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In Search of a Evening Cup of Tea April 7

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#34 - Newcastle  House - Residence of Lady Oakham

The stone townhouse sits behind manicured hedges. Its front yard boasts a fountain sculpture of cupid hovering over a pairs of lovers. Built in the last ten years, the trees in its yard have yet to reach their fullness, a wide path leads arrivals directly to ominously large double doors. A very small garden, now unkempt from a lack of attention, lies behind the townhouse.

Inside the front door was an entry set with hall table with vase of fresh blooms. Springing from the entryway were two small rooms. To the right a study with bookshelf and comfortable mismatched chairs with a writing desk set near the window. To the left was the parlour, with cream settees with occasional tables scattered about. An English landscape sits above the fireplace.

Beyond the entry area was a formal room of grand proportion with broad staircase arising from it, though the room itself is minimally decorated with a scattering of chairs around a mat near the fire, and a piano at the far end. Passing through the grand room is a dining room with large table with an eclectic assortment of chairs, and beyond the dining room is the kitchen. There was a separate backstair in the kitchen for the servants.

The second floor contains three bedrooms. The third floor is for servants. There is a half cellar and half attic for storage.

* * * * * * * * *

Having his fill of interrogating prisoners, Charles acquired some daisies from a vendor and headed to Darlene's house.  He had come in search of a cup of tea.  They had joked about his visits for "tea" being code for sex.   Ringing the bell, he desired entry.

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Sometimes Darlene truly rued being a lady of leisure with absolutely not a care in the world.  It was so boring. It was so dull. It was enough to make her consider planning something reckless... except that an awful malaise crept over her and she couldn’t even be bothered to get out of bed.

The staff enjoyed a welcome respite that morning, what with the usually demanding mistress of the house perpetuating her sulk upstairs. Out of sight out of mind was what one said. While another thought that an apt moment to touch wood.  There was the odd bump noises from up there, and a sound that was suspiciously like a heavy piece of furniture being dragged across the floor.  But still there was no jingle from a bell pull summoning anyone up there. 

Come the late afternoon, with still no summons from Her Upstairs, the staff drew straws.  It was Alice who lucked out, and who was set creeping up the stairs to peek through Darlene's bedroom keyhole. The report delivered was that her ladyship was sleeping.  "I could see the shape of her under her bed covers." 




"Good Evening Milord."  Charles being very well known to the footman who answered the door, was readily assisted with the removal of his outwear in an efficient and even friendly fashion.  "Her Ladyship will be pleased to see you I am sure," said the servant as he deftly settled Charles' hat to a hook and relieved him of any weaponry he might want to check, "she's been napping most of the afternoon, and a surprise visit might be the perfect thing for her. I am sure she would wish for you to see yourself directly through." 

Which was perhaps a bit daring for the man to allege, but then Lady Oakham’s was anything but the typical.  

So Charles was given a nod of suggestion/assent that he navigate himself up the stairs.  

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Navigate he did and up the stairs he went.  At the top of the stairs he knocked softly on her bedchamber door.  They were still not married so he could hardly barge in to her bedroom.  "My Lady I am afraid that I am going to need to search this dwelling, in the name of the King of course."  He comment was intended to invoke a smile and allow her to know that it was no servant at her door. 

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"Oh is that you?!" her voice was muffled through the door, as was her promise to be out in just a minute.  The sound of something heavy being moved came from beyond.  Then all was silent for a few minutes, before finally her door opened...

And there was Darlene, full of smiles and lunging through the door to embrace him. "Oh my love! My darling dearest!" she crowned happiness of seeing him, finally drawing back to look into his face properly, he was just as fine and handsome in his uniform as ever "... have you brought me a present too?"  Meanwhile she was in very simple attire, her hair was down about her shoulders,  and there was something frilly about her beneath a chenille house robe, while there were some random down feathers stuck about her here and there.  

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The sound of moving furniture came as something of a surprise to the young officer.  Had she barricaded herself in her room?

She lunged at him as if he were back from a long campaign.  It caught him by surprise and it caused him to start laughing in delight.    "I brought some flowers but I fear them crushed ." He continued to chuckle.  "They are not worthy of you.  Nothing is truly."

"I have been lost these past days, my love, in gray and darkness.  Interrogating prisoners, resisting the impulse to arrest a whole park full of vagrants and thieves, surrounding myself with serious men and serious deeds.  It was only this afternoon that I noticed a ray of sunlight that came through my window and warmed my hand.  It was like a golden caress.  It was then that I recalled how derelict I had been and better understood why a grayness had descended upon me.  It was your absence."  Yes, he had practiced this piece of flattery on his way over to her house.

"I came upon a flower vendor and the brightest thing she had was a daisy.  I knew your servant was Maisie, so why not something to brighten your day too.  I had faint hope that my presence alone might suffice, but I am hardly fragile, bright, and pure, like the flower or you."  He could only hope that she thirsted for such words.  "But I should get you a proper present," he offered dangerously.  Had he forgotten to whom he was speaking?  "Perhaps you could give me an example of a proper present for the lady that so captivates me."  Yet, it was an exploration of sorts.  It would tell him the type of wife that she would be, would it not?  Would she be the kind that asked for jewels to prove his love?  Pistols to shoot?  A service to her cause?  A pet?  

"You are such a sight for sore eyes.  What have you been about?"  His eyes could not avoid the feathers.   

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Oh Charles, you are so romantic."  Darlene crooned happily, her heart joyful,  He'd not been that way when they had first met, he'd been a tongue tied and awkward young man who dared want nothing more than a kiss.  But now, he was practically a master suitor, and no doubt intended the full measure of reward for his craft. 

 "But you should have taken me on your adventures.  That would be the perfect solution my dearest sweetheart." she was drawing back to gaze into his eyes with devotion (though a touch envious of his full days).  "Oh I know I could not help actually interrogate... but, actually, perhaps I could.  Even the most hardened criminal would never suspect that to happen, they would drop their guard with the surprise of it, and perhaps reveal the full truth."  It was highly unlikely that Charles would agree to such a tactic, and Darlene sighed once, knowing that, then gave it one more try. “I could be your secret weapon?”

A smile returned quickly enough, "Let me see your hand where the sun kissed it, for now I am jealous, and shall kiss it myself."  and yes perhaps the flowers were a little crushed, but quite darling, even if only daisies. Daisies were not expensive, she could not brag to her posh lady friends about daisies. 

"I love them Charles." and she did, his story was perfect, still she added to it. "It is like I am some country girl and you my handsome and brave soldier, set to make his fortune that they might one day marry.  Perhaps each flower is a promise of his love, and surely she would return each with a kiss.  They might have to be apart for a time, but eventually they shall spend endless days together, a whole future." 

It was a cliché little fairy-tale, perhaps what she was really saying was she'd become adjusted to having to wait till the time was right for the next step in their relationship.

"That's a good idea." she praised as he asked her to instruct him on future gift ideas, "... well I should like a brooch perhaps, something I might wear every day next to my hear. Oh or perhaps a locket. Oh Charles, you might get miniatures painted of ourselves, to place in lockets, and I shall wear yours, and you shall wear mine!"  the words tumbled quickly out of her mouth with the excitement.  "Ooh or perhaps a full sized portrait of us, to hang over the fire place. Oh I would love that Charles. Yes that would be the very best present." 

"Oh. Ah, oh nothing much at all." unaware of the feathers spoiling her act, Darlene gave a shrug, "Though of course there are all sorts of important things I could do, I'm enjoying a quiet time mostly at the moment."  flashing a smile and intent to change the topic said, "You've not even seen my bedroom before have you?" Reaching behind her she invitingly touched the doorknob. 

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Charles could not help but grin.  Darlene seemed smitten with his words; but then, was she not smitten with him, much as he was smitten with her?  Was it not easier to impress someone that was already impressed?  Still, it was a more than welcome feeling.  He held out his hand for her to kiss but insisted that he do likewise to her.

Was it a surprise that she wanted to accompany him on his adventures?  Why did ladies always think that such was a good idea?  It was easier to turn down the likes of Susan Herbert than it was someone like Darlene.  He needed to be very careful in how he answered her.  "Darlene, my love, you are more precious to me than anything ... far too precious to lose.  Imagine having a necklace with the most valuable and large diamonds in the realm and it asked you to wear it everywhere, horseback riding and into unsafe parts of town.  It might impress those that you might meet and open doors; but, it might embolden thieves and kidnappers who would take the necklace from you.  My adventures take me to dark places.  Blackguards cannot best me because I know no fear.  If you were beside me, I would fear for your safety and they would have me at an advantage."  He knew he would draw a pout.  Darlene craved adventure.  He would need to recognize it.  "Still," he held out hope, "you shall be my secret weapon," he agreed.  "There will be times that you might better succeed than me.  I think you are amazing, so we will be quite the pair."  He had to think of ways to keep her busy.

Her fairy tale analysis drew a nod.  It seemed a bit overdone since he had already made his fortune but he liked the idea of them waiting a bit. 

"Brooch. miniatures, lockets," he repeated.  They sounded like grand ideas, though he already had a locket exchange with Davina.  Perhaps he could shelve that idea until last.  "What sort of brooch?"  That would come first.

Darlene confessed to doing nothing but leisure.  "I know you too well.  You are always up to some mischief," he teased.  "You are hatching some adventure without me.  Tell me.  Do the feathers have something to do with it?"

The mention of her bedroom caught his interest.  "It is nothing but furniture without you in it," he flattered.  "It is you I have come to see." 

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Well in that case shall we go down to the parlour for that cup of tea?" She grinned, happy with his reply but content to tease him over it.  Charles might notice she did not move even an inch towards the flight of stairs, her hand instead toyed at the door handle again. It had been days already, and he was so gorgeous, and they waited so terribly long before consummating their attraction in the first place!

"I'd like a brooch that... oh perhaps one with your regiment's emblem on it, perhaps hidden amongst flowers because our love is a bit of a secret still.  Well sort of anyhow, I shall not lie to anyone, and would happily tell the world of how much I adore you Charles." Darlene gazed into his eyes, placated with his explanation of why she could not adventure right by his side. Still, she'd knew that was something she'd need to change about him. Men usually did need to be changed, every lady knew that. "And also, that will be how I know I am your adventures secret weapon. And perhaps the other men in your regiment shall know that soon enough too." she winked. 

Perhaps she'd enlist his fellow officers to help?  Darlene did love a man in uniform after all, and the more the better she always said.

But for now she brushed hand past her hair, the feather he'd spotted there dislodged and wafted down to the floor...  "Oh that, I am just hobby-ing is all." she was not at all sure what he'd think of her chosen distraction.  "Here Charles, come see what I’ve done with the guest room, I’ve invited Phillipa to come and stay, do you remember her... there was a time when I was sure that you fancied her. I was horribly jealous don’t you know."  and pulling her own door closed with a click she slid her arm through his to stroll to the next door down the hallway.  Ie. leading him away from any further evidence.

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He could tell she was jesting because she made no move to go downstairs for tea.  As such he merely smiled and awaited her next move. Perhaps the door would open.  It did not.

He nodded but sought to clarify "you wish to wear a brooch with my regiment's insignia plus the flowers of our love?"  It seemed an odd match but then Darlene did not think like most dull ladies.  That is one of the many things that set her apart, though there were likely many husbands who wished for a dull thinking wife.  Her gaze pulled him in.  Did he realize how luminous her eyes were before?  They almost glowed in the darkness of the hallway.  And she was so happy to see him, which could not help but make him feel even closer in that moment.  Did he mention about seeing other of his men about being a secret weapon?  Surely not.  She mentioned about professing their love, which was charming, but what if she spoke to Catherine or Davina?  It would not be pretty.  Maybe he could volunteer to go overseas and fight the French until things blew over.

"We are so lucky indeed to share this love.  Others are sure to be envious of it."  Maybe she would see her way to not brag about it and maybe he could find a way to get her to be quiet about it until next season or until he might have words with his other two lovers about the issue.  He needed a distraction; and so it seemed Darlene did too.  She spoke only dismissively about the feathers.  "Hobbying?  Do you mean you are collecting feathers now?"  She was leading him away from her room and he had no recourse but to follow.  Perhaps he could buy her some collectible feathers.

"Phillipa?  She is coming to court?"  He had been fond of the lady their first season at court but there had been nothing beyond friendship, like he had with Darlene, Heather and Catriona.  "I did not realize you were such friends.  You were jealous of her?" He laughed.  "She was a gem but you were a jewel, and still are, and even more polished.  She can only aspire to your luster," he flattered.  "Yet, I confess it flattering to hear you were jealous.  I already confessed that I was jealous of Edmund and, of course, Thomas.  In fact, you had all the lords bewitched as I recall."  He walked with her next door.  "What was it you wished to show me in the guest room?"  He had some suggestions.


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"Yes yes Charles, I would simply love that!" Darlene even thought it one of her better ideas so far (and she'd had so many great ideas!)  Wearing his regiments insignia, she'd practically be their mascot - they would basically all fall under her command, she reckoned. Bouncing with excitement of it she chirped,  "Ooh please please get me a brooch Charles, I shall love you even more, please please please!"  

He was right to worry she would not keep their secret well, but really wasn’t 'danger' Charles middle name? 

"Well no, not that so much." she replied vaguely of feathers, "... of but tell me of your adventure today. If I cannot be present during it, then you must at least let me marvel afterwards at your deeds."  

"Oh yes I hated her." she laughed of Phillipa, "but after she'd left I found my tolerance for her grew, and we have eventually become the best of friends."  she pushed open the door to the spare bedroom. It was neat as a pin, with no bust-open pillow here nor anything else odd.  The walls weres pale green, with purple drapes and furnishing were in rosewood.  Central focus to the room was the double bed, with a pretty lavender quilt covering it. 

"…after we are married, will my house become yours?  My guests will become Our guests. That will be so nice…I can hardly wait," speaking softly she turned back to look up into his eyes, pressing her hand across his lapel “…Charles, I love you so…”

Darlene had not exactly answered his question, but he might guess.  

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He had not seen Darlene beg for anything from him before.  He would have gotten her a brooch anyway, but this made it all the more urgent.  "Of course."  He would need to send Elam to find the right jeweler to di custom work.  "What flowers would you like?  Daisies?  Do you want the flowers just a hint or just as prominent as my regiment's insignia?"  He would hate to disappoint her. 

"My adventures?  I swept the park with my soldiers to clear it for decent folk.  There is a man that is wanting to steal something to hide a murder that happened a century ago.  I had to interrogate servants of the blackguard to learn more about the man, his goals and weaknesses.  He can only hide from me so long."  He offered a confident smile.  Women, he knew, needed reassurance that all was well, or they would panic or attempt to interfere.  Neither would be welcome to him.  This was a dangerous game he was playing and he did not need for the villain to learn of Charles' own weaknesses for the ladies he loved. 

Fortunately, the sight of a double bed was helpful in his mental inner turmoil about how to keep Darlene safe.  "I'm glad," he replied softly as she explained more about Phillipa.  "Friends are important." 

There was talk about living with her in her house.  "We would live in my house after we marry," he explained, not seeing the danger in such a response.  "It is a larger house and in need of a lady's touch."  He smiled again at the thought of the two of them happily married, even though he rather liked having the affections of multiple ladies.

"And I love you too," he joined as he embraced her tightly and leaned down to give her a passionate kiss.  He pulled apart and apologized, "I must have hurt you to crush you against the buttons of my tunic.  I think it best if I remove anything with buttons or metal.  Your skin is like satin and I would prefer to revel in your embrace more naturally."  he was already reaching to remove his coat but looked to Darlene to see if there was resistance.  Despite his appetite for her love and flesh, he was a gentleman after all.


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And he agreed.  “Daisies? Yes daisies, you have said such lovely things about them that they might become my new favourite.” While she could not brag about a bunch of daisies, shed certainly show around daisies cast in gold.  “Oh, and in gold Charles, you have surely noticed I just never wear silver.”

A beau had once given her some jewellery in silver and she’d hardly managed to hide her dismay.

“Really I would prefer your regiments insignia to be the main statement of the brooch, with the flower to be an added prettiness….

…Charles, you are such a darling to ask me these questions, I like to be included in choices. Shall we talk of many thinks like this do you think?” she hoped so, it had not been like that with Thomas. Thomas, though much the same age as Charles, had been stuffy minded of the roles of men and women. Punctilious even.

That he was so open in discussing, had her open up with an admission too. “The reason I want your regiments insignia so clear on it is, because I want all your men to know that we are, important to each other.  It will be a little bit like an announcement.” Telling on herself like this was an odd situation for Darlene. “I hope you still want to give me a brooch now Charles?”

Darlene listened to his tales of adventures, it sounded horribly fun.  "How wonderful, and what a foolish fellow! But why is he so worried about an old crime? Does anyone even care what happened so long go.  If I was him, when I found out you were onto me, Id have the sense to surrender!” She grinned and gave Charles a wink.

There was a part of her that would like to have been involved in the theatre he talked about, but somehow her usual compulsions hardly even spiked.  Perhaps it was the very newness of their closer relationship that made her more biddable.  Or perhaps it was a simple happiness and contentment.  

Nodding she then tipped head. “What shall we do with this house then, there is hardly any point in having two houses in the same street.“   She was pleased to hear his house needed a ladies touch. “It’s not just your house that needs that…” they hugged, tightly!  

“Oh yes that did hurt a bit.” It had not, but playing along Darlene helped Charles with his ‘dangerous’ metal buttons.  This physicality was still very new between them, and her heartbeat raced with an excited nervousness and need.  “And your cravat pin, it could cause damage too I think.” Her fingers moved to remove that while she tiptoed to claim another kiss. 

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What sort of person would withdraw the gift after the motive is revealed by a lady?  "Of course I will give you such a brooch," he agreed readily.  The idea of gold versus silver was sobering for a man of limited wealth, but he knew that jewelers could use gold plating or leaf, so that could be done on a budget.    It was also sobering that Darlene wanted to use the brooch as an announcement of their affection.  That would need careful thought.  Perhaps he could find a way for ladies to wear such things without the same meaning.  At the rate she was going, it would be mere days before the entire court would know of their intent to be betrothed.  That would mean that he would have mere days to tell Catherine and perhaps Davina.  He felt the worst about the latter but this was no time to be thinking of other women.  Darlene was the one for him, certainly in the moment if not for eternity.

"The villain is a fool indeed.  I shall get to the bottom of this soon enough."  She was right about the age of the crime and it would cause him to reflect further on the matter ... when he did not have such a perfect creature distracting him so completely.

"Maybe we shall save the house for guests, or parties?"  It would seem a cold thing to suggest selling it.

"I knew it," he remarked on the affirmation of the hardness of his buttons and cravat pin.  "Your porcelain skin is so delicate."  He began removing his jacket as she removed his cravat, fully intending to press another hardness upon her.  "Come, let me sit on the bed so that you can get a better angle on my pin."  He was so much taller that it provided an easy excuse.  As he moved he remarked "it has been such a full day of soldiering and you have had a full day of ... hobbying, perhaps we might  ... repose together on the bed.  Just basking in your presence intimately beside you will reinvigorate me, and perhaps you?"  He had energy enough to lift her, cast her on the bed and dive in; but, having met those urges in Dorchester House, he thought it more fun if they spoke of things in a gentile way, like having a cup of tea or a bit of repose.  It might provide some light-hearted fun.

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That he did not change his mind was practically compliance to her revealed intents - Darlene beamed and hugged him again, “I cannot wait!  Shall I make something for you to wear too, as a silent declaration. Ha, who would ever have thought bold people like us would ever be so subtle.” She grinned.  “Perhaps I can sew you something, I am quite nifty with a needle don’t you know. What would like my sweet, shall I perhaps detail a pocket square or some such. Tell me what would you most like?” 

Yes what would he ask for, Darlene couldn’t hardly guess for Charles was usually so very selfless.  It seemed to her that most about all of his days were spent righting wrongs and fixing injustices, like this 100 year old crime even.  

Catching his jacket as he pushed it off, Darlene tossed it over the bed end.  “A house dedicated for parties, goodness Charles you are even grander thinking than me!” she grinned, he was teasing surely?!  And as he sat on the bed to be helpful, she moved to take off his pin, and at a much better position to kiss his face as she did so.  He smelt just perfect, slightly salty with the days activity mixed with his natural scent.  “Guests like your brothers, or my brothers, or my sister and her husband even.”

Her fingers tickled under his chin as she loosed off his cravat, then setting the pin on the bedside table she nodded in agreement. “You need to recline, laying like a cat in the sun – ooh but not with shoes on.”  Her attention moved to his boots, ungainly things.  She never paid his boots any  attention before, she slid fingers up them as she mused, “Are your boots made in Cornwall Charles, and do they make ladies shoes there also?  And… and do you grow cornflowers in your gardens there.” But she was not game to try pull his boots off.  

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"Subtlety, yes."  He liked that idea.  It was better than an overt declaration in his mind. "It shall be like a riddle then.  We shan't tell anyone openly.  They must guess it from the clues we wear and the actions we take."  Would she go for that?

"A pocket square for when I am out of uniform?  We do not wear such things with uniforms," he mused aloud.  "A handkerchief with your monogram perhaps, thought it would be tucked away from sight.  Perhaps a cravat with your flower embroidered in it, so that a sharp eye would find it intriguing to belong to a soldier."  He paused to see if she found that suitable. 

There was no reply to the party house.  A merely provided a smile as she thought on it and the siblings that could stay there.

She was hesitant on his boots.  "I have had pairs made here and there.  This pair is from London.  They have quite the leatherworkers here."  The point about cornflowers had him pause.  "Did I track mud in here?  I was sure I wiped them outdoors."  He looked at the soles of his boots.  They were rarely totally clean given all the filth on London streets.  "I'll remove them and put them by the door."  With that he gave a grunt as he removed each boot in turn and moved to deposit them by the door so they would not track dirt on the rugs.

"Shall you join me in the recline?"  She was dressed in a manner suited to bedrest.  He had likely interrupted her rest earlier.  If she would not join him, it would hardly be worth it.  He removed his belt and scabbard and laid it on a nearby chair.

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It backfired just a bit.  They wouldn’t tell anyone at all?  Her gleaming head of curls tilted as she bit lower lip, she’d really not meant to suggest that. 

Unfortunately a clever solution did not immediately come to mind.

When did Charles think to actually tell people, (or, to actually properly propose for that matter!)

“It will be another game, like your competition of attracting admirers?” A girl might be excused for wondering if he did not want to let on that they were an item. 

She’d need to fix that!

"Not the pocket square then, yes I will embroider a cravat.  Though now you make me wonder what symbol I can have that would be a riddle-like clue.  I could use the Oak leaf symbol for Oakham.”  She’d have preferred to use that of Chesterfield, but who even remembered her from those days. 

Charles said no more on the house, perhaps it was gauche of her to remind him of her further assets aside from widows bed.  Charles had owned very little when she’d first met him, but these days he lacked for nothing, it was logical enough for her to conclude that his hesitancy in proposing might be related to fiscal things. 

He pulled off his boots, and she climbed up on the bed and snuggled on up to his side, “I just wondered more about Cornwall, and it made me think of Cornflowers.  I do like gardens Charles, remember I begun a garden group for ladies even.” Her hand stroked his shirt front, feeling his chest beneath. “You must think me as silly as a young girl to be wanting to talk about what our lives might be all the time.”

One thing had become plain to her, spontaneous public declarations was not likely to be his thing.

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She seemed to like the idea of the riddle game, at least he thought so.  Maybe he saw what he wanted to see.

"Me attracting lady admirers?  It is my uniform really," he confessed.  "It is like honey to a lady," he chuckled as he revealed ghis secret too easily.  "You are one of the few who see me for who I am," he praised as he turned in the bed to face her.  "And you, you attract men like honey with your beauty and charm, but I know that you are far more.  Where you go, the court moves with you.  You are comfortable being in the center of things and I know you have a vulnerable side too.  You are an enchantress with powerful magic," he flattered.  "White magic of course."  He stared into her eyes happily.

"Use any symbol you like.  It must be visible to a sharp eye," he counseled.  "An oak surely.  Your family coat of arms perhaps.  Maybe a hint of the letter D?" he offered.  "Between my cravat and your brooch, it will not take long for the observant to know.  Of course, when anyone sees the way we look at each other, they will need no riddle, unless we are coy of course."

"We have cornflowers in Cornwall.  The gardens at my estate are not much to brag about but I am certain that you will weave your magic with them too.  Do you recall that I gained the title Baron of Tintagel?  It is a magical castle near my own home in Cornwall.  It is said to be the home of Uther Pendragon, Arthur and Merlin too.  You shall fit right in.  You would be the Baroness as well.  Do you know that my steward found a stone in the heart of the ruin that is a large crystal they think belonged to the wizard Merlin?  It was sent to me.  I will take you there one day... it is on a cliff above the sea.  It is nothing like London.  It is quite the opposite really."  He did rather fancy magic and relics, more than a pious Protestant might.

"You are not silly to want to look forward to happy times."  He was about to say that each of them had chosen poorly for their first marriage; but, fortunately, he thought better of that.  "It is the anticipation that is the hardest.  Yet, will you still love me now that you see me without my uniform?" he jested. 


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Her beau replied then as if he’d forgotten that other game, the game where he’d said they should diversify.  Darlene grinned.  She’d never even wanted to play that game anyhow!  Although now, if the game was off, she probably shouldnt hae encouraged Lord Mounjoy to declare his love like he had. Ah well.

“It’s not just the uniform at all Charles, even though you do look divine in it.  It is the way that you radiate the finest qualities, kindness, loyalty, upstanding-ness and strength. It’s all those things that attracts us ladies to you.” 

Darlene was simply delighted if he was not playing that other game!  She did want Charles all to herself after all.

Then as he started telling her the things he admired about her, the things that might attract admirers, happiness compelled kisses.  She kissed his cheeks, forehead and nose, saving his lips for the final reward…

“Yes white magic.” Briefly she wondered if he knew something, but that was impossible. Pressing her lips to his she kissed softly, “I hope it does not take our friends too too long to guess.” That he’d dared suggest a letter D assured her too that even if he was a little shy of it, he wanted his friends to guess also. “It will be fun Charles.”

And the fun grew, next with his tale of Tintagel, the fabled Knights (you would not know how relieved she was that it was not Greek legends that she knew nothing about!). “Oh my goodness Charles, can I see it? It must have magic in it still don’t you think.  That is quite remarkable.” She marvelled.  “I cant wait to see Tintagel too.  It sounds remarkable, and terribly romantic. But you are quite the romantic man aren’t you Charles. Perhaps when we have our portraits painted, it should be with the cliff and ocean view behind us.”

Her hand that stroked his chest found the end of a shirt lace and toyed with it. “I can hardly believe that you and I shall become wed Charles.  It is like if life is a meal, and we shall get to have pudding - finally, but without having eaten all the main. Or to get a star for a maths test, but to not have answered all the questions.” Darlene giggled with her admission of feelings.

Loosening the laces she placed a kiss on his chest. “Does that answer your question sweetheart?”

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In truth, Charles had not thought that Darlene would suffer long a game that afforded each to collect admirers.  A beautiful and charming lady could score admirers at will anyway.  A gentleman, even one in a uniform, was not assured of success.  Even if he could win, women, he surmised, were very jealous creatures.  They would hold grudges against those lady admirers he scored for years, if not a lifetime.  He would play along if she wished it, but it had been a thought to keep Darlene at a distance while he better ordered his life.

Darlene preferred the other game -- the one in which he delayed things by creating a guessing game.   It might gain him a week or two; maybe three.  She seemed excited about it, which was good.  "Yes, it shall be fun."

What sort of person does not like hearing good admirable qualities about themselves?  They each enjoyed the praise of the other.  The kisses were grand punctuation marks.  The kiss on the lips was tied to the revelation of white magic.  Speaking of magic, she seemed keen on Tintagel and the seer stone.  Charles was something of a boy at heart and still fancied such legends.  They could share them.  "Of course you shall see and feel it," he pledged.

It took him a moment to realize that Darlene was uttered how wonderful it was that they would be wed.  He had not proposed had he? She had outflanked his defensive position in a grand sweep and he could feel the battle slipping away beyond his control.  What could he do?  Any protest would be one of those unforgivable things would it not? Darlene had demonstrated to the soldier a keen mastery of strategy in capturing a fortified position.  He would wonder about his own strategy later.  Intimate moments defied attempts at reason or the introduction of obstacles.  "It is like a dream come true," he murmured.  That was fair.  Had they not each dreamed of wedding the other?  There had been an understanding of sorts that they were meant for each other sooner or later.

She did answer his question in the most delightful way, a kiss to the chest.  "Yes, now I get to kiss your chest," he uttered with boyish glee.  And what a magnificent chest it was!  Darlene was no girl, but a womanfully formed.   He playfully reached to expose her fine form from underneath the bedroom clothing and robe she wore..

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Wasn’t that the test of a good relationship? To be able to work through to a point of mutual joy.

“Our friends will feels so silly when they finally realise.” grinned Darlene, “and we will be all, ‘oh it was right there in front of you all along!”

And then she was kissing him, and Charles was becoming distracted of the Tintagel stone. “You will let me feel it too will you?” She could guess what he was actually talking about! “I dare say it is powerful hard, but perhaps not at all cold at all.”

Practically purring she was also distracting – Darlene could not wait until their future plans would be formally announced.

"Yes a dream come true, truly.” She happily sighed. He and she were such a perfect match!  “Ooh Charles, perhaps that shall be the first party for this party house? Yes, the reveal, when we awaken all our friends the game we’ve played with them.” 

And then he’d announce their plans to marry - it would be the wonderfullest party! “Yes yes do!” with eyes sparkling she flung herself back upon the pillow, helpfully pulling open her house robe and exposing her loose fitting nightgowns neckline - voluptuous form beneath warm and inviting. 

Meanwhile the manipulative creature she truly was commended ’well played Darlene, well played’.  How could her sweetheart refuse;  they'd be announced by end of this season, and surely married before the following!

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"Yes, our friends," he agreed, which caused the young man to recall that many of their friends and family were no longer at court.  "What of our friends?  Do we have enough I wonder?  Who do you count as your closest friends at court?  If we are to plan a party, we need to know the size of our circle do we not?"  He was trying to count his own friendships, mostly to learn that they were almost entirely ladies.  Now what would Darlene think of that?  It might not do well to name them.  Would she put them on those lists that ladies had in their mind about threats to their marriage and such?

"Oh yes, you can touch the stone," he agreed.  "I am sure it will come to life when you touch it."  Slowly it was dawning on him that one might take a double meaning from such things.  Was she doing that, or did she really want to touch the stone?  One could hardly ask.

"A betrothal party perhaps," he mumbled without thinking that he was playing into her trap even more completely.  He was more interested in that warm inviting form in front of him.  April nights in London were chilly and here was the most beautiful woman he knew, radiating heat (in more ways than one), and stimulating his ardor with an open invitation for intimacy.  Who could think clearly in such circumstances?  He could not. Like a centipede he moved up her form, with hands touching her all over, with the longest pause of the fleshy orbs of his obsession.  "What a lucky man I am to have such perfection in my hands," he flattered.  He could not resist moving up to kiss her hungrily.  His hands could barely whet his appetite for another probe of a more urgent type beneath her nightgown.  "I have a sudden need to disrobe," he laughed between kisses.

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Darlene imagined most of their friends were mutual – there was Heather, Isabeau, Margery and Noni. Adam, Louis, James, Martin and Owen… but his question brought her to a pause to think.  “Near to everyone we once knew have now made their careers away from London Court.  But my good friend Elizabeth Monck attends still, and I am vowed to mage fresh inroads to the Society of Ladies her mother heads.  Not that most of those ladies are would be much fun as party guests.  Goodness Charles, it is certainly a point you make. We need quest for new and scintillating company… or at least people who are very agreeable to play my party games.”

Planning a party was one of Darlene’s most favourite things to do, and her ideal guests were those of the biddable sort.

Giggling more at Charles poked further fun, “I think I am in love with The Tintagel treasure, most of all with the man who wields it.”

 His kisses were then excitably thorough, his hands firm and bold; Darlene heartbeat accelerated, her breath heaved.  “What a clever idea Charles, yes lets have a betrothal party at seasons end!” her fingers fumbled at his belt buckle, so happy, elated, and these so very marvellous plans!  He had best not forget, oh if only she had pen and paper, she would have him write it all down, like a contract.  

“Oh my darling, aren’t we the most perfect couple ever!  I hardly even care if it’s a big or small guest list!” she kissed him as she could, while hitching up her nightgown above her waist, “Where is your quill! Dip it to my inkwell, lets close the deal!” barely were his trews down from his hips, and she was pulling him atop of her. It had been far too long already for a lass who was particularly fond of a lovely romp.


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"Yes we must widen our circle of friends," Charles agreed..  When one could count the number of friends with one or two hands, it was time to expand.  Success at court was often determined by one's circle of acquaintances.

Darlene mentioned Elizabeth Monck, which was handy in that Duchess' husband was Charles own commanding officer.  Perhaps they would build a close relationship with the Ablemarles.

Perhaps he would remember the betrothal party, or not.  In the heat of the moment he could forget.  Perhaps later he would be glad there was no paper and quill.  Speaking of quill, she was urging him onward and he needed no enticement.  His belt, breeches and other clothing were removed in awkward haste, with fabric sent flying.

Once connected in flesh, it was hard to contain the young lord's enthusiasm for the intimate sport.  He was a rather vigorous athlete when he was aroused, and so he went at it.  It was not soft but not the torrid pace of Dorchester House.  It was an animalistic euphoria unleashed, only concluded with a frantic crisis and release.  There was time enough for soft and gentle motions in the coupling to follow.  "Yes, we are the most perfect," he agreed amid deep intake of air from his exertions.  "We are so lucky."  His hands ran lightly over her damp skin as he readied a second plunge.  At his age and fitness, he needed no rest before a second round.  This one would be a slower pace for sure, as he wanted to enjoy the view and the softness of her skin.


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With a squeal of delight (not that he needed further encouragement) the now naked Charles busy atop her. “Oh, wait a moment!” she called a time out, and quickly enough she discarded robe and night dress.  Bare as babes they reunited, skin on skin, breaths heaving, bodies celebrating! 

Charles was definitely energetic – while Darlene shifted, arched, and contorted about – until his quickening pace left her no other course than to try hold on through the ride!

“Oh my goodness!” the young woman gasped as they broke apart, breasts heaving as she panted, one leg still linked through his, “that was even better than last time,” and twisting around up onto one elbow she looked at him. Then grinned. She kissed his nose. “You are a dark horse, Charles Whitehurst, and here Id’ thought you were such a nice boy.”

Hitching herself up she threw a leg over to straddle her lover, then looking down at him with a raise of eyebrow. “Are you ready again yet darling?” she moved ground her sex atop of his, his seed barely having a chance to melt before suggestion of a sequel.  As the sun shone in the windows lighting their gleaming bodies, his hands were moving all over her and she knew his answer. Lifting herself up, she held her breath ready for what came next.  The plunge, that filled her, that made her feel finally complete.

“Oh Charles.” Letting go she raised her hands and leaned back, heady wild emotion was upon her as she pummelled astride him, taking her fill. Bodies jostling. Charles so hard and strong, piercing at a perfect point.  Till finally, shuddering she flung herself sideways with him in a love wrestle, holding herself connected.  She loved that bit of him very much. 

“Did you like that sweetheart?” she crooned, tilting her pelvis a little to (needlessly) indicate what she was talking about.    

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"Each time is better," he agreed.  Frankly, he would agree with her about most any question while they were about to couple, were in the process of coupling or in the afterglow of it.  When she asked him whether he liked the two bouts, it seemed a silly question requiring a silly answer.  "I suppose it was enjoyable," he offered with a laugh an extended tongue briefly to show he was being silly.

As they laid wrapped side by side catching their breath, Charles inquired "a dark horse, me?  Not to you surely, unless you like dark horses that is."  He was not quite sure of her meaning.  There were many that would not see him as nice, other than ladies that charmed him of course.  "Do you think a soldier should be nice I wonder?"  Pillow talk could be lead to so many meaningless probing questions.  "I wonder who might be the nicest person we know, other than ourselves of course.  Perhaps Noni?"

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It might seem a silly question to him, but did not seem that way to Darlene. Her late husband had not been a demonstrative man, and had never seemed particularly pleased after enacting marital duty.  But perhaps that had been her fault.   

Not Charles though, he poked out tongue and teased.  Her reply was a grin and needling finger to the ribs, "Soo... even better than steamed pudding?"  rolling onto her side she slid arm around him.  Life felt perfect.

"Well dark horses are mysterious, and have surprises. I like your surprises Charles." she explained.  She was hardly interested to talk about other soldiers just now, while she was in lovers embrace with one of her own.  She thought of him as hers, well almost hers at the least.

In relaxed and dreamy talk he mused the nice people in their life. "Noni is even too nice, except her dog is a nuisance. Really I'd say you are nicest person I know Charles,  and I don’t think there is anything you could ever say to make me think otherwise."  

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"Oh, steamed pudding.  Well then," he played along balancing one hand against the other as if weighing the choice carefully, "that is close I suppose."  He broke out laughing.  "Darlene, I would choose you over my last meal when famished, my last sip of water when parched, or my last ray of sunshine before the storm."  He was a natural flatterer, but  a student of prose.  Darlene had told him that she loved love letters.  In truth so too did he.  So, if he could coin a phrase that might seem to leap from the pages of a love letter, why not use it with the lady that had enchanted him so long ago?  He reached out to kiss and embrace her briefly.

As she defined dark horses, he supposed he approved of the comparison.  He was a horseman himself, riding as soon as he had been walking.

When she described him as the nicest person she knew, he was about to repeat the same about her but he recalled in time that she had stabbed Thomas Killigrew without provocation.  Given his love for her, Charles was certain that she had either good reason or was out of her mind temporarily, with good excuse.  It made him wonder whether he was really as nice as she imagined.  A good number of men he encountered would not share that view.  Many ladies might, but he was not proud of what he had done with Davina.  Would a nice person debauch a lady?  He was ashamed of it, even though she had been as ready as he.  Of course, he had been smitten with her, if not in love with her.  He still harbored a soft love or great affection for her, even in the presence of Darlene. What of his cheating with his friend Martin Walker's wife Maureen?  Did a nice person do that?  Or sleeping with Catherine while she was still the mistress of York, or "accidentally" sleeping with Anne Scott and impregnating her?  She was the wife of his commanding officer.  That seemed  anything but nice.  A drunken snog with Fiona at Brighten Beach was more excusable, but she was the sister of a friend. Of course there were two older duchesses but that hardly seemed unkind.

"I do not know that I have heard many describe me as the nicest person they know.  It hardly fits a soldier I suppose," he replied softly  He had killed men.  It became apparent to him at that moment that he was becoming too somber so he forced himself to smile "but I will take the flattering.  I suppose I must be careful then to never say an unkind thing then."

When might he broach the subject of Catherine Sedley with her?  Not in bed surely.  Did she not know anyway?  Half the court knew.  Perhaps she did and had chosen not to raise the subject.  If that was true, then neither should he ... he supposed conveniently. 

"A game then between us, if we are to say something unkind about another, shall we used a code word instead so that we might testify under oath that we never uttered an unkindness?" Charles enjoyed all sorts of games with ladies he liked.


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And Charles said the sweetest things!   Beaming, she believed his every claim, not for a moment thinking them 'lines' he’d read or practised upon anyone else.   Such a think was beyond her guileless Charles, the man who, so long ago, had blushed as pink as a rose asking for a kiss. 

“What ever storms may come, we shall be each others shelter, my darling, my sweet.” Darlene crooned as she embraced again.  She could quite imagine him; if somehow imprisoned pushing away his meal tray, and calling for the only sustenance hearts needed – a moment with his true love! A moment with Her!

“I would nourish your spirits, bring you wine when you are thirsty, and be here waiting for you after the storms have passed.” She was under no illusions that there would be troubles ahead, life had taught her that much at least.  But she had no idea what direction those storms might come from – she so recently returned did not know about his string of mistresses. Nor would she ever imagine roguery was in his nature.

“I mean personally Charles. As a soldier yes you are fierce and commanding – but when with me you are the sweetest and nicest man I’ve ever met.  Would it be egotistical of me to claim I bring out the best in you?” she laughed a little, while thinking to herself it was actually quite true. See too how happy he was, not at all the mourning widow she’d worried he might be.

His game did not make so much sense, but that was probably because Charles was not the master game creator that she was.  “Um, can you give an example?” Darlene asked.

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Things were going swimmingly, with florid proclamations of love from each, causing any clouds in his mind to disperse. It was true that Darlene made him happier, and therefore nicer. so, how could he refute her claim?  "I think you can take credit," he agreed.

It was also true that he was no master of the game.  Darlene would be an excellent instructress.  "Well, I was thinking how you said I was so nice and I would not wish to contradict that image if it is dear to you.  I think and say unkind things at times, but perhaps I should do better to reinforce the image of my niceness."  He paused to see if she was following him.   "So, I thought it might be entertaining if I could say things or a word that only you knew was unkind.  I suppose it could still affect your view of me, but if it was done as some sort of code between us and none are the wiser, perhaps it could be fun?"  Maybe he miscalculated.  "So, I guess that if I thought someone was an ignorant arse, pardon my vocabulary, I might say to you in mixed company that such person was from Petersborough.  Some might think that harmless, but to you Petersborough is a town with extensive stone quarries and that means stone, which means he thinks like stone ... and therefore ignorant?"  The idea was dying as he was trying to explain it.  Perhaps, he hoped, she might do a better job than he was.  It had seemed like fun to him, that the two of them would attend parties togerther and insult people without the other parties knowing it was done. It was lost on him that he might be undoing her opinion of him in the process.

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“Shall I add a label, made by Darlene?” she giggled at the silly thoughts, meanwhile delighted that he agreed.

And so Charles tried to explain his game.  Darlene found out then and there, than any party games that they announced in the future, needed to be announced by her and not he.  He explained it far too thoroughly.  Though when he said the word ‘arse’ Darlene gasped and nudged his arm, “ooh Charles! I shant ever think of you the same now!” she teased.  (It really had made her heart race a little though.) 

“But that is a great game Charles. Do you truly think some people are.. from Peterborough? Those poor fellows, don’t you think they might need our help.  I mean if I was from Peterborough I’d want all the help I could get.  And even worse, imagine those poor people who don’t even know that they are from Peterborough.”  She was smiling throughout saying so.

“Perhaps we can have a saying that we shall ‘send for a cart, like a cart to Peterborough, to go and save them from themselves.”    

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