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Let Us All Make Merry, Very Very Merry!- Xmas 1677

Caroline Despanay

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Nicolette accepted the Kings pseudonym from Francis with a grin and quirk of eyebrow - as she dropped a curtsy to the man in ruse.


"Rowley? Why I knew you looked familiar, you must be the one from row row row your boat. And I do love rowing, though it gets me so out of breath some times dont you find?" Teasing the royal, she remembered now how Francis had told her of the Kings secret outings mingling with the people, so this was one of those! What fun!


"I am hoping that teeth shall be used in the extraction," she murmured to Francis of her card placement, with inhalation of breath & swell of bosom to impress the point. "Which reminds me of my question, to where you have put yours...?" much harder to use teeth to take a card out of a pocket, but sure, she'd give it a try!


Buckingham was in a cheeky mood, teasing Ranelagh for a start. While her darling cheerfully laughed of it, it was not near beautiful enough a nickname as far as Nicolette was concerned.


"Well I am not sure Lord Ranelagh." It had been literally months since they had last spoke. She'd energetically kissed him, but then rushed off. He must know she liked him. How all the girls must. (And she'd not even factored in the male contenders for his 'love'.) "I wonder if you might be Master of Sunrise after a wonderful night. Mmm, but no, actually, Master Tomcat is probably right." With a twist of lips and tip of chin she looked to the rest (for laughs of approval she hoped.)


Nicolette knew her role was to impress His Majesty, not Ranelagh. Ranelagh was no doubt impressed quite enough with himself as it was. Or was he? She did peek back to him then; that gorgeous philanderer she'd one day wed. *Le swoon*

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"Mysteries are wondrous things." Archibald agreed, eyes scanning the denizens of the party. Caroline told him of her friend, a certain gentleman Kingston. "Oh, I had not met him yet." He gave an earnest smile at that; going to follow the dazzling Lady Kendishall to see this friend of hers.


He happened to be just a few steps away, a blonde haired young man. As Caroline and Francis shared a moment of jovial greeting, Archibald caught Kendishall's glance toward the royal procession, the status of whom he was not aware of.


Yet Caroline, and the french beauty Nicolette's attention seemed to zoom in and focus on these well dressed fellows from time to time, so he was certain they were of import. He would need to make acquaintances with them, he thought to himself.


Cracking his knuckles behind his back, he waited for Lady Kendishall to introduce him.

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"Are you hoping so?" he asked, leaning in and providing a little chomp in the air above her collarbone. "And how does one gain such an honour, oh Your Royal Misruleship?" He fluttered his blond lashes for good measure. "Why in my.....hat, unfortunately." He licked his lips and tipped his head at his uninventive storage. The plumes of said cavalier's hat might be promising for later, though.


He did not claim her attentions completely to himself, knowing his purpose was to endear her to his royal master and give her opportunities to show her wit and beauty.


Instead he turned his attention to the hostess of the party. He gave a friendly nod to the gentleman she brought with her as they approached. The face was unfamiliar though older than he by at least a decade. Whilst Francis might look as if he was barely of age, he was soon to be twenty-nine.


His look was soft and fond as she spoke and then he rolled his eyes. "You owe me naught. It is only perfectly pleasant when one's duties align with the interests of one's friends." He smiled again, "You are to be congratulated on the decor, and it smells divine."


Francis was very keen on food, though his agile form might not suggest a glutton. Being deprived of variety whilst captaining ships did leave some marks on you, and Francis truly enjoyed the decadence of proper meals on land, worthy of his station.


"My cousin has brought his friend Rowley with him. I think you shall remember him from His Grace's party..." Francis smirked in that playful sort of knowing way. He was not entirely sure if Caroline had known she was speaking with the King in the darkness of Buckingham's party. She would know now.


"And who is your friend," he segued right into her own company.

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Rowley, for his part, played his part. "That very Rowley!" He leaned down and said, "Though I am but a simple gentleman, I am of enough stature these days to have a rower for when I wish even if I never become breathless." He chuckled under his moustache.


Buckingham snorted. Rowley had whatever Rowley wanted in reality. And in unreality too for the most part.


"Master Tomcat! I approve," Rowley replied to her declaration. "And what of Bucks here?"


"The only time he sees sunrise is when he has not gone to sleep at all!" Ranelagh joked.


"That applies to you as well," Ashburnham pointed out to the Irish earl.


"Well I never said I was not in good company!" Ranelagh owned, shooting Nicolette a wink. "The Tomcat, though, he gets the whole town!"

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Archibald quickly admitted he had never met Kingston so that was going to have to accounted for then, Caroline waved him on to go with him as she approached her good friend and yes, mentor in many ways. Of course she gushed over the man though at least she meant it and Francis, as was his way, modestly deflected. Well, whether he admitted to it or not, he was so influential in her life since her arrival in London, she knew it for the truth.


"Why yes, thank you! I can't claim credit for the statues outside though I have gotten fond of them in their way. But I spent a lot of money to acquire a top notch French chef specifically for this repast. It better do more than smell good, it better taste exquisite!" she laughed.


Francis duly set her up for the necessary introduction of the gentleman at her side.


"Ahh, yes! This is Viscount Ware. And this magnificent fellow you see before you is Lord Kingston or as I like to tease him, Admiral," Caroline presented.


"The Viscount and I have just met tonight for you see he crashed the party, cheeky fellow. So now since Nicci and I caught him out, he must agree to enjoy himself and be entertaining lest I chastise him severely," she added with a grin.

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He gave a smile. "Ware, viscount, visware, warecount.. My name is Archibald. It's easier." The man chuckled, extending a hand to Kingston, who, he hoped, would also drop the formalities. This was a party hosted in the home of a renowned libertine, it was time to act like such. "My pleasure." He'd have said, then.


He did not fail to notice a certain Lord Basildon, his old acquaintance, showing up with a certain young lady. His eye lingered meaningfully for a moment before reverting back to Caroline and Francis.

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CR was marvellously tall, and with warm breath that smelt like a preparty drink. Had he ever tried Kingston's orange brandy? She knew where Caroline had hid the bottle, she could fetch him some. "La, I hope you do not outsource all of your exertions, there is nothing so satisfying as doing a job well." The girl teased Old Rowley with a glint in her eyes.


Nicolette could tell Lord Ranelagh liked her talk of sunrises, as he tossed about more talk in that vein, even winking as he bantered with Ashburnham. "But I can see you are getting your beauty sleep." Nicolette teased Ashburnham also, that young man who was eager to avoid attachments, probably not carousing till dawn with Ranelagh "Why sir, I must then dub you Master of the Sheets." ah irony, with a further glance at Richard. He had all the town did he? Oh he was terrible.


Then the patron of so many, Lord Buckingham, was pulled into the game of new titles.


“To Your Grace’s mischief title, Master weaver of courts tapestries might be one. Or, Master Fox for his cleverness. Though I have yet to attend one of his Fox Hunts, I cannot claim to not have hunted one.” She smiled sharing a moment with the Duke. Court was small enough that no doubt everyone there knew that Nicolette had set her eyes upon the Buckingham, from the first moment she’d seen him dance the French style so exquisitely she’d been attracted to him. Then at the last ball they had put on a little show upon the dance floor, for His Majesties benefit. Imagings of 'what if' was something the French girl still daydreamed of from time to time.


But George Villiers directed her elsewhere, and she, a lady who loved to love, happily complied.


“I wonder if our dear Rowley desires any other title…” Dark chocolate eyes turned to meet the Cavalier with a tip of her head and sultry smile. “… the one I wish to give you, is…” In an obviously familiar manner she slid her hand along his forearm, with apperance that she was to lean in to whisper, yet with timed restraint as she heard a familiar voice.


“Ah, my Cousin, he arrives.”


She hoped to have enticed CR’s curiosity - her eyes having slid past him, fragrance of lavender about her movement, a ruse of his loosing her focus, even while being so keenly aware of the force of his presence, her hand still upon his arm.

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Chatham & the Duchess...


Lord Camberwell noticed a man and a woman moving in his direction. One auburn brow rose just slight. A smirk formed on peach lips. Blue eyes did their best to look aloof as they came up.


A look of surprise was then allowed as they were introduced and Camberwell turned toward them more fully. He was of an average height for a man with shapely long legs.


"A pleasure, Lord Chatham, and my dear Duchess, do you forget me so quickly?" He had to bite the inside of one side of his lip to keep from smiling toothily. The resulting lop-sided smirk was still rather fitting.

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"It seems our hostess has decided I should be addressed as Admiral, so for her pleasure so shall I be." He shot Caroline a wink. He was no admiral at all, but perhaps one day he could be or a lord of the admiralty or something the like.


Francis' mind was not on Nicci handing out fake titles, if he had even realized that she was doing so at all. It was merely a response to Viscount Ware's desire for informality.


For some reason, he would feel it odd for someone he barely knew to call him Frank or Francis. That was more reserved for ladies he had slept with, well, and his family.


Francis noted the other man's eyes shift and followed them. Oh yes, Basildon. The man does make quite the figure. The earl was known for fine dress and jewels; an object of jealousy for some to be sure.


"And speaking of our Lady of Misrule, there is her cousin," Francis said. Though he was looking at Caroline, the question he next asked was for both, "Have you met Lord Basildon yet? I wonder what delight he had brought with him. It seems he has rejoined the ranks of the hedonists."


There had been talk that Basildon had left the ranks of libertines, but it seemed other things and other alliances had coaxed him back.

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Bridget clung to Louis' arm as they walked into the room, but that was the only sign of her nervousness. What if she was shunned tonight the way she had been at the ball? She could use some brandy herself, or any kind of liquor ... a bit of liquid confidence. Her gaze searched the faces of the people looking her way, hoping that she wouldn't see disapproval or disgust in their eyes.

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Chatham, Camberwell and Cleveland.


"Likewise," Charles offered with a smile and a nod. "But you know each other?" He glanced between Barbara and the other. (Who had not yet, Charles noted, offered name or title.)


Something about the other lord niggled at him. Perhaps it was the smirk, hinting at secrets. Charles considered. Delicate features, slender build, average height, well-shaped legs... A new suspicion presented itself for his consideration.


Eh, impossible to tell either way. A good collar and cravat deny me the most obvious way of confirming...


But I've never met a man with better legs than me.


He was distracted from his musings by new arrivals, both of whom he vaguely recognised from chapel and the ball.


"Is that Danby's daughter?" he asked, amused.

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As she figured, Francis was not the least bit offended by her chosen nickname of Admiral for him, but then he had never been the stuffy prickly noble type. One of the many reasons she liked him. And rather quickly she also learned that the party crasher was not one to insist on formal titles and lordly names either.


"Very well then, Admiral....and Archibald, please just call him Caroline. We are all here to have fun and not worry about being formal," she entered into the spirit easily enough.


Francis made note of another fresh arrival, Lord Basildon with a woman on his arm too. Well good thing that, so far the men far outnumbered the women and while Caroline thought that better than the other way around, she did prefer some balance in numbers. She and Nicci could hardly be expected to keep all these fine young men amused the whole evening.


"I do not know about Archibald here but oh yes, of course I have met Lord Basildon. My good friend Nicci invited me to his estate this past recess and he was there too, naturally enough. As for his lady friend, I do not know her."


Quickly she silently debated what to do next, greet Basildon or join Nicci with the not so disguised at all King. Nicci was still doing a fine job with keeping His Majesty and cronies occupied so mayhaps start with Basildon but then, most certainly then, gravitate to the royal presence.


"Come, let us welcome Basildon then back into the libertine fold," she declared to the two gentlemen with her.


It only took a few steps to reach him, Caroline flashed a big smile before greeting the man.


"So delighted you could make it, Lord Basildon, season's greetings to you and also to you, my lady...." she glanced at Bridget.


Since Basildon had the advantage of knowing both ladies, Caroline paused to let him to the introductions.

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Caroline, Louis, Bridget and friends


The hostess moved to greet the pair as they arrived, as she should. Louis knew Caroline well. It was probably something of an oddity that the two had not slept together during her stay with them, but the time never seemed right under the watchful eye of his wife and Nicci. The Earl would only play when the wife was away.


"Lady Kendishall thank you for inviting us," he declared politely as she approached. he was ready to kiss her hand in greeting upon arrival. "This is Bridget Osborne, daughter of the Earl of Danby, and she has shown an interest in the adventures of meeting more interesting people at court. Bridget, this is Caroline, our hostess. She is a widow and is likewise enjoying the opportunity to meet new people. Perhaps the two of you can become friends." Louis had arrived with the plan to have the libertines corrupt Bridget completely, preferring not to do it himself. Caroline or Nicci could do it, though the latter had more important things to accomplish. If Lucinda Hawthorne was in attendance, he would be certain that she might corrupt the bird as well.


Behind Caroline came Kingston, and a man that he recognized from the West Indies. "I see some familiar faces," he remarked as he waited for them to arrive.

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Chatham, Camberwell and Cleveland.


As 'Camberwell' turned to face them, Barbara gave a low chuckle of recognision. "Forget you?" and with a smirk she extended her hand for the other to kiss? "I would more likely forget the taste of Champagne before I could forget you..."


"Lord Chatham, this is... ah, which title do you travel by these days darling?" Barbara paused allowing the exquisitly dressed fellow a chance of reply.


Was Chatham less comfortable with not knowing, or was his discomfort that he was not center of attention just then? Whatever it was, he directed their attention then. To the socially awkward Danby girl. "That is is. Good heavens, is Basildon upon some sort of charity drive." Barbara rolled her eyes, thinking the lass a pitiful sight.


Weakness was something Barbara had no time for.

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Nicci & Co


Rowley and Buckingham both snorted about Ashburnham's title. He was, in a way, a little Master of the Sheets, that was quite true!


"Thank you, Lady Misrule, I shall wear it with pride," the youth declared with a nod that shook his dark curls.


As for Buckingham he chuckled as Nicci tried to title him even as Ranelagh tittered about it.


"What sort of quarry hunts the duke, I wonder," Ashburnham said aloud.


"A right wily fox he, I say," Rowley added. "For he is hunter instead of hunted."


"Poor rabbits," Ranelagh interjected which made them all laugh loudly.


"Sounds more like King of Foxes to me," Buckingham added, with a cheeky wink. "A fox above!"


Rowley opened his mouth to answer her question but her attention was distracted by...Basildon?


Camberwell, Barbara, & Chatham


"Lord Camberwell," he supplied.


"Oh indeed we do," Camberwell replied. "Very well." He gave the duchess a delicious look with his eyes, enjoying all of it quite immensely.


"Scheming, more like," Camberwell said of Basildon. "It is said Danby tried to defame Basildon, blame the escapade on the earl," Camberwell revealed. "She is a kind of pretty little thing, though, so who can blame him."

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Chatham, Camberwell & Cleveland


And yet she did not recognise you immediately...


Charles was becoming increasingly certain of his suspicions. There was a definite sense of conspiratorial amusement running between his companions. Well, Charles had no difficulty with being laughed at, and was content to have confirmed his hunch to his own satisfaction. He would entertain himself with trying to guess who Camberwell was, of course, but the irritating niggle was gone.


Such ponderings were put from his mind by the new arrivals and his companions' own musings on them. He smirked in agreement with Barbara's observation and arched an eyebrow at Camberwell's interesting little revelation.


"Escapade?" he queried further, before glancing back at Basildon and the Osbourne girl.


"Somewhat pretty," he agreed, "but very ordinary. Banal, I think, is the word I want. Does she have any idea what sort of jungle she's stepped into, I wonder?"


He could have been commenting on the weather from his tone. He had as little patience for weakness as Barbara, and even less for banality.

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Chatham, Camberwell & Cleveland


"Yet you never call, you never write." Barbara pouted playfully of Camberwell.


But attentions shifted, gossip is a marvellous unifier of men and women, and the handsome Basildon antics had forever been topic for idle tongues. "A revenge shag do you think?" Barbara tittered of the Camberwells insinuation.


"Or... nothing so simple, bringing her here to throw in amongst the wolves." Would fit better with Chatham’s line of thinking.


To the Earl she then drawled, "But Darling I would not waste your pity upon an innocent fool, it is such persons purpose to entertain us. Besides, she shall become far more interesting a person once sufficiently debauched and jaded..." the Duchesses eyes swung to her cousin who might argue differently? Finely shaped eyebrow rose.

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Camberwell had no idea that the earl thought his sex female. That would be extraordinarily tall for a woman, and there were no impressive heels to be seen, nor the typical curves and pudginess of a woman. The collar and cravat did cover any definitive suggestions one way or another.


"It adds to my mystery," Camberwell replied to the duchess, lifting his chin. "I prefer to leave no evidence, and you know my penchant for pseudonyms." In fact, Camberwell, or rather Camberwell's pen name, had pseudonyms for a baker's dozen of courtiers. "My writing is for all or none, as always," he purred with a deeper tenor.


"The motive is hardly pure, regardless of what it is," Camberwell then snorted of Basildon.


"Yes, they say Danby was responsible for the king's extreme displeasure but attempted to pin it on the earl, his protege of sorts. Somehow the earl outfoxed him, or the king did." These words were spoken more quietly.


As to Danby's daughter being more interested once jaded, Camberwell taunted, "Is that a challenge?" Smirk in place.

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Nicci & Co


As Ashburnham accepted his title like a true cavalier, Nicolette curtsied towards him... he seemed awfully nice. If she'd not all her other plans she might have enjoyed getting to know him, he seemed like a man with deeper layers hidden, that might blossom magnificently one day. Perhaps that was what His Majesty also saw within him? She looked back to CR, for all his love of frivolity and sport, he was not a foolish man.


Banter of Buckingham’s title was tossed about. "Master Huntsman then, I stand corrected!" Nicolette amended within laughter, "This negotiating is thirsty work, lets go through and find a drink."


Ranelagh was distracted looking towards her cousin. Louis had brought along the feeble girl Bridget (he was like a cat that played with it's half dead mouse.) "Master Tomcat.. did you realise you forgot to bring along a toy tonight?” He had better not be eyeing up the Danby chit! It never occurred to her Ranelagh might be eyeing up Louis.


"But Rowley." she addressed His Majesty the King of England, Scotland, Ireland and France once more, "you have played many games I am sure, can you guess at what our Hostess intends with giving us out a single card? All the fun I know comes in pairs." she prettily pouted.

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"I know him too," came his reply, "it has been some time since we last met." Archibald followed Caroline a few wide steps behind, palms neatly folded behind his back and with a posture straight as a stick.


"Lord Basildon, it is pleasant seeing you here." He smiled, offering a friendly handshake.

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A pretty lady approached them with a welcoming and confident smile. She already knew Lord Basildon, who introduced her as their hostess, Lady Kendishall. Bridget didn't miss the fact that her escort used the woman's first name. Then again, he had called her by hers too. Maybe that was just his way. Or did the two of them fancy each other? A pang of jealousy pierced her soul, but she didn't know why.


She had no claim on the dashing Earl and she didn't plan on giving him her most precious gift. Perhaps he would seek out Lady Kendishall once he realized that she wasn't going to let him debauch her. Widows were known to be loose with their favors. Bridget would tantalize him so completely that he would be thinking of her the entire time. Maybe he would even call out her name.


She barely suppressed a smirk at that notion, instead smiling warmly at their hostess. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Lady Kendishall, Your house is lovely.” In truth, she had barely looked around, but it seemed like a proper thing to say.


A gentleman joined them and spoke to Lord Basildon. Bridget waited for an introduction, hoping that she wouldn't be expected to kiss him tonight. He was much too old.

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Chatham, Camberwell & Cleveland


"A pure motive? Is there such a thing?" Charles asked idly, lip curving with amused cynicism. He held the smirk as Camberwell expanded on the circumstances of Danby's fall, the exhibited flippancy belying the swift working of the mind behind it.


"Stab me, is there anyone at court Danby hasn't betrayed or tried to betray? I would have assumed that a man in his position would understand the value of friends, or at least know the inevitable fate of vipers."


Shaking his head, he laughed along with Barbara.


"'Twould be a paltry enough revenge, no? His daughter being debauched might anger Danby, but I don't think it would hurt him. Though I suppose being unable to do anything about it would prove a stinging reminder of how far he has fallen," Charles mused.


Still not how I would go about it, though. The act itself would be like taking a statue to bed. It's pretty, yes, but you can't expect it do much, or even provide much in the way of conversation.

He laughed again when the Duchess accused him of pity, lip curving into a smirk carrying just a hint of cruelty.


"A touch of hedonism might improve the chit," he agreed, " but if we are to be the ones to introduce it to her, I shall need a drink first."

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Louis, very polite, thanked her immediately for extending an invitation.


"And I am thankful you could make it. Always a pleasure to see you again," Caroline returned the pleasantries.


He then introduced his date, a Bridget Osborne. Oh my, daughter of the very Danby who recently fell from his position of power. Did anyone even know where he was now? Caroline was too polite to ask his daughter here and now, this was supposed to be a fun event afterall.


"Well then I guess I should be flattered that Lord Basildon considers me an interesting person, I shall try to justify his faith in me tonight. Welcome to you," Caroline smiled at Bridget.


"Oh and though it is true I am a widow, I am not in mourning I should hasten to point out. And - if you are looking for friends, I am always open for more should you find me worthy," Caroline was of course trying to be nice. In truth she was not even certain befriending a member of Danby was a smart thing to do. She really needed to learn more about the intricate details of politics and manuvering.


The girl complimented her on the house, which pleased Caroline very much.


"Ahh, thank you. I cannot take credit for the statues outside as they were there when I arrived but I have tried to add my own touches and style to the interior," Caroline explained.


Archibald stated he already knew Lord Basildon so Caroline did not bother with an introduction but stepped slightly aside so the two men might shake hands and exchange greetings. As for herself, she really needed to get over to Nicci and meet the disguised King.

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Caroline, Archibald, Bridget, & Louis


"Good evening, my lord," Francis said to Basildon once the others gave their greetings.


"A pleasure, my lady," he added to Bridget with a smooth smile.


He tried to keep an ear on the newcomer (Archibald) and Basildon, finding it of interest that they knew one another. Meanwhile, he seemed to keep his eyes focused on the young lady. He had not seen her at any such parties before.


"Shall we play a game? I'll show you mine and you show me yours?" he asked, raising a cheeky blond brow. He held Bridget's eyes. His penchant for double entendre might be known by at least Caroline. He was, of course, speaking of his card.

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As Caroline did not provide the rest of the introductions, it fell to Basildon to do so. Archibald was a man he had not expected to see in London. They had met in Jamaica where Archie was an overseer for a sugar plantation. Rice was the estranged younger son of a viscount, much as Louis had been the estranged younger son of an earl. It was amazing how the passing of two lives could have so much impact. The deaths of the viscount and his eldest son had not reached his ears, even though one of his newspapers likely printed some obituary. So many lords died each yearthat it was hard to keep trach.


"Gentlemen, this is Bridget Osborne, daughter of the Lord Treasurer and Earl of Danby," he introduced first. "I offered to escort her to some social events this season. We are all in need of some merriment after all." His introduction was more sober than the one he did at the ball. Here he did not need to chum the waters. Louis expected that every guest would view Bridget as a lamb to the slaughter. Moreover, the Earl preferred to cast himself as her protector this evening, albeit a most negligent one.


"This excellent gentleman is Master Archibald Rice," he then introduced to Bridget. It would become evident to Archie that Louis was ignorant of the deaths. "Last we saw each other was under a palm tree in Jamaica. It was hard enough for me to return to London from such a heavenly location; but, I would be most interested in hearing from you sir what events have brought you to London."


Switching to the blond lord, Louis continued. "This gentleman is Francis Kirke, Lord Kingston, another gentleman that travels to exotic locations in the name of trade. Even more interesting of late, he is one of the King's gentlemen, and a lord on the rise here at court." Francis was part of the alliance between the Killingtons and the Villiers, so Louis was certain to say nice things. He omitted the relationship to Buckingham on the off chance that Bridget would recognize the name as one of her father's enemies. Louis was most interested in how Francis would react, because he understood the politics of the situation well and might guess why Basildon was chaperoning the girl into a den of iniquity. His suggestive ofer brought a smile to his lips but he awaited the naive reply of his companion.


A review of the room brought to light his cousin in the company of the King once again. It appeared as though the King was traveling as Old Rowley again, as he had done at BUckingham's affair. In fact, he was in the company of the Duke this evening. Is that Barbara Palmer? The two had an affair earlier in his court life; but then, what dashing gentleman had not shared Cleveland's bed at least once? It seemed that the Villiers were present in force.

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Chatham, Camberwell & Cleveland

The Duchess tittered of the others reply, this familiar wit was warming. "Ah darling I have missed you so. I must attend to my reading with more diligence, thus to savour your keen vision..." spoke with a smile. Only recently arrived from France, Castlemaine was in the dark as much as Chatham when it came to knowing such details - thus she found Camberwell's gossip most interesting.


Chatham expressed dismay that Danby was not a loyaler sort, or keen enough to have forecast his fate. "A man who thinks himself too clever to be caught is the greatest fool of all... " Barbara gave a small smile, thinking her statement sounded rather wise. Possibly even true.


She nodded her head towards Louis as their eyes then met, though not missing a beat in her current conversation. "Why yes Camberwell, that was indeed a challenge." lips twisted with amusement. Chatham too seemed up for it - though not while so sober.


"Brandy." Barbara stated her own preference as Caroline’s attentive servants attended. "Hmm... I note there is quite a flurry about the new blood, perhaps we find some other sport in the meantime. It has been an age since I visited this house*..." she drifted a little deeper into the interior, "can you recall, Camberwell dear, who the previous owners were?"






* Lady Kendishall's house has it's own libertine reputation

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Caroline, Archibald, Louis, Francis, and Bridget


Bridget had already known that Lady Kendishall was not in mourning, as she wasn't wearing black and grieving widows didn't throw parties. She looked to be about her own age, which brought home the fact that Bridget was still unmarried at eighteen. Or perhaps Caroline had not been married long before her husband died. Maybe he had been old and his demise had been a relief.


She smiled shyly at the lady's offer of friendship. “I should like that very much,” she replied. All of her old friends had deserted her when her father was sent from court. She spent most of her time with her sisters, but Anne was bossy, Catherine talked too much, Sophia always had her nose in a book, and Martha whined when she didn't get her way.


Maybe libertines didn't care if one's family was out of favor. From what she had heard of them, they did as they liked and didn't conform to the standards society set for them. Bridget had always snubbed them but maybe they were actually kinder than the proper crowd.


A tall blonde gentlemen joined them as well and Lord Basildon introduced her to both of the newcomers. She watched their faces carefully but neither of them flinched when her father's name was mentioned.


“It is lovely to meet you, Master Rice,” she said to the older man, holding up her hand to be kissed. “From what I know of Jamaica, it sounds like a beautiful place. I would love to hear about your experiences there.”


Bridget smiled at Lord Kingston, placing her card in her pocket and lifting her other hand toward him. “A delight to make your acquaintance, Lord Kingston” His playful question caught her off-guard, but his innuendo went right over her head. However, her body tingled pleasurably when he held her gaze. Did he fancy her? She wouldn't mind kissing him at all.


Reluctantly pulling her eyes away from him, she retrieved the card from her pocket. “Are we supposed to show these to each other?” she asked Lady Kendishall.

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Archibald shook his hand, and kissed Bridget's hand, holding it with a cold touch. Rice gave a rueful smile regarding Basildon's question of his arrival. "The circumstances that brought me here are tragic, I inherited my brother's estate. Quite some busy time ahead of me."


He made a mental remark on Kingston and Killington's praise of him. If he were to advance, useful friendships ought be made on this night.


"But let's not dwell on upsetting things. Jamaica is, as always, spectacularly sunny this time of the year. I took some coconuts along on the voyage, as gift for you Londoners, but drank them before we reached port."

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Bridget replied she would be pleased with Caroline's offer of friendship. It might not be the smartest decision on her part given Danby's fall from power but Caroline meant it, at least for now. Politics was not that important to her, relationships and gaining more friends were.


Louis and Archibald knew each other, discussing Jamaica while Caroline was content to listen and in truth think about going over to Nicci and meet the King. Her focus returned when Bridget held up the card she had been given and asked a most reasonable question about it.


"Oh if you would like to, you can show anyone the card but all I ask is that you keep the card until the game begins. You will all hear the rules of the game later, for now I hope all will be content with the mystery. In the meantime, help yourself to drinks and there is food too," Caroline answered.

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