Edward, Lord Hadnall, leads a hedonistic life in Regency London, along with his friend and occasional lover, Charlie Brabinger. The only blot on Edward’s carefree horizon is the insistence of his female relations that he settle down and get married. He intends to ignore their pestering for as long as he can, and continue his decadent lifestyle of dances and debauchery. But then Edward meets Charlie’s cousin, Arthur Hathwaite, a kind and honorable country gentleman.
Edward accepts Arthur’s invitation to visit his Yorkshire home and is surprised to find life on the rural estate extremely agreeable. He enjoys Arthur’s company immensely and they become firm friends. But when Edward makes an unexpected discovery, he is left in a moral dilemma. Will Edward follow his usual indulgent urges or do the right thing for once in his life? Or might he be lucky enough to do both?
...Charlie tweaked his gown to barely cover his modesty, and leaned across to take Edward’s hand.
“Whatever is the matter?” No matter how hard he tried, Charlie could never manage to sound sincere. He nodded at Emsley, who was waiting patiently in the corner. “Lord Hadnall is in need of sustenance, Emsley. Bring us a bottle of port.”
As Emsley sauntered out of the room, Charlie wound his bare leg around Edward’s knee. “I assume this has something to do with your mother?”
“For once, no it hasn’t.” Edward absently stroked his fingers along Charlie’s thigh. “It’s Aunt Camelia.”
“Camelia? I thought you got on well with the old bird.”
“I do as a rule, but she’s finally put her foot down.”
“How so?” Charlie tangled his fingers in Edward’s hair. “She’s not cut you out of her will, has she?”
“Not quite, but she is making life rather difficult. She’s insisting I get married.”
“You poor thing. I can’t imagine ever having to marry. One of the advantages of being orphaned at a tragically young age is that there’s no one to order me around.” Charlie smirked. “Well, not unless I ask them to.”
“Seriously, Charlie. She’s told me I have to do the deed by the end of the year. That’s six months, then my life as I know it is over.”
Charlie’s fingers burrowed beneath Edward’s shirt. “Don’t be so dramatic. You can still have some fun when the little wifey’s away.”
“I wouldn’t bet on it. Aunt Camelia is frighteningly perceptive. She’ll know in a second if I’m misbehaving. It’s hopeless, Charlie, it really is.”
Charlie’s hand was sliding down Edward’s torso. “Then we’d better make the most of your last months of freedom.”
Edward had known he wouldn’t be able to talk seriously with Charlie, and that was probably why he’d found himself standing at his elegant Kensington door. Edward laid his head back, relishing the touch of Charlie’s fingers on his skin, when he heard Emsley’s deliberate cough. Charlie didn’t falter as his fingertips reached inside Edward’s breeches.
“Put the bottle on the table, Emsley, and close the door behind you.”
“Very good, sir.”
Unshockable as Beddows was, Edward wouldn’t dream of pushing the bounds of trust in his staff as far as Charlie. But then, Edward suspected that Emsley’s duties were more extensive than his own loyal butler’s. He could have sworn the young man winked as he left the room, but as his breeches had just been undone, Edward couldn’t bring himself to care...