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Charles Audley

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  1. Charles Audley

    You Asked For It | Tuesday April 12, late at night

    "She would be cheap at the price, really, if she could host successful salons," Charles agreed, taking a moment to appreciate the exquisite absurdity of discussing Henrietta's virtues and the benefits of courting her with Juliana. "Some of the most interesting and rarefied personages at court move in such circles." He shifted slightly on the bed, drawing Juliana closer, his hand tracing aimless patterns over her belly. "Well, I've told her that I plan to court her. Whether she genuinely believed me is another matter. I have written her father, though, so I imagine she knows now that I was serious, or soon will. And she definitely knows it was me in the labyrinth. Do you remember, at the New Year's Ball, she was staring so much her sister approached to find out how I knew her?" He leaned in to nibble gently at her earlobe. "But that is enough about our mouse for now, surely?" he whispered. "I am abed with a tigress, and I fear she will ravish me if I leave her unattended."
  2. Charles could not help it. He laughed, a rich peal of mirth that shook his broad frame. "Oh, brilliant! The sheer brazenness! Were I wearing a hat, sir, I would doff it!" He inclined his head to Rochester. "Thirty-three! The shameless audacity is praiseworthy, and I for one deeply admire you for it, but that was not the game. Three claim to be titled ladies, you say? Name them, and their supposed titles, and let us judge the veracity of your and their claims, and score them accordingly." He shrugged. "Or else, I fear, I shall have to agree with Kingston, and vote to exclude you."
  3. Charles Audley

    Unto the Breach | Ormonde's, Early Evening Wed April 13th

    Charles swirled his whiskey gently, savouring the aroma, and raised his glass to Ormonde. There was a moment of almost-tension, as the Duke left his words hover ambiguously. Charles held his composure and sipped at his drink. "Then I will thank your Grace for your understanding, as well as for your whiskey," he replied smoothly as Ormonde went on. "Personally, I have always admired accomplishment wherever I have found it, and never deemed it threatening when its possessor was a woman." He hesitated for a bare fraction of a moment before pressing on. "That has always seemed a sign of weakness to me." I am a strong enough man to allow your daughter her passions was what he meant, but he could not very well come out and state that plainly. I am being perilously blunt as is. He smiled ruefully. "The former is certainly true in my experience," he agreed on the topic of the Irish and nerve. "I will confess, however, that until recently I would not have understood how it was possible to have nerve in any way that was not the best. Now that I am wholly responsible for my sisters... Well, the fresh perspective has changed my views somewhat." Charles suspected the Duke was about to broach the topic of his libertine reputation, and the undesirability of such a thing in a prospective son-in-law, and wanted to prepare his defences.
  4. Charles Audley

    You Asked For It | Tuesday April 12, late at night

    "Our previous discussion on the topic implied a certain public element, I seem to recall," Charles mused teasingly. He could not remember one way or the other in truth, and as deeply erotic as the thought of Juliana parading him around on a leash was it was all but certain to remain just a thought, but it was fun to toy with the idea. "Perhaps we will try it in your garden some evening," he continued, merry wickedness shining out of his eye. "I do find you very hard to say no to. Or maybe we could see how you fit a collar. It is more work on your end of the leash, and I do hate to feel lazy." He shrugged one shoulder again as Juliana expressed her confusion over his interest in Henrietta. "Well, she has more spirit than we first assumed, I think. She deals with me very well when I'm not in flagrante, and we share certain intellectual interests. Beyond that, she's the daughter of a Duke and far from unattractive, which makes it a good match as far as practical considerations go. I can't see myself growing to despise her, which has always been my prime worry. In fact, I rather like her as a conversational sparring partner." He paused. "It is mostly that she has a mind, and desires to use it. She wants to host salons, and I have discovered that I would quite like a wife who hosts salons."
  5. "Why Kingston, are you suggesting that any of this esteemed company would be so underhanded as to lie?" Charles asked, raising a theatrically shocked hand to his face in mock horror, before lowering it with a laugh. "I am prepared to accept the word of any gentleman willing to extend me the same courtesy, but it does seem eminently sensible that any man who cannot offer a convincing defence of his claims when pressed should receive neither credit nor points for them." Charles shrugged. "And as you say, it gives us something to talk about other than each other's mothers." Carefully ambivalent support rendered (it would not do for Kingston and he to seem too obviously in cooperation, after all), Charles leaned back to hear Sedley's tally. Roos' score of four was a respectable score (or rather Charles hoped it was a respectable score), enough to make the competition interesting, and he wanted to see how the others compared.
  6. Charles Audley

    You Asked For It | Tuesday April 12, late at night

    "Another gift? You're spoiling me," Charles murmured, eye twinkling. "Of course, my curiosity is going to drive me mad waiting, but I know you enjoy seeing me so tormented, and so I shall endure." He gave a soft, delighted laugh. It was only fair, of course, for him to inflict a little pleasurable torment on Juliana while he could, and Charles greatly enjoyed her little trembles as he feathered her jaw with kisses. A delicate balancing act, this, for if I push too far she will demand satisfaction, and as yet the attempt will kill me, from exertion or shame. Just as well, then, that he had to pause his ministrations to reply. "A delectable thought, no? We talked about you leashing me once before, I seem to recall." He squeezed her hand gently as she interlocked their fingers and drew her in closer to him, enjoying the closeness. "Define 'exciting,'" he said drily, and shrugged one shoulder. "I wrote to our little mouse's father today, to start formally courting her. Does that count?" Had he been more in possession of himself, Charles might not have answered so honestly, or in so blasé a fashion. (It was deeply gauche to speak of one woman when abed with another, regardless of libertine or accepting that other was.) But he was a little too tired to watch his tongue, and Juliana too much a kindred spirit to be lied to, or to take offence at honesty. Or so he hoped.
  7. Darlene had lost none of her nigh-maniacal energy, Charles saw, smiling and bowing his greetings. (And taking the opportunity to flick a discreet glance at her unknown companion. Not a stunning beauty, perhaps, but attractive and pleasingly full-figured, and Charles would always have a degree of fellow feeling for one who also had features of character rather than refinement.) "My lady knows very well that I am enthused both by your company and our planned venture, but alas it is not an excess of exuberance that brings me so unconsciounably early. Please say that you forgive me for the imposition." He intended to explain just why he was so early but Darlene pivoted to making introductions. Charles gave a mental shrug and followed along. He might not switch tracks so swiftly as Darlene, but he liked to think he did so almost as smoothly. "I have not had the pleasure, no," he said, turning to Victorine and inclining his head to flow through the formalities. "At your service, my lady." He met her eyes as he straightened. It was a game he sometimes liked to play with new acquaintances, seeing how they reacted to the patch. It was frequently telling, he found. "I used to lunch at the Lion," he offered in response to Darlene's advice, "but my new cook is frightfully jealous, and so I have refrained. I think I shall have to risk his ire, though, if my restraint is depriving me of the company of all the best people in London." He had slipped into one of his favourite roles, the amiable, energetic, self-mocking cavalier, all warm humour and genteel flirtation by implication. It was almost always an appropriate mask, and particularly so here, he thought. In that vein, he waved an uncaring hand at Darlene's suggestion. "Oh, I've never been able to care all that much about how a lady might choose to address me, so long as she was addressing me, you understand?" He allowed just a hint of roguishness to leak into his voice. "And in any case, it is not all that long since I was Charles Audley to everyone, and so I shall simply say —again— that it is a pleasure to meet you Victorine."
  8. Charles laughed and raised his empty tankard in mock-salute to Rochester's riposte. "I feel no republican sentiment, though I am seized by the urge to find the brewer and put him to the question, so that he might reveal how, precisely, he produces such an exquisitely foul brew." He paused, considering. "Though upon reflection, perhaps it is simply proximity to Shaftesbury that puts the ale on the turn." He snorted as Dorset redirected the conversational tangent and raised his hand in mirror of Francis. "I'll stand with Kingston, and proclaim my support for fucking as our topic of discussion." Though a political discussion in this company would be fascinating, were we all sober. Or even drunker, for that matter.
  9. Perhaps these gentlemen did care overmuch about such trivialities as punctuality, Charles considered in the face of Rochester's chiding. "If I had been swiving," he told the other earl drily, "I would hardly have left to be here, and not a one of you gentlemen would expect or behave any differently." He laughed. "I shall accept the rebuke, however," he conceded. "I am, by all appearances, damnably tardy." He laughed again at Kingston's suggested penalty. He would have to had lost both eyes to miss that he was being made game of, but Charles was perfectly willing to play along. Up to a point, of course. "A fair punishment," he agreed, eye twinkling, "and I will not ever have it said that I willingly lagged behind." He collected a tankard at random, surreptitiously examined it for signs of tampering, and filled it himself, sniffing cautiously at the ale with his back turned and smelling nothing untoward. (Though the smell of ale could cover a great deal, he reflected.) Ah well. Nothing for it. Charles did not usually drink much ale, but he was a sporting gentleman and always willing to step to the mark. Sedley's record was in no real danger of being broken, if indeed it had been set to begin with, but he raised the tankard in cheery salute to the others, brought it to his lips, and did not lower it again until it was empty. "Christ on the cross!" he exclaimed with a sort of horrified appreciation. "It tastes like Satan's own piss!" It did not seem that bad, in truth, but Charles knew his role, and he did not mind playing it up a little.
  10. Charles Audley

    Unto the Breach | Ormonde's, Early Evening Wed April 13th

    He had not been shot, and Ormonde's nod seemed as amiable as could be expected, so Charles, inclining his own head in a deeper return of the Duke's nod, was tentatively willing to mark this down as a promising beginning. "A pleasure, your Grace," he said, allowing the naturally brisk cadence of his speech to leak through. A louche drawl served very well most of the time but hardly seemed appropriate for this. Besides, the Duke seems like he could well be the sort to scorn such as effeminacy. Ormonde opened with a ranging shot, and Charles firmed up his assessment of the beginning as promising. Now, to avoid queering the pitch and take advantage... "Then I can only hope to prove her correct," he said, looking for a path that hit both respectful and confident. "She is quite a scholar, and has more nerve than most young ladies." He inclined his head again in response to the other man's offer of whiskey. "Please, your Grace."
  11. Charles Audley

    You Asked For It | Tuesday April 12, late at night

    Charles snorted, lolling back on the bed next to Juliana. His arms no longer felt in imminent danger of giving out under him, but his breathing was still heavy and the prospect of a few moments of rest so he could stop feeling quite so much like a wrung-out sponge seemed (almost) every bit as irresistible as Juliana's naked form. "You make hardness very easy, in every sense," he said at last, in an almost passable attempt at a drawl, which he promptly ruined by snorting again. "I'm sorry, for some reason my wit is running a trifle slow and blunt at the moment. Can't imagine why. And as for my rising to the occasion, we shall have to see. I am but mortal flesh." And that mortal flesh was decidedly torn on how to feel at that moment. On the one hand, Juliana was naked, a spectacle that quite set the standard for 'arousing,' to say nothing of what her words and toying with his collar were doing to him. On the other, his flesh was finding it somewhat uncomfortable to be called to action again so soon, and complained of it like any old soldier. Of course, I know how to deal with an old soldier. Give him action, and the promise of plunder... Charles grinned again, and reached out to bring her outstretched hand from his collar to his lips, kissing at her fingertips and palm, and down the inside of her wrist. "Do you think so?" he asked between kisses. "It would be a bold statement, certainly. I might start a fashion." He leaned in to slowly draw his lips along Juliana's jaw to her ear. "You know," he mused, voice a playful whisper, "with the right collar on my justacorps, and a sufficiently large and elaborately lacy jabot or cravat, I might get away with it. Something to think about, hmm?"
  12. Charles would never admit it, but he had perhaps been flagging, just a little, upon his return. The day had perhaps not been physically demanding, but Tuesday certainly had been, and he had expended a great deal of mental effort over the course of Wednesday evening. Coupled with his lack of sleep, it had been enough to remind him that he was no longer seventeen. Fortunately, he had Wodehouse, and thus would never need to admit to any such thing. He had been greeted in his study with a pot of strong coffee and several coca leaves, which had given him a surge of energy sufficient, he thought, to carry him through what needed to be done. He would pay for it later, he knew, for it was a false strength, but that was immaterial. Rochester's was close enough to walk, thankfully, and the cool of the night sharpened him further, clearing the cobwebs, and Charles found himself whistling jauntily as he walked. He had always liked the sting of an English spring night. His pockets were weighed down with a pair of hip flasks, a further bundle of coca leaves Wodehouse had pressed on him, and various other accoutrements, and in one hand he loosely held a bottle of Calvados brandy he had taken on a whim. He was late he knew, but that had been unavoidable, and surely these gentlemen would not care overmuch for such trifles? He reached the door and knocked.
  13. There was probably something self-defeating in leaving the house of a Duke whose daughter you wished to wed, and who therefore you must convince of your respectability, and heading directly out to take two other ladies on a disguised trawl of dockside taverns. (Arguably an unsuitable environ for you yourself to linger, never mind well-bred ladies.) Charles would have done it nonetheless, but the invitation to Rochester's (and the Royal expectation that he and Kingston should wring the prize money and an admission of defeat from their seniors in sin) was an unfortunate obstacle. (There was a deep irony, Charles reflected, that a night drinking with the Merry Gang might therefore keep him from scandal.) It says a great deal about my susceptibility to feminine charm , though, that I am still deeply loathe to disappoint them, and intend to propose a truncated venture rather than cancel entirely. That bit of reflection was worth a small, self-mocking smile. Even a truncated venture was, objectively, an unacceptable risk, and the sensible thing to do would have been to plead unexpected commitments, hint at the Royal involvement, scant as it was, and fob Darlene and Sophia off with promises. But Charles strictly rationed his sense, and he had already reached his daily allotment. His blood was singing at the thought of a little dockside adventure. First, of course, he had to explain to Darlene and Sophia that this little outing was going to have to be shorter and smaller in scale than originally planned, and that meant he probably had to interrupt their dinner. He disliked the indecorous nature of it, but he had brought a bottle of a particularly good claret to soften the blow, and he did not think he had much choice besides. (He was likely going to be caught for time as it was, but thankfully he did not imagine the Merry Gang likely to be sticklers for punctuality.) Whistling softly to himself, and casting an admiring eye over the fountain, Charles sauntered up the path and rapped smartly at the door. "Lord Chatham to see Lady Oakham."
  14. Charles liked to think that he was entirely immune to nerves. His composure was a matter of pride to him. More, even — it was a crucial part of his self-image, the fact that Charles Audley would stroll through fire and flood with unruffled glibness and a wry smile. There were times, though (on a clear day, as it were) where he would concede that he could at least see the distant vista of Nervousness and get an uncomfortably accurate lay of the land. This was one of those times. Oh, it was nonsensical on the face of it. Making a good impression on Ormonde and winning the man's permission to formally court Henrietta was important, but the attempt was unlikely to be dangerous. (Unless he made a truly impressive mess of things, of course.) He was almost certainly going to be unhurt by this, but... for the first time he could recall, Charles had to care about someone else's opinion of him. It left him feeling unaccustomedly vulnerable. Besides, some things are terrible because you know you'll live through them. Charles swallowed a smile. Who had told him that? His uncle, he fancied, but he could not be sure. It could have been Percy Kirke in Tangiers, now that he thought about... He clucked his tongue in disgust. He was trying to distract himself, he realised, and that was unacceptable. He took a moment to summon up his best face — bold, forthright, and amiable, a cavalier, sporting gentleman, perhaps, but a gentleman nonetheless — and made a minute adjustment to the fit of his burgundy justacorps over grey waistcoat and breeches. Appearance settled, he dismounted the carriage and made his way to the front door with brisk, businesslike stride.
  15. It was quite late Wednesday morning before a somewhat bleary eyed Charles read the Duke's reply. "Well, that's honestly better than I expected," he remarked, finding the missive pleasantly free of threats of death or dismemberment. "It leaves today rather busy, though." "More than you know," Wodehouse informed him, offering his master coffee. "You are also invited to a... gathering at the house of the Earl of Rochester." Charles laughed. "The Duke of Ormonde, the ladies Oakham and Toledo, and the Merry Gang. Perverse variety does not quite cover it, does it?"