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Of Nymphs and Carriages (After the Ball, Sat. 25th)- Xmas 1677

Charles Audley

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The night air was wonderfully invigorating, and Charles was almost sorry to lose it as he helped Caroline into the coach. He paused for a moment to give the driver his instructions before settling himself down in the seat beside her. He still held her hand but made no other move than that. It was important not her, after all. He flashed her a quick grin.


"Let us hope this driver is somewhat more competent than the last, hmm?"

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It was quite cold out, but then it was Christmas season so what could one expect. Caroline tolerated the weather but much preferred any of the other three seasons of the year to winter. Still, it could be worse, she could live in Scotland to the north, a depressing thought. So she put it out of her mind then, to concentrate on the reality of the present and her immediate company, Lord Audley.


She entered the coach first of course, with a gentleman's assist by Charles, then sat and waited til he joined her within the coach, smiling at him. His sudden grin amused her. Now as to his comment she was quick to reply.


"Oh indeed. That was well on the way to being one of the worst nights of my life and on the evening of a vital event in my life too. But then you came along to save me. My music is very important to me and I would have been crushed to have missed the opera, I assure you."


"My very own gallant soldier charging to my rescue. How dashing!"

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"Well, I couldn't just pass by a lady in distress and retain any claim to being a gentleman, now, could I? And you looked so magnificently angry, which made the whole thing more intriguing. Most women don't have that sort of spirit." Charles smiled. "Besides, I was amply rewarded for my efforts, as I recall."


As he spoke, he fished out his hip flask, recently refilled with pilfered brandy from the ball, and offered it to Caroline.


"Might warm us up a little," he explained, stretching his legs out.


It is a relief to get the weight off my feet. Must be getting old.


Dismissing the thought, he smiled at Caroline again.


"It was an excellent performance, by the way. Lady Toledo will get most of the plaudits, I fear, but the orchestra was superb."

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Charles declared that him being a gentleman he could hardly have not aided her in her plight that evening but then complimented her on the fire of her temper. Now that was something she had never drawn positives before but it was most welcome.


"Why thank you! I always thought fury suited me but my parents disagreed as have most others. You have discerning taste, sir," Caroline beamed.


Producing a flask he offered her it. She was quite certain he did not have water in it....well, thankfully for who wanted that stuff. She nodded and took it.


"Thank you."


Tossing down a generous gulp, she handed it back to him, "That should keep me toasty for a bit then until we get back to my place."


Discussing the opera that night he was again complimentary, rightly pointing out though that Sophia was the hit of the night yet kindly acknowledging the orchestra's performance.


"Yes I agree, we did hit every note, better than we did in any one of our practices. I imagine even Master Cole was surprised how we melded. And let us be blunt, Lady Toledo - for all her wonderful singing and she is talented - won the attention and acclaim at least of the menfolk for her ample bosom in teasing display," Caroline huffed.

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Charles smiled at Caroline's obvious delight with his compliment.


"It is evidence of a passionate nature," he said of her temper, "and passion is attractive. Besides, I've always admired spirited women. They're so much more fun than the milk-blooded wallflowers who can manage no more than reciting polite platitudes. No, give me a lady with some fire in her. I'd rather be burned than bored."


He smiled again as Caroline considerably reduced the level of liquor in his flask. Her capacity fir alcohol was quite impressive, particularly in light of her slender frame.


"You drink like a soldier," he observed lightly as he accepted the flask back. He took a draught himself and shook his head as a thought struck him.


"I just realised that I missed out on a perfect opportunity to suggest that we huddle together for warmth." He heaved a mock sigh and waggled his eyebrows.


Charles made himself comfortable in his seat and hid a wince as the conversation mixed on to Lady Toledo and her overly endowed bosom. This was potentially thorny ground- Charles was long enough in the tooth to recognise the risks inherent in discussing one woman with another, even in such an incidental manner as this.


"An unfortunate weakness of my sex," he allowed, "but not one that diminishes the scale of her achievement, or of yours. Those who know enough for their opinions to matter were not distracted, and they will recognise the talent of the orchestra as well as the singer."

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Charles assured her that he liked women with some fire, some personality to them. Caroline was glad of it, because the young lady had always been outgoing and blunt in her speech and opinions. That passion could spill over to violence if angered, but she did not bring up that topic.


"That is music to my ears then for anyone who has known me has never used the word 'boring' in their description of me. I certainly have taken my share of criticism but no, not boring," she declared with confidence.


She took a healthy swig of the offered flask and passed it back to him, barely blinking an eye. She was feeling a bit light headed by now though even given her tolerance for alcohol and experience with it's consumption.


"I take that as a compliment, being my father was a soldier though in truth I think I take after my mother more than him. And she could drink him under the table I will have you know," Caroline laughed at the memories.


Suddenly he realized he had failed to consider they could do something about the winter chill even in the coach. Caroline nodded and took action.


"A fine idea, I approve!" she declared as she promptly stood up just long enough to turn about and plop down as close to the man as she could get without being on his lap....though that was a thought too?


"There, much better!"


The conversation moved back to the opera that night they met, Caroline showing her blunt nature crediting Sophia's bosom for much of the male audience's enthusiasm for the performance. At least he admitted it was common enough amongst menfolk but tried to be nice and praise the musicians also. She appreciated it even if she had her suspicions he was not exactly being sincere about it.


"Well....it is fortunate I like Sophia...we have become friends or I would be jealous of her," she shrugged.


"Oh...does your coachman know where I live? I would hate to have him lost and we spend the rest of the night bouncing about in this coach. Would we not be so much more comfortable in my study next to the fire? Or in my bedroom in a nice warm bed?" at this point in the night she was not much for subtlety as she grinned up at him.

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"That is an unfortunate consequence of being interesting," Charles said, hand moving in an airy gesture. "It intimidates the boring."


He shook his head and smiled as Caroline sank a considerable measure of brandy. He did not think it would ever cease to surprise him, seeing her put away liquor like a thirsty sailor.


"It was meant as one," he said lightly, before bursting into laughter at her follow up. "I can well believe it, if you take after her."


He watched appreciatively as Caroline re-positioned herself.


"Oh, much, much better," he agreed, cinching an arm around her waist. "I'm warming up already."


The conversation moved to the uncertain ground of Sophia and her impressive bosom. Charles managed to navigate it safely, if perhaps not so adroitly as he would have liked. (Caroline was not the only one approaching the limits of their capacity.) He swallowed a sigh of relief and smiled.


"Oh? You met through the opera, I suppose, or did you know each other before hand?"


He nodded in answer to her question, eye shining at her suggestions.


"He has his instructions. Traffic is likely snarled around the palace, but once we're through that it shouldn't take much longer." His smile sharpened. "And then we can make ourselves as comfortable as we please."

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"Indeed? Interesting...though I hardly think of myself as intimidating?" Caroline pondered his observation.


"Well at least not to a valiant soldier such as yourself, frightened of a mere girl," she grinned.


For just an instant, she realized though given the right circumstance and something dangerous in her grip, she could indeed be even more than intimidating, she could be deadly as her now buried husband found out that awful day.


Caroline wasted no time at his mere hint of sharing body warmth but jumped into his lap with obvious zest. He certainly did not mind as she knew he wouldn't. The conversation then touched on the opera night and Sophia's performance both with her voice and her breasts. He was diplomatic. He did ask how she had met Sophia.


"No, we knew each other before that. We were introduced in court, she really is quite friendly and open. If she were not, I probably would dislike her intensely but then that would be jealousy speaking. But no, we are friends," Caroline answered honestly.


As to her concern the coachman might not find his way to her residence, Audley assured her that was not the case and it turned out he was right. They made good time on the streets once they cleared the crowd of departing traffic from the ball as it was very late and few London folk were up at this time anymore. Soon enough the coach came to a lurching halt in the driveway leading to the house's side entrance. Even thru the darkness, what with the moonlight and white snow blanketing the yard, the assorted cavorting nymph statues seemed to be waiting to greet them. Caroline still hadn't made up her mind if they were creepy or endearing, but eventually she figured she would get used to them. One thing was for certain, they did mark her property out quite distinctly in the neighborhood. They were unique to it, even as she felt she was.

There had been a few kisses as they rode entwined in each others arms but now Caroline turned her head to peer out of the window.


"Ahh, we have arrived. If my servant has not already got the fireplace going in my bedroom, I shall use him for kindling," she grinned at Charles.

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"Perhaps not, but that coachman looked fairly cowed I thought." His eye twinkled as he matched her grin.


She really was a marvel, Charles thought to himself as Caroline plopped herself into his lap. His arms wrapped around her waist, drawing her in close. She made for a wonderfully comfortable weight on his lap. Idly, one of his hands started to slowly stroke at her hip as they talked.


Charles could not say how long the journey to Caroline's house took. He was rather more concerned with the delectable little bundle in his arms. She had proved a rather apt pupil the last time they had shared a carriage and was equally so now. Indeed, he didn't notice the carriage coming to stop, merely taking advantage of Caroline turning her head to nuzzle at her neck. It was only when she spoke that he realised their trip was at an end.


"Hmm?" He blinked distractedly. "Oh. Can't say I recommend using people as kindling. They don't catch properly."


He followed her gaze out the window, admiring the rather picturesque tableau the nymphs presented in the snow and moonlight. Unlike Caroline, Charles was in no doubt that he liked the statues. But he had a warmer nymph closer to hand and, not without a deal of regret, Charles gently lifted her from his lap.


"Well, let us head in and see if your servant needs burning, shall we?"


Smoothly, Charles stood and left the carriage, turning to help Caroline descend.

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Caroline loved his constant witty comebacks to her jokes, he was so much fun to banter with such as their whimsical conversation about her ruling the Barbary coast and him being her Minister of Evil or whatever she had teasingly called him. She felt she could be completely at ease around this one unlike some nobility.


As they then exited the coach, Caroline primly pointed out, "Well, just so you know, I have never actually burned anyone.....alive."


It was her own very dark joke, one that she did not expect him to comprehend in full of course.


There were just a few lights burning within her household, the night of her party she would have to light up the whole place she suddenly realized. Immediately she thought about perhaps needing to also hire a doorman to open coach doors for the arriving guests. Was that even needed? No, she would use her Irish bodyguard for that mundane task. Not like she needed protection within a crowded house of her own friends and acquaintances.


As they walked to the door, she raising the hem of her gown to keep it out of the light coating of snow on the walkway, she suddenly asked him, "Say, you fought on the continent did you not? What think you of the Irish as soldiers? My father once told me you could never trust them between the battles but could rely on them during one."


Unlike the vast majority of women, Caroline never had any problem discussing military topics, in that way she was the product of a soldier's family.

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Charles laughed.


"It's a quite a hassle. The neighbours always complain about the noise."


Walking to the door, he noticed Caroline holding her skirts up.


"I could carry you in if you like," he offered, laughter bubbling up in his voice and merriment (and the slightest hint of inebriation) shining in his eye.


Her sudden (and, as far as he could see, unprompted) question had him blinking in surprise.


"The Irish? Well, your father was right. They're undisciplined, lazy, insubordinate drunken thieves, who as often as not don't or won't speak any civilised tongue... but they fight like the very devil."


He cocked his head.


"Might I ask what prompted the question?"

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Again his droll response to her black humor elicited a genuine laugh on Caroline's part. Well that and the steady intake of alcohol was finally having a bit of effect on the petite young lady. That did not mean though she was ready to stop partaking of liquid refreshment once they got inside. She already was considering which wine bottle she should request be brought to her room.


She brought up the Irish completely out of the blue, least to her guest and he then said pretty much the same sort of thing her father had about them, leastwise as soldiers. Suddenly she found herself thinking her father would probably approve of this Audley fellow, afterall they were both veteran soldiers. Charles was much funnier though.


"Oh I'm sorry, I just was curious because you see....I have an Irishman of my own," she paused then at the side door and used it's knocker. It was night and the residence was wisely locked for safety sake.


"Oh dear, that sounds like a pet ...or worse, a slave. No, I hired one to be my bodyguard what with the city being filled with angry mobs last season all out to take out their war fever on any even vaguely non-English they could find," she stated with a bit of exaggeration but it was certainly how she had felt back then.


"He was a veteran of the continental wars....told me he carried a pike on many a campaign and he looked rough enough that I believe him. He has proven quite useful....plus he's cheap," she grinned.


There was the flickering of light in the side window, no doubt her servant coming to open the door whilst carrying a candle.

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Charles would have howled with laughter had he known the direction of Caroline's thoughts. Having a paramour's father approve of him would be something of a novel experience.


He nodded as she explained the basis for her question.


"An entirely sensible precaution, based on what I've heard," he agreed. "The mob is a many-headed beast, all of them empty of reason and easily manipulated. But this would be the fellow with you the other day? I thought he looked like a soldier." A smile curved his lips. "Just keep a close eye on the silver. And your liquor. Oh, and make sure his pay comes on time."


Idly, he leaned against the wall as they waited for the door to open.

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"Yes, that was him. I do admit I have already grown fond of the fellow. He has come in handy once too. I was walking and came upon, of all things, a blackhearted thug accosting another woman who had mistakenly blundered onto the scene of a robbery. The thug's victim was lying in the alley, he had been stabbed. Well, the man's boldness had no end to it, he then threatened me with a knife!" Caroline hoped the tale she related was as exciting sounding as it had been to her that time but then Audley was a veteran soldier so probably not.


"I called upon my trusty Irishman and he did not hesitate, drawing his sword he leapt to my defense and the murderous thief no doubt did an immediate comparision of his small blade and the long sword he was then facing. I tell you it was actually quite funny to see how fast he spun about and raced away. Though actually I would have liked to have seen him run thru. Sadly the man he had stabbed and robbed had expired. The other woman was unharmed though speechless and in shock."


"I had only been in London a few days when that occurred," she added.


Just then the door opened and her maid was on the other end of the door, "Sorry m'lady, I was upstairs."


"No matter. As you can see, I have company. A gallant gentleman who escorted me home. I would like you to fetch a bottle of wine that I may thank him with refreshment. Make it one of my French wines, a good one too," she ordered. That was more for Charles' sake, she never bought cheap wine.


Caroline entered then stopped until her guest joined her within, "Oh, and then you can go to bed. I will have no further need of you."


"Yes, m'lady," the maid nodded and scooted off to do as bid.


"My humble home, I'm certain you have been in nicer but I am rather pleased with it. Actually my dead husband bought it before we were even married or more likely his father did. The twit could do very little on his own. Our fathers arranged the marriage," she wanted Audley to know she had had no part in that disaster. Well, except for ending it.

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"A hard man is good to find," Charles agreed, frowning slightly, "particularly when the mob are seething with disquiet. A rude enough welcome to the city, though."


He did not bother to ask whether anything had come of the unsavoury incident. There were dozens like it every week, and damn near nothing to do about it. Very little will to do anything about it either, he imagined, so long as the problem did not grow so as to threaten the flow of commerce.


Charles would never say or do anything to show it but he was most glad when Caroline's maid at last opened the door. The cold was beginning to grow... vexatious. He nodded absently at the girl, just to be polite, and smiled widely at Caroline's instructions on the wine. It would likely be lost on him- Charles knew just enough about the stuff to bluff his way through a brief conversation with a real enthusiast- but he would never turn down a drink while still able to stand. (He assumed he would not turn one down after falling over as well, but no one had ever thought to offer under such circumstances and so he could not be sure.)


He glanced about the hall as Caroline welcomed him in.


"Honestly, I rather prefer these cosier establishments- so much more intimate, don't you think?"


He offered a sympathetic nod as Caroline brought up her marriage, but said nothing. That was the way of things, and there was nothing to be done about it.


"Well, whichever of them it was made a decent choice I think. It is well-situated. But enough of that. We have happier thoughts to concern ourselves with, no?"

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Charles had twisted the old saying but he'd done so with purpose and Caroline smiled in appreciation, "Yes, my Irishman I call him. I shall keep him." It sounded almost like she was commenting on a prized hound. Indeed both had their uses.


As she led him thru the first floor of the residence, she commented that while it certainly did not approach the splendor of some powerful lord's estate, she liked it. He agreed, mayhaps just to please her but no matter either way. They were not here for residential architecture.


"Yes, I think you will find my bedroom with it's warm fire quite intimate," she nodded, as she began to remove her winter coat. There were a few hooks on the wall at the foot of the staircase but she missed her attempt and the coat fell to the floor. She either did not notice or in her current state did not care. Besides that is what one employed household servants for.

She now led him up the carpeted steps.


"Yes, of course! Tonight....the ball, the coach ride, and now my home - all of this is about having a good time, enjoying the season, and each other, right?" she confidently declared.


"Did you know I talked to the King tonight? Only for a moment but he smiled at me. And I already know Buckingham, he was with His Majesty. What about you, my lord, did you meet anyone interesting this night? Any who impressed you? Or for that matter, who you did not care for?"


Listening to his take on things was always interesting and frequently humorous which was why Caroline asked.

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Charles smiled at the nigh-blatant innuendo. Caroline was every bit as subtle as he was, which was to say not at all. He had always rather appreciated that sort of directness. All too many women preferred to play the innocent or the tease all the way to bed, which was its own sort of fun, of course, but tended to become exhausting rather quickly.


Following her up the steps, he paused to hang up his coat and then stooped to do the same with hers. No one had ever accused Charles of being fussy, at least not to his face, but he would freely admit to bouts of fastidiousness.


"I would argue that every night, and every day for that matter, is about having a good time," he told her, lips twisting in a roguish grin. "But tell me more of your plans for us to enjoy each other."


He cocked his head as Caroline revealed what exalted company she had been keeping. It was, his vaguely inebriated mind decided, following a torturous chain of logic, vaguely flattering to be grouped, however loosely, with the King and Buckingham.


"You move in lofty circles, Hippolyta. You must be the envy of every lady who attended. As for my own company..." he shrugged. "I met the Toledos. Lady Sophia is... gregarious, I think, is the word I want, and she undoubtedly has presence. His Excellency, meanwhile, is very controlled. Self-contained."


Charles offered no commentary as to whether or not this was a desirable quality.


"Then there was Mistress Dwight, whose head is so full of air it is a constant wonder to me that she treads the ground rather float along. She will doubtless make a wonderful wife for some undeservedly lucky rake. After her was Juliana von Hesse-Eschwege. A princess, she claims, and it might be true. The Germans have more princes than Rome has crucifixes and one cannot be expected to keep track of them all. A charmingly forthright lady, in any case."


I rather expect you two shall be great friends, or one of you will kill the other.


Charles laughed suddenly.


"If I am honest, though, the one who impressed me most tonight was young Ashburnham. I very much doubt I would have shown as much grace as he did at his age."

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His contention every day and night should be about having a good time was not one Caroline would particularly disagree with, "Well said, good sir!"


"Tonight? Well, I thought we could spend the night in my room, by my toasty warm fire, drinking my best wine, in my bed. We can talk about whatever entertains us....and do anything else you might think entertaining....I believe you to be well practiced in such?"


She really had no illusions about the man, he did this sort of thing with other women all the time she would be willing to wager her estate she was so certain of it. She was nothing special to him, she wouldn't flatter herself. But honestly she was alright with that. It's not like she was any better. Oh she liked him, she truly enjoyed his company but anything long term, now that was whimsy and she did not engage in whimsy. Her marriage crushed any whimsy out of her.


They talked of who they had seen at the ball, she could not help but brag a bit about her brief exchange with the King himself. He mentioned Sophia and how he was duly impressed. Caroline nodded in agreement to his opinion Sophia was gregarious. Now when he mentioned she had a 'presence' about her, Caroline giggled.


"You mean she has impressive tits, it was one ...or should I say two ...of the reasons she was such a big hit at the opera," the girl smirked, the alcohol loosening her sense of decorum. That said, she did truly like Sophia and the girl could sing like an angel.


"Ahh, her Spanish husband, I have yet to meet him but then he is a Spaniard so I have no desire to either. I share my father's dislike....no, make that disdain....no, make that detestation of Hapsburgs," she smiled as they now reached her bedroom and she opened the door.


Caroline had to laugh at Charles' description of this Dwight woman, whom she actually did not know. And then some German princess. Caroline only rolled her eyes, seldom impressed with Germans (Sophia excepted).


"Yes....Germans, did you know in the Sun King's court they call them 'caterpillars'?" she informed him with some amusement.


Finally he mentioned young Ashburnham, Caroline stepped into the bedroom then, one could instantly feel warmer from the effect of the fireplace. It actually felt good on this cold winter evening. She let him enter but kept the door open for her maid would be coming very soon with the bottle of wine.


"Yes, indeed! I heartily agree with you. I danced with Ashburnham. Handsome of course...and very charming. And...he is a part of His Majesty's circle I suppose you know?"

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Charles shrugged in faux modesty in answer to Caroline's question.


"I have had my share of experience, yes."


God, I love uncomplicated women.


He snorted at her jab.


"I mean that she is likeable. But yes, she is prodigiously endowed. Almost overly so, in fact, given her height. Much larger and it would border on comic."


Even for him that was blunt. He decided to blame the alcohol, conveniently forgetting his earlier attitude to such excuses.


"I cannot say that you are missing much in not knowing Lord Toledo either. Quite apart from being a Spaniard, he strikes me as...dry."


He laughed aloud at her opinion on Germans. He could not imagine anyone less caterpillar like than Juliana, but even now retained enough sense to let that pass unsaid.


Killing each other it is then.


"I have heard the term, yes," he offered instead, "but sadly have never met a German butterfly. They must exist, surely."


The fire was more than welcome and Charles moved to warm his hands. He could not make at Caroline properly until the maid had delivered the wine and departed and so decided to prepare fir that happy moment. Cold hands were damnably unpleasant.


"He's pretty enough, I suppose," he agreed of Ashburnham, "and polite too. I'd heard he has some connection to the King as well. A useful young man for a young woman to know on the whole, I would think. Have you invited him to your party?"

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"Well if you feel that way, then I can assure you that you won't find me comic...or rather I mean my tits," Caroline chuckled.


As for his opinion on Sophia's Spaniard husband, she added to his view, "Dry? Don't you mean 'boring'?"


That's what happens with arranged marriages. Yes, it was how society worked but she simply could not put much credence in them. Was she bitter, of course she was. But...not tonight.


"German butterfly? Hmmm, me either. But then I try not mingle with Germans...Sophia excepted," she replied.


Next topic was someone they had both met, Master Ashburnham. She found it interesting he seemed to like the young man also. His question about him gave her pause as she honestly had to try and remember. She had imbibed quite a bit this long evening.


"Well....you know what? I'll be damned if I can even remember if I did or not? Oh well, we will see if he shows up or not," she shrugged.


"Ahhh!" Caroline smiled at the appearance in the entryway of her maid carrying a tray with a bottle of opened wine and two crystal glasses.


If the maid thought this whole scene more than a little unbecoming there was no indication of that on the placid expression on her face, "Here you are, my lady."


She silently moved past the man at the fire and set the tray down on the small bedside table.


"Anything else, my lady?"


"No, thank you. You are now dismissed for the night. I shall see you on the morrow," Caroline answered.


"It already is," the maid somewhat impertinently stated.


"Well, then you need not come til midday...go," Caroline waved her off and the servant properly made herself scarce.


Caroline turned to Charles, "We now have enough wine but too much clothing. Would you be willing to assist me out of this thing." She turned her back to him.

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Charles snorted.


"You have a slender, petite figure, and you wear it beautifully. I have no complaints."


He snorted again at Caroline's opinion of Toledo.


"I do," he agreed dryly. "I was merely attempting to be polite. An almost singularly passionless fellow when the topic is anything but his country."


He shook his head as the topic turned to the general charmlessness of Germans.


"You know, I'd quite forgotten Lady Toledo was German. She qualifies as a butterfly, I think."


He mirrored her shrug concerning Ashburnham.


"I rather hope he does. I should like to talk with him properly."


The young man struck him as likely to know a great deal of the scandal of court. Of course, he was probably discreet, but Charles fancied his chances of drawing something interesting out of him, given the chance.


He mostly ignored the maid when she entered, focusing on the flames. (He did have to disguise a laugh with a cough at her cheeky comment to Caroline.) Smirking cheerfully, he turned to Caroline only to find himself preempted. He laughed warmly.


"Why, I should be absolutely delighted Hippolyta."


He stepped across the room and set his fingers to work. They were perhaps not so nimble as usual but practice went a long way and he swiftly loosened her stays, stooping to kiss at the bared skin of her shoulder before continuing.

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  • 2 weeks later...

He wisely complimented her Caroline noted with satisfaction. Who did not enjoy being complimented afterall.


"Thank you, you are most kind."


They spent a bit more time discussing various foreigners and their nations, it was apparent Caroline was a bit of a xenophobe. That conversation ended when the maid came with the tray and their alcohol. The maid was promptly dismissed for the remainder of the night. They would be alone. Caroline figured that was exactly as both of them wanted it.


She then turned her back to the man, asking for help with getting out of the ball gown. He needed no further encouragement as he moved to deftly work on the lacings. Like she had any doubts this was his first time getting a lady out of her dress. Charles also managed to add a soft kiss upon her bared shoulder eliciting an unseen smile from the girl.


"Ahh, you know my maid never adds that little touch," she joked.


Once he was finished, she could handle the rest on her own then, thanking him, she then proceeded to struggle out of the garment. Normally she would have done it a bit more elegantly but the alcohol had something to do with her performance. She almost fell.


"Oh my, clumsy of me."

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Charles shrugged and smiled.


"There is precious little kindness in simply speaking the truth," he said lightly, playing it off modestly. He always enjoyed being called kind, even in jest. It was not a quality he ever associated with himself.


The rest of the conversation passed pleasantly as they marked time until the maid had been and gone, and they could become more... intimate. Caroline wasted no time in taking advantage, insisting that they disrobe at once. Charles had no objections, gladly stepping up to help her out of her dress. He could not resist kissing her shoulder, and laughed at Caroline's ensuing little jest.


"It is difficult to find good help these days," he agreed, laughter still bubbling in his voice. "I shall endeavour to repair the neglect you have suffered." He kissed her other shoulder and resumed his task.


He reached out to steady Caroline as she overbalanced, swallowing an instinctive snort of amusement- he was somewhat inebriated himself, and well familiar with Sod's Law besides.


"Understandable, given the night that is in it," Charles assured her. "Perhaps if we remove your shoes first? Here, let me. I'm rather enjoying undressing you," he confided with a grin as he knelt.

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Charles made a point, the truth at times was anything but kind, she realized that also. That still did not mean she absolutely believed his compliment was sincere but no matter, she appreciated it nonetheless. As to her quip about her maid's service, his return joke was that much better and Caroline could not help but laugh.


"An honest man and a funny one too, a good combination. My despicable husband was neither," she informed him as he kissed her other shoulder then.


Fortunately, though both had imbibed rather a lot that evening, he was alert enough to catch her when she nearly fell extracting her legs from the ball gown pooled onto the floor.


"Ah, again the heroic soldier to the rescue, thank you," she was sure to reward him with both gratitude and a kiss on his cheek. Once more he offered his assistance, obviously needed.


"Shoes? Oh...yes, of course! Shan't be needing those where we're going will we?" Caroline plopped down then on the side of the bed and let him go to work. As he went about the task, she studied him and even ran one hand thru his locks of hair.


"I know we established earlier we are both irredeemable thus meriting our offices of Barbary Queen and Minister of Evil....but tell me if you dare...what was the worst thing you have ever done in your life? It shall not leave this room, you have my word on that."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Charles made short work of Caroline's shoes but remained kneeling, idly walking his fingers up her stocking-clad legs to massage her calves. He was pleasantly drunk by this stage, enveloped in the soothing fog of inebriation, and preened under her attentions.


Long hair was one of my best decisions.


That warm complacency dissolved somewhat as Caroline asked her question. His head cocked quizzically. It seemed a strange inquiry to him. And a potentially troublesome one- Charles himself felt no regret or shame over anything he had done, but he recognised that this was a minority opinion.


Why do women never ask these questions when I am in a fit state to lie convincingly?


"Well, I did once most churlishly abandon a fair damsel at a theatre," he temporised with a laugh and a waggle of his eyebrows, before shrugging. "In all seriousness, though... I have committed the usual sins of a man of my class and vocation, I suppose, if in unusual number and with uncommon relish and enthusiasm. The worst... well, when I was sixteen I duelled a Fellow of Oxford. He was old and fat and could not tell one end of a blade from the other, and I killed him regardless, because he had irked me and because I could."


That was mostly true, but Charles had been dissatisfied with that outcome of the duel simply because he had not actually intended to kill the other man. The fact that his first murder had been an accident was vaguely upsetting. Charles took great pride in the fact his transgressions had been entered into willingly and knowingly, and it stung to know that pride was partially based on a lie.

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Her shoes removed, he hesitated at removing her stockings.


"Go ahead, you are doing so well, why stop now?" she egged him on.


While this was going on almost on a whim Caroline asked him a rather serious question. He seemed to puzzle on it, or mayhaps that she would even ask such a thing, but he did not disappoint her then, showing his talent with a quip.


"Ah yes! And I will never let you forget it too," she giggled, she had actually forgiven him because he was simply too much fun to remain angry with.


He did add a much more serious answer though and admitted he killed a man though in a duel. Caroline nodded.


"Well, you were young....and no doubt eager to prove yourself as most young men are. And if he could not back it up, the man had no business agreeing to a duel in the first place," she obviously did not have much sympathy for the deceased fellow. Of course she didn't even know the man and frankly, didn't care enough to ask who he was. But she couldn't let go of the topic quite yet.


"Killing someone in a fight can never really be a murder then?' she voiced it with the tone of a question rather than statement.

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"Why indeed?" Charles agreed, hands moving slowly up to stroke soft circles on the inner slopes of Caroline's thighs before undoing her stockings. He lowered them without haste, leaning in to gently kiss each bared foot in turn.


The philosophical turn of their conversation temporarily put paid to such, Charles nodding along with Caroline's conclusions.


"You are right, I suppose, but it... chafes me to know that I killed him, in the end, simply for annoying me."


He cocked his head as he considered her next question, pondering as well what prompted it.


"Generally speaking, no, it cannot. But that assumes a vaguely even fight, where all concerned are capable of defending themselves. In this case, he was more of a danger to himself than to me, and I could have ended it differently. That makes it much closer to murder." Charles shook himself and smiled.


"But I feel frightfully overdressed at the moment. Care to help me with that?"

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It was increasingly difficult to actually concentrate on the conversation between them given the way the man was undressing her, mixing it in with strategic touches and fine kisses, but while Caroline enjoyed all of it, the topic too interested her. And for reasons she could not dare reveal to this delightful rogue.


"In my court, dear sir, I find you innocent of ...well, at least that murder charge so fret no more on it," she announced, "I take into account in my verdict your obvious regret of your actions."


He then informed her that he felt a bit overdressed given the situation developing, a good point too. She nodded.


"Oh by all means, let me help you even as you helped me. Sit down on the bed then and let me start with those heavy boots....let us see what sort of man servant I might make, eh?" Caroline grinned as she practically shoved him onto the mattress, now looking down on the man.


As she began her first tugs, she added, "I can only tell you that the worst thing I ever did in my entire life I have not a bit of regret over it."


Now she decided she gained enough grasp of the heavy footwear to master it and gave a hard tug, the boot coming off alright but in her inebriated state she lost balance and flopped backward right onto the carpeted floor on her butt. Not injured though, she simply started laughing.

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Charles laughed heartily as Caroline pronounced her verdict, hands beginning to stroke back up her legs again.


"Oh? Are you sure you wouldn't rather name me some penance, hmm?" he teased lightly, eye twinkling with inebriated merriment.


Caroline seemed nearly as eager to have him out of his clothes as he was, and Charles allowed himself to be manhandled, answering her grin with one of his own and attacking his cravat as she set about his shoes.


"Only way to live," he agreed of her lack of regrets. "Only way to live."


Charles had just about mastered the knot of his cravat when Caroline overbalanced and crashed to the floor. His disrobing was temporarily put on hold. He leaned forward, joining in her laughter, and drew her up into his lap, arms cinching tight around her waist.


"Are you sure you're alright, or do you want me to kiss it better?"

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"Pennance? Pfffft, I've let you off scot free as they say," Caroline waved her hand in dismissal.


As she worked on his boots, he approved of her lack of regret, as she certainly figured he would. They made a compatible pair in some things. At the very least they weren't hypocrites unlike some folk. Right about that instant the petite young thing had succeeded in pulling off the first boot only to crash to the floor on her rump. It wasn't really painful just funny.


Audley managed to lean forward and help her off the floor whereupon she ended up in his lap. Ever the gallant one, he put himself forward volunteering to 'kiss it to make it better'. Her eyes lit up at that.


"Oh yes, come to think of it......I am somewhat injured. But nothing that a few kisses would not miraculously cure...if strategically placed upon where the damage occurred," she pronounced as solemnly as she could manage.


Now she fell on her backside of course but what did reality and facts matter by this point in this flirtatious farce.


"Strange but the fall.....why it hurt my tits," she raised one eyebrow and gave a Cheshire Cat grin.

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