FINDING A SOLUTION
Raffles gives Bunny some devastating news. However, once Bunny has got over his initial reaction he decides to take matters into his own hands and find a solution to the problem.
An established relationship story.
Written: June 2013. Word count: 17,765.
It was late afternoon and I was standing by the window in my sitting room staring down into the street in an attempt to see if I could see Raffles. However, once again there was no sign of him; I sighed and moved away from the window and began to pace around my room. As I paced I told myself I was being a foolish rabbit and that nothing was amiss and that he would be here soon. I ignored the fact that he should have been here an hour or two ago.
What I couldn't ignore, however, was the telephone call that he had made to me several hours ago - an hour before we had been due to meet for luncheon. I had left his rooms, after a night spent in his bed, in order to return to my flat to bathe and change before meeting him at the Savoy where we had agreed we would lunch together.
Just as I was dressing and trying to decide which tie to wear, my phone had rung. To my surprise it had been Raffles; to my greater surprise he sounded more than little unlike himself; to my considerable surprise he told me he was ringing to inform me he could not meet me for luncheon as planned as something had arisen which he had to deal with. He had assured me it would not take too long and that he would be with my by mid-afternoon and we could then decide where we would dine that evening.
Mid-afternoon had come and gone and dusk was beginning to fall and still I had not heard from him. As I once more went to the window and stared down into the rapidly darkening street, now unable to clearly make out faces, I wished I had not been so compliant and so uninquisitive; I wished I had asked him quite what it was he had to attend to. However, old habits die hard and I had become used to not questioning him when he did not tell me of his plans, as I knew that should he wish me to know about them, he would tell me.
And yet given he had been so unlike himself when he had rung me, I now believed fully that I should have asked him. What if he had suddenly decided to undertake a burglary and was now in the clutches of Inspector Mackenzie? Or even lying unconscious, having been hit over the head by the owner of the home he was burgling? What if he needed my help? I should have asked him what was amiss and why he sounded so unlike himself and I should have offered, insisted even, on helping him.
However, I had not done so and thus all I could do now was to pace and wait and pray that, even if another five hours went by, he would knock on my door using his special knock, the one that always told me who was outside.
As dusk turned into darkness, I pulled the curtains and poured myself a slightly larger than I would normally drink at this time of the evening whisky and soda and drank half of it in one swallow before I lit a Sullivan and, pausing only to stare out into the darkened street, began to pace around the room again.
I decided against dressing for dinner until Raffles arrived. If he turned up in evening dress, then it would not take me long to don my own evening clothes and we could then go out to dinner and if he didn't turn up then -
The sound of his knock on my front door had me hurrying across the room, out into the hall and pulling open the front door. "Raffles!" I cried, grabbing his arm and pulling him inside. "Where have you -" I fell silent as I really looked at him. His normal elegance seemed slightly rumbled, but it was his manner which troubled me far more. He looked exhausted and as I stared at him a faint quiver passed through him more than once. He was as far from being the Raffles I knew as it was possible to get. "Come into the sitting room and have a drink," I said, slipping my arm though his and leading him along the hall.
He let me lead him indeed he made no objection at all, he merely walked along as my side, seemingly unaware of where he was and even with whom he was; once he stumbled slightly and grabbed my arm as I steadied him. I led him to the fire, took my arm from his and hurried across to the decanters where I poured him a large brandy and hurried back to him.
He took it and I had to stop myself from gasping aloud as his hand trembled, put the glass to his lips and to my amazement began to drink and did not stop until the glass was empty. Once it was empty he sighed, closed his eyes for a moment, before opening them and staring at me. "Thank you, my rabbit," he said his tone was far from his normal one, "I needed that."
I stared at him as I began to become more and more concerned; for Raffles to admit to needing a drink . . . Well, something clearly was more than a little amiss.
"Do you wish to sit down?" He stared at me and shook his head. "What do you want?" I asked.
His answer was to grab me, pull me into a close embrace and plunder my mouth with his own. I gasped at the almost brutality of his kiss as I felt his teeth graze my lip and a moment later I tasted my own blood. I heard him make a soft noise and believed it to be a brief apology as he gentled the kiss and turned brutality into beauty.
"Oh, my dear, dear, beloved rabbit," he murmured, taking his mouth from mine and staring down at me. "Oh, Bunny, I do love you so."
I felt my cheeks grow a little warm and I was somewhat surprised by his words. Not that I doubted Raffles's love for me, I never have done so. It is just that he rarely says the words; instead he shows me in other ways or even tells me in other ways. For him to speak the words troubled me almost as much as the way he looked. Something was wrong; something was seriously wrong and I needed to find out what it was so I could begin to help him.
"I know you do, Raffles," I said softly, putting my hand on his cheek, "and I love you."
"That, my dearest Bunny, I have never doubted. I just wonder -"
I waited for him to continue, but he did not. Finally I said, "Raffles?"
He sighed, gave me what was clearly a forced smile, brushed my fringe from my forehead and said, his tone flat and low, "I wonder if you will still feel the same way when I tell you what I have to tell you."
I stared up at him and I felt a chill begin to seep through my bones. I swallowed hard, "Nothing you could tell me could ever change the way I feel about you, Raffles," I declared.
He sighed softly and this time his smile seemed a little more genuine as he again brushed my fringe from my forehead. "Ah, my rabbit, I do wish I could believe that."
"Well you can," I declared hotly. "And you should."
I nodded. "Yes. Raffles, I loved you from almost the moment we met and even though we spent ten years apart, even though you never," I paused for a moment before forcing myself to say, "contacted me after you left the school, I didn't stop loving you. Thus you can be quite certain that I never will! So tell me what it is you have to tell me and then we can - Do what we need to do."
He gazed down at me. "I truly do not deserve you, Bunny," he said, before he gathered me back into his embrace and once again began to kiss me. As his mouth parted mine and one hand slid into my hair which he tangled around his fingers, he pulled me even closer to him and I smelt the familiar scent. My body began to react to the kiss and the closeness and thoughts of what he had to tell me began to get pushed away by the thought of being in my bed, in his arms as his hands and mouth did wonderful things to me. I felt his body begin to react as well and I pushed my lower body even closer to him, letting him feel how hard I was becoming as I went on kissing him and being kissed by him.
Finally he broke the kiss and we both took large gulps of air. "Take me to bed, Raffles," I heard myself beg, taking his hand and looking up at him. "Please." All thoughts of what he had to tell me had now completely fled and all I wanted to do was to be in my bed, in his arms. I even tried to move towards the door of the sitting room, but he is much stronger than I am, and simply remained standing as he stared down at me with a strange look in his eyes. "Raffles?" I murmured.
"Oh, my dearest little rabbit, you have to believe me when I say I wish nothing more than to take you to bed. However, when you hear what I have to tell you, I fear that is the last thing you will wish me to do."
I blinked and frowned as I stared at him and fear along with the chill which had, once he had kissed me, faded now began to once more creep through my body. I shook my head, "I am quite certain there is nothing you can tell me which will make me feel that way," I declared, certain I was correct.
He sighed softly. "I wish I could be quite so certain." He cupped my face between his hands, lowered his head and kissed me for a moment or two, before straightening up and taking my hand in his. "Let us have another drink, Bunny, you will need it." And he turned and strode across to the decanters.
I just stood where he had left me and stared after him. Suddenly I had a near over-whelming desire to simply turn on my heel and run out of the room and out of my flat and get away from him and whatever it was that was so awful, he believed I would not only cease to love him, but cease to want him to take me to bed.
As I watched him pour brandy into two glasses and add a splash of soda to each, I shook myself and told myself not to be a foolish rabbit. I knew my own mind; I may not be as forceful or outgoing or decisive as he was, but I knew myself; I knew how I felt and I knew no matter what he feared, what he said, that there was nothing he could tell me that would alter my feelings for him. If I could continue to love him after he walked away from me, I could continue to love him no matter what.
He returned to me with a glass in each hand and handed one to me. I put it to my lips and took a fairly large swallow all the time watching him, waiting for him to speak. He took a fairly small sip of brandy, sighed and swallowed hard before reaching out to me. I expected him to put his hand on my shoulder, but he stopped mid-way and instead let his arm fall to his side.
He took another sip of brandy and I watched as he composed himself. Then staring directly into his eyes he said, in a tone I did not recognise at all, "I have to marry, Bunny."
As I stared at him in horror, unable to believe I had heard him correctly, I felt my glass slip from my lifeless fingers; I watched as he proved not for the first time how safe his hands were, as he bent and caught my glass before it hit the floor. He held it out to me but I merely went on staring at him.
It was he who, after swiftly putting his own glass down onto the table, took my hand and pushed the glass into it, before wrapping his own hand around mine and guiding the glass to my mouth. "Drink some brandy, Bunny," he said firmly, and just as I always did, I obeyed him and took two deep swallows; I didn't taste the brandy, I just felt the warmth as it slid down my throat.
As I stared at him through a haze I didn't quite know what I felt or how to feel. Part of me feared I might faint or vomit or begin to tremble, part of me felt anger and an anger I had never before known, begin to rise in me. To my surprise, the anger won out.
I shook his hand off, drained the glass, slammed it down onto the table and glared at him. "How could you? How could you, Raffles?"
But I didn't let him finish; after all there was nothing he could say to me to make this right. Nothing; he had been correct. The love I had for him had died - at least as I glared at him, as I swallowed hard and forced myself not to begin to tremble, that is what I told myself; that is what I tried to convince myself. And I ignored the tiny voice in my head that told me I was the one who had been correct: there was nothing he could do or say to stop me from loving him.
"I thought, I believed, that I . . . That I was . . . I thought I was the person you wanted, Raffles. That I was the only person you wanted."
"But clearly I was incorrect. I should have known that I would never have been enough for you, should I not, Raffles? You tell me you love me and yet you continue to take young ladies to bed. So who is she, Raffles? Do I know her? And when exactly are you going to marry? Tomorrow? The next day? I imagine it must be imminent given she is - Given her condition."
"Damn you, Raffles. You lied to me. You let me believe that you . . . That I was the one you -" I paused for a moment and swallowed as I went on glaring at him. "And I thought that you knew . . . That you knew how to . . ." I hated myself for my inability to be coherent and to still be the rabbit who found it so hard to speak of such things.
I bit my lip, dug my nails into my palms and forced myself to say, "I thought you knew how to prevent such a thing from happening. After all, given I know whoever the young lady you are to marry is not the first you have taken to bed, I know that you must be able to do that. So what happened, Raffles? What went wrong? Or did nothing go wrong? Is this what you intended or hoped would happen?" I fell silent as I turned from him, grabbed my glass from the table, hurried over to the decanter and poured some more brandy into my glass, which I drank down in two swallows without bothering to add soda. I poured myself a smaller measure before I turned back to him.
He was staring at me and for a moment I thought I saw a hint of almost amusement on his lips. Then it had gone and I saw instead how pale he was. "Oh, Bunny," he said, "oh, my dear rabbit, you do not really believe that I - That I have to marry because a young lady of my acquaintance is expecting my baby. Is that what you believe, Bunny? Do you really believe I have been taking young ladies to bed all this time? Do you, Bunny?"
I stared at him; I was now completely confused. "But - If you haven't . . . If that is not the case, then -"
"Bunny, pray tell me quite when I would have had time to bed a young lady. Well?" he said softly, when I did not answer. "Bunny, you and I are hardly ever apart, are we? When would I have had time, even had I had the desire, to take anyone other than my dear rabbit to bed? Do you think that little of me, Bunny? Do you think I care so little about you that I would do such a thing to you? That I would risk losing you?"
I swallowed hard. "Raffles," I whispered, suddenly not sure of anything other than how badly I had begun to tremble and how much I wanted his arms around me. "I . . . Raffles," I held out my hand to him and he hurried towards me and took it. "I don't understand," I said, as he put his arm around me and pulled me close to him. "If you have not . . . If there isn't . . . Then why, Raffles? Why do you have to marry?"
I felt his lips on my forehead as he held me in a one-armed embrace. "Oh, Bunny, oh, my dearest rabbit, come and sit down and I will tell you."
"Wait!" I cried, somehow, I know not how, managing to prevent him from leading me across the room. "Just tell me one thing."
"Of course." He brushed my hair from my forehead.
I forced myself to keep my gaze locked with his. "Do you wish to marry this lady?"
He stared at me, he seemed surprised, shocked even that I had asked such a question. Then he gave me a true Raffles smile, the first I had seen, as he took my face between both of his hands and lightly and briefly brushed his lips over mine. "No, Bunny," he said, his tone more serious than I had ever heard it, and the look in his dark blue eyes confirmed his words. "No, I do not wish to marry her. There is only one person I wish to marry, my rabbit, and sadly that is not, and I doubt ever will be, possible. Now, come along with me, let us sit down and I will explain."
This time I let him lead me across to the sofa where he waited until I sat down before sitting down next to me where he put one arm around my shoulders and took my hand in his before he began to speak. "I have to marry, Bunny, because if I do not we shall at best find ourselves ostracised from society and at worst gaoled."
I stared at him. "What? How? Raffles, what on earth has happened?"
He sighed. "Let me just say there are photographs, my rabbit. Photographs that given there has been the odd whisper or two, all of which I must say have been dismissed and laughed at even, would make the true nature of our," he paused for a moment and then said softly, "relationship more than a little obvious."
"Photographs?" I cried aghast, "but we've never - Raffles, we've always been . . . We wouldn't, we are not that foolish."
He smiled at me. "I believe some people would say we are incredibly foolish, Bunny, given we break the law in more than one way."
"Well, yes, I know that but - Have you seen these photographs?"
He patted my hand. "Of course I have, Bunny, and that I why I have to marry the lady who owns them."
"She's blackmailing you?"
He nodded. "Yes, in essence that is indeed what she is doing."
"But why?" I cried, "why does she want you to marry her?" I spoke the words without really thinking about them and suddenly realised quite how insulting they sounded. I hastened to try to put things right, "I mean of course I can understand why she would wish to marry you, Raffles, why anyone would wish to marry you. I hope you didn't think I -" His mouth on mine silenced me and even though I knew I shouldn't be kissing him, shouldn't let him kiss me, I was kissing him back and moving closer to him as he put his arms around me.
"It's quite all right, my rabbit," he said, quite some time later as he held me in a loose embrace and his fingers tangled in my hair. "I am not offended, if that is what you feared."
"Does she love you?" I asked.
He laughed. "No, Bunny, she does not. Her sole reason for insisting that I marry her is simply that she wants my name and the position it will give her in society, that is all. As Mrs. Arthur Raffles she will be invited to balls and dinners and places to which she otherwise would not be invited."
"Do I know her?"
"No, at least I do not believe you have met. Her name is Miss Julia Baldwin."
The name meant nothing to me, but then I rarely paid attention to the names of the young ladies to whom we were introduced, just as they paid little attention to my name - their focus being Raffles.
Suddenly I had an idea and I sat a little more upright. "We could offer her money or jewels."
He gave me a small smile, sighed and brushed my hair from my forehead. "I did make those suggestions, Bunny. She declined; her only interest in my name."
I sighed; I should have known that if I'd had an idea, Raffles would already have thought of it. "We could go away - that's it, Raffles, we could leave London and start a new life somewhere." I was suddenly excited about the prospect.
He once more gave me a small smile and this time kissed my forehead. "We could, however, I believe she is so determined, that she would still find a way to ensure our names and reputations would be completely ruined. I certainly would never be able to play cricket again."
I sighed again and put my head on Raffles's shoulder, "So there's really no other option but for you to marry this Miss Baldwin?"
"I cannot think of one, my rabbit, and I have given it considerably thought."
"What about me?" I heard myself ask. "I presume she will insist upon you not spending any time with me, at least not alone."
"Well, now, Bunny, interestingly, that is actually not the case."
I sat up. "Raffles?"
"As I said, Bunny, she does not love me, I am not even certain she even likes me - she certainly does not expect me to be a husband to her."
I frowned as I stared at him, for a moment I wasn't certain to what he was referring. After all he would be a husband to her, he was going to marry her, wasn't he? And then, as he held my gaze, and raised an eyebrow slightly, I realised. "Oh," I said, feeling my cheeks grow a little warm, "oh," I said again as he smiled at me and touched my cheek. "She told you that?"
Raffles nodded. "Oh, yes, she made it quite clear. Apart from my name and the position it will give her in society, all she is insisting upon is that I dine with her once a week, take her to the opera or theatre once a month and allow her to attend at least one day's play of any test match in which I play. As long as I do these things then she doesn't care what I do at other times - and yes, that includes spending as much time as I wish to with you, doing whatever we wish to do."
I stared at him. "Even . . . You know?"
He smiled at me and brushed his lips over mine. "Yes, my rabbit, I know. And yes, even that." He took out his cigarette case and offered it to me. I took one, accepted the match he held for me and watched as he stood up, went to the decanters and poured us both another drink. "However," he said, holding the glass out to me and sitting back down, "I fear that you, given your sensibilities and belief in what is right and wrong, will not be able to allow our relationship to continue, will you?" He spoke softly and took my hand.
I stared at him. "I . . . I . . . Would you be happy to continue our relationship, Raffles? Would you be prepared to be -"
"Unfaithful?" I nodded. "Well, my rabbit, it isn't as if I am marrying out of love or a desire to be with her, is it? Thus, I would not see it in those terms - to put it bluntly, Bunny, the vows I will take will be worthless to me. However, you are not the same as I, and I believe you will see a marriage as a marriage, no matter under what circumstances it was conducted."
"I love you, Raffles," I whispered. "I don't want to lose you."
"But?" He said softly.
"I - Raffles, you're not engaged yet, are you?"
He frowned. "If you mean have I given her a ring, then no, I have not."
I stood up. "In that case, take me to bed, Raffles. Now."
He stood up, brushed my hair from my forehead and said quietly, "Are you quite certain, Bunny?"
I nodded. "Yes. Yes, Raffles, I am." And it was I who took his hand and began to lead him across the room.
THE NEXT MORNING
I awoke as I had fallen asleep in Raffles's arms. He held me firmly and a little closer to him than he normally held me; I felt completely secure, loved, protected and above all possessed. Raffles had taken possession of me when he first took me as his fag at school and has always shown quite how much he believed me to be his, but as I lay in his arms I felt he was a little more possessive than he had ever been.
I was relaxed and quite content; parts of my body ached gently, but in a good way and my lips felt a little swollen. I let my mind drift back to our night of lovemaking and knew despite how intimate we had been over the years since Raffles had first taken me to his bed, how well he had loved me, last night had been like nothing I had ever experienced. It was as if - I tried to force my mind to cease to think about the question Raffles had asked me the evening before.
However, I could not. I knew what I had to tell him; there was only one answer I could give him. It was the right thing to do, the only thing to do. His marriage to Miss Baldwin may not be a true marriage, but marriage is marriage.
I sighed as I turned my head and gazed at him; would I never again share a bed with him? Would this be the last time I awoke next to him? Was last night the final time he would kiss me, the final time he would hold me in such an intimate way, stroke me, caress me, do all the wonderful things only he had ever done to me? How could I let it be the final time? And if did the right thing, the honourable thing, what would Raffles do? I was under few illusions; I knew he loved me, but I also knew he was a man for whom a sexual relationship was important. Thus if I told him I could not continue to spend time with him as his lover, he would find another - of that I had no doubt. Maybe he would not find another lover, but he would find someone to bed; someone with whom he could have a sexual relationship if nothing else.
And if I told him I could not longer be his lover, could I even still spend time with him? Could we dine together, go to the Turkish baths, could I still accompany him to cricket matches and do all the things we had once done? Could I bear to spend time with him and not wish to be in his arms? Of course I would wish to be in him arms and if I could not allow myself to be in his arms, would I be able to spend time with him?
I did not wish to lose him; I loved him; he was everything to me - he always had been. And yet I feared, I feared it deeply, that if I did not agree to continue to share a bed with him that I would lose him.
I closed my eyes and tried to regain the peace and contentment I had felt when I had awoken, but it had gone and I wondered if I would ever feel that peace again. Why could I not be more like he? Why could I not simply accept the fact that his marriage would be in name only; that it wasn't even a case of his wife loving him and he not loving her? After all it was nothing more than in effect a business arrangement; that was all their marriage would be. He was only marrying her to prevent her from ruining our lives, our reputations and quite possibly being imprisoned simply because we dared to love one another. Why could I not do that? He could. Why could I not?
"Good morning, Bunny," I opened my eyes to see him gazing at me with the most loving look I had ever seen. "And how is my rabbit this morning?" His fingertip began to trace my cheekbone and I groaned softly as I trembled just a little under his touch.
I stared at him. I had to tell him and I had to tell him now before I changed my mind. I opened my mouth to tell him what I had decided and heard, to my surprise myself saying, "Yes! Yes, Raffles, yes."
He blinked and looked a little surprised. "My rabbit?" he asked, as he let his fingers slide into my hair.
"Yes, I will continue to be your lover, Raffles."
He blinked again and stared at me. "Bunny?" he said softly, as he tangled my hair around his fingers, "are you quite certain?"
I nodded. Suddenly I was and to my surprise I had not a single qualm about what I had decided. "Yes, Raffles, I am quite, quite certain. I am not going to lose you, Raffles. I am not going to give you up - and certainly not because of a blackmailing -" I stopped abruptly as to my horror I realised quite what I had been about to call her. "Who doesn't even love you," I finished. "So unless you have changed your mind, then marry her, give her your name, dine with once a week, take her to a show, allow her to attend a day's play at Lords or Manchester and spend the rest of your time with me."
He was silent for a moment as he just gazed at me. Then he brushed his lips over my cheek, touched my lips with his finger and said softly, "I always said my rabbit had far more pluck than he believed he had - you have once again proven that to be true. And now, Bunny, let us bathe and you can call on more of that courage as one thing I did not tell you last night is that Miss Baldwin wishes to meet you. We are to join her for morning coffee."
I stared at him and suddenly any courage I may have had began to fade away. "She wants to meet me?" I whispered as I caught his hand and held it.
"Yes, Bunny, I am afraid she does - it was another of her conditions."
"Oh," I said and sighed, "very well then." I was about to push back the covers when something occurred to me. Raffles?"
"You haven't changed your mind, have you? You do still wish to -"
His finger on my lips silenced me. "Oh, Bunny," he murmured, "sometimes I do have to wonder about you. Of course I have not changed my mind. I want nothing more than for our relationship to continue exactly as it has been. I told you, my rabbit, there is only one person I wish to marry, one person I wish to spend my life with - you. And now, let us go and bathe." He brushed his lips again over my cheek and pushed the covers back and got out of bed.
I found myself dressing with extra care and I took far longer than was usual to decide just which suit, tie and cuff-links to wear. Raffles, who had to return to the Albany so that he could change his clothes, was amazingly patient with me and didn't say anything as I changed my suit twice and my tie four times. However, even his patience seemed about to run out as I stared in the mirror and raised my hands in order to once more untie my tie.
He caught my hands in his, pulled them down, pulled me into his arms and kissed me for several seconds before taking his mouth from mine and staring down at me. "Your tie is quite all right, Bunny," he said firmly, "as is your suit and your cuff-links and tie-pin."
"Are you quite certain, Raffles? I -"
"Yes, Bunny, I am quite certain. Now get your hat and come along, remember I still have to return to the Albany in order to change." And with those words he took my hand and all but dragged me out of my bedroom, along the hallway and out of the front door, which he locked with the key I had given him.
I hurried along by his side and said, "You could have left me and gone home to change."
He paused and turned to look at me and smiled gently, "Yes, Bunny, I could have done so. However, I fear I would have had to have returned here for you and that I would have found you with your entire wardrobe strewn across you bed. Now do hurry up." And without giving me a chance to reply, he firmly put his arm through mine and hurried me down the stairs and out into the street where he hailed a hansom cab.
When we reached the Albany I expected him to instruct me to wait in the cab whilst he went up to his rooms to change. However, after hesitating for a second or two, he called to the cab driver to wait and firmly took my arm and led me into the Albany and up to his rooms where I stood in the doorway of his bedroom and watched him change.
As he picked up his cigarette case and put it into his pocket I heard myself say, "Raffles?"
"Yes, my rabbit?"
"Couldn't we . . . I mean do we need to be in society?"
Raffles moved towards me and put his hand on my shoulder. "Bunny?"
I took his other hand. "I could live quite easily without the balls and house parties and dinners."
"Could you, my rabbit?" Neither his tone nor his steady gaze gave anything always.
I nodded. "Yes! Yes, Raffles, I could."
"And our club? The theatre? Cricket matches? The Turkish baths? Could you give all of those things up, Bunny?"
I swallowed hard; they were all quite different as when we went to those places, it was a rare occasion when I had to share Raffles with the flock of young ladies which surrounded him at balls and dinners. They were our things; things we did together; they would be very hard to give up. However, even harder would be knowing that Raffles had a wife, even if she would only be his wife in name only.
Thus I swallowed again and nodded as I said, "Yes, Raffles, even those things. So you could just tell Miss Baldwin that you aren't going to marry her and tell her to do her worst!"
He stared at me, his gaze softening as his other hand cupped my cheek before moving to brush my fringe from my forehead. He sighed softly as his hand slipped into my hair and lightly tangled it around his fingers. "And gaol?" he asked, his tone soft, "could you live with going to gaol, Bunny?" I felt my mouth fall open slightly; I had forgotten about that. "Because, my beloved Bunny, I could not live with being responsible for you being imprisoned." He lowered his head and lightly kissed me.
"Oh," I said softly. "Do you believe that would really happen?"
He shrugged and sighed. "I do not know for certain, my rabbit, however, there is a precedence. Now, shall we go? We do not want to keep Miss Baldwin waiting, do we? It would be a most ungentlemanly thing to do." And with his arm around my shoulders he guided me through his rooms and out into the street where the cab awaited us.
TWENTY MINUTES LATER
I was a little surprised when a maid answered the door; so Miss Baldwin was not without money. She took our hats before leading us into a sitting room where a lady rose from her chair and stared at her. She was taller than I by a few inches, indeed she appeared to be almost at tall as Raffles; she was smartly dressed in what was clearly an expensive outfit, but a rather dull one; her hair and eyes were both brown and she appeared to be, somewhat to my surprise, older than I had expected. It may not be a gentlemanly thing to think, but as we all stood simply appraising one another I believed her to be several years older than Raffles.
Finally she broke the silence and turned her attention from me to look at Raffles. "Arthur," she said, her voice was quite low and even with the single word, I heard no hint of emotion. She held out her hand.
Raffles left my side and strode across to her. He took her hand and put it to his lips. "Good morning, Julia my dear," he said, "do allow me to introduce you to Mr. Harry Manders. Bunny," he turned to look at me, "Miss Julia Baldwin, my fiancée."
I crossed the room to join them and took Miss Baldwin's hand in mine. "Good morning, Miss Baldwin," I said, "I am so very pleased to meet you. May I offer you my congratulations on your engagement to Raffles; I know you will be very happy together."
I hid a smile at the hastily, but not hastily enough, covered up look of surprise on her face as I spoke the usual greeting a man would have for his best friend's fiancée. Out of the corner of my eye I saw that Raffles had managed to cover up his flash of surprise far more effectively, indeed had I not known Raffles as intimately and as well as I did know Raffles, I was quite certain that the hint of surprise would not have been noticeable at all.
"Thank you, Mr. Manders," she finally replied, and even though I had hitherto only heard her speak one word, I believed her voice betrayed that she had indeed been slightly disconcerted, shaken even, by my words. "And it is a pleasure to meet you too. Arthur has, of course, spoken of you."
I smiled at her as we heard a discreet knock on the sitting room door and the next moment it was opened and the young maid who had opened the door to us came into the room carrying a tray that looked more than a little heavy.
Before Miss Baldwin could speak, Raffles had hurried across the room and without allowing the maid to object had taken the tray from her and put it down onto the table. I saw more surprise flash across Miss Baldwin's face and saw the cheeks of the young maid become somewhat red as she looked uncertain as to what she should do next.
"You may leave us, Gladys," Miss Baldwin said, her tone was distinctively frosty.
"Yes, Miss," the girl murmured as she made a quick curtsey before hurrying out of the room and closing the door behind us.
"Raffles is such a gentleman," I said, and was rewarded with a look that was as frosty as her tone had been when she had spoken to her maid.
Once more though she hastily covered up the look, glanced at Raffles and said, "Yes, yes, he is. Do please sit down, Mr. Manders and if you wish to smoke, you may."
I glanced swiftly at Raffles who gave me a minute nod. Thus, I sat down and took out my cigarette case, "Thank you, Miss Baldwin," I murmured and gave her a small smile.
She nodded before picking up the coffee pot and began to pour the coffee into three cups, the first of which she handed to Raffles who took it and brought it to me.
The forty minutes we spent drinking coffee and making small talk were no where near as onerous I had thought, when Raffles had informed me that Miss Baldwin wished to meet me, they would be. I believed it was because I had in effect claimed the upper hand when I had first spoken to her and let her believe that as far as I was concerned her engagement to Raffles was a true engagement.
Certainly she, given it was her home and she was the one with the apparently incriminating photographs, had seemed more than a little ill at ease during the forty minutes. Raffles, of course, had been - well Raffles. I truly believed nothing could trouble him, certainly not for any length of time; nothing could shake his air of confidence and make him uneasy. He had sat in his chair, smoking and sipping his coffee and talking just as he might do in any normal social situation.
Finally, he glanced at his watch, stubbed out his cigarette and stood up. "I do believe it is time that Bunny and I left you, my dear," he said, moving towards Miss Baldwin and holding out his hand. "You mentioned you were meeting an old friend for lunch, I seem to remember." He smiled at her and I put my cup and saucer down, stubbed my own cigarette out and rose to my feet.
She took his hand and stood up. "Yes, Arthur, how good of you to remember."
"Of course I remembered, Julia," he said smoothly. He had taken his cue from my first greeting and had behaved impeccably during the forty minutes we had spent with Miss Baldwin; he had behaved just as any true bridegroom to be would behave - it certainly had disconcerted Miss Baldwin.
She gave him a faint smile and took her hand from his and looked at me. "Mr. Manders," she held out her hand to me.
I smiled, moved towards her and took her hand, "It really was a pleasure to meet you, Miss Baldwin," I said, "I hope we will meet again quite soon."
"As do I, Mr. Manders," she managed, as she glanced at Raffles who stood watching us both. His smile was exactly the smile a man would have upon seeing how apparently well his best friend and fiancée were getting on.
"Goodbye for now, my dear," Raffles said, and bent his head to kiss her cheek.
"Goodbye, Arthur," she replied, moving her head away a mere second after his lips had touched her cheek. "Goodbye, Mr. Manders."
"Goodbye, Miss Baldwin, and thank you for the coffee."
She merely nodded and put her hands together in front of her. I did not need to look back to be quite certain she had stood and watched as Raffles and I crossed the room and went out into the small hallway where Gladys hastily appeared and handed us our hats.
Raffles thanked her and together we went out of Miss Baldwin's flat, down the stairs and out into the street where Raffles slipped his arm through mine and we walked off together. "The Savoy, I believe," Raffles said, as we turned the corner, "if of course that will suit my rabbit."
"Yes, please, Raffles."
"Good." We walked in silence for a minute or two before, once we entered the park, he stopped walking, turned to me, put his hands on my shoulders and smiled down at me. "That, my dear Bunny, was masterful, quite, quite masterful. I truly could not have done better myself."
I smiled up at him, deeply touched by his praise, which it has to be said he didn't give often and certainly not as fulsomely as he was now giving it. "Thank you, Raffles," I said, feeling my cheeks flush just a little. "However, I must confess I did not plan it; it just - Well, I just found myself saying it. After all it was what a gentleman would say to his best friend's fiancée, is it not?"
He smiled at me, glanced swiftly around him, before briefly touching my cheek with his fingertips. "Well, yes, it is indeed the kind of thing a gentleman would say. However, now please do not be offended, my rabbit, but I did not believe, despite my always saying you have more pluck than you realise, that you quite had it in you, especially not given you know the truth about the nature of my engagement to Miss Baldwin."
I shrugged, smiled and said, "To be honest, Raffles, nor did I."
"Oh, Bunny," he murmured, "my very own, dear rabbit," again his fingertips brushed over my cheek. And then he said softly, "Tell me do you want luncheon or shall we return to the Albany and then go to the club for an early dinner?"
I smiled up at him. "An early dinner at the club sounds ideal," I said and it was I who slipped my arm though his and began to walk.
A WEEK LATER
I was once again playing my role as the best friend of the forthcoming bridegroom as I went to fetch two glasses of wine after having escorted Miss Baldwin into the luncheon tent and made her comfortable at a table.
Raffles had been picked to play for England in the second test in Manchester and upon hearing the news, Miss Baldwin had decided she wished to accompany us and attend the first day's play after which she planned to do some shopping and meet up with an old friend.
She had tried to argue that I did not need to keep her company in the ladies enclosure and that she would be perfectly happy to be on her own. However, I insisted; telling her that I would not hear of it and that Raffles would expect me to be by her side, and in the end with somewhat less grace than I believed a lady should show, she had agreed.
We had spent a pleasant morning watching Raffles completely dominate the bowling, taking six of the seven Australian wickets that fell. Well, at least I had spent a pleasant morning, Miss Baldwin seemed to have little if any interest in what was happening on the pitch and seemed unconcerned by Raffles's achievement- although to her credit she did make an attempt to appear to be the proud fiancée as he took three wickets with three balls. I, however, had not been fooled; I knew what it was like to be proud of something Raffles had achieved, and her reaction did not come close to the way I reacted.
I was just about to return to the table where Miss Baldwin was sitting when I came to an abrupt halt; there sitting next to Miss Baldwin was a gentleman, a gentleman I did not recognise. However, it wasn't the fact that Miss Baldwin was talking to the gentleman that made me stand where I was and just watch them, it was the way they were looking at one another and the intensity of their conversation. No one else was sitting at the table and a swift glance around me left me as certain as I could be that the gentleman talking so animatedly to Miss Baldwin had not left another lady to fend for herself whilst he went to talk to Miss Baldwin. Thus, why was he in the ladies luncheon tent?
I was just considering whether to go across to them and thus force Miss Baldwin to introduce us when she glanced up and saw me. I was a reasonable distance away, however, I felt quite certain I saw her face turn pale and saw a flash of shock, which I truly believed contained a hint of fear, as she saw me. However, the look had gone as quickly as it appeared, and instead she smiled at me in the way a lady would smile at her fiancé's best friend.
I smiled back and continued my journey to the table where I handed her the glass of wine. The gentleman had stood up and was now looking at me, naturally I offered him the other glass of wine, but he refused turning instead to look at Miss Baldwin.
"Do forgive me," she said swiftly, "Mr. Manders, may I introduce you to Mr. Kenward; Mr. Kenward this is Mr. Manders, my fiancé's close friend."
Kenward held out his hand. "Manders," he said.
I took the proffered hand and shook it. "Kenward," I returned the brief greeting.
"Mr. Kenward is the husband of one of my friends from school," Miss Baldwin said. "I do not know if Arthur told you, Mr. Manders, that we are going to lunch together tomorrow?"
I nodded. "He told me you were meeting an old friend," I said, "but did not mention her name." She smiled at me.
"And your fiancé is, I believe, A. J. Raffles, is he not?" Kenward said, turning once more to Miss Baldwin.
She inclined her head. "He is indeed. Did you see this morning's play, Mr. Kenward? Arthur took three wickets with three balls and took a further," she paused for a moment, frowned slightly and looked at me. "How many wickets in all did Arthur take, Mr. Manders?"
"Six," I replied. "He took six of the seven wickets to fall for the loss of a mere twenty-two runs."
"I regret, Miss Baldwin, that I did not see all of this morning's play, and one of the things I missed was Raffles taking the three wickets with three balls."
I was watching an act, of that I was quite certain. I had no idea who Kenward (if indeed that was his name) was and what his actual relationship with Miss Baldwin was, but I did not believe for a moment that he was the husband of one of Miss Baldwin's school friends. Nor did I believe their meeting was an accidental one, and I was quite certain Kenward had not seen any of the morning's cricket - so what was he doing here?
"Well, Miss Baldwin," Kenward suddenly said, "it is time I returned to my friends. I know how much Mildred is looking forward to seeing you tomorrow." He took her hand and made a small bow over it as he put it to his lips. She smiled at him and inclined her head slightly. "It was good to meet you, Manders," he said, once more holding out his hand.
I took it and shook it. "You too, Kenward," I replied, staring at him intently in an attempt to ensure I remembered his face. I stood and watched Kenward stride away, before I pulled out a chair and sat down next to Miss Baldwin.
For a moment she seemed extremely uneasy and as I watched her out of the corner of my eye I could clearly she was trying to decide what to say. Finally, she took a deep swallow from her glass, put it back down and turned to look at me. "Arthur played extremely well this morning, did he not, Mr. Manders?"
"Yes," I said brightly, "Yes, he indeed, Miss Baldwin. Indeed I believe it was of his best performances."
"And you of course would know," she said.
I shrugged and answered her as the best friend of her fiancée (who knew nothing of the real reason for her being Raffles's fiancée) would answer her. "Yes, I have been watching Raffles play cricket for many a year now - ever since our school days."
She nodded, "Yes, Arthur told me you were at school together." She picked her glass up again and took a sip and then a second before carefully putting it back down. "Did you play cricket yourself whilst you were at school, Mr. Manders?"
I smiled and shook my head. "No, I was not and still am not at all proficient at any sport, unlike Raffles, of course, who was extremely good at every sport he played, well, at everything did." I smiled at her; I felt perfectly at ease, unlike she who despite attempting to appear relaxed was certainly not.
At that moment the waiter arrived and luncheon was served. Our conversation during lunch was of the weather and books. To my surprise, because I had no desire to like her in the least, I found she was very well read and her passion for books was not part of an act. She spoke knowledgably and with an enthusiasm I had not seen her display before. At one point I actually found myself enjoying our conversation and found I had almost forgotten just what she was.
The match was due to recommence in about ten minutes, thus I stood up and offered her my hand. She took it and let me help her to her feet and suddenly she put her hand to her head. "Are you all right, Miss Baldwin?" I asked.
"I am afraid I feel a little unwell, Mr. Manders, a headache," she added quickly. "I believe I spent a little too long in the sun this morning. I think I shall return to the hotel and rest. But you, Mr. Manders," she said swiftly before I could speak, "must stay here."
"Oh, I could not allow you to return on your own," I said, "it would not be proper. I shall accompany you back - Raffles would wish me to."
"No, Mr. Manders," she said her voice quite loud. "Do forgive me, I spoke sharply to you; I should not have done so. I know you are only being a gentleman. However, I assure you, I will be quite all right on my own; indeed I would rather be on my own." She gave me a gentle smile, the gentlest I had ever seen on her face, and then glanced away from me and I saw a hint of colour touch her cheeks. I may not have liked her, indeed I may have despised her, but at that moment I could not help but admire her skills. She had effectively left me with no choice but to politely stand back and allow her to return on her own; to continue to insist would not be gentlemanly.
"Very well, Miss Baldwin," I said, "but will you at least allow me to ensure there is a cab to take you back to the hotel?"
"You really are tremendously kind, Mr. Manders, however we both know there will be plenty of cabs, do we not? And besides, isn't Arthur due to reopen the bowling this afternoon? I am certain you do not wish to miss watching him."
I gave her a gallant smile and conceded to her. "Very well, Miss Baldwin, I shall remain here. I presume, however, you have no objection to me escorting you out of the luncheon tent?"
She gave a soft laugh and inclined her head in my direction. "Indeed I do not, Mr. Manders. Thank you."
Once we were outside she went off in one direction and I turned and began to walk in the opposite direction. However, once I had gone a few steps I stopped, turned around and taking care not to get too close to her, I followed Miss Baldwin until she left the grounds. I moved more quickly and was just in time to see her get into a cab, helped by Kenward who joined her inside.
I hesitated for a second or two before turning on my heel and striding off in the direction of the pitch where I settled down to watch Raffles take the final three wickets, the last on the final ball before tea.
I decided I would not tell Raffles about Kenward and when, upon joining the England team for tea, as I usually did, I merely informed him that Miss Baldwin had a slight headache and had decided to return to the hotel to rest - adding that she had insisted on me remaining to watch the match.
When we returned to the hotel in order for the England team to bathe and dress for dinner it was to learn that Miss Baldwin had left word for Raffles that she had decided to retire early for the night and thus would not be dining with us that evening. Raffles had expressed the right amount of sympathy and understanding, before turning to me and suggesting we join the rest of the England team for dinner - which of course I was quite happy to do.
THE FOLLOWING DAY
When we went down for breakfast it was to learn the Miss Baldwin had ordered breakfast to be served in her room after which she would keep her luncheon engagement with her old school friend.
England had another excellent day and by close of play they had lost four wickets and Raffles was already on forty-two not out.
When we got back to the hotel, the clerk handed Raffles an envelope which he opened and quickly read the short letter. "Julia has returned to London," he said, looking at me, "apparently there is a play her old school friend is particularly keen on seeing and Julia insisted I would not mind."
"Which you don't," I said softly, even though there was no one near to us.
His eyes gleamed and his hand found its way to my fringe, which he pushed back for me. "Indeed," he said and smiled at me. It was a smile I knew well and I knew exactly where I would be spending the night.
FOUR DAYS LATER
England had prevailed in the test, winning easily and comfortably and in the eyes of everyone the man of the match had been my own Raffles. He proved to be the best batsman, the best bowler and the best fielder. The celebrations on the final evening in the hotel had been extensive and it was past two o'clock before anyone went to bed.
We returned to London to find a telegram from Miss Baldwin inviting Raffles to have luncheon with her on the following day and informing him that she something important to discuss with him. For once it actually suited me rather well as I had plans of my own, plans I did not intend to share with Raffles until I knew for certain if my suspicions were indeed correct.
Raffles and I had spent the early part of the morning at the Turkish baths and we parted outside, Raffles to take luncheon with Miss Baldwin and me, unbeknown to Raffles, to visit the offices of the newspaper for whom I wrote articles from time to time. We made arrangement to dine at our club that evening, and I watched his stride away before turning and going in the opposite direction.
To my surprise I found when I reached the offices of the newspaper that the editor had left word to the effect that should I ring or indeed drop by that I was to be told he wished to speak or see me. Even though I was eager to get on with my task, I was more than happy to oblige the editor; after all I did need his co-operation.
A young clerk showed me (even though I had been there on more than one occasion) to Thatcher's office. As I went in Thatcher stood up and greeted me. "Hello, Manders, it's good to see you. I hope you're well."
"Thank you; I'm quite well, thank you. I trust you are also well," Thatcher shrugged and waved me to a seat. "I wondered if I might use a desk here, there's something I need to check and also if you don't mind I would like to call your sister paper in Manchester, please?"
"That's not a problem, Manders. However, before you get on with whatever it is you plan to do, I've got a proposition to put to you. How would you like to write a weekly article for the newspaper rather than just one now and again?"
I stared at him. "I would like that very much," I said.
"Good. The thing is, Manders, readers seem to like your style, and we've noticed that sales increase in the weeks when your articles appear. I'll leave the subject matter entirely in your hands, but try to vary it - like you do now."
I was very pleased by the news that my articles were so popular, and also pleased to learn that I would receive a regular source of income that was actually earnt. "Thank you," I said and smiled.
"And we'll pay the amount per article that we pay you now."
I was somewhat surprised by his words, as it was my understanding that regular writers received less than occasional ones. I was of course also very pleased not only by the money but also by the fact that my writing was finally getting recognition. "Thank you," I said again. "When would you like my first article?"
He glanced at the calendar behind him. "Let's say a fortnight's time, the beginning of next month."
I nodded; I could do that. "That will suit me very well," I said.
"Good." And he scribbled something on a piece of paper. Then he glanced at his watch, frowned and stood up, pulling his coat on as he did. "I've got to go out, so you can use my office for your research."
That suited me very well indeed. "Thank you, Thatcher."
"No problem. I don't suppose there's any chance of an article from it, is there?"
"There might be," I said. "I'll let you know."
He nodded, grabbed his hat and hurried out of his office, closing the door behind him and calling that he would tell his clerk that I was using his office and I wasn't to be disturbed, as well as telling me if I needed anything just to ask.
I moved from the chair in front of the desk to the chair Thatcher had vacated. I spent the better part of an hour looking through old records going back a year or two, but not entirely to my surprise I didn't find anything. Thus, I picked up the phone and asked the exchange to put me through to the sister newspaper in Manchester.
An hour later I hung up, leant back in Thatcher's chair and smiled. I had what I needed - well I would have on the morrow when Jackson sent me the information I had requested. I looked down at the notes I had taken during the conversation, checking them through and making sure everything was as I had remembered. I then spent another half an hour or so rewriting the notes and filling in more information and extending some of the points I had made just to ensure I had every aspect covered.
I felt excited and my first instinct was to hurry to the Albany to tell Raffles what I had found. However, I had made the decision not to let him know until I was quite, quite certain I was correct - but if I was then Raffles would not be marrying Miss Baldwin.
THE FOLLOWING DAY
I awoke somewhat earlier than I normally did, bathed, shaved and dressed before hurrying out into the street and once more heading towards the offices of the newspaper where I hoped I would find the information Jackson had promised to send me.
Raffles was to lunch with Miss Baldwin again and had told me during dinner on the previous evening that she had suddenly decided they were to marry next week rather than wait until the following month, which had been her original decision. Thus, she told him that she would require Raffles to be available whenever she wished him to be.
I had deliberately made certain I didn't let him see that rather than be upset or irritated by the fact we could not take luncheon together, I was actually rather relieved as it meant I had not had to come up with an excuse for being busy and thus unable to lunch with him. I do not lie well, especially not to Raffles and thus I had been concerned that any excuse I had come up with, he would not have believed.
I reached the newspaper office where a small package awaited me - Jackson had indeed been as good as his word. I thanked the young clerk and indeed gave him a coin before hurrying off back to my flat where I opened the package and looked through the material.
TWO HOURS LATER
I had changed my suit and tie before once again heading out into the London streets where I headed towards a place I never believed I would voluntarily go to. I had given consideration to pouring myself a small brandy before I had left my flat. However, I had told myself that I did not wish to risk anyone smelling alcohol on my breath, so instead I had made myself a pot of strong coffee and drank a cup before grabbing my hat and leaving my flat.
I stood looking up at the imposing building and wondered, not for the first time, if I really should go home, wait for Raffles to finish his lunch with Miss Baldwin, tell him my news and ask him to accompany me - if only for moral support. However, even as the thought passed through my mind again, I told myself not to be such a foolish rabbit. I had done all the research; I was confident that I had carried it out thoroughly, thus I did not need Raffles to metaphorically hold my hand all the time. I was a grown man - I was capable of doing this by myself.
I took a deep breath and then another one, before pushing open the door and striding inside. "Good morning, sir. Can I help you?"
"Yes please," I said, hesitating for a fleeting second before saying firmly, "I should like to see Inspector Mackenzie."
"I don’t know if the Inspector is available, sir. He is a busy man. Maybe -"
"I believe he will see me. Please tell him that Mr. Manders, Mr. Harry Manders, is here to see him." I spoke forcefully, far more so than I normally spoke, and hoped that the fact my heart rate had increased when I had walked into the buildings of Scotland Yard was not apparent.
The young constable or whatever his rank was, stared at me for a moment; I held the stare and forced myself not to look away. Then he stood up and said, "Very well, sir, I'll see if the Inspector can spare you a few minutes. Do take a seat."
"Thank you," I said and did indeed sit down.
Less than two minutes later the young man was back. "If you'd to come with me, sir," he said and led me down a corridor and to a door which had Mackenzie's name on it. He knocked, waited until we heard what I presumed was a 'come in', opened the door and ushered me inside. "Mr. Manders, Inspector Mackenzie," he said, before turning around and going back out into the hall and closing the door.
Mackenzie had stood up when I had entered and now just stood behind his desk staring at me. "Well, well, well, Mr. Manders, I dinna thought the day would ever come when I'd see you at Scotland Yard - at least not voluntarily," he added. I just stared at him in silence until he asked, "Is Mr. Raffles not with you?"
I shook my head. "No. However, it is he about whom I wish to talk."
He raised an eyebrow. "You havna come to turn Queen's evidence, have you?" I glared at him, holding his gaze until I saw a very faint hint of colour touch his cheeks and he glanced away from me. "Do sit down, Mr. Manders, and tell me what I can do for you."
"Thank you." I sat down and placed the file I had brought with me onto his desk; he glanced at it as he sat back down but didn't say anything. I had given much thought to what I was going to say to him, however, no matter how many times I had gone over things in my mind, I hadn't actually managed to think of how to begin the conversation. "Inspector Mackenzie," I said as I once more stared at him."
"Aye, Mr. Manders?"
I swallowed. "I know you do not like Mr. Raffles or me. However -"
"I dinna have feelings about you or Mr. Raffles personally one way or another, Mr. Manders. What I do dislike is," he paused for a moment and just looked at me.
I gave him a curt nod and went on. "However, you are a detective, are you not? You are here to uphold the law no matter what you may think of someone?"
He stared at me and frowned slightly. "Aye, Mr. Manders, that I am."
I gave him a brief nod. "Good. You see, Inspector, the thing is," I paused, moistened my lips, forced myself to meet his gaze and went on. "The thing is I believe that Mr. Raffles is shortly going to be involved in a criminal offence - through no fault of his own," I added swiftly.
Mackenzie went on staring at me in silence and then he picked up his pen and pulled a sheet of paper towards him, "Go on, Mr. Manders," he said.
I swallowed. "Mr. Raffles is shortly to be married. And -"
"Mr. Raffles is to marry?" The surprise, shock even in his tone was so obvious that I had to force myself not to react in a way that may prove to be detrimental.
Thus I merely nodded. "Yes, he is. Next week in fact. However, Inspector, it is my belief that upon doing so he will be entering into a bigamous relationship, as the lady in question is already married."
He stared at me. "Is she now, Mr. Manders?"
I nodded. "Yes, well at least I am almost certain she is."
"And have you not told Mr. Raffles this?"
I shook my head. "No. And I cannot do so. You see, Inspector," I paused and in what I hoped was a discreet manner, wiped my palms on my trousers, "Mr. Raffles is not marrying this lady out of choice He does not wish to marry her."
A look swept over Mackenzie's face, one I couldn't quite figure out. "Isn't he?" I shook my head. "Then why exactly is Mr. Raffles intending to marry her. Does he have to?"
"Inspector Mackenzie!" I cried in as indignant a tone as I could manage; I ignored the little voice in my mind that reminded me that I had thought exactly the same thing. "Of course not," I added sternly. "Mr. Raffle is not -" I feel silent and instead glanced away from him.
"Well then, Mr. Manders, exactly why is Mr. Raffles marrying the lady?"
I sighed and briefly closed my eyes. "Let us just say that she has information that would," I paused for a moment before making myself go on, "quite probably ruin Mr. Raffles's reputation," again I paused before adding softly, "and mine. She is blackmailing him," I added.
Mackenzie frowned. "I dinna like blackmailers," he said before falling silent for a moment as he made a note or two on the piece of paper. "Is Mr. Raffles willing to come here himself and report this?"
I sighed. "No, Inspector Mackenzie, I assure you he is not."
He leant back in his chair and studied me. "What makes you believe the lady is already married?"
I explained about how I had seen her with a man when we had been in Manchester and how something in the way they had interacted hadn't seemed right to me and thus I had committed his face to my memory. I explained how I had undertaken some research and how I had discovered the man in question was married to a lady whom I would swear was Miss Baldwin - although the photograph of them was a very poor one.
"I have the evidence all in here," I said, putting my hand on the file I had placed on Mackenzie's desk. "I'm sure you could double check it and - Look, Inspector, I need your help; I have no right to ask for it or to expect you to help Raffles or me. However, if you can find it in you to help us, I can make you a promise: you will never again have to visit Mr. Raffles again in a professional capacity, shall we say."
Even as I said the words I realised they sounded rather like veiled blackmail or at the very least some kind of bribe. "I'm sorry," I said quickly, "I didn't mean to - Look, Inspector, I don't know if you are aware but I write the occasional article for a local newspaper and -"
"Aye, Mr. Manders, I am aware and," he paused for a moment and gave me another look I couldn't quite figure out, "they are good articles."
"You read them?" I was completely surprised.
"It's always useful to keep up to date with things," he said, glancing away from me and down at his desk again.
I was silent for a moment, my surprise was that great. Then I mentally shook myself and said, "Well, thank you, Inspector. In that case you may be interested to learn that the editor has invited me to write a weekly article rather than just the occasional one."
"Has he now, Mr. Manders?"
I nodded. "Yes and also," I paused, I hadn't even told Raffles what I was about to tell Mackenzie, because until this moment I had not truly made the decision. "The brother of the editor has suggested I write a book, he feels my style would appeal to readers. And I have decided I shall do that thing. So . . ." I trailed off and just stared at Mackenzie trusting he would understand what I meant.
He stared back at me and I saw understanding cross over his face. "Well, Mr. Manders," he said, putting his hands together on his desk, "congratulations."
"Thank you." I waited for a moment and finally asked, "So can you . . ."
He was silent for a moment before saying quietly, "The thing is, Mr. Manders, until Mr. Raffles actually marries the lady, the crime willna have been committed."
"Oh," I said and felt myself deflate. I thought I had been so clever finding the information and writing everything down. I had even congratulated myself and allowed myself to imagine how pleased, how relieved, how proud even Raffles would be of me. How he would see me in a different light and not quite the rabbit I so often was. However, as in so many things I did, certainly things I did without Raffles's involvement, I had failed. How could I have been so foolish as to fail to realise that Raffles had to marry otherwise the crime had not been committed? How could I have been so foolish as to believe that I could solve the problem by myself?
Mackenzie was staring at me and once more to my surprise I saw sympathy on his face. "And," he added, his tone still low, "the lady in question could still," he paused and suddenly I knew what he was trying not to actually say.
"Use the evidence with which she's blackmailing Raffles anyway," I said my tone flat. My heart was heavy and my head was beginning to ache. I had failed; I had failed to find a way to prevent Raffles from having to marry Miss Baldwin. And not only had I failed but I had voluntarily gone to Scotland Yard and if not confirmed that Raffles and I broke the law, then at least had come very close to doing so.
I picked up the file and prepared to stand up. "I'm sorry to have wasted your time, Inspector Mackenzie," I said, wondering quite what, if anything, I would tell Raffles. "I'll say good day to you." I stood up
"Wait a moment, Mr. Manders." I looked at him. "Maybe I could have a look at the evidence you have."
"But you said . . ."
"Aye, Mr. Manders, that I did. However, it's been my experience that when a person commits one crime there's a likelihood that he or she may commit another." I just stared at him, I was too drained to say anything or even look affronted. "So maybe the lady - what did you say her name was?"
I realised I hadn't mentioned her name. "Miss Julia Baldwin."
Mackenzie nodded. "Miss Baldwin has broken the law in some other way." He held out his hand and after a moment or two I sighed and handed the file to him. What did it matter if I stayed for a little longer? It wasn't as if Raffles would be waiting for me; it wasn't as if I had anywhere to go or a celebration to plan, was it? "Do sit back down, Mr. Manders," Mackenzie said as he opened the file.
I sighed and sat down heavily in the chair. "Thank you," I said my tone heavy with disappointment and tiredness.
He glanced at me and studied me for a moment before picking up the phone and pressing a button. "Bring Mr. Manders a cup of coffee," he said before he turned his attention to the file I had compiled.
I thanked the young man who brought the tray of coffee in and sipped from the cup as I watched Mackenzie read the file. He frowned several times as he read and made notes, and then I noticed a look of almost excitement on his face. He looked up at me. "What colour hair does Miss Baldwin have?"
"Brown," I said, and saw the look on his face change as I heard myself saying, "but I do not believe it is her natural colour."
"What makes you say that, Mr. Manders?"
I shrugged. "I don't really know, Inspector, I just know when Raffles introduced me to her for the first time I felt something about her colouring wasn't right."
"Hmmm." He made another note or two before getting up and crossing to a filing cabinet where he pulled out another file, opened it and looked through it and I saw him smile. "If you want to smoke, Mr. Manders," he said, returning to his desk with an astray in his hand, "please do."
"Thank you," I said and pulled out my cigarette case which I offered to Mackenzie before I took a Sullivan for myself.
"Thank you, Mr. Manders," he said his tone somewhat distracted. He accepted a light from me and then picked the phone up again and asked the exchange to connect him to the Manchester police.
Twenty minutes later, during which time I had smoked two cigarettes and put the one out he had taken and left in the ashtray and drunk a second cup of coffee as I stared around Mackenzie's office and attempted not to get my hopes up as I heard, but did not listen to his side of the conversation talk, he put the phone down and looked at me.
"Well, Mr. Manders," he said, leaning back in his chair, "as I said, often when a person commits one crime they commit another."
I stared at him. "You mean Miss Baldwin has . . ." I gripped the edge of his desk, "Raffles won't have to marry her after all?"
"That he won't, Mr. Manders."
"What has she done?"
He sat up again and stared at me for a moment. Then to my surprise he opened one of his desk drawers and took out a bottle of whisky and two glasses. He poured a measure into each glass and pushed one across the desk to me. "Drink it, Mr. Manders," he said quietly. "I think you'll need it."
I hesitated for a moment before I put the glass to my lips and swallowed half of it. "Well?" I said, trying to keep the excitement and hope from my voice, "what has Miss Baldwin done?"
Mackenzie drained his glass, looked at me and said, his tone becoming grim, "Miss Baldwin or I should say Mrs. Arnold Whitlock is wanted by the Manchester police on suspicion not only of bigamy but of multiple murders."
I gasped as my heart rate increased and perspiration broke out over my back and I didn't even try to hide the fact that my hand was shaking as I put the glass to my lips and emptied it. "Murder?" I whispered, putting the glass back down on Mackenzie's desk, I then pulled out my handkerchief and wiped my lips.
"Aye, Mr. Manders," he said, pouring another measure into my glass. "Murder."
"Thank you," I murmured automatically as I once more picked my glass up. "But . . . How . . . ? What . . . ? I . . . Are you permitted to tell me?"
He stared at me for a moment. "Aye, Mr. Manders, given that were it not for you we wouldn't be about to arrest her, I believe I can tell you."
My hand still shaking I pulled out my cigarette case again. "Do you mind, Inspector?"
"Of course not, Mr. Manders."
"Thank you." I opened the case and once again offered it to him; once more he took a Sullivan, nodded his thanks and accepted the match I held for him.
"Mrs. Whitlock has married four gentlemen since she and Mr. Whitlock married; each gentleman was wealthy and each one of them died some months after they had married. Initially there wasna any link between the deaths and thus Mrs. Whitlock didn't come under suspicion."
"But why on earth not?" I cried.
He gave me a wry look. "Lack of evidence for one thing, but also because for each marriage she went by a different name and changed the colour and style of her hair. It was only after the most recent death that the newly promoted Inspector who had inherited the case from his predecessor started to put two and two together. He dug far more deeply than anyone had before and bit by bit pieced everything together and sent out information to the police forces of all big cities. And thanks to you, Mr. Manders, and your diligent work on the file, we have her - I have her." His eyes gleamed for a moment. "There's only one thing that puzzles me slightly."
"And that is?"
"Dinna be offended, Mr. Manders, but I have to wonder why she planned to marry Mr. Raffles. I know he is a gentleman, but he is not wealthy, is he?" I shook my head and he nodded. "Whereas the other gentlemen she married were all very well off."
"I know why," I said. He raised an eyebrow as he looked at me. "She wanted his name; that is indeed what she told him. She wanted to get into society, to be invited to balls and dinners, and whereas money will get you into many of these events, name is more important. And with Raffles playing cricket he is -" I broke off and jumped to my feet. "Raffles!" I cried, "He could be in danger."
"Sit you down, Mr. Manders," Mackenzie said calmly. "Your Mr. Raffles is quite safe."
"How can you be certain?"
"Because, Mr. Manders, he hasna married the lady yet, has he?" Mackenzie spoke calmly.
"Oh," I said as I sat back down and lowered my head to hide the fact that my cheeks had grown very warm as I realised quite how foolish I had been. "No, of course he hasn't. I do apologise, Inspector."
"Dinna worry, Mr. Manders. When is the marriage due to take place?"
"Next week - it was meant to be next month, but she insisted it be brought forward. I'm quite certain that was because when we were in Manchester for the second test I met Mr. Whitlock."
"I am sure you are right. By the way, Mr. Manders, you will be interested to know there is a reward."
Mackenzie nodded. "Aye, for information leading to the arrest of Mrs. Whitlock. I shall make arrangements for the cheque to be sent to you."
He smiled. "Aye, Mr. Manders, it was, after all, your research, which was very good, that will lead to her arrest."
I stared at him in amazement as he told me what the amount was - surely now Raffles and I could lead the life of honest men? Indeed I was going to insist on us doing so; after all we would have the reward money, the money from my writing and if all went well, and suddenly I found that I believed completely in myself and in my abilities to write a novel, we would have the money from my book as well. Yes, I would insist; after all it was I who had found a way to prevent Raffles from marrying. For once Raffles would listen to me; for once he would bow to my will.
I stared at Mackenzie and felt certain he knew exactly what I was thinking. "Do you by any chance know where Mrs. Whitlock is at the moment, Mr. Manders?" he asked after just holding my gaze for a moment or two.
I nodded. "Yes, she insisted Raffles have luncheon with her." And I told him where they would be.
He stood up and held out his hand. "Well, thank you, Mr. Manders, if it wasn't for you I wouldn't be about to make the biggest arrest of my career."
I stood up and took his hand and shook it and smiled at him. "You are very welcome, Inspector Mackenzie and thank you in turn."
"I'm just doing my job, Mr. Manders. Now I suggest you go home and wait for -"
"No!" I cried and felt my cheeks become a little warm, but I stared at him determined to stand my ground. "I want to come with you."
"Now, Mr. Manders, I'm sorry but that -"
"I won’t interfere, Inspector, I'll stay out of the way. But I want to be there. I have to be there," I added and then suddenly said, "I've earnt the right to be there!"
He stared at me for a moment or two and then a partial smile touched his lips. "Aye, Mr. Manders, I believe you have. Very well, but you must stay out of the way. Do you give me your word?"
I nodded. "Yes, Inspector, I do indeed give you my word."
TWO HOURS LATER
We were back in Raffles's room at the Albany, drinking whisky and soda and smoking Sullivans as I told Raffles the whole story. He had never once taken his gaze off of me as I told him about meeting Mr. Whitlock and how I had contacted the newspaper in Manchester and obtained the information and how I had then gone to Inspector Mackenzie to ask for his help and finally the result of my visit to Scotland Yard.
Finally I fell silent and just stared at him, waiting for him to say something. He seemed almost too stunned and surprised to speak. "Bunny," he finally managed, taking my hand and holding it tightly. "My very own rabbit, you did all of that?" I nodded. "And without telling me?" I nodded again. "I - Oh, Bunny," he murmured, and moved along the sofa towards me, put his arms around me, pulled me into an embrace and kissed me.
"I am not quite certain what to say," he said, when he finally took his mouth from mine. "I always knew you had far more pluck than you believed, but this . . . For you to go to Scotland Yard to Inspector Mackenzie all by yourself, oh, Bunny," and he once more pulled me nearer to him and kissed me. "Thank you, my dear rabbit," he whispered, moving his lips from my mouth to my ear. "I am so very proud of you and I love you so very much. No one, Bunny, no one, has ever done something like this for me."
I smiled and felt my cheeks become a little warm. He didn't often praise me (well, I didn't often do anything which warranted praise); nor did he often actually tell me he loved me, he relied on other ways of letting me know quite how important I was to him. Thus hearing his praise and his declaration of love moved me tremendously.
I settled into his embrace and rested my head on his shoulder. "I couldn't let you marry her, Raffles; I simply couldn't. I had to find a way to stop the marriage."
"Well, you certainly did that, my rabbit!"
"I confess I did not expect her to end up facing a certain gaol sentence -"
"At the very least," he said softly. I tensed suddenly in his embrace; I had not thought that she might - "Hush, my rabbit," he said softly, gathering me even more closely to him. "Do not worry or think about it; it is not your fault."
I lifted my head and stared at him. "But, Raffles, it was I who -" He silenced me with a lengthy and deep kiss.
"She killed four men, Bunny."
"And she would have -"
This time I silenced him as I was unable to hear him say the words. I didn't want to think about what might have happened had I not been so determined to prevent her from taking Raffles away from me. Nor was I going to think any more about what might happen to her - Raffles was correct; she had killed four men.
The kiss continued and my body began to react to Raffles's kiss, closeness and the way his hands were now wandering over my body. I parted my lips a little more and urged Raffles even closer to me; he moaned softly and I felt myself gently pushed down until I was lying on the sofa and Raffles's hands were moving further down my body and then -
The sound of the door knocker caused Raffles to take his mouth from mine and sigh deeply. He sat up, smoothed his hair down, buttoned his coat and left me on the sofa as he strode out into the hall.
"Parker?" I heard his exclaim. "What may I do for you?" I heard the muted sounds of Parker replying, but could not hear any of the words he said. And then I heard Raffles say, surprise evident in his tone, "But Parker, I assure you that I -" And to my amazement I heard Parker speak again.
By now I was sitting up and had picked up my glass of whisky and had lit a Sullivan as I waited for Raffles to return to me. "Yes, yes, I assure you. Yes, Parker. Thank you. Good afternoon." And I heard the door being closed firmly and a few seconds later Raffles came back into the sitting room with a large, fairly bulky envelope in his hand and a half frown on his face.
I handed him the Sullivan I had lit and lit another one for myself. "Is something the matter?" I asked, "What did Parker want?"
"What? Oh, two things. The good Inspector Mackenzie stopped by and asked him to give this," he handed the envelope over to me, "to you. He also asked Parker to tell me that The Gallatin has sets of rooms available with two bedrooms. That of course made Parker presume I was looking to leave The Albany - something he seemed more than a little put out about - and to inform me that if I was looking for such rooms, he happened to know that a set would be available here within the next two months. Do you have any idea why Mackenzie would tell Parker such a thing, Bunny?"
I still hadn't opened the envelope, but I did so now and pulled out three photographs and three photographic plates. I stared at the photographs and realised just how potentially damaging they were and quite why Raffles had felt he had no alternative other than to marry Miss Baldwin. It wasn't that we were kissing or embracing, it was just the way we were gazing at one another and how in one of the photographs, Raffles's hand was in my hair. They really did leave very little to the imagination and together with some strategically placed comments, they would have undoubtedly led people to the right conclusion about the true nature of the relationship Raffles and I shared.
There was also a note inside the envelope from Mackenzie simply saying he believed the contents of the envelope belonged to Raffles and me and we should take great care of them. I glanced up at Raffles, swallowed and said, "I believe Inspector Mackenzie may be aware of the true nature of our relationship and I think he may well be suggesting we take more care, hence the information about the rooms at The Gallatin."
Raffles stared down at me. "Do you now, Bunny?"
I nodded. "Yes. I thought, during our discussion at Scotland Yard, that he may have suspected as he made one of two veiled references to it. But what he told Parker about the rooms together with returning these to us," I showed Raffles the photographs and plates, "makes me quite, quite certain."
Raffles inhaled deeply and then sat down next to me. "Well," he said, "that is certainly interesting and I confess it makes me see Inspector Mackenzie in something of a different light." Before I could comment he took my hand and stared at me. "Do you wish to share rooms with me, Bunny?" he said suddenly.
I blinked in surprise. "What?"
"Do you wish us to share rooms with me?"
"Well, yes, Raffles, of course I do, but -"
"In that case I shall talk further to Parker about the set of rooms of which he spoke."
I stared at him. "But, Raffles?"
"Yes, my rabbit?"
"Are you . . . I mean . . . Just like that?"
He smiled at me and leant towards me and kissed me. "Yes, my dear Bunny, just like that."
"Oh," I said. "Are you quite certain?"
He shook his head in his fond way. "Oh, Bunny, please forgive me for saying this, but I am pleased my rabbit hasn't vanished completely."
I stared at him as I understood what he was saying. "He never will, Raffles," I said and kissed him.
"Good," he murmured. "Because as much as I love my more plucky rabbit, I confess I do love the rabbit I have always known just a little more." He put his arm around me and I happily settled against him as I let my gaze wander to the photographs; they were, I had to admit, very good, very good indeed. He appeared to read my mind as he said softly, "They are rather good, are they not, Bunny?"
I smiled and turned my head to look at him. "Yes, yes, Raffles, they are. They are very good indeed - but very risky. Do we really look at one another like this?"
"I believe so, my rabbit; in fact I know it to be the case." He cupped my cheek in his hand and leant towards me and kissed me.
We kissed for several minutes before I remembered there was something else I had to say to him; something I was not going to back down over; something I was going to stand my ground over and insist upon. "Raffles?" I said, taking my mouth from his and sitting up a little.
I took his hand. "There is something I have to say, and I want you to let me finish before you interrupt me. Do I have your word you will allow me to speak freely?"
He looked a little startled; however, he smiled and nodded. "Of course you do, Bunny. Say what you wish to say."
I swallowed hard, gathered my courage up, took his hand again, looked into his eyes and said firmly, "Raffles, we have to stop." At the look of shock and yes, fear that crossed his face and appeared in his eyes I realised he thought I meant our relationship. I hastened to reassure him. "No, I don't mean we have to stop that, I mean we have to stop burgling, Raffles. I want to, you know I do, and you see well, the thing is, I rather fear I as good as told Inspector Mackenzie that we would."
He stared at me; his gaze gave nothing away. "Did you now, Bunny?" His tone also gave nothing away.
I nodded. "Yes. But even if I hadn't I would still insist. Yes, Raffles," I said firmly, "I insist on us giving up burgling. We will have no need to continue."
He lit another Sullivan as he continued to stare at me, still he gave nothing away. "Will we not?"
I shook my head. "No. You see, Raffles, there was a reward to be given to the person who provided information that led to the arrest of Mrs. Whitlock, and Inspector Mackenzie said that will come to me. And it's a substantial amount, Raffles, it really is. And also there are two things I have not told you. Firstly, Thatcher has asked me to write a regular weekly article for his newspaper and secondly, his brother approached me with the suggestion that I write a book - and I'm going to," I added.
He stared at me through the smoke and finally blinked. "Well, Bunny, you do continue to surprise me. Is there anything else about which you have not told me?" I hated the fact that he sounded a little hurt.
I grabbed his hand and brought it to my lips and kissed it. "Don't be angry with me, Raffles. I -"
"My dear, beloved Bunny, I assure you I am not angry with you. I am just a little . . ." He trailed off and shrugged. "My rabbit really has changed; I wonder if he still needs me."
"Raffles!" I held his hand tightly and moved a little nearer to him. "How can you say that? How can you even think it? Look, I didn't tell you about the book because, well, to be honest, Raffles, I didn't believe I was good enough to write one."
"Of course you are, my rabbit," he said firmly. "You are more than good enough."
I shrugged. "The thing is, I knew if I told you then you would . . . Well, at least I thought you would . . . Well, I was quite certain you would -"
"Tell you what I have just told you?" His tone was a lot softer and the hurt had vanished.
I nodded. "Yes. And, well, if you had told me that, I would have said 'yes' to writing the book but I still wouldn't have thought - Raffles, I had to realise for myself that I could do it. I couldn't just rely on you telling me that I could. Do you understand?"
He smiled and leant forward to kiss me. "Yes, Bunny, I do."
"Good." I felt relieved. "Well?" I demanded after we just sat and stared at one another. "Do you not have anything to say?"
He gave me a soft smile. "I did not think I had an opinion in the matter," he said lightly. "I seem to recall you told me that you were insisting on us giving up burgling."
His tone was light, his gaze was soft, but there was something in his look that I didn't really understand. "But you don't wish to, do you?" I said quietly.
He stared at me for a moment before glancing away. "It is not that," he said finally, looking back at me.
"Well, what is it then?"
"You see, Bunny, I had already decided that it would be the right thing to do, that to go on was taking far more risks than was advisable, especially given the changes in my - situation, shall we say?"
I frowned. "In that case I don't . . . Just tell me, Raffles."
He shrugged. "Well, Bunny, what am I going to do to contribute to our living expenses?"
I stared at him. "Is that all?" He frowned a little and opened his mouth, but I interrupted him. "Look, Raffles, let us be honest all the time we were burgling, I didn't exactly do very much. No," I said swiftly and somewhat forcefully for me, "I didn't. At least nothing of any great importance."
"You were with me, Bunny, you never once let me down. You would never have left me had I been caught and you were able to get away. You may not have planned the burglaries or done the actual safe breaking or taken the spoils to the fence, but, Bunny, you were there."
I swallowed around the lump that had appeared in my throat and blinked hard as I thought for a moment. "Which is what you will be!" I declared. "Look, Raffles, if I am going to write a book and a weekly article I'm going to need ideas and encouragement and you'll be able to do both - remember you've given me more than one idea for an article. We are partners, Raffles; you've said that yourself more than once, so this will be the same." I held his hand tightly and stared at him, willing him to understand and accept what I was saying.
Finally to my relief he smiled, his troubled look faded and he brushed his mouth over mine. "Very well, my rabbit," he said. "I accept and agree with what you say."
I breathed a sigh of relief and smiled at him.
He stubbed out his cigarette and drained his glass as he looked at me. "You know, Bunny, maybe I should get engaged more often."
I stared at him and for a moment was speechless. "What?" I finally spluttered. "Raffles, what are you saying?"
"Well," he said smiling at me, "it does seem to bring out a particular side of you." His eyes sparkled and I knew he was teasing me, but I was not going to sit there and just placidly let him say such things.
I made a noise in my throat and moved swiftly, so swiftly I surprised him and the next moment he was flat on his back on the sofa gazing up at me. "You are not going to become engaged to anyone, Raffles," I said, dropping to my knees by the side of the sofa and swiftly unbuttoning his trousers. I pulled out flesh that was rapidly hardening and took it into my mouth.
He gasped and put his hands on my head, tangling my hair around his fingers, "Oh, Bunny," he murmured, "oh, my dearest, sweetest, beloved rabbit. Bunny!" he cried as I used my mouth on him in the way he had taught me.
I had learnt to read Raffles's body well and I could sense how close he was getting, thus I paused and took my mouth from around him, holding him loosely in my hand instead, but not moving it, as I stared at him. "Well?" I demanded, "what do you have to say?"
"I give you my word, Bunny, I will not become engaged to any young lady. Indeed, if you wish it, I will vow never even to dance with one."
I beamed at him, knelt up slightly in order to kiss him, before dropping back onto my heels and once more taking him into my mouth. This time I did not stop until he was crying my name as his release filled my mouth.
Feedback is always appreciated
Go to Raffles Fiction Page
Go to Raffles Index Page
Go to Home Page