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This Simply Will Not Do!- Xmas 1677

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Late afternoon


Caroline stamped her foot angrily, which only splashed a mix of slush and dirt onto the hem of her gown, as she glared at the offending carriage wagon wheel now sitting forlornly in the street completely detached from the vehicle.


"Merde!" she snapped at no one and yet everyone. Her Irish bodyguard almost grinned as he knew that much French from his continental soldiering career, but even the old campaigner was not that brave to face his employer's ire. Luckily this was not his doing. The coach Lady Kendishall had hired to take them to the opera had broken down, rather completely it seemed. If the coachman had not been focused on this disaster and how to deal with this very angry and even worse noble customer, that unfortunate might have noticed the petite noblewoman had just swore in French.


"I am so very sorry," he pleaded.


"I should have my man run you thru, you ignoramus! I have a very vital appointment I must make and of all days for this to happen!" Caroline had no sympathy only anger and frustration. The only thing in her favor was she had deliberately chosen to depart for the theatre extra early so she still had plenty of time. Well, assuming nothing else went wrong.


"Thomas, get my cello," she ordered her Irishman who looked down at her.


"We are going to walk there?" came the rather obvious question.


"Well, yes. Unless you wish to have me ride you," Caroline retorted snippily, glaring down at the damned wheel yet again. She would have kicked it but the only pain inflicted would have been on her foot. She did not need that.


Thomas again almost grinned, her reply could be easily taken more than one way but he nodded and moved to comply, opening the vehicle door to reach for the instrument case. Caroline now turned her rage on the driver once more, "And I am not paying you anything, do you understand? I don't wish to hear even one word out of you, you...wretch."


Just then another coach pulled up next to them.


(Placeholder for Charles Audley)

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The coach rattled and bounced as it found yet another pothole in the street. Charles swore.


"God's Wounds, this a driver of rare skill!"


Wodehouse blinked and shot his master a confused look. Charles gave him a quick grin and explained.


"He's somehow managed to find every pothole 'tween the palace and Kempe's. One would imagine that takes uncommon talent."


Wodehouse coughed to cover his laughter.


"Just so my lord. I did tell you that I misliked the look of him."


Charles snorted. He might allow Wodehouse uncommon license but the manservant's discretion, efficiency and quiet competence were worth any amount of such conversational sallies. Besides, Wodehouse restrained himself in public. Mostly.


Still, Charles had the spleen and felt the need to vent it on someone. The driver provided a target both convenient and deserving. He loosened the shutters and leaned forward out of the window to give the man the sharp side of his tongue.


Perhaps fortunately for the driver, the young earl's attention was caught by a sight further down the road. A wrecked coach, a harangued looking driver, a man with 'old soldier' stamped all over him and a magnificently angry young woman.


Ha. I resolve to behave myself and women all but fall from the skies. One suspects that Fortune has a sense of humour...


What would happen if I swore celibacy, I wonder?

Shaking his head at the direction of his thoughts, Charles banged his hand against the coach roof to draw the driver's attention. It would be an amusing novelty to play at being the knight in armour bright. He so rarely had the opportunity.




The man thought about questioning his instructions but thought better of it and closed his mouth.


The occasional benefits of looking like an unflattering woodcut of the Devil, one supposes. Or possibly just those of holding the purse strings.


Charles arranged his features as pleasantly as was possible and opened the door even as the coach slowed to a halt.


"Perhaps I can offer assistance?"


He descended from the coach and bowed.


"Charles Audley, Earl of Chatham, pleased to be of service."

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Caroline was distracted from her angry contemplation of the situation she found herself when another carriage, a working one, stopped next to theirs. She turned to see just as the door began to open even before the vehicle was fully stopped. Was it someone she knew?


However, the man who made his descent was a stranger. He was not truly handsome she decided but he was striking in his own way, rakish she might put it. And the eye patch, her eyes were drawn to it for just an instant before he spoke. A man of action? Mayhaps a soldier even? Unlike some, she did not mind soldiers, her father was one.


Her face lit up when he offered assistance. So she once more had a ride and would even be able to share it with this Earl. How fortunate for her.


"Lord Chatham, I am not only honored to make your acquaintance but so very grateful for your excellent timing. You are my savior!" she beamed.


"I am Lady Kendishall," she quickly added her own introduction before explaining her predicament for the chivalrous fellow, "You see I am on my way to the theatre where tonight I am participating in an opera opening up this very evening. I play the cello and am an acquaintance of Master Cole, the opera's composer."


Her Irishman held the instrument case as further indication of what she was going on about. Personally she could care less if this earl was a music affectionado or not as long as he was willing to take her there. What was the old saying? Any port in a storm. Besides, he did look rather ....well, interesting.

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Well, this is a gratifying response. I should play Galahad more often.

The change in her demeanour was startling, relief and happiness breaking through her anger like sunlight through storm clouds. The mental image pleased him.


Ha. Court bids fair to make a poet of me.


He listened attentively as she explained her dilemma and broke into a broad smile as she mentioned the opera. It was a surprisingly boyish expression on his sharp-featured face.


"Then I am doubly pleased to be of help. None fit to call themselves a gentleman could pass by a lady in such distress without offering assistance and now I find, that by aiding you, I have saved my plans for the evening. I adore opera, you see."


Do I even have a ticket? A question for later.

Charles turned to his driver and spoke imperiously.


"We shall be conveying Lady Kendishall and her companion to the Dorset Theatre first."


The man's face assumed an expression presumably intended to be cunning.


"There'll be an extra charge fer that, mi'lud."


Charles crossed to stand beside him and clapped a comradely hand on his shoulder, smile broadening maniacally.


"We shall discuss appropriate compensation for your services once the lady has reached her destination, my good man."


Charles tightened his grip to the point of causing pain for just an instant and then turned back to Caroline. His brows began to tighten in a frown as he pondered travelling arrangements. They wouldn't all fit inside the coach, especially with the cello.


"The lady and her cello can ride inside the cabin with you, my lord, and her man and I can sit up next to the driver."


Ah, Wodehouse. You are a paragon of your profession, a prince amongst manservants!

Charles nodded and arched an inquisitive eyebrow at Caroline.


"Unless the lady has any objections?"

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The man seemed quite obliging to help her out of her quandary, Caroline noted and then doubled down by declaring he was actually an opera lover too. Her eyes lit up.


"Perhaps the fates were being kind to me then having my coach break down? For it has allowed me to meet not only a gentleman but also someone who appreciates the finer things in life. This is grand!" she exulted. Life's little victories as her mother used to say.


He turned to issue commands to his driver who had the sheer temerity to bring up possible further compensation. Fortunately the Earl handled the impertinent fellow quite tactically in the young Frenchwoman's estimation. Now came the details of the arrangement but it was the Earl's servant who came up with a solution. Ever the chivalrous one, the Earl inquired if that would be satisfactory to her. Oh, she liked this fellow alright.


"Yes, of course. We can enjoy the ride with some pleasant conversation...perhaps about music?" she answered. Or other subjects she thought.


The decision reached, Caroline turned to her Irishman, "You heard him. Ride up on top then. Oh and hand me my cello."


Thomas extended the case as he nodded, "Of course, m'lady. I tramped all over the continent on foot, any ride is a good ride."


Caroline smiled, "Indeed!" She did like her bodyguard but it would not do to be on too good of terms with the commoner, such things could be frowned upon. Her father always had said that a weak officer was taken advantage of by his soldiery and a weak master by his servants.


Cello in her grasp now, Caroline turned to Audley, "Well, shall we be off then?" She held out one small gloved hand for him to assist her entry into the cab of the coach.

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Perhaps not traditionally beautiful, but she has a charming energy and openness about her. A welcome contrast to the icy, painted statues of France! And she does not quibble to enter the carriage of a gentleman but freshly met.

Charles smiled as he assisted Caroline into the coach.


I like this one.

A quick glance to see the two servants settled and Charles entered the carriage himself, seating himself opposite her for ease of conversation. He rapped his knuckles on the door in signal to the driver and the coach lurched into motion. After a moment's thought he left the shutters down. Best to avoid the appearance of impropriety until he had the lay of the land.


Shaftesbury has ammunition enough as it is.

"Music would seem a fine starting point at least, as we appear to share an appreciation. I fear that is as far as it extends on my part, though. I love music but music, alas, spurns me most cruelly."


He pressed his right hand to his breast and adopted the downcast mien of a dejected lover before laughing and continuing.


"Now, I hear that Buckingham is the patron of this opera. That speaks highly of the talents of this Master Cole and, by extension, your own."


Another jolt jarred the carriage. Charles swallowed an oath.


"Stab my eyes! This fellow drives rather less well than might a drunken cow."


I should horsewhip him through the streets! Cack-handed fool!

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And they both were in, well along with her prized cello which she placed to one side. At times like this she would be on tenterhooks if she even lost sight of the thing. However, secure in the knowledge it was right beside her, Caroline focused on the helpful gentleman seated across from her. The eye patch was more intriguing than repellent. She could almost imagine him losing it as he led some gallant cavalry charge against a sea of foes, carving a path thru them all but sacrificing an orb in doing so. Yes, she was indeed the daughter of a soldier.


Since she had brought up music as a possible topic of discussion, he obliged her by starting out with an admission he was one who appreciated it rather than played it. Fair enough. In truth he did not really look like the musician type anyhow.


"No, music does not spurn anyone. There is nothing wrong with not knowing how to play it. All of us have certain skills, talents, and then lack in others, correct?" she excused him.


"And yes, the Duke of Buckingham is the sponsor but I can assure you Masters Cole and Greyson did all the work and indeed were the creators behind it. Buckingham was merely intelligent enough to realize their talents," she gave her view on the subject, something she was seldom shy of doing.


There was a sudden jolt as the carriage found a pothole in the streets, a not uncommon fate given the condition of London's thoroughfares.


"Indeed you would almost think the drivers veer not to avoid bumps but to embrace them. So help me if this carriage falls apart I shall take to riding my own horse from now on," she declared though probably not seriously.


"So.....Lord Audley, you know at least some about me, would I be too bold to inquire more about you? Such as what brings you to London this winter? Surely there must be more to it than riding about town looking for desperate ladies to rescue?" she grinned.

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Charles would have been most amused by the direction of Caroline's thoughts concerning his missing eye, had he known. He had told at least a dozen similar stories, no two entirely alike. The truth, in his opinion, was painfully mundane and he felt a duty to provide a far more interesting tale to any who cared to ask. To be boring was a mortal sin for Charles.


Her comment on talents was greeted by an amused quirk of his lips.


"You are very kind to so excuse me my lady, but I fear that you have not heard me sing! Why, at Maastricht I cleared a ravelin of Dutchmen with naught but a selection of drinking songs!"


His amusement increased as she echoed his earlier thoughts on the coachmen of London.


"Indeed. One could almost wish for a sedan chair, slow as they are. Though such would preclude happy accidents such as this." He waved a hand in the space between them and gave a quick smile. "Hmm. On the whole I think I shall stick with carriages, bumps and all."


Charles was enjoying the conversation. Prior to that day it had been months since he had indulged in such light pleasantries. For a social creature such as he, it had not been far off living death. Then Caroline asked after his reasons for coming to court.


Oh, it's very simple. There is a man in London that I need to find and kill, preferably while also rebuilding the family fortune squandered by my dead, drunkard father.

The irreverent thought flashed through his mind, even as he covered his reaction with a bold smirk.


"I've yet to be offended by a pretty woman showing an interest in me." He drew himself up into an attitude of pompous nobility. "In truth, I have come to court simply to serve King and country to the best of my abilities, as all true men must. And if my leal service should be rewarded with wealth and advancement, I shall bear that burden with equanimity."


He held the pose for a second longer and then dissolved in helpless laughter.


"No, I came to London for two main reasons: my regiment is here- I am a major in the First Foot Guards- and-" He lowered his voice conspiratorially and leaned forward. "-I was frightfully bored in Chatham and London seemed like to relieve that."


He leaned back into his seat.


"Rescuing damsels is just a hobby, I fear."

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He stuck to his declaration of no musical talent even claiming to have cleared enemies from fortified positions. It also confirmed her assessment this man was a soldier, maybe still was.

She had to giggle a bit at the mental picture of that scene, however preposterous.


"Well, in all fairness, they were just Dutch. Hardly the best soldier material according to my father," she added with a smile.


"Carriages are indeed a necessary evil in this city," she had to agree with his view on the subject even if neither of them were happy with it.


She then ventured to ask a bit about him, his background which drew her a compliment or at least flattery, if insincere, that she was pretty. She decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and smiled. The rest of it sounded very patriotic and full of itself, though she knew some men really did believe in all that. Not many, according to her father though and suddenly he burst out into laughter.


"What?" she wanted to know and then the truth was revealed, more mundane but also completely believable. It also gave her absolute proof she had been right to guess him a soldier, she knew it!


"Ahhh, the Foot Guards you say. Now I have heard that is indeed a quality regiment. May I tell you that I took you for a soldier immediately? You see being the daughter of a career soldier who has served in many armies, I grew up around soldiers and I know them ...almost as much as I know how to play cello," she was proud to say it of both.


She grinned at his quip about the rescues and tacked on, "And I am certain all the damsels you rescue are relieved you had taken up such a hobby. I know I am."


"Let me assure you, Lord Audley, you shall find me grateful, most grateful should there ever be some way you would wish I repay you," she promised. If he found that suggestive, so be it.

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Regimental pride was a familiar feeling for Charles and he was immensely pleased to hear that the Guards had a reputation.


"Oh, indeed. Excellent troops. Perhaps not so hardened as the Maison du Roi or the Dutch Blue Guards, but those are soldiers at war. Given six months campaigning, I'd back our Guards against anything anywhere, man for man." He frowned. "I might soon have the opportunity to make that wager, given talk about town."


He brightened as she told him how she had immediately pegged him as a soldier. He tapped a finger against his eye patch.


"It has rather left its stamp on me, hasn't it? Tangiers and the United Provinces under English colours, Alsace and the Palatinate under French and now I've come full circle. Where did your father serve, if I might enquire?"


He was mentally congratulating himself on keeping the conversation above the waistline when Caroline began to speak of gratitude. The comment was unaccompanied by any flaunting of wares, which Charles would have expected were this earnest flirtation. No, Lady Kendishall spoke in innocence... or she was fishing to see exactly just what sort of gentleman he was.


In any case, I'm enjoying the role of Galahad far too much to be overly blatant.

Charles made sure to look her in the eye and gave her his best smile.


"Now, none of that. I assure you my lady, the... pleasure of your company is entirely recompense enough."


There. Let her make what she will of that.

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The man brightened at her recognition of the qualities of his regiment and gave his own biased, certainly understandable given he was one of them, view on the subject. Caroline nodded then added, "My father says the English can certainly fight with the best of them."


She decided to leave out a few of his other views such as how inept many of their commanders were. She was, after all, English now and given the war fever rampant on the isle perhaps not wise to broach her own French background. Naturally enough he wondered about her father.


"Oh, he has served since a young man all over the continent. He was in the Swedish army in Poland, then commanded a garrison in Denmark after he had been involved in a falling out with his Swedish employers," she figured she had better explain as most soldiers of any breadth of knowledge would recognize Sweden and Denmark were on opposite sides.


"Of course he campaigned some in France too, where he met my mother and fathered me," she smiled, "He is retired now."


Caroline then wanted him to know she truly appreciated his gallantry in helping her get to the theatre on time. She also was already intrigued with this man of action and floated a less than subtle hint, or so she thought, of just how grateful she might willing to be. He didn't blink but met her gaze and once more demonstrated his gallantry, though this time in more disappointing fashion than earlier. He was content, it seemed, with merely her company.


"Oh....I see....very well then so I shall be content then too since it seems there is nothing I can offer you beyond my words of gratitude then," her smile was still there though more forced, a hint of disappointment in her blue eyes.


What was wrong with her she berated herself. She was an excellent conversationalist or so she was often told but while menfolk seemed to enjoy her company, none seemed the slightest bit interested in her for anything other than conversation? Still, she was not quite ready to give up completely.


"Do you have a residence in London, Lord Audley? I do. It was my husband's purchase actually before we were even married. It is a nice place perhaps the only wise decision he ever made though it can be lonely at times for a young widow such as myself," she revealed with a shrug of narrow shoulders.

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Charles would certainly have agreed with Caroline's father on the general quality of English officers, had she voiced the thought. There were times when he felt that he could list every competent commander in English arms on his fingers.


Let's see... myself, John, Percy Kirke, brute though he is, Feversham, Monmouth, if I'm being generous...


With a mental shake Charles abandoned his uncharitable thoughts and returned to the conversation.


"The Swedes? Superb soldiers I've heard, thought I've never had the opportunity to see them in the field. For which I should perhaps be glad, if half the stories are true. And then the Danes? Ha. There is a story there I'll wager, though I won't pry."


That last was entirely contrary to his nature: Charles had an insatiable appetite for gossip and secrets. Still, to enquire would have been out of character for the role he'd assumed.


Then his response to her offer brought forth... disappointment? Charles was unused to seeing such and it touched his pride.


This would not have happened could I still wink! Or... did I misread her? Neither an innocent kitten nor a curious cat, but a tigress, albeit it would seem a novice one? Yes. Either that, or I need to lay off the laudanum. Ha! Ridiculous thought.


His suspicions were all but confirmed as she continued.


'Lonely for a young widow.' By God, 'twould be ungentlemanly not to reciprocate at this point!

How best to proceed then? Charles refused to let her leave thinking him some sort of pious, obtuse eunuch but to switch from Galahad to Maleagant would likely prove counterproductive.


A subtle change in character then. Galahad to Lancelot, perhaps.


Charles let his gaze drift to her lips for a moment before responding, his tone perhaps a little warmer, a little lower.


"A London residence? No longer, I fear. We had one but my late father was often too ill to attend court and I was on the Continent, and so it was sold. I shall have to find another, but in the interim I reside at St. Mark's." He schooled his features into a solemn expression. "But, lonely. I can imagine. It must be very difficult to... fill the void... left by your late husband. Should I be able to help in any way, call on me at once, I pray you." His gaze drifted again, lingering this time.


After a few heartbeats of such, Charles moved his glance to the open shutter, as though just realising that it were open. His leg brushed off Caroline's, seemingly accidentally.


"Would you mind if I put the shutters up?"

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"Oh yes, my father said the Swedes always fight their battles the same, they find the enemy and then they attack. They are most fierce. There was unfortunately some politics involved in my father quitting Swedish service, not that he did not acquit himself well on the battlefield. So fleeing Poland he went west and took Danish service," Caroline explained some of the story but leaving out major details best not said. Well that and even she was not certain how much of it all was true. Both her parents had oft engaged in lies. Some she knew about, some she probably still had no idea of what was what.


She then attempted some flirting, not that she was very accomplished at it. But his answer was disappointing, it seemed he truly was a gentleman or sadly, she was not worthy of his attentions. Now that option she feared. She tried once more.


"Sold then? That is unfortunate for you," she also mentioned she was lonely in her own London residence. Not that subtle but this would be her last try at him. And this time his response, and his gaze upon her, was more positive. Yes, it could be taken for just more gallantry but there was something else there too. Mayhaps he was understanding her and warming to the possibilities?


"Well, who knows then, this being a season of merriment, I may just take you up on that offer. Afterall, should we both not enjoy ourselves for the holidays?" she hinted right back.


He then requested if he might close the shutters. For just an instant she wondered now why would that matter but perhaps he had his reasons? She met his gaze and slowly nodded, "I would not mind at all, my lord. Do as you wish."

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It had become a game to him, this middle ground between rakishness and gallantry. Considerably more fun than he would have thought, even if it did have him wondering how on earth the pillars of polite society managed.


Caroline gave her assent and Charles drew the shutters up, securing thereby at least a modicum of privacy. The muffling of background noise and the deepening of the shadows made the whole thing more intimate as well, in the earl's opinion.


"My thanks. I was beginning to feel a chill and 'twould be a tragedy were we to be confined to our beds... by illness." A slight pause and the faintest twist in his voice contrived to suggest that being confined to bed for other reasons would be perfectly acceptable. "Particularly when, as you say, the season promises to be a most merry one, even for a court famed for merriness." A wicked smile, the sort Charles was best at.


He leaned back in his seat, considering. This was delicate work. Take too long, or not long enough, and the bird would fly and he would regret that for reasons beyond the obvious. She was a bright little spark.


Bloody Hell. Time to revert to type, I think, and gamble. Sound the charge!

"Hang it all," Charles growled and gave Caroline a heated look. "I am a direct man my lady, and I hope you shall forgive me for it."


He kissed her.

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As he attempted to explain why he had drawn the shutters, he made a reference to beds. Was he insinuating something there, she wondered? Of course he had mentioned illness too but she paid no attention to that - it did not fit into her train of thought.


"Ahh, well that would be the worst reason to be in bed I would agree," she commented.


"Yes, I had heard before I arrived that the court was known for such. In truth it was one of the major reasons which drew me to London, like a moth to flame as they say," she decided to reveal to him, her eyes never leaving his own gaze.


For an brief moment he drew back as if pondering something? Fortunately she did not have time to let inner doubt arise as to whether she had said the wrong thing, made a tactical error? Suddenly he was a changed man, from reflective to direct, no even more than that, bold, forceful both in his words then and finally in his action. He leaned forward and kissed her!


Caroline froze for just an instant as his lips matched against hers but there was no intention at all of pulling away, rather she did her very best to press back into it. It didn't last that long but it definitely could not be considered demure either. When they broke it up, she beamed, her eyes bright with excitement and happiness.


"Forgive you? There is nothing to forgive. Rather I thank you for it. I like a direct man. Did I not tell you I like soldiers," she assured him.


As she spoke she placed one gloved hand on top of his larger one, hopeful he was not finished yet with his boldness.

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Charles drew back, well pleased. He had kept the kiss brief and light, testing the waters so to speak, and finding them warm and welcoming. One day, perhaps, such boldness would end with him shot or stabbed but not today.


No, today we are gloriously alive!


He spent a moment admiring Caroline's gleaming eyes. What a wonderful expression, full of life and joy. It elevated her to nigh-angelic beauty in his eyes.


Well, eye.


Charles chuckled deep in his throat as she spoke. A spirit to match his own, it would seem.


"A pity I am so easily forgiven. We would both have enjoyed the lengths I would have gone to in order to earn pardon, I think."


Slowly, he removed the glove from her hand before pressing a kiss to each fingertip, holding her gaze all the while, then delicately brushed his lips on the inside of her wrist. He held for a heartbeat, then lowered her hand and let both his own steal forth to encircle her waist.


"Now, my lady, I have a fancy you would look most fetching breathless, and I am compelled to investigate."


He kissed her again, more deeply this time, tongue dancing forth to beg admittance.

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"Oh well, I could change my mind then, it is a lady's prerogative you know. Do your best then to seek my forgiveness," Caroline smiled, finding herself not a bit intimidated though she'd never been in this situation before in her life. It was ...well, exhilarating even! He needed little encouragement though as he slowly removed her glove then began kissing her hand. Of course she let him, this was all so new and so very desirable too. Then she felt his hands down by her waist. She swallowed. Waiting for what would come next. It did not take long as he declared his intentions.


"Well...if you are compelled then .." that's as far as she got when he moved in for another longer much more insistent kiss. She even felt his tongue against her lips and opened her mouth, her tongue meeting his. She could only hope she was doing everything right? However if nothing else she imagined she had an experienced teacher in this one.

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Enthusiastic, if seemingly inexperienced.

The appreciative thought ghosted across Charles's mind. He valued energy above skill in a partner. The latter could be taught, after all, and the teaching was often a most pleasant experience. It struck him as a trifle odd, though. She was a widow. Surely her husband had taught her something of kissing?


Bah. Focus on the task at hand man!

Good advice and Charles returned his full attention to his work, sliding his hands up her flanks. Not quite caressing, not yet, merely expressing an awareness of her form as his tongue plundered her mouth. The right ghosted up past her shoulder to cup the nape of her neck while his left reversed direction to rest lightly on her hip.


Craning forward was beginning to grow uncomfortable and Charles leaned back into his seat, drawing Caroline after him into his lap. He broke the kiss to assess the result of his labours, eye shining hungrily. He had found honest want often had a salutary effect on those women it did not scare and Lady Kendishall did not strike him as the sort to feel fear.


"Do let me know when I'm forgiven, hmm?" he growled, before pressing a line of kisses up her jawline to her ear, where he paused for a moment to nibble gently at the lobe. An instant to appreciate the effect, then he pressed on, right hand stroking her nape, left sliding from hip to rump and lips kissing down the slender column of her throat to suckle at the pulse point. Mindful of her need to appear in public, he kept the contact brief, moving to reclaim her lips for a short but intense kiss.


This is a much more pleasant diversion than I planned on.

Smiling, Charles drew back and arched a challenging eyebrow. The next move, he had decided, should be hers.

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Caroline was quite aware he was doing more than simply kissing in this forceful manner, she could feel his hands roaming over her form. This was all so new but certainly exciting. He was controlling all of this and she was his willing accomplice, determined to cooperate however she could to the best of her ability, unable to rely on experience. As he leaned back she found herself going forward then to end up eyes to ...eye as they finally broke off the kiss. She did not look away but kept eye contact, hoping he would appreciate her fearlessness. Though perhaps it had nothing to do with courage and more to do with lust.


He wasn't done yet though, asking if she had forgiven him yet but not waiting for her answer. As he peppered her with small kisses from jaw to ear she clung to him.


"I am considering it but you may press your case," she teased him on.


And he obliged for a bit more before giving her one more fervent kiss then pausing again. No words this time from him, just a look and an upraised eyebrow. Was she supposed to say something? Caroline swallowed then smiled.


"It is such a pity I have a prior engagement very soon now. I find our introduction most entertaining. Promise me this will not be our lone meeting," she smiled, hesitated then decided to lean into a kiss initiated by her this time as her hands clasped the material of his clothing as if to hold him in place.

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Oh, you magnificent creature!

Bold, passionate and utterly without fear- were there better qualities to find in a woman? Charles would confidently assert that no, there were not. He opened his mouth to answer her request for further meetings-


-And was cut off by her lips on his, kissing him with admirable enthusiasm. Charles gave a mental shrug and allowed her to have her way, content to follow her lead. He was not completely passive, of course, stirring his hands to renewed caresses as a reward for her improving technique. Caroline was showing herself a most apt pupil. Charles let the kiss drag on, luxuriating in the uncomplicated joy of it, before finally breaking off and bringing his right hand round to stroke her cheek.


"Now, as I was about to say, neither fire nor flood shall prevent me from continuing our... association. I have yet to earn pardon, after all. You need not fear on that count, my dear Hippolyta."


Huh. Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. Appropriate. And that would leave me... Hercules or Theseus. I flatter us both.


Another bump in the road drew the earl from his brief tangent. Charles scowled darkly and pinched the bridge of his nose.


"Of course, should this driver not improve rapidly, our next meeting shall perforce be in the Tower, for I'll throttle him in the street!"

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As she pressed her kiss onto his lips, once more Caroline felt his hands wandering ever so delightfully. Yes, definitely, now that she had gotten a taste of this she felt hungry for more, starving even. Reluctantly she broke off the kiss. It seemed she had pleased him judging by the expression on his face and the look in his eye.


Even better, he assured her that he was also eager to continue their new 'friendship' as soon as practicable. He even called her Hippolyta, which was good, right? A pity her mother had not thought more of seeing to a more classical education for her daughter, Caroline regretted for perhaps the very first time ever. But on the other hand the woman had taught her the cello which in a very roundabout way had set her on a long course, currently leading to this glorious moment in the coach.


"Oh...I have no fear when it comes to you, Lord Audley, only anticipation of how our new relationship might deepen," Caroline declared just before the coach hit yet another pothole and almost sent her head up against the vehicle roof. She was as annoyed as the lord was.


"And I, for one, would not blame you," she huffed. Then thought of something.


"You know my residence has no such potholes only comfort and a rather impressive wine cellar if I do say so myself," she hinted at a visit once this opera business was all over.

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Charles laughed appreciatively, temper vanishing like morning mist.


"No, confinement in the Tower would put such a crimp in our relationship. The guards are most tolerant, or so I have heard, but I cannot imagine their forbearance extends so far as this. I shall settle for horse whipping him, if he fails to mend his ways." Lips curled into a thin smirk. "So, while we wait to see if I must cut this jackanapes's back to ribbons, tell me more of this wine cellar. It sounds most alluring."


Charles settled back, hands moving lazily across Caroline's body, studying her expressions. Truth to tell, there were times when he felt he could do this indefinitely, with no greater end in sight. Charles loved women, worshipped them even, and he was as devoted to and fervent in the practice of his religion as any Jesuit.


Which makes her expressions...my Bible? Hah. As a metaphor, this needs considerable work before I air it for public consumption.


Of course, her lips looked particularly inviting as well and Charles moved languidly to reclaim them for a long, slow-burning kiss. He held it until he began to feel his own breath grow short before moving back.


"But yes, I simply must visit at some point during the season." Another smirk. "I was right, incidentally- you do look ravishing breathless"

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Caroline smiled, going along with the joking banter, "I would as soon not ever have to chat with the Tower guards, thank you, be they good fellows or not."


He wanted to know about her wine cellar, that was easy to answer, "Well, I have not only some very good wine but also harder liquors too. Brandy, whiskey, so you could have some pleasant choices facing you."


While she talked, he had not stopped using his hands to explore her body. She liked the sensations of it and hoped she was meeting expectations. It was always a concern of hers that her small breasts would not pass muster but there was little she could do about it. She consoled herself that she was still young and would in the future more fully bloom. Her mother had never been very impressive in that way either.


And then he was back close once more for another fervent kiss which she returned with youthful enthusiasm even if she did lack in experience. He then agreed to visit her residence. Excellent! She beamed at both his acceptance and compliment.


"You charm me with both your words and your deeds, Lord Audley, how can I not but be breathless in your embrace. I can only wait in anticipation for us to continue on this path again and not inside a bouncing coach on a cold winter night."


She meant every word, she felt she just had to have another chance with the man in more conducive conditions than what they now found themselves in. And then there was the time element too, they should be arriving at the theatre very soon where they would each have to go their own ways, her to perform and him to be one of the audience. Yet another reason for her to play her very best this evening.

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"Brandy, wine and whiskey? My lady lays a veritable bounty of prospective delights before me."


The innuendo slid teasingly from his lips, impish mischief dancing in the words. His head lolled back, hands stilling. Contentment was a strange feeling for Charles- his emotions were fierce, active things as a rule, spurring him ever onward. Yet he could think of no other word.


Perhaps I grow old and youthful fires begin to gutter out?


That was a thought so hilarious that Charles barely managed to swallow his laughter and return his attention to Caroline's words. Her shameless flattery brought a self-satisfied smirk to his lips. He gave her a smoky look and reached out to tap her lightly on the tip of the nose.


"Keep talking like that Hippolyta, and you're going to get us both in trouble." He waggled his eyebrows. "Not that you need necessarily stop. Just know the likely consequences should you continue."


See? Still young enough to be supremely susceptible. Not that I'm going to despoil her in a coach. Would I even have time?


Prompted by scientific curiosity Charles reached down and fished out his pocket watch before clucking his tongue in disapproval.


Likely not even enough for a proper prelude.


"Good Lord. Regrettably, it would seem that we needs must begin making ourselves presentable. Can't be far from the theatre."

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"Yes I can promise you I will....oh, you mean the drinks?" Caroline laughed a bit, "Well, those too. It will warm us up."


He named her Hippolyta again. She silently vowed she must find out more about this ancient Greek, least she thought that's where it came from.


"Trouble? Is that what it's called? I prefer to think of it differently, in a more positive fashion. Yes, I would call it entertainment," she grinned, getting bolder by the moment. Sadly the moment was going to be fleeting though as they were almost at the theatre. He must have thought the same as he now checked his pocket watch and confirmed her own thoughts. For now at least, the fun was over.


"Very well, I really do have to look such for the opera," she suddenly quickly gave a playful kiss on the very tip of his nose and then sat back to work on rearranging every fold and contour of her dress. As she did so she looked at him, "Now as a noble I expect you to keep your word you will come and see me at my residence and very soon at that. Why we have barely become acquainted."

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"Minx." His eye glinted as he laughed delightedly. "Were I a moral man I'd turn you over my knee."


As an immoral man, I'd still do it, but you would have to ask first.

Charles hummed merrily as he reordered his appearance, a simple task made complex by his foppish tendencies. Tiny, almost insignificant, adjustments to the fit of frock coat and waistcoat and a nigh imperceptible alteration to the knot of his cravat met with a firm nod of approval. Then a swift survey of face and neck with the mirror in his snuffbox, seeking sign of any love bites he might have missed in the heat of the moment. There were none. Satisfied, he offered Caroline the mirror and sat back in his seat to watch her. A thought struck him.


"My word is given and I am firm in my intentions to... continue where we left off. That said, it would make matters simpler if you would tell me your address. Unless, of course, my lady seeks me to prove my devotion by scouring London for her." A quick flash of his teeth. "Would it be cheating to call out the regiment in that case?"


The coach was slowing, doubtless drawing near to the theatre.



(OOC: Wrap up?)

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"Oh dear, a spanking? I have not had one of those since father took me over his knee. Do you always have this weapon in your arsenal to charm the ladies?" she teased him.


After using it himself, the fellow kindly let her use his small mirror. She checked her hair and then her face, her cheeks were reddened and not really from the winter cold she assumed. But nothing was amiss, she handed it back to him with a quick polite thank you. He now asked for her residential address, a most reasonable and indeed necessary request for a further meeting of the pair.


"No, leave the regiment in barracks, I have no wish to be visited by a detachment of soldiery. I only have my heart set on one in particular, you," she answered then added the asked for information, "I live on 43 Pickadilly Street. You cannot miss it, there are statues of naughty nymphs frolicking about outside. Only one nymph within though and she is definitely not a statue."


"They tell me the past owner had many libertine parties there, fascinating, no?" she smiled.


She was just about to tell him about her own upcoming party when the coach lurched to a halt. They had arrived at the theatre. She would make certain he found out about her party later for she definitely wanted him to come. Like her mother more than once declared, "Nothing like a soldier!"


ooc: Ok, wrapped on my end. Up to you if you wish to add your own ending.

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"43 Piccadilly, frolicking nymphs inside and out, no need for the regiment. Very well. I shall call upon you as soon as duty permits."


Duty was likely to permit such very soon. Charles wasn't certain his colonel had the faintest hint of his presence in London yet.


I should perhaps rectify that.


The coach halted and Charles dismissed the thought, throwing open the door and stepping out to help Caroline with her descent before carefully passing out her cello. He pressed a swift kiss to her hand as they made their farewells and tarried a moment to watch her departure.


A polite cough drew him from his pleasant reverie and he looked up to find Wodehouse already seated in the coach, his eyebrows arched in silent question. Charles cheerfully ignored him and turned to give the driver his instructions.


"Back to St. Marks. And have a care. Strike many more bumps and I'll have your back in stripes."


The earl settled himself in and began to whistle merrily.


A most pleasurable interlude.



(OOC: Et fin. Thank you for a most enjoyable thread.)

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