“Brrr.” Emmett shook off his greatcoat and handed it and his hat over to the footman. “Devilish cold out there, tonight.”
“Yes, sir,” the footman agreed and swept away. The freckle-faced lad was likely humoring him, but then, the boy had not spent two months in the searing heat of equatorial Africa. There were excellent reasons to spend time in London, but the moldering damp of early spring wasn’t one of them.
Emmett straightened his damned waistcoat and headed toward one of the wingback chairs closest to the fireplace.
Within seconds, a waiter approached, starched white cloth draped over one arm. “Your usual, sir?”
“No, not this evening. Whisky, please.” He needed something a bit stronger to warm him up than the Stellenbosch wines he customarily drank, and that the club stocked at his request.
“Very good, sir.” The waiter slipped away.
Cigar-scented leather creaked as he relaxed back into the chair, letting the fire’s warmth chase away the chill.
“Good evening, Lord Bridgewater.” Beare, the club’s steward stood at his elbow, as though he’d materialized out of thin air. “I trust you are well after your extended absence.”
“Yes, thank you.”
“Will you be expecting a companion for your evening’s entertainment?”
Emmett bit back a chuckle at the overly delicate phrasing. Beare was so damned prim sometimes. Unfortunately, even Emmett’s considerable assets had been unable to create an opening in the celebrated courtesan’s schedule.
“Not this evening. Shelley’s dance card was regrettably too full to accommodate my early return.” He could dress up his words as well as Beare could. From the faint hint of a scowl, Beare hadn’t missed Emmett’s mocking tone.
“Very good, milord.”
Emmett assumed Beare didn’t approve of how Emmett treated Shelley any more than anyone else did. Stupid and shortsighted of them all. If his time in deepest Africa had taught him anything… money and status didn’t necessarily equal good or right or even interesting.
Shelley was an intelligent and entertaining companion, aside from his considerable skill between the sheets. For the price he paid, Emmett was determined to wring every bit of enjoyment out of his appointments, no matter who thought he was a fool besotted with a whore. They didn’t realize he wasn’t besotted, but merely appreciating one of the finer things in life.
Sex could be had in almost any alcove or alley, dock or ballroom, regardless of society’s disapproval. Anyone who ignored Shelley’s other skills… they were the fools, not Emmett.
The waiter returned with Emmett’s glass. Beare nodded at him and made as though to depart.
“Hold up, Beare.” The man knew just about everyone. If anyone could help with his thorny problem, it would be the steward.
Emmett took a sip of his whisky first. “Do you know anyone who’s good with metalwork… tubing and gears and whatnot? Fine, delicate work. You see, I’m—”
“Working on another weapon?”
Damned man knew everything, although Emmett was trying to keep this one a secret until he was sure he could get it to work. He’d not been able to scale down his design enough to make it feasible. “Do you know anyone? I can do it, but I don’t enjoy it. I’d much rather commission someone else to do it.”
“Were you still planning to attend the Admiral’s ball?” Beare raised a supercilious brow, as though to indicate Emmett had no business cluttering up the club. Not that the club was overly crowded tonight. Must be balls aplenty — ha! — to entice the men out into society this evening.
“I had planned to. Just fortifying myself first. And giving the young bucks a chance to get properly foxed. Much easier to hunt them down.” Emmett lifted his glass in a toast and winked.
Beare’s lips compressed for a fraction of a second. Pah. Half the time it was impossible to tell if Beare was even listening, much less if he disapproved. Emmett ought to save his bait for the ball. Scandalizing his peers was half the fun of attending society’s functions. Getting a proper toff or two to drop their drawers or drop to their knees in a darkened garden was the other half. Almost made wearing the restrictive eveningwear worthwhile.
“I daresay, milord, you are still considered a young buck.”
“Ah, Beare, kind of you to say so.” His active lifestyle kept his thirty-six year old body as fit as any stripling fresh out of the schoolroom, although his build and face hardly resembled one. The vicious Boer and Zulu wars hardened a man, aged his soul.
Beare inclined his head slightly. “There are at least two young men who may be able to assist you. Both have become members during your absence. Jacob Silsbury or Baron Colchester. Both were invited to the Admiral’s ball this evening, although I do not know if they will be in attendance.”
“What? There’s something the all-knowing Beare doesn’t know?” Beare’s nostrils flared, the only outward signal that Emmett had finally managed to annoy the man. With some effort he held in a smirk, and swallowed the last of his whisky.
Wait… “Colchester? When I had dinner with Nash the other night, he told me the poor bastard died in a fire.”
Dammit. Emmett’s satisfaction couldn’t hold up to Beare’s smug certainty that Emmett wanted to be armed with the knowledge before he went badgering strangers at a ball.
“He did indeed, milord.” No servant had ever been so unfailing polite and so blatently condescending at the same time. “The title passed to a nephew — Caleb Sutton — who likely has the skills you require.”
“And he’s also a member of the club?” Emmett much preferred to keep his business in the family, so to speak.
“Yes, milord. Although Colchester’s estate was nearly bankrupt, the new Baron saw fit to maintain the club membership Colchester bequeathed him.”
Interesting. Did that little tidbit mean Colchester would be more amenable to a commission?
“And Silsbury’s wealth?” Not many could get away with such a blunt question, but Emmett frequently traded on both his wealth and status to speak his mind. What good were either of those things if society strangled the life from you?
“I’m given to understand his estate rivals your own.” Beare’s words confirmed his suspicions. Silsbury only if Colchester turned him down.
“Thank you, Beare.” It wasn’t like the steward to give up that much information so easily, but Emmett would take what he could get.
Emmett checked his pocket watch. Time to go. The evening marched on, and there was a fine line between foxed enough to have sex in the garden and too foxed to participate. Giving his cock free reign was the primary reason to attend these functions, and he wasn’t going to miss that. If he tweaked a few noses and gained an introduction to either man, fine.
After greeting his hostess, Emmett grabbed a glass of champagne from one of the many footmen circulating with trays. Emmett moved through the ballroom, neatly dodging the simpering misses who hoped to marry into an earldom. Wasn’t going to happen, but he nodded politely and continued on. A number of attractive men were present, but he’d be more likely to find his prey in the library.
“Lord Bridgewater, how nice to see you this evening.” Thomas fell into step beside him.
“Thomas.” If Emmett had ever known Thomas’s other names, he’d since forgotten them.
“Heading for the library?”
“No, not tonight, dear boy.” Emmett pulled open the door to the library and strode in. Thomas followed him — unfortunately — laughing nervously at the blatant lie.
Emmett found a chair with an ideal vantage point where he could see, and be seen, by most of the men in the room. Many of them were there to escape the pressures of polite conversation and obligatory dances, but enough were looking for the same thing Emmett was.
Thomas sat in a nearby chair, smiling. Emmett eyed him. The man was one of the most gorgeous men Emmett had ever seen, the classic English rose morphed into masculine perfection. But he didn’t know his way around a cock — at all. Thomas had so poorly mishandled Emmett’s at the ball prior to his departure for Africa, Emmett had begun to wonder if he’d ever touched one at all, even his own.
“Can I get you another drink?”
Emmett’s gaze roved around the room, seeking the buck he’d cut out of the herd this evening. Contrary to his statement to Beare, they didn’t have to be young, merely attractive and willing. He glanced back at Thomas. He fit all three criteria, but Emmett had no intention of revisiting that fiasco.
“No, thank you.” Although he might need more than one if Thomas intended to chat with him for long.
“How was your trip to Africa? Bag a lot of animals?”
A man quite nearly as attractive as Thomas stood against the wall between two terrace doors, a glass clutched tightly in one hand. His dark hair fell over his eyes, making him look younger than he probably was. His nose was a trifle large, but his lips were full and dark pink. Emmett wasn’t certain, but he thought he’d caught the man’s attention, even though he’d not made eye contact.
“Yes, I did. Very successful trip. I took down a couple of dozen heads, including some fantastic lions.”
The dark-haired man made eye contact then. Emmett inclined his head toward the terrace doors leading to the garden. It was a chilly night to bare his skin, but with those lips dancing over his cock, Emmett was bound to be plenty distracted. The pursed lips and affronted expression surprised him, but he shrugged. He rarely made a mistake in judging when a man wasn’t interested in the fairer sex, but clearly this time he had.
“Lions? Aren’t they dangerous?” The words filtered into Emmett’s mind like the annoyance of a buzzing bee. He didn’t want to hurt the man’s feelings, but he had no interest in furthering their connection.
“Very dangerous. One must use extreme caution when taking down a lion.” Emmett polished off the last of his champagne as he made eye contact with another, rather foxed, young man — an inferior rendering of the man he’d hoped to coax into the shadows, but passably attractive nonetheless. Another tilt of the head towards the garden got a more favorable response.
“I heard you were working on a fantastic new firearm that would let you take down beasts even larger than lions. Quicker, too.”
That last sentence brought Emmett’s attention back to Thomas. He wasn’t guarding plans for his latest invention as though it were the crown jewels or anything, but he hadn’t gone out of his way to mention it to many people. He’d discussed it with Nash over dinner and Beare earlier, but that was about it.
Emmett shrugged, but didn’t bother to clarify. It wasn’t anyone’s business but his own if he modified his firearms to take down live prey, not to kill it. “If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got someone waiting for me.” He didn’t want his tipsy buck getting lost, or worse, getting snared by another hunter.
Thomas would soon understand. Emmett rarely drank from the same well twice. Aside from a few excellent partners, variety in fucking was the spice of life. Especially if the companion was clingy.
As Emmett stood, he caught the malevolent glare of his first choice for the evening. Scowling merely made the man’s lips plump out just a little more, made them even more tempting. Such a shame he disapproved of Emmett, but luck was a fickle lady. He waved a hand toward the door — couldn’t hurt to try again — but the man’s cheeks reddened and he turned his glare to the glass in his hand. Emmett shrugged and strode out to the terrace.
The dim light of the torches softened the young man’s features and Emmet could almost pretend his first choice had joined him instead.
“What’s your name, boy?”
“Albert, you may call me Montgomery.” While he rarely stood on ceremony, his first name was far too intimate for a little garden fraternization. Not when he’d had past conquests use it sober and in brightly lit drawing rooms, presuming a far greater acquaintance than Emmett had ever intended. He wanted the bucks trading on his title even less.
“Mmm, Montgomery.” Albert sidled up next to Emmett, hips shifting restlessly, pressing his erection into Emmett’s thigh.
“Eager, aren’t you?” Emmett stroked at the hard length distorting the fine tailored lines of Albert’s trousers. Splendid.
A flicker of drapery at one of the library windows dragged Emmett from the heady sensation of a young man in his arms, nuzzling the sensitive spot below his ear.
“Come, sweet, let’s get out of the light before we’re ostracized from polite society.” Society turned a blind eye to most of Emmett’s antics due to his wealth and status, but he’d rather not completely ruin young Albert for a few moments of pleasure.
Albert lifted his head and smiled blearily, allowing Emmett to lead him deeper into the garden. He really must compliment Lady de Haviland on her garden design. Plenty of dark nooks to catch a little slap and tickle. A number of guests were taking advantage, judging from the breathy giggles and lustful gasps.
Around the corner of a box hedge, Emmett drew Albert close and placed a hand over his groin. The search for a secluded area hadn’t diminished the sizable erection in the least. He stroked and squeezed, enjoying the young man’s groan. Once Albert’s hips started rocking, Emmett coaxed him to his knees.
Albert fumbled to open his own trousers while Emmett extricated his own hard prick.
“Open up, sweet,” Emmet murmured, nudging the slick head along Albert’s lips.
Albert’s tongue slipped out to lap at Emmett’s engorged tip before dropping his mouth open to accept Emmett’s cock.
“Oh, that’s it. You’ve done this before, haven’t you?” Emmett didn’t expect a response to his whispered words, since his cock was enveloped root to tip by Albert’s hot, wet mouth. He cupped the back of Albert’s dark head and thrust gently in and out. Albert stroked his own cock to the same rhythm.
Emmett widened his stance a bit, ensuring his shoes were out of the firing range of Albert’s prick. Benny, his valet, had taken him to task more than once for getting semen on his shoes.
When Albert’s arm movement sped up, he moaned around Emmett’s dick, sending the most delightful sensation along his length. Emmett sped his own thrusts up to match Albert, because the young man was fixing to go off and Emmett wasn’t going to be left behind. Sensing he could be a little more forceful with this one, Emmett used both hands to pull Albert’s mouth tight against his pubes. The muffled whimper as Albert came pushed Emmett over the edge. While he did his damnedest not to call out, Albert swallowed furiously around Emmett’s jerking cock, missing not a bit of seed.
Albert pulled back, licked Emmett clean and reached up to help stuff Emmett back into his pants, but the faint moonlight picked out a wet glint on his fingers. Like lightning, he wrapped his fingers around Albert’s wrist to keep him from touching his pants. If Benny hated semen on Emmett’s shoes, he was an absolute terror about it on fabric.
Retrieving a handkerchief from his coat pocket, Emmett handed it to Albert, who wiped his hand while Emmett took care of putting himself to rights.
“Thank you, my sweet. Are you all right to get back into the house?”
“Mmm. Yes. Are you sure you don’t want another go, Montgomery?”
“Not just now. You should return to your friends.”
Albert smiled and tottered back the way they’d come. If Emmett were interested in another go, he’d find someone else.
Emmett walked a few steps farther into the garden and sat on a bench before lighting a cigar.
Smoke curled up around his nostrils. Albert’s oral skills had been vastly superior to Thomas’s, but the orgasm hadn’t left him as relaxed as it should have. Between the odd incident in Kenya a fortnight before his departure and the sensation of being watched since he’d returned to England, he’d not been able to let his guard down. Probably no more than an overactive imagination, but the excitement of a hunt — of any description — was usually enough to clear his mind and get his blood pumping. Not this time.
He stubbed out his half-smoked cigar. Not much point in scouting out another conquest. He should just return to his townhouse. Or the club. Had the hunt truly gone stale?
Opening the door to the library, he immediately noticed the dark head of his first choice for the evening seated in the self same chair Emmett had occupied earlier. His heart thumped a little faster and his vision narrowed. Something about this man screamed “quarry”. Perhaps he’d been too hasty in his decision to leave the ball.
A slender man, back turned, stood between Emmett and his new target.
“Excuse me.” Emmett grabbed a handful of pert, rounded bottom under the pretense of making his way past the young man. The lad jumped and Emmett glanced over his shoulder.
“Aren’t you a pretty little thing?” Emmett smiled. The thrill of the chase wasn’t entirely gone.
The shorter man stared at him, lashes fluttering, as though he couldn’t quite comprehend Emmett’s actions. Happened a lot, and maybe if tall dark and sour hadn’t filled his vision first, he’d attempt to explain… in greater detail, out in the garden.
Movement out of the corner of his eye had Emmett facing forward again. Blue eyes narrowed in a vicious glare, divided between him and the pretty man with the gorgeous bum. Those dark pink lips pursed even tighter, drawing Emmett in like a honey-baited trap.
This was a big distraction, and a welcome one. He slid into the chair opposite.
His plan to find someone to introduce him to Silsbury or Lord Colchester had fizzled away in the face of this challenge. A delay of another day or two wouldn’t matter.
“Montgomery, at your service.” He signaled a footman for another drink.
“Not at my service.”
“Cal.” Emmett liked it. And he liked the prickly, standoffish man sitting across from him. He didn’t know why.
“Have you no sense of decorum?”
“Was that you watching at the window?” Emmett dropped his voice and leaned a little closer. “You should have followed us out into the garden. You would have seen a better show.”
Cal’s nostrils flared and pink washed up his throat into his cheeks. His fingers tightened around the glass stem, and Emmett wondered if it was the same one he’d been holding twenty minutes ago, with yet a sip to be taken.
Emmett chuckled. He wasn’t going to lure this buck in tonight, but soon. “I must take my leave, Cal. I’m to meet someone, shortly.” He waggled his brows, and the affront on Cal’s face was well worth the lie. He rose to his feet, content he’d laid the foundation for a long, stealthy hunt.
“Have you no shame?”
Emmett laughed. “Not a drop. But you have more than enough for me.”
Cal’s legs shifted, revealing something Emmett doubted he’d intended.
After a quick glance to ensure no one was paying them any mind, Emmett leaned down, pushed his mouth close to Cal’s ear, and squeezed the erection bulging in Cal’s lap.
“And that’s not all you have for me. I’ll see you around, Cal.”
Emmett released his grip, and with more pleasure than he’d had all evening, he sauntered away.