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Spirk (with a small dose of Pinto)

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Christmas in July, Flash Fic July 20, 2022

The Pinto Boys from The Thought of You is Consuming Me was requested, but of course they wouldn’t have any clue about Christmas in July (or many of our modern traditions but I have done my best!

As I rested next to Chris in the middle of a field of grass on my property, I felt at peace in a way I had never felt in London proper. I spent the time I needed to in London, of course, but it was less and less all the time, as I preferred solitude here.

And Chris and I seemed to have more time together here.

“It’s going to rain later.”

I opened my eyes, turned my head, and peered at him. I had thought he was napping so I was surprised to see the wide-eyed alert in those blue eyes that so matched the blue of the sky.

“There’s not a cloud in the sky, love,” I replied.

He smiled. “Mark my words.” He sighed then, soft, and perhaps a bit regretful.

“What? Is it time to go back then?”

“Not quite. Soon though. I just wish that it was December.”

“Fond of snow, are you?”

He laughed. “No, dearest. Christmastide and all that. My favorite time of year.”

“You’ve got a good five months until then, Christopher.”

“A man can fantasize.”

I snorted. Overhead I was surprised when clouds started to roll in. I turned my head to glance at him once more and saw that he was smirking at me.

“What clever magic is this?”

“No magic, Zach. Wisdom.”

I laughed outright and straightened to hover over him as he gazed up at me with a twinkle in his eyes.

“Wisdom is it?”

“Hmm. Can we do this in December at Christmas, do you think?”

“As long as we don’t freeze particular parts off.”

He tugged me down for a kiss. “Don’t want to do that. I find yours quite useful.”

I arched a brow. “Do you now?”

“And speaking of fantasies. I suggest we go inside and act out one of yours before the rain starts.”

“The king and his knight?”

Chris laughed and sat up. “Of course. But this time…I’m the king.”

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

Happy Birthday, J

“You know what today is, right?”

Chris looked up from the book he was reading to take a long sip of his coffee. “Flag day.”

Zach snorted. “Sure. Besides that.”

Chris popped a bite of chocolate chip rugelach into his mouth and chewed.  “Your friend’s birthday.”

“Uh-huh. That too.” Zach pointed. “You have, uh, you have pastry bits in your beard.”

Chris wiped at his beard with a napkin. “Guess I gotta take care of that. But what? If it’s not just Flag Day and your friend’s birthday, what is it?”

“Seven years ago on this day you told me you loved me for the first time.” Zach laughed. “I know. Corny as hell right?”

Chris smiled. “Nope. Well, maybe a little. But I fell in love with you because you’re corny.”

“A ringing endorsement,” he said dryly.

“Eh. I’m corny too. And I’d totally take you back to bed and show you how much I love you…except.”

Zach nodded. ”You’re making a movie.”

“Yeah. Which I’m already later for thanks to this morning’s activities.” Chris jumped up and left the kitchen.

“Don’t forget to clean off your beard!”

“Yeah yeah.”

Zach picked up his half-eaten rugalach and took a large bite.

“Hey, don’t eat my rugalach. I want to take it with me.”

“Uh.”

“Damn.” Chris came back in to the kitchen and kissed him. “Gotta go.”

Zach grinned, pulled him close once more, and kissed him for a much longer time.

“You sure we don’t have time to—”

“Positive. Get going.”

And Chris did. Zach looked down at the three…four demanding dogs.  

Now he had to walk all of them. Great.

Flash Fic, October 22, 2021

Another continuation (and there might be one or two more in the coming months)

Photo by Paul Deetman on Pexels.com

“Go fish.”

Chris stared at Zach like he’d never seen him before. Zach sighed and put down the cards.

“You asked if I had any sevens, I don’t, I said pound pavement, that’s the way the game works, Pine.”

Chris yawned then, so big and loud that his eyes watered and his jaw popped. “Sorry. I, uh, I lost track of the game.”

“Because it’s time for little boys to go to bed.”

“But—”

“Chris.”

Chris averted his gaze and Zach wondered what that was about. But he didn’t say anything, so Zach stood, grabbed Chris’ arm and hauled him to his feet.

“Come on. Off to bed with you.”

Zach knew where Chris’ room was, so he pulled the younger man through the house and to the bedroom. There were items there that belonged to her, but Zach decided not to focus on that.

They were always at cross purposes, weren’t they? Jonathan, Olivia, Iris, Miles, and now…yeah, her. The one he’d seemed to be with the longest. Though still not as long as Miles, if it came to that.

A fool for love was still a fool.

He gently pushed Chris down onto the mattress.

“I’ll bet you can manage to get yourself undressed.”

“Yeah,” Chris agreed. Out came that tongue to trace over his lips and Zach fisted his hands. “Only…”

“Only what, Pine?”

“Can you stay here with me tonight?”

Zach laughed. “What? Why would I?”

“Uh.” Chris was blushing now.

“You’re not still thinking of that spider, yeah? Come on. It’s not going to come in here and eat you.”

“It might have had babies.”

“Maybe.” Zach smirked.

“And, uh, the slashers.”

“What about them?”

“We watched a lot of slasher films, Zach. I’m kinda freaked out.”

He sighed again. Ran his fingers through his hair. It felt greasy and he should have a shower, but he felt far too lazy and apatetic to bother.

“You’re a grown man, Chris.”

“I know, but—”

“This isn’t a good idea,” he said in a low voice. But those blue eyes rose to his and they almost looked watery like Chris would cry if he refused. And he just wasn’t. Even if it was the mother of all bad ideas.

“Zach.”

“Okay,” he replied. “Fine. Let me go get my stuff and we’ll go to bed together. To sleep, Christopher. Nothing else.”

“All right.”

Zach left the room and went to get his small bag. He took maybe extra long and it paid off because when he returned, Chris had taken off his clothes and put on low slung pajama pants and a thread-barren T-shirt.

He didn’t say anything when Zach returned, just stood there looking at the empty bed, so Zach went into the bathroom, got into his shorts and tank, and brushed his teeth.

“Do you have to go?”

Zach was surprised by the question when he came out of the bathroom.

“Go?”

“You know, back to New York.”

“Yeah, I do. It’s home.”

“LA’s home too, isn’t it?”

“Sometimes yeah and sometimes no. Right now, home is more New York for me. California’s…complicated.” Zach shrugged. “Anyway, you’re living the good life here. What are you worried about?”

Chris shook his head. “I’m not worried. I just miss you. A lot.”

Zach decided not to address that. “Get in bed, Christopher.”

And he did, too. Zach turned off the overheard light and then walked over to the side of the bed he supposed she normally occupied. For some perverse reason he wanted to smear his scent and greasyish hair all over her pillow.

Zach was here, Bitch

She wasn’t really one, except because of the obvious reasons.

He got in bed and turned off the lamp next to the bed.

“Next time your friends suggest slasher movies, maybe say no?”

A few heartbeats of silence.

“Yeah.”

Zach said nothing for a while and then he heard heavier breathing and knew Chris had fallen asleep. He was glad. Because they couldn’t go there. Not again. Not now as it was between them if they were to remain friends. And that was what Zach wanted. Not to lose Chris. Even if all it ever was, was this.

He almost got back out of the bed and went to the guest room, but no. He said he’d stay and he was a man of his word.

Took him a long time to fall asleep though. But there were no spiders or slashers. He’d slayed them.   

Christmas in July, Post 13

I suspected I must look particularly hapless and forlorn when my butler, Hartford, offered to stay behind for the holiday season I generally gave the staff time off for. He’d never made the offer before, being eager like all the rest, to spend time with their families rather than look after me.

With a forced smile, I shook my head.

“No, Hartford. You are free to depart with all the others and I will see you the day after the new year.”

Hartford hesitated. “I did set up the kitchen with plenty of provisions as usual.”

“I am sure you did. You are a godsend, as usual. Happy Christmas to you and your family.”

Hartford began to turn away then. But then he looked back at me. “Do you expect your usual guest to visit? Lord Christopher?”

“I do not. But all is well, nevertheless. See you on January second.”

My reluctant butler became less reluctant then and hurried out before, I suspected, I changed my mind. He was wise.

I sighed with a tiny bit of melodramatic melancholy when the house was empty save for myself. I considered heading back to London. While there was no season of social engagements at the moment, I knew there were still my usual haunts that would be open to me. And in many ways, London could be quite festive during the Christmas season.

I decided I’d have a nice meal there at my country estate, perhaps drink far too much sherry after, and give the idea some thought by morning. If I decided it still had merit, I would ride to London.

Lord Christopher, as Hartford had alluded to, would be spending the holidays with his new wife and infant daughter, I imagined. An arranged marriage, of course, as most were. I’d escaped such a thing for along time myself and intended to continue doing so. I didn’t care which of my living relatives would inherit everything upon my death. I’d be past caring, wouldn’t I? But I had no parents left to nudge me into marriage to a female I could barely stomach. In that, I guessed, I was fortunate.

I knew Chris would be expected to tow the line in that direction, but it still hurt, and that was unfair. I had not seen him since the wedding, but I had heard, of course, of the birth of their daughter.

Isabella.

Since his wedding, I had hardly been celibate. I had physical needs, after all. I’d even engaged quite briefly with sex with Shaw, though I’d once vowed I would not. Shaw was blond and handsome and in some ways reminded me of Chris, though he was far more polished and sophisticated than Chris had ever been. Which is why I preferred Chris. Well, many reasons actually.

But whatever satisfaction I got from others it was hollow compared to my times with Chris.

I was on my second sherry, seriously convinced I would leave for London in the morning, when there was a rather loud knocking upon my front door.

For a moment, I waited for Hartford to answer it, then remembered it was me alone. I thought about ignoring it, but then someone had come all the way out to the middle of nowhere to see me.

I struggled out of my chair, placed my glass of sherry aside, and made my way out of the parlor and to the door.

It occurred to me as I unbolted it, that it was likely someone in need during this particular season of which, I knew, there were many. I would give them whatever I could.

But instead of a beggar or poor villager as I expected, Lord Christopher stood upon my doorstep looking almost absurdly fetching with a hat upon his blond head and a scarf wrapped around his neck. An overcoat dotted with the first hint of falling rain.

“Chris?”

He smiled. “None other. And it has stared to rain, so…would it be permissible for me to come inside?”

Permissible?

I yanked him inside so fast I was amazed I hadn’t broken anything.

Looking past him for a moment to ensure he was alone, I drew him tightly into my arms, thrilled to hear his hearty laugh.

“I can’t believe you’re here. I didn’t think you were coming.”

“Silly man. Where else would I be?” He drew back just enough to cup my face with his gloved hands and thoroughly kiss me.

“With your wife and daughter, I imagine,” I said, after coming up for air. I wanted to kiss him again. I did as I closed and re-bolted the door.

Chris shook his head as we walked into the parlor arm in arm. “An arranged marriage, Zachary. We have an understanding. She is happy to live her own life behind closed doors.”

“She has a lover?”

“Two or three as far as I know. It matters not at all to me. We are friendly but that is as far as it goes for each of us. We do our duty and nothing more.”

“And your infant daughter?”

“She is with her nursemaid. She will hardly comment on my absence at this age.” He drew me down to sit on the settee and then he sat upon me instead of the sofa and I was gladdened.

“How long can you stay?” I asked after kissing him again.

“How long would you like?”

Forever.

That was a fool’s dream, so I did not and could not say it.

“As long as you are able.”

Chris nodded. “About a week then.”

It was more than I expected and everything I hoped for.

After some more lengthy kissing, I murmured, “I had planned to leave for London in the morning.”

“Did you?”

“I think I’ll delay that about a week.”

He grinned. “A very wise plan.”

“Are you hungry, my love?”

“Yes, but at the moment, it’s for you. Take me to bed. It’s been far too long.”

It certainly had.

Hours later, we held onto each other in a warm bed, a fire in the hearth, and spoke of our plans for our time together. I was happy he had come. Some day, perhaps, he would not. And I would deal with that.

When he was in my kitchen eating food I had leftover, he gave me a look. “Shaw, Zachary?”

I knew I blushed. “How did you know?’

“I know.”

“It won’t be repeated. I was really quite lonely.”

Chris smiled, his sweetest smile. “I understand what you do when we are not together and accept it. We each have our duties we must tend to, but I hope you know that no matter where we are, when not together, I love you with all my heart and soul.”

“And there is no one in my heart but you, Christopher.”

“Happy Christmas,” he said, kissing me once more.

And indeed, the happiest of Christmases was had.   

Christmas in July, Post 2

Several years ago now, I wrote a Pinto short Christmas fic where Chris was sick and Zach was making cookies. I have long since deleted and lost that fic. I decided to recreate it somewhat though in a lot of ways this is tremendously different. This is for J who wanted modern Pinto.

At the time Zach invited Chris to his cabin in Aspen, Colorado for the week before Christmas, it had seemed like a good idea.

Honestly, Zach had no reason to be in either New York or LA for the holidays. He wanted to go somewhere cold and snowy and away from everything he knew at home.

Chris had explained his parents had decided to take a cruise for the holidays. His sister had a new man in her life she wanted to be with. And Chris’s girlfriend would be working in another country over the weeks prior to Christmas.

So when Zach learned Chris had nothing particular to do, he’d invited him.

But Chris had arrived with a seriously bad head cold. Stuffy red nose. Earache. Cough. The whole thing. Not exactly what Zach had in mind, though he wasn’t sure what he’d had in mind anyway.

Still, he decided to make the best of it.

“What made you decide to get a cabin in Aspen anyway?” Chris asked.

“I wanted a white Christmas.”

“It snows in New York. You’ve been there a few months now.”

“No guarantee it will. Not in the city. And I wanted some place that wasn’t New York or California.” Or Ohio where his mother had passed or Pennsylvania and all its complications. He shrugged. “Mom’s gone. Joe’s busy. I’m currently, uh, obligation free, so I booked Aspen.”

Calling this place a cabin was a bit too cute if you asked Zach. The place was a damn mansion.  He thought the rental agent he booked with said it had like twenty bedrooms or something. Whatever.

He’d been allowed to set up his own tree and decorations, so he’d bought a bunch of stuff to do just that when he arrived in Colorado. Zach did not ski, so that hadn’t been his purpose. He really just wanted a peaceful place to celebrate life he guessed and having Chris there with him had been…nice.

Their relationship had changed a lot since Chris got his current girlfriend and Zach didn’t care for those changes, but it was what it was. He’d been glad Chris had accepted even still.

But the cold…

“You should lie on the couch there and rest, Pine. I’m going to do a little festive baking.”

Chris arched his all too sexy bushy brows. Zach loved those brows. “Festive baking? You?”

“I’ve been watching the Food Network. Lie down. I’ll get you a blanket.” He smirked. “I know you like to be cozy.”

Chris bit his lip and looked at the big plush couch. “I-I do like to be cozy.”

“Then do as you’re told.”

And just like that Zach got aroused by his own words. Dumb, Zach, he thought. He turned away.

“I’ll just go get that blanket.”

When he returned with one of those big, fluffy velvety soft blankets, Chris had laid himself out on the couch, a cushion under his head as a pillow. Zach eyed his bare feet as he placed the blanket over him.

“I know you have a think about socks, but don’t you think under these circumstances you should wear them?”

“Well.” Chris moistened his lips. He looked very cuddly. “I did bring some socks with me if you wanna bring me my bag.”

He rolled his eyes. “Now, I’m your servant.”

But he didn’t really mind. He fetched the small suitcase and brought it to Chris. Chris sat up to sort through it and then, with a sort of flushed look to his skin, thrust his socks at Zach. Zach now supposed he was supposed to actually put them on Chris’s feet for him.

He frowned looking at the socks. “Santa Claus?”

“It’s the holidays, right? You said we were celebrating, so I picked those up.”

He laughed then. “You are too cute, Pine. Fine then, give me those giant feet of yours.”

“I have dainty feet.”

“Dainty feet.” He shook his head. He bent over Chris’ feet and pulled the socks onto them. The beard on Santa’s face was a sort of fuzzy white fur.

“Thanks,” Chris mumbled.

“I’ll go make you some tea and then I’ll get to baking. I just hope I don’t have to tear the kitchen asunder to find what I need.”

Chris’s eyes widened. “Asunder. That’s a great word.”

“Glad you like it. Now rest so that you don’t ruin the whole week here.”

Zach went into the kitchen and made Chris a cup of the tea he had purchased at store. It was called Gingerbread, so he figured that was appropriate. He made himself a cup too.  He wasn’t that into tea, but he wasn’t against it either.

   Chris smiled when he brought the cups into the living room. “I feel better already.”

“Me too.” Zach took a chair next to the couch to admire his sick guest. He sipped the tea. He had added milk and sugar like they were British. It tasted good, though. “You want to listen to some tunes while I bake?”

“That sounds good.”

So after a bit, Zach handed Chris the remote for the stereo and returned to the kitchen. After a while he realized what Chris was listening to.  Bryan Adams’ Run to You.

She’s got a heart of gold, she’d never let me down
But you’re the one that always turns me on
You keep me comin’ ’round
I know her love is true
But it’s so damn easy makin’ love to you

Zach was shaking. His mouth dry. Why had Chris picked that song of all songs to listen to? The lyrics…

He put the baking sheet down on the counter and went back to the living room.

“I was, you know, thinking of Christmas tunes,” Zach told him.

“Oh.” Chris nodded. “Right.” He pressed a button on the stereo and Perry Como started crooning, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.

Zach walked back over to the chair next to the couch. “You okay, Christopher?”

“I have a cold, Zachary.”

“I mean, other than that.”

“Other than.” Chris nodded. “I’ve been thinking a lot about this week in Aspen.”

“Me too. What have you been thinking?”

“It’s been…” Chris cleared his throat. “It’s been kind of a while since…”

“It has, yes.”

Chris licked his lips. “So. Yeah. That’s what I’ve been thinking.”

“You have a cold, Pine.”

“Just a cold. I don’t feel that bad.”

He snorted then. Got back up. Went over to Chris and kissed his forehead. “You have a fever. Go to sleep. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.”

He headed back into the kitchen to make cookies. Now it was Garland singing, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

Maybe. Perhaps maybe. There was a better chance of that then he’d thought. Zach would see.

He hummed along and got to baking.

Flash Fic, November 30, 2020

The Thought of You is Consuming Me….

The Clothes they’d wear

It was easier for him to come to my estate. I stayed there alone during the off season save for a few servants who looked after me. My family, consisting of my mother and brother, preferred to stay in London full-time, only coming to the country estate rarely.

I knew that for my mother it held too many memories of the husband she had lost far too young, and for my brother, he wanted not only to look after her, but he liked to be closer to the action of London, even in times when the social set were absent.

I preferred the comfort and solitude the country afforded me, now more than ever, when I could have visits with Chris.

The middle of autumn was among my favorite times at my estate. The weather was crisp, clean and pure. Far away from the soot and smoke and dastardly fog of London. The leaves turned. The truly cold air made your lungs feel like you were indeed alive. And the nights by the fire, sipping port with my lover. Yes, I loved this time.

Chris would come and see me a few days at a time, and whatever he told his family, he never elaborated. It was our time together and we allowed no one else to intrude.

Chris was always provided a room of his own, though he never stayed in it. He always slept with me, even on the rare nights it didn’t become physical between us. I kept very loyal, well compensated servants at the estate who knew not to gossip or question our arrangements.

After my cook prepared our least meal for the day and the staff cleaned up, assuring themselves I needed no further care, they went off for the evening, to their homes in the village or on the estate itself, and left Chris and me to ourselves. They never returned before late morning, knowing neither of us were particularly early risers.

I suspected they were as loyal and efficient as they were because as serving positions went, my requirements were really quite low and easy, allowing them a lot of free time. When I was not there, they had even less to do, though I continued to pay them to care for my family’s home and lands.

One late November night, after they had departed, Chris and I lounged together on a sofa in the library, sipping port. He had positioned himself so that he was between my legs, his back against my chest, as he read some heavy tome he had chosen from said library. I pretended to read the London newspaper, but I was more interested in the port and watching him.

I loved the way his tongue poked out as he read a particular passage in the book. He was adorable. The whole thing struck me as rather domesticated, though I knew we could never truly be a couple accepted by our peers.

One day, perhaps not soon, we would not be allowed this amount of freedom. Yes, we would still meet. Still steal as much intimacy as we could. For the rest of our lives, as we had vowed. But these were times to be treasured. Before such demands of society changed this.

“Mmm?” Chris leaned back further to glance up at me, his head lying upon my chest as those blue eyes searched mine.

“What?”

“You’re thinking quite loudly tonight, Zachary. What’s on your mind?”

“You,” I admitted. “Us.”

Chris smirked. “Do you wish for me to put the book away so we can retire to bed then?”

“No,” I murmured. “I have been enjoying this.”

He patted my hand that I had resting on his thigh. “Me too.” He took a sip of his port. “But let me know when you’re ready. You know how engrossed I can be.”

I did know and it was one of the many, many reasons I loved him.

I brushed my fingertips over his hair and then went back to my London news and that wonderful feeling of domesticity.     

And that is a wrap for November….on to my Spirk Hallmark Christmas Story.

Flash Fic, October 02, 2020

A somewhat melancholy autumn day for the boys of The Thought of You is Consuming Me.

Photo by Adrianna Calvo on Pexels.com

I opened my eyes to see the spot next to me in bed was currently empty. I placed my hand there and it still felt warm from Chris’ body. I turned onto my back, looking up at the carved wood ceiling. The room was well-lit with both candles and sunlight from the open windows.

They’d been pulled closed before, so I knew Chris had opened them and lit the candles. I allowed no servants to enter my bedchamber when Chris stayed over. I glanced over and saw him standing there at the window looking out on Bulwary Street, no doubt at the carriages and riders passing by. There’d be fewer now. Though I knew London was never really deserted, even when the Season ended, which it had more than a month earlier.

“You’re up early,” I said.

“Have to be off,” Chris replied, not turning around. “Traveling out of London and to the Country seat this afternoon.”

I knew it of course, but the words and the meaning behind them still hit me hard. We wouldn’t see each other nearly as much over the next several weeks. He would be off to his family’s estates and me to mine. Miles away from London and our almost nightly visits.

I sat up then and swung my leg to the floor.

He turned then, his blue eyes sweeping over me. “You don’t have to get up, Zach. I wasn’t going to bother you.”

“No goodbye?”

“Wasn’t last night’s activities enough of a goodbye?” He smiled, sweet and almost shy. “Temporary anyway. It’s never truly goodbye.”

I rose and went to him. “And it shan’t ever be, Christopher.” I pulled him into my arms, and we kissed deep and slow.

He leaned against me, resting his head against my shoulder. “And when are you off?”

“Not until tomorrow morning. I’ve got some things to settle up here today.”

“Autumn is my favorite time in the country,” he murmured. “Only that we are parted is my one regret.”

“We will make time as always.”

“Yes.” He put his hand on my cheek, the bristle of the growth of beard on my jaw. “I love you. Only you.”

“And you have my love in return. May your journey be a safe one.”

He smiled and kissed me once more. “And yours.”   

Flash Fic, August 26, 2020

Happy 40th to CP. Just a little something.

“How about a cruise?”

Zach shook his head. “No. Just a few years ago there was all that pandemic stuff.”

Chris frowned. “I’ve never been. Thought it might be fun.”

“Uh-uh. Maybe in another five years.”

Chris sighed. “Hawaii.”

“That’s nice but I went there with M—”

“Forget it,” Chris said quickly. “Australia?”

“Really long flight.”

“Damn it, Zach, where do you want to go then?”

Zach reached for and grabbed Chris’ hand to pull him close. He put his hands on Chris’ hips then. “You want a crazy idea?”

“You’ve shot down every one of mine, so I’d love to hear what you suggest for our summer vacation.”

“A staycation.”

Chris rolled his eyes. “What?”

“We have the pool, the jacuzzi, the tennis courts. Even a gym. We disconnect from the world, no phones, no internet, no social media. Just you and me for your birthday and the natural order of things. Well for people with a pool and a spa, anyway.”

Chris put down the brochures. “That’s starting to sound okay.”

“Of course it does. We can barbecue, lie out by the pool. If it gets too hot, we move inside and do each other.”

Chris laughed. “Okay, okay, you’ve convinced me. You always do.”

Zach smiled and kissed him. “I always do.”

Flash Fic, August 7, 2020

I had not intended to update this one any time soon, and they didn’t work for Christmas in July, but I gave in to a plea, and wrote this little tease of my Pinto couple from The Thought of You is Consuming Me.

The sort of clothes they boys would be wearing

“Zachary, have you heard?”

I looked up from my copy of the London Times, folded it on my lap and picked up my small glass of sherry. I had arrived at the gentlemen’ club, White’s, about an hour before. I’d had a dinner of roast beef in the dining room and had just recently relocated to the reading room to enjoy the news in peace. Clearly I was not going to be allowed that peace.

“What are you talking about this time, Chauncy?”

Chauncy smirked and seated himself in the plush chair next to me. “That particular friend of yours. Lord Christopher Pine.”

My heart skipped a beat. “What about him?”

He shrugged. “Only that there’s a rumor he’s engaged to Lady Annabelle.”

I scoffed. I knew Chris would have told me had it been true. “I have not heard. Nor do I believe it to be true.”

“Hmm. It’s all over London. The season’s about over and everyone will be returning to the country before the weather gets bad. Supposedly it will be announced before then.”

It couldn’t be true. Not that I knew Christopher could stay unattached forever. Neither of us could. Eventually we would have to keep up appearances and wed. But surely he would tell me if there had even been a hint of it happening this soon.

It would change nothing between us, of course. We had determined we would remain close even when fulfilling our duties as peers of society.

“Anyway, I’ll be off now,” Chauncy declared, rising. “I’m due at the Rileston Ball. Will I see you there?”

I shook my head. “Not likely. I plan to make an early night of it.”

“All right, old chap. See you then.”

With a sigh, I once more began to read the Times. After a bit I dozed off, and woke to the scent of a cigar. I blinked rapidly as it was brought right before my face. I seized it and quirked a brow at Chris, who now stood over me.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

He sat in the seat vacated previously by Chauncy, holding a cigar of his own as well as a glass of sherry. I noticed mine had been refilled.

I drew on my cigar and then flicked my head in his direction. “I hear congratulations are in order.”

“Hmm?”

“Chauncy tells me you and Lady Annabelle are about to announce your engagement.”

Chris rolled his eyes. “Oh stuff it.”

“True or not then?”

“Wouldn’t I tell you if it were?”

“I thought so.”

“Course I would. Chauncy never knows what he’s talking about. Not that Lady Annabelle and her family  doesn’t want that. They do. But no engagement is coming. At least not for this season. I can push it off for a bit longer.”

“Ah, but will the fair Annabelle wait for you for next season?”

He shrugged. “Perhaps. I don’t know. But I’m not rushing things for anyone.” He eyed me over the rim of his sherry. “How about you? Any prospects for a blushing bride?”

I snorted. “Not hardly. I plan on putting it off for quite a bit longer, if you must know. I rarely even attend the balls for that very reason. I don’t need all those mamas pushing their oh so beautiful daughters in my direction.”

“A wise thing. I’m supposed to go to Rileston’s tonight, but I don’t want to.”

“Come to my place instead. We’ll finish these and be off. I have my coach.”

Chris smiled as he took a sip. “Very tempting.”

“Give into it.”

He laughed then, with delight, I might add, and I knew I had won his concession. Lady Annabelle be damned.

We finished our cigars and sherries and were in my coach headed to my home in only thirty minutes. As soon as we got into our seats in my coach, Chris was kissing me, eagerly.

I cupped his jaw and deepened it, tangling our tongues. We kissed like this for the entire ride home, which due to the traffic of the season’s balls and fetes, took over a half hour to reach it.

He was beautifully flushed and only slightly rumpled as we exited where my driver left us. My butler let us in, and after refusing more glasses of sherry, we headed upstairs.    

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