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Old 10-18-2015, 05:18 PM   #26
Xyantha Reborn
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Old 10-18-2015, 05:32 PM   #27
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Chapter 6

There had been times when Harry had watched with a sort of revolted fascination as a moth had battered itself to death against a lamp shade. That loss of control, such a disregard to its own safety, had made him shudder. Now, he felt like that himself. Bruised, battered, frenzied, and unable to stop. And even when he didn’t take action, it was not a relaxing, peaceful stillness. It was a sort of fretting irritation, a shivering stillness.

And yet, after promising himself that he would leave his wounded pride to mend on its own, he was already scratching at the scab, soliciting more information from his sister. As if that would make a difference. “And what do you think of her?”

Katherine smiled, clearly distracted. Raoul had written a letter to her, and she had spent the afternoon pouring over it in her own room. “Harry…¬I don’t know what to say. I think she is wonderful. I think the question is, what do you think of her? Before our marriage, my nurse told me that the Nottinghams are proud and have tempers, but that they love completely. And that once they set their mind to a task, they are utterly implacable. You seem to spend a lot of time talking about her.” The last was said with an impish look.

The young man gazed down at her. “And so I have set my mind to this task and picked a potential wife already?” The look she bestowed on him made him laugh aloud despite his poor mood. “Well, good thing I dragged you all the way out here to help me find a wife. If I already have my heart set on one, it seems I may have wasted your time!” He sighed bitterly,

“You’re not here to find a wife,” Kitty said in a quiet voice, casting a glance of reproach his way. The volume might have been low, but the words were filled with irritation.

Feeling his jaw sag, Harry quickly snapped it up. “W-what do you mean?” His warming cheeks were probably perceptible to her, and his blush only increased at that knowledge.

“I will be going to the Belltaunts this evening. The day after, I will be having Geoffrey over to our house. Try to use that time to come up with a better lie." This time, her look held a dash of impatient anger, and she made her way away from him through the crowd.

“Kitty! Come back!” Harry half called, swallowing the urge to follow her. The lie he had been about to say scalded his throat, and he coughed. “Damn. Hadn’t realized she knew,” he muttered, turning his attention back to his ‘set choice’ as Clarice’s tinkling laugh rang through the room. There was no point chasing his sister; her flares of pique were short lived, and he had seen that his brother’s pursuing her in these moments to know that it only caused real anger to emerge.

The current object of his scrutiny soon consumed all his notice. A few weeks ago she had boldly looked for an introduction – no, more than that. She had initiated it, which meant that she must have felt some sort of interest, if only in passing. His pride had smarted slightly at her boldness, but he couldn’t deny that with her fortune she was hardly his social inferior. The woman had laughed and smiled, and had appeared intrigued by him.

That she was intriguing need not be stated.

Afterwards, he had gazed at her as the afternoon light bathed her skin through the lace curtains. No flighty or insipid female had addressed him. If anything, there was a businesslike bent in her nature which he had a hard time reconciling with the woman he had met the night before. Now, neither the socialite nor business face appeared. Instead, a layer of hoarfrost seemed to have glazed over her, chilling her expressions and subduing her motions.

Harry found himself wondering which, if any, was her true personality. Which was the mysterious woman’s true self? Was it bold, industrious, or cold? Or would something else entirely emerge if she was handled properly – in love and appreciation, instead of as a mere marriage investment. No wonder if she was all three at once. Or perhaps she really was as intelligent and hardhearted as he had heard some say.

That wasn’t to say that puzzling over this mystery occupied the full scope of his attention. His organs of vision seemed to have developed a will of their own, frequently wandering against his better judgement to admire her blatantly feminine form. Even beside his sister, who was herself full of curves, Clarice Belltaunt appeared to be the only woman of true feminine beauty.

At that moment, she dropped her fan and gracefully knelt to pick it up, laughingly disparaging the men who darted forward to assist. The movement caused her plump breasts, already full and high, to push precariously against the restraint of fabric. Her face also reddened, and she seemed out of breath when she rose.

Swallowing, he drummed his fingers on his knees. What would he tell Kitty on her return? She obviously knew something was afoot, but how much did she actually know? He had told Raoul that it would be highly suspicious to send her away with him for several reasons. One, he and Raoul had only just reconciled. Two, Raoul and Kitty were newlyweds. Third, the excuse his brother had given, vis-à-vis finding Harry a wife, had sounded ridiculously flimsy.

Even though – as his sister had pointed out – he was now well on that road to emotional commitment. How the devil had this happened?

A sudden bout of paranoia seized him, and he wondered wildly if his sister believed that he was only doing this as an extension of the farce. And what if she was relaying that information to Clarice? Was that why Clarice was acting the way she was? Just as quickly as adrenaline seized him, it began to die away. No. Kitty had expressed real concern over his growing attachment to Clarice.

Sitting in a corner, he opened the letter that he had received from Raoul, but had no opportunity to read until now. Damn politics, he was in no mood to be social.

My lovely wife is more intelligent than
even I was aware of. I am sure you know
that I never truly had a mind for figures.
Kitty has done an analysis of the estate
and her results are extremely concerning.
I cannot emphasize how much this must
stay between only the two of us. Sending
Kitty with you was one example of my
trust. This revelation is another. Our
‘dear’ Aunt has been slowly bankrupting
our estate from the inside out. For years,
the tenants have been requiring almost
more support than the money they bring in.
We had assumed that the draught was
a main contributing factor, and the terms
for the amount of her loan was sapping
any additional cash.

This is not the case.

I do not know how Kitty had found out about
this, but I have checked and rechecked
her calculations dozens of times, and she
is correct. Our aunt has been starving the
estate of money in every possible way. I
will not go into more details in this insecure
manner. I will come myself – we need to
seriously discuss what is to be done. Any
confrontation will be devastating to us,
and yet this cannot continue. I fear we
have no options to discuss, but it is
imperative we try.

Do not tell Kitty I am coming. I want to
surprise her.

P.S. I hear you have your sights set on the
eldest Miss Belltaunt. She is an extensive
armful - and a handful to boot. Good luck…
you will need it. And don’t give up. You
always give up too easily, little brother.


Raoul Nottingham.




Why was everything moving so damn quickly?

What the hell was he supposed to do about this?

His eyes snapped up, meeting Clarice's as they swept across the room. She knew. Of course she knew - her family knew everything. That is why she kept making subtle digs about money, despite both his and Kitty's comments that money was of no interest. She honestly thought that his interest was nothing more than a façade to gain her dowry.

He had come under the pretext of a lie, presenting a façade to his sister. And now, he was being attributed another that he actually was not participating in. How could he prove himself innocent of the one, when he had proven untrustworthy in the other instance. Damn it, this was why he never lied!

Raoul might want him to marry her for money, but Harry would be damned before seeking a union of that sort. He would rather be a bachelor for the rest of his life than marry a woman he detested. Growing hard and bitter until he began to vent his rage on her person.

"Ho, friend." a quiet voice said at his elbow. "Easy on." A fleshy face gave a half smile at him. "You look about to come undone. What has you so lathered?"

"The typical things. Women. Society expecting us to marry for money, with no love."

The other man's face stilled, and then he let out a shuddering sigh. "I will need liquor to discuss that particular matter. A lot of it."

"I am sorry - I have heard there were...difficulties in your marriage. I cannot deny that getting black out drunk sounds highly appealing. Kitty is leaving with the Belltaunts tonight, so I am at liberty."

Geoffery nodded. "Care to keep a lonely widower company for a night?" He asked with a wry smile.

Harry let out a shuddering sigh of his own. "I fear I will be rather melancholy."

"Then you will be in good company, my friend."
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Old 10-19-2015, 06:05 AM   #28
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Old 10-28-2015, 06:48 PM   #29
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The next few updates may be slower.

Chapter 7

Laughing, Clarice slid her gloved fingers from her dance partner’ grasp. Making her excuses as quickly as she dared, she beat a retreat to the refreshment table at the far end of the room. Under normal circumstances she stayed as far away from it as she dared. Not only to avoiding temptation for its own sake, but to circumvent the disparaging looks that she inevitably received from placing even the smallest morsel between her lips. Unfortunately, she had been outmaneuvered into dancing, an activity she was ill fitted for. She would have been able to make it through the one dance without difficulty, but had been forced, in a manner, to accept several afterwards.

That Westmore man was intelligent, and Clarice cast a glance full of interest his way as she reached the table. He was clearly slimy and irritating – but not many men bested her in her little game. And that in and of itself made him note worthy. “Did you see that?” she demanded breathlessly of Kitty, who was fast becoming her true bosom friend. “That man actually out maneuvered me!”

In reply, the other nodded her head softly, looking low spirited. “I have never seen you dance before.” Katherine’s voice was still slightly hoarse from her illness, and she swallowed the beginning of a slight cough.

It was apparent to Clarice that her friend tend to flag, spirits quickly falling when left alone. The buxom woman made a mental note to learn more about it when Kitty came over for dinner. “Oh, not that, you goose! The man didn’t just get me to dance; he forced me either declare a preference for him by refusing to dance with another, or to force me into doing an activity I dislike!”

“Despite saying you disliked it, you sound quite happy,” the other observed. She cast a look of cold anger towards the man, eyes narrowing until he stepped back into the crowd. “Odious man,” she said with uncharacteristic venom.

Catching her breath was difficult, and Clarice sipped at the wine in her cup periodically to wet her parched throat. “I cannot explain it to you,” she sighed at last, after several moments of reflection. “What can I say? I am a true sportswoman. I like being bested by a worthy opponent. Even if he is hateful.”

Laughing softly, Kitty subtly turned her companion to the right. “And what about that young man?” she murmured with emphasis, casting a half smiling look up at the other. “I saw that you did not dance with him - despite his asking you twice.”

A snort almost escaped her before she reined it in. “That one is too confident by half; he deserves a salutary set down. It will do wonders for his constitution. Besides – I beg of you - do not bore me with talk of marriage tonight. Do not be like one of the other sisters, here to foist their brother off on me.” She had not intended her tone to be as acerbic as it came out, but it was true enough that she closed her lips on her apology. Having specifically gone out of her way to show the man some preference, his snub smarted twice as much.

The shorter woman pulled her arm free with gentle insistence, appearing rather nettled. “I am here to assist my brother in finding a wife; no more, no less. If I had by choice I would be back with my husband. I am not trying to use our acquaintance to pressure you - if he was interested in any other women, I would be asking her the same question.” A smile curved her lips. “He seems to have eyes only for you, however.”

A highly becoming blush spread over the plump woman’s already rosy complexion. “Do you really think so?” she asked, then appeared to catch herself, her expression shifting. “And is that the only reason you are here? To further your brother’s ends with me?”

Exasperated, Kitty turned on her. “You know that isn’t true, or what I meant!” Green eyes met hazel. “I sincerely like you, and I would want to keep a correspondence with you. No matter who you chose to marry. But I will not lie to you – I want to finish this business and go back to my husband.”

The cynical expression faded, and a true smile of delight curved Clarice’s lips. “I feel the same way. Promise, then? To be friends?”

Her companion seemed off balance by the direct request – she often seemed surprised by Clarice’s straightforward friendship - but then laughed. “I promise,” she replied with warmth. “Now, stop torturing my brother and dance with him.”

“No – I cannot dance anymore.” She denied the request flatly, trying to avoid clenching her teeth. “I am too fagged and out of breath. Besides – your brother left me to Westmore’s odious attentions in the park. I went out of my way to be pleasant to him, and at the first opportunity, he…” She groped for a suitable phrase. “Tossed me aside!” Her pride still smarted at the casual way he had spurned her attempt at socializing with him. Yes, it was pride – nothing else. If he did not know her, she did not know him. The hurt she had felt had been nothing more than a blow to her pride.

At first, everything had seemed to go swimmingly. Harry had seemed a little distant, a little reserved, but not out of spirits. More quiet than usual, and less smiling. He was still stunning, however. His firm mouth had been closed instead of pulled over a wide smile, allowing her to see that he had a little cleft above his upper lip, and his lower lip was full and kissable.

Kissable? She was clearly reading too many romance novels! She had never allowed a man to kiss her, although she knew the maids as well as even some of her sisters had done so. It never held any titillation for her, but now she found herself wondering what it would be like if Harry were to kiss her. With that burning gaze of his, his hands pulling her close…

…but no. He had made his lack of interest abundantly clear. Westmore really was loathsome, and to be left alone with him for the afternoon had been agonizing. Instead of stepping in and being her hero of the day, he had simply let the man take her without a batted eye or a murmur of protest. Harry had been wearing form fitting riding breeches, and the view of his round bottom moving under the fabric as he strode away still gave her shivers. Of rage, of course.

Under normal circumstances, she would have given Harry a taste of his own medicine by ignoring him. Unfortunately, Westmore’s actions had rendered it necessary to level the playing field, and set the balance to rights. The last thing she wanted or needed was the horrible man to think she was won over to him – or more importantly, to upset the delicate balance among the rest of her suitors. Clarice had had the sneaking suspicion that the man would even go so far as to compromise her to achieve his ends – which had been cemented into certainty by some brief history from her new friend.

Returning her attention to Katherine, Clarice smiled. “But you may fetch him over to the table, where I am about to go.” And turning, she suited actions to words. She watched with interest as Kitty came back, her tall shadow in tow. Harry had taken additional pains with his appearance, but his unruly hair was already brushing his broad forehead, and whiskers were already shadowing his jaw. Tut, the man couldn’t seem to keep up a proper appearance. Even if he arrived with coiffed hair and a neat cravat, he ran his hands through his hair so often it was in complete disarray within an hour, and yanked so continually at his neck that it too quickly became dishevelled.

He bowed slightly before falling into the seat next to her. “Are we speaking, now?” he asked bluntly.

Clarice stifled a laugh at the sulky expression on his face, like a boy who had been denied a pasty. She smiled over his shoulder at Kitty, who was keeping a slight distance as she played interference for others who would have importuned her. It was actually surprising to see how well Kitty handled them. The woman also seemed to be uncommonly good with mathematics, ciphering, and other equally intriguing social skills. “Tut, tut. Mayhap I planned it so that I could have a tete-a-tete with you, and get rid of the vulgar masses in one fell swoop.”

His expression lightened slightly, but he still looked a sullen. “Mayhap,” he replied quietly.

“Oh come!” she touched his wrist lightly with her fan to draw his gaze up. It had fallen to her corseted waist and her chest, which was still heaving. His eyes seemed to focus on all her plumpest parts – or maybe she just felt fat compared to his his muscular form. A memory tickled of Westmore’s grip, carefully minimizing contact with the soft surface of her arm. It was so unlike the soft, gentle, almost caressing hold of Harry. Shaking her reminiscence off, Clarice smiled. She quite enjoyed his miffed his expressions, but it was time to soothe his ruffled feathers. “And am I a good dancer?”

A tug at the corner of his lip answered her at first, and his grey eyes flicked down before meeting hers. The eyes he had described so pleasantly, in a husky voice. His expression had been hidden in the shadows created by the foliage overhead. Perhaps he had been trying to swallow revulsion, not a more pleasant emotion. “You know you are.”

“One likes to hear compliments,” she returned impishly.

“Then maybe one should turn to her horde of admiring men for the compliments she so craves.”

The verbal slap in the face shocked her for moment, and her jaw dropped open as she stared at him.

He leaned forward, eyes meeting hers firmly. “You are the most beautiful woman in the room. But more important than any of that, you are the most intelligent, and the most vivacious.”

Clarice stared at him in blank amazement as he rose, and only just managed to snag his wrist as he began to turn away. “Stay,” she demanded.

Without any roughness, he slipped loose of her hold. “I have no more wish to play this game with you.”

Rising, the heiress blurted, “Do you really think I am beautiful?”

The vulnerability in her voice halted him mid stride, and his shoulders seem to sag. Turning, he inclined his lips to her ear. “Yes.”

Hot breath blasted across her neck, and she turned her face to regard him. It brought his face far too close to hers. She had never noticed that his grey eyes were flecked with darker grey. His skin gave off the most delightful smell, a cologne she couldn’t identify mixed with something less tangible. Her eyes dropped to his lips.

The tip of his tongue wetted his bottom lip, and he stepped back so abruptly he almost upset the tray full of empty glasses a servant was carrying. He made a hasty leg – and limped away?

It couldn’t have been more than a fraction of a second, but the sheer intensity of the moment made Clarice’s eyes dart furtively, checking to see if anyone else had noticed. Rising, she swept towards Kitty. Taking the other’s the plump arm in hers, she turned them about. “I have had enough of this. Let us go home.”

“But we only just arrived!” Kitty protested feebly.

“I have changed my mind. I am fagged, hot, and hungry. Let us go back, have a little supper, and just relax.”

Kitty turned her head. “What about my brother – I need to tell him I am leaving…” Spying the man, she waved to get his attention. “Oh good, he and Geoffrey seem to have hit it off. I will not be abandoning him.”

“He isn’t a puppy, dearest,” the heiress could not help laughing. “Now, tell me, how did you meet Telford?”

Kitty sniffed. “Telford has been a friend since I was a girl. How do you know him?” She shot back.

Clarice shrugged, pressing a hand to her chest. Something was hurting, but it had been hurting for weeks now. “We had arranged a business opportunity. His wife ruined the opportunity, as well as making an enemy of Papa.”

“Geoffrey is a good friend,” Kitty murmured fretfully. “I hope at some point the barriers can be lowered, and some sort of reconciliation take place. I foresee dinners together that could be very awkward if your Father is angry.”

Clarice laughed aloud. “Papa does not get hot in his anger – he goes as cold and still as iron. No, he does not hate Telford, but Papa rarely allows himself the opportunity to be burned more than once. Think of it more as reserve. Now – ‘good friend’? What does that mean? Did you grow up on neighbouring estates, and play together as children?”

A mildly exasperated glance answered her. “Geoffrey was nearly a man grown when we met. He was kind, gentle, and patient with me. I did not have many playmates as a child, and he tolerated me trailing after him. His marriage took him farther away, so we were not able to meet as frequently…but I still consider him a close family friend. I am glad she is dead,” she suddenly burst out, then looked mortified.

“So am I, dear. One hates to speak ill of the dead, but that woman was a blight on everything she came into contact with.”

Her friend seemed to catch the meaning behind her tone. “What do you know, Clarice?”

But her friend was shaking her head. “There are some things I will not discuss, even with you, as much as I am beginning to adore you. Although I make it my business to learn secrets, and occasionally let slip information for a good reason…I do not gossip.”

Looking crestfallen, the other nodded mutely. “I understand. What about my husband’s Aunt?” At the reminder of her husband, a look of longing spread over her features. “Oh Clarice, I miss him so much.”

“I understand,” she murmured – even though she did not. “Now that is a nasty woman who I will talk about with you. How much do you know about her? Nothing? Well. Let us begin with a little character description, and then we will go into a little bit of history…”
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Old 10-28-2015, 07:46 PM   #30
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Old 11-01-2015, 07:48 PM   #31
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Chapter 8


It was not often that Harry drank to excess. He had too many negative associations with it, and the headache and bodily pain that followed the next day had stripped away much of the charm as he entered adulthood. Every step felt like his bones might shatter, and it joggled his brain, which almost seemed to have loosened from the walls of his skull. And this was his second attempt to rise and dress – the first had resulted in the emptying of his stomach and a retreat back to his sheets.

Not to mention the embarrassing things that could take place. That may have taken place? That probably took place… He was a little fuzzy on the details of last night. But it had left him with a very positive feeling towards the fat man who had invited him over, and a lingering sense of embarrassment over his own behaviour.

Geoffrey was a genuinely kind man who was also highly intelligent. That was a rare bird. He also had an understated, dry sense of humour that had had Harry doubled over so hard laughing that he couldn’t breathe at times. And he was sympathetic – and nothing could recommend a man more than being a willing ear to drunk whining.

Another reason Harry didn’t drink to excess is that something primitive rose up in him – something he had fought against wildly in his youth before he fully comprehended it. It was that a heavier person attracted him, regardless of sex. He was NOT attracted to men, but the sight of a belly or plump upper arm caused him to react, regardless of the owner.

And Geoffrey was fat. Lord was he fat. Breathtakingly so.

As was typical, as the evening had progressed the cravats had loosened, then come off entirely. Followed by their jackets and waistcoats. The sight of the other man’s massive stomach spilling out over his pants and resting on his thighs had been enough to trigger a physical reaction in him, and deep sense of appreciation.

“I know, I’m fat,” Geoffrey had laughed drunkenly, patting the side of his stomach when he saw one of Harry’s furtive glances. “But at least I don’t get harped at about it now!”

That pat had sent a wave through the soft flesh, visible even under his light shirt. The dark indent of fabric pulled taut over the other man’s belly button was highly visible, and that belly button was in proportion to the rest of his stomach – wide and deep. His stomach had actually rested on his thighs when sitting. As Geoffrey had spoken tentatively of his marriage, he had joggled his foot nervously. The motion had caused subtle, cascading ripples to move across the surface.

“My sister likes fat men,” Harry remembered blurting as he stared at those waves. God, how could he have said that? Flashes of remembrances were the worst.

“Should have waited and married her.” The other man had heaved a sigh of utter regret. “She would have had me. Would have been happy. ’S too late now. But I’m happy for them, you know? Even if he is damned thin. Seems like a waste.”


So Telford knew about Kitty’s preference? A little light inside him rekindled as he realized that perhaps his preferences were not as deviant as he had thought them. Geoffrey clearly knew about them, and did not seem disgusted by it.

Of course, Harry knew something that Telford did not. That a secret fat child lurked below the muscles of his brother’s frame. He remembered all the instances of overindulgence as children – how he could easily bribe his brother with food. One summer their father had been away from home, and Raoul had been spoiled by all the servants. He had gorged like a pig at a trough, often not leaving the kitchen for the entire day, except to arrive at the dining room to eat more.

That summer had caused a great deal of confusion for Harry, who was just experiencing his first sexual awakening. Incest was wrong, but he could still recall the feelings of intense confusion as his brother’s flat stomach had softened, his pants rolling down under it. His shirts tightened until the bottom of his pale belly wiggled below the hem as he bossed everyone around. How he had continued to gorge, unnoticing or uncaring of the results. No, he had known. Harry had caught him rubbing his stomach, massaging it.

Even the memory caused him to twitch. The point was, it took him years to figure out that it was just the fat on the person, not the person themself. “And that is what is happening with Miss Belltaunt,” he told his sallow expression in the mirror the following morning. “I do not like her as a person, it is merely her body which is attracting me. What do you know about her?” he demanded of the tired man in the glass. “She is manipulative and cold. She does not seem to even know what familial love is, let along romantic love. She has loyalty, yes, but so does a dog. It is not enough.”

“Trying to convince yourself?” Geoffrey asked behind him, a smile curving his lips.

Heart racing, Harry glared at the other man in the mirror when he had landed after jumping two feet in the air. “Didn’t anyone tell you sneaking up on a man is a good way to get shot? No, I am merely listing out things I already know. And how in damnation do you look so blasted awake?”

Fat shoulders shrugged. “You sound like you’ve gotten yourself a bit worked up over her. Have you thought about distancing yourself? Perhaps not going to the same events? Just until you can cool your head.”

A sullen glance was shot his way. “Yes. I made the decision last night. Enough running after her. I am done with this.”

The other man meandered into the room, thumbs hooked into his pockets. “You don’t have to give up. I am actually not suggesting it at all…”

Harry shook his dark head, sitting on the trunk at the foot of the bed. “I realized how little I know about her. I’m letting my cock lead me about. Why would I want to marry her? You said it yourself last night. Marrying a woman simply because she entices you is a terrible idea. I think that Raoul lucked out, because my sister is genuinely kind hearted, intelligent, and also has enough of a temper to not let him push her about. How many men can say the same? And Clarice is nothing like Kitty.”

The other man settled gingerly on the trunk beside him. “While it is true, Clarice is nothing like Kitty – I do not think Kitty would make you happy in the same way as she makes Raoul happy. You talk about her being cool and cold, but you are not a firecracker yourself. At least not in comparison to your brother,” he amended. Meeting his eyes, Geoffrey offered another disarming shrug. “You just need to find the right woman. And be in the right state of mind,” he added significantly.

“Maybe there is no right woman for me.” Harry allowed the morose words to drop from his lips, staring at his hands.

“There is always a right woman for each man.” Was the reiterated answer. “Just give yourself a few days. Get your head back on your shoulders.”

*~*~*

It had been an excellent suggestion. Away from her, Harry felt his head clear, his faculties return. The haze that had rendered him dumb disappeared like mist under the morning sun. And he was able to look around and realize that he had been acting a fool. Chasing after a woman he barely knew, getting wound up in her games, and pouting like a school boy.

“I am not a firecracker like Raoul is,” he murmured to Geoffrey as they walked down the street, referring to their past conversation. “But something was under my skin with that woman. It feels good to finally be free from her.”

Blond hair glowed in the sun as the other nodded noncommittally. “As you say.”

Harry chuckled. “I am serious, Geoff.”

“I know you are,” the other man’s cheeks dimpled, and he turned his face upwards to bask in the warmth of the sun. “I am just enjoying being alive for the first time in, oh, about a decade.”

Harry shook his head with a faint smile. “You will have to repent for that at the confessional.”

“I am not afraid of going to hell. I have been living in it for years.” The normally buoyant, or at least serene face darkened, his wide mouth compressing. After a moment, he regained his composure. “Apologies, my friend. You were saying?”


“It isn’t important. It is too fine a day to be moody.” They walked in companionable silence for several blocks. “Geoff?” The other man inclined his head, indicating he should proceed. “What happened between you and the Belltaunts?”

He pulled a face. “It is not a secret, but it is not something either of us like to talk about. Let’s just say it involved several shipments of wine that we purchased in a joint venture. Martha took it into her head that there was trickery afoot, and tried to sabotage what she thought was their plans.” After a long moment, he gave a closed lipped smile, looking straight ahead. “She had the ships burned to the ground.”

“Oh…”

“With all the wine in them.”

“…Oh.” Harry cringed at the sheer money wasted.

“Indeed. Luckily nothing was hurt except for pride, trust, and our accounts. The Belltaunts are rich. Not rich in the way you or I are, the kind of wealth we could squander in a generation. They are rich in the way that it would take ten consecutive generations to truly ruin them. My wife’s ‘transgression’ may have cost them a deal, an opportunity, and some money, but it nearly devastated us. Unfortunately, I am not much more than a title, now.”

“Were charges pressed?” Harry could not help asking.

“No – although they could have and probably should have. Somehow it was ‘discovered’ that a lit pipe had been left out. All accident, no harm, no foul…and the Belltaunts paid for the damage to the wharf, the other ships – all of it.”

Harry stopped. His deep frown made him appear more like his brother than usual. Although Geoffery had learned how much that comparison irritated him the night they drank themselves under the table. “Why would they do that?” he demanded.

Geoffrey glanced back at him. “Because the Belltaunts are more truly well-bred than most of the gentry. Because it was more important for them to retain a good public face than to become embroiled in a dispute. And because Clarice is a genuinely nice person. She stepped between her father and my wife – and paid for all out of her own personal accounts, I understand.”

“Why?” Harry demanded again.

The other man’s face reddened. “I believe her words were: ‘If money could buy you happiness, I would be the most ecstatic woman in the world. Unfortunately, all it can do is ward off misery. I know that you had nothing to do with this incident, so let us chalk this up to some bad decisions on all sides, shall we?’”

Hastening to catch up to the fat man, who was still ambling along, Harry caught his elbow. “No one gives anything away for free. What did she ask of you in return?” His tone was urgent, and he immediately released his grip, straightening.

With an open, honest expression, Geoffrey shrugged. “Nothing. She may be a little arrogant, but who wouldn’t be if they had her wealth? Despite that, she is open handed and liberal with her money when it truly counts. She pays into countless charities. She suffers no fools, but she is rational, just, and fair. Without her, the likelihood is that we would be destitute, our names ruined. She did not have to do what she did. But she did it anyway.

“That is the point, Harry. She does not need for, or need to do anything. It is all about what she wants. She does not need a man in her life. She will have to want him. She desperately wants to be happy, I think, but has no idea what it is, or how to achieve it.” The heavy man’s tone was significant, as was the pointed glance he sent over his shoulder.

Harry’s expression was hard and uncompromising. “And I hope she finds the right man for her, some day.”

Geoffrey halted. Blue eyes rolled skyward, the fleshy face shook slightly, and he moved his lips silently. Idiot.

“Coming, Geoff?”

“I’m old and fat. Slow your horses,” he grumbled, still shaking his head as he hastened to catch up.
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Old 11-02-2015, 06:41 AM   #32
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This story is growing on me. It took me a while - don't really know why - to warm to the shift in perspective, but now I eagerly await every update.
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Old 11-02-2015, 07:33 AM   #33
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All sorts of intriguing bits and pieces coming out here I'm really getting to the point of nearly yelling at the characters, which is a good thing.
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Old 11-02-2015, 07:29 PM   #34
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I am in awe of your ability to express so succinctly and elegantly things which I myself have turned over and over again in my head, trying to figure out.

Also, thanks for bringing Geoffrey back.
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Old 11-03-2015, 08:13 PM   #35
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Now I'm a little torn - I'm totally rooting for Harry and Clarice (once they figure things out they are going to be a gorgeous couple) but after reading the last instalment I'm feeling very warm about a Harry/Geoffrey love... <3
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Old 11-08-2015, 05:53 PM   #36
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Thanks!! I hope the eventual change in perspective to book three isn't too jarring...And I don't think that I am giving away too much information when I say that a certain (and apparently appreciated ) fat man will be the protagonist.
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Old 11-08-2015, 05:55 PM   #37
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Chapter 9


Laughter rang out in the upper hallways of the Belltaunt residence.

In the library downstairs, Mr. Belltaunt lowered his newspaper, a smile twitching across his normally austere face. Shaking his head, he returned his eyes to the paper. Although the occasional shrieking giggles that broke out still made the corners of his mouth twitch.

Down the hall, the half-hearted sounds of the piano forte kept trailing off. The two young ladies who were trying to perform a duet exchanged baffled glances, blinking as they craned their heads towards the hallway. Diana shook her head with a wide smile, curls dancing around her face. Paulina seemed to be trying to decide between condescending amusement and irritation at the continued interruption.

In the kitchen downstairs, Margaret absently dusted her flour covered hands and cocked her head, but appeared unperturbed by the unusual sound, so distant.

Or at least, the source was unusual.

The laughter was louder at the top of the stairs, despite the lush carpeting and tapestries that lined the walls. The sounds of gaiety were issuing from under the door of the fourth room on the left. Two maids exchanged amused glances as they passed, shaking their head as well at the totally out of character behaviour of their mistress.

Both girls were ensconced in a veritable mountain of soft, clean, fluffy pillows and duvets. Their loose hair tumbling around their faces and down their backs. Clarice wiped tears from her eyes, hiccupping. “Oh Lord, you didn’t!”

Only Kitty’s glittering eyes were visible, a blanket clutched to her mouth to subdue her giggles. “Yes!”

Inhaling with difficulty, Clarice stretched out luxuriously, occasional bouts of amusement still bubbling up and bursting forth. “This has been such a fun time,” she said at last, round face wistful as she regarded her companion. “I wish you could stay longer. Wont you stay until Sunday, at least?”

Despite Clarice’s confidence beyond the boundaries of her own house, it had taken several days for the guard to fully come down, and for her to lounge like this, in just her robes. Part of it was the trust that Kitty’s genuine affection elicited. And part of it was probably owing to Kitty finally snapping, “Stop being such a child!”

Never having seen that side of her personality, Clarice had at first been stunned into stillness, then thrilled with delight. “You, my dear, are a rare gem indeed!”

Curling up and facing her hostess, Kitty smiled. Her face was diffused with genuine affection. “Fine. Until Sunday!” Reaching over, she planted a kiss on the smooth cheek. “Thank you. I always wanted a sister, and this is the closest I have ever felt to it.”

Clarice wrinkled her nose to avoid blushing at the straightforward confession. “Bah. Sisters are overrated. I always wanted a friend, and this is the closest I have every felt to it.”

“But surely you have had other friends,” the other protested, eyes widening.

Hiking a shoulder, the heiress traced an invisible pattern on her pillow with a plump finger. “Of course, I’ve had playmates, and acquaintances, and peers…but never anyone who was a real friend. It’s hard to find a friend when half the world thinks you are a social inferior, and the other half thinks you are a financial superior.”

Somewhat subdued, Kitty shifted closer, eyes darkening as her lashes lowered in pain. “Well, I haven’t had many friends either,” she admitted. “You know about my Father’s…overindulgences? Yes? Well, his drinking scared them away, and we were never rich enough to…well. It is what it is. Now I have Geoffrey, and you, and Harry, and Raoul. I count myself as rich as I could possibly be!”

Hazel eyes raised in apparent surprise. Ignoring the blatantly innocent and incorrect observation of wealth, she focused on the main point of interest. “You count your husband as among your friends?”

“Of course! The most dedicated and stalwart of them all!”

“I had not…thought of a husband in that light,” she murmured slowly, her plump lower lip caught between her teeth. “My mother and father get along well enough, but they do not have much in common. They spend most of their time apart.”

“If I had my way, I would never be away from Raoul,” Kitty admitted with an accompanying blush. Her eyes softened in the dim lighting as she thought of him. “I know…” she paused, gathering her thoughts. “You said - and you were right - that in some ways I didn’t know everything about him or his family affairs. All that about his Aunt…” She trailed off, shaking her head. “But we are closer than you might think. And I think a lot of the things you told me would have come out in due time. My husband is many things, but secretive is not one of them.”

A snort of laughter escaped Clarice again. “No, he is not!” She sighed suddenly, entwining their fingers. “Oh Kitty, I am so tired.”

“Do you want to sleep, then?” her friend asked softly, stroking the soft skin with her thumb.

A brief shake of the head, then she raised her eyes. “No…I’m just so tired of it all. Of town. Of people. Of the acting. I just want to be me. But I don’t even know who I am anymore. I feel like a patchwork quilt of personalities, each one cultivated and shown for a purpose, to a person.” She sighed deeply, closing her eyes. “Papa needs me though. I need to stay strong for him. For the family.”

“But…why?”

“Mama is a wonderful mother, but she isn’t business minded. Papa had no sons…someone had to step forward and help shoulder the burden.” Turning her face and opening her eyes abruptly, Clarice smiled. “It’s rather amusing. For so many years I was so desperate to show that a woman could be equal to a man. I probably did more than a son would have, because I was not entitled to it, I worked for everything and appreciated it in kind. And I received everything I could have wanted in return for my efforts. Papa trusts me completely – that alone makes me so grateful. But I also received all the finest education, even sourcing foreign teachers in all the studies a son would have received.”

Claire twisted a lock of hair in her hands, running the end of the loose tendril across her lips as she gazed meditatively into the darkness. “I have helped run the family business for years. I got what I wanted. And now, all I want to do is lay in bed for a few months and let a man take care of everything. Isn’t that ironic?”

Kitty stroked the soft cheek lightly. “You are just tired - I cannot imagine you turning over the reins to anyone. I hate to say it, because it might sound unfeminine and you are…but you thrive under being in control.”

“Not…Well…I don’t want to relinquish control of anything, really. I just want someone to be my partner,” she emphasized. “I wish I was not expected to be someone else’s partner, if you understand me. It would be nice to have someone who had my best interests at heart. Who thought of me first.”

Kitty bit her lip for a moment before answering. “You need a husband…”

Clarice rolled her eyes and heaved a sigh of exasperation. “I have not seen you and Raoul together, so maybe everything you say of him is true. Even taking everything you have said as fact; what are the chances that I would find such a one? Who can I trust with my family business? My fortune? My life? My happiness? Do you have any idea the freedom I would be sacrificing? It might be amusing to see the jealous looks as they vie for my attention, but I cannot and will not tolerate any thinking that I am any man’s property.”

The one woman did not seem to know what to say, and the other seemed momentarily exhausted into silence. They lay quietly in mutual contemplation, the crackling of the fire lulling them.

“Besides, I want a man who wants me…as a woman…in the ways of the flesh.” Clarice’s rose complexion, already ruddy from laughter, deepened still further.

Kitty, who was still laying with her face towards her friend, cocked a brow but remained silent.

“Oh, be quiet.”

“I didn’t say a thing.”

“You didn’t have to!”

Sitting up, Kitty shook her mane back from her face. Taking the brush from the bedside table, she urged her friend into a sitting position, facing away from her. Starting with the bottom, she slowly eased out every tangle until she was sliding the brush with rhythmic slowness through its length.

For a while, Claire allowed her this diversion, but eventually spoke. “You cannot expect me to believe that someone will just appear who finds me attractive, despite conventional beauty standards. Who will also fit all the criteria I mentioned.”

Behind her, Kitty rested her cheek on the soft shoulder. “Is it really so hard to believe?” She queried gently.

“Kitty…”

Half turning Clarice, half crawling forward herself, Kitty kissed both of her plump cheeks. “You are so beautiful!” she cried, half shaking her in vexation. “You have beautiful, soft, clear skin. Beautiful eyes, a soft voice…!”

“And the body of a matronly woman of forty,” Clarice snipped. “I am not under any illusion, my dear. And I cannot even try to pretend that this is a passing stage, or even that this is as heavy as I will allow myself to get. I have always been plump, and that fact is highly unlikely to change. If anything, it will probably get worse,” she grumbled.

Turning her friend’s face towards her, Kitty grinned somewhat as she made eye contact. “There are some men who appreciate a fuller form on a woman.”

Clarice shook her head and taking the brush, turned to the task of brushing Kitty’s hair.

“Indeed, you must believe me…” Kitty urged, glancing back with a serious expression. “I speak the truth! Why would Harry have drawn your portrait if he did not find you attractive?”

“Men sketch all sorts of grotesque and interesting things. Not to say that I am that bad,” she added hurriedly. “And as you say. I am sure you are speaking truth. There are hundreds of thousands of people on this earth, and God only knows what deviant desires some of them have.”

Hidden from her view, Kitty’s face flashed with hurt, her gaze lowering. Recovering, she swallowed softly. “Then why do you bother with the farce of trying to find a husband? If you honestly do not think you can find one who will suit…”

“I don’t know,” Clarice admitted after several moments of deep thought, while the fire crackled softly. “I suppose because it is a social obligation that I will have to fulfill at some point. Once Papa passes on there will be no one else to keep the business thriving. God knows I do not want the control handed over to some pea brain that one of my sister’s will marry. It’s the only real way to secure a legacy.”

Kitty laughed, long and low. “You will be a terrifying mother,” she chuckled at last.

Sensing that a compliment was intended, Clarice also chuckled. “I certainly hope so.”

*~*~*

The next day, both women were breakfasting. The Belltaunt women rarely ate a large quantity at one sitting. The gentleman of the house regard eating as a necessary activity, and proportioned his meals according to the activities of the day. The two younger girls ate very lightly, clearly seeking to avoid the fate of the elder sister.

It had taken a few meals for Clarice to actually sit down and eat in front of her friend. After nibbling lightly for the first two days, Margaret had appeared in her bedroom doorway. Of course, Kitty only knew her name later. At the time, all she knew was that a tall, thin, pale woman with a severely tied bun and pale skin was suddenly at the door. In the moment, she had thought her a maid, but Clarice had quickly disabused her of that notion.

“Oh, you dear, dear creature!” she had gasped in delight, clasping her hands as she gazed eagerly. “Please tell me you brought enough for Kitty as well! Oh, Kitty, this is Margaret, my sister. You will not see her often, as she prefers to stay in the kitchen.” This introduction was thrown over her shoulder, as she was already stalking forward towards the tray.

There was something innately feminine and very sensual in the way that Clarice moved – it rather reminded Kitty of an overfed house cat. And without her ridiculous corsets, her flesh shimmied lightly under the material, tantalizing.

Said sister had walked carefully into the room, placing the tray on the small stand. “Hello.” It had taken a bit too long for her to speak, as if she was struggling to remember what to do, or what to say. After that, Margaret had quickly grasped her skirts in her hands, knitting her fingers so tightly that the fabric immediately creased. And barely waiting for a reply, fled.

Clarice had cast an apologetic look to Kitty as she leaned over the tray. “Margaret is an odd duck. She is a little slow, and a little scared, but she is quite a dear. I hate eating before others…she always makes sure that she sends up a lovely collection.”

Kitty had eyed said selection, impressed. “Does your sister help in the kitchen? And do you want me to leave?”

“Help? Goodness no! Margaret is our cook, chef - whatever you like to call it. She not only loves cooking, she is quite amazing at it.” Turning, Clarice had turned her red face to Kitty’s. “And no, please stay. I don’t think you will torture me for eating.”

Mystified, Kitty had blinked rapidly. “Torture you for eating?” She echoed, cocking her head. “Why would I torture you for something you need to do to live? And why would I torture you for partaking in a delightful activity?”

Clarice’s plump shoulders had relaxed slightly. “I have been told that I partake of this particular enjoyment too frequently, and that I approach one of the seven deadly sins in my enjoyment. And not many enjoy eating in the way that I do.” Snagging a piece of ham, she passed it between her lips, eyes closing. “I love everything about eating – the act, the taste. I don’t think many can taste the same way I do,” she added immodestly. “I can taste the honey here, as well as the fresh herbs in the soup. It is not a blend of random spells and tastes, swirled together. It is so many unique and separate tastes, making magic on my tongue. And such wonderful magic it is! I do not know of anyone who feels this way about food.”

Kitty had giggled. “Actually, you sound just like Raoul!”
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Old 11-08-2015, 06:21 PM   #38
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Fabulous updates! I can't wait to read about Raoul's visit!
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Old 11-09-2015, 10:18 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by xyantha reborn View Post
thanks!! I hope the eventual change in perspective to book three isn't too jarring...and i don't think that i am giving away too much information when i say that a certain (and apparently appreciated ) fat man will be the protagonist.
����������g���������� havent read the update yet but I'm sure it will be amazing like everything you write
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Old 11-10-2015, 12:39 PM   #40
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Chapter 10

“Oh!” her friend had gasped, streaking from her guest room window, down the hall, and to the stairs.

The footman had been just about to fetch them, but his raised eyes caught the sight of Clarice, hovering at the corner of the hall, almost out of sight. She flicked a hand with a smile, and he removed himself silently. Something told her that this meeting was long overdue, and company was not welcome.

They had been ‘not’ arranging flowers. The tools to perform the task laying about them were ignored as they chatted actively about the upcoming parties this week. The sound of a rap at the door had made her friend crane her head to look out the window.

“I hope it’s Harry, I have not – Oh!” and off she had bounded, like a shot.

There was only one person who the heiress could imagine as having that effect on Kitty, so she had padded after her, full of silent curiousity. A tall, broad shouldered man stood, silhouetted by the light streaming in through casements that framed the door. As he stepped inside, it was clear that part of his bulk was not muscle, but rather fat. In his serious expression, Clarice could easily trace the resemblance to a familiar face. The little kick that her stomach gave at the sight made her stutter step.

Having recently spent some time around Harry, it was surprising to see someone so similar, and yet so dissimilar. Although both men’s features were good, there was a sort of raw energy about Harry’s brother. A sort of vibrating intensity that made Harry’s bad moods seem pouting in comparison. And that was not even touching on the vast physical differences.

Clarice could not deny the sheer masculinity Raoul exhibited when he halted, gazed up at his wife, and growled, “Come here, woman.” It was not a command, but neither was it a suggestion. His expression of longing transformed into an intense, scorching gaze which raked his wife, and his lips descended on hers in a way that Clarice could only call devouring, as trite as it sounded. One thick arm wrapped around her waist, holding her against his broad stomach while the other slid around the nape of her neck to snug her even closer.

Her normally quiet friend was almost frantic, and her pale arms wound around his neck tightly, as if she could physically hold him in place. A sound, partly tearful and partly carnal, escaped from her lips.

A big, strong hand cupped Katherine’s throat - but not in violence - before sliding down the heaving chest. Thick fingers trailed along the column of her throat, traced her delicate collar bones. A quick, furtive glance around revealed them apparently still alone, and he looked down at Kitty with a wicked grin. White teeth flashed against his tanned face, and with agonizing slowness, he slowly slid the edge of her shirt down…down…down…

Clarice’s own nipples tingled as the man gave a sound of satisfaction, suckling for a moment like a babe. All his attention seemed focused on his wife, utterly enraptured as he trailed his nose along her skin, inhaling her scent and letting out another muffled moan of approval.

The heiress had never considered herself a voyeur before, but was unable to shift her gaze from the pair. Kitty was not submitting demurely as a proper woman should – her hips rolled into his in the most wonton way imaginable, her hands traversing all of his body she could reach. And although the man was not as fat as Telford, there was certainly more acreage to grasp than on Harry. To Clarice’s amazement, her friend’s hands quickly fastened on the bulge of fat spreading out from his body. The sound that accompanied the gesture, although quiet, was so guttural that Clarice found herself shifting in unexpected arousal.

“Is it…?” Raoul whispered, trailing kisses along Kitty’s brow, her cheeks, her neck. Another sound answered him, and although his cheeks reddened, he chuckled deeply. “My kind of crazy,” he murmured as he put her down.

It was too intimate, too loving, too intense. It was as if at that moment, the man would die if he could not touch her. This was not the respectful peck on the lips that her parents gave each other. Nor was it the desperate clawing that she had seen in the footman and a maid. This was an assured conqueror reclaiming what was rightfully his.

Clarice bit back a sound of shock as her normally quiet friend swung one arm back and abruptly smacked one of his muscular arms, then the other, and then finally shoved his chest. “I cannot believe you kept your coming a secret!”

The man was built like an ox, and her attack did not move him, but he laughed long and hard. It was a robust sound that suited him well. “Oh, I have missed your ferocity, my little kitten,” he chuckled, tapping her lips with his finger, then snatched it back with an oath when white teeth sunk into it. He swore at her, smacking her bottom – and her friend laughed.

Never, in all of her life of spying and gathering information – some sensual in nature – had prepared her for the natural, intense, loving, combative, and yet equal way they handled each other. Her normally subdued friend was glowing with vivacity, her green eyes shining, her cheeks flushed. The heiress had seen enough of Raoul in public to know that he was a brooding sort. Was a brooding sort – because now he was full of pleasure and contentment.

Swallowing, realizing that she could not be caught like this, and that his laugh was certain to draw notice, Clarice made a bustle and called out, “Kitty, my love, who is it?”

Collecting herself admirably, Katherine shared a smile between the two. “Raoul, please meet my friend, Clarice Belltaunt. Clarice, this is my husband, Raoul Nottingham.”

As she approached, feeling confined by the corset, and trying not to move in that way which caused streaks of agony across her chest, she idly wondered why people thought the brothers were twins. Although they shared the same beautiful eyes, strong chin and nose, that was pretty much as far as the resemblance went. Raoul’s eyes were full of more fire, and lines radiated from their corners as he smiled and bowed over her hand. He looked older and more serious than his brother – and now, fatter as well.

“A pleasure to meet you again, Miss Belltaunt.”

Dipping respectfully, she smiled back at him. “Indeed – it has been a while since we were first introduced. You look healthy and happy - it appears married life agrees with you.” They had met once or twice in public, but had never struck up even so much as a conversation.

Raoul swallowed, and his chest stuck out as he straightened and tightened his stomach somewhat. “Indeed,” he muttered.

“Oh, stop being so sensitive,” Clarice snapped, still feeling hot and bothered by the scene she had just witnessed. “I only meant that you look happy.”

A mildly abashed expression answered. “I am,” he admitted, his arm tightening around his wife in a grip he had not relinquished. “I had forgotten how straightforward you are said to be,” he chuckled.

“Shocking, isn’t it?” It was impossible not to compare the tight waist, flaring shoulders, and overall fit form of the one brother, to the heavy bodied man before her. Raoul had always been of a heavy musculature, but he had clearly been enjoying the benefits of a good table in his wife’s absence, because he had exploded outwards with lard. His jawline was fuzzy with it, and it bulged below his chin when he smiled. His arms, although muscular, had lost definition even under the jacket he wore. His chest and upper legs had clearly lost definition as well. Most impressively, his stomach thrust forward, bulging outwards and connecting with his thick sides.

Clearly the man had let himself go to pot. He was not the first, nor would he be the last man to do so. What captivated Clarice was her friend’s response to it. Her previous observations of her friend’s interactions with Telford - …Geoffrey. She had to remember to start calling the man by his first name – had given her a hint of it, but…

Epiphany stuck. It made sense now!

Why her friend barely seemed to notice the most eligible bachelors. Why when they were pointed out to her, she looked on them with the same level headed and cool perusal one would give a beautiful flower arrangement. Clarice had assumed her pointed lack of vision was some sort of misguided notion about being faithful to her husband.

But it was not.

Her friend seemed to prefer her men to be more feminine.

But that was not right either.

Geoffrey could perhaps be considered so, what with his twinkling blue eyes, tousled blond hair, and almost womanly breasts. He was gentle and sensitive. But Raoul? There was nothing womanly in the way he was holding onto his wife, nor in the way he gazed down on her, despite his lack of muscle.

Introductions were of course made. The man seemed mildly taken aback at the warm reception he received from the family, often blinking rapidly before he spoke. Any misgivings that her father may have had about a previously known rake in his house were obviously quickly banished. He summed it up with a single smile, look, and statement, as was his wont. “Reformed.” He commented quietly in a tone of approval.

Indeed, it appeared so. There were points in the evening where the couple, still considered newlyweds, were unable to be close but their body language was always bent towards one another.

Di smiled up at him flirtatiously, and the man smiled back vaguely as he spoke to their father. Paulina clung to his arm with feminine grace, and he patted the small hand absently as his eyes tracked his wife’s movements.

The impromptu gathering was interrupted by the arrival of Margaret. She had clearly just come from the kitchen. As was her wont, she only ever voluntarily came upstairs when she had new delicacies for her family to try. The poor woman seemed utterly thrown by the unexpected guest. When she arrived, tray in hand, she almost bumped into him. When it registered that he was a stranger, she half leapt backwards with a barely suppressed gasp, looking like a terrified rabbit.

Raoul, turning quickly to see the source of the noise, nearly upset the tray with his broad stomach. His cheeks immediately turned pink, and he began apologizing.

Margaret swallowed, staring up at him with wide eyes. Her almost forgotten tray was clutched in white knuckled fingers, and her mouth was parted in surprise. Eyes flickered all over his face and body, and the woman swallowed hard, taking a step back.

The fat man made an inadvertent hum as the smells reached his nose. “Oh my,” he rumbled, leaning closer to look at the spread.

Clarice and Di stepped forward, ready for whatever followed. It would not have been the first time that they had to soothe ruffled feathers from their sister’s panic roughened tongue, nor the first time they had to quickly cover for their sister simply darting away without a word.

To their mutual and utter shock, instead of panicking, Margaret settled her feet as if holding ground against the rush of a bull. “I made these,” she announced with a quiet voice and jittery manner. And she actually raised the tray lightly, offering her bounty. Although she did not look comfortable, she was actually speaking. And although she held the tray as it is would ward him off, she was not crying.

Clarice almost choked, grasping Di’s hand in a tight grasp and wringing it. It was the first time in years that her sibling had voluntarily spoken to a stranger – she rarely even spoke to her own family. She edged carefully over to them, convinced more than ever that her sister was going to abruptly and unexpectedly have an utter breakdown as a result of this interaction. It was just so, so difficult and uncomfortable to try and explain.

Raoul’s back was to the family, but his tone was highly gratified and impressed. “Did you?” Thick fingers wagged over first one, then another, and he leaned back, looking torn. His big head shifted side to side, and his fingers wriggled. He cast a guilty glance at his wife, who turned her face away to hide her laughter.

“Yes. I am Margaret.” Despite being clearly nervous, she stayed rooted to the spot.

“And I am Raoul Nottingham.”

It was clear the man did not understand that Margaret was family, but his tone was indulgent and almost affectionate despite that. Clarice’s respect for the Nottingham family as a whole increased, and she was strongly reminded of her second meeting with Harry.

“I know.” The slight woman almost snapped, patience and bravery clearly worn thin. “Take one.”

The fat man scraped a palm across his chin in thought before carefully selecting an item. To Clarice’s utter shock, the man who had barely noticed her lovely sisters actually winked at her plain sibling. As he put the morsel in his mouth, his broad shoulders relaxed slightly, his head falling back infinitesimally. Only Clarice, his wife, and Margaret could see the bliss that spread over his face, and hear the deep exhale through his nose. “Lovely. Absolutely lovely.”

Margaret, sensible, shy, antisocial Margaret, actually blushed and preened slightly under his praise, Casting a shy, almost defiant look at Kitty, she again offered the tray to Raoul before making a quick round of the room.

The heiress, for her part, saw Raoul’s reactions and smiled knowingly. Kitty was right – he understood food as she did. His hawk like eyes were already fastened on the plate again, and his nostrils flared as his head tracked the motion of the tray as it was taken around for all to sample.

Paulina, true to form, sniffed once her sister was out of the room. “You dealt with her quite well, odd as she is.”

Clarice winced. “Oh Paulina,” she exhaled. Di closed her eyes, turning her face away as if she could pretend nothing had been said.

Mr. Belltaunt also closed his eyes, inhaling. It was one thing for his daughter to speak so behind closed doors, but his normally easy temper had clearly reached its limit. His hands clenched and relaxed, and he swallowed in preparation to speak. His eyes flickered open in surprise at the other man’s chuckle.

“Odd? Not at all. I am used to our cook - ” he said, but his next words were cut off.

“Those that do menial labour should stay out of sight and not be heard by their betters. It is better for all that they know their place and do not try to socialize in circles above them. It is so horribly awkward, don’t you agree?” The idiot was clearly trying to impress him, but her choice of subject was clearly poorly chosen.

Margaret was not quite gone. The edge of her skirt twitched out of sight as their sister finished. Clarice was not sure if their visitors noticed her presence, but for the first time, a spark of infamous temper flared.

Turning slowly to face her, Raoul met her eyes for several seconds longer than was appropriate. His air was not admiring, but full of muted displeasure. “I fear that our opinions differ greatly here,” was the terse response. “For my own part, I have the utmost respect for my cook, who was also my nursemaid and has been the most loyal friend my family has ever had. I would do anything for her.”

“She is a wonderful woman,” Kitty agreed hurriedly in an attempt to diffuse the situation.

“And Margaret is our sister,” Clarice explained with a blush. “Not a servant.”

Raoul turned his head to face her. “And she seems lovely,” he responded easily, his warm voice steady.

Paulina finally seemed to have realized that she had made a wrong move, and let out a small snort of derision and annoyance at the announcement, flouncing away to sit on a chair at the farthest end of the room.

In the hall, Clarice could hear her sister quietly pad back to the kitchen, humming softly. “Shall we move into the other room? Now, Raoul, I know this may be an inconvenience for you, but Kitty has promised to stay one more day. You wouldn’t deny me the pleasure of her company?”

“You wouldn’t deny a husband access to his wife,” he shot back easily.

The easy repartee made Clarice laugh aloud. “Well. It seems like we may have to prevail upon you to stay as well, then. It will give me the opportunity to learn more about this man who thinks so highly of his hired staff.”

The man smiled. “I would be delighted to stay. But if you want to know all the juicy details, Harry is the garrulous one.” The smile widened as Clarice glared daggers at him. “What? Did I say something amiss?” he asked with false innocence, glancing at his wife.
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Old 11-10-2015, 01:37 PM   #41
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I just read this sitting at my desk at work and now I'm blushing like my life depended on it. Absolutely delicious!
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Old 11-10-2015, 03:03 PM   #42
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Ooh, lovely (and steamy!)
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Old 11-10-2015, 03:32 PM   #43
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Yay! Raoul's back!
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Old 11-10-2015, 04:05 PM   #44
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Delicious!
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Old 11-10-2015, 06:31 PM   #45
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Excellent!
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Old 11-11-2015, 11:03 PM   #46
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Loved this latest chapter! I actually read this--to quote above comments--"delicious" chapter twice
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Old 11-12-2015, 06:15 PM   #47
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Ok, last post for a bit! I was going to hold out so as to not torture you...but blame it on Tad inciting me

(y u so mean, Xy?)

Chapter 11


The remainder of night passed in a blur for Clarice. Every time her mind strayed, she pictured their hands and mouths on each other. The deep sounds of their breathing in that quiet hall. The heavy looks they kept passing back and forth were certainly not helping. And although she kept telling herself that the two men were only vaguely similar, there were certain tones, certain laughs, and certain glances that kept reminding her strongly of Harry.

She was deep in thought about these very similarities when an unusual step made her sit up in bed. Once she was sleep nothing could wake her, but until then, the slightest noise would rouse her. Her mind had been churning relentlessly since her head hit the pillow, flitting between all her realizations and thoughts of a carnal nature. Gazing hard into the silent room, she strained her ears to identify the unexpected noise. Beside her room, the door opened silently on well-oiled hinges, then closed.

Now wide awake, the plump woman eased herself from her blankets, irritated at how heavy she felt. There had been a time as a girl when she could sit upright from the horizontal without the use of her arms. Now, she had to push herself up, and her stomach compressed in the most unsightly way, even under the cover of her clothes. Not to mention that with Raoul there, she had not felt as fat as she normally did. That sense of false security had caused her to drop her guard and overindulge, leaving her feeling bloated, sluggish, and ungainly.

There was a crack between the two rooms, just above her headboard. She had discovered it early one morning when light had been streaming through a slight crack, causing little dust motes to dance above her eyes. Usually, Clarice used it to listen to the maids as they chattered. Now, curiosity drove her to press her eye over the opening, peering into the adjoining room where her friend slept. Her stomach sloshed heavily, and free from the corset it strained down with gravity. Her skin felt tight and tingling, and the heiress stifled the most unbecoming belch.

It was unequivocally wrong to spy on a man and a woman, especially her friend and that friend’s husband. But that knowledge did not turn her gaze as her friend slowly began removing her husband’s jacket. He had padded barefoot across the room, bare necked and free from all clothes except his shirt and pants. Their rumpled appearance and the shadow of a beard on his face was strongly reminiscent of another man.

Clarice swallowed.

“Oh, Raoul…” Kitty murmured, sounding stunned.

She might well be stunned. The man who, a year ago, had been fit and muscular now looked bloated like a hog. Stuffed with excellent food, his stomach bowed out from his chest heavily. It drew the eyes of his wife, who seemed speechless.

“I know, I know, I am sorry.” His face was red even in the light of the lamps. “I got carried away…I spent a lot of time with the tenants…their daughters and wives always had such hearty food …” His voice was muffled as his shirt was drawn over his head. A paler mass of flesh bulged forward, folding over itself. His navel looked dark and deep. Dark hair dusted the soft surface, and it bounced lightly as he sighed. It caused his softening chest to sag, the nipples pointing down at the evidence of his guilt “Their husbands ate so well, it was an insult to not eat properly. It’s tradition to eat with them once a year. And…I wanted to eat it all,” he said. Oddly - almost as if he was pleading with her.

Clarice was fully expecting a firm remonstrance to pass her friend’s lips as his bloated form emerged, but instead, her friend spread her hands across the pale flesh, squeezing lightly. Sliding her hands lower, she hefted its weight. “Good,” she purred, drawing his head down for a deep kiss. “Like I told you - eat until you are full.”

He held her back, swallowing hard. “But I didn’t, Kitty. I didn’t stop when I was full. They put such huge portions down…it tasted so good. I ate until I was full, then I just kept eating. It felt so good, and I didn’t want the tastes to end. I wanted to feel so full that I couldn’t move. I just kept eating until my stomach bulged….there is something very wrong with me, Kitty.” Raoul’s voice was filled with utter dread and shame.

Glutton. Clarice recognized the description as the exact feeling she got from food. The hypersensitivity to taste and smell, the luxurious texture and swirling heaven in her mouth. The feeling of pleasure from eating her fill…and beyond. To recline in bed and eat until you were so full that…

Clarice gave a little shudder, finding herself stroking the side of her stomach and the inside of her thigh. Yes, she knew that feeling all too well. Her stomach, normally flabby to the touch, was firm with food and irresistibly heavy. Her thigh was soft and giving, padded like the lushest of pillows. She looked down, seeing billowing flesh covered in white cloth.

“Nothing is wrong.” Her friend had slipped from her clothing, and was gently swaying the bottoms of her breasts against the belly below them. “Nothing,” she repeated in a breathy purr.

Jealousy flared, quickly suppressed. Unlike Clarice, who bulged in obscene places, her friend curved in all the right places. And no man had ever looked at Clarice that way – her friend was gorgeous, the epitome of a full figured woman, lush and tempting.

Her husband seemed to agree, looking greedy as he ran his hands from Kitty’s breasts, down to her hips, and onto her bottom. As his pants were eagerly worked from his hips, his member sprung forth, nestled amidst a mass of dark hair.

Clarice snapped back with a gasp, feeling her cheeks heat. The footman had not stood there – he had only pulled off his pants, facing away from her, just before climbing atop the maid. Almost as quickly, she pressed her eye back. Kitty was straddling him as he reclined on the bed, feet still planted fully on the floor. She could not even bring herself to feel ashamed as she watched her friend writhe with abandon as he palmed her breasts and stroked her hips.

He wasn’t the only one doing the stroking. Her eager hands grasped and fondled at his stomach as if it were a big breast itself.

Abruptly a squealing growl erupted, audible even to Clarice in the next room. Raoul flushed. “I suppose I am still hungry…”

Snatching up the container of biscuits from the bedside table, Katherine eased herself up and down his shaft. “Well, we cannot have that…” she panted, popping off the lid slowly.

Her husband’s nostril’s flared at the scent, and he snagged a pillow to put behind his head, accepting the offering, chewing it slowly while he stared up at her. “Bad girl,” he growled at last, smacking her bottom lightly.

“Bad boy,” her friend shot back, slapping the side of his stomach in kind. She squeaked in laughter as his hips bucked into her, slipping another bite between his lips. “Be a good boy and finish your dinner and I may just let you come to fulfillment,” she gloated down at him.

Raoul looked vulnerable as he chewed his way through the entire container. “I’m going to be as fat as Telford,” he managed, gasping as his wife’s tempo increased with the last bite.

They were so quiet that Clarice couldn’t quite make out what she said it return.

His eyes bulged, but it was too late for words. His neck chorded, the muscles in his thighs flexing as his head fell back against the pillow. After a gasping moment, he raised his head to look at her. “Kitty? Are you serious?” His stomach growled again, and he flushed dark red with mortification. “Silence, beast!” he ordered it.

“I don’t know. It…just came out.” She mumbled, disentangling herself and laying down beside him. One small hand began lightly stroking his chest. “You know I adore your body.”

“I know it,” he admitted reluctantly. “I just do not know how, or why.” After a groan and a heave, Raoul stood upright with a crack of his back. As he moved to the wash basin his stomach bulged and swayed.

“I am not the only one,” was her defensive answer.

Raoul snorted, finishing with cleaning himself. He carefully carrying the wash basin to the bed, luxuriously cleaning his seed from her thighs. “Oh? And who else shares your predilections, my dear?”

“It does not matter,” she muttered, flopping back on the bed. “Have you seen Harry?”

Raoul was pulling his shirt on, but made a noise of dissent. “I came straight here. Harry told me where you could be staying. Why?”

“Just curious…He thinks Clarice is a goddess incarnate.”

“Blasphemous, my dear,” he chided half-heartedly. “Clarice is an intelligent woman, with a good family. She is quite pretty, despite being rather full blown. If you are trying to intimate that Harry shares your views…a man can be attracted to a woman despite her weight, not because of it.”

Indeed. Clarice thought, nodding sharply. At least one of the pair was sensible.

“But yes. I think you are right. His preferences always swung to the plump when not – ” his mouth snapped shut, and an dark expression came over it, only lifting when his wife sleepily dragged her foot along his thigh.

…when not in bed with your lovers. Clarice shook her head. It wasn’t a well-known fact, but then…her repertoire of information was not limited to the obvious.

“Raoul? We need to talk more about Harry…your Aunt…everything.”

“We will, little kitten. Tomorrow. I promise. Do you know how Margaret Belltaunt knows me? No? Hmm.” After a soft kiss and a few murmured endearments, the man retreated back to his own room. Alert to the noise, Clarice could hear his subtly footfalls retreating down the hallway. Her friend settled down to sleep, and Clarice sat back from the opening, exhaling heavily.

The blocks of her existence had not shifted, but Clarice felt herself fundamentally changed. As profoundly as metal put to fire, or as surely as a river diverted from its natural course. As critical as decrypting a key message. Nothing about her was altered, except her own soul. Nothing would ever be the same, after this. That had not what they were taught – to suffer a man’s touch in order to bear his children.

Sitting as she was on her heels, her stomach brushed the tops of her thighs. Curious, she ran a gentle finger around the edge of her navel as she had seen Kitty do. Was Harry like Kitty? Would he touch her so? Her hands slowly eased each tie open, then cupped the underside of her right breast. Her nipple was tight and pebbled with the cold, and she tweaked it lightly, shuddering. Would he want her so desperately? Her palms slid down the expanse of her stomach, gently feeling its heft. Her thumb scraped the hair covering her mount, and she shivered. Something told her to pet herself there as he had seen Raoul do, sliding his thick thumb along the glistening folds of her womanhood. But she felt clumsy and stupid – not to mention as fat as a whale - so quickly withdrew her hand.

The rational part of her knew that the sort of intensity that she had witnessed could not possibly last the length of their lifetime. And yet, she craved it. It did not matter that it had never figured into her plans before – she now demanded it with the same impetuosity that Paulina did a new dress. No wonder her friend had looked rather aghast at her cooling brushing her advice aside. For discounting any passion as an annoyance.

She had thought…Clarice sighed. “I don’t know what I thought,” she murmured aloud. Nothing like that, that was for certain!

Now, her already extensive list of requirements had another dimension. He must also adore her the way that Raoul did Kitty. And he must be physically attractive. Although it was highly hypocritical, the idea of Raoul’s hoggish form thrusting above her made her shudder. No. It was bad enough that one of them would be fat. She wanted to crave his touch and presence, not just have him like her.

So: she wanted a highly educated man, of a good family, with good money and connections. He had to be intelligent, socially adept, and a master of knowledge. He had to understand the ins and outs of business, and he should be a family man. He should be calm, in command, fit and handsome. Able to hold a debate with her one day and then listen to her advice the next. To respect her judgement and decisions. Because although he needed to be business minded and in control, he couldn’t be in control of her. He could not have any extreme vices such as excessive smoking, or drinking, or eating. But he could not be a prude.

And, now, to top it all off, he must be so enamoured with her that he must completely lose all sense of proportion, control and intelligence around her. Even she knew that those characteristics were mutually exclusive, and that she was looking for a man who didn’t exist.

An hour later, she was still up. Her eyes were fastened on the ceiling, and big, soft tears slowly slipped from her eyes, trailing down each cheek and pattering the pillow lightly. Other than a deeper than normal inhale and a trailing, controlled exhale, no sound was made.

She would never get what she wanted.

“I hate my life. I wish I was dead,” she whispered passionately into the darkness.
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Old 11-12-2015, 07:16 PM   #48
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Thank you Tad for inciting Xyantha...
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Old 11-13-2015, 07:17 AM   #49
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And I'll thank Kitty and Raoul for inciting Clarice

Also, a natural sort of spot to pause the story. Sure waiting will be torturous, but at least I can recognize the artistry in pausing it here while cursing the pause
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Old 11-13-2015, 09:47 AM   #50
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SilkySunshine View Post
Yay! Raoul's back!
My thoughts exactly!!!
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