Authors: Jae T. Jaggart
Objects Of His Obsession
by Jae T. Jaggart
This book is a work
of fiction and any resemblance to any persons, names, living or dead, places or
incidents is purely coincidental. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2014 Jae
June 1898, Harkenstorn House, Kent
No, nothing here was as it had
been in Egypt. Not the tepid warmth that passed for summer heat. Nor were the pale
blue skies an equal for a fiercer blue.
The fields, hedgerows, trees,
so verdantly picturesque, so neat, that he thought he would drown in the sea of
that ordered green and longed for the bleached, wind sculpted purity of the
Those green, patchworked fields
fed a claustrophobia Benedict hadn’t known he had.
He knew now that coming back
from Cairo to catch up with family, attend to business matters, only to accept
this sudden invitation had been a massive mistake.
But then the invitation had
been baited with the most incredible lure.
Casterwell’s turquoise blue
eyes had regarded him so casually, almost half amused as they’d bumped into one
another at Benedict’s club, the Athenaeum. The last place he’d have expected
the man to be.
And so he’d been doubly stunned
to see the male he’d been obsessed by for so many years, and in that
“Casterwell,” Benedict had
muttered. Too disconcerted to come out with some easy social chat. “I, well–”
He’d paused, halted the
ridiculous flow of words before they made a bigger fool of him, and held out
his hand. Casterwell had taken it, his handshake firm but not, Benedict was relieved,
the ego asserting, bone-crushing grip some favored.
“Yeats. It’s been a long time,”
Evander St John, the Duke of Casterwell, had said easily, thrusting his hands
back into his trouser pockets with what Benedict recalled as an age-old
indifference to ruining his tailor’s hard work. Casterwell had always been the
master of aristocratic ease. Nothing shook him. Everything held a certain level
of sardonic amusement for him, although he was good mannered enough to ignore
the flush rising in the other man’s face. “Last we caught up was at Herrick’s
funeral, correct? Poor bastard. An eternity ago, at least for him,” Casterwell
remarked dryly, reminding him of a mutual Oxford acquaintance. “And since then
you’ve become quite the celebrity.”
“Me?” Benedict had been embarrassed.
“Why, no. Not at all. I’m – I’m sorry. If I appear so surprised to have
bumped into you here, it’s just that it’s been a long time and well, I would
have thought White’s your–”
The other man had shrugged. “I
belong to both. It depends on my mood and companions as to which club I use.”
He’d gestured for Benedict to follow him and they’d entered one of the rooms,
finding the deep leather armchairs and innate comfort provided for members. “You’ve
not been long back in the country?” he remarked, taking in Benedict’s suntanned
face. “And so this invitation might prove interesting to you. As both an
amusement and the kind of work I know you’ll enjoy. Short notice, I know, but
my wife and I will be hosting a small party at Harkenstorn this weekend. You
And so it had begun.
He had thought it would ease.
This obsession. Instead, this, the second night of the house party, which had
proved to be far more than small, he was in its damned near intolerable grip.
For the sight of his host still
struck him like a blow. Caught the very oxygen in his throat.
And right now, he, Lord Benedict
Yeats, youngest son and regarded as the eccentric and bookish grey sheep of the
large Yeats clan, was forcing himself to look casually down the well populated length
of the magnificent dining table. It was laden with the most delicious cuisine,
the most perfect china and silverware he’d ever sat down to at a private party
in London, let alone at a country house – in this case, here, at the
Casterwell family seat in Kent – and yet he still fought a losing battle
not to allow his eyes to cling to his host.
Casterwell sat at the head of that
long and fully populated table, his very beautiful wife beside him.
Hell, just looking at the man
heated his blood. He could feel that heat in his face and prayed any noticing
that deepening color put it down to the excellent wines. Certainly his damned
body was responding. His cock hardening.
Casterwell’s wife, Juliana,
golden blonde hair piled high, alight with Lalique butterfly pins, had an
angelic and yet sensual beauty that served as a perfect foil for the man’s
tall, dark, muscular presence.
No wonder they were regarded as
the most striking and sought after couple in London society.
But sweet Jesus, Evander St
John was just so damned … beautiful. And no, that was not an appellation ever
regarded as appropriate for a man and yet… And yet the very sight of him caught
the breath in Benedict’s muscular, suntanned throat. Forced him to permit
himself just a few seconds of drinking in that sight.
Casterwell’s ill-starred, ill-famed
mother had contributed Spanish blood to the line, he knew. And in her son it
came out in a spectacular combination of black lashed, turquoise eyes that
damned near glowed against his pale olive skin and short cropped, blue-black
hair, his cheekbones high, slanting, distinctly not English, his mouth as full,
as sexual, as it was hard, controlled.
Benedict felt his cock harden
further at the sight of that lush, yet utterly masculine mouth and the brief,
pornographic images it brought to mind and was forced to shift slightly in his
carved mahogany chair, glad of the snow of the linen tablecloth that hid any
sight of his increasingly physical reaction to his host.
Jesus, why had he accepted the
invitation to this country house weekend?
Because it had been so blandly,
and yet seductively offered, back at the Athenaeum, a wicked inner voice
The verbal invitation backed up
by one on exquisite stationery a short few days back.
And technically he supposed he
knew why the invitation had been extended. His growing repute as an Egyptologist.
His work as second-in-command on that now famous dig. One which had led to the
discovery of a new tomb in the Valley of the Kings by Hamer.
Hamer, now, rightly, an
Egyptologist of international renown.
So Benedict’s credentials had
tied in neatly with the famous Casterwell collection of Egyptian antiquities.
The invitation had included a specific request by the Duke to extend his stay, evaluate
and report on them. Offer his specialized knowledge.
But in truth, Benedict thought,
regretting his acceptance of that invitation with its twin lures, any other
competent specialist would surely have done. And the two of them scarcely knew
one another. Had known each other by sight, mostly, years ago, back during
their university years at Oxford. Over time they had eventually socialized a
little, occasionally, their circles rarely overlapping. And now? Once they’d
had a further, tenuous, connection through the friendly rivalry Casterwell had
with his brother, both of them owning racehorses.
Their few meetings casual,
brief, at society functions.
But even those had dried up as Benedict
had becoming increasingly Cairo based.
Yes, invitations to the Duke
and Duchess’s country house parties were sought after, as had been pointed out
to him. The guest lists known to be the cream of all that was interesting in
London and visiting international society. The company superlative, the
entertainments equally so, the cuisine magnificent.
Which was the point. Not that
he should feel out of place here, and yet he did.
Yes, he had a title, but as
youngest of four children and the third son in all, that truly meant little in
the great scheme of things. Nothing in this company.
Nor did his profession, which
many regarded as a joke.
Archaeologist. Egyptologist. At
twenty-seven, he had just completed his sixth dig season in Egypt. The tanned
state of his skin gave testament to that.
Dark brows drawing together
slightly, his honey-brown eyes shifted down to his hands as they rested on the
snowy tabletop. Well enough shaped hands, but roughened a little from the work
he’d been doing. And deeply tanned, as was much of his body.
There had been freedom in
Egypt. And the tiny house he rented in Cairo had a flat, private roof, one set
up, by its expat owner, with a small container-bound garden of trees and palms for
shade, but mostly, when safely alone, in the cooled, dying afternoon heat he’d
stripped down to his underwear or less and sprawled back in a canvas chair,
writing up his notes while soaking up the sun, happy as a lizard after the
chill of Oxford, a battered panama hat shoved down onto his tangle of hair.
His firm chin lifted and he
scanned the dozen plus guests ranged about him. His mouth quirked.
What would these good people,
some certainly verging on the aristocratically bohemian, think of that
particular habit? He’d received enough odd looks at the rich, tanned bronze of
his skin, had heard enough comments that he must have just returned from time
in India or the Colonies, not to realize that the fact he had clearly embraced
losing the stamp of pale English skin was regarded as a quirk. Not to mention
the raised brows at his overly long hair. He’d have to get it cut, and soon,
had been too distracted by work to think of such frivolities back in Cairo.
Reaching for the heavy, lead
crystal glass before him, he lifted it to his lips.
Dessert had just been served.
Some astonishing concoction of meringue, cream, a liqueur sauce, hothouse raspberries.
He wouldn’t have known something so simple could taste so decadent, so
And the extremely good, icily
cold and utterly dry champagne complemented it perfectly.
This garrulous, pleasure
seeking country house atmosphere still strangely jarring to him, less than a
week after stepping off the train, the last leg in his journey from Cairo.
Expatriate dinner parties he’d attended there could be sumptuous, and yet were
just not the same thing.
He missed it badly, he
The exoticism which drew so
many, no longer exotic, different, to him but normal. Home.
This, the astounding sheer mass
and maze of stone, marble, gilding, the portraits by Reynolds and Gainsborough,
the incredible paintings by Rubens, Titian, Rembrandt and others, scattered so
casually through the magnificent rooms and corridors together with exquisite
French and European antiques, china, silver, the gardens and sprawling
conservatory envied by plant collectors, these,
Of another world. One he was no
longer fully part of, if he ever had been.
His powerful throat worked as
he swallowed down a mouthful of the vintage champagne, his brown eyes flicking
up just in time to catch Evander looking down the table with that astonishing
turquoise gaze and studying him.
Anyone else would have looked
away at being caught doing such a thorough study.
But Evander did not. Very
un-English of him.
Instead that sensual, curling
mouth twisted in a faint smile and he lifted his glass.
A toast to
? To what? Could only be to the insane publicity the tomb and
its astonishing artifacts – or treasure, according to the papers –
was getting. But the real glory was rightly going to Hamer, the lead, the man
whose decade long obsession had led to the discovery of the site. As his second-in-command,
it was wrong to accept any accolade.
Benedict flushed bloodily at
that meaningless acknowledgement, forcing himself not to glance quickly away
even as Evander’s wife, Juliana, turned her head and gave him a slow, sweet and
Evidently she had noted the
flush upon his cheekbones.