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Darlene Hamilton

Dorchester Discooperire part two, Monday 4th April 4ish

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Dorchester House

Resembling more an immense, if somewhat artificial, urban mansion than a traditional hostelry, Dorchester House is located in Pall Mall and is designed to create, for those without connections passing through the city, the illusion of having some influential acquaintance with whom to reside.

 

She was plainly excited, jumping out of the carrige and grinning as she paid the chap her fare, "You dont need to wait for me."  Heavens, so daringly said!  Darlene was up to no good, with her dearest gentlman friend (whom did not realise it yet but was upon her list of prospective husbands.)

Really, it was sort of an audition.  

And just like with any audition, delicious nerves energised the young woman, who now turning looked up at the marvelous house. It had changed so much since the last time she'd visited.  It had been practically a squallor at the time, and Charles had shown her all around, telling her his big plans for the great house.  And her today, she coudl plain see that he'd followed through on every thing. Was there a secret way in and out though, like he'd wanted?  I bet there is...

Was Charles here yet?  Darlene, dressed in day dress a pretty shade of salmon pink, peppered with tiny blue bows with cream lace spilling about sleeves, hem and neckline... looked towards the windows wondering if she might spot him.  A grin was ready to be loosed - but mostly she had many kisses very ready to give!  

 

ref: Dorchester Discooperire

 

 

 

 

 

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He had sent a note a day ahead to the lady that supervised Dorchester House.  He instructed that he would be bringing a lady to survey the property and to make suggestions for its growth.  He advised the Proprietress to take the afternoon off so that they might tour the property freely.  He had his own keys of course.

He arrived in uniform, as he still had later business planned calling on the Bishop of London and putting together a force to storm the house of the villain behind the golden dagger.  Though he had spent Saturday night with Catherine Sedley, he had not spent Sunday night with her.  He had been thinking of meeting Darlene on Monday and thought it ill-advised to spend the night before with his mistress.  Surely one could not insult a lady more than by thinking of another when intimate. 

The last time he had met Darlene at Dorchester House it was the day he had purchased it.  In the ensuing couple of years he had committed significant funds to its restoration and the building of his own private entrance and secret staircase. He did not visit it often, leaving the business in the hands of the lady proprietor.

Darlene had nearly seduced him that day.  Charles had been so proper as to decline her offer, given his friendship of Thomas was dead and there was no longer a barrier.  He could not ignore the natural connection the two had ever since they had met each other when Darlene arrived at court.  He tried not to think of it lest it consume his thoughts.

As he rode up to the front gate, he saw that Darlene had arrived already.  With a grin and a doff of his plumed hat he was quick to dismount and hand his horse to the servant before walking briskly to meet Darlene.  It would be unseemly to kiss her openly like two parted lovers, so he wore a big grin and announced "as beautiful and majestic as Dorchester House has become, it cannot hold a candle to you Darlene!"  He moved to reach to kiss her hand, knowing it would be less than either might want for a greeting.

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His voice came from behind her, and turning with a broad smile Darlene admired the sight he made - all bold in uniform and with efficiency of movement as he dismounted and then swept off his hat.  "Oh Charles..." she breathed happily as he kissed her hand, her fingertips squeezing her happiness onto his.  He flattered so smoothly, he was like a professional now, he'd come so far from the faltering and bashful young man she'd first met.  "And look at your own transformation too."  

"Yes but Dorchester too, she has come a long way from when I last saw her - remember the lawn and with grass this high."

Grass so high that they laid in  (though Charles more reluctantly), and ther watched a bumble bee. It was a simple yet charming memory they shared.

"Did I embarrass you horridly that day?" with soft reminisce she moved to stand quite close to Charles. Perhaps they would promenade the grounds? She did not know, and hardly cared as long as she was with him.    

.   

 

 

Edited by Darlene Hamilton

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"Dorchester House has grown and so have we," Charles noted happily.  He was now a grand old age of 23, soon to be 24, and he recalled that she was perhaps 20 by now.  As such, the world was open to them and awaited whatever path each might seek.  No longer ignorant teens, they were coming into their own.

He led Darlene on a circuit of the building and grounds.  A full revolution would be in order before entering the house since this trip was, in part, an inspection.

As they walked, he grimaced a bit.  "Not so much an embarrassment as it was an uncomfortable trial," he confessed in answer to her query.  "Imagine if I handed you the most beautiful piece of jewelry that you could imagine.  You greatly coveted it but it belonged to a friend.  To have it you would need to steal it or perhaps damage it.  It would not be embarrass,ment that you felt I suspect.  Rather it would be torture."  The example was the best way to convey his personal feelings and to also let her know what he thought of her.

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"Yes we have." Darlene replied softly, her fondness was perhaps greater for the passage of time that their friendship endured.  True, she'd got in a huff with him now and then, but it had never been very serious, it was more of a childish petulance really.  She was older now, much less childish (though she'd reserve the right to a tantrum if it was still necessary).

Linking her arm through his to stroll the grounds, his tone was serious as he made a reply.  Stealing a look at his thoughtful face she felt honoured that he didn’t give a flippant or witty reply. It was rare, that he spoke sincerely, though what he said was more flattering than anything a flirt could have said.  It had been a torture for him. 

"Oh Charles..." you'd have thought she would be delighted to hear that, but she wasn't.  She felt some other, deeper emotion, one that distressed.  Her eyes glazed, and she knew that this was more than important. "I am so sorry, I know I've been entirely too scattered in the past."

"To use your allegory, when I first discovered you, you were that precious jewel, but I thought I wanted to fill my treasure chest with many.  I thought to try collect more treasures like some collect stamps. I think I even pretended that some of the stones that I found sparkled,  though they did not.  It was a fantasy I surrounded myself with, now wonder it took only summer breeze for it to all tumble and fall."  

 

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The moment was special and, as such, he ceased walking.  One did not discuss deep topics whilst walking and analyzing the exterior of the house.

"Darlene, you did nothing wrong," he assured her.  "Collecting jewels is to be expected.  I have done a few foolish things and collected some gems you might say.  It is what we do to feel alive and popular I suppose."  he was trying to make clear that he was not attempting to judge her, even though she had been married to his friend.  The marriage to Thomas had been a mistake.  That was clear.  Something went wrong and it made him wonder what it was.

"If we are jewels, dear Darlene, we are a beautiful matched set," he observed aloud with a smile.  "But, if I may stay serious a moment, what do you think it was that led to failure with Thomas?  I should not want myself to repeat any of that."

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Charles steps stilled bringing her to a halt also, so her hand slipped from his arm (to keep hold would not be usual) though she did not increase her distance from him.  

They talked here intimately, with the brightness of spring; sunshine, flowers and birdsong ignored all about them.  Darlene nodded, “Perhaps we both needed that at the time, at the time it felt like that was the way to measure success in life even. Yes, and popularity, it’s an appealing thing.” her eyes were lowered in the reflection.

It was much nicer to feel that they were both guilty of that, and that it was excusable.  “Listen to us -” she smiled and lifted her eyes to meet his, “ has our experience made us into sages?” she pressed a finger at his chest in an amusement of that least expected change, enjoying the feeling that they were a pair.  (And at the moment feeling like they always had been)  

Charles question was sober. “Oh…” her eyes lowered again, a frown marring her forehead, “I have wondered that too. My first reservations came at his proposal, after I agreed he told me very seriously that he would not be cocolded. It felt from the very start like he did not think he could trust me… and like, he thought I should discard any male friendships.  I was still happy to be marrying, but also it felt like he’d taken much of my life away from me. Not the cocolding bit, that was the last thing I'd have thought of. But male friendships, and harmless flirtation.  I'd discovered he was a very jealous man." 

“Then, after we were married, it seemed like I was a prize he’d won and put in a cabinet – with he seeking out new challenges, and leaving me at home. He always was the adventurer.  That is why I went to Jamaica with him, but it was no different in Jamaica either, he left me at the house and was gone for weeks sailing and righting wrongs again.”

“It was easy to think, when courting, that our goals were the same because at the time they were, we wanted each other. But after, once we’d achieved that, our goals were not very compatible.”  During her softly spoken revelations she’d turned to look up at Charles once more.  The topic was unspoken between them, but clear enough.  Would Charles be any different, would she feel any happier if they were tied to him in marriage?

“What are your goals Charles, what are the things you want most to fill your days with, and, are you a jealous man too?”

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"It is a popular ambition to seek to be popular," he announced with a laugh, hoping to keep the conversation from becoming overly-serious.  "Sages?  Hardly," he laughed again.  "We can pretend at it."  He supposed he was a sage when it came to military things; but, in matters of the heart, he was foolish.

He offered to begin walking again as they spoke of Thomas.  "He wanted to keep you in a cage," he noted his understanding.  "I have always known you to be a bird best left to soar upon the winds.  Many ladies are perfectly content in a gilded cage, if it is noteworthy enough.  I would imagine that is not you."  He had always known her to be scheming something, and it was usually dangerous.  It had the feel that some of her plans were not fully thought out either, which was both maddening and endearing.

On the subject of him, Charles cleared his throat.  "I suppose I want what I am supposed to want.  I am the head of my small family now.  But, neither do I like being in a cage.  I want to be free to love and hate, to fight or die, to serve the King well, and my father's legacy too."  He doubted that he was making much sense.  "I have not told this to another.  I am not sure what I want beyond the expected.  I crave a life of purpose and adventure I suppose.  As for ladies I have been equally at a loss," he admitted.

"In marriage I have been told a hundred times to seek wealth and connections.  There are times I think I want a biddable wife and at other times I lament at the thought.  I try to tell myself to marry for the reasons I should and then spend my time with ladies I truly relish.  It seems dishonest even though so many do it.  So, in the interim I have been foolish, playing with fire.  I am sure you understand."  She had her share of foolishness. They both seemed to like to play with fire, which was something that made them quite compatible with each other … or perhaps a complete disaster waiting to happen.

"So, behind this chiseled face of a proper and grounded officer and lord to the King, is a young man who is adrift, though happy to ride out the storm and see where it takes him."  It seemed a bit crazy but he felt he could confess this to Darlene.  "Yet, your arrival back at court is like seeing land amidst the squall," he offered with an appreciative chuckle.  "So, it should be no surprise that I turn the wheel of my ship and make in your direction."  He found himself joyous again, happy to be rid of sober thought of Thomas.  He did not feel like being sober with Darlene.

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As reckless as she was, Darlene was also very people-focussed.  Charles gave a laugh, and she could see his wish for a lighter moment. Their conversation had begun rather more intensely (than either could have expected), though she’d quite enjoyed that important mood.  “Well perhaps not sages then.” She smiled, “but surely not as oblivious as we once were.  Like, I bet you have written just dozens of love letters now! You are probably shockingly good at it, do you know, I shall want another, so I may compare.”

Linking her arm back through his, they resumed their walk.  “Yes, a bird, with freedom to move upon the winds however they change.” In a happy tone she agreed, for in Charles saying that, he was announcing himself not inclined towards a cage.  Smiling she looked about them, and up into the sky. “Life should be always wonderful, a dance through the blue, laughter darting around the clouds, uplifting the ones we love, and sharing the warmth of sun upon cheeks.”

Looking back to Charles, it as a pity he was so tall, for she’d have kissed his cheek then if it had been possible. But instead she nudged him fondly with her shoulder.  In case he did not know it she was thinking of him when she’d said ‘ones we love’.

He told of the things he wanted to be free to do. 

“Ooh yes, and hate too!” Her theatrical background had her very aware that villains were as much a part of a rounded story as was the heros.  “We are alike in this Charles, we desire lives of drama where we can be the stars that brighten the dark.  But you do that all the time, like remember the season you made all those arrests, it was incredible. It had everybody talking – everybody wondering at what dark plots you’d discovered. We were all championing you.” She wriggled her shoulders and grinned at the memory.

“Lets leave those mundane lives for the unimaginative others. Let them marry safe and sensible, it will be their only great accomplishment, and keep their secret lovers to appease the rest of their lacklustre lives.  When I marry again, I shall marry for the thrill and the excitement – for unity, and for spirit!” her eyes sparkled of her plans. Though while thinking of marrying him, she’d be landing herself a grand match.  (Charles list of achievements increased with every passing season.)  

He’d been playing with fire, which told her that he was dancing rather too close to making commitments that would burn.  Who?   But for now the more important part was that she was still his lighthouse.

“Yes, sail to me my Good Ship Whitehurst!” She flashed a grin and letting go of his arm she skipped apart from him, darting behind a rose bed (still rather too exposed and open to view!)  Looking behind her to check he would pursue, she snatched up her skirts and dashed for a far better cover. Was that a woodshed?  It wood do.  

 

 

Edited by Darlene Hamilton

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"You are the only one I ever wrote a love letter to," he whispered and laughed simultaneously.  "I was hoping to receive some love letters from ladies so that I could better learn the art.  I am sure that ladies do a far better job at it than we men, who can only guess the effect it might have upon the target."  He found himself smirking.  "I am still waiting on one."  They continued a short distance as he recalled the letter that she sent him.  "Recall the letter you sent me when you learned of my marriage?  You told me that I was supposed to save myself to,marry you.  I still have that letter."  It had seemed rather scandalous to him that she wrote it while still being married to Thomas, but he made no mention of that aspect.  It was better to laugh at the humor of the situation.

"Yes, drama."  That was a good word for it.  "Life should be wonderful but it is not quite often.  A proper English lord is supposed to show little emotion.  To me, life is not worth living if you cannot just come up to a villain and punch him in the face, or wrestle him to the ground.  A villain should be thrashed first and then, one can be civil.,"  She recalled his mass arrests.  "Yes, that is the way it should be done.  Arrest every suspect and interrogate them until you learn the truth.  It is what keeps decent folk safe," he opined.  "Some folks are just so … unsavory … that they deserve to be arrested just as a preventive measure I think  Liberty should come at a cost."

Drama in his love life needed no mention.  He wanted to be free to do both advisable and ill-advised things.  It was about the moment was it not?  Darlene might agree with him but he thought it best to not discuss other women in her presence, unless he must.

Like the butterfly that she was, Darlene broke free of the conversation and danced away, in plain view no less.  It was quite likely that they were being watched from the windows.  Rather than chase after her like some boy, Charles smiled and took advantage of his long stride, which was quickened, so she could not outpace him much.  She headed for the gardening shed, which would only permit partial cover.  He moved to catch her, guessing that she preferred to be caught.

"A quick kiss my nymph," he urged as he closed in.  "Then we should go inside.  The staff is awaiting our arrival and are likely watching our every move."  It was a cautionary note, somewhat at odds with the carefree nature he had described.   Drama needed to wait its moments, lest it lose its emotional effect, or so he imagined.

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"Then perhaps you should ask for one. Like what I did with you.”  She still had his love letter too, it was tucked safely in the red journal that James had given her so long ago.  “Oh perhaps it more flattering to wait till someone comes up with their own idea to write, but you wait a lifetime that way.”

“Aha, yes I forgot I wrote you that! “ she laughed as he reminded of her letter. “I was quite peeved Charles, she was French and Old.  Did you realise your maitake after you read my letter?”

"Oh, yes not too often.” Darlene agreed when he claimed that drama should be in moderation.  She did not actually agree about that, unless by moderation meant daily.  And she was guessing that he did not.

But reminding him of his season of arrests brightened eyes, Charles talked about it with bold and with reckless. Even Darlene could tell that he was exaggerating, and she approved of it 100%   “Oh definitely, why really a good round of arrests is good for everyone. If they are actually innocent then let them prove it.”

Darlene was wanting to kiss him (and more!) thus skipped apart towards the shed. Rather than run, he strode, which was not what she’d wanted him to do but she’d forgive him anyhow. (Charles had alwasy been more concerned with appearances than she)

She became caught, well if you could call it that (more like as he stepped into cover she threw her arms around him!)  Glancing up at the house she grinned and declared, “Then let them watch!”  too late to be coy now, committed, she angled to allow their Dorchester audience an even better view.   Then she snogged the handsome lifeguard, the one, the only Charles Whitehurst.

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"Yes, I suppose I must ask for one," he agreed somewhat reluctantly.  Maybe he would start with Catherine, given their game; but, likely she would demand one instead.

"I think I saw the error of my ways the day after my wedding," he confessed.  "But, certainly your letter was correct in wondering what I was thinking."  There was no more need to touch the subject of marriage beyond that.

When it came to arrests, Charles was not really exaggerating.  He saw few limitations on arrests.  The King had emphasized that nobles were excepted because of the Magna Carta.  That seemed rather odd … that lords could get away with crimes, but it had come from the lips of the King, so it needed to be respected.  "Right, if they look shady or act shady, the burden should be on them.  Decent folk do not act shady, nor appear shady.  It is cause enough."

Leave it to Darlene to put on a show for the servants.  She could hardly be controlled in that regard.  It seemed that she wanted the world to know of their romance.  Charles was more concerned about what certain other ladies might think.  He supposed he would need to handle the situation if and when it arose.  He had been fairly lucky so far in having more than one lover at a time.  Maybe his luck would continue.

After putting on a good show, Charles declared, "shall we move our show inside?  There are probably one or two servants that did not have their faces pressed against the window panes watching.  We would not want to disappoint them."  He was being sarcastic in a humorous way.  Maybe she would restrain herself more once inside.

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“See? You should listen to me more I am so often right it’s almost scary.” Darlene grinned happy to poke fun at herself.  She was aware that she’ made one or two whopping mistakes herself also, though at least she’d never married someone French.  Charles had taken it to a new level!

His continued adamacy on arresting people brought the pretty brunette to a pause.  He was not joking at all.  “But Charles, what if it was me, sometimes I act shady just for the fun of it, but I’m never actually shady. Although, there was one time that I was just very lucky nobody found out about.  And it wasn’t only me, Heather was with there too.”

And then they were kissing; her arms around his neck, her body pressed against his, eyes closed and  lips discovering.  There was the show aspect to be considered too, and so she bent up one knee like the ladies on stage always did….

And in her mind servants at the window ogled or cheered, perhaps some others tutted, but all of them were wishing to swap places.

"Do you think..." she looked towards the house.  Their greater plan drawing nearer?  Somehow Charles words had the desired effect, and Darlene became a little quieter.  “I suppose I should meet them, if I might be going to be their boss.”

Charles might have forgotten that she fancied becoming the governess of Dorchester house, but she had not.  

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He did not know how to respond to her boast that she was nearly always correct.  He supposed that was true, at times.  anything he might say to qualify her boast might appear unkind, so he merely nodded.

"Oh but it is easy to learn that you are a true lady, as would Heather.  You would be released at once, with apologies for the error," he assured her.  In his mind there was no real risk of abuse.

He had not forgotten that she fancied taking over administration of Dorchester House.  He was open to Darlene lending a hand.  He could not imagine it would be anything more than a distraction for her.  It was beneath her to perform the function on a full-time basis.  "Yes, let us go inside and meet the staff."  Most all of the staff would be women of course.  Fathers and brothers were less likely to allow their daughters and sisters to stay at a place with male servants, unless they were for security only.

Charles escorted her inside and looked for the line-up of maids that would be ready for their arrival.  As it turned out, there were very few there, mostly housekeepers.  "We shall be taking a tour of the premise," he explained.

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Charles knew her well enough to know she’d grow quickly bored if she was actually given the responsibility of managing Dorchester house.   But to her mind it was a very fun idea, where she might take underwing a small army of biddable young ladies to instruct on her joyful whims. The practicality of what Governess role actually meant was currently ignored.  Never to mention that she might not actually be very good for business (how many lords or men of landed gentry, would want Lady Oakham guiding their precious daughters time in London?!)

But today was not even about professions, it was to find a place away from his servants eyes and ears, with intent to finally consummate their love for one and other!  Biting lower lip, Darlene caught up a handful of her skirts climbed the steps of The Dorchester with Charles.

“She gave the housekeeper a smile after he announced the ‘fake’ purpose.  The old Charles could never have lied as convincingly as that.  Leaning closer she whispered, “Well done.”   

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Charles thought Darlene was complimenting him on speaking with such authority and purpose, as opposed to advancing a ruse with a bit of theater.  He was also naïve enough to think that Darlene would not be expecting him to get her alone and then … make his move.

"I shall wish to speak frankly with Lady Oakham, so we are not to be disturbed."  He determined which guest suite was unoccupied and gained a key so that they could "tour" it.   Just thinking about that room caused a level of excitement that ruined the tour of the first level.  Despite the elegant furnishings and windows upon the gardens, he was anxious to get upstairs.  Nevertheless, he escorted Darlene from drawing room to parlor, pointing out places that might need work and soliciting her ideas on how to make the common areas more inviting to potential tenants.

At last it was time to go upstairs and look at the condition of one of the suites.  He expected the housekeepers would have scrubbed the floors and walls extra hard knowing that he would be coming to have an inspection.  This particular room had three rooms -- a sitting room, bedroom, and servant's room.  As they walked in together, Charles allowed the door to close with a click, the key in the door.

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He did not introduce her as their future boss, but Darlene guessed that was probably so they would act naturally around her.  And also, she’d not told him yet how much she wanted for reimbursement for her very valuable services.  They would probably need to make a proper contract about it, maybe even with witnesses.  Yes it was just as well he did not introduce her properly yet, for she might negotiate sharper terms prior to fully committing. 

Her eyes moved around the room, and she ran a finger over a lintel, checking for dust and tutting in the same way she’d seen others do.  Frankly the house was quite perfect.  “Ooh look at the size of this parlour…” she breathed amazement, walking into the centre of the floor and testing the space with a twirl, smiling back to Charles she declared. “It would be a perfect room for a party.”

Yes she’d make the best Governess ever.

Charles seemed a bit distracted, and moving to the next room quite quickly.  Darlene thought she knew why, he was thinking about kissing and more.   She was too, but, thought of that actually made her want to examine each room a bit more slower and thoroughly.    Yes, she was a bit nervous about this big step planned.  For as eager for it as she was, she was also worried.  She knew what they all said, that there was one sort of women to have as lovers, and other sort to take as a wives, and the two sorts were never mutal.

But however carefully she looked at everything, they still eventually went to the next room, and then the next.  Then they were going upstairs even, and everyone knows that that meant bedrooms…

On the landing

“This is a lovely balustrade, I’ve always been fond of mahogany, it looks so much richer than common oak.” Darlene lingered on the landing, her heartbeat racing, the door to a apartment was just there and was, in it’s way, inviting.  And Charles, even more so!   But she had a fit of nerves.   “Do, you think they used a wax polish or oil on it Charles?”

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Darlene seemed to be taking her time in each room.  Was she tormenting him, or were all thoughts of intimacy outside her thoughts?  Knowing Darlene as well as he did, he was near certainty that she was thinking immoral thoughts like he.  Had they not been flirting for three years in hopes that a day like today might arrive?

'Probaky," he replied, not finding the topic one worth exploring further.  He ran his hand along the bannister as he sought to move upstairs.  "Perhaps we should contrast it with the furniture above."  All the while he was wondering whether they needed a ruse that Darlene felt faint.  She was quite dramnatic when she was intrigued, so he would play along and see what she had un mind.

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“Probably?” A finely shaped eyebrow rose a she looked across at Charles. That was not even a proper answer.  Didnt he realise how important this was? Not the polish, not that of course, but what they were doing, about to do!

Peering down the stairs (checking no stray housemaids were lurking) and then towards the open doorway (with it’s exquisite delights there just waiting for the taking) she moved closer to Charles and confessed, “I am more nervous of this than I was of my wedding!”

Ah, and she caught the scent of him then, and it was not even fair what that did to her. Holding onto him as her knees weakened, she sought his lips and a kiss that would take her into passionate non-thinking oblivion. For as much as she was scared that he’d never want to marry her after, she wanted to be with him, to bare all with him, and be stripped down to just their skin with him.

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His mind was not on polish as they climbed the stairs.  He could not understand her fascination with the topic until she confessed her nervousness.  The mention of her wedding day caused him to almost blush as he realized he was not alone in thinking impure thoughts.  She was no virgin and he had not paused sufficiently to consider her feelings in this.  "Me too," he confessed in a whisper.  Realizing that things were getting too serious, Charles added "you mean nervous that the rooms upstairs may not meet your approval."  He offered her a smile that said he was not serious.

"Speaking of rooms.  Let us take a closer look,"  In they went.  

He turned on her and gave Darlene a wicked smile.  He moved in slowly, just in case she might object, to give her a kiss as she was backed towards a wall.  Charles Whitehurst was not in a mood to be slow and gentle.  His anxiety and longing had been bottled up far too long; but, for her sake , he would begin in a way that respected her choice.  His control would not last long.

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But Darlene did not go into that room.

His reply was not the assurance she needed, Darlene's mind was near a panicked state.  

Yes they had been flirting for years, but it was the past ten minutes that felt more important.  Charles was not being romantic at all, with his rush to get upstairs, and instincts told her that he'd not calm once they set foot through the bedroom door.  Perhaps she should have been flattered by her effect on him, but for some reason she did not understand, she was not.

It was likely her fault.  Darlene was forever flirting with this one and then that, but very very rarely did it come to more than that.  Well, it had with her Husband of course, upon their wedding night. And shed had an affair with the Duke, though that had barely resulted in sex. Her great affair had been with Louis, it had been a different time in her life, when she'd been an abandoned wife living a loveless life. It had ben a wild fling, a brief one even, as her moral turmoil of it ultimately had her call it all off.  Yes this today, was likely Darlene's fault, for though she was such a daring woman in so many things, morally she was suited to a monogamous life.

And this thought that doing this now would mean that Charles removed a reason that he might marry her was just too big in her mind!

She wanted to be with him completely and utterly and forever.  "Charles!" she called to him, physically torn this way and that, anguish quite evident in her voice. "This was a terrible mistake! Oh, Not you. I quite love you more than anything else. But, I do not want a fling. I never want you to think of me as a conquest!  I am just not that sort Charles, whatever you have heard about me to make you think otherwise, just isnt true.."

It was more of the seriousness that Charles did not want, and very close to talk again of marriage, which he also did not want. 

Perhaps it was that he thought of her as a merry widow now, he’d certainly discouraged her from her instant thoughts of remarrying. He’d thought she might enjoy a single and free and easy lifestyle.   But Darlene had never been a libertine.  It just did not appeal.  But she did enjoy closeness, which was why she had wanted to marry again.   

 

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"Fling? Conquest?" he stammered in disbelief.  Had he heard her correctly?  A soberness enveloped him immediately.

"How could you say that?  How can you think that of me?  From the day we have met we have become fast friends … and more.  I stood by and watched as you chased other gentlemen.  I congratulated you on your marriage to my best friend while I held envy in my heart … envy that was never proper to speak out loud.  There might have been an opportunity for a fling, as you call it, while you were married, but I withstood.  I would not disrespect you or Thomas by that.  We have written letters to each other that we have to no one else.  We have said words to each other that we do not utter to others.," he attempted to explain quietly in a quick jumble.

"Now, you have returned and we can be together, at last, as it should be.  If I appear over eager Darlene," he continued to whisper to her. "It is because I have waited and dreamed three long years for something that I could not have … not until now.  Forgive me Darlene, you have ever been the will-o-wisp to me.  Can I be blamed that I would seize the moment and not let it go, for who knows if the will-o-wisp is but a dream?  This is no conquest.  If we have not already conquered the other then I have sorely misjudged the situation.  This is but a moment to savor."  He looked about realizing this was not the best location to say such things. "We need not savor anything here.  There are better places for that than here.  I have waited for you so long, another several hours can be endured."

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The look on his face had her instantly regret – and the words that tumbled from his lips, his perspective of it all…

“I am sorry.” Great emotion of the moment made her eyes glassy while it was shame that was in her heart.  It was true, everything he said.  It was worse than that even, for she knew she’d teased him quite knowingly at times, pushed him to his limits of resistance, flattering her own ego while relying upon his great strength of character to not cross that line.   

That line, his respect for her husband, was no longer a closed gate between them.

“Sorry Charles, I’d not looked at it that way, I’d certainly not meant to say you are a rake of any kind. Really, I was just scared that you might think that ‘this’ is what being a widow means to me. I know you don’t think I should be any hurry to pledge to any man, but that is what I want really, and with you.” Her voice had dropped to a whisper, sincerity in her eyes as she reached for his hands. 

“Let’s not wait any longer...”  While it was still in her mind that men did not propose to mistresses, she might only trust that Charles would be different.  He was not a rake.  He was a good and earnest man, who’s every word was true.  And while he was enjoying being a bachelor, his mind would eventually settle to his family’s future again one day, and when it did, he would think of her.  Just as he had thought of her these past years.

“…and savour every moment.” She lifted his hand to her face, intent to press his against her cheek.

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It seemed as though his words reassured her, which was a welcome thing because women were so unpredictable.  As such, his countenance softened again, even moreso when her hand touched his cheek.

"A rake? Hardly."  The fact that he had bedded a number of ladies at court, including the wife of a friend, the wife of a commander, and he had debauched Davina did not count in his books.  A rake, in his mind, was a scoundrel that plied women with lies in hopes of bedding them once, bragging about it and then disappearing.  He was hardly that.  Was it so wrong to like ladies so much that he preferred to have two or three at one time?  That was just feeding his wild oats, wasn't it? Rakes attended libertine parties and pulled off their breeches to have sex in front of dukes and kings.  He did not do that.  It was disrespectful to everyone.  He preferred sex in secret … and if his lady appeared secret with a mask, well that was just icing on the cake.

Darlene spoke of marriage and not waiting, or was she talking about sex and not waiting?  He concluded that it must be the latter.  Who spoke of marriage at a time like this?  "I understand.  Some widows are merry.  Fear not that I shall not think of you any less than I have ever beheld you."

He took her hand from his cheek and applied a kiss to her palm.  "Yes, but where shall we go?" he whispered.  Did she want to go upstairs or take their leave?

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Was she confusing?  Unfortunately that was nothing so new, Charles had always been confused by Darlene, it was just that usually she did that to him on purpose.  Today though, and this, this was entirely different to anything at all usual. 

“In there,” she replied in a quiet voice, and stepped though the door finally.  Accurately or not, it signified a point of no return to her.  Stepping through the door she turned around to look at him, her hands lifting with desire to hold close, while in a small voice she asked, “Tell me again, how you have always felt about me Charles?”

She had no idea that Charles was as experienced as he was, she imagined him to be much like her late husband, and to have been faithful during his marriage - though likely since the French woman’s death he'd have found some sexual release this way or that. She would never imagine he'd have a full time mistress though.  Nor would it occur to her that he'd bed either wanton or unwitting daughters of peers.  The Charles Whitehurst she knew was that same sweet and charmingly naive man that she'd first met those years ago, the one who collected kisses like they were treasures, and who agreed with nearly everything she suggested, unless it was something wrong.  If he agreed with this now, then it could not be wrong then could. it. 

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That sweet naïve Charles had evolved.  Each looked at the other through the prism of their own innocent interactions with the other.  Charles would not imagine that Darlene could have had multiple affairs while she was married to Thomas.  He still wished to believe that Darlene lived with the late Duke of Newcastle merely as a platonic companion.

Into the room they went, Charles shutting it behind them.  She begged him for the proclamation of love that would make all seem right about their interlude.  Whether he understood that fully or not, he attempted to comply.

"What have I felt?"  He was no poet and he regretted not being pithy enough to conjure just the right verse.  "I have felt an emptiness when you are not near.  When you were kidnapped by the French, I did not seek you out because of soldierly duty.  I sought you because I longed to … no matter the danger.  It was you that was more important to me than my duty.  Whenever we were together I was more alive. When you were in Thomas' company I burned with envy.  If you had not seen the love in my eyes before it is because I masked it well," he whispered with a smile as their faces drew close.  "Tell me that you felt the same," he urged her.  What was good for the goose was good for the gander.  Yet, nagging the back of his mind was that she chose Thomas over him.  Those nagging concerns were overridden by his strong desire to be united with Darlene at last.

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His devotion had endured highs and lows, notoriously fickle and flighty Darlene admired endurance very much. 

As the door clicked shut behind them she pressed herself to him, drinking in his professions of love… while, hadn’t it been Thomas who saved from the French? Perhaps Charles had been there too.  She did not care of details, she was happier to believe it had only been Charles, the young woman who had told so many variants on the truth reimagined her own past easily enough. She’d loved Charles and only Charles, always.

“I did not know, had I realised I would never have married any other. Oh Charles.”

She not guessed he had actually wanted to court her, Thomas meanwhile had been far plainer about it.  Charles must have been shy, and she, well she’d been in such a rapture trying to organise the world to her bidding.  

“All this time, we could have been so happy in each-others arms.  I should have made you reveal your heart, I should have revealed my own also.” Gazing up into his eyes the details of the past were fuzzy as she believed that it had been him, always him that she’d loved.  

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It was storybook like. True love discovered was a wondrous thing, gracing the pages of the most gripping prose.  The image of it was an addictive tonic.  Writers conjured images and readers stitched the images into their own emotional fabric.  The truth behind these images were not as important as the moment itself.  Truth was a rare commodity at court.  The palace was about appearances and imagery was it not?  As such, why was this not just the perfect moment?

"Oh Darlene," Charles muttered as he kissed her wolfishly.  "So much time wasted.  Let us waste no more."  He was a man of action after all.  As such, he attempted to pick her up as a husband might a new wife and carry her to the bed.  By the burning look in his eyes, sleep was the furthest thing from his mind.  Darlene was well-versed enough that she would know that ravishment was on his mind.

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“Charles!”  Happily Darlene kissed and let herself be kissed, it had always been meant to be.  What sort of madness had kept them apart all this time?!    The hunger in his manner further excited, her fingers slid to his buttons thinking to – but then she squealed and flung arms around his neck as she was scooped up into his arms!

Laughing she called, “Careful not to pull a muscle! I need you at peak performance, my darling dearest!”  To the bed, and she did not let go over him even then, but pulled him into her tumble of far too much fabric to be convenient.

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Onto the bed they tumbled, Charles laughing as they fell.  "You shall feel my muscles soon enough, and the fury of my want …" he uttered as he tried to untangle himself from her skirts.  Ladies wore far too many of them, but underneath was easy access.  His own breeches presented their own challenges, but he was used to disrobing these in a ready fashion. " … just as soon as I can navigate my way through you petticoats," he laughed.

Off went his jacket and hat, tossed carelessly aside.  The belt and sword soon followed and then his breeches.  "Each second we are not joined is like torture," he muttered, very much feeling the pain.  He could only hope that Darlene was getting her own clothing into greater order.  He knew that ladies feared disturbing the state of their dresses but he was far too gone to care for anything more than lifting the skirts upward and then attacking.

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