Before Wisteria had even reached the lawn, she regretted the bluntness of her words. Nikola never minded when she was straightforward, but what must Lord Comfrey think of her? He had been so circumspect with her these last several months, and her speech was so wanton – she was sure even her husband thought it strange that she would enjoy watching two men be intimate. But I couldn’t let them believe I would be full of moral outrage at their actions. Could I? Perhaps I should have left it at “I do not mind” and not explained the why.
She crossed the lawn to the gazebo, an edifice with waist-high stone walls and the upper half an open-air wooden frame with a tiled roof. Workers had replaced the decaying wickerwork a couple of months ago, and re-tiled the roof so that it looked like new again. The seats and backs of the interior stone benches were now covered with weatherproof cushions. Wisteria took a seat inside and fretted. Do I not mind? Or did I only think it all right when I was able to watch? Did Nikola ask me to leave so they could resume without an audience? Wisteria imagined the two men reviling her as soon as she was out of earshot, for spying upon them and for having such perverse desires. It made a depressing image, and would not be the first time her manners had been despised. But surely they would not judge me harshly when their own desires are atypical. Would they? And if Nikola thought me out of line he would tell me. That was reassuring. But would Lord Comfrey? Lord Comfrey had not been himself that entire interview; even I could tell that. He hardly spoke. It’s not like him to be so quiet.
Preoccupied with anxious thoughts, she did not notice the two men returning until they were almost to the gazebo. Wisteria rose to greet them. “Hello, my lords.” They were both smiling as they approached. That has to be a good sign, right? Lord Comfrey was not smiling when we spoke earlier. They still looked damp and rumpled, although they had put themselves back in some order: Nikola had tied back his hair, while Lord Comfrey had exchanged his fraying clubbed hair style for a simple ponytail. Lord Comfrey had also fixed the shirt he’d buttoned on crookedly earlier. Her husband motioned for the raven-haired lord to precede him into the gazebo.
The viscount bowed to her as he stepped through the entryway and stood before her. “Mrs. Striker.” He paused, glancing to her husband. Nikola made an encouraging motion. Lord Comfrey cleared his throat. “This is going to be a hideously awkward moment to regain my senses, I’ll have you know.”
Nikola’s smile widened. “You’re not crazy, Comfrey. You have my professional word on it.”
“That would be more reassuring were it not exactly what I’d expect from a demon-induced hallucination,” Lord Comfrey said, making her husband chuckle.
“My lords?” Wisteria resumed her seat, perplexed.
“Never mind.” Comfrey sat sideways on the bench before her, so close they were almost touching. He took her hand, his thumb caressing her knuckles. “My dear Mrs. Striker, my friend Lord Nikola and I have been speaking most bluntly, a pastime at which you know I have no skill. I have confessed that I once proposed to you and believed you to find the offer – ah, to be more blunt still, my person – attractive. Would you say that was accurate, my dear? It is quite all right to answer, I promise.”
“…you know it is, my lord.” Wisteria was still confused. His manner was more like himself again, but something about this made her uneasy. She glanced at Nikola and he smiled at her, giving a small nod.
“And do you yet feel this attraction?” Lord Comfrey asked in a rush.
“Yes?” She was still looking at Nikola. “Is this a problem, my lord? I know Lord Comfrey isn’t int—”
She was interrupted as Lord Comfrey captured her face in his hands and kissed her with a dizzying passion. “Lord Comfrey,” he told her when he paused for breath, “is expert at feigning a disinterest that has nothing whatsoever to do with his real inclinations.”
“…oh.” She gazed at his eyes, so dark and intense, feeling lost.
Nikola poked his friend’s side. “You were supposed to ask her first.”
“May I kiss you again, Mrs. Striker?” Lord Comfrey asked, one hand still cradling her cheek.
“Um.” She wanted to say yes but she wasn’t sure she was supposed to. She glanced to her husband, standing a few feet away from them. “Is this a test, my lord?”
Nikola shook his head. “No! More of…er…an experiment?” He moved to sit behind her as she faced Lord Comfrey; Nikola’s arms slid around her waist and held her close in the way he only did when they were alone. “This was my idea. There’s no wrong answer.” Nikola dipped his head to nuzzle the side of her neck, kissing her nape. “I know it sounds absurd, but I thought—”
“We thought,” Lord Comfrey interjected.
“—we thought that if you enjoyed watching us, you might enjoy…doing…more. With us. Both of us.”
“Were we mistaken, my dear?” Lord Comfrey asked. “I did mention that I’ve gone delusional, did I not?”
“He’s joking,” Nikola clarified.
“He thinks I’m joking. In any case, I am very serious about wanting to kiss you but do not wish to press—”
Wisteria looped her hands behind Lord Comfrey’s neck and pulled him to her for another kiss. He moved with her, pressing her back against Nikola as his shirt-clad chest brushed against hers. One of his hands dropped to her thigh for balance as his tongue slipped between parted lips to explore her mouth. She could feel Nikola’s teeth raking over the skin of her neck, hands stroking her stomach. “Yes,” she said, when she was capable of speech again. “Please.”
Lord Comfrey chuckled, kissing a line down her face and neck until he intercepted Nikola over her shoulder and kissed him as well. His hands drifted up her torso to caress the slight curves of her breasts and prompt her to arch into his touch. They continued their exploration up to the collar of Wisteria’s dress, and hesitated before undoing the top button. He sat back, drawing a shuddering breath. “Perhaps…we ought continue this somewhere more comfortable. And private.”
“Mmm.” Wisteria had her eyes half-closed, hands wandering the considerable breadth of Lord Comfrey’s muscular shoulders. “Whatever you wish, my lords.”
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