George Biddenden looked around the hall with satisfaction. The members of the hunt already assembled chattered and stirred restlessly. They would be off soon. His eyes sought out the scattered individuals of his house-party. The Standens, both father and son, were hunting. Mrs Standen was not the sort of woman one could ever imagine on horseback and would presumably stay with his mother, who had arranged some kind of picnic for those who preferred not to hunt.
The McIntyres both hunted. They were newly married and still entirely engrossed in each other, although not to the point of rudeness. Nevertheless George doubted that they would see the end of the day in the saddle. He gave them one or two hours at best. As he watched, McIntyre looked across the room and caught the eye of his wife, who had been deep in conversation with George’s mother. She gave him a smile so personal that George felt a little indecent to have witnessed it. Really, they should keep such matters behind closed doors!
Lady Dolphinton he did not need to worry about, but he had already asked his brother Hugh to watch her son. At fifteen he was old enough to join the hunt and Lady Dolphinton had assured them that he was an experienced member of their local hunt in Ireland, but George could not help but be concerned. There was no denying that the boy was not all there, whatever his mother said. Yes, Hugh was already beside the boy, apparently introducing him to the vicar. Reliable chap, Hugh. Pity he was destined for Orders, really. Second son, though, and in any case he had always had that odd puritan streak in him.
When Hugh had come down from Oxford for his first long vac. George had felt it his duty to do all the things for him that their father had done for him when he was that age. He sponsored him to Whites, of course, explained to him why it was inadvisable to frequent certain establishments for gambling and other amusements, introduced him to suitable contacts around town and took him to Mirabelle’s, where the girls were clean, discreet and pretty. He had been quite embarrassed when Hugh had taken one look around the - really quite demurely decorated - entrance hall and refused to proceed further. After all, the boy was not in Orders yet, and every gentleman frequented such places. It was merely necessary to be a little discreet; not upset the ladies by mentioning matters outside their understanding. George pursed his lips, remembering the boy’s absurd reluctance to proceed further. He was a good boy though. In a couple of years when he had finished up at Oxford George would have to look around for a living for him.
Now he just needed to find Jack Westruther. His eyes roamed the hall, but there was no sign of the impudent jackanapes. Jack had never been his favourite cousin, but there was an obligation to invite him to visit from time to time. Their mothers enjoyed the visit, too. Jack’s mother was a gentle soul and George knew that his own mother found her pleasant company.
Where could the boy be? The master of the hunt would be signalling to go soon. George signalled to Hugh, who came willingly to his side, leaving Dolphinton to talk with the vicar. “Hugh, could you go and see where Jack is? The master has signalled to have the horses brought around and we should be leaving at any moment."
Hugh nodded in his solemn manner. “Certainly, George. I’ll go and check his room.”
Jack’s bedroom door was shut, but from behind it came the sound of giggling. Hugh’s face closed in disapproval and he made only the barest pretence of waiting for his knock to be answered before he opened the door. As he had feared, Jack was perched on the side of his bed with his hands up the skirts of the youngest housemaid, Mary. Hugh caught a glimpse of brown hands on milky buttocks before her skirts dropped as she gasped and drew away from Jack.
“Sorry Sir!” she stammered guiltily, grasping her duster and making to exit the room. “I’m very sorry!”
“We will be speaking more of this, Mary. I will have to tell Lady Biddenden,” Hugh said in a disappointed voice. He stepped back to allow her to pass, but he could hear her begin to sob as she fled. He shut the door firmly behind him.
“Damme Hugh! Do you have to be such a spoilsport?” His cousin was sulkily unrepentant.
“It is scarcely the part of a gentleman, Jack, to seduce the housemaids. You are a guest in this house, after all.”
“Its damnably boring here. What else am I supposed to do?”
“The hunt’s about to start,” Hugh replied drily. “There’s a day’s amusement in that, surely?”
“I suppose. I have other needs, though.”
“Indeed. Well you will have to restrain yourselves with the housemaids, nevertheless.” Hugh turned to go, but let out a grunt of shock as his cousin threw a boot which hit him in the ankle. “Dammit, Jack! That hurt! We’re not twelve any more, you know!” he exclaimed furiously, striding over to grasp his cousin’s arms and pull him to his feet.
“You were a hell of a lot more fun when you were twelve,” Jack said. His face softened. “In fact you were even more fun when we were fifteen.” He tilted his head coquettishly.
Hugh’s grip tightened painfully and then he drew sharply away from the shorter man. “Don’t be ridiculous. We were merely foolish schoolboys. We’re adults now. Come to the hunt, Jack,” he said in a weary voice.
Below them on the drive there was a rising buzz as people began to mount and the hounds began to let out excited yelps at the prospect of the day’s sport.
Jack picked up his boot and began to put it on. “Give me a hand with this, Hugh?”
Reluctantly Hugh turned away from the lighted scene below them to kneel in the shadows beside the bed. With a firm hand he pushed until the boot slid onto Jack’s foot.
“Thanks, coz,” Jack said. His hand rested lightly on Hugh’s head as he slid off the bed, brushing Hugh’s cheek with his thigh as he passed. “Let’s go a-hunting.”
Hugh stared after him, his face an unreadable puzzle. Slowly he stood up and followed Jack downstairs to the crowded hall.
They came in exhausted, but satisfied. A number of local people were staying to dine with the Biddendens and their house party and the talk was mainly of the day’s sport. The picnic had also been a success, and Baron Biddenden felt well enough to join his guests for dinner, although he retired well before the party broke up. George took over the duties of host smoothly; he was accustomed to serve as his father’s deputy,especially since the Baron’s illness. Even so, the guest began to leave quite early. Those who had been on horseback all day were ready for their beds far sooner than the picnickers would have liked.
Hugh himself went to bed as soon as he decently could. He had not yet had a chance to speak to his mother about Mary, but he would do so in the morning. He sank gratefully into the warm depths of his bed and almost immediately into a deep sleep.
He was somewhere safe, warm, happy. Red swirls surrounded him and then were shot with gold as he arched back into ecstasy.
Oh God! Oh merciful heavens!
A strong brown arm smothered his quiet scream as he came into Jack Westruther’s practised fist.
Gasping and disoriented, Hugh stared with wild eyes into his cousin’s smirking face.
“About time you woke up,” Jack smirked, shifting to sit astride Hugh’s shaking body.
“Jack...” Hugh tried to grasp what was happening. “This is a sin, Jack. You mustn’t... We can’t!”
Jack merely bent to lick at the sensitive point of his collarbone. He seemed relaxed but as Hugh tried to buck him off he had no trouble restraining the taller man. “Come on man! You don’t like me corrupting the maids, but you can’t expect me to do without for two weeks!” He tweaked a nipple with a ruthlessly accurate memory of Hugh’s weaknesses, then as Hugh rocked with the shock of it, did it again. Hugh could not restrain a moan.
“That’s more like it, coz!” The pretty, calculating face leaned down and thrust a tongue into Hugh’s mouth. Hugh sucked it. He was lost. He could expect no mercy from heaven; he was lost again.