OBLIGING

 

By

 

Nikki Harrington

 

Raffles and Bunny engage in a second illegal activity. However, it could quite easily have been their only time.

A first time story.

Written: April 2012. Word count: 6,800.

 

 

There was another side to the relationship I had with my dear Raffles about which I do not talk. It was as illegal as the burglaries we carried out and some might say even more damning. However, once you have crossed the line into law breaking, I am not certain it matters quite what you do.

 

I have always loved Raffles, of that I have never made any secret. And I knew Raffles loved me in return. I was his friend, his comrade, his right hand man, his partner in crime, the one person he truly trusted; of course he loved me. However, for me the love I had for my Raffles went beyond the love of friendship and comradeship, it went well beyond that.

 

I have never been certain if Raffles had the same feelings for me. There were times his hand would linger a little longer than was strictly necessary when he touched me; times when his arm rested on my shoulders for a second or two longer than may be considered correct; times when I thought I saw something in his blue eyes when he looked at me; times when his 'my dear Bunny' or 'my own rabbit' had a different sound to them. However, my love for him was so deep, I could never be certain I was not misreading his looks, his tone and his actions.

 

That is until one night. The night I got everything I had been wishing for almost from the moment I first met him, at a time when my innocence was whole and I did not really understand my feelings. The night that was the first of many such nights, but could so easily have been the only night.

 

We were in high spirits when we returned to the Albany having successfully obtained enough jewels to keep us in funds for several months. Raffles's arm was through mine as we walked through the London streets and it seemed he held me just a little tighter than usual.

 

We called out a good evening to Parker as we ascended the stairs to his rooms for a nightcap and a Sullivan. Raffles left me to pour the whisky and light the cigarettes whilst he put the jewels in the place in his bedroom he keeps just for such items.

 

When he returned I was slightly surprised to see he had removed his coat, waistcoat and cuff-links and turned his cuffs back. Suddenly I felt overdressed and for some unbeknownst reason a little unsettled. The feeling intensified as he crossed the room to where I stood, plucked the cigarette I had between my lips from my mouth and put it in his own, leaving me with the one I held between my fingers - the one I had lit for him.

 

He threw his arm around my shoulders and took the glass of whisky I had poured for him. "To us, my dear Bunny," he said, holding the glass up. "And to this evening," he added.

 

It took me a second before I touched my glass to his. "To a successful evening," I said, turning to smile at him.

 

His next words surprised me. "Let us hope so," was what he said. His steady gaze never once left my face as he took a deep swallow from his glass before putting it on the mantelpiece and throwing his barely smoked cigarette into the fireplace. Then he took my glass from my hand, put it next to his and threw my cigarette to join his.

 

"Raffles!" I exclaimed, as I found myself turned beneath his arm until I was facing him. He gripped my shoulders with his hands and his eyes twinkled in the lamp light as he stared down into my eyes. "Raffles?" I asked. "Is something wrong?"

 

"I'm just wondering if I know my Bunny as well as I think I know my Bunny," was all he said, before his mouth found mine and I was pulled against his body.

 

Surprised, stunned, shocked even, nonetheless I took full advantage of having been finally given what I had always wanted and with nowhere near the skill as he was kissing me, I kissed him back, as I pressed my body against his. I felt his desire quite clearly and it fuelled my own as I pressed myself even nearer to him. One of his hands was tangled in my hair, the other held me around my back, securely and possessively; two things I have always associated with Raffles. I had always felt safe with him and I had always felt possessed by him; from the day I had first met him I was his and he had never made a secret of that fact.

 

"It seems I do know my rabbit," he said, when he lifted his mouth from mine. "What say you, Bunny? Do I know you?"

 

I nodded. "Oh, yes, Raffles," I managed. This time it was I who kissed him; I who pulled him nearer to me; I who dared to move my lower body slightly as it was pressed against his. It was the last lead I would take that evening as moments later I surrendered myself fully to him, parting my lips as his questing tongue demanded me to do, letting him break the kiss, take my  hand and lead me into his bedroom where a single lamp was already lit and the bed was already turned down.

 

It was Raffles who stripped me, gently, slowly, without the haste I had felt in his body. Raffles who stripped himself much more quickly; Raffles who again took my hand and guided me into his bed; Raffles who seconds later was by my side, pulling me against his naked body and plundering my mouth again with his own.

 

It was Raffles who showed me what love was, who made love to me; his fingers, fingers I had watched bend a ball to his will, fingers I had watched caress locks before he picked them, fingers I had watched remain steady as he cracked a safe, fingers I had watched hold cigarettes, that bent me to his will as they moved over my body, touching me, caressing me, doing things to me that should have made me blush, but only made me cry out with pleasure.

 

It was only after he had brought about my release not once, but twice, that he allowed me to touch him. My touches were nothing like his as I was a complete innocent; I had never been intimate with a man or a woman; whereas from the way Raffles had loved me it was clear he knew the male body very well. More than once I fumbled, more than once my hand shook slightly as I tried to mirror on his body what had felt so wondrous on mine. But he seemed unbothered by my inexperience, indeed from his cries and moans and the way his body shuddered as he finally allowed himself the culminating moment of pleasure, I believe I was not inadequate.

 

Apart from one another's names we had spoken barely a word from the moment in his sitting room when I had told him he had known me. And those we had uttered had been possessive ones. 'My Bunny' 'My own Bunny', Raffles seemed to take great pleasure in repeating the words. "You are mine, are you not?" he asked, seconds before my first release

 

"Always," was as much as I could manage to say.

 

I do not recall exactly how long we kissed and touched, it seemed like hours, but could have been mere minutes. I lay in his loose embrace, letting my breathing and heart rate return to normal for the first time since he'd taken the whisky from my hand. My eyes were growing heavy, my body still tingled from where he had touched me; I wanted nothing else than to fall asleep in his arms. But I knew that could not happen.

 

Thus, with a soft sigh, I moved towards the edge of the bed. For a moment I thought Raffles had fallen asleep, his breathing was so steady. But then his hand caught my arm. "Bunny?" He pushed himself up on one arm and frowned at me. "Where are you going?"

 

With more regret that I had ever felt in my life, I pulled away from him, got out of his bed and began to dress. "Home," I said.

 

"What?" His tone was incredulous, as if he had not heard me correctly.

 

"I'm going home, Raffles." I smiled at him.

 

He frowned back at me. "Stay." It wasn't a question; it was the tone he used both years ago at school and in recent months when giving me orders. The tone I never disobeyed, except for that night.

 

"Better not," I said, pulling on my trousers.

 

"Bunny, please; stay." But I just shook my head. He stared at me for a long moment, before turning away and lying back down. "Make sure you drop the latch on your way out." His voice was hard and clipped.

 

"Raff-" I stared to say, but fell silent before I could complete his name. I took the rest of my clothing into the sitting room and dressed quickly before I let myself out of his rooms, taking care to drop the latch and hurried down the stairs.

 

"Good night, Parker," I called as I passed him.

 

"Good night, Mr. Manders, sir." He touched his hat.

 

 

It was three days before I was to see Raffles again. I had hoped, I had expected, we would meet up the following day; but when I went around to the Albany it was to learn from Parker that Raffles had gone out and had left no word as to where he might be.

 

I headed back to Mount Street with a heavy heart; I knew Raffles well enough to know I should not try to find him, that he would find me when he wanted my company. However, I really had thought that after the night we had shared that he would want to spend some time with me.

 

On the third evening we had a standing dinner arrangement at our club. I confess a small part of me was expecting to arrive to find a message saying he was otherwise engaged. But no, when I walked in he was there waiting for me with his usual smile and a hand for my shoulder. Except his smile wasn't quite his usual smile, his hand rested on my shoulder for a fraction of the time it normally remained and he didn't quite meet my eyes.

 

The other things I noticed as the evening went on was that he drank slightly more than he normally did and still seemed unwilling to meet my eyes. I didn't know how to explain it other than he regretted what we had done. Thus it was with a sense of dread that I slipped my arm through his as we left the club; the dread deepened as I felt his arm become tense for a moment, before it relaxed and became the arm I was used to holding.

 

We walked to the Albany and it was I who invited myself up for a drink. I believe he had been about to plead tiredness, but I was having none of that, and as Parker had appeared and greeted us both, enquiring if we had had a pleasant evening, I knew I had won. Raffles would not row with me in front of the Albany staff.

 

Once we were in his rooms it was Raffles who poured the whisky and offered me a Sullivan from his own cigarette case. He threw more coal onto the fire and poked it in order to warm the room more, lingering over the job until I had sat down on the sofa. He then threw himself into an armchair and watched me over the rim of his glass.

 

For the first time ever, even on that fatal first evening when I had sat at his table playing cards for money I had not got, I felt uncomfortable. Part of me wanted to drain my glass and leave as I could tell he wished me to do. Raffles the man who welcomed all into his rooms, who even offered Inspector Mackenzie a drink every time he visited him, the man who was polite at all times, was making no great effort to hide the fact he wished me gone. However, part of me also wanted to demand he tell me what it was I had done to upset him, to ask him if he regretted our evening together. But I did not know how to begin the conversation; I had never been in the position before and I did not know how to proceed.

 

It amused me slightly, in a strange way, to realise that had it been anything else or quite possibly anyone else, I would have turned to Raffles for help in determining what I should do, as Raffles knew the rules of and what to do in every situation.

 

Finally I could not bear the tense silence any longer. I finished my drink and without asking permission poured myself another one. I stood by the decanter for a moment, took a deep swallow, turned to face him and said, trying to keep my voice nonchalant, "You know, Raffles, if you regret what happened between us, I'd rather you just said so than behave like you have been behaving." I didn't raise my glass to my lips again as I knew it was shaking, instead I forced myself to remain where I was and to keep my eyes on Raffles.

 

I have never seen him so surprised. He sat upright in his chair and just stared at me. "Me regret it?" He stood up and moved towards me. "I do not regret it, Bunny."

 

I felt my mouth fall open as I stared into his now furious gaze. "But then why . . ." I found myself unable to continue speaking under the icy cold blue gaze. Ignoring my shaking hand I raised my glass to my lips and took another deep swallow. I was confused, if he didn't regret what we had done, then what was the matter? Had it been my inexperience? Did he want more from a lover than the kind of placid acquiescence I had displayed?

 

Maybe that was it; maybe he was tired of taking the lead in everything. Maybe he was used to taking rather than giving. I carefully put my glass down next to the decanter and took a step towards him as he watched me. My mouth was dry, my palms felt damp and I was uneasy. But I took another step and then a third; still he watched me. I moistened my lips, put one hand on his cheek and another on his waist. "Raffles," I murmured.

 

The next second I gasped as he struck my hand away from his face and pulled away from me. "I never wanted your naÔve touches at school," he growled, I felt my face flush as I recalled the time I had tried to touch him and how kind he had been in his rejection, how he hadn't made it seem like a rejection at all. "What makes you think I want them now?"

 

I was shocked; I stood frozen where I was as I stared at him. His face was white with fury, his lips thin, his eyes like ice as he slowly uncurled the fist I'd watched him make. Raffles had never once raised a hand to me, not once. Not even when, in my clumsiness, I had broken a precious mug in his study had he raised his hand or his voice to me, had he looked at me with such fury, such contempt. Indeed once he had even punched a fellow sixth former who had had the audacity to put his hands on me in a way Raffles had not approved of.

 

I stood and watched him back away from me as if he was afeared he might strike me. I plunged my hands into my trouser pockets to hide the fact they were shaking and shaking badly. I stared at him, suddenly not knowing the man I'd loved, been in awe of, put on a pedestal from the moment I first met him - the first of many times at school he had given me his handkerchief (but those, like the one about his fellow sixth former, are other stories).

 

I felt both hot and cold as we stood staring at one another. Finally I had had enough. "So you do regret it," I said coldly, as I moved towards the door. "I do wish you had at least paid me the courtesy of telling me. But then why would you? I shall take my leave of you."

 

But he was there in front of the sitting room door preventing me from leaving. For a moment he closed his eyes. Then he said, his voice flat, "I am sorry, Bunny. I shouldn't have said that. I -" Abruptly he moved away from the door, pulled off his dining jacket and threw it uncaringly in the direction of the sofa. It missed and fell on the floor. "Leave it!" he ordered, as I automatically turned to pick it up. How had he known? How had he known his aim had been false? And how had he known I would move to pick it up? I don't know other than he is A. J. Raffles.

 

Instead it was he who after another moment, turned, strode to where his jacket lay, picked it up and threw it - successfully this time - onto the chair he'd vacated earlier. He then threw himself into the corner of the sofa and nodded in the direction of the other end.

 

After a moment I, as I always did, obeyed. Again we sat in silence; again it was a tense silence; again I longed to break it; again I did not know how to. This time It was he who stood up and poured two more drinks, handing my glass to me, taking great care not to brush his fingers against mine. How could he say he had no regrets given the way he was treating me?

 

I swallowed some of the whisky, whisky I did not really want; however, it gave me the final slice of courage I needed. "Raffles." He raised an eyebrow. "If you do not regret what happened between us, why are you being so - So unlike yourself. I had thought -"

 

"Thought? You thought did you, Bunny? Oh, pray do tell me what you thought."

 

I donít know if it was just the whisky, but it appeared I who normally could pick up ever nuance in his voice failed yet again to understand his emphasis. Instead I went on speaking. "I thought that after we . . ." I felt my cheeks flush and I couldnít continue for the moment.

 

"After we what, Bunny? Can't you even say it? How about after we -"

 

"Raffles!" The look on his face, the half-sneer, the mild contempt made me interrupt him, least he choose a term that turned what we had shared into something beyond merely sordid. I am certain he read my mind as he merely gave me a careless and dismissive shrug.

 

I thought for a moment; I didn't want to sound like a piece of verse. I was a man, not some love-struck young lady in awe of Raffles. Except apart from the sex that really is what I was. "After we made love," I watched an eyebrow rise again and felt his gaze warm slightly as he watched me. "I thought you would -"

 

"Would what, Bunny? Give you my heart? Declare my ever-lasting love and fidelity to you? Make a pet of you? Ah, wait, I did that, did I not at school?" He had done, which I know had led to strong words being exchanged between his fellow sixth formers and he, as well as a very tense meeting involving our respective form masters, our housemaster, matron, he and I; a meeting at which I was asked - but that too is for another time. "Well, Bunny, is that what you expected?"

 

I shook my head; then nodded. "No, Raffles. It is not what I expected," which was true; I had not expected that. However, it was, near to what I had dared to hope for, what wished for, what I longed for. He had had my heart from the moment we had first met, and despite everything he had it still, and he would have it until his dying day.

 

"Then what?" he demanded.

 

"I had hoped you might show me a little consideration. That -"

 

"You mean like you showed me?"

 

"What?" I was shocked. "Raffles, what have I done? What did I do? Tell me, Raffles." Without consciously thinking about it, I rose, took a step towards him and fell to my knees in front of him. I grabbed his hand; to my surprise he didn't attempt to pull it away. "Please, Raffles," I begged. "Tell me what it is I have done."

 

I thought he wasn't going to answer; his eyes had become ice cold again. Then a look I had never seen in them before appeared for a fleeting second. Pain? Betrayal? And aimed at me? Surely not. "You went home," he said, I stared open-mouthed at him. He sat forward, "You went home, Bunny, after I asked you, nay begged you, not to go."

 

I slumped back on my heels, letting his hand fall from mine as I stared at him. The look I had seen fleetingly in his eyes raced across his face as he met my gaze before it once again vanished. "But Raffles," I said, pulling myself together and again taking his hand. "I did it for you."

 

"What? Bunny, what do you mean?"

 

"I didn't want Parker or anyone else seeing me leaving in evening dress in the early morning. I did not wish for you to be - Raffles, what we did is against the law."

 

"Yes, Bunny," the hand I held in mine turned slightly so he now held mine. "I am perfectly aware of that," his tone had changed and was now the one I knew so well. He was smiling and his eyes were warm as he stared at me. "Oh, my rabbit, my very own rabbit," he even chuckled softly. "Bunny, my dear, dear, dear, very own Bunny, I love you dearly, but I sometimes I do wonder about you."

 

"What?" He loved me; well I knew that, I had done for quite some time; but for him to say it; to tell me, in the way he did was beyond anything I had dreamt possible. "Come here," he tugged on my hand and I stumbled to my feet and onto the sofa next to him.

 

As he put his arm around me and pulled me against him, my head coming to rest on his breast, I against recalled an occasion he had done just the same in his study when after a very bad day I had dared to disturb his revision and had crept into his study. My intent had just been to sit on the floor by him and say nothing; but he'd somehow known how I was feeling and had pulled me to my feet and onto the sofa next to him then. He hadn't spoken; he had merely put his arm around me, adjusted my position to suit him and gone back to the book he'd been reading. In my turn I had fallen asleep, my head on his breast.

 

Now I had no intention of sleeping; I was, however, more than content to settle into his arms and enjoy his warmth and the scent I knew so well. "Oh, Bunny," he said with a chuckle in his tone. "My dear Bunny, you are in and out of the Albany at all hours of the day or night; I believe you may as well live here given the amount of time you spend here. Certainly you are here more often than some of the other men who have rooms here. Can you tell me you have never left my rooms in evening dress after we have spent the night sitting up talking?"

 

"Oh," I whispered; his words were true. There had been many a morning when bowtie askew, I would leave Raffles's rooms, sometimes alone, sometimes with Raffles dressed in his day attire, after we had sat up all night smoking, talking and drinking. Never once had it occurred to me to be concerned as to what Parker or anyone else may or may not think about me being in evening clothes at that time of day.

 

I lifted my head from his breast and looked into his eyes. "Oh, Raffles. I believe I wasn't thinking. I -"

 

"Felt so guilty you thought anyone would take one look at you and know what you'd been up to?" Raffles asked, his tone indulgent as he began to stroke my face.

 

"I was thinking of you!"

 

He kissed me lightly. "I believe you were, my rabbit. I believe you were. Oh, Bunny." He ruffled my hair in his affectionate way; something else he'd been doing from the moment I met him.

 

"I hated it," I said quietly. "I felt so," I paused to choose my words carefully. "Soiled. As if I had done something awful, something despicable, rather than something . . ." I couldnít find the word I wanted; so instead I trusted in Raffles being able to read my mind as he so often did.

 

"Yes, Bunny, I know," he said, his tone once more a little tight. "That is how I felt when you left my bed."

 

I sat completely upright and stared at him. "You?" He nodded. "Not you," I declared.

 

"Yes, me."

 

"But you are . . ."

 

"I am what, Bunny?"

 

"You are A. J. Raffles." Was all I could think of to say.

 

For a moment he just stared at me, then he laughed, then he pulled my head towards his and kissed me deeply and went on kissing me. Something that, I must assure you, did not happen in his study all those years ago.

 

When he took his mouth from mine, my heart rate had increased, by body was reacting to the nearness of him, my mouth was dry and I wanted to be back in his bed, under his knowing fingers. But he rearranged me again, pulling my head back to his breast and began to rub my head and run his fingers through my hair. "You let me think you were just obliging me," he said softly. "I thought I had read you wrongly all these years. I thought you'd gone along with it for my sake, just as you go along with so many things for my sake."

 

"I wouldnít do that, Raffles," I objected. He just laughed softly. I then felt his fingers move to my throat and felt my tie being untied and then the top buttons of my dress shirt being undid as his fingers began to stroke my throat. I gasped. "Raffles."

 

"Mmmm?" His mouth replaced his fingers, which found their way to my waistband. But I turned in the embrace and it was my hand that covered him, my hand that cupped his hardness through his trousers.

 

And it was he who cried out. "Bunny!" I stilled my hand and the next second I found myself on my feet, being tugged into his bedroom where, as he'd done three nights before, he undressed me, albeit somewhat more speedily than he had done on the previous occasion.

 

As he undressed me, I did not stand still; I let my hands wander over his body, touching him until he caught them both and held them firmly in his. I was naked apart from my drawers and I didn't want to stop what I was doing, but Raffles held me too tightly for me to pull away.

 

"Raffles?" I asked, suddenly aware that my touches were doing more than merely arouse him slightly. His face was damp, he was breathing harder than I'd seen him do even after a day on the cricket field. I felt absurdly proud of myself. "You don't seem to mind my naÔve touch, after all," I declared, emboldened by the look on his face.

 

Again he laughed and lowered his head to kiss my lips again. "Bunny," he said, finally letting my hands go and beginning to strip himself at speed. "I can honestly say that whilst I have been touched by far more experienced hands, no one has ever affected me more." I stared at him; never had I thought to hear such words from Raffles. "Because," he added, removing his own drawers and reaching to pull mine down, "no one has been you."

 

 

It was eleven o'clock the following morning when arm-in-arm Raffles and I left the Albany calling 'hello' to Parker, heading for Mount Street for me to change and shave before we went out to lunch. I had bathed, at Raffles's insistence in his bathroom, but I preferred to shave in my own bathroom, or at least I prefer my razor to the cut-throat ones which Raffles favours.

 

I shall draw a veil over what happened once we reached my rooms. Suffice to say we did not go out to lunch and it was at eight o'clock when a hansom pulled up outside the Albany and Raffles alighted at speed, calling to the man to wait as he raced into the Albany, shouted to Parker to look after me, whilst he took the stairs two at a time heading to his rooms to change into evening dress in order for us to keep our evening engagement at Lady Roscoe's dinner and ball; an engagement we could not break.

 

"Ten minutes," he called.

 

"Don't forget to shave," I called after him. I could get away with shaving only once a day; Raffles being dark haired could not.

 

"Twenty!" he called back. If the cab driver drove as he had done from Mount Street to the Albany, it would give us just sufficient time to reach Lady Roscoe's home. He had forbid me from going up to his rooms with him, saying if I did, we would not be dining anywhere.

 

"May I offer you a glass of sherry whilst you wait for Mr. Raffles, Mr. Manders?" Parker asked.

 

"Oh, thank you, Parker," I said. I followed him into his little office and leant against the desk.

 

"Here you are, sir," he said, handing me a glass and raising his own. "Your good health, sir."

 

"Your good health, Parker," I replied and took a sip. I don't quite know what I had been expecting, but it was not the top quality sherry that touched my tongue.

 

Parker was watching me. "That came as a bit of a surprise, didn't it, sir?"

 

"I . . . um . . ." I felt myself flush slightly.

 

To my relief rather than appear offended by the lack of a denial, Parker merely laughed. "You can blame your Mr. Raffles for it, sir."

 

At the 'your' I felt myself warm even more and pushed images from my mind as to just how 'mine' Raffles was. "How so?"

 

"When he first took rooms here, sir, he gave me a half case for a Christmas present." That was Raffles; he wouldn't insult the Albany staff by tipping them, but he would ensure those who looked after him, those he deemed worthy, received a more than adequate Christmas present from him. "Once I'd tasted it, sir, I couldn't go back to anything else. Luckily thanks to Mr. Raffles's generosity I don't have to buy it for myself. Ah, and here is Mr. Raffles. Here you are, Mr. Raffles, sir," he said as he held out a glass towards Raffles.

 

Raffles took it almost distractedly. "Thank you, Parker. Do we have time, Bunny?"

 

I pulled out my watch, glanced at it and nodded. "Yes." Raffles had managed to shave, freshen up and change in fifteen rather than twenty minutes. I could smell the lavender soap he favoured and the musky after shave he used, and his face was slightly red from a far swifter than usual shave. But he was of course impeccable, dress-wise - even his bowtie was perfect.

 

"Ah," he said, as once again he seemed to read my mind. "Hold this for me a moment, Parker, if you don't mind." And he thrust his glass into Parker's hand, dropped his stick onto Parker's desk and moved towards me his hands already poised as they untied and then retied my bowtie. "You'd have thought that by now, Mr. Manders would have learnt to tie his own tie, wouldn't you, Parker?" he asked gaily. "There, now my dear Bunny, you are respectable."

 

"Thank you, Raffles," I replied. It was true; I could not tie an acceptable (at least not by Raffles's high standards) bowtie, no matter how hard I tried. Raffles always had to retie it for me. But as I left the safety of my bathroom where I had locked myself in to bathe (after Raffles had) and dress for the evening, not trusting Raffles to be anywhere near me, I refused to let him retie it. I knew were I to let him get near me, were I to let his hands touch me, we would not be attending Lady Roscoe's ball.

 

Suddenly the cab driver appeared. "Gov," he said, addressing Raffles, even though I was nearer to the door. "If you want to get there by nine, we ought to be going now."

 

"We're just coming," Raffles called, as he and I as one drained out glasses. "Thank you, Parker," he called as he took my arm and manhandled me out of Parker's office and into the cab.

 

"Yes, thank you," I called over my shoulder.

 

"My pleasure, gentleman, I hope you have a good evening."

 

 

And we did. In fact we had a much better than evening than I could have hoped for. Normally when we attend such events I see very little of Raffles all evening, we are not seated near one another at dinner and afterwards Raffles spends most of the evening dancing the ladies around the room, whilst I watch, wishing it was I in his arms.

 

For my part few seem to wish to dance with me, so I am left on the edge of the floor, exchanging the odd comment with other young men whose dancing is not appreciated or with aged maiden aunts, until it comes time for us to go home whereby Raffles will appear at my side, tuck his arm though mine, at which point all my irritation vanishes as he leads me out promising a drink and Sullivans in his rooms.

 

That is what I had been expecting. However that is not what happened. Yes we were sat far apart at dinner, but not long after he had left my side to dance, as is the duty of every man at Lady Roscoe's ball, with Lady Roscoe, he was back with Lady Roscoe hurrying alone by his side looking concerned.

 

"Raffles?" I exclaimed. "Are you all right?" I took his arm and he leant against me.

 

"Oh, dear, Mr. Raffles, what have I done?" Lady Roscoe, a late middle aged lady was fluttering like a young girl as she stood by Raffles.

 

Raffles gave her a smile. "It is not you, Lady Roscoe. I assure you. It is just that I twisted my ankle slightly a week ago when I was playing a charity cricket match at Lord Harrison's and I'm afraid I felt it during our dance. Normally I wouldn't be troubled and I would not let a little discomfort prevent me from enjoying the evening. However as I am sure you are aware the second test starts in three days and so . . ."

 

"Oh, I quite understand, Mr. Raffles. Please do not say another word about it. Jenkins!"

 

"Yes, milady?"

 

"Fetch Mr. Raffles a chair and a second one for him to put his foot up on."

 

"Oh, Lady Roscoe, I really -" He fell silent under her gaze and instead inclined his head in thanks.

 

"And you will make sure that Mr. Raffles always has a full glass and fetch him whatever he likes from the buffet later. Do you understand?"

 

"Yes, milady," Jenkins said and glided away.

 

"Well, I shall leave you with Mr. -" she looked at me and frowned a little. "Mr. -"

 

"Manders," Raffles supplied.

 

"Oh, course, Mr. Manders." She smiled, but I knew it was a false one. I was well used to being 'Mr. Raffles's insignificant little friend'. Few hosts and hostesses or even fellow diners ever remembered my name; I'm sure most would not even think to invite me other than for the fact somehow it had become known that the best way to ensure Raffles's presence at dinners, balls, parties, or even country house cricket matches was to invite his 'insignificant little friend' as well.

 

She inclined her head and turned to go, Raffles nudged me. "Ask her to dance," he whispered.

 

"Lady Roscoe."

 

"Mr. Manders?"

 

"I'm no Raffles, but may I ask you for this dance?"

 

She hesitated for a mere second, before again inclining her head and taking my arm. "Thank you, Mr. Manders."

 

When I returned Raffles had someone managed to acquire another chair which he pushed me into and handed me a glass of champagne.

 

I looked at him wondering quite how much of what he had told Lady Roscoe had been the truth. It was true he had played a charity cricket match, where he had of course been the star player; it was also true he had turned his ankle slightly on a rough part of the pitch when he'd run backwards to catch the ball he had just bowled which the batsman had hit straight back in his direction; it was also true the second test was starting in three days, our hotel reservations had already been made. What I wasn't certain of was that he had felt his ankle during the dance. I challenged him with such.

 

A devilish smile lit up his face as he pulled out his cigarette case and took out two Sullivans. He lit one and passed it to me, before lighting his own. He leaned back in his chair and blew a perfect smoke ring before shrugging and looking at me, his blue eyes shone with mischief and promise. "I confess I am guilty as charged, Bunny. I did not wish to spend the evening dancing; I wished to spend it with you," he said, his voice softer and for my ears only.

 

I felt my smile. It got wider as he put his arm around the back of my chair and leant a little towards me, his gaze on the dance floor and the jewels, gold and silver on display. Not that he would dream of taking anything that night, but if I knew my Raffles as I knew I knew my Raffles, we would be paying a visit to several of the guests present over the next few weeks or months.

 

I leant a little nearer to him and said under my breath. "You, A. J. Raffles, are a very bad man."

 

At that moment the orchestra increased both pace and sound and as such he was forced to lean even nearer to me to reply. I felt his lips on my ear and had to fight the urge to gasp or far worse. "Why, Bunny, and I thought I was rather good - at least that's what everyone has told me." And before he took his head away, he actually dared to give my ear a quick lick. I turned to look at him and instantly looked away again as I shifted on the chair. By my side I heard him chuckle softly, before joining in the applause for the orchestra.

 

It promised to be a very long night. But the look in Raffles's eyes and in the way he kept his arm around the back of my chair, ostensibly using it to lean on, and in the way he smiled every time he looked at me promised me that he would make it worth it.

 


 

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