Authors: Ava March
Tags: #Gay & Lesbian
The streetlamp illuminated Thorn’s single nod.
“Good.” The carriage shifted, the springs creaking faintly as the footman hopped down to see to the door. Arthur held Thorn’s gaze. “Tomorrow night. Yes. You have my word.”
The smile curving the edges of his lover’s mouth told him loud and clear that Thorn understood.
Arthur rubbed the back of his neck, trying to ease the tension there.
Did not do a damn bit of good.
“Fenton,” he called.
The young man materialized in the open door of his office. “Yes, Mr. Barrington?”
“Did you pull the last contract we did for Mr.
before drafting this one?” Arthur indicated the papers on his desk before him. The same papers Fenton had dropped off mere minutes ago.
Shaking his head, Fenton stepped into the office. “No, Mr. Barrington. I made certain to follow the notes you gave me, though. I was quite careful to ensure I addressed everything you asked for.”
Arthur let out a sigh, but it did nothing to ease the frustration stringing his nerves taut. “When I handed you the notes, I asked you to also pull the last contract done for him and use it as a guide. It was for the purchase of a property similar to this one. Mr.
requires very specific language in his contracts.” They had just discussed the new contract yesterday afternoon, not twenty-four hours ago. How had Fenton forgotten? Arthur might have been slightly distracted, concerned Fenton would detect the scent of sex that had certainly still lingered on the air, but he knew without a doubt he had conveyed the request to the secretary.
A furrow of worry pulled Fenton’s brow as he came to a stop at Arthur’s shoulder. “My apologies for the oversight, Mr. Barrington.”
“Regardless of Mr.
requirements, it is always good practice to check a client’s file before starting work on a new document.” Something else he had told Fenton before. More than once, in fact.
“Yes, of course.” Fenton nodded. “If you would like, I will make the necessary changes posthaste.”
“Please do so.”
Fenton’s fingertips brushed Arthur’s as he took the proffered papers. “I will have it back on your desk in a couple of hours.”
Arthur tipped his head, then reached for his pen and the will he had set aside in order to review the
draft. A will Wilson had delivered just yesterday, yet the client had already changed his mind and requested revisions. Of course, the client wanted it completed tonight.
As if Arthur had even a spare moment to see to it. Definitely not today, and especially not when he felt every one of the three hours and ten minutes of sleep he had managed to get last night.
He looked up just in time to see Thorn reach for the open door to his office as if to shut it. Arthur quickly shook his head.
Thorn paused, fingertips on the solid oak.
Leave it open
, Arthur silently mouthed. The last thing he needed this afternoon was Thorn on the prowl.
With a shrug, Thorn let his fingers slip from the wood. He crossed the room, stopping before Arthur’s desk. His usually pale cheeks were flushed from the cold and his dark hair slightly tousled. The wind from the morning must not have died down yet.
“How has your day been?” Thorn asked.
“Busy.” Could Thorn not see the stacks of papers covering his desk?
“Was your morning appointment a success?”
“I believe so, but only time will tell. He turned over a few files to me, so that is a good sign.” Judging by the thickness of those files and the man’s precise yet rapidly given instructions, he suspected His Grace was intent on putting him through his paces.
“I am sure you will sufficiently impress him, and in no time at all, he’ll pull the bulk of his business from his other solicitors and hand it over to you.”
If only Arthur would be so fortunate. But regardless of how much or how little business the duke turned his way, Arthur was determined not to let him down.
The weight of those files, the importance of them, pulled his attention to the corner of his desk. He would not be able to even finish skimming through the various documents in order to get acquainted with them until he finished making the changes to the will.
He tapped the end of his pen against his ivory teacup, the last sips contained within likely long cold by now, then stilled his hand. “Any particular reason for today’s visit?” he asked, trying not to let the impatience seep into his voice.
“Yes.” A slow smile spread across Thorn’s full lips…that less than twelve hours ago had been wrapped around Arthur’s prick. He took a half step closer, his thighs grazing the edge of Arthur’s desk, and lowered his voice. “Supper. Tonight, at your apartments. I’ll see to
.” He quirked a brow. “Even the food.”
The promise of another near-sleepless night had resistance welling up inside him, but he tamped it down. He had given Thorn his word, after all, and tomorrow was Sunday. He wouldn’t be needed at the office, though at the rate he was going today, he would most assuredly need to bring a fat pile of paperwork home.
“You intend to cook?” To his knowledge, Thorn had absolutely no culinary skills, never mind that Arthur’s apartments had only the barest definition of a kitchen.
Thorn scoffed. “Of course not. My cook will handle that. Just need to tell him what to prepare. Then I’ll bring it over. In there anything in particular you would prefer?”
“No.” Arthur shook his head. Food was the last thing on his mind at the moment. “You may plan the menu as you see fit.”
“Are you certain? I want to—”
There was a light rap of knuckles on wood.
Arthur looked around Thorn to find Fenton back in his doorway. “Yes?”
“My apologies for the interruption.”
“It’s quite all right,” Arthur said to the secretary, motioning for him to enter the office.
Fenton rounded his desk. “There are a few different property-related contracts in Mr.
file. Would you prefer that I use one in particular?”
Had the man listened to him at all? Arthur resisted the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose in an effort to push back the pounding pressure beginning to build behind his eyes. “They all contain the necessary language, though it is always best to use the most recent.”
“Thank you, Mr. Barrington, and again, my apologies for the interruption.”
Arthur waved the apology aside, sending the secretary back to the files. Wilson kept those files in pristine order. If Fenton asked Arthur to identify the most recent contract of the bunch, he swore his patience would snap.
He’d had such high hopes for Fenton when he had hired him. The young man had interviewed very well. Though just recently out of Cambridge and with no practical experience in the law, he had appeared quite eager to work under Arthur and put in the necessary effort that could one day lead him to open his own office. He also presented a couple of very strong letters of recommendation that spoke to his intelligence and diligence in his studies. Arthur had been damn certain Fenton had a brain in his head and knew how to use it. Something now very much in doubt.
The addition of a second secretary was supposed to take some of the burden off Arthur’s desk, but he had yet to see a sign that would happen anytime in the foreseeable future. Should he let Fenton go and replace him with someone more capable?
. Not an option. The man’s father was acquainted with a few of Arthur’s clients. He could not risk those clients pulling their business over some bit of gossip that Arthur had unjustly terminated their friend’s son’s employment.
He snapped his gaze back to Thorn. “Yes?”
For an instant, so quick he almost missed it, a frown thinned his lover’s mouth. “Whatever you would like for supper, I will see to it. Simply name it.”
He would just have to keep Fenton on and hope someday, very soon, all of Arthur’s advice and instruction would actually stick in his head.
“Arthur. How about roasted chicken?”
“Yes, that will do,” he replied, eager to get Thorn off the subject and out of his office.
“Chicken it is, then.” Thorn gave a crisp little nod. “What time will you leave the office tonight? I’ll send my carriage for you so you needn’t walk home.”
Arthur glanced at the papers piled on his desk. Midnight, if luck was with him. But he could not very well stay so late, not when he had promised Thorn he could spend the night with him.
He held back his usual refusal of Thorn’s offer to lend his carriage. If he accepted, he could stay a bit later and still arrive home at a somewhat reasonable hour. “Thank you for the offer. Probably not until half past seven.”
“I will see you before eight, then.” The little smile returned to Thorn’s lips. Then he turned on his heel and left Arthur to his work.
* * *
Leopold shifted the basket to his left hand and reached into his greatcoat pocket with his right. His fingers closed around the brass key Arthur had given him shortly after their arrival back in Town. Arthur had cited practicality as his reason. He left his apartments around dawn to go to his office. No reason for Leopold to awaken so early. He had given Leopold the key with permission to laze the morning away when he stayed over and lock up behind him when he left.
Practicality aside, it had warmed Leopold’s heart that Arthur had given him a key—a physical sign that Arthur trusted him. That piece of brass had kept his worries away for a good month…and then they had started to build again.
At first he had tried to tell himself his concerns were for naught. Arthur had seemed genuinely happy to see him in the evenings, and his hunger for Leopold had matched Leopold’s for him. Yet lately…
He shut the door behind him, slipped the key back into his pocket, and set the basket down. The moonlight seeping in through the windows provided enough light for him to locate the tinderbox. He swore he could feel Arthur pulling away from him, slipping faster through his fingers day by day. Amherst presented no threat. Arthur would never return to someone who had been and would continue to be unfaithful to him. But Arthur had once loved
man, whereas he still had not uttered those three words to Leopold, let alone given any indication they were forthcoming.
But why would they be?
He gave his head a sharp shake, trying to keep the doubts from filling his mind yet again. Hopefully tonight would go a long way toward placating those ever-mounting worries.
Most assuredly. He needed to focus on tonight and definitely not on his own faults, which he was already intimately familiar with, or Fenton or the way Arthur, more often than not lately, seemed to want to be anywhere but with him. Hell, Arthur had certainly pawned him off on another fast enough at his uncle’s last night. Though judging by how quickly he had brought Arthur to orgasm on the ride back, at least Arthur still enjoyed it when he sucked him off. And above all, Arthur had given Leopold his word he could stay with him tonight. He would not need to ask, to push or cajole, and he would not receive another thinly veiled
no, I don’t want you.
At least not tonight.
Candles lit and fire started in the hearth, he draped his greatcoat over the back of an armchair in the parlor and set the basket in front of the fireplace, figuring it would do to keep the food warm. After grabbing the bottles of fine Bordeaux and aged brandy tucked under the towel in the basket, he went into the dining room. By his calculation, it would take at least a half hour for his carriage to pick up Arthur and deliver him home. Plenty of time to get everything ready.
The only sounds that broke the silence were the light clinks of porcelain and silver as he focused on setting two places at the mahogany table. Lips pursed, he surveyed the results, then moved one of the place settings. He would much prefer to sit beside Arthur, but given it was Arthur’s home, Leopold should put the man at the head of the table.