April 10, 1797
Sir George Granger was indulging himself on this beautiful spring day, letting himself travel on the road to Brentwood with indecent speed. His horse cantered past a merchant’s cart, where the wind from man and beast, along with the thundering hooves, prompted a most ungentlemanly oath from the driver of the cart. Granger spared him little thought, but focused instead on the town that was coming up. He slowed his horse to a trot, and as soon as he was clear of this population center, such as it was, he prodded the steed into a full canter again. It was glorious!
As a result of his daredevil riding, he arrived at Brentwood much sooner than he had hoped. The staff spotted him as he approached the house, and a groom appeared to take the reins of his horse. “He’ll need to be cooled down,” Granger ordered the groom. “Take care of him.”
“Yes, Sir George,” the boy said respectfully, eying the horse that was covered with lather. Granger gave him a brief smile, and then strode confidently up the steps of his country estate, watching as the massive doors opened for him as if by magic.
“Welcome, Sir George,” Hudson said. He was Brentwood’s butler. “Lady Granger is in the drawing room.”
“Thank you, Hudson. Where are the children?”
“I believe the nurses took them out in the garden to play, Sir George.”
“Excellent,” Granger said. He strode confidently through the house to the drawing room. Caroline had been informed of his arrival, and was standing there, waiting for him.
“Welcome home,” she said with a smile.
“It is good to see you,” he said and embraced her warmly, then gave her a very passionate kiss. “I missed you.”
“So I gathered,” she said, flirting. “I didn’t expect you back so soon.”
“I had not planned to return this fast either, but I have news that I must share with you.”
“This sounds important,” she said nervously. “Am I being sent further afield?”
“You are being a bit self-absorbed, are you not?” Granger teased. He was in a good mood, because he knew how happy Caroline would be if he really was made a peer. “What makes you think this has anything to do with you?”
“Of course I’m self-absorbed,” she teased back. “I’m your wife. I’m supposed to be.”
“I don’t recall hearing that in our vows. Did you promise to remain self-absorbed before or after you promised to honor and obey me?”
“Clearly you weren’t listening. Honor and obey are code words for self-absorbed.” They laughed together at that. “Now quit torturing me and tell me your news.”
“I am commanded by the King to attend him and the Privy Council this Thursday,” Granger said.
“You are to appear before the Privy Council?” she asked, stunned.
“Do you know why?”
“My parents think I am to be advanced to the peerage,” Granger said coyly. “They could be wrong.”
“They could be,” she said, smiling broadly. “But I doubt it.”
“And to think, you weren’t even in London to ram this through,” Granger said to his wife, who was normally an astute politician.
“Perhaps that means you have earned it,” she said. “I’m so proud of you George.” He opted not to raise the issue that had been bothering him, that it wasn’t he that had earned this reward, but Caroline.
“It has not happened yet,” he cautioned.
“It will.” She pondered his news as he poured them a glass of wine. He handed her a glass and raised his to make a toast.
“Here’s to Lord and Lady Granger.”
She laughed as they clinked glasses, and then drank to their own hoped-for success. “Is that what you plan to be called?”
“I think so. Do you like it?” He was suddenly self-conscious about his decision.
“I guess it depends on what title they give you,” Caroline mused. “If it is a barony, they would probably give you Ryde, since you own the land and it has a title appended to it.”
“In which case, you think I should style myself as Lord Ryde?” Granger asked.
“I think they will do better than that,” she said. “I think if you are a Viscount, you should go with Granger. If they make you an earl, I think you should choose Brentwood. This estate is so large and prosperous it could easily support a marquisate.”
“Be realistic,” Granger chided. “They will not make me an earl.”
“The King likes you,” she observed, defending the possibility. “So does most of the Royal family.”
“And how do you know this?”
“I have had letters,” she said mysteriously. Letters from Gloucester, no doubt. Granger tried not to let that irritate him, since he’d all but given the man permission to fuck his wife, but it wasn’t easy.
“Did those letters tell you that Gloucester spoke with me at Windsor?” he asked.
Her eyes bulged. “What did he say? He didn’t offend you, did he George? If he did, I will completely sever all ties with him.”
He held up his hand to calm her. “He was actually quite pleasant, and apologized for being so boorish.” He was surprised she didn’t know that.
“I am relieved,” she said.
“You care for him that much?” Granger demanded, on one of the rare occasions that he let the words slip out of his mouth without fully thinking about them first.
“I care for him, but that is not why I am relieved. I love you, George. It pains me when he is rude to you, because that makes my offense that much worse.”
He smiled at her lovingly. “I told him that it was not your relationship that I objected to, but the way it was conducted.”
Her mouth fell open at that, and the meaning behind it. He had told her that she could continue her affair if she was discrete. She finally got her wits about her. “We shall see.”
“Not me,” Granger said. “By then, I’ll be in the South Seas, being entertained by native women and eating strange fruits.”
“You will probably get a stomach malady from the fruit, and the French disease from the women,” she said, pretending to pout.
“You can get the French disease without having intercourse?” he asked, affirming his pledge not to sleep with other women.
“George, how would I know about such things as the French disease?” she asked coquettishly, pretending to be naïve. “You will be lucky to avoid such entanglements.”
“Perhaps, but I will still have to keep my wits about me. Guess who I am taking to replace Bertie, at least as it stands now?”
“Freddie,” she guessed, referring to Granger’s oldest brother. “Then he can take that whore of a wife with him, and she can die of some tropical pox.”
“I am sure that if Davina did go to the Moluccas, she’d be so horrible even the diseases would stay away from her,” he said.
“That is probable,” she smiled. “Who then?”
“Arthur,” he answered. “I am to take an unhinged man halfway around the world and deposit him in front of my brother as his replacement.”
“That would appear to be a challenge,” she said, appreciating how tough that would be. “How will you keep Arthur away from all your men?”
“I think I will not try. I think I’ll let him loose on them, to keep them alert,” Granger joked, even though he was very concerned about that very topic. “I am hoping he brings someone with him to keep him satisfied.”
“It does not sound as if this will be a pleasure cruise,” she observed wryly.
“I expected nothing less than this,” Granger said. He had resigned himself to this whole voyage being one continuous nightmare. “Arthur will be foul company on the way there, and then Bertie will be foul company on the way home. And I will have to share my cabin with them. I will have significantly less room.” She laughed at his faked petulance at the end of his statement.
“Perhaps you can add a deck while you are floating about on the ocean?”
“We shall see,” he said. “I asked His Majesty if he would grant you permission to join me in London as we commission Bacchante.”
That really excited her, the possibility that she need not spend her entire pregnancy in the country. “And what did he say?”
“He said that the occasional visit would not offend him,” Granger relayed.
“That is wonderful, George. Thank you so much.”
“We will be warping Bacchante out into the Thames soon. I am anxious for you to see her.”
“How delightful!” Caroline exclaimed.
“Speaking of delightful,” Granger said as he leered at his wife. She giggled, and he led her up to their room and made love to her, and it truly was delightful. He spent the rest of the day spending time with her, and with their children, enjoying the life of a country gentleman. Granger decided that while it was certainly pleasant, it was also decidedly dull.
April 12, 1797
Granger sat at his dining room table, eating dinner. He was trying to decide what to do with the rest of his day, and was spending much too much time laboring over the possibilities. Part of him wanted to go out and enjoy the company of others. He could certainly go to Carlton House, and there were numerous other parties and gatherings which he could attend. It may be useful to get out among those who were influential; who may be able to give him some insight into what awaited him tomorrow. On the other hand, he was very nervous about tomorrow’s meeting. He knew that to show any sign of that in public would be a major faux pas, so part of him wished merely to be here at home. With Caroline and the children still at Brentwood, it was remarkably quiet and peaceful. And boring.
It seemed ironic that Granger had just pondered the relative calm of his home, when that calm would be interrupted, presumably by a visitor. Granger felt his pulse racing, hoping that it was someone exciting. He knew that his staff would turn away anyone inappropriate. Cheevers appeared moments later, carrying a calling card on a silver platter. “There is a Mr. John Nash to see you, Sir George.”
He’d almost forgotten about Nash, and his encounter with the man on the Isle of Wight. They had reached a tentative agreement such that Nash would design and supervise the construction of a house for him near East Cowes, and in exchange, Granger would deed some acreage to Nash for his own home. “Please show him back, and bring an extra plate so he may join me.”
“Yes, Sir George,” Cheevers said. He left and Granger stood up, walking over to the mirror to check his appearance. He noticed a maid hurriedly set a place for Nash, then leave. As soon as she was gone, Cheevers ushered Nash in. He was a truly excellent butler.
“Mr. Nash, welcome!” Granger said enthusiastically.
“I must apologize for interrupting your dinner,” Nash said sincerely.
“And as you can see from the other plate here, I was clearly expecting you,” Granger said. He was in a good mood, and really pouring on his charm, primarily because he was bored and relished the interruption of Nash’s visit.
Nash smiled and joined him. “I am sorry I have been remiss in calling on you. I wanted some time to think of plans for you, and I was detained in Wales.”
“That is quite alright. I have been busy as well,” Granger said, as he poured a glass of wine for Nash.
“I had planned to build a more medieval structure for my own home, complete with crenellations and the like. I was originally of a mind to do the same for you,” Nash said. Granger smiled inwardly at the typical arrogance of a master craftsman, someone who expected his ideas to be fully adopted without question.
“But you have changed your mind on that?”
“I have,” Nash said firmly. “I have heard rumors of your baths. They are quite the talk of the town.”
“I suspect that some of that talk is positive, and some is otherwise,” Granger allowed with his trademark smile.
“That is most definitely true,” Nash said, smiling back. It was really impossible to resist George Granger’s charm.
“When one is at sea for long periods of time, surrounded by saltwater which permeates everything, there is nothing as luxurious as allowing fresh water to leach the salt out of one’s system.”
“Now that you put it that way, Sir George, I can readily see the attraction,” Nash mused.
“Perhaps after dinner you would like to try them?” Granger asked. Nash was a nice enough man, but certainly not attractive. Granger almost giggled at the thought that this may be the first platonic bath he’d had with another man. But it was not to be.
“I must sadly decline, Sir George. I find myself occupied for much of the rest of the day.”
“Well, another time then,” Granger said, pretending to be disappointed. “So what did you plan for Cowes?”
“I was thinking that by making the baths a central theme, we should adopt a more Roman style.” He pulled out his portfolio and showed Granger some sketches.
“This is truly remarkable, Mr. Nash,” Granger said, his feelings genuine and his flattery sincere. “You have created a Roman look within neo-classical structures.”
Nash raised his eyebrow. “A most astute observation, Sir George. And I must thank you for your kind words.”
“I am most pleased with your concept. I am thinking that after we finish dining, I can at least show you the baths, so you may better incorporate something similar into your plans.”
“Then we are of a like mind,” Nash said happily. They applied themselves to eating.
“I fear that you will have a free hand with this project. I hope that does not cause you discomfort,” Granger said, knowing that this man would be more than happy to be left to his own devices.
“Not at all, Sir George. I am confident that I can adequately create the structure you want.”
“I am to be sent around the world, as it were,” Granger said dramatically. “I fear I will be gone for at least a year, and truth be known, I will be lucky to return from the foul climate of the tropics.”
“I think your concern is genuine, but I am confident you will make it back, Sir George. And when you do, your new home will be completed and waiting for you.”
“Thank you, Mr. Nash. It is definitely something to look forward to.”
“Who will I work with on details, such as cash disbursements?” Nash asked delicately.
“I have explained my plans to Lady Granger, and she will cover any expenses that you need. I fear I should caution you, though. She is much more involved in such projects than I am.” He smiled, and Nash smiled back. “I will make sure she knows my vision, and yours. I think you will enjoy working with her.”
“She supervised the redesign of this home, did she not?” Nash asked, looking around at the beautiful woodwork and tasteful design of the room.
“She did, indeed.”
“Then she and I will have no problems working together,” he said, quite a compliment to Caroline.
“I would pass that comment on, Mr. Nash, but I think it would be better coming from you. Perhaps you would be willing to travel to Brentwood to see her other creation, and to enjoy the country? You would be most welcome there.”
“That would be wonderful, Sir George,” he said. “I will correspond with Lady Granger about that, if it meets with your approval.”
“Most certainly,” Granger said. They finished dining, and he led Nash down to show him the baths, which impressed the Welshman immensely. Cheevers detailed some footmen to show them the heating mechanisms, along with the devices designed to collect and replace the water.
“These are certainly modern marvels,” Nash said, impressed. He left after that, and Granger opted to indulge in a bath, since they were all warmed up anyway, and he had nowhere else to go.
He had just entered the water, letting his body sink into the bathing pool, which had non-soapy water in it, when Cheevers entered. Granger tried not to grin as Cheevers tried not to stare through the clear water at Granger’s naked body, and at his dick, which was already plumping. “Sir George, you have a caller. Captain Somers, of the Royal Marines.”
Granger swallowed hard at that, and weighed whether or not to receive him. He was vexed with Somers for his conduct on their voyage home, for all but stealing Sir Phillip Kerry away from him, and leaving him quite isolated. Then again, based on Cavendish’s revelations about Kerry’s character, perhaps that was inevitable anyway. Besides, Granger was bored, and Somers was good company, and a good fuck. “Please show him back.”
Somers came into the bathing room with a strange expression on his face. It was partly sheepish, acknowledging that he’d behaved badly with Sir Phillip; partly sly, acknowledging the inherent lust he had for Granger and that Granger had for him; and partly sad, knowing that he’d damaged this friendship that was important to him. “Welcome, Captain,” Granger said formally. “If you are not averse to shedding that splendid red coat of yours, perhaps you would like to join me.”
Somers’ strange expression vanished, replaced with the smooth façade of a courtier. “Nothing would give me greater pleasure,” Somers said with a leer. He disappeared into the changing room and emerged with almost indecent haste. Granger watched his body, so firm and fit, with his big dick dangling over his nice balls, as he walked over to the baths and stepped in. He was trying to be seductive, and that almost made Granger chuckle.
“So what brings you here?” Granger asked. Somers moved closer to him, so that his leg brushed against Granger’s.
“You are vexed with me.”
“And you have come to see if you can set that right?” Granger asked.
“Not at all. You are quite attractive when you are vexed,” Somers said, flirting. “I have come to admire you in that state.”
Granger laughed. “And you are so charming that you have destroyed the entire effect.”
“If I told you I am sorry, would you forgive me?” Somers asked sincerely. Granger could see into his eyes now, and see that he meant it, and that there was pain there with the sincerity. “I am, you know.”
“If you told me that, I would forgive you,” Granger said, moving closer to Somers.
“I am so sorry,” Somers said. Granger slid onto Somers lap and wrapped his legs around the handsome marine, then leaned in and kissed him.
“Prove it,” Granger ordered. He led Somers out of the bathing pool and into the cleaning pool, where the soapy water served as an excellent lubricant. He positioned himself back on Somers lap and lowered himself down on the man’s big dick, reveling at how good he felt as he filled Granger up. They moved slowly at first, with both of them adapting to the exquisite feel of their coupling, but then their desire became more urgent.
Somers had a way about him, a way of making love, that was so urgent and intense it was almost violent. He pushed Granger onto his back, forcing Granger to put his arms over the edge of the tub to keep himself above water. Somers pushed Grangers legs back as far as they would go and re-entered him, going slowly and lovingly, but once he was inside Granger, he gave his body free rein. He fucked Granger, pounded him, for what seemed like a blissful eternity, until Granger’s body could take no more stimulation. Granger cried out, although not so loudly as to disturb the servants, and he came, blasting his load into the soapy water. He felt Somers stiffen as he was finishing his own orgasm, and watched in awe as the handsome marine growled as Granger had and blasted his seed deep inside Granger. Sated, they collapsed back into the soapy water, saying nothing, until they finally went back to the bathing pool to rinse off.
“I have rarely been forgiven in such a pleasant manner,” Somers said, smiling.
“You are such a gifted lover,” Granger said, stroking his male ego. They floated about, saying nothing, trying to rebuild the bond they’d had before. On board Belvidera, Somers had been a trusted friend, a man that Granger could unbend with and share his personal thoughts and fears. And Somers had been so cultured and skilled at being his friend in private, and his loyal subordinate in public, that it had merely solidified their bond. Then Sir Phillip Kerry had come along and blown their relationship apart. “There have been so many times that I have come to you for counsel, can you not do the same for me?”
Somers looked at him oddly. “I am not sure what you are talking about.”
“You most certainly are,” Granger said. He could see the pain lurking beneath the surface. They floated longer, as Somers realized that it would not be possible to fully repair their friendship if he was unwilling to be forthcoming.
“I fear my cousin has a very unpleasant tendency,” Somers said. “One that you are well aware of.”
“You mean his willingness to pledge his undying love to a man one minute, and then to seemingly disregard that pledge the next, as he goes on to the next person who has captured his fancy?”
“Yes, that one,” Somers said.
“And you have been replaced?” Granger asked.
“He has been linked with Arthur Teasdale again, and they are all but inseparable.”
Granger eyed him carefully. “Sir Phillip has been with Arthur before.”
“He does that as well. He will return to a lover who will forgive him, but the pattern will repeat.”
“Did you know of his ways before?” Granger asked.
Somers read the context in Granger’s question, the implicit demand as to why Somers had not warned him of Kerry if he’d known. “I did not truly realize them until I experienced them first hand. I think you must be fair to me, though, and acknowledge that even if I had, it would not have deterred you from falling for him.”
Granger thought about that, and grinned. “It is possible you are right.”
“Possible?” Somers asked with a grin.
“Kerry was ordered to attend to Arthur. He has become unhinged, and Kerry was to keep him in line. Are you sure this is not just an extension of those orders?” Somers was a member of the Brotherhood too, so there was no harm in disclosing the situation to him.
“That was the excuse he gave me as he left my bed, but he has yet to return, and has spent all of his time with Arthur. I suspect that he has allowed his fickle nature to rule him. In this case, it may not be a bad thing.”
“So now you are alone again,” Granger said.
“Not right now,” Somers said, grinning.
“So why did you come here?”
“My first motive was to set things right with us. You are my best friend, George. I betrayed you, and I had to at least ask for your forgiveness.”
“You have achieved that goal,” Granger said, giving him absolution. Granger noted that Somers had stolen his man away from him, but he found it easy to overlook that. That said more about Granger’s feelings toward Kerry than Somers’ actions. Somers had not, to his knowledge, betrayed him by revealing private information. That would have made such a reconciliation impossible.
“I was also lonely, and I thought you might be as well.”
“And you have solved that problem as well,” Granger said, smiling.
“And I am wondering if you would allow me to be posted to Bacchante?”
Granger stared at him, really surprised by that. “You should be promoted and posted to a ship-of-the-line,” Granger said honestly. “You have earned it. You deserve it.” He had already begun thinking of ways to make that happen, when Somers interrupted him.
“I have had a homecoming that is not unlike yours, although certainly not as complicated. I appreciate your efforts, and perhaps after this commission, I will do as you suggest. But I would like the opportunity to make this voyage with you.”
“To the tropics? We will be lucky if half of us live to tell of it,” Granger said, reminding him of the odds.
“I have personally found serving with you to be most lucrative, so that is also a possible outcome,” Somers smiled.
“At some point, my luck with prize money must certainly run out.”
“Must it?” Somers challenged.
“It must, if only because every other officer in the fleet will hate me if it does not.”
“Then you can simply buy your own fleet,” Somers joked, making them both laugh.
“I would be pleased to have you on board,” Granger acquiesced. “I must caution you about one thing, though.” Somers looked at him quizzically but said nothing. “There is a likely chance that Arthur will replace my brother as governor, and that we will be escorting him to the Moluccas. His likely consort will be Sir Phillip.”
“So I will be cooped up with him for some months,” Somers mused.
“And we must do nothing to sever the bond between him and Arthur, lest Arthur lose what is left of his mind. There is also the chance that he will redirect his lust at you.”
“I hear he is quite an adept lover,” Somers said, raising an eyebrow.
“Most definitely,” Granger agreed. “But he comes with considerable emotional baggage. You may want to ponder that before you allow your dick to lead you down that path.”
Somers laughed. “You may be right. I will of course conduct myself as you direct.”
“Of course,” Granger said, but implying that Somers may not. “You will like the new ship.”
“I will have to go see her tomorrow. In the meantime, if you will allow me to leave, I must call on a certain young lady.”
“I have not worn you out?” Granger teased.
“I fear this encounter will not be satisfying in that regard. Rather, my family desires to marry me off, and I must go and show the lady in question that I am not a boorish idiot.”
“Good luck with that,” Granger teased. He watched Somers get out of the baths and dress, then he bid him farewell, while remaining in the water himself. He loved fresh water, and let it leech all the stress out of his body. Just as he was preparing to emerge himself, Cheevers interrupted him.
“Lord Frederick Cavendish is here, Sir George.”
Granger didn’t bother to hide his smile. “Please show him back.”
Cheevers returned quickly with Freddy behind him. He nodded to both men, and then exited from the rooms, leaving Granger alone with Cavendish. Granger got out of the water, smiling at Cavendish’s lustful looks as he eyed Granger’s body. “Perhaps you would care to join me?”
Cavendish stripped down, and they followed much the same pattern as Granger had just experienced with Somers, only Granger penetrated Freddy, and because these two men truly loved each other, their coupling was so much more spectacular.
“I have been freed from my bondage,” Cavendish said playfully as they rinsed off.
“When did this happen?”
“Just today,” he said.
“And you came straight here.”
“Where else would I go?” Cavendish asked. “This is where I belong.”
Granger smiled at him. “Yes it is. I will feed you, and then you will spend the night.”
“Is that an order?” he asked, being cheeky.
“It most certainly is, Lieutenant,” Granger said gruffly.
“Aye aye sir,” Cavendish said, and sat on Granger’s lap playfully. “I love you so much.”
“I love you too,” Granger said.
“Are you ready for tomorrow?” Cavendish asked.
“And what is in store for me?” Granger asked.
“I cannot reveal His Majesty’s plans,” Cavendish said. “My loyalty is first and foremost to my sovereign.”
“Are you sure?” Granger asked, as he reached down and stroked Cavendish’s dick.
“You are as tempting as the devil,” Cavendish said, smiling, “but I am sure.”
“Still, I am relaxed about it now.”
“And why is that?”
“If it were bad news, or something I should be worried about, I know you would warn me,” Granger said.
“You are right to relax,” Cavendish said with a smile, validating Granger’s conclusion.