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Honourable Restraint

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After that ill-fated evening at the Bedford, Grant knew he must keep his distance from Merlin. To be in company with Strange and his wife was now acutely uncomfortable, and to be alone with him was dangerous to Grant’s peace. The recollection of his unruly desires tormented him, and the thought of how near he had come to kissing Strange at his return from the King’s Roads made him burn with shame. This was no passing fancy, but something altogether more serious.

He endeavoured to put these thoughts from him, with some success during the day; but at night, as if in revenge, his longings returned upon him with renewed force. When he attempted to compose himself for sleep, his treacherous brain presented him with Strange bent over the billiard table, and then, worse still, with Strange as Grant had never seen him, stretched out naked and erect upon a bed, grinning up at him and saying “Come on, then.” The idea of that knowing invitation made Grant bury his face in his pillow, groaning in humiliation, and thrust his prick into his hand until he spent.

To use one’s friend in this way was not honourable, especially when that friend was so clearly devoted to his wife. Grant could not, it seemed, prevent himself from desiring Strange, but he could find reasons to be out of town or otherwise engaged when the occasion required it. No one need know of his private defeat; he flattered himself that even De Lancey suspected nothing.

It was painful, not to see Merlin when he wanted him so much: he ached at it, but what other course was there? All that was left of his honour was this, the resistance to temptation and the practice of self-control. With Napoleon now defeated and exiled to Elba, there was no reason that he and Strange should be thrown together again.

So matters stood, until the spring of 1815.