lili_pad ([info]lili_pad) wrote on August 31st, 2012 at 10:47 pm
Our Scandalous Days Behind Us
Title: Our Scandalous Days Behind Us
Author: [info]lilithilien
Fandom/Characters: Downton Abbey, Lady Mary/Matthew Crawley, Mrs Hughes/Mr Carson, Daisy Mason/OMC, Lady Edith/Miss O’Brien, Anna Smith/Lord Grantham
Word Count: 5100 words
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: Light bondage, spanking, strap ons, wanking, male prostitution (in drag), bathtub sexytiemz, and repressed upper crust discussions of virginity.
Summary: Mary and Matthew are glad that Downton Abbey’s scandals are over.
Disclaimer: Downton Abbey does not belong to me. If it did, there would be no post-amnesiac Canadian accent ever.
A/N: I had something completely different (and completely manageable) in mind for BBTP until [info]aldiara and I started discussing what would have to happen on Downton Abbey to reignite our interest. (Hint: Hauling Shirley Maclaine off the slag heap so we can all laugh haughtily at the gauche Americans is not going to cut it.) Needless to say, this happened. Endless thanks to [info]aldiara for listening to endless complaints about how stupid I was to choose a fic with so many sex scenes, and for beta-ing at the very last minute.


Our Scandalous Days Behind Us

Lady Mary paused, the nub of her pen frozen on the letter she was writing to her sister, and sighed plaintively. “Oh, Matthew, darling, are you sure it doesn’t bother you?”

Her fiancé, hard at work over some papers or other, looked up with a concerned frown. “What doesn’t bother me?” Noticing Mary’s blush, he asked, “Are we talking about your scandalous past again?”

“It’s just all so perfectly horrid. And now that Sybil’s away with Branson, it seems this house will never see an end to the gossip.”

“My dear,” said Matthew offhandedly, realising they were once again to embark on this discussion of his wife-to-be’s foibles; it was one he now knew by heart, “it is hardly your fault if the neighbours have nothing else to gossip about. Since the end of the war, their lives have been dull – I’ve just spent the last two hours reviewing a pasturing dispute. God help them, they need something to talk about. Why, if they could, I’m sure they’d create some scandal about Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes, just to entertain themselves.”

“Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes?” Shaken momentarily from her own concerns, Mary laughed. “Really, Matthew. I’m sure I can’t imagine either of them doing anything inappropriate.”

~~~~~

“More, Mrs Hughes, please…”

Charlie Carson let out a keening moan as the riding crop stilled on his naked flesh. He was rewarded with a stinging rap on his reddened skin.

“Who decides when you get more, Mr Carson?”

“You do, Mrs Hughes. I’m sorry, Mrs Hughes.”

The apology was as was well worn as the crop, but Elsie Hughes never failed to feel a thrill at hearing it. More than thirty years had passed since she and Mr Crawley’s newest valet had discovered a mutual interest in what she’d only known then as “sexual perversions.” Now she knew what to call them, and she knew it was much easier to keep them secret if they were given an outlet. Tonight’s outlet was in Mrs Patmore’s larder, with the circumspect butler of Downton spread-eagled over the prep stand.

“That’s quite all right, Mr Carson. Let’s just check your binding is secure.” Elsie leaned over the table to check the restraints that held Charlie’s wrists in place. He jerked his head in surprise at the unexpected touch – he was blindfolded, a fetish that she had never understood but was happy to indulge. Charlie said it helped him get in the mind-set to relinquish control. She herself assumed the proper mind-set through her costume. On these nights when no one would see her, Elsie indulged in a fully made-up face, darkening her eyes with kohl and painting her lips a deep red the colour of overripe strawberries. In place of her usual sturdy boots, she’d chosen sleek black kid leather pumps. With a fashionable Louis heel, they gave her just enough height to shift her perspective. Her widening girth no longer accommodated the binding corset she’d once worn; nowadays she adorned herself in a sleek bathing costume that hugged her form, altered for these secret activities. Together they gave her the feeling of authority that she needed – a thoroughly different kind than she had in the daytime, in the lit rooms of the house.

When she and Mr Carson had come into the larder tonight, she had placed a long narrow box on the sideboard beside the preserves. Charlie had looked at it inquisitively, but she had turned his attentions aside. She’d shown it to no one, and had taken special care to ensure that the post had not been intercepted by Daisy, or worse, Mrs Patmore. A mysterious package covered in stamps from Paris was bound to cause a stir.

She had taken it out, though, and practised wearing it. The belt for her waist was wide and looked like it would be rough, but when she touched it the leather was so soft it almost sighed. Where it passed between her legs, it fit comfortably, not rubbing at all. The protrusion extending from it – she could not bring herself to call it a “dildo” – looked significantly larger than it had in the advertisement. She’d wondered if it would be too much for Charlie; then again, this was the man who had once begged her to use a rolling pin before they sent to London for the requisite supplies.

“I suppose we’ll see now, won’t we?” she thought to herself, cinching the belt around her waist. With a wicked grin, she announced, “I have a surprise for you tonight…”

~~~~~

Mary had tried to continue her letter, but her nagging conscience just would not let her rest. She laid her pen to the side and walked to the fireplace. “But really, Matthew, you don’t mind that I’m not… you know…”

“A virgin?”

Her tutting was silent, but Matthew heard it just the same. “You don’t have to be so crude. I was going to say untouched.”

“My darling,” he said, sparing a moment from his ledger book, “it doesn’t matter to me in the least. When we marry, which I hope will be blessedly soon, I will reassure you of that with all my ardour.”

His melodramatic tone had the right effect; Mary smiled, amused enough to be shaken from her melancholia.

“This waiting is such a distraction. And then I think of poor Daisy, waiting in vain for her wedding night, and then it never comes.”

Matthew shook his head. “You won’t wait in vain, my dear. You won’t be like poor Daisy.”

~~~~~

The soldier looked her over, head to toe, before nodding. Once, she might have felt unnerved by his examination; at one time, she might have been relieved when he stepped away from the crowd and into a hidden alley. Until a few weeks ago, she would never have thought to follow him there.

But Thomas had been an excellent teacher. “A wink or a nod is all you’re likely to get, and you must be keen for it; it won’t come twice. Once you get close, then you can negotiate your price.”

Daisy’s eyes had gotten big. “And how much am I likely to earn, Thomas?” He’d told her before, but she needed to hear it again. Funny how thinking about an unreal amount of money could make what she was about to do seem more real.

He’d looked her over then like he was appraising her for himself. “Upwards of ten shillings, I’d say,” he offered, after a moment. “Although you shouldn’t say no to anything over five. And don’t forget our deal.”

“I won’t. Two shillings to you for each one.”

“That’s right. At least ’til you’ve paid off the clobber.” He’d grinned then and adjusted the angle of her cap. “And don’t you worry – they won’t see a girl when they look at you, not in that get-up.”

He’d been right about that, although her voice the first time she’d squeaked out “ten shillings” had almost given her away. Thomas had said it wouldn’t matter – he said that it was better to sound like her voice hadn’t changed yet – but from then on she’d remembered to deepen her voice and sound more manly. No one had ever balked at the price, which frankly surprised her more than the fact of what she was doing. Men were funny creatures, with their strange, secret urges.

Take this fellow here. He looked to be as old as Thomas; not as handsome, perhaps, but able-bodied. He’d have little trouble courting some young girl, yet here he was, leaning against the wall, waiting nervously for Daisy to take him in hand. Not that she would ever sit in judgement of whatever he needed. She knew as well as anybody that sex was a confusing, complicated thing. Somehow, turning it into a financial transaction made everything so much simpler.

“It’s ten shillings,” she said, and he reached into his pocket. She started to say that he could pay her after, but he looked so unsure of himself that she let him hand over the coins. The transaction complete, she got down to business. Her hand slipped under his jacket to undo the top button of his fly, then the next, then the next. He stood without breathing until she reached a hand in and pulled out his already stiffening flesh; then he exhaled in a gasp.

“Look at how big it is!” she exclaimed, giving it a firm tug. Men liked that, Thomas had said – both the compliments and the tugging. “Not too hard, it’s not as if you’re wringing out the laundry, but not too soft either. They’re not coming to you for a cuddle, after all.” This one seemed to appreciate it all right. He looked at her through half-closed eyes and groaned his approval.

He grew steadily in her hand; the skin bunched under her fingers at first, loose, gradually stretching and tightening as she began to stroke up and down his length. She felt a tremor in his legs, and it made Daisy wonder how many men she’d touched like this by now. Thomas would know; he kept an exact accounting in his books. It was enough that her costume should be paid off soon anyway. At first, she’d expected them to all be different – to somehow have the attributes of the men they belonged to. A tall man would have a long one, a short man a tiny one, and a handsome man… well, Daisy had yet to find an attractive one of the lot. They all seemed more or less the same, and reminded her of nothing more than the neck of a goose.

That was not to say that she didn’t enjoy doing this. There was something about pretending to be someone she wasn’t that she really liked. She guessed she could blame Mrs Patmore for that. At least nowadays she wasn’t getting anyone’s hopes up. Not in a way she couldn’t deliver, anyway.

“Will you… will you kiss it?”

Daisy shook herself back to the present. She knew what he wanted, and she didn’t mind it. She’d thought she would, back when Thomas first described what she would have to do, but she had quickly found that it was easier work than she normally did on her knees, tending the fires at the big house.

She kneeled as easily as she did on the hearthstones there and parted her lips. He was too long for her to put much in her mouth, but she had learned to get around that by lapping her tongue along the underside. “Yes, like that,” he whispered, “just like that.”

Spurred on by his encouragement, Daisy planted a long kiss on the tip of his cock. He tasted salty, like sweat, but clean enough – not like some of the military men, broiling themselves in their woollen trousers. Feeling grateful for that, she explored him more, letting her tongue flit across the rounded top, dipping down to tickle the groove underneath.

Her attentions were rewarded by moans from the man, growing ever louder as her palm slid faster along his length, and she wondered whether she should slow down or go faster to speed his climax. She had not yet had anyone so loud that they called unwanted attention to their activities, but it was something that Thomas had warned her about. He was nearby keeping watch, though, and would alert her if any police or concerned citizens wandered too close. She wondered if he watched them, too. That idea would have felt shocking not too terribly long ago. Now that she knew Thomas’ secret, and knew that he was not the least bit interested in her, the thought didn’t bother her at all.

The man gripped her shoulders and held her in place, as if she might fly away. “Faster, please, faster…” Daisy complied, bobbing her head up and down with the rhythm of her hand. It would not be much longer now; his climax rose with his panting breaths, with the weight of his cock on her bruised lips, with his thickening flesh that filled her whole mouth. When she tasted the first drabbles of it, she braced for the stream that would follow. The first time she’d done this, the sudden surge of come had surprised her so much that she’d let the man’s cock fall out of her mouth; it ended up soiling her new shirt and had been the devil to get out. Now she knew to just let it all pour out until the fellow was empty. His come ran over her tongue, thick and sour, filling her mouth completely and running down her chin.

She spit it out and wiped her mouth on her sleeve. When she stood up, the man was holding a handkerchief out to her. A real gent, this one was. She took it and dabbed her lips clean, and handed it back. “Thanks.”

He nodded, using the same cloth to wipe himself off. “What do they call you, boy?”

“William,” she said. “Name’s William.”

“Well, William, maybe I’ll see you around.”

“Maybe you will.”

The soldier left Daisy standing in the alley. After a moment she followed, the coins clinking gaily in her pocket, and set out to find Thomas.

~~~~~

Weary of his work, Matthew set his books aside and poured two glasses of sherry. “I had thought Edith might come down to join us tonight. Is she feeling unwell?”

“She said she had a headache. I asked Miss O’Brien to pour her a bath after supper.”

Matthew, about to hand Mary her glass, started in surprise. “And Miss O’Brien was willing to do that?”

“Strangely enough, yes,” said Mary. “She has been very accommodating since Mother’s been away. I imagine she’s quite bored.”

Matthew nodded. “Yes, best make use of her while she’s in this amenable mood. Pity about poor Edith though.” He took a seat opposite his fiancée on the sofa. “Has there been any recent news of Sir Anthony?”

Mary sighed. “I’m afraid not. I do worry about Edith’s prospects. She has such ghastly taste in men.”

~~~~~

“‘He can live for centuries,’” Edith read dramatically, “‘and you are but mortal woman. Time is now to be dreaded, since once he put that mark upon your throat.’ I was just in time to catch her as she fell forward in a faint…”

Sarah O’Brien shuddered and gently pried the book from Edith’s hands. “I think that’s quite enough Dracula for tonight.” Edith began a feeble protest, but Sarah plucked up the sponge floating in the water and squeezed it on Edith’s pale shoulders. “Would her Ladyship like her back washed instead?” she asked in mock subservience.

Edith, who had been comfortably settled in the crook between Miss O’Brien’s legs, leaned forward. “Her Ladyship would like that very much. And her front as well,” she laughed, snatching O’Brien’s wrist and pulling her closer, pressing her palm to the swell of her breast.

“You’re a little scamp.”

“And you love me for it, Sarah, don’t deny it.”

O’Brien was silent, letting her fingers trace slow wandering trails across Edith’s breasts. “No,” she said finally, “I don’t deny it. I wish I could, it would make life easier for both of us.”

“My lovely, practical Sarah.” Edith wiggled free of her lover’s arms and rolled over, the water buoying her up with a grace that she rarely had on dry land. “Surely I can make you forget all that for a little while.”

Water splashed against the sides of the tub as Edith slid up Sarah’s body. She hung there, hovering, an instant from Sarah’s lips, her breath warm and smelling faintly of oranges. Sarah let out an expectant sigh, but Edith’s mouth dipped to her neck instead. The response was immediate; Sarah’s head fell back, granting Edith access to that pale, vulnerable throat, while her back arched and pressed their bodies together. Edith well knew how sensitive she was there, knew how charged Sarah became when her stiff starched collar was gone and her long neck was exposed.

“If I was a vampire,” she said in an unnaturally steady voice, “I would bite you right here...” She rasped her teeth along the vein pulsing on Sarah’s neck. It seemed so alive, so opposite everything else in this stodgy house, in this backwater village. She bit down harder, sucking the skin through her teeth. It would bruise and leave a mark, she knew, one that would make Sarah think of her before she turned her high collar up.

“If you were a vampire, I would drive a stake through your heart while you slept.” But Sarah’s threat was followed by such a deep sigh of bliss that all credibility was undermined.

“No, you wouldn’t,” Edith insisted, nipping gently underneath Sarah’s chin. “I would bite you and drink your blood and then we would run away together, just the two of us.”

In response, Sarah dipped her head down to capture Edith’s lips. Her knees bent, which pulled Edith closer, their breasts slick and sliding against each other. Edith loved the soft, pillowy feel of women. She’d kissed more than a few men in her life – oh yes, Mary was not the only Crawley sister with a scandalous past – but found them too blockish, in mind and body. Men were all straight corners and right angles; women had curves that fit her own, that cradled her head when she wanted to lay it down, that opened up to her and around her. Nothing else in her life had ever done that.

Unhurriedly, Edith traversed the curve of Sarah’s throat, exploring every hollow with her tongue. She lingered on her clavicle, planting slow, sucking kisses along the bone; her hands busied themselves tracing invisible contours down her arms, up through the divide of her breasts. Her fingers where they touched Sarah’s skin left illumined droplets scattered over her stomach and dredged up streams that sluiced around their taut nipples.

Edith slid lower. The water was warm, but Sarah’s body was warmer still. A rosy bloom rose up across her chest, rising to meet Edith, radiating a heat that Edith knew came from the passion Sarah hid from everyone else. Edith wanted to rouse that passion out of her now. Her lips latched onto Sarah’s left nipple while her fingertips plucked at the right one. Her tongue rolling lazily around the hardened nub dragged deeper moans from Sarah, while a sharp nip of her teeth elicited a sharp gasp. Edith didn’t relinquish her hold; on the contrary, she pinched Sarah’s other nipple into a hard pebble. Only when Sarah’s voice had risen to a throaty keening – one that could probably be heard in the kitchens below – did Edith change sides to start all over again.

Sarah was drawing in quick, short breaths now, her chest rising and falling in heated anticipation. And when Edith’s other hand plunged beneath the water’s surface, when she felt for Sarah’s legs and felt them drift wider apart, the rhythm of their gasps matched. Edith traced the line of Sarah’s lean thigh, then reached lower. Sarah was ready for her, open and inviting. Gently at first, it began too gently, and Sarah begged for more with her moans and with her body, bearing down on Edith’s hand.

Emboldened, Edith’s touch grew stronger and more sure. She played with the button at Sarah’s entrance until it was sensitive and alert; she cupped it in her palm then as she finally pushed her long fingers inside. Sarah’s body was still warm but she was positively blazing here, and energised as if she’d gotten a jolt of electricity. Edith’s hand plunged inside her in a steadily faster rhythm.

The water in the bathtub churned like a hurricane and splashed messily over the side. The women paid it no heed. Sarah gripped the sides of the tub and held tight, pushing herself against Edith’s hand as if she wanted to take more of her inside.

Edith, although her arm tired, continued to pump relentlessly, knowing that Sarah’s ragged cries signalled her impending climax. It began with a shudder that started deep inside Sarah and rippled through her whole body. Edith, feeling the quake begin, kept her rhythm strong, steady, unceasing. It wasn’t until she felt Sarah pulsing around her hand, so hot and fierce that it might crush her, that she stopped. Sarah pulled Edith close as she rode out the feeling, letting the waves of her orgasm build and crash in between their kisses.

Finally they came to rest, only then noticing that the tub was almost empty of water, and the room around them was soaked. “Leave it,” Sarah said, before Edith could even offer to help clean it up. “I’ve got something much better in mind right now.” She pulled Edith out of the tub and into the bedroom. “And no, you won’t need your book!”

~~~~~

Satisfied with her letter, Mary set her pen aside and fanned it. “It’s such relief to think Mother will be home tomorrow. Maybe then things won’t be so dull.”

Matthew’s eyes widened, taking mock offense. “You think we’re dull? Thanks very much…”

Mary dismissed him with a wave of her hand. “Oh, you know what I mean. Sometimes I think we’re already an old settled couple, just like my parents.”

“Truly, I can’t imagine anything I long for more,” Matthew said, raising his glass. “Your father must be quite lost without her. She’s been away for quite some time.”

“Yes, I hardly know how he’s managed all these weeks. No one understands his quirks like dear Ma-ma.”

~~~~~

Anna knocked on the door. “Enter,” a voice called from inside.

“Good evening, Lord Grantham.” As she expected, the lord was seated on the bed in his silk pyjamas. She closed the door behind her and came to stand before him, carrying what looked like a pillowcase in her arms.

“Good evening, Anna. Did you bring it?”


Anna nodded solemnly and handed him the pillowcase. Lord Grantham set it on his lap, opened it, and smiled. “Yes, there you are, you little beauty.” He pulled out a long leather strap and draped it across his palm. The blade was well-worn and flexible. “You’re keeping it oiled, I see,” Lord Grantham noted.

“Mr Bates would have wanted it that way, sir.”

“Yes, Bates always did take care of his tools.” He slapped it across his hand, nodding as the sound of the smack resonated. “Oh, this brings back memories, Anna.” He fondled the strap, working the soft tanned leather between his fingertips, only stopping to quickly motion for Anna to sit on the bed beside him; she did, leaving a proper distance between them. “During the war, whenever things got really bad, Bates would get this out. ‘Sir, you need to see this,’ he’d say – he was always the height of discretion – and he’d save me from whatever tedious lieutenant I was talking to at the time. He knew, you see, that I was unsure of what we were doing there. He knew I couldn’t give orders if I was… he always knew…”

His voice faltered as he thought of his old friend. Anna reached out and put her hand on Lord Grantham’s. “He told me, sir. He was proud to be of service.”

Lord Grantham turned to her, but his eyes looked past her. “He was a good man.”

“He is a good man,” Anna said firmly.

Lord Grantham’s gaze refocused on the maid. “Yes, yes, of course. And you’re sure you want to do this? I don’t want to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. I wouldn’t even suggest it if Bates had not said—”

“I don’t mind,” Anna said quickly, not even realising that she had just interrupted the lord. “If you don’t, I mean. In a way, it feels like I’m a little closer to him.”

Lord Grantham nodded in understanding. He paused in respectful silence, then said, “Well, then, let’s get started, shall we?” He handed her the strap and moved toward the winged armchair. “Bates thought this chair was best suited, but I’ll be happy to entertain your suggestion.”

“I think that will work fine, sir.”


Lord Grantham leaned over the chair, tugging his soft bedclothes down to expose his buttocks. Anna put her left hand on his shoulder; the restraining touch was more of a symbol than anything, he could easily have overpowered her if he wished to, but there was no need for that. “Oh, Anna, I have been very bad.”

Her grip on his shoulder tightened and he braced for the first blow. “Will you tell me what you’ve done?”

“Yes, yes…” Lord Grantham’s fingers clutched the wings of the chair as tightly as he could. “I have been unfaithful to Cora.”

The first stroke of Bates’ strap left his right buttock burning in pain; it was followed quickly by a sharp blow to the left. And with it, Lord Grantham felt the first stirring of arousal – the first stirring that he had felt in months, since his transgression.

“With Jane,” he added. “I kissed Jane.”

If Anna was surprised by the confession, she showed no sign of it. She struck again, giving the sting time to balloon and then subside. “Why did you do it?” Anna asked.

“Because I’m weak. I… I was a lonely man.”

He could not manage to suppress the whinging tone in his voice, and he knew Anna would not be moved. She confirmed this with a stream of hard spanks. Lord Grantham felt a surprising sob rise in his throat; quickly he choked it back. It would not do to break down so soon. He deserved this punishment and would take it as a man. And like a man, his erection was standing at attention, although it was trapped in the confines of his pyjama bottoms. He wished he had pulled them down enough to free it to the air. Too late for that now, though, and the discomfort was minor compared to what was happening elsewhere.

The strap had gone beyond stinging now; it delivered genuine pain, with no time for him to recover from one stroke before another had deepened it, and then another had cemented the ache. He wanted to scream out for the blows to stop, and yet he wanted them to go on. Each stroke of penance seemed to strike something in his guilty soul. Each one rattled through his body, ratcheting his balls tighter, the pressure on his cock providing a constant counterache to the staccato lashes of the strap. On and on and on it went, and soon that sob he’d been able to swallow before returned. This time it lodged itself in his throat; when he gulped for air, for relief, for the terrible thing he’d done, it suddenly dissolved into a stream of tears.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered through his sobs, to Cora, to Jane. They would never hear him. They would never know how deeply he felt his contrition.

Anna must have heard him, though, for the intensity of the blows lessened. Her strokes were slower now, deliberate, dotting his buttocks as if putting the finishing touches on a canvas. It gave him a chance to bring his tears under control.

Wiping his eyes with a quick brush of his sleeve, Lord Grantham shifted his attention to the demure housemaid. He had been glad to discover that she was unexpectedly skilled at this. Not only did she have a strong swing, but she possessed enough sensitivity to know when he had neared his breaking point. It was a level of communication that he had never expected to have with anyone other than Bates. Perhaps they truly were suited for each other.

“Better now?” she asked. He was grateful that she didn’t append the “sir.” It would have felt out of place.

“I think so, Anna.” He put a hand on the small of his back as he stood up; his body wasn’t limber enough for such strenuous activities anymore, it seemed. But one part of his body still seemed surprisingly vigorous. As soon as Anna left, he could attend to it. For now, he felt too embarrassed to turn around. “Er… thank you, Anna. I think that will be all.”

He wondered if she knew where his problem lay; fortunately she was discreet enough to not mention it, only to curtsy with a sly smile. “Good night then, sir.”

As soon as the door was closed, Lord Grantham sank into the chair. His bottom was still enflamed and the contact reignited the nerve endings. That only seemed to excite him more. He spit on his palm – there was hand crème by the bed, but that seemed interminably far away right now – and grasped his cock. His other hand reached lower and cupped his sac, tight as overripe plums and ready to explode. There was no reason to tease this out with light touches; he was already rock hard and aching for release. It was such a marked difference from the past few weeks, when he was convinced that part of him had died. But it had only been crushed by the weight of his guilt, he knew that now. Now he felt that need again, that potency inside him, building up and ready to surge. He pulled himself in fast strokes reminiscent of the strap’s relentless rhythm, bringing himself quickly to the edge, holding himself there, holding, until the feeling overwhelmed him and he toppled over, releasing long months of pent-up frustrations in an orgasm that seemed to never end.

He fell back into the chair, messy, perhaps, but sated, and finally at peace. It would be good to see Cora again.

~~~~~

Mary folded her letter and tucked it into an envelope, which she then placed on a silver tray to be posted the next day. She took a sip of her sherry, but then had to stifle a delicate yawn. “Goodness, I think I should retire. Are you staying up?”

Matthew nodded. “I think I might have another drink first, and I have a little more reading to do before I can turn in with a clean conscience.”

“You work too hard. Will I send Carson to tend the fire?”

“No, there’s no need. Let him enjoy himself this evening.” Matthew stood and walked Mary to the door. “Sleep well, dear,” he said.

“Good night, my darling.” She smiled sweetly as she kissed his cheek. “I’m so glad our scandalous days are behind us.”

~~~ The End ~~~
 
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