me. My gun crews were drilled to perfection and on my word they moved like the muscles of some great beast, even when many of their number were bloodied and broken. I am uneasy when I recall the happiness I experienced in the midst of all that chaos and agony.

How unlike Thomas, who cannot stand to witness any suffering, even less make himself the cause of it.

16 May

Once again I have let loose my demons in a quite spectacular fashion, and the worst is that Admiral Hennessey has witnessed it.

Last night, in a tavern roundly stuffed with officers of Hennessey’s fleet, I met the Admiral to give him a report of my goings on with Thomas. He remains dismissive of the man, and being conscious of my own reputation I did not leap to Thomas’s defence as readily as I ought. Perhaps that shame is what led me to act so foolishly thereafter.

A group of officers loitered nearby as we spoke, clustering thickly around the bar like flies on shit. I could tell by the way they leered in my direction that they were occupied in gossiping, but I decided to wait until Hennessey left before taking them on. Upon my challenge, one man broke clear of the group and spoke his mind, the content being exactly as I had feared - crude slurs on the characters of Thomas and Miranda, and pathetic insults to my own honour and pride. Just to hear the names of my dear friends from the mouth of such a maggot was more than I could bear.

My rage came up boiling in an instant, but I concealed its presence and held my peace until the cunt was finished speaking, the better to surprise him with my first blow. To my delight, it caught him hard on the jaw, and tore apart the flesh of his cheek as though he were made of wet paper. From there on I was like a hound with the scent in its nostrils. There was but one purpose in my mind and I exalted in it. Let the gentry keep their corantos and their gavottes, this is my dance and I am the master of it.

When the Admiral’s shout brought me back to myself, I had one of the piss-reeking vermin by the hair and had bludgeoned him near insensible with my fist. Hennessey’s face was a mask of horror, and I fear that he saw through me in that moment. My valour has only ever been savagery, dressed up in fine clothes.

17 May

I was grateful for Thomas’s coach today, as I had no desire to walk aching and bruise-blackened all the way to St James’s Square. When he saw the state of me he looked concerned, but something about my appearance must have deterred him from asking the questions that I could see forming in his mouth. Perhaps he knows me well enough to guess that my wounds are self-inflicted.

Instead of pressing me for details, he sent the maid for a bottle of spirit and some clean linen and set about cleaning me up. It was a most kind act, as it is near impossible to attend to cuts on one’s own hands without help. But it felt odd to have such fine, soft hands as his, ministering to my own scarred fingers.

When he was done, he kept hold of my right hand and turned its palm upward. ‘There are some mystical people who believe they can see your future in this manner,’ he said. ‘Oh,’ I responded ‘and what is my future then?’ He laughed and said ‘I don’t hold with such unreason, but I can tell your past at least.’ And he traced a finger along the deepest of my scars, as if he had the power to cure past ills as well as present.

29 May

Today our proposal is finally complete. Thomas sent for me as soon as the clerk had finished transcribing our notes, and we sat beside each other reading in silence for much of the day. Although I still fear that our reception will be poor, I cannot help but share some of Thomas’s excitement to see our plans written neatly and made fully real. The man is aglow.

We drank wine and talked long into the evening. When the time came, I could not face the walk home, so found myself climbing the stairs to Miranda’s bedchamber. I held her close for a while but nothing stirred in me. Perhaps I was a little drunk, or perhaps she is too much like family now?

2 June

It is almost dawn, and though I have been home for many hours I could not write a word until now. What follows is my attempt to record the events of yesterday evening. Perhaps by fixing it to the page I might make sense of it.

It began with the pirates. Thomas sent for me yesterday with great urgency, and when I arrived at his house he confessed to me his intention to pardon them. I hardly knew what to say at first, such was my surprise. He is in the right, of course he is. And his motives are the best and truest kind. But this world is not his utopia, it is dark and set about by demons, his own father being chief among them. And so I expressed most strongly my opinion that to even suggest such a thing would be dangerous in the extreme.

Matters came to a head later, at dinner. Eating politely at the Earl’s table was the most excruciating experience I have ever endured, far worse than the most vicious tavern brawl. And I was not the only one suffering; I could feel Miranda’s legs shaking in fear as she struggled with every morsel on her plate. All the while I knew that battle was coming, but being powerless to prevent it I could only sit quietly with my stomach clenched like a fist. It was almost a relief when the fight finally began.

All these weeks I have lived in Thomas’s pocket, and never once heard him speak in anger, which only made it the more shocking to hear him shouting across the table. The pair spat words at each other as though they were pointed things with the power to pierce flesh. All I could do was look at Thomas and marvel at his courage. The Earl could reduce him to a pauper with the stroke of a pen, and yet he would risk all to save the lives of some miscreants he has never met.

I might have held myself in check, if the Earl had not stooped to boorish insults. But when he did, rage came upon me like a fever and jolted me onto my feet. Holding my peace became intolerable and impossible. Fear gave way to snarling hatred. I wanted to snatch up a knife from the table and cut out the vile creature’s tongue, but I held my breath, gripped the table, and somehow mastered the urge. Instead I denounced him in the strongest terms and ordered the man to leave his own house. I fancy I can still hear the sound of his footsteps echoing down the hall.

In the aftermath, all about me was stunned silence. And I stood motionless at its core, as if spellbound. All I could do was repeat to myself the words I had spoken in such haste, and wonder what on earth I had done. My rage turned first to incomprehension, and then panic. I dug deep in my own mind, searching for the method in my madness, trying to put a name to the emotion that had provoked me to act so foolishly. And in that moment, with all my senses sharpened to a fine point, I achieved a sudden clarity. I knew myself, and I recognised the change that was upon me. It was not friendship I defended, as I had thought. Nor was it the bond that sometimes grows between men who fight together. It was something entirely other. It was love.

I have never suffered from sickness, even at sea, but so profound was my disgust in myself, I feared I might bring up the meal I had laboured to swallow. Was I such a beast then? Could I not admire Thomas’s mind without also desiring his body, in some twisted approximation of the love between man and wife?

In that house like no other place, my thoughts are entirely transparent. I knew Thomas need only look at me for a moment and he would learn everything; the truth of my heart was written on my face, plain as a book. And I could feel his eyes upon me already, summing me up. Through the maelstrom of my thoughts, I was dimly aware of his approach. Then I felt his hands upon my shoulders, and I flinched a little at the tenderness of his touch. He is come to comfort me, I thought, to offer me his forgiveness, or worse, his pity. He will try to hide his disgust, but I will see it in his eyes. I could hardly imagine anything more hateful. But when finally I gathered the courage to lift my head and meet his gaze, there was no pity there, nor forgiveness. Instead, to my astonishment, I saw the mirror image of my own love.

I have never before let a man kiss me on the mouth, and now I am glad of it because I can always say that he was the first.

4 June

If he of all men is capable of wanting this, can it be so wrong?

So went my thoughts yesterday evening, as I stood in Thomas’s bedchamber and watched him undress. Although he permits me to do with him as I please, I find it safer to remain passive and allow him to take the lead. Distaste of my own nature is part of the reason, but I also harbour a concern that I might do some violence to him if I give free rein to my desire. He is patient and understanding, in this as in all things, and seems content to kiss and caress me, though my hands touch him little and linger only in those places where they can cause no offence.

‘It is enough that I have a handsome Seaman Officer in my bed,’ he whispered, the first time we lay together, ‘I am not about to nit-pick over what he does there.’ He knows - because I have told him - that before this week I have lain with men in darkness and in haste. This is a new world entirely.

‘Help me would you?’ he said, ‘this accursed waistcoat is so fiddly to get out of.’ I did so, making quick work of it, and thought not so fiddly if you have done a day’s manual work in your life. But I did not speak it for fear of sounding critical. His helplessness in all things practical is one of the things I love most about him.

I made to undress myself, but he took hold of my hands and stopped them. ‘Please?’ he said, and I let him begin unbuttoning my jacket, which gave him less trouble than his own. ‘Have you any idea,’ he said, watching the slow progress of his hands down my chest, ‘what agonies I have suffered to see you going about in this uniform like an exquisitely wrapped gift, and yet not be permitted to lay a finger on you?’

I coloured a little to hear him talk about me so, as if I were an object of desire. ‘My uniform is made for battle,’ I said, feeling my masculinity to be slightly affronted, but all he did was sink to his knees before me and say, ‘and look how impressively you fill it.’ To which I could find no answer beyond a self-conscious smile.

I knew he intended to put his mouth on me, even before I felt his fingers pull at the buttons of my breeches. Men have done it to me before, and some women, but only people for whom I had little respect. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Thomas attempting it.

Even so, the first tentative pressure of his hand caused my cock to stiffen and grow. And then when he encircled me and began to stroke, it started a flood of pleasure quite powerful enough to carry away most of my doubts. The assurance of his touch was so striking that I suffered a pang of jealousy to think of him learning these skills on other men.

‘Dear god, look at you’ Thomas whispered, and the sound of his voice cut through my thoughts. My eyes dropped down to where he knelt at my feet, and I blushed violently to see the degenerate state of him. So shamelessly he stared my erection, and his pupils were spread so wide that his blue eyes appeared nearly black. I watched him unbutton his breeches with one hand, and rub his palm against the swell of his cock. The other hand he raised to his lips, letting one finger slip absentmindedly into his mouth. His breathing came fast and shuddering, and the fine linen of his shirt clung about his chest.

Who cares if this act is beneath us both? I thought, and I don’t know that it is. If he wants to do it I will not deny him, I cannot.

I hooked a finger under his chin and lifted his mouth up toward me, until I could feel the warmth and wet of his tongue on my cock. He licked me just once, and then withdrew, making me wait longer than I could bear. Then licked again, just once, leaving me slippery and quivering at the need of his touch. He continued this seduction until my breath caught in my chest and my vision became blurry. So skilled was he in stoking my lust, that when finally he swallowed me deep I felt such suffocating bliss it made me whisper some profanity.

I wanted to watch him at his work, to see how he liked the size and taste of me. But old habits are deeply ingrained, and the more urgently he sucked, the more my body rebelled. My eyes screwed themselves up tight and my head turned away. I had to be content to savour the little moans and sighs he made through his nose.

Though he tried to prolong it by stopping and starting, the heat in me built too quickly to a peak. And as I felt the first jolt of my climax I was gripped by a sudden panic. What if he does not know what is coming? What if he is revolted by it? I squeezed the muscles tight, tried to hold it back, but it was no use. I felt myself spilling out into him with violent force, over and over, and dear god there was so much of it. The relief was exquisite and almost painful, like the euphoria that comes with drowning. It drew a shout from me that I immediately tried to stifle with my palm. But even while I still shivered with pleasure, panic returned and crept up my spine like a frost.

I looked down at Thomas and waited nervously for his face to give me some clue as to his thoughts. He remained motionless for an age, with his hands tightly holding my thighs and his forehead resting against my stomach. Eventually, he slowly released his grip and sat back on his heels. ‘That,’ he said, ‘is a taste I could never tire of,’ then he smiled up at me, as though it were the most natural thing. I sank down to my knees, took his face in my hands and kissed him.

8 June

I persuaded Miranda to take a turn with me around the gardens today. She puts on a show for Thomas, and he does not see her disappointment or her wounded pride. But with me, she is quicker to lash out with her tongue. She loves him like a brother, but her passions run more hotly where I am concerned.

The sun was strong, and we sat for a long while in the shade of a willow tree, whose branches afforded us some privacy. I took her hand, and she did not snatch it away as I had feared, but let it rest limply in my lap as though she hadn’t the power to retrieve it.

‘I do not blame you for loving him,’ she said after a time, ‘many people do, and I have grown used to sharing him. I only ask why it is necessary for you to love him like that.’ The question pierced me, as I have asked it of myself half a hundred times without coming to any conclusion. The best answer I could give was to tell her the truth, ‘you might as well ask me why I eat or sleep, all I know is that I must.’

‘And if I asked you to stop?’ she said carefully, making sure not to sound pleading. I had no such qualms, ‘please do not,’ I said, ‘I beg you Miranda.’ Her response was a long time in coming and seemed to be the cause of much inner turmoil. No tears came, but her breathing was loud and she would not look at me. Eventually she said, ‘very well, I would rather not have it on my conscience.’

9 June

I lingered a while in Miranda’s bedchamber today, trying to discover if Thomas has had other similar attachments. She would not be drawn though, and seemed irritated to be asked. ‘Men!’ she said venomously, ‘why must you always be the first to plant your flag?’

I will not ask him, it is not fair. I must endeavour not to think of it so much.

10 June

Today London celebrates the Act of Union, and I have spent the morning in my parade uniform engaged in pointless formation marching and weapons drills. I have always hated this pompous crap, but at least now I am an officer I must only stand still and bark orders at the other poor bastards.

My experience was much improved by Thomas’s presence amongst the crowds. I knew why he was there, and I felt him watching me whenever I moved. It warmed me to know that he would take a perverse pleasure in the whole spectacle, since he is so fond of my best uniform and likes to imagine me in command. I even risked a salute in his direction, and saw him struggle to maintain a straight face.

As soon as we were back inside his coach and on our way home, he fell upon me and pushed me down to the floor. ‘I have been hard for fully two hours,’ he said, ‘it is painful now, damn you.’ I thrilled to hear it, but said ‘I will not fuck you in a coach Thomas, we are two minutes from your house, you will wait.’

At that he groaned and pressed his mouth on mine to silence me. I felt his teeth pulling at my lips, as though he meant to devour me whole and I bit back to see how he liked it. He responded with his tongue, forcing it inside and breathing hotly into my mouth. I opened wide to take it, letting him have mastery of me since he was so insistent. With one hand he pulled open my shirt and traced his fingers across my chest, going softly with his fingertips at first, and then scoring deeper lines with his manicured nails. His mouth was quick to follow, leaving a trail of wet kisses down my neck, my chest and my stomach. Every touch set my whole body chiming, and I began to think about his cock and want to see it.

He read my thoughts and took hold of my hand, pressing it against the swell in his breeches and staring into my eyes to see how I reacted. It felt thick and urgent, and made me flush with the desire to hold it and suck it. But I only rubbed it through the stiff material, in the manner that I like, until he gasped and fell against me in a spent and ruined state.

We had only a few moments to rearrange ourselves before the coachman leapt down and banged on the door.

18 June

I have returned to my lodgings tonight, dragging my feet all the way, and only because I know that it is not safe to stay with the Hamiltons so many nights in succession. Even though Thomas is certain of his servants’ loyalty, I trust them less, knowing more of human nature than he does. If either one of us could muster a little self-discipline matters would be easier, but mine seems to have deserted me of late, and Thomas has never had any to speak of.

Even though I managed to confine myself to the guest bedroom all of last night, when I first encountered Thomas in the hall this morning I found myself reaching for his hand instinctively. And once our hands were entwined, it was all the easier for him to pull me close and press his mouth into mine. A polite cough from Miranda served to separate us, but the die was cast for the day. At breakfast we managed no more than three bites of pound cake between us, before making our excuses and retiring to the study.

‘I lay awake for hours,’ he said as soon as we were alone, ‘I thought you would come to me.’ There was a hint of reproach in his voice. ‘Miranda’s maid is always upon the stairs,’ I said, by way of explanation, and saw him roll his eyes to hear it. ‘It cannot be true James; you have courage enough to face down an army of privateers but the sight of a ladies maid has you quaking?’

I bristled a little at that and advanced upon him, only partly in play, until I had his back against the desk. ‘Do not keep questioning my masculinity sir,’ I said, ‘or you will force me to demonstrate it.’ But if I had thought to discourage him, I achieved the opposite. He merely cocked an eyebrow up at me, and with a smile dancing around his lips, said ‘your masculine potency might be more evident if you did not reek so powerfully of my cologne.’ Knowing that his teasing is well-meant makes it no easier to bear. I could not bear it, and had to silence him.

‘You were warned,’ I said, and pushed him hard enough that he lost his footing and fell on his back upon the long oak desk. He was quiet then, and his eyes were wide with surprise. It shames me to say it, but I liked to have an excuse to be rough with him. Lust and rage are close relations, and in my experience the one tends to enhance the other. In any case, such a heat was upon me that I could not summon any of my usual restraint.

Before he could get up, I unbuttoned his breeches and tugged them down swiftly, far enough to expose his erection. I knew already that it was there, I had felt growing against me even as we stood together in the hall. ‘You cannot mean to?’ he said, but I did not answer and nor did I meet his eye. I knew what I was about, and I did not want to be still doing it when the servants came in with coffee.

‘You will have to turn over onto your stomach,’ I said, hastily. He laughed with disbelief, but did as I said, and I climbed up after him, scattering books and papers as I went. As I knelt over him, pushing his legs apart with my knees, I took a moment to exalt in the sight of him prostrate beneath me. All that smooth pale skin, wrapped up in fine silk and brocade. To have command of this body was an exquisite pleasure. And by ruling it and owning it, I began to feel fully alive and in my element.

With one hand I freed my cock and quickly made it ready. My skin was still slippery with Thomas’s expensive soap, which suited my purpose. He shifted a little, but made no complaint even though his face was twisted sideways against the desk and the waistband of his breeches was tight about his thighs. I lowered myself onto him, crushing him beneath me until he took much of my weight and my hair fell all over his face. His breathing was shallow, and his hips writhed against my cock, which I took as an invitation.

‘As the doctors are fond of saying,’ I whispered against his cheek, ‘you might feel a sharp scratch,’ and then I pressed myself inside him with some aggression. There was resistance there; I had hoped there would be and it was a relief to find it. ‘Push against me,’ I whispered as he tensed at the discomfort, ‘it will help, I swear it.’ His eyes looked up at me with uncertainty, but he did as I said, and gradually his resistance gave way to soft, warm, capitulation.

I knew I ought to go slowly and carefully, in order to keep a check on the filth my lips might speak or the hurt I might cause him. But today, after so many days of holding back and growing used to this new way of being, I could not quiet my mouth or pull my punches. My nature is not to be passive, or let another lead me, not really. My nature is to command.

I fucked him hard, holding his wrists fast against the desk with my hands. I fucked him until my back was damp with sweat and I shouted out with every thrust. I fucked him until I could not think, or speak, or hear. Until I emptied myself deep inside him, and fell shivering and panting against his back.

It was the sweetest relief, but hot on its heels came a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was alarmed at my own ferociousness and my loss of control. Once again I searched my mind to discover what reason drove me. I am still not entirely sure, but I think I wanted to test the limits of his love for me. Perhaps it was wise. After all, he has only seen me at my best. He has not witnessed my rages, my sour moods, or the worst excesses of my lust. How can he love me, who knows me so little?

Today I revealed something of my true nature, and he has not turned from me yet.

25 June

For the first time I have brought my journal to Thomas’s house. He is sitting opposite me now as I write, lost in his book, oblivious to the scratching of my pen. I half expect him to begin reading aloud again in a moment. He loves to do so, and often makes me jump when we are in the library together by suddenly shouting ‘ha! you will like this part,’ and launching in.

Frequently I can discern a lesson in the text, designed to address some weakness of thought that I have demonstrated. He thinks he is subtle, but I see what he does and I do not mind. A great many of my thoughts are disordered, and my wrong thoughts give birth to demons. I am grateful to him for casting them out.

If the criticism came from any other soul I would be affronted, and would most likely meet it with blows. But his criticism comes with such perfect kindness, even my quick temper is mollified. And when his meaning is utterly beyond me, I still have his face to look upon; the way he plays with the hair at the back of his head, or throws his legs over the arm of his chair.

I am lost truly. How hard I have fallen and how fast.

3 July

It has been a whole month since Thomas’s father left me standing at his table, and since then we have made no progress whatsoever with the plan for Nassau. I lost sight of it for a while, I admit it, there has been so much else to distract and intoxicate me since that night. But these last few days the plan has crept back into my thoughts, and I mean to discuss it with Thomas tomorrow.

At the start, I only wanted Nassau for his sake, because of what it meant to him, and because it would make him happy. But now I begin to want it for myself, and for Miranda too. London is a nest of vipers, I have always known it to be so, and I fear it will not harbour us for long. Moral reformers have taken root in our church, and there are so many gossips and scandalisers to feed their hypocrisy. My ears are sharp to their whispers, and my blood is always up.

One day some cunt will be fool enough to insult Thomas in my hearing, and I will not be able to walk by in silence as he says I must. I do not have his forbearance, and I never will. No, I will respond with fists and teeth and the sole of my boot, until I have reduced the cunt that spoke ill of him to a bloody pulp. How well could he love me then?

My redemption is in the New World, I know it. If I can secure Nassau for Thomas, perhaps I could also install him as Governor there. Could we not create a haven on that tiny slice of land, a place where no laws tell a man who he can and cannot love, and where we need not hide our nature? It is said that Tsar Alexander lives openly with his companion, and if a land the size of Russia is able to wear it, surely one small island can tolerate an unnatural love in its Governor.

4 July

I think Thomas and I are two halves of the same whole. Certainly I cannot have a thought without he thinks it too.

We spoke earlier about the plan for Nassau, and he has been worrying on it just as I have. His father’s opposition will weigh heavily against us, so we must seek the support of other powerful people. To that end, Thomas has written to all those who regularly attend his Salon, and will gather them at his house tomorrow to make our case. Let us see how many are brave enough to act on their fine principals.

5 July

A pox on them all! Just one of those piss-reeking verminous shits, is willing to give us his support. And worst of all, it is Peter Ashe. He can speak well enough and his mind is quick, but there is a coldness about him that I do not like. He thinks I act above my station. Still, we are in no position to pick and choose.

10 July

We went to the fireworks at Vauxhall pleasure gardens yesterday evening, Thomas, Miranda and I. It is their ritual to go every year and I was happy to be invited to join them, if only because it seemed to represent a thawing in Miranda’s coolness towards me.

I have always thought myself above the enjoyment of fireworks, feeling there to be a sort of dishonesty in an explosion that does not threaten your life. But Thomas won me around, as always. ‘There must be room in life for entertaining ourselves and being merry,’ he said, as he marched me out of the door, ‘we might as well be dead otherwise.’

I protested - it will be crowded, there will be pickpockets, fashionable idiots will be everywhere about, - all these things I said but he was unmoved. ‘If not the fireworks, what then?’ he said, ‘should we watch cocks fight in a pit, or go and gawp at the unfortunates in Bethlam? I will not spend another night shut up indoors, I cannot!’ Eventually I gave up and resigned myself to an evening of discomfort.

We coached it there, although the roads were busy. Thomas and Miranda were excitable as children all the way, gabbling about musicians and artists and actors, and all the beauty we would encounter that night. ‘Honestly James,’ Miranda said, ‘you have never seen the like. It is as though you walk through a great house but there are no walls and no ceiling.’

I was unconvinced, but when we arrived I saw that she was right. Lamps were strung all through the trees like fireflies, and along the walkways great braziers flamed in bright colours. And in the midst of it all, so many pavilions - none built to last more than a month – in every fashionable style from classical to oriental. The entrance was thronged with people when our coach finally drew up, and only by using the Earl’s name did we secure our place within. ‘It is the only time I do not detest my father,’ Thomas said in jest.

Most of the gentry sat down to eat in the supper boxes, but Thomas was contrary as usual. At his insistence we bought three hot rolls from a seller and ate them where we stood, then washed them down with strong ale. I knew that all about us there were fat faces in wigs looking on in horror, but I did not care. By the time the orchestra played and the fireworks were let loose, we had all drunk a lot more ale and lay down upon the grass. Whenever I closed my eyes I felt as though my body spun around in circles, and whenever I opened them I saw a new colour or a new pattern above me. Even though I lay on cold ground, the drink made me insensible to it, or perhaps it was the warmth of Miranda’s body pressing against me on one side, and Thomas’s on the other. Both whispered in my ear, although the drums and the trumpets drowned out their words.

I turned my head towards Miranda and kissed her nose, her mouth and her neck. And then, perhaps sensing I had in mind to turn about and do the same to her husband, she took hold of my face and implored me ‘not here James, let us go to the dark walks, it is safer.’

We struggled to our feet and made for the arboretum with as much grace as we could muster, all three of us somewhat dishevelled. Miranda took my hand and led the way, but I could feel Thomas following me close behind. The further we went in, the darker it became, and the sound of the orchestra was replaced by peals of laughter and furtive rustling. With only moonlight to see by and with my senses dulled by drink, I could not be sure of who I saw or what they were about.

Women lay here and there with their clothes disarranged, in the company of one or more gentlemen. One even stood with her back against a silver birch tree, resting a bare leg on her companion’s shoulder as he buried his face in her skirts. At some point I stumbled into the path of two finely dressed men with their hands in each other’s breeches. My mouth opened to apologise but before I could make a noise the taller of them winked at me and said, ‘like what you see my darling?’ He held my gaze brazenly as I stared open-mouthed, and moaned all the louder for having an audience. The dark makes us all bolder I think.

Thomas’s voice snapped me out of my stupor, ‘James’ he said, ‘over here.’ I could not see him at all, but he managed to find my hand and led me stumbling until we came out into a small clearing. The grass was short and soft and I fell down upon it gratefully. ‘I am so drunk Thomas,’ I said, and he laughed. ‘I know, you have a weaker stomach for ale than Miranda.’ It was true, I could not deny it, and the thought made me laugh until I cried.

‘Where is Miranda?’ I said, once my fit had passed, and I patted the grass all around me as if I might persuade it to give her up. ‘Don’t be concerned about my wife,’ Thomas replied, ‘she knows these parts better than anyone in London. If we stay here, she will come back to us eventually.’

I rolled over then, and looked at him stretched out beside me, inviting my touch, hoping for it. It made my head swim to think of how much I owed him, so much happiness in the present, and so much past misery made good. I made up my mind to do anything he asked of me, to find out what he craved and give it to him.

‘Why did you bring me here?’ I said, ‘what did you want from me tonight?’ He swallowed and his expression was not entirely happy. ‘I wanted to go out with my lover,’ he said quietly, ‘to take his hand and walk through the gardens like lovers do. To show him off, his wit, his cleverness, his fine looks. And have my friends and peers congratulate me and say “I wish I had such a companion. I wish I had a love like that.”’ He sighed, and rubbed at his temples as if to scrub away the disturbance in his mind. ‘Now you see the magnitude of my delusions, because what I have actually done is to bring you into the dark and invite you to fuck me in the dirt.’

I laughed even though sadness made a lump in my throat, ‘It may be a delusion,’ I said, ‘but it is a beautiful one. I would give it to you, all of it, if it were in my power.’ He sighed and his eyes fell closed, ‘I know.’

We lay quiet for a while, letting the tender moment hold us. But it could not last for long, not for me at least. All I had witnessed that night had left its mark and such a heat ran in my blood; when the worst of my drunkenness passed all I could think about was acting on it. Thomas had never looked so appealing to me as he did in that moment, free from the suffocating atmosphere of his great house, and smelling of gunpowder and ale and fresh air. I wanted to taste him, I wanted to feel him inside me, I felt myself capable of anything.

I swung a leg over his body, and then pushed myself up until I sat in his lap. The moon slid behind a cloud and pitched us into blackness, so I had to feel for the buttons of his breeches to get them undone. Through the heavy brocade I felt his cock begin to grow, and when I pushed the material back to expose him, he was almost erect and sprang up towards me. The feel of it excited me, but shame was quick to follow. For so many years I have avoided looking closely at my companions’ arousal, let alone putting my hands or my mouth upon them. But with Thomas, old habits could not be allowed to stand. I could not let him pleasure me over and over, and give nothing back in return.

When the moon came out again, I composed myself and I looked. With his linen shirt pushed up, I could make out the contours of muscle on his chest. Not so broad as mine of course, but strong nevertheless. From there my eyes moved to his stomach, and followed the line of fair hair from his navel down to where his cock stood out. It was smooth and pale, almost blueish in the moonlight, and there was something obscene in the way it stuck up through his fine clothes, all taught muscle and lustful intent. Such an elegant man, with his neat hands and fine features, had no business having a cock so hard and so thick. Sweat began to bead upon my brow; there is nothing wrong in wanting this I told myself, nothing wrong in wanting it in my mouth.

‘You are playing with fire, sir,’ Thomas said sleepily, as he felt the touch of my lips. ‘I have desired this for so long, I may go off like one of those fireworks.’ I groaned and said ‘god I hope you do, I should like to see it.’

First I kissed only with my lips, but as he grew stiffer I grew bolder and let my tongue slip out. He tasted salty and sharp, and underneath it all was some hot essence I could not define but which said to me this one is mine. When I had licked every inch I took him fully into my mouth, or as much of him as I could. It was a struggle to keep my teeth away from his skin, and when I sucked him deeply it punished the back of my throat. I developed a new respect for the whores I have been with who did this act with such little fuss.

Eventually I discovered new angles which were easier on my throat, and I took encouragement from the disorder of Thomas’s breathing and the writhing of his hips. Feeling his excitement build, and knowing that I was the cause of it, gave me a powerful satisfaction and a new sort of confidence. And then, hearing his moans grow louder and his voice cry out ‘oh god,’ and ‘I’m going to…,’ I felt my own cock begin to respond. It stiffened and grew and demanded my attention until I was forced to break away and unbutton myself.

Thomas let out a long moan of complaint and bit down on his finger. ‘Don’t you dare leave me like this,’ he said, ‘you are a torturer I have always said it.’ And so I returned to my task, after an interval to make his need grow all the more desperate. His legs shook beneath me when my lips closed around him, and his cock pulsed urgently against my tongue. This time I picked up my pace, and the harder I went at it the more I lost myself in the act, until I felt weightless and all my thoughts and feelings were transformed. I began to love submitting to him like this, the wrongness of it and the indignity. I could happily have spent half the night on my knees giving him pleasure if he so desired.

When finally he drew his breath in sharp, and spilled all hot and salty into my mouth, I swallowed every drop of it with pleasure.

25 July

I have made up my mind to go to Nassau. I did not want to like the idea because it came from Peter Ashe, but the more I think on it I am won over. We need to secure the support of the current Governor for our plan, and I cannot trust anyone but myself to carry out that task. Thomas is in agreement, although the prospect of parting makes us both gloomy.

Three long months I will be at sea, and I know it will feel like some vital organ has been torn out of my chest. I have long since given up all pretence about the guest bedroom and now I am so used to feeling him curled around me at night, and his face being the first thing I see in the morning. We are bonded together like a pair of wild animals.

Thomas suggested joining me at first, but I will not let him. He does not have the constitution for sailing, and goes green on the wherry to Southwark. I would rather go alone and know that he is safe and well at home, than take him with me and watch him suffer with every roll of the ship.

It will take a few weeks to make arrangements for the journey, but I must not drag my feet. I want to be there and back before winter sets in.

18 August

It is the night before I leave London, and because fate is an evil fucker, I am not holding Thomas tight in our bed as we had planned. Instead, I am consigned to my own miserable rooms in Villiers Street, holding tight to nothing but my own rage and misery.

I had expected to retire to the library with Thomas after dinner; spend some hours there talking, and a few more hours fucking. But a gaggle of his old school friends turned up this afternoon without any warning, and Thomas was so taken by surprise that he had not time to concoct an excuse to be rid of them. And so we sat glumly, watching them drink and smoke and discuss the rising price of good arable land, until it was so late that I had to leave or risk arousing suspicion.

Thomas followed me out into the hall, so we had at least that final moment to ourselves. But we could not be certain that none of them listened, so our parting was formal and clipped. If I had time before morning to go and burn Eton College to the ground, I would do it.

19 August (night)

I am almost asleep when I hear feet upon the stairs outside my room, and a fist thumping the door. ‘Lieutenant McGraw!’ I recognise the voice of the mistress of my lodgings, ‘wake up Lieutenant McGraw, there’s a gentleman here most eager to see you. Although what he wants from you at this hour I do not know.’ At once, I am fully awake and on my feet. I throw a sheet around me, and reach the door just before she flings it open. And there he is, dishevelled and panting, and so relieved to see me.

‘I could not risk bringing the coach around,’ he says, leaning on the doorframe to get his breath, ‘in case the noise of the horses woke them.’

I pull him in and close the door behind us quickly, ‘you have walked here? Dear god, I have never seen you walk more than a hundred yards.’

He falls against me with relief and kicks his shoes off. ‘I can scarce walk at all in these implements of torture; I will throw them into the river on my way back!’ I hug him tight and I can feel a huge grin twisting my face out shape.

It is a close and sticky night, and he is hot from walking so fast. I strip him while he stands, and when I am done he stretches out gratefully on my bed. After a minute or two his breathing is back to normal and his skin is not so damp. While he rests, I light more candles and set them down on the bureau so I can see him better. I will not have darkness tonight.

‘There are so few hours left before you go,’ he says, as I lay down beside him, ‘there is not time to say half the things I wanted to.’ I cannot bear how sad he sounds, so I pull him over to face me and wrap my arms tight around him.

‘These three months will be over before you know it,’ I say, kissing the frown lines on his brow, ‘Miranda will drag you to concerts and plays and parties, until you can barely remember my name. And when I return you will only think “who is this impudent ruffian and why is his tongue down my throat?”’ He laughs then, and my heart leaps to see him smiling once more. I will always remember him like this, with this expression exactly.

When the night watchman cries one o’clock, we are still holding each other close. But instead of talking we are kissing and both growing hot again, and hard. He lies beneath me with his legs wrapped around me, and I can feel his erection pressing urgently into my stomach. My hands travel restlessly all over his body and I keep lifting my mouth away so that I can look at him properly; the candlelight makes all the muscle on his chest stand out sharply and everywhere his skin seems to glow at my touch.

I have in mind to watch as he pleasures himself, so I take his hand and fold it around his cock to encourage him. He takes my meaning and begins to slide his erection temptingly through his palm, holding my gaze brazenly all the while and parting his lips just a little to slip a finger into his mouth. He has something of the showman about him when he does this, and he has me captivated.

‘Do you want me Lieutenant?’ he says, looking up at me mischievously, and he can see very well that I do.

‘Am I still only a Lieutenant?’ I growl, paying him back for his teasing, ‘with your influential connections, my Lord, I thought to be at least a Rear Admiral by now.’

He smiles, and his eyes roll up in his head, ‘do not tempt me James, I might yet do it and confound my integrity.’

In the humid air we are both beaded all over with sweat, and our skin slips and slides wherever we touch. He begins to turn over for me, expecting me to take him from behind as I usually do, but instead I put my hands on his shoulders and hold him down. ‘No,’ I say, ‘I will fuck you on your back tonight. I want you to see what you do to me.’

I pull his hips up into my lap and then angle my body so that I can enter him. He is tight at first, and I must slowly ease him open until he is ready to take all of me. His grip on my cock is delicious, and the deeper I reach inside him the more intoxicated I become, until there is nothing in my mind except the hot, slick feel of him. When I am all the way in, our bodies find a slow and passionate rhythm. I sit back on my heels so I have room to reach his cock and slide it through my fingers as we fuck; I have watched him do it enough now that I know what he will like.

At first the thrusts of my cock are gentle, but gradually I increase the force of each one until he begins to shiver and twist and the muscle down his stomach pulls tight like a cord.

‘Where did you learn this?’ he gasps, ‘no one else has ever made me…’ and his words trail away into desperate moaning.

‘Good,’ I grunt, ‘and nor will they as long as I live.’ I increase the ferocity of my pounding, and he arches his back so I can reach even deeper. His whole body is tense and shaking, and his eyes keep moving from my face to my chest and lingering in the places I am broadest and hardest. My own blood runs hotly with need and want, and the beast inside me keeps showing on my face. I can feel my lips curling back in something like a snarl, and I am forced to whisper my words of love through bared teeth.

His breathing is ragged now, and so I pull at his cock faster and faster until finally he says, ‘I am yours, I am yours,’ and shoots pulse after pulse into the air. It splashes against my stomach and my chest, and runs down onto my thighs, making me sticky and glistening. I stare at myself open-mouthed, and the sight of his lust all over me is like a revelation. I feel weightless and I cannot breathe. Nothing has ever felt like this. My climax crashes into me like a blow to the head, and I cry out and empty myself into him, all the while thinking ‘look at what he has done to me.’

It is a while before I can think or see clearly, and when I do, I notice that I have gathered up every drop of it on my fingers and licked them clean.

19 August (morning)

Dawn is breaking, though I wish it wouldn’t. My windows are so thick with soot I cannot tell if it is set fair or if a storm is brewing.

Thomas still lies sleeping in my bed, and I must wake him soon so that he can be home again before he is missed. I am putting it off, because then I will have to kiss him goodbye and the thought pains me. He has made me into someone new; someone I actually care for. Without his influence, I fear I will revert back to the cold and joyless creature I once was.

My only comfort is to think of the happiness I will bring him if I am successful in this task. It would be worth any suffering, to give him his dream and create a place for us to be together without fear or threat. I will hold fast to our love, and sail in hope.