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Authors: K.A. Mitchell

An Improper Holiday

BOOK: An Improper Holiday
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He followed all the rules…until one man showed him a dozen ways to break them.

As second son to an earl, Ian Stanton has always done the proper thing. Obeyed his elders, studied

diligently, and dutifully accepted the commission his father purchased for him in the Fifty-Second Infantry Division. The one glaring, shameful, marvelous exception: Nicholas Chatham, heir to the Marquess of

Carleigh.

Before Ian took his position in His Majesty’s army, he and Nicky consummated two years of physical

and emotional discovery. Their inexperience created painful consequences that led Ian to the conviction that their unnatural desires were never meant to be indulged.

Five years later, wounded in body and plagued by memories of what happened between them, Ian is

sent to carry out his older brother’s plans for a political alliance with Nicky’s father. Their sister Charlotte is the bargaining piece.

Nicky never believed that what he and Ian felt for each other was wrong and he has a plan to make

things right. Getting Ian to Carleigh is but the first step. Now Nicky has only twelve nights to convince Ian that happiness is not the price of honor and duty, but its reward.

Warning: Just thinking about reading this book in 1814 could get you hanged, so the men in this book

who enjoy m/m interaction of an intimately penetrative nature are in a hell of a lot of trouble.

eBooks are
not
transferable.

They cannot be sold, shared or given away as it is an infringement on the copyright of this work.

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.

Samhain Publishing, Ltd.

577 Mulberry Street, Suite 1520

Macon GA 31201

An Improper Holiday

Copyright © 2009 by K. A. Mitchell

ISBN: 978-1-60504-836-9

Edited by Sasha Knight

Cover by Amanda Kelsey

All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Firs
t Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
electronic publication: December 2009

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An Improper Holiday

K.A. Mitchell

Dedication

For Mom and Dad,

Thanks for fostering a life-long love of books, history and Christmas traditions.

Chapter One

The tall mahogany clock made the customary ominous tick as Ian waited in front of the equally

foreboding desk. Nothing good ever came from being called into the study, even if now the man seated

behind the mahogany desk was brother rather than father. Standing at parade rest had lost the comfort of familiarity, as if the empty sleeve pinned back at his elbow created some sort of asymmetrical impropriety to the stance.

Ian supposed he could have interrupted Edward’s shuffling through his books, but habit held him

silent. The last time Ian had been peremptorily summoned to stand before the desk in question, his father had been behind it, and it was never to Ian’s advantage to interrupt the old earl in his calculations when such calculations concerned how many strokes of the switch would correct Ian’s behavior.

Edward—no, he must think of his brother as Rayne now. Their father had issued his final orders while

his second son’s own life danced with death on the edge of a surgeon’s blade. Rayne rubbed a hand over his eyes and slapped away a ledger before looking up, dark brows shooting to his hairline in surprise.

“God’s blood, Ian. Why did you not speak? How long have you been standing there?”

“Not long. I—I suppose old habits are the hardest to break.”

The corner of Rayne’s mouth twitched, offering a fleeting glimpse of his younger self. “Expecting ten

of the best?”

“The thought crossed my mind, God rest his soul.”

Edward made a brief nod of agreement, all trace of humor vanishing from his expression.

“Your sister tells me we have received an invitation to the Carleigh Twelve Night fete.”

The very instant the word Carleigh entered Ian’s ears, he wished himself on the receiving end of his

father’s switch rather than the brother’s order he sensed would follow.

“I wish to cultivate the marquess’s favor. He would be an ally in the House. You and the heir are of an age, are you not?”

“We knew each other at school.”
And I mean that in every sense of the word, brother.

Edward had barely paused long enough for Ian to answer. “Your sister desires to attend. You shall act

as her chaperone. And while there, you shall canvass the marquess’s leanings on several items that will be coming before us. Perhaps your prior affiliation will lend itself to influencing the heir.”

I sodomized him just after Father purchased my commission, but I doubt that is the sort of influence
you seek.
Pain, tears and blood, and still Nicky had whimpered, “It’s all right.” And Ian, prick in such a hot
An Improper Holiday

grip, could no longer restrain the motion of his hips, even as Nicky’s teeth sank deep into his bottom lip, cock flagging despite the attention of Ian’s fist. That sort of parting might lend itself to awkwardness on a renewal of their acquaintance.

But Lord Rayne could command Ian to undertake any sort of awkwardness his lordship deemed

necessary, and if Ian didn’t care to accept the latest commission, he could make his own way in the world.

Surely there was a yet-to-be discovered path for advancement available to a younger son with a missing limb and no familial support.

If he could face French artillery, he could face Nicky. Though he rather preferred the artillery. “When are we expected?”

“It is their usual Twelve Night gathering. I am sure you remain familiar with the customs of our

country.”

Of course, the twenty-fourth. Which meant he needed to get his sister Charlotte stuffed in a carriage

as soon as possible. At this time of year, the journey to Carleigh Castle would take him perhaps three days on horseback. Traveling with whatever his sister would want to drag along would double or triple the time required. He had heard that females were difficult travel companions.

“Also, I wish you to encourage some sort of suitable attachment for her. Or at the very least, some

respectable company. She is still a bit—”

“Hoydenish?” Ian suggested. He hadn’t been home long, but the sister he remembered who was so

often pleading with him to conceal that she had once again been climbing trees and riding astride did not appear to have become much more civilized. As he had dressed this morning he had seen her well past the bottom of the Italianate garden, tugging at something in the arbor and scribbling in a book.

“I think I should prefer headstrong.” His brother’s lips quirked again. “Damn me. Ian, I believe you

may have smiled for a moment.”

Stanton men were not renowned for a sanguine temperament, and Ian had found very little about

which to be cheerful since his return from the Peninsular War. “I’ll do my best to correct it in future, Rayne.”

“See that you do. There are some papers I should like you to examine before you leave in order to

familiarize yourself with the items that concern me.” Rayne began digging through the books and ledgers.

Ian nodded and stepped closer to the desk. If he were busy with Lord Carleigh, perhaps he could

avoid his son. A mountain of letters to rival the Alps melted into an avalanche, and he reached out with his hand to stop it, forgetting for an instant the moment when he’d awakened to find his arm a half-yard

shorter. Phantom pain shot deep into his bones, a fire in flesh that had long since been tossed out to rot on a field in Spain.

“Does it pain you much still?”

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7

K.A. Mitchell

“No,” Ian lied. He had always lied easily. Except to himself. From what he’d been able to glean from

conversations with other maimed officers both in the Second Fifty-second and others, the phantom limb

would be with him until he joined it in death. His body couldn’t remember what his brain knew: his left hand had been shredded by shrapnel, a tourniquet the only way a field surgeon could save his life. “I simply moved too suddenly. It will pass quickly.”
Or it will throb for hours. But there is nothing to be done for
that.
“I shall inform Charlotte of your decision.”

~ * ~

On his return from the Continent, unable to face his family or friends, Ian had immured himself with

distant cousins in Norwich. He preferred that damp time staring at marshes in England’s arse-end to being trapped in this warm coach with plush upholstery if such comfort came burdened with searching stares

from his sister. By the fourth day, those stares had grown more frequent, almost unceasing.

“Don’t you have knitting or needlework? An improving book?”

Nan, Charlotte’s maid, pursed her lips and stared out the window. Ian had difficulty deciding whether

the contortion of her mouth was to hide amusement or disgust.

Charlotte’s laughter in no way resembled the drawing room titters Ian had heard on his brief forays in society.

“My dear brother, in my three and twenty years have you ever known me to engage in handwork or

read an improving book?”

“Perhaps you should take it up.”

“Perhaps you would care to share why you have ‘such a February face, so full of frost, of storm, and

cloudiness’.”

“Ah, I see you have managed to plow through at least one work of Shakespeare. Father would be

pleased to know your governess was not an utter waste of what funds he could rescue from the exchequer’s clutches.”

“And I see you are attempting to divert my attention.”

“From the scenery?” Ian’s arm ached as he fought the urge to gesture at the frozen fields with his

missing hand.

“From my question. We are on our way to celebrate the most joyous time of the year with dear

friends, yet from your expression, one would think you are being dragged to the hangman.”

That was one possible outcome of his sinful relationship with Nicky. Or could he request the block?

Was a more honorable execution possible for sodomites who were younger sons of an old and loyal house?

He really ought to know the exact statute, even if he had sworn never to repeat the crime. “I am filled with a generous quantity of holiday spirit.”

8

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An Improper Holiday

“Your glower is very misleading. Come now, Ian. You were not always so much like Father. Or

Edward.”

“Rayne,” Ian corrected.

“Oh, of course, his lordship the Earl of Rayne. The same esteemed lord who dipped my plaits in ink.”

“That was I, Lady Charlotte. Lord Rayne would be the chap who preferred to replace the ink with a

dozen small spiders.”

“Ian.”

“Still here, dear sister.”

“And you are still avoiding my question. What is this sudden dread you have of Carleigh Castle? You

and Lord Amherst always seemed to be such
particular
friends.”

A chill took a tight grip on Ian’s lungs. The emphasis as she spoke trod dangerously close to an

insinuation. If Charlotte had been a man, he’d have considered resorting to violence to protect his—

Nicky’s?—honor. But a female, even one as hoydenish as his sister, could not be aware of the darker

aspects of male desire. And she was waiting for him to speak.

“I find that a curious choice of words.”

Charlotte’s gaze was all too penetrating. “Dread?”

Ian clung desperately to the reprieve she had offered. “Yes. I am not dreading the party, merely my

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