An Unfortunate Stain
Two. He’d brought two, and yet neither could be found.
Outrageous! That’s what it was. Damned, bloody outrageous—almost, but not quite, as infuriating as the port stain on his cuff that would necessitate a change of outfit before he descend into the throng below. One didn’t maintain one’s position as a fashion leader with horrid liver spot blemishes afflicting one’s arm. The port had made an absolute mess of the blue damask, a colour he’d made his signature. He’d have to exchange it for the Florentine silk instead. Although, Lord Egremont had remarked that particular shade of grey left him looking exsanguinated.
The Right Honourable Taylor Hulme cast a final glance over the swirling figures in the ballroom below but failed to spy either the white-gold hair of Miss Percival or the alluring dark beauty of Mrs. Quinn. Though where either of them could possibly have got to at a such a soiree was entirely beyond him.
House parties were not typically Taylor’s thing. He much preferred the crush of an assembly ball to this more intimate gathering. In town it was possible to lose one’s self in the crowd, be absorbed into it and become anonymous, and while this gathering at Rievaulx House was large for such an event, there were still only forty or so people dotted around the place, many of them related, and all of them known to one another. Well, mostly known to one another. Naturally, he’d taken great pains to keep his two beloveds apart. He did not care to have them gossiping and discovering they both occupied space in his heart. Such knowledge would only result in discord and vexation. Miss Percival would probably weep, and Mrs. Quinn… In all truth, he preferred not to dwell on what that lady’s actions might be. Something hideous involving shears and his wardrobe, no doubt.
Taylor walked straight into the chamber he was sharing with Branwell Locke, knowing his friend to be downstairs. He knew also that his valet wouldn’t be present for he’d dismissed the man for the evening, and hence he’d be off doing whatever it was that gentlemen’s gentlemen did when they weren’t organising clothes. Thus the presence of a figure perched upon the foot of Taylor’s bed was all the more surprising.
Miss Amelia Percival beamed at him, her apple-blossom smile turning her pale cheeks rosy. Well now, Amelia’s presence here at least explained why he’d been unable to spy her in the ballroom, but didn’t explain why she was in his room. If anyone saw her here, the resulting outrage would bring the house party to an abrupt close.
“Amelia?” He addressed her, coming forwards with both hands extended towards her. He made no more than five paces before the chamber door slammed behind him. Taylor glanced back, assuming a draft or the weightiness of the door to be the cause, only to find Mrs. Quinn planting her abundant derrière against the wood. “Verity?” he squeaked, immediately disgusted with how guilt-ridden the noise made him sound.
Taylor took stock and swallowed slowly, anticipating a verbal backlash if not a physical assault. He was no craven, but still he edged a few paces back, out of Verity’s reach. It was ungallant to defend oneself overmuch against a lady’s wrath, particularly when her fury was justified. He did hope they could avoid coming to blows.
“Taylor,” Verity said, her eyes narrowed, arms crossed before her and lips pursed into a succulent pout. “There’s been some mistake it seems with regards to our arrangement. There I was talking to this most delightful girl and she informs me that she has an understanding with you. ‘Why how could that be,’ I said, ‘for Mr. Taylor Hulme has an arrangement with me, and he wouldn’t be so disagreeable as to make fools of us both in this way. Surely, you are talking about a different Mr. Hulme.’ But no, for it seems she is talking about the Right Honourable Mr. Taylor Francis Hulme, of Whytebury Hall in Leicestershire. So naturally, we came to find you straight away to sort out this nonsense.” She lowered her silky dark eyelashes and let her arms unfold from around her breasts before pinning him with her gaze once more. “Please tell us which one of us you intend to fulfill your promises to?”
“Ladies, please.” Taylor reached out a hand to each of them. He had definitely not made any specific promises to either woman. “I concede this is most awkward, but need we speak of broken promises? I ask you, are either of you dissatisfied by me? Have I neglected either of you in any way?”
Amelia shook her head furiously. She had always been a timid mouse. Matter of fact, her quietness and shyness combined with a truly heavenly bosom were what had first drawn him to her. She made the most delicious contrast to Verity’s willful boldness.
Amelia he could tease and persuade into the sort of lewdity she knew she ought not to permit. She was prepared to submit?be it with moans and apprehensive whimpers?to damn near everything he suggested. Verity was altogether more confrontational. He might pin her down in bed, but not without a tussle that made his cock stand at alert first. She was also capable of tanning his behind until it ached and then making him come with the mere flick of her fingertip. The twinkle in her eyes suggested she was considering the delights of such a punishment now. She turned up her nose at Amelia’s foray into his arms. Embracing would not solve their dilemma.
“You don’t deny your turpitude, I see. As to satisfaction, I find it a most transient thing,” Verity admonished. “Past exploits do not count. How do you intend to content us both? The night is young now, but I expect to be properly fucked before it’s through. What other point is there in coming to such an event? You can’t possibly hope to please me if you are obliged to hold in reserve some measure of yourself for Miss Percival.”
Amelia gave a shocked gasp at the language, which earned her a huff of disgust from Verity.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Taylor?she’s sweet, but send her back to her mama.”
“I have no mama,” Amelia interjected.
Taylor shook his head.
“Aye, and no stomach for the punishment I intend to dole out to Mr. Hulme for his monstrousness either. You ought to leave. It’s been very nice meeting you, Miss Percival, but really this is no place for you.” Verity grabbed hold of Taylor’s blemished sleeve, which in her zeal to claim him she further damaged, tearing the cuff along the seam.
Taylor held fast to Amelia. He had no intention of dismissing either of them. They were both equally precious to him, which is why he’d sought and maintained both relationships. “Please,” he protested over the damage to both his coat cuff and his arrangements.
However, Verity wasn’t to be thwarted. She tore him and Amelia apart and shoved him over to the foot of the bed, where the eiderdown still bore the faint impression of Amelia’s pert bottom. That lady followed at a cautious distance, her fingertips worrying her lips.
“Take your breeches down, Taylor. I won’t be mistreated like this. To be sure, she’s presented prettily enough, but I’m insulted that you prefer an innocent porcelain doll over me.” Verity’s hands settled upon his arse, warm and firm. They dipped beneath his coat tails and wrapped around him to reach his frontfall. She released one button and had a decent grasp of the next before he brushed her hands away and attended matters himself. Willingly, he would tolerate the shame of Verity’s punishment, if it soothed her temper to a degree where he might reason with her.