A Country House Party

By dinnertime Terence Lavers was wondering why he’d ever agreed to join the weekend party on Sir Peter’s country estate. He’d been intrigued by tales of luxury and a style of living which had gone out of fashion with the disappearance of domestic service, but he soon found the opulence oppressive and the hovering servants intrusive. When he returned to his room after the day’s shooting, he immediately dismissed the manservant who had laid out his evening dress and was waiting solicitously to run his bath and help him dress. As the man executed a barely perceptible bow and withdrew from the bedroom Terence turned to check the whereabouts of his belongings, feeling an irrational irritation that a stranger had unpacked his bags.

The hoped for social networking had failed to materialise on the pheasant shoot, the majority of the participants being what Terence characterised as old bores. With no opportunity to make useful business contacts he’d concentrated on his shooting, making a substantial contribution to the day’s bag. Not that his marksmanship had won him any friends. His single mindedness had been regarded as somewhat unsporting and his silence had been interpreted as standoffishness. But the shooting was something to do, a way to pass an otherwise empty Saturday.

Knowing that more guests were expected for dinner, Terence hoped that the company would be livelier. It hadn’t escaped his attention that Sir Peter did not adhere to the customary practice of matching the number of men and women at a country house party. The gathering was almost exclusively male and, if the rumours of Sir Peter’s tastes were to be believed, the average age of the party at dinner was likely to be considerably lower than it had been on the shoot. Terence had no serious hope of a romantic encounter but, nonetheless, he took extra care getting ready and stood to survey himself critically in the full length mirror before the dinner gong sounded.

His cropped, dark hair, still slightly damp from the bath, framed his tanned features. He raised his hands to make a slight adjustment to the black bow tie which he still wasn’t used to tying himself. It was in such moments that he could still be caught unawares, recalling the little things which Len always used to do for him. Firmly shaking off melancholy thoughts, he swiftly brushed the shoulders of his dinner jacket, turning to check that it lay smoothly around his slim hips. Satisfied with his appearance, he bent to put on his dress shoes, oblivious to the powerful impact made by his broad, six foot two frame clad in a formal black suit.

But it was an impact not lost on the young man seated opposite Terence at dinner. Julian Cleverley was a regular at Sir Peter’s gatherings, travelling down at the weekend with his boss who sometimes needed the services of a PA when out of the office. As far as Julian was concerned he was there primarily to work, with a bit of rest and relaxation thrown in. Although he was aware that assignations were made during these weekends, he had steered clear of any pairing up and politely deflected the occasional advances made towards him. The truth of the matter was that he didn’t want to become embroiled with anyone through work. He wanted to keep his private life separate from the interests of his employer and he’d not been introduced to any ambitious city type with whom he wished to become more intimately acquainted.

However, when Terence Lavers took the seat opposite him on the long dining table his gaze was immediately drawn to the broad shoulders and handsome features of a man he judged to be in his late thirties. He kept stealing glances at his dining companion from beneath his long fringe of blonde hair but he needn’t have worried about being thought overly curious. The man seemed unaware of his presence, either lost in his own thoughts or responding courteously to comments made by the diners seated on either side of him. Eventually Julian took advantage of a lull in the conversation to attract Terence’s attention.

“Is this your first visit here? I don’t think I’ve seen you at Sir Peter’s house parties before.”

Terence looked up and took Julian’s measure at once. He saw a startlingly good looking young man with a confident manner, bordering on the playful. “No, I don’t come here often,” he answered mechanically, making clear that he recognised the clichéd pick up line. It’s my first visit and probably my last.”

Julian wasn’t to be so easily silenced. “That’s a shame,” he retorted. “You can meet some interesting people in the country.”

“I’m not much of a one for rural pursuits.”

Sir Peter, seated at the head of the table, overheard Terence’s comment and loudly voiced his dissent. “Nonsense! You’re a crack shot, old man. A real asset in the field today. You’re welcome here any time.”

“Thank you, sir,” responded Terence politely. “I enjoyed the shoot and would gladly come again.” His insincere assurance pleased his host but drew a knowing grin from Julian. Terence realised with some surprise that his true feelings had been easily read and his interest in the young man deepened. “I take it you’re a regular here,” he said quietly. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”

“Julian Cleverley. Not that much of a regular. I’m here with my boss who’s doing business with Sir Peter. We’re probably here five or six times a year.”

“I suppose a weekend away is a treat for you.”

“Not really,” replied Julian honestly. “I’d much rather be clubbing in London. Most of these men aren’t my type. Things might be looking up this weekend, though,” he added with a mischievous smile.

That settled a question which was beginning to form in Terence’s mind. Julian was making clear that he was available and that he was definitely interested. However, he looked very young and boyishly innocent. Terence reckoned that he must still be in his early twenties, definitely too young to take up with a man nearly twenty years older than himself and most certainly not a candidate for a weekend fling. “I’m glad you think so,” he replied, deliberately ignoring the invitation in Julian’s response. “I can’t see that there’ll be much entertainment once dinner’s over. I’m planning to get an early night and to get away before lunchtime tomorrow.”

Julian’s crestfallen expression revealed his disappointment at such a clear rejection but he was determined not to give up without a fight. There was something about the reserve of the taciturn man sitting opposite which piqued his interest, to say nothing of the appeal of such brooding good looks. He set himself to be an interesting companion for the rest of the meal, berating himself for making the first move too early in their acquaintance. Where an open invitation had failed, he hoped to win Terence’s interest by the wit and erudition of his conversation.

Julian had every reason to rely on his own talents. When he put his mind to it, he made an interesting and lively conversationalist. Almost before he realised it, Terence found himself laughing at Julian’s tales of mistakes and cover ups at work as well as gasping at shocking anecdotes about some of Sir Peter’s guests, the latter delivered sotto voce. It actually came as a disappointment when the dinner ended and guests began to drift towards the smoking room, making up fours for cards or challenging one another to a game of billiards.

With polite words about the need for an early night Terence excused himself from the party and headed across the hallway to the carved oak staircase which led to the guest wing. He was a trifle disconcerted when Julian made to follow him but he had to admire the young man for his persistence. Nonetheless, he walked upstairs in resolute silence and bade Julian a formal good night when he reached his bedroom, noticing, before he closed his door, that Julian’s room was just two doors down from his own. Just to avoid any misunderstandings or unpleasantness, Terence gently turned the key in the lock before he undressed and made ready for bed.

The unaccustomed country air must have taken its toll during the day’s shoot because Terence fell almost at once into a deep and dreamless sleep. Consequently, he awoke with a start and a sense of disorientation when he heard a scrabbling outside his door. Something about the quality of the light filtering around the heavy curtains convinced him that it was close to dawn but when he leant over to consult his alarm clock he saw that it was still only 5.00 am, far too soon for the servants to be about. He swung his legs out of bed and shouldered into the silk dressing gown which Sir Peter provided for the use of his guests. Then he unlocked the door and peered into the corridor, hardly crediting the sight which met his eyes.

In the grey light of dawn Julian Cleverley’s flawless white skin gleamed like the marble statues in the downstairs gallery. And he was just as naked, and just as beautiful, as Sir Peter’s life sized statue of the Greek god, Apollo. Terence was viewing him from behind as the young man made his rather unsteady way along the corridor and, just for a moment, Terence was transfixed in admiration of the slight indentation which ran down his spine, ending at the glorious swell of globe-like buttocks. Then he began running after Julian, alerted by his unnatural movements that something must be wrong. As he came alongside he realised that the young man was gazing fixedly ahead, occasionally bumping his shoulder against the oak panelling of the gallery but seemingly unaware of his surrounding or the presence of an observer. When he reached the end of the gallery he turned slightly as though confused and, under the stronger light from the window, his flesh appeared golden, the shadows highlighting the powerful muscles of his abdomen and thighs.

Terence was just reaching out a tentative hand to guide the sleep walker gently back to bed when he caught just the flicker of movement in the young man’s eyes. Julian hadn’t been able to resist one glance to assess the impact of his performance on the man he hoped to ensnare. Terence let his arm drop and instead addressed Julian in quiet, measured tones.

“Very nice,” he said admiringly but with just a hint of sarcasm. “Not an inch of body fat and beautifully toned muscles. I take it you work out regularly to get that level of definition across your hips.”

There was no response, just a glassy stare, resolutely maintained.

Terence lifted his arm again and placed his hand squarely in the middle of Julian’s chest. “Too bad you took the decision to put your wares on display like this,” he remarked as he ran his thumb down Julian’s breastbone, stopping briefly at his navel before continuing along the dark treasure trail. “I was beginning to like you until you descended to subterfuge and vulgarity.”

As he spoke that final word Terence’s hand enveloped Julian genitals which had been thrust invitingly forward. But it wasn’t the unexpected grasp which broke Julian’s pose but the hint of disappointment in Terence’s tone as he admitted that he’d begun to like the young man. Julian turned away in embarrassment as Terence released him and stepped back. All pretence now dropped, Julian pressed his knuckle to his eye in a gesture which was both childish and endearing. He found he couldn’t face Terence as the stupidity of what he’d just done was borne in on him.

If Julian had attempted to defend himself, or even to apologise, Terence knew he would probably have walked away. But there was something about the boy’s nakedness, vulnerability and distress which spoke powerfully to a part of his personality which had lain dormant for too long.

“Come with me,” he ordered, putting a comforting arm around Julian’s shivering shoulders. “You’re about to find out what happens to young men who throw themselves so disgracefully into my clutches.” The smile he bestowed on Julian, who had looked up in wonderment, took some of the menace out of his words. There remained enough of a threat, however, for Julian to shiver again but not, this time, with cold but with a mixture of delight and apprehension. He leant against Terence and accompanied him meekly back to his bedroom.