Release Date: August 21, 2009
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publisher Link: http://samhainpublishing.com/romance/lessons-in-desire
Amazon: Lessons in Desire
Blurb: Perfect love casts out fear. If you let it. Cambridge Fellows Mysteries, Book 2. Jersey, 1906. St. Bride’s English don Jonty Stewart is in desperate need of a break from university life. A holiday on the beautiful Channel Island of Jersey seems ideal, especially if he can coax his lover Orlando to step outside the college’s walls to come along. Orlando Coppersmith is scared. Within the safe confines of the school it’s easy to hide the fact that they are not just friends, but lovers. In an unknown place, in full view of everyone, how will they keep their illegal affair private—much less dare to make love, even in the security of their suite? A brutal murder at their hotel forces their personal problems into the background—at first. The race to catch the killer gets complicated when the prime suspect finds Orlando irresistible. Suddenly keeping their affair clandestine isn’t only a matter of legality. It’s a matter of life and death…
The dining room was full, mainly married couples of various ages, from the bashful newlyweds who sat in the corner blushing at every remark made to them to the elderly couple-all wrinkles and bright smiles-who sat at a table directly opposite the two Cambridge fellows. This couple, the Tattersalls, had taken a great shine to the two young men as they´d chatted with them over pre-dinner drinks, insisting they reminded them of their sons at a similar age. They seemed won over by Jonty´s smile, his obvious good breeding, and Orlando´s gravity and beautiful manners.
There were some families at dinner-two had brought their grownup daughters with them. Both girls were plain and seemed rather smitten with the two young men, if blushes or girlish sighs were anything to go by. The only other unmarried couple present was a man perhaps three or four years older than Jonty, accompanied by what could only have been his father, given the strong family resemblance. The younger was a handsome chap whose dark curly hair framed deep blue eyes.
Not that the two fellows of St. Bride´s had eyes for anyone else, but one couldn´t help noticing these things. They also couldn´t help noticing the palpable tension between the two men, shown in their strained politeness and inability to maintain eye contact with each other.
After dinner Jonty and Orlando made up a four for bridge in the sun lounge with the Tattersalls. They proved excellent company, the lady in particular having an impish sense of humour. She chatted away to Jonty, the pair of them giggling like two schoolchildren, despite her being old enough, just, to be his grandmother.
The father and son formed their own bridge four with another married couple, although they were obviously not having half the enjoyment that Orlando and his friend were. Jonty was fascinated, keeping a surreptitious eye on them all evening.
When they got back to their room, Jonty had clearly decided it was character analysis time, despite the fact that Orlando was struggling to arrange, into some sort of acceptable order, the mass of items his friend had strewn everywhere in an attempt to unpack. "That young man´s not happy to be here, Orlando. I think his father has made him come, while he´d rather be at home with his sweetheart, not entertaining a surly old curmudgeon."
"I hope you don´t feel like you´ve been dragged along to entertain a surly young curmudgeon." Orlando grinned. "Anyway, it´s nothing to do with us." He picked up the tie he´d worn for the journey, finding somewhere to put it carefully away.
"Aren´t you even a little bit curious? This is such an opportunity to meet new people, the sort of folk we might never meet at college. Like that delightful old couple-she certainly had the measure even of you at cards, Dr. Coppersmith." Jonty yawned, stretching like a great ginger cat. "This is going to be such a delightful holiday. The hotel is perfect, the food is excellent, I have great hopes for the company and you look less green than you did this morning. Such a lovely colour in your cheeks now." He drew his hand down his lover´s face, across his lips. It was the first time they´d touched with any degree of intimacy since they´d left St. Bride´s. The caress made Orlando shudder afresh, as if they were touching for the first time. "We may have two bedrooms, but do we really need to use them both? It´d be easy enough to slip across before the early morning tea arrives, if we set your alarm clock."
Orlando looked up, determined to refuse. He was still feeling skittish about staying in a suite of rooms with his lover. Sharing a bed was beyond any imagining although, ironically, the item in question was a glorious double bed such as he´d dreamed, on many an occasion, of sleeping in with Jonty. "I´m not sure I feel sufficiently recovered from the journey to want to do anything except sleep." He studied his hands, the shirt he was trying to hang up, anything but his lover.
"That would be fine. I´m as happy to simply slumber next to you as anything else. There are plenty of other days for romance-we could just be fond friends tonight, or pretend to be that old couple we played cards with. Still very much in love yet beyond the thralls of passion." Jonty gently touched his friend´s hand.
Orlando felt as if a spider was crawling down the back of his neck, and his discomfiture must have been plain. "What if we slept apart, just for tonight?"
They had reached the crux of why he´d been so keen not to come on holiday. He was frightened of taking their relationship outside the college walls, displaying it to the world. Within the ivy-clad, male-dominated locality of St. Bride´s, it had been easy to maintain a friendship which was more than close without raising a suspicious eyebrow. He´d spent little time with Jonty out of Cambridge, apart from a visit or two to London, where they´d stayed in the relatively safe environs of the Stewart family home. To be with the man in a strange place was to put himself at risk of making a demonstration of his affection by an unguarded look or touch.
Any footman could walk through the streets of town in his bowler-hatted Sunday best, hand in hand with a parlour maid. A pair of dons could never be allowed such freedom; not in Cambridge and certainly not on Jersey. If they ever were mad enough to be tempted, all they had to do was remember the law-two years of hard labour and public disgrace would be no holiday.
Jonty slammed down the toothbrush he´d been unpacking. "Oh, go and sleep in the bath if you want to! I haven´t the heart to put up with this nonsense. I´m going to sleep in my own bed, in my own soft pyjamas, with my own book. If you change your mind and decide to join me, make sure you knock, because I might just have found other company." He spun on his heels, entering his bedroom with a slam of the door which caused the windows to shake.