DANCE WITH ME

 

By

 

Nikki Harrington

 

Bunny is finding the monotony of London somewhat boring until a boy he had been at school with invites him to go to a club with him. It is an evening that will change his life.

A first time story.

Written: November 2013. Word count: 13,930.

 

 

I was more than a little bored with the tedium and predictability of the London ball season. Every ball I attended turned out to be exactly the same, apart, that is, from the dresses of the ladies; they seemed to differ every time. I would dance with the hostess and maybe one or two of the older ladies; however, every time I invited a young lady to dance, they declined my offer. Some were quite kind in their refusal, smiling at me and citing tiredness or a promise to dance with someone else; others were far from kind. I won't say they actually laughed, but it was a close thing at times.

 

Thus, I spent the vast majority of the evening standing by the side of the dance floor, drinking champagne and exchanging the odd word or two with gentlemen most of whom, despite us meeting at other balls, appeared not to recall my name or even remember we had met before.

 

I wondered at times quite why I was invited to the balls given I wasn't a particularly eligible bachelor. I wasn't without money; however, it seemed I had little else that was considered favourable. I wasn't a particularly good dancer, I could manage to avoid treading on my partner's feet, but that was about all. I did not find it easy to converse with people for more than a moment or two; I wasn't interested in fashion or the kinds of the things most of the young ladies talked about. I didn't remember to pay the compliments I should pay; I didn't do anything of interest, I was just - Harry Manders, just as I had been when I had been at school.

 

However, invited I was and attending the balls broke up the tedium of dining alone or sharing a table with acquaintances many of whom barely paid me any attention, instead choosing to talk amongst themselves for the most part. I wasn't quite as tongue tied with other gentlemen than I was with ladies, but nor did I converse easily. Plus, some of the subjects about which some of my fellow gentlemen talked quite embarrassed me, shocked me even, and there were times when I wasn't completely aware of what they were talking about.

 

I wished there was someone with whom I could dine regularly, talk to, someone who liked me, someone who remembered my name, someone I could call a friend; someone I could see at times during the day, someone with whom I could share more than a passing comment or two about the weather. However, I doubted the day would ever come when there would be someone. I doubted I would ever marry and that in itself did not trouble me. In truth I had no great desire to be a husband and none whatsoever to be a father. All I really wanted was a friend, a person with whom I could spend time.

 

I sighed and took another glass of champagne from the tray the footman held out to me. I nodded my thanks and took a sip of the fine wine, as I glanced at my watch and discovered it was, as I had thought, far too early for me to be able to decently leave. I sighed again and decided to go to library and have a cigarette.

 

There was only one other man in the room when I entered and I nodded to him and wished him a good evening before I took my cigarette case out, selected a Sullivan and put the case back into my pocket. I was just about to strike a match when one was held for me. "Thank you," I said, lighting my cigarette.

 

"Manders? It is you, isn't it, Manders? It's been a long time, has it not?"

 

I was a little surprised to be greeted by name and by someone who appeared to know me from the past. I looked up and there standing in front of me was the boy I had known when we had both been third formers as Carter Minor. "Carter!" I exclaimed, moving my glass to the hand in which I held my cigarette and holding my hand out. "It's good to see you. And yes, it has indeed been quite some time."

 

He shook my hand. "It's good to see you, Manders."

 

"And you, Carter," I said. I spoke honestly because, whilst Carter and I had never been close friends at school, he had not been one of the many boys whom ragged me on a daily basis. "How are your brothers?" Carter had had two brothers, one older than he, the other younger."

"They are both quite well, thank you. And how are you?"

 

"I can't complain. And you?"

 

"I'm quite well, thank you."

 

We stood in silence for a moment as I desperately sought for something else to say. "Do you live in London?" I asked. I expected his answer to be no, given I had not seen him at any of the other balls or around the places one expects to see gentleman.

 

"I've been here for two months, but this is the first time I have had the time to accept an invitation to such an event. And I will be in London for the next year or so. Father has sent me to work in the branch of the bank of which he is Chairman for a time."

 

"So you did go into banking?"

 

He smiled a little ruefully. "We all did. I tried to object; I told Father that really it wasn't for me and that I would have preferred to do something else. The only problem was when he asked me what the something else was, I realised I didn't have any idea. Thus, a banker I became. What about you? What do you do, Manders?"

 

I flushed a little, although given the rather poor lighting in the room I hoped he wouldn't notice. "Well," I said, taking another sip from my glass, "I'm writing a novel."

 

"Oh, that sounds much more interesting than banking. When is it to be published?"

 

"I have another three months in which to complete it. After that, well, I am not exactly certain when the publishing date will be."

 

Carter nodded. "We must have lunch one day," he said. "Assuming you have the time."

 

"Oh, yes!" I cried, somewhat too enthusiastically I realised. "I do indeed have time. I would like to lunch with you, Carter."

 

He smiled at me and pulled a card from his pocket and handed it to me. Hastily I pulled one of my cards from my pocket and handed it to him. He glanced at it and put it carefully into his pocket. I wondered if I would ever hear from him or if the invitation had been purely a formality, the kind of thing one says to someone with whom you had been at school.

 

To my surprise he said, "How about tomorrow?"

 

This time I made certain I didn't speak as enthusiastically (desperately even). "Tomorrow would be possible," I said.

 

He nodded. "Shall we say one o'clock at the Savoy?"

 

"One o'clock at the Savoy." I smiled.

 

"I shall look forward to it," he said. "And now, I'm afraid I really must return to the ballroom. I believe I promised more than one young lady a dance." He held his hand out to me and I noticed he didn't seem particularly keen on the prospect.

 

I took his hand and again shook it. "Until tomorrow, Carter," I said, and then added, "I hope you enjoy your dances." He gave me a look I didn't quite understand before turning and leaving the room.

 

I stood and finished my cigarette; suddenly the evening seemed so much better. Maybe I was going to get the friend I wanted after all. Maybe Carter and I would lunch together or dine together on a regular basis. Maybe -

 

"Ah, there you are, Mr. Manders. Really you gentlemen shouldn't skulk in here. You should be dancing. That is the whole purpose of a ball. Now come along, the next dance is a waltz, you may accompany me."

 

I hastily put my cigarette out, drained my glass and put it down before I hurried over to the door and offered my arm to hostess as I said, "Yes, Lady Florence."

 

We danced and I managed to avoid treading on her feet, I believe I even danced adequately, maybe a little better than I normally did. At the end of the dance I again offered her my arm and led her to the edge of the dance floor.

 

She turned and looked at me. "Thank you, Mr. Manders," she said. "I enjoyed the dance you may ask me to dance with you again later." And without waiting for me to reply, she turned and swept away from me.

 

I stared after her. So I had indeed danced a little better than I normally did; Lady Florence was a kind lady, but on previous occasions when I have danced with her she had merely thanked me for the dance, she had not said she had enjoyed it.

 

THE FOLLOWING DAY

 

Lunch with Carter was very enjoyable; we spent quite some time talking about the past and speculating on what some of the boys might be doing now. Carter knew about several boys who had been in the same house as we had been whereas, with the exception of Ollie who was currently somewhere in Europe, I didn't know what any other boy had gone on to do. There had only been one boy (apart from Ollie) with whom I would have wished to have kept in touch and he had never written to me.

 

We had finished lunch and were drinking coffee, brandy (Carter apparently had no need to return to the bank after lunch) and smoking cigarettes when Carter asked, "Tell me, Manders, are all of the balls as uninspiring as the one we both attended last night?"

 

I did not quite know what to say. Part of me felt that as I was a long term Londoner that I should defend the balls; part of me, maybe made a little more daring than usual given we had shared a bottle and half of wine, felt I should be honest. In the end I settled for the middle road. "They are all very similar," I said, taking another sip of my brandy. "The guest list is virtually the same for each ball; the music is often the same; the ladies dresses, however, are quite different."

 

Carter laughed. "That I can imagine." He fell silent for a short time during which he simply smoked his cigarette and stared at me; I became slightly uncomfortable under the force of his gaze. When he spoke again his tone was quite casual, but to my ears there was something behind it. "I didn't see you dancing all that often."

 

I shrugged. "Few ladies accept my offer to dance; in fact given how often I have been refused I tend not to ask any more."

 

He frowned a little. "May I ask why you are refused?"

 

I laughed softly; it actually no longer really troubled me. "Well, Carter, remember how poor I was at any form of sport when we were at school? Plus I really was quite uncoordinated at times." Carter flushed a little but nodded. "Well, whilst I can dance and do indeed know all the correct steps and turns to all the dances, I am little more than adequate. Add to that the fact that I am afraid I do not remember to pay all the pretty compliments one is expected to pay a young lady, and I get tongue-tied, well . . ." I shrugged. "Very few ladies wish to dance with someone like that - which is something I can quite understand."

 

"We carried out a perfectly enjoyable conversation over lunch."

 

I shrugged again. "Well, yes, but there were no expectations. Talking to another gentleman is easier, plus we do have a history."

 

Carter stubbed his cigarette out and took another from his case and lit it. All the time he continued to study me; once more I felt a little uncomfortable. Suddenly he said, "Are you still the rabbit you were at school?" I felt my cheeks begin to burn and I looked away from him, more than a little stunned he would ask such a thing. I honestly didn't know what to say to him. How could he ask such a thing? I believe my displeasure must have been clear, because he said suddenly, in a tone that told me his words were genuine, "Please do forgive me, Manders. I did not mean to offend you, not at all. I had not right to ask such a question; I really did not mean to cause offence. Can you forgive me?"

 

I looked back at him; my cheeks were still aflame but I at least felt a little better, given his expression confirmed his tone. I nodded. "Yes, Carter."

 

He looked relieved. "Thank you. I did have a reason for asking, but I should have phrased the question somewhat differently. You see, I really wanted to ascertain if you were," he paused for a moment and glanced around him. I was now very intrigued in spite of myself. "Open to something a little different, shall we say?" He had lowered his voice a little and to my surprise I found myself become even more intrigued.

 

"What exactly do you mean?"

 

"Well, there is this club to which I have been a time or two. Now, hear me out, Manders, before you say anything. Will you do that?" I nodded. He gave me a swift smile. "It's a club for gentlemen," well that wasn't anything different. "Once a month they have a dinner where there is also," he paused for a moment and then said, "dancing. Oh, you don't have to dance, should you not wish to. Some gentlemen merely sit and talk; others dance; others merely enjoy the dinner and sit alone for the remainder of the evening. Some - Well, I know you are not without imagination. There are no expectations, no demands, no need to worry and nothing you need to fear. The members are all very nice gentlemen, they are true gentlemen. The dinner is extremely good as is the company. There is just one small thing, the actual members . . . Well, they wear masks."

 

"Masks?" I exclaimed, a little more loudly than I had intended. However, being the Savoy, no one paid us any attention.

 

Carter smiled a little. "I know it must sound terribly strange. However, it is just part of the way they wish to organise things. There is a diner tomorrow and I will be attending and I am permitted to take another gentleman with me, if I wish to do so. I wondered if you would like to accompany me? You would be perfectly safe, I give you my word. No one would harm you and if you do not wish to dance or talk, no one will try to force you to do so."

 

I stared at him. I was partly horrified and partly even more intrigued. To my surprise, shock even, I found myself given serious consideration to accepting Carter's invitation. However, I could not do so. I was not - I was not like that.

 

"I know what you're thinking, Manders," Carter said. He did? "And as strange as it may seem, not all gentlemen who are members or indeed attend the dinners are - of that persuasion, shall we say? It is just that they prefer the company of other gentlemen and enjoy something a little different from time to time. Well, what do you say?"

 

"I don't know, Carter. It's very kind of you to invite me. But -"

 

"Look, come along. If you feel uncomfortable or hate it then just plead a headache and you can go home again. I won't be offended."

 

I stared at him. I couldn't agree; I simply couldn't. It just wasn't . . . Well, it wasn't the kind of thing I would enjoy. To dine with and talk to gentlemen whose faces were at least in part covered, gentlemen I would not know even if I passed them in the street just wasn't . . . "Very well, Carter," I heard myself say. "I would like to accept your invitation."

 

Carter smiled at me. "Splendid. I am so pleased, Manders. So very pleased. Now, shall we have another brandy?"

 

I believed I needed it. "Yes, please."

 

THE FOLLOWING EVENING

 

Carter called for me at my flat and after a short cab journey we arrived in a part of London I had spent very little time in. Carter paid the cab driver and led me into a rather unimposing building; it certainly did not resemble any gentleman's club of which I had experience. However, our hats, sticks and overcoats were taken just was they were in the club to which I belonged and those  I had visited as a guest and Carter led me along a corridor and into a room.

 

As I went in, I glanced around me and saw far fewer gentlemen than I normally encountered in a club, maybe Carter and I were early. Some were, as Carter had told me, wearing masks, others were not - thus it became quite clear, very quickly who the members were and who the visitors were. I found myself daring to wonder if, behind the masks, there were any gentlemen whom I knew.

 

As Carter took two glasses of champagne from a passing waiter and handed one to me I felt that someone was looking at me. I turned my head slightly and saw a man some several inches taller than me, standing by the fireplace a glass of champagne in one hand, a cigarette in the other, apparently staring at me. Of course it was difficult, given he was masked to be certain; as I looked at him he didn't appear to glance away. Suddenly I remembered seeing the same man start slightly as Carter and I had gone into the room - at least I thought I remembered it, but no, of course I hadn't. I was simply being foolish. I turned my attention back to Carter and we stood and talked for a short time before dinner was announced.

 

TWO HOURS LATER

 

Dinner had been, as Carter had promised, very good, indeed it was one of the best dinners I had ever eaten. I sat on Carter's left and on my right was one of the masked gentlemen - not the one whom I had believed to be staring at me; this one was somewhat older. To my surprise I found I slipped into conversation with him quite easily, even if we did only discuss the weather, books and the current economic situation. I actually found I conversed with him somewhat more easily than I often did with gentlemen whom I knew at that balls I attended.

 

Once dinner was finished and the table had been cleared the port was passed around and we sat and smoked and drank port and talked until the gentleman at the head of the table stood up. "Gentlemen," he said, we all stopped talking and looked at him, "shall we go through to the other room?"

 

Although it was phrased as a question, it was quite clearly the same kind of question the lady of the house might ask at the end of a dinner when she invited the other ladies to 'leave the gentlemen to their port and cigars'.

 

I stood up; this was the part of the evening I had been not dreading exactly, but somewhat uncertain about. Carter put his hand on my shoulder, "Don't worry, Manders, just try to enjoy yourself. As I said you have nothing about which you have to worry. You do not have to dance or converse or anything. No will mind."

 

I nodded and gave him a half smile. I would simply sit or stand and watch and if I was invited to dance well, I was quite certain I would decline politely. I would happily converse with someone and enjoy a drink and a cigarette or two, but that was all. I had thoroughly enjoyed the evening thus far, I was glad I had accepted Carter's invitation, but to actually dance with another man - Well, I was quite certain I could not, that I would not, do so. Of course that was assuming anyone would invite me to dance with him.

 

Carter stayed by my side for some twenty minutes until he went off with a gentleman whom, given the tones in their voices when they had greeted one another, I believed he must have known. They moved over to one of the sofas on the other side of the room and settled down to talk.

 

Just for a moment I gave consideration to leaving, however, I was still enjoying myself. It was interesting to see gentlemen dance together and to my surprise it seemed perfectly normal and none of the gentlemen being led seemed uneasy and none of them seemed to be confused. Actually that was another reason I would refuse an invitation to dance; I was, after all, used to leading a lady around the floor, I was quite certain I would find it very difficult and awkward to be led and I would almost certainly make a complete fool of myself. No, I was happy to stand and watch.

 

"Good evening," I started slightly and turned around. I hadn't realised someone had come up to me. It was the gentleman whom I had seen earlier, the one I believed had been staring at me.

 

"Good evening," I replied and smiled.

 

He smiled back at me and took his cigarette case from his pocket and offered it to me. I took one, accepted the match he lit and held and began to smoke. I noticed the brand he smoked was the same brand as I smoked. "Thank you."

 

He smiled again. "I do not believe I have seen you here before."

 

I shook my head. "No, you haven't. This is the first time, I mean I came with -" His finger on my lips silenced me and I started just a little.

 

"I am sorry; I did not mean to make you afeared. It is just that names are forbidden." He smiled again.

 

"Oh," I said, feeling suddenly foolish. Carter hadn't told me that; he must have assumed I would simple presume, given the masks, that to be the case. "I do apologise. You must think me very foolish."

 

He smiled again; I liked his smile, it was - I couldn't quite put my finger on it. There was something about it, just as there was something about his voice that I almost believed I recognised. However, of course public school vowels are public school vowels; if one stops to think about it, all gentlemen sound very much alike. And maybe I did in fact know him from a ball or a dinner or something. Except, I was quite sure I didn't.

 

"I don't think you are foolish," he said, his tone actually making me quite certain he was being honest with me. I smiled up at him and for a moment he appeared to simply gaze down at me. "Are you enjoying the evening?"

 

"Oh, yes, very much so. It's - Well, dinner was exceptional and everyone seems so . . ." I tailed off and silently chastised myself for babbling.

 

"We are a very friendly group of people," he said, as he blew a smoke ring. "And are you enjoying watching gentlemen dance?"

 

"Oh, yes!" Again I knew my voice sounded far too enthusiastic.

 

He nodded and smiled again and fell silent for a short time as he merely smoked his cigarette. I found the silence didn't trouble me. I wasn't searching for something to say or even worried that he was already bored of my company and was merely remaining with me to being polite. I don't know what it was, but I felt quite as ease with him in a way I never felt at ease - not with the gentlemen of my club or those I met at balls and dinners or even Carter, whom I had known for five years.

 

He took an ashtray from a nearby table and put his cigarette out and turned to look down at me. "Would you like to dance?" he asked.

 

"With you?" Again I silently cursed my foolishness.

 

However, he merely smiled. "Yes, with me. However, please do not feel you have to say yes. I shall not be offended, nor will I try to force you, nor will I walk away. If you do not wish to dance with me, say so and we can just continue to talk - if you would like to of course."

 

As I gazed up at him I realised to my shock that I wanted nothing more than to accept his invitation; that I wanted him to take me into his arms and lead me around the floor. What on earth had happened to me? Had someone maybe put something in the drink? I told myself that was beyond being foolish.

 

"Well?" he said politely after I simply stood and stared at him. "Shall I assume you wish to decline but do not quite know how to do so for fear of hurting my feelings?"

 

"No!" I cried, "No, it's not that. I'd actually . . . Well, I would . . . I would like to dance with you," I heard myself say.

 

He waited but I feel silent. "But?" he said gently. "That was what you were trying hard not to add to your sentence, was it not?" I knew my cheeks were reddened and I glanced away from him. I felt his hand on my shoulder and he said quietly, "Don't look away. Don't be embarrassed or afeared. Just tell me what it is."

 

Once again I felt I knew him; I felt I knew his touch; his tone; his words; his . . . Very presence. Once again I told myself I did not. "It's just that - Oh, this will sound foolish, of that I'm quite certain, but, well, I've never danced with another gentleman before and I'm rather afraid that as I'm not a terribly accomplished dancer that I might . . . That I might . . . That I almost certainly . . . I don't want to embarrass you," I finally said. And then added honestly, "Or myself."

 

I waited for him to laugh or say something a little unpleasant or just walk away from me. However, he simply went on smiling at me. "I understand," he said. "However, I give you my word that I would not, I will not, be embarrassed and I assure you the gentlemen here will pay you no attention, no matter what happens. They are - we are - all far too polite and far too understanding to make a guest feel uncomfortable. Plus, without being arrogant, I am an excellent dancer and I believe you would find it extremely easy to follow my lead. However, if you really are concerned, then let us just go and sit down and talk."

 

"No," I heard myself say. He looked a little surprised and I believe a little disappointed, hurt even. I hastened to correct myself. "I mean yes. Yes, I will dance with you. I would like to dance with you," I said.

 

"Are you quite certain? Because I really do not wish you to feel any hint of unease or discomfort. I would be more than happy merely to sit and talk with you."

 

"I'm certain," I said. I wasn't, not entirely. However, I was certain I wanted to be in his arms.

 

He smiled again. "Very well then." He took my hand and led me onto the floor and slipped his arm around me to hold my lower back as I would usually hold a lady, except his grip was a little firmer and considerably more confident than the way I had never held a lady. After only a second or two I put my hand onto his shoulder. He stood for a moment or two waiting for the music to get to a particularly place, before he expertly waltzed me around the floor.

 

To my surprise I found I followed him with ease, not once did I become confused and tried to take the lead; I simply followed his lead as if I had been doing so for my entire adult life. His confidence was clear, he was relaxed and he certainly was an excellent dancer. He held me securely and smiled as he looked down at me.

 

Finally when the music came to a halt, he let go of my waist, but continued to hold my hand as he inclined his head just a little. "Thank you," he said formally. "I enjoyed that. I hope you did too."

"Oh, yes!" I cried. "I really enjoyed it. You are a marvellous dancer."

 

He smiled. "Thank you," he said his tone still a little formal. "In that case, may I be permitted to invite you to dance with me again?"

 

"Yes, please!"

 

We spent a considerable amount of the evening dancing and when we weren't dancing we talked or simply watched those on the floor as we sipped whisky and smoked Sullivans.

 

Finally the evening came to an end and I realised how disappointed I was. "Well," I said, as I saw Carter stand up and shake hands with the gentleman with whom he had spent most of the evening. "I . . ." I fell silent as I didn't quite know what to say. "I had a lovely evening. Thank you."

 

"I too had a very pleasant evening." He paused for a moment, continued to look down at me before saying quietly, "Would you like to dine with me tomorrow?"


I stared up at him. Carter hadn't said this might happen. Did I want to dine with him? I did, of course I did. After all I had spent quite some time dancing with him; it would be foolish not to wish to dine with him. Or would it not be? Would the wonderfulness of the evening be spoilt if - Well, if I saw who he actually was? Would it not be better to simply part as - Strangers?

 

"I . . . I would like that very much."

 

His smile, which I realised had become a little frozen whilst he had waited for me to answer, increased. "Oh, good. So would I. How about we meet at the Savoy at eight?"

 

I nodded. "Very well. Oh, there's just one thing."

 

"Yes?"

 

"Well, I won't . . . That is . . . I won't recognise you."

 

He touched my shoulder and then in a move that completely surprised me, he brushed my hair from my forehead. "No," he said softly. "I however, will recognise you. Until tomorrow." And before I could say anything else, he turned on his heel and with his hands in his pockets strode away from me. I stood and watched him go and felt . . . I wasn't sure what I felt only that the belief I knew him had increased considerably.

 

THE FOLLOWING EVENING

 

It was with a sense of anticipation, excitement even that I bathed and dressed for my dinner with the masked man I had met the evening before. I had replayed the evening more than once during the day, and had found myself quite unable to settle down to write more than a paragraph or so as I thought about what it had been like to be in his arms. The sensation that he was someone whom I knew would not leave me completely, no matter how hard I told myself that I was just being foolish.

 

The low point of the day had been when Carter had arrived to tell me an illness in the bank he had hitherto been working in had led to his father summoning him home, thus the friendship I believed we were both looking forward to cultivating was not going to happen. Carter didn't know whether his father would send him back to the London branch once the gentleman who had fallen ill had recovered.

 

However, even if that was to happen, Carter said it wouldn't be for some time because the illness was a serious one and would likely lead to the man being unable to work for quite a number of months. He assured me that if he were to return to London that one of the first things he would do would be to call on me. I hesitated before I told him I was dining with the gentleman with whom I had spent the vast part of the previous evening. However, I was pleased I had decided to tell Carter as he seemed really glad and wished me a pleasant evening.

 

We had parted with a firm handshake and a promise to keep in touch, even if only from time to time. I wished him a safe journey and said I hoped everything went well once he was home and he again wished me a pleasant evening.

 

I arrived at the Savoy at a quarter to eight (I hadn't wanted to be late) and stood for a moment wondering whether to go inside or to wait outside. It was rather awkward not knowing the person with whom I would be dining; I didn't want to stare at the other people in an attempt to recognise him. After a minute or two's deliberation I decided I would go inside and have a drink in the bar.

 

I left my hat, overcoat and stick and went into the bar. For a moment I stood and glanced around me as one tends to do when going into a public place. Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder and a voice said, "Hello, Bunny."

 

I started and turned around quickly. Only one person had ever called me Bunny - the person who had bestowed the name on me on the evening he first took me as his. I recognised the voice of the man with whom I had spent the previous evening. "Raff . . . Raff . . . Raffles," I managed to stammer out as I gazed up at his twinkling dark blue eyes and saw the smile I had seen many times during the previous evening. "It's you," I added, instantly feeling foolish. "I mean it was you, wasn't it?"

 

He squeezed my shoulder and, as he had done both when we had parted last evening and numerous times during our two years at school together, brushed my hair from my forehead. "Yes, Bunny," he said softly, "yes, my dearest rabbit, it was indeed I."

 

I gazed up at him. The somewhat perplexing feelings I had had for him when we had been school boys were clarified and even though he had hurt me deeply by not keeping in touch with me, I knew I was still in love with him. And what was even more damning was that I knew I was destined to remain that way for the remainder of my life.

 

As I gazed up at him, somewhat mesmerised by the blueness of his eyes and the way he smiled at me, as if I was the only person in the room, and by his handsome face, I wondered how I had failed to recognise him when we had met last night. "I didn't recognise you." I silently chastised myself and wondered if I was going to spend the entire evening saying such foolish things.

 

His smile was kind and he made no comment about my foolishness. "I know you didn't, Bunny," he said. "I, however, recognised you as soon as you came into the room with Carter; I confess it gave me quite a shock. I had never dreamt for a moment that my rabbit would visit such a place."

 

So I had been correct when I believed I had seen him start a little. "I doubt I ever would have were it not for Carter and his assurance that all the gentlemen were indeed gentlemen and I would be quiet safe."

 

He smiled. "Well I am delighted Carter did manage to persuade you, I really am. It is so good to see you again, Bunny, so very good indeed." His fingertips brushed against my cheek and I had to bite my lip in order to prevent myself from making a noise of pleasure.

 

"It's good to see you again too, Raffles. It really is. I've missed you," I blurted out.

 

"Have you, my rabbit? Have you really?"

 

Not for a moment did I consider asking him not to call me 'Bunny' or 'rabbit', nor did I object to how possessive he had once again become in a matter of minutes. "Yes, Raffles, I have."

 

He was silent for a moment as he just looked at me. When he spoke his tone became, as it had done a time or two on the previous evening, somewhat formal. "I confess I have missed you too, Bunny. And now," he added, before I had a chance to speak (not that I knew what I would have said) "do let me get you a drink. I made a reservation for eight thirty, I trust that is all right with you?"

 

I nodded. "Yes, perfectly all right. And I would like a drink, please." He raised an eyebrow and I said quickly, "A sherry, please."

 

"I shall be but a moment." He turned to go towards the bar, stopped and turned back. I waited for him to say something, however, he merely smiled at me again, once more turned away and this time strode off.

 

SOME TIME LATER

 

Dinner had been, as one would expect when dining at the Savoy, excellent; the company had, of course, been even better. We now sat drinking coffee and brandy and smoking cigars and talking. Most of our conversation during dinner had consisted of reminisces of our school days, which had been very enjoyable. However, I was now keen to know what he had done since the day he had said goodbye to me.

 

"So what are you doing now?" I asked.

 

"I am a partner in a law firm."

 

"You're a solicitor?"

 

"I am indeed. It seemed the logical career choice once I had come down from Cambridge."

 

"Is it enjoyable?"

 

He shrugged. "Like all forms of employment, it has its moments when it is highly enjoyable and one gets a sense of satisfaction, whereas there are times when one wonders quite why one ever ventured into the profession in the first place. However, yes, I do enjoy my work, especially as I have fairly recently taken on a new aspect; I help people find other people or things."

 

"That must be very interesting."

 

"Yes, it is. And what about you, Bunny? What does my rabbit do?"

 

For a moment I glanced away from him in what was almost embarrassment. "Um, well, I don't actually work, not as such. I am writing a novel though."

 

"Are you now?" I nodded. "Now that really is interesting. When is it due to be published?"

 

"I have another three months in which to finish it, after that I don't know exactly."

 

"Well you must let me know so that I can purchase a copy."


I felt my cheeks become a little warm. "Oh, I'm sure you won't want to read it. I'm sure it isn't any good really."

 

He leant forward a little and put his hand on mine. "I see my rabbit is still at least in one respect as he was when we were at school. You never thought anything you did worthy then, did you?" I lowered my gaze and stared at the table. "Whereas your verse writing was exceptional and I was not the only person to think that. And anyway, if your novel wasn't deemed any good the person publishing it would hardly wish to publish it, would he?" He spoke gently.

 

I looked at him. "I imagine not, no. But I'm still sure it won't be the kind of book you'd enjoy reading."

 

"Well, you shall have to let me be the judge of that, will you not?"

 

"Yes, Raffles," I said, my tone obedient as it had been during our school days. I took another sip of the fine brandy, effectively emptying my glass.

 

Without asking me if I would like another drink, Raffles turned and caught the attention, in a matter of a second or two, of one of the waiters and ordered two more brandies. I smiled my thanks. "Well, my rabbit, if it isn't too personal a question, may I enquire as to how you are able not to work?"

 

I sighed softly and looked at him. "My parents both died days after I turned eighteen," I said softly.

 

He again touched my hand. "I am very sorry to hear that, Bunny, really I am. It must have been a very difficult time for you."

 

"Thank you," I said. There was something in his voice and in the way he looked at me that made me believe he really did understand, and I knew his condolences weren't like those of many, made simply because it was expected. "It was difficult - I missed them very much, I still do," I added.

 

"I'm quite certain you do." Once more he touched my hand and once more I felt that he really did understand.

 

I went on with my story. "As their only child everything came to me and my uncle Richard, Father's brother, made quite certain I did not waste it. He took it up on himself to teach me how I could live perfectly well without overspending. For the first couple of years he took control of the money and gave me an allowance, and then once I proved to him I could indeed live within my means he passed the money over to me. And I still do indeed do as he taught me. I'm grateful he was around as I fear I may have done what other young men do when they come into money and simply spend it unwisely."

 

"A lot of young men do indeed do that. It was indeed very fortunate that you had your uncle to help you."

 

"So now I spend a good part of my days writing; I lunch out most days; I go to dinners and balls and do the usual things a gentleman does. It all gets somewhat tedious at times."

 

He smiled. "It's as I said all professions become like that at times."

 

I laughed softly. "I wouldn't say being a gentleman was a profession."

 

He shrugged. "Maybe not, but the principle is the same. Now, how would you like to return to my rooms with me for a night cap?"

 

"I would like that very much, Raffles. Thank you."

 

"Splendid." Once more he caught the eye of the waiter and within less than a minute he had paid the bill and we were collecting our hats, sticks and overcoats.

 

"Shall we walk to the Albany?" he asked.

 

I nodded. "Yes, let's."

 

He smiled and took out his cigarette case, I took one, accepted a light from the match he held and then with his arm through mine we walked along the streets to the Albany.

 

He led me inside the large, heavy door and paused outside the porter's office. "Good evening, Parker," he said as the man in the office stood up and hurried out to where we stood.

 

He touched his hat. "Good evening, Mr. Raffles, sir. Did you have a nice evening?"

 

"It was very enjoyable, thank you, Parker. It was very enjoyable indeed; in fact it was one of the most enjoyable evenings I have even spent." I felt my cheeks become a little warm again.

 

"That's nice, sir."

 

"Now, Parker, I would like you to meet a very dear friend of mine: Mr. Harry Manders, he and I were at school together. Bunny this is Parker."

 

Parker turned to me and touched his hat. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Manders, sir."

 

"You too, Parker," I said.

 

"Now I want you to remember Mr. Manders, Parker, because he will be a very frequent visitor here and if he ever arrives and I am not out, I would like you to take him up to my rooms and let him in."

 

"Very good, sir. I'll remember that and Mr. Manders of course."

 

"That's a good man." And with that Raffles again took my arm, nodded to Parker and led me up the stairs and along the hallway to his rooms. I really liked the idea that I was going to be a regular visitor; I liked the idea very much indeed.

 

We sat and talked and smoked Sullivans and drank whisky and soda until I glanced at the clock and saw it was a little before three. "Raffles!" I cried, "Look at the time."

 

He looked at the clock but didn't seem terribly surprised by the hour. "Is there somewhere you have to be, my rabbit?"

 

"No, of course not. It's just that . . . Well, you have to . . . Well go to work in a few hours, do you not?"

 

He nodded. "Yes, I do. In fact I have a client at ten. However, do not look so concerned I assure you I need very little sleep."

 

"I think I had better go though. I mustn't be too late rising myself as I should get on with my book." With more than a degree of regret I stood up.

 

He glided to his feet and put his hands on my shoulders and stared down at me. "If my rabbit is quite certain." I nodded. "Please do not feel you have to go on my behalf."

 

"I don't; I really am starting to feel a little fatigued."

 

"Very well then." We went out into the hall and he held my overcoat for me, I slipped it on and picked up my hat and stick and turned to look at him. "Would you like to dine with me tomorrow, Bunny?" he asked, as one of his hands fell onto my shoulder and the other slipped into my hair, pushing it back from my forehead and doing as he had done many times during our two years at school, tangling it around his fingers.

 

"Oh, yes, please, Raffles. I'd like that very much indeed."

 

"Good. Because so would I. Shall we dine at my club?" I smiled and nodded and he told me the name of it. It was one I had not visited, even though I had heard of it, thus I was rather looking forward to seeing what it was like. "Eight o'clock?" Again I nodded. "In that case I shall say goodnight to you." He took my hand between both of his and held it as he shook it. "Dear Bunny," he said his tone fond, "My very dear Bunny."

 

I smiled up at him. "Goodnight, Raffles. And thank you for a lovely evening."

 

"The pleasure really was mine. Now make sure you take a cab back to your flat. I know Mount Street isn't far away, but I shall feel happier knowing you aren't walking through the streets."

 

"Yes, Raffles," I said momentarily slipping back into those wonderful days when I had been his fag and he had taken such good care of me.

 

"That's my good boy," he murmured, touching my cheek. "Until tomorrow."

 

"Until tomorrow," I echoed as he opened the door for me. As I went down the stairs I knew he was watching me and that he continued to do so until I was out of sight.

 

A WEEK LATER

 

We were once again dining at Raffles's club; our table was towards the back of the room and was fairly secluded.

 

We had dined together every evening since the first evening and on each evening I had accompanied Raffles back to the Albany after we had dined where we had sat and drank whisky, smoked Sullivans and talked. Our intimacy seemed to have increased with each meeting and just as he had done during our days at school, Raffles barely kept his hands off of me.

 

Indeed on Saturday when we had spent the entire day together, including an afternoon on the river, when upon returning to his rooms in the late afternoon I confessed my head was aching, he had encouraged me to lie down on his sofa with my head in his lap. There was only one way in which we could have been closer, been more intimate and I kept waiting for him to kiss me or touch me in a sexual way and take me to his bed. However, he did not and I could not, I did not know how to, I would not have been confident in making the first move.

 

I wanted him to kiss me and take me to his bed; I wanted it more than I had ever wanted anything in my life. I believed from the way he looked at me, the way he touched my cheek, my hair, how close he stood or sat to me, how often he put his arm around me, how frequently he called me my dear Bunny or my beloved rabbit, that his interest in me wasn't merely as a friend. However, as of yet he had not proved that to be the case.

 

Raffles's club always provided a good dinner and the wine he had ordered had been of good quality, everything was it had been since the night we had become reacquainted - well almost. Raffles himself was slightly different; I do not believe that anyone other than I, given how close we had been over the last week, would have noticed, it was barely perceptible.

 

However, I was quite certain something was if not amiss than at least occupying some of his attention - attention that was usually focussed solely on me. It wasn't that he wasn't attentive; he was - he really was. It was just that he seemed just a little distracted and the conversation didn't flow quite as easily as it normally did. I confess I was afeared that . . . That he had tired of me; that he no longer wished to go on sharing evenings with me but wasn't sure how to tell me.

 

I took a deep swallow of the fine wine and gathered up the pluck he had been the one to discover I had and asked, trying to keep my tone nonchalant, "Is something wrong, Raffles?"

 

He started slightly as his gaze came to rest on me. That alone did nothing to allay my concerns. "No, my rabbit," he said, putting his hand on mine and squeezing it. "Why do you ask?"

 

"It is just you seem a little - A little distracted as if you have something on my mind." He didn't reply; he simply sat staring into my eyes. I once again took another swallow of the wine, touched my napkin to my lips, gathered up more pluck and said, "Have you once again tired of me?"

 

The look of surprise, shock, horror even that crossed his face, along with the way he not only touched my hand, he took it in his actually reassured me. "Oh, my dear Bunny, my beloved rabbit, how can you ask such a thing? Of course I have not tired of you; I apologise if I have given you any indication that that is the case. Oh, Bunny, please believe me, this week I have spent with you has been one of the best weeks of my life." I felt a wave of relief course through me, as the tone of his voice and the earnestness of his words told me what a foolish rabbit I had been to think such a thing. And then he frowned and asked, "What did you mean by 'once again tired of you'?"

 

I lowered my head, staring down at my plate as I silently cursed myself for including the words 'once again'. I sat in silence, even though I knew he would insist upon me answering him, for quite some time before I sighed, lifted my head, looked at him and said, "Well, once you'd left the school you . . ."

 

"Didn't write to you?" He spoke gently. I nodded and bit my lip. He sighed softly and without letting go of my hand he refilled both of our glasses before looking at me and saying, "Shall I tell you why I did not write to you?" I hesitated for a moment before nodding once. He picked his glass up and took a swallow, before he said, "You see, my rabbit, I was not prepared to admit - not even to myself - that the feelings I had for you were what they were."

 

"I don't understand."

 

He gave me a small smile. "Oh, Bunny, my dear beloved Bunny, I loved you - but it was more than that. Somehow, at some point during those two years I believe - no that is not true, I know - I fell in love with you. And that, my rabbit, is what I could not, I would not admit to myself. I would turn twenty-one in a few months and when I left the school you weren't quite sixteen. How could I love you? How could I be in love with you? I couldn't - so I refused to admit it. I was going off to Cambridge, you would remain a school boy for a further two years, it wasn't love - that is what I told myself. And part of my refusing to accept the truth was me not writing to you, because to do so would mean I would have to admit you meant more to me than I was willing, than I was prepared to admit. However, I never, never, Bunny, never forgot you. How could I have forgotten my rabbit?"

 

I stared at him, gazing deeply into his eyes, studying his face, replaying his words and the sound of his voice as he had spoken in my mind and I knew he spoke the truth. I smiled and softly, "I loved you too, Raffles. And I never forgot you."

 

"I know you did, Bunny. I do believe the entire school knew." He smiled at me and I instantly felt so much better. He finally took his hand from mine and took out his cigarette case and offered it to me. "However, my rabbit, you are correct; I confess I do have something on my mind. You see, Bunny, I'm afraid I cannot invite you to return to the Albany with me after we have dined, there is something I have to do."

 

"That's all right," I said, lighting my cigarette from the match he held. I hoped my tone sounded brighter than I believed it to sound.

 

"It's not that I don't wish to invite you, it really is that what I have to do is of great importance. It shouldn't take me long so if you wish you could go on ahead and wait in my rooms for me or return to your flat and I could join you."

 

"Or," I heard myself say, "I could come with you and help you." Suddenly I realised how foolish that sounded and hastened to say, "Of course I'm sure I wouldn't be able to help you. I'm sorry to have presumed. I'll -"

 

"Did you mean what you said, Bunny? Would you help me?" Raffles's tone was rather grave.

 

I nodded. "Of course I meant it, Raffles. If there is anything I could do to help, I would. I would do anything for you," I said. Again it was something I had said to him during our years at school on more than one occasion.

 

He sat for a moment, just looking at me, before he put his half-smoked cigarette out, leant towards me and said, "I really would be grateful of your assistance, my rabbit. However, I believe I should tell you first what it is I plan to do, because it is more than possible that once I tell you that you will withdraw your offer and I would quite understand if you did. Really I would, Bunny."

 

I shook my head. "Never," I said forcefully. "I told you, Raffles, I would do anything - anything - for you."

 

Again he appraised me in silence for a moment or two before asking in a low, flat voice, "Does that include breaking into someone's house?" I felt my mouth fall open as I simply stared at him; his words stunned me, shocked me, troubled me. However, what shocked me more was the fact I knew my reply would be 'yes'. He touched my hand and smiled at me, "Ah, my dear rabbit, I do so adore you. Please allow me to tell you quite why I intend not only to break into someone's house but also to take something that isn't mine. Once you have heard the story you can give me your answer - and again I assure you if you wish to say no, I shall not be offended. It will change nothing between us."

 

I nodded. "Very well, Raffles," I said.

 

Before he began his story he caught the eye of the waiter and ordered another half bottle of the fine wine we had been drinking. Once the waiter had brought it over and filled our glasses before vanishing as quietly as he had arrived, Raffles took a sip from him glass and looked at me. "Do you remember Charlie?"

 

"Of course I do, Raffles."

 

"Good. Well, what I have to do tonight is actually to help Charlie. He did something rather foolish and as a result could end up losing everything he has - in fact he could be gaoled."

 

This stunned me as Charleston was such a good boy at school; more respectful than Raffles and apart from smoking I was certain he had never (unlike Raffles) broken a rule. I wondered what on earth he could have done what was so serious he might be gaoled.

 

Raffles touched my hand. "I see my words have surprised my rabbit. Let me explain a little more." However rather than continue his story he once more fell silent and just stared at me for a moment or two before saying, "I don't know if you were aware, during out school days, that Charlie . . . That Charlie was always going to prefer the company, shall we say, of gentlemen rather than that of ladies."

 

I nodded slowly. I don't know how, especially given how young and how innocent and how na´ve I had been, I had known, but somehow I had. Maybe known was too strong a word, but I had suspected Charleston wasn't quite as most other public school boys were. "I believe I was," I said.

 

Raffles squeezed my hand. "You were a very observant boy," he said. "Well you see, Bunny, Charlie had an intimate," he paused for a moment before saying, "friend."

 

"A lover?" I heard myself say softly and to my chagrin I felt my cheeks become a little warm.

 

Raffles's smiled at me and again patted my hand. "Given what the man has done to Charlie, I would rather not use that term. However, you are - well you were - essentially correct. I did not care for the man; I did not care for him at all. I neither liked nor trusted him. However, Charlie was very fond of him; I think it's fair to say he believed he . . ." He fell silent.

 

"Loved him?" I kept my voice low even though there were no other gentlemen at the tables near to us.

 

Raffles gave a curt not. "Yes. This man is a photographer and one afternoon he persuaded Charlie to allow his assistant to," he paused and drank some more wine and light another Sullivan. "To take a photograph of Charlie and him. A very intimate, highly damaging, very incriminating photograph. Charlie foolishly agreed, thinking it would be something special for them to share. Oh, he didn't agree instantly, he wasn't that foolish; however, in the end agree he did. The day after the photograph was taken his friend sent him a copy of it along with a note asking for money and reminding Charlie he had the plate from which he had taken the photograph. The meaning was quite clear - Charlie had to pay him or he would print more photographs and ruin Charlie."

 

"Oh. Poor Charleston."

 

"Indeed. Charlie paid him; of course he did, and believed or maybe hoped that would be the end of it. However, a week later he received another letter, one that made it clear the man expected Charlie to go on paying him for the rest of his life, otherwise he would send a photo to the Trustees of Charlie's hospital, the police and various other people."

 

I stared at Raffles. I was shocked and disgusted, not by what Charleston had done, as Raffles had said he had loved the man, but by how callously the man had treated a man so kind, so caring, so generous as Charleston. "But surely if he was in the photograph as well, he would be incriminating himself; he too would risk being sent to gaol."

 

Raffles gave me a sad smile. "Ah, if only that were the case. However, he arranged it so that only Charlie's face can be seen; the face of man to whom he is - doing the thing which would see him gaoled - cannot be seen. Only part of his body is visible and that could be the body of any white man."

 

"The bastard," I heard myself say. I am not certain which of us were the more surprised by the term I had used - he or me.

 

"He certainly is," Raffle said, his tone grim. "Charlie came to me after he received the second letter. He cannot nor does he wish to go on paying for life - I am certain the man would simply increase the amount he demanded. He asked if I might find a way to persuade the man to give back the plate. I assured him I would help him and I intend to do so. I know Charlie expectedly me to find a way to use the law and I swear to you, Bunny, if I could have done so then I would have. However, that is not possible."

 

"So you're going to break into this man's home and steal the plate?"

 

Raffles nodded. "Yes, that is my intention. I managed to get Charlie to tell me where the man keeps his important and valuable things, it is my belief he would not keep such a valuable thing at his photographic studio, thus I believe the plate will be in the safe in the man's study."

 

"What do you want me to do?"

 

"Does my rabbit really still intend to help me?"

 

I nodded. "Yes, Raffles. If anything I'm more determined than ever to help you."

 

He smiled at me, such a tender smile; it made me swallow hard and took my hand. "You really are the best rabbit ever," he said. "What I need you to do is to stand guard and keep watch and listen out for any sounds of anyone moving in the house. And if you hear or see anything you will warn me It is my understanding that the man will be out until the early hours of the morning. However, one can never be certain of another person's movements."

 

I nodded. "I can do that, Raffles. I can do that easily."

 

He smiled at me. "Thank you." He glanced at his watch, drained his wine and put his cigarette out. "I believe now would be as good a time as any. If you're ready, of course."

 

To be honest despite my words, despite the fact I intended to be by his side when he in the eyes of the law committed a crime, a crime which I would be involved in and assisting him in, I wasn't certain I was ready. However, I believed if we sat there for another hour or more I still wouldn't be ready.

 

Thus, I drained my own glass, put my own cigarette out, nodded and said, "Yes, Raffles. I am."

 

He glided to his feet in his elegant way, moved behind me and pulled back my chair out as I stood up. "That's my good boy," he murmured.

 

THE ALBANY LESS THAN AN HOUR LATER

 

It had all gone amazingly well. Raffles gained entrance to the house remarkably easily and quickly - I didn't enquire from where he had learnt the skills, just as I didn't enquire later as to how he knew how to open a locked safe. He was Raffles; he knew how to do things mere mortals such as I didn't know.

 

He left me outside the study whilst he searched for the plates. I didn't hear him and saw little more than a faint glimmer of light beneath the door. Barely twenty minutes had gone by before I heard the door opening and felt Raffles's arm through mine and his lips on my ear telling me he had what he had come for and we could go.

 

Even though I had gone with him willingly, even though I believed whole-heartedly that he had done the right thing and the man from whom he had stolen was actually the criminal, not Raffles nor Charleston, I confess I was more than a little relieved when we were back outside walking along arm-in-arm like any two gentlemen. The only slightly odd thing was that Raffles had a fairly bulky parcel under the arm that wasn't through mine.

 

As we had walked he told me he had actually found not only the plate that could ruin Charleston, but three other such plates showing similar incriminating scenes. A further hunt, this time through the desk drawers, had revealed a notebook containing the names and addresses of the other men, along with a photograph of each man. Raffles had taken those as well. I had asked him what he had planned to do with the other plates and he told me he would return them to the other gentlemen, thus putting their minds at rest, as he would do with Charleston.

 

"Well, my rabbit," he said as he came back into the sitting room. He had left me to pour whisky and soda for both of us and light Sullivans whilst he had put the plates and the notebook in a safe place. "That went very well, did it not?" He took the Sullivan I had lit for him from the ashtray and took a deep drag before blowing a smoke ring - something I had never been able to do.

 

I smiled. "Yes, Raffles. It did. I'm so pleased Charleston won't have to worry any longer."

 

"So, Bunny, am I. And I must thank you again for your part in the operation." He moved nearer to me and put his hand on my shoulder.

 

I felt my cheeks flush. "I didn't do anything, Raffles."

 

"You did, Bunny. You really did." His tone was so sincere and serious, as was the look on his face, that I felt my cheeks flush a little more.

 

"You could have managed without me."

 

"Well, yes, my rabbit. However, I would have had to concentrate far more on listening, thus it wouldn't have been as quick. Also, my thanks are as much for your reaction to what I told you about Charlie - your completely lack of censorship or even the merest hint of disgust or discomfort. Not many people would have reacted like you did - not that I would have dreamt of telling anyone but my dear rabbit."

 

I shrugged. "It doesn't bother me that Charleston is - Well, as he is. It doesn't bother me at all, Raffles. You do believe me, do you not?"

 

He brushed my hair from my forehead. "Yes, my dear Bunny, of course I do. And I am very pleased to hear it."

 

I stared up at him. Maybe it was just wishful thinking but I believed his final words were not simply to do with Charleston. "Are you?" I spoke softly, as I gazed up into his dark blue eyes, dark blue eyes that I would swear had become even darker.

 

He trailed his finger down my cheekbone and I didn't try to hide the soft noise of pleasure I made. "Oh, yes, my rabbit; I really am. And now," to my surprise he threw his half smoked Sullivan onto the fire, plucked mine from my hand and threw that onto the fire as well. He stared down at me, smiled and to my further surprise made a half bow and held out his hand to me. "Would you do me the honour of dancing with me, Bunny?" he asked, his tone was very formal.

 

For a second I hesitated, how could we dance there wasn't any music? But the prospect of being in his arms again, of being held as he had held me on the night we had met thrilled me. Thus, I took his hand, smiled and said in a tone which matched his, "It would be my pleasure, Raffles."

 

"Good," he said, putting his arm around my waist as I put mine onto his shoulder and he began to hum a waltz as he danced me expertly around his sitting room. Even in the relatively small space he led me expertly, never once coming near to tripping over a piece of furniture or one of the rugs.

 

Once we had circled the room half a dozen times, he made a more than a little unorthodox turn and led me out of the sitting room into his dining room, around which he danced me several times before he danced me through the open door and into his bedroom where the lamps were already lit.

 

We danced around the room, he still humming the waltz tune, I completely under his spell, a time or two before he came to a stop near to his bed. Although we had stopped dancing and he had ceased to hum the tune, he still held me in the dancing embrace as he gazed down at me and my hand still rested on his shoulder. Gently he pulled the hand he still held to his mouth and kissed it before letting go of it and once more stroking my cheek. He continued to stare directly and deeply into my eyes; he seemed to be studying me, questioning me even for what seemed like a tremendously long time, but in reality was probably no more than half a minute before he took his hand from my waist, took my face between his hands, lowered his head and brushed his lips over mine for a moment or two.

 

The touch was both brief and light, but instantly I felt my entire body react to the beauty of it and I made a soft noise in my throat and didn't try to hide the faint tremble that passed through my body.

 

He lifted his head after far too short a time, slid his hand into my hair and said gently, "Is this all right, Bunny? Do you mind if I kiss you?"

 

"Oh, yes, Raffles. It's more than just all right. And no, of course I don't mind if you kiss me!"

 

"Are you quite certain, my rabbit? I do not wish you to feel you have to say yes merely to please me."

 

"I wouldn't do that, Raffles. Not over something so important," I added swiftly, aware that we both knew there had been more than one occasion during our school days when I had agreed to something merely because he had wanted it. However, those had been minor things, trivial things, nothing of any importance. Certainly nothing as serious as doing something that was illegal.

 

"Good," he said, kissing me briefly again, "because I do want to kiss you rather badly, Bunny. Indeed, I rather fear I wish to do far more than just kiss you."

 

"Then do it!" I cried. "I want you to, Raffles. I want you to kiss me and touch me and - Well . . . I want you to do everything."

 

He raised an eyebrow. "Everything?"

 

I flushed. "There's just one thing."

 

"Yes?"

 

"Well, I'm not . . . I'm not like you. I've never . . . Well, nothing more than a chaste kiss or two and even then -" His mouth on mine silenced me as his arms went around me and he pulled me hard against his body.

 

The kiss was far from brief or light and by the time he lifted his head and once more cupped my face between his my body had already begun to react to the kiss. He stood and gazed down at me. "I am so pleased to hear that," he said.

 

"Are you?" I was somewhat surprised; surely he would prefer a lover who was experienced; who knew what he was going.

 

He nodded. "Oh, yes. I am going to enjoy greatly teaching you about making love. And I do believe the lesson should begin now, do you not?"

 

I nodded. "Yes, please."

 

He smiled at me, kissed me lightly again before he pushed me away from him a little and quite deliberately let his gaze travel down my body until it came to rest on the evidence of quite what his kiss had done to me. I gasped softly as his hand came to rest on my lower body; for a moment or two he simply let his fingers flirt with my hardness before he cupped his hand around me and stroked me. I felt my drawers become a little damp as I pushed myself into his hand. I truly didn't know whether I wanted him to stop or not; I didn't know if I wanted him to make my drawers wet or if I wanted him to stop and undress me and -

 

I didn't have a choice in the matter, because after he had stroked me for a far too brief a time, he stopped, pulled me back into his arms and kissed me soundly for quite some time as he pressed the evidence of his arousal against me.

 

"Now," he said, lifting his head and smiling at me, "I do believe it is time I undressed you, is it not?"

 

I nodded and smiled. "Yes, please," I said again.

 

He laughed lightly and swiftly and elegantly untied my bowtie and unbuttoned my collar. As he revealed my neck he bent his head and licked the hollow of my throat before putting his lips on my throat which he kissed and sucked gently, as talented and experienced fingers undid the buttons on my shirt and waistcoat and even removed my shirt studs (which he dropped into the pocket of his evening jacket) all without looking. Once he had undone all the buttons he took his lips from my neck straightened up and removed my dining jacket and waistcoat, pushed down my braces and took my shirt off.

 

I stood before him naked to my waist, my lower body throbbing with an intensity I had never felt when I had touched myself. I knew I was trembling slightly and I hoped he knew it was with desire and not fear. "So pretty," he murmured, as he stroked my cheekbone and then let his fingers travel down my face, around my chin, before slipping down to my breast which he caressed for quite some time.

 

"Raffles," I murmured as he replaced his fingers with his mouth and his tongue began to do devilish and delicious things to my breast before moving down to my stomach. "Please, Raffles," I cried, as I clung onto him, certain I would fall otherwise.

 

He lifted his head and put his arms around me holding me in a loose embrace. "Please what, my rabbit?"

 

However, all I could do was to stare imploringly at him. I couldn't articulate my desperate need, for need was what it had become, of his hand around my now painful hardness. "Ah," he said softly, appearing to read my mind as he had done many times in the past. "Are you that in need, Bunny?"

 

I flushed as I nodded. "Yes, I'm afraid I am, Raffles."

 

"Well, then we shall have to do something about it, will we not? I can't bear to think of my beloved little rabbit suffering." And with those words he put his mouth back on mine, as his talented fingers moved further down my body and swiftly, but carefully, unbuttoned my trousers. He paused for a second with his fingers just resting on me as he took his mouth from mine and looked down at me. "Are you quite, quite certain you wish me to do this, Bunny?"

 

"Yes!" I cried. "Yes. Yes, Raffles. I am. Please."

 

"Hush, my sweet Bunny. Hush now." Once more he claimed his mouth with mine as he slid his hand inside my trousers and drawers and gently pulled my damp hardness out. As the cool of the room, despite his warm hand, hit it, I gasped and pushed forward more into his hand, seeking what I had never known from a touch other than mine.

 

All it took was three firm, assured strokes before I was once again clinging to him in an attempt to remain on my feet as my body got the release it craved and I made his hand very wet and sticky. "I'm sorry," I murmured, my head pressed against his shoulder.

 

I heard him sigh softly. "Look at me, my rabbit." As I had always done I obeyed him. "Now for what exactly are you apologising?"

 

"For . . . For . . . You know. For not . . . It was very quick," I finally managed.

 

"Ah," he said. "Actually, Bunny, I am rather complimented by that."

 

"You are?"

 

"Yes, of course I am." He smiled at me before taking his hand from around me and slowly lifting it to his mouth and licked it. I cried out not just from what I watched him do, but also from the fact that I felt my body release once more, wetting my trousers and his. I was about to apologise again, but fell silent at the look on his face.

 

"Well," he said. "Once more I am gratified by quite how much you seem to desire me and like what I do."

 

"Oh, I do, Raffles; really I do."

 

"In that case I believe it is time I finished undressing you so that I can have you where I have wanted you from the moment you walked through the door with Carter."

 

"You wanted me in your bed from then?"

 

He shrugged. "Well, actually, my rabbit, if I am being honest, I wanted you in my bed long before that. However," he merely shrugged again before bending his head and kissing me again.

 

After another protracted kiss during he unbuttoned the waist of my trousers and pushed them, along with my drawers down. He dropped to his knees to undo my sock suspenders and with me balancing my virtue of putting my hands on his shoulders, he removed the rest of my clothing.

 

He tossed everything onto a nearby chair stood up and silently stared at me, quite, quite, quite deliberately letting his gaze wander slowly over my completely naked body. I believe he liked what he saw, as during his appraisal of me I let my gaze drop to his lower body and saw his desire grow harder as he stared at me.

 

"Get into bed," he murmured, pulling the covers back with one swift movement before he pulled off his own jacket and tossed it onto the same chair he had thrown my things onto, "and watch me undress."

 

I shivered just a little at the tone in his voice as well as the almost voyeur aspect of his gentle order and did as he bid. I watched as he revealed a firm upper body, his skin was unblemished and I longed to touch it, to run my hands over it, to put my mouth on it as he had put his mouth onto mine. I watched as his hands moved to his waist and undid the buttons on his trousers before he pushed them down. I watched as he bent to undo his sock suspenders before moving his trousers, socks and shoes.

 

He stood in front of me now dressed in nothing more than his cotton drawers that accentuated rather than hid his fierce desire. Even from where I lay I could see his drawers were more than a little damp and my longing to touch him was so great.

 

I believe my eyes must have told him so because rather than remove his drawers he came nearer to the bed and knelt on it. "Touch me," he whispered as he stroked my cheek. It was somewhat awkward given our positions and it was so new to me that my hand shook as I raised it and lightly ran my fingers over him. He made a noise of pleasure and I brushed my fingers over him again before I closed my hand around him and stroked him.

 

I felt and saw him sway slightly as he bent over a little and gripped my shoulders. "Don't stop, Bunny," he murmured as I slowed my touch. "Please don't stop, my rabbit. I don't think I could bear it."

 

Thus, even though it really was very difficult to stroke him with any kind of rhythm and even though I knew my touches must seem so na´ve to him, I went on stroking him until he cried my name and I felt his drawers and my hand become soaked with his release. To my surprise, and his from the look on his face, I echoed what he had done and let him fall from my hand so I could bring it to my lips and taste him.

 

"Oh, Bunny," he whispered, pushing himself upright in order to pull his drawers off. "Oh, my treasured rabbit, I do love you so."

 

His arms were around me and mouth about to take mine again as I said with more honesty that I believe I have ever said anything, "I love you too, Raffles. I love you so very much."

 

Those were the last coherent words I said for a considerable amount of time.

 


 

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