Darien’s been on the run for two years, but when he lands unexpectedly in Rosenton, he finds to his surprise that he rather likes the theater town. And his preference has only partially to do with the place itself. Ever since meeting Christopher Faith, Darien finds himself thinking about the man. A lot!
Born to serve, Christopher Faith’s position as butler to the noble Rose family has provided him with a life that is all he ever could desire, or so he imagines. But when he meets Darien, he’s found the single thing that could make his perfect life even more sublime.
Flirtation leads quickly to love, but there’s a problem, and it’s a big one. Darien Holt is not the carefree man he appears to be. He has a secret, and hiding his true identity might destroy everything between them.
© Copyright 2017 Jet Mykles, all rights reserved
HE WAS HERE!
Darien had hoped but not expected to see Mr. Faith at one of the many holiday parties up and down Main Street. He’d heard from his friends what the Eventide was like, but he was delighted by the fact that they’d spoken true. Dozens of open doors, barrels of spirits, prettily made-up women and dashing men all in holiday finery. He’d been propositioned more than once by both sexes but had turned everyone down, looking, hoping to see one man. His prospects had looked grim, and he’d decided on just one more party, one of the theater parties to see if the Rose family was in attendance. He knew they were in town tonight. Many partygoers had enthused when the Rose carriage had arrived a few hours past, each host and hostess hoping for noble guests to grace their establishment. Not that there weren’t a dozen or so barons and at least two viscounts currently in residence, but every party wanted their ruling family in attendance.
Darien couldn’t blame them. From what he’d seen, both in Rosenton and beyond, the Roses were far more attractive and gracious than most other nobility he’d encountered. But the important bit of information Darien had heard was that much of the hall’s staff had also come to town. He’d overheard word of Mr. Faith’s presence in Miss Barker’s parlor, and that had given him the itch to wander. For two hours he’d searched and nearly given up. But his search had finally born fruit, and he found himself en route through gaily dressed, nearly—or entirely—drunken people to the man himself.
While Mr. Faith cradled a mug of what had to be that excellent cider in one elegant hand, he did not look to be into his cups. He was dressed well, of course, but it wasn’t livery. His long coat was dark green, the nap thick enough that it looked nearly black at the creases. A brilliant emerald cummerbund of what had to be silk wrapped his narrow waist above crisply pressed slacks of black. An intricate silver brooch fastened the high collar of his pristine white shirt. His hair had been tamed and smoothed so it looked dark brown despite the occasional gold highlight brought out by the candlelight above him. The same light flashed across the lenses of his glasses as he dipped his head to place those succulent lips at the rim of his mug to drink. All the while as Darien approached, Mr. Faith watched him steadily. Hungrily? Darien could only hope. He also hoped that the thick weight and loose cut of his trousers hid the growing evidence of his excitement.
“Mr. Faith.” He ducked his head briefly in respect when he stopped just more than a pace in front of the man.
“Mr. Holt. Happy Eventide.”
“And prosperous Dawning to you, sir,” he finished the traditional greeting.
Despite the boisterous cheer surrounding them, they spent a moment of quiet, sharing a look. Darien had experienced this before. It was an exchange, a daring. He filled his eyes with invitation for Mr. Faith to read and waited for a response. This would be the time for one of them to demur, to look away, for if neither of them did, that promised better, more intimate things. After that moment, Mr. Faith smiled. Darien mirrored it, nearly vibrating with excitement.
Calmly, Mr. Faith set his mug on a nearby side table. “Have you enjoyed the Rosenton festivities this night?”
“I have.” Darien edged a few inches closer, just too close for politeness. “I can’t say I’ve experienced anything like it in my life. Except”—he chuckled—“for Yul.”
Mr. Faith shared his chuckle. The day before and the day of Yul in Rosenton were much like this new year’s evening. The parties had been smaller, but more doors had been open, with much singing in the streets and wishing of good cheer. “Yes. I’ve experienced Yul outside of our fair town, but I must say I prefer the celebrations here at home.”
“I can’t blame you for that.”
Light flashed on glass as Mr. Faith tipped his head to meet Darien’s gaze again. He was perhaps three or four inches taller than Darien, enough that Darien had to bare his neck to look into those eyes. Dear gods, he hoped this man was as commanding as he seemed to be. Darien didn’t think he could bear the disappointment if he wasn’t once they were alone.
“You came with friends. I wouldn’t keep you from them.” Mr. Faith’s voice was deep, soft, urging Darien closer to catch every syllable.
He shook his head. “They won’t miss me. I’d much rather talk with you. Sir.”
A slow blink to showcase dark lashes that stayed half-lidded over gold-flecked eyes. “Are you certain?”
“Hmm.” His gaze dropped to Darien’s lips. “Perhaps we could sample the night outside?”
“Yes.” He didn’t care what this man said, the answer was yes, yes, and dear gods yes!
Mr. Faith nodded, stepped back, then gestured Darien toward the lobby’s double doors. Gathering his excitement, Darien directed his feet to stroll in that direction, the object of his lust at his side.
CHRIS DID ENJOY this young man. His lust was blatant, barely contained. A heady feeling to be the focus of that energy, and Chris savored it as they made their way through the crowd to the outside. Crisp winter air nipped at them, but he wasn’t cold. They had both retrieved overcoats, but neither donned hats or gloves. Few in Rosenton were cold this night, buoyed by the spirit of the season as well as the liquid spirits available in profusion. He was glad no one addressed him with more than a polite nod or wave as they passed. He was not fit for idle chitchat as he considered how best to enjoy Darien this night. For he would enjoy him, no doubt of that. Should he demur, keep things light? He would kiss those lips, for certain, but should he take it further? Should he sample the delights of the body within the rough-spun wool suit, or should he draw it out, find out more about this young man before taking him to bed? Johnnie accused him of thinking overmuch when it came to sexual delights, but Chris honestly found pleasure in the planning, of plotting ecstasy into existence.
Darien was quiet beside him, hands dug into the pockets of his jacket as they left the party behind. There were plenty of people on the streets, from pairs to large groups, but they were easily avoided by crossing the street, then turning uphill toward the dark edifice of the Thorn. The Thorn had been a central focus of the Yul festivities but was traditionally closed for the new year, giving the administrators and staff a night to enjoy the welcome of others.
Darien followed without comment as music faded behind them, but curiosity soon got the better of him. “Sir?”
They’d turned down a narrow alley between a stone wall and an ironwork gate. On the other side of the gate was a rose garden that lined the wall of this wing of the theater. The alley was clean and perfectly safe, but it was dark, and only moonlight and one very small lamp lit the garden and the door to the inside. Chris roused from his thoughts to face Darien. Again he stood close, almost too close, but not nearly close enough. His face was open, trusting, without a trace of naiveté. Not an innocent by any stretch, Chris could see, but Darien contained an inner joy and inquisitiveness that Chris found fascinating. For the first time, he raised his hand to trace the clean-shaven jaw, noting the happy curl this brought to the corners of Darien’s enticing lips. “I thought we might spend some time. Alone. Do you mind?”
“No, sir.” His automatic use of the honorific tugged Chris’s heart with each use. He did crave obedience in his lovers, a need that often halted an otherwise promising interlude. “But”—dark gaze darted beyond the gate, then back—“here?”
He drew his finger over the sharp point of Darien’s chin, then up to tap the bottom curve of his lip. “I have access to an apartment upstairs.”
Understanding dawned, and a grin blossomed. “Oh.”
The tip of his finger touched the damp just inside Darien’s mouth. “Is that acceptable?”
With that, Chris knew that kisses would not be enough to feed his hunger.
DARIEN FOLLOWED MR. Faith through a narrow yard and a door nearly hidden by a trellis laden with hibernating rose vines. Lust boiled in his veins so hot that he was amazed to find himself so very calm. But in the wake of Mr. Faith’s cool command, it was difficult to be anything but. He reveled in it. When Mr. Faith had led him from the party, a dozen conversation starters had tapped at his lips, but he’d uttered none. He’d waited, content to let the other man lead. He’d waited and been trapped in awe as Mr. Faith led him into the dim quiet without saying a word. Not that Darien felt ignored. On the contrary, he knew with base instinct that Mr. Faith was supremely aware of him. It was intoxicating.
But at the gate, he’d had to know, had to speak. What if he was wrong? What if he was making assumptions that were entirely incorrect? When that gaze had turned on him again, he knew. Mr. Faith had plans for him, glorious plans he was sure. All he had to do was follow.
The door opened into a small hallway that emptied into a darkened room to the left and up a staircase to the right. The landing above the stairs was blue in moonlight from a window overlooking the yard. There were closed doors along the hallway, but Mr. Faith passed them to another staircase. This one was dark enough that he had to light a lamp mounted on the wall with matches kept in a holder within the lamp’s casing. Mr. Faith turned a knob, and seconds later another mounted lamp alit halfway up the stairs, to be followed by yet another at the top. Having worked at the Thorn, Darien knew that small technical conveniences abounded, but he was a little surprised to see that these extended beyond the professional areas. Then again, he thought as he followed Mr. Faith up the stairs, from the look of the décor, the apartment Mr. Faith mentioned could very well be for the Rose family, and their comfort would be paramount.
There were only two doors at the top of the second set of stairs, and the wood flooring of the small space between them shone. Yes, definitely well tended. Mr. Faith’s key unlocked the one on the left, and he stepped back to allow Darien to enter first. More moonlight lit the space through a window beside the door, making it simple for Mr. Faith to light the lamp just inside. A sofa and two matching chairs flanked a wide, free-standing fireplace. Beyond the fireplace were two more doors, one open to show the gleam of porcelain, the other just showing the canopy of a bed. It was one of the finest places Darien had ever been in his life, and it gave him pause.
Until a hand touched his back. He turned to look up at Mr. Faith.
Who smiled. “My lords and lady sometimes use this apartment when they stay in town.” He held up the key. “I assure you, they will not be using it tonight.”
Darien had to return the smile. “I wouldn’t doubt you. Sir.”
Mr. Faith placed the key on a table, then turned Darien to face him fully. He cupped Darien’s jaw in cool hands. “You are a beautiful man, Darien.”
His heart thudded with joy to hear it. “Thank you.”
Thumbs caressed his cheeks. “I would keep you with me tonight.”
Darien kept smiling. He adored this man’s very proper speech. “I’m more than happy to stay.”
Mr. Faith’s lips hovered over his, but those eyes remained open, focused on his through a very thin veil of glass. One hand drifted down to lightly span the base of Darien’s neck, a mild, possessive touch that made Darien’s knees weak. “I would fuck you.”
He inhaled a delighted gasp.
Fingers slid into his hair. “Would that suit you?”
He pressed into Mr. Faith’s touch, making so bold as to slip his hands within the lapels of Mr. Faith’s jacket to place palms on his sides and the warmth of skin under fine linen. “Yes.” He licked his lips. “Please.”
The kiss was a claiming. Not hard or rushed, but Mr. Faith’s command of his mouth left him no doubt as to who would be following whose lead. Mr. Faith’s tongue swept over his, and he sighed in happy surrender. Oh yes, he thought, pressing himself into the lean, hard muscles of his chest, this is right.