Voyage Home

28

“Olaf was a king, Captain.” Paupling said, Callum narrowed his eyes a bit at him.

“A king of Norway.”

“Sweden, actually.” Paupling said softly, his voice had a quality of being half drunk, Callum thought, possibly from something that Dr. Stivers had administered to him, “Almost three centuries ago. It is said that he amassed a great fortune in gold and jewels, one of the greatest in history so far, but he was said to be also very guarded and had no heirs. He hoarded this treasure for himself and then hid it, to take it with him to Valhalla I suppose. It has never been found.”

“What does this have to do with…?”

“There was a statue cast of him, a representation. It is unclear whether it was actually him or not, but on the base of that statue, there is an inscription that leads to this hidden treasure, a clue as it were. It is said that it is in Stockholm buried somewhere beneath the city.” Paupling said almost dreamy in his voice, “I have been told many times that you have a clear memory and that you can recite things that you have seen only once, is that not so, Captain?” Paupling asked.

“Yes, it helped me to excel at school. I do the same with charts as well when I am at sea.” Callum said and folded his arms.

“Was Olaf there, Captain?” Paupling asked and had a faint smile.

“No, there was no statue, I assure you. As I said, it must have been taken by Battenou and placed on the Avion, which is now at the bottom of The Channel. Besides, had I seen this statue, would not the inscription be Norse in origin?”

“In Dutch actually. The Hollanders fashioned the statue as the treasure was taken from them three centuries ago.” Paupling said as his faint smile was fading.

“They create a statue of a man that stole from them?” Callum asked.

“A clue to regaining it, Captain.” Paupling said.

“I see.” Callum said, pursing his lips a little, “And your master, Upton, wanted this statue for the inscription to gain the treasure for himself?”

“He is not my master, Captain.” Paupling said.

“I find that hard to believe, Paupling.”

“It is true, Captain. I work for the Diplomatic Service, as I have said. Under the office and authority of Lord Eldon, The Lord High Chancellor. We are trying to obtain evidence against Upton, to have him removed from his position in The House of Lords, but as he is very powerful and has many that are with him and follow him, we must proceed carefully.”

“So, Upton would commit wanton piracy to gain this supposed treasure?”

“He is already doing that, Captain, in the Caribbean, we just need to prove it.” Paupling said and raised a finger.

“But you know.” Callum said and gave a questioning look.

“We suspect, Captain, and there is a difference. It must be proven, and that is a matter of law, English law.”

“And because you thought that I had seen this statue, you came for me.” Callum said and Paupling nodded as he lay back on the narrow rope bed. Dustin and the Magistrate stood nearby and were listening as well, “There were other ways to do this, Paupling, as you said. You might have simply asked me.”

“And that would have raised suspicion with you as well, Captain. I saw this as the only way. If the Guardsmen had been successful in taking the boy, you might have been put into a position to surrender the information to regain the boy. It was a gamble that I was willing to take.” Paupling said.

“Lives were lost, Paupling, needlessly, and that should never have been part of any gamble. Far too much blood has been spilled over this. And it seems that there will be more, won’t there?” Callum asked as he was becoming angry over the whole thing.

“You understand, Captain.” Paupling said flatly.

“I don’t understand. What does he mean, Quintan?” Dustin asked. Callum turned his head and looked up at Dustin, that look was on Callum’s face that Dustin knew so well.

“It means, Napoleon knows of this, that is why the statue was taken aboard the Avion. If Napoleon knows, then he will want this treasure for himself and for France. It is very clear that Upton and Napoleon are and have been working together.” Callum said and looked back down at Paupling, “It is not just piracy, it is now treason, and with his followers in The House, insurrection will follow and soon.”

“As I said in Southend, Captain, you should be working for the Diplomatic Service. You understand this very clearly.” Paupling said.

“I told you about that, Paupling, I am but a simple sailor.”

“There is nothing simple about you, Captain.” Paupling said.

“What does this mean, Quintan?” Dustin asked softly. Callum looked back up at him, seeing the Magistrate standing there with a look of shock as well.

“This means that he, Upton, must be stopped, and at all costs. All of England is in even greater danger because of him. This French madman, Battenou, that I was sent after was only a pawn in a much larger game, is that not so, Paupling?” Callum asked, his eyes locked on Dustin’s.

“Indeed it is, Captain.” Paupling said. Callum turned and looked back at the man below him on the narrow rope bed.

“And there were others as well, those that I have stopped already. Smythe, Maupin, the incident at La Rochelle, those involved there, the Spanish mercenary ship. All of that and them were a part of what Upton is doing or attempting.” Callum said.

“Correct again, Captain.” Paupling said closing his eyes for a moment and then opened them again, looking directly at Callum, “Maupin, an agent of Napoleon, led a large ring of spies here in England, that group we know had ties to Upton. However, before we could tie it all together and prove everything, you entered and killed Maupin before we could find out anything further.”

“I had no choice.” Callum said above a whisper.

“We know that as well, Captain. We read the reports from the Admiralty about all of the incidents. Your court-martial should never have happened, Captain. Lord Fitzwarren acted out of anger and frustration. Lord Hood was only able to intervene because of information that we in the Diplomatic Service gave him through His Grace.” Paupling said. Callum eased in his anger a bit and looked at Paupling as he raised an eyebrow.

“What of His Grace?”

“Arthur Wellesley is a man of honor, Captain. He has great respect for you, as you know, and speaks very highly of you. I can see why. He has recounted that you saved his life, and is in your debt because of that with your actions.” Paupling said.

“He did the same for me, and for another.” Callum said.

“Yes, Captain Holt, the tenth Earl of Cambridge.” Paupling said, Callum narrowed his eyes, Dustin’s mouth dropped open, “You see, Captain, there is not much that we do not know already. That is why I will ask you to aid us in stopping Upton. You have stopped some of his agents, yes, including Colonel Holt.”

“Christian’s father was involved with Upton?” Callum asked.

“Yes, very much. Colonel Holt oversaw the transfer of items that were plundered and as he was being in charge of supply for the Marines, he was able to move things for Upton without question.” Paupling said.

“The man needs killing, plain and simple.” Callum said with an almost growl in his voice.

“Quintan…” Dustin said quietly touching Callum’s shoulder softly.

“No, it is true, would you not agree, Paupling?” Callum asked.

“I am tempted to say yes, Captain, but that is a personal feeling that I share with you, not an official one. As a member of the Diplomatic Service, I am constrained however to uphold the law regarding Upton. He must be arrested and tried for his crimes after we have proof.” Paupling said.

“Why not simply send your assassins in the night to slit his throat?” Callum asked softly.

“Because, Captain,…the Guardsmen are under his control, and not Lord Eldon’s.” Paupling said in a whisper. He closed his eyes and drifted away.

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“What are you thinking?” Dustin asked as they rode through the Square side by side. Callum had been very quiet after leaving the Magistrate’s office. Dustin was growing even more concerned as he could the wheels turning in Callum’s mind.

“I am not sure as of yet.” Callum said as he looked over at Dustin for a moment and then looked ahead again.

“I think I know you better than that, Quintan.” Dustin said.

“Something that Paupling said is nagging at me, in the back of my mind.”

“Christian’s father?” Dustin asked.

“Yes.” Callum said and looked at Dustin again, “How did you know?”

“It bothered me as well. You don’t think badly of Christian now, do you?” Dustin asked.

“Absolutely not. I would never have doubt about Christian at all. He has proven himself over and over again. Thomas rescues him from being poisoned in his own home by that woman, he does not wish to take up the posting of Earl, and he has stood beside us, fought alongside us, throughout all of this, killed his own father in fact.” Callum said and then shook his head slightly, “No, I have no doubt of him at all. In fact, if I suggested anything about taking up this cause against Upton to him, I know for fact that he would be there without hesitation.”

“I agree.” Dustin said softly as they left the village walking their horses along the crossroad toward Callum’s Cross. They came over the rise and they could see the house in the distance, smoke rose gently from the chimney and was carried away in the soft breeze. Callum glanced to the south a bit and could also see Harbroughs on the Road, his other property. Smoke rose from the chimney there as well.

“It would seem that Thomas and Christian are up and about.” Callum said.

“It does.” Dustin said as he looked toward Harbroughs as well.

“I did not get a chance to find about Darin, with what Dr. Stivers did to me yesterday evening. Do you know how he fared in the village?” Callum asked. He looked at Dustin, who smiled wide, “Well, I take it?”

“Apparently, Callista was very happy to see him, but he said that Clyde was a bit concerned about his arrival, what with Owen being gone and all.” Dustin said.

“You know what they say about sailors.” Callum said and smirked, “Shall we have a bit of fun at Darin’s expense?”

“Do not be mean, Quintan. It is very obvious that he is more than smitten with Callista.” Dustin said and gave Callum a bit of a frown.

“You know, the entire voyage to find the Avion, I think that is all he thought of was her.” Callum said, “I told him that he could come and stay here so he could court her if he wished.”

“You did?” Dustin asked with narrowed eyes, “Then it is no wonder that he quickly organized the crew when I was aboard Dover. I had never seen him take charge the way he did.”

“Really?”

“Yes, he was like a man possessed, barking orders and taking control from Mr. Sommers, who had the deck. Mr. Sommers just looked at me and rolled his eyes as it were, getting out of the way.” Dustin said.

“So, I was not the only motivation then it seems.” Callum said.

“I wouldn’t feel too hurt by it, Quintan.” Dustin said and smirked a bit seeing the look on Callum’s face, a look of disappointment, “You know Darin is always up for a fight, but with her being here as well, it just made it better for him.” They looked at each other and both of them chuckled as they rode slowly over the top of the grade of the road.

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“What do you think of the horse, my lad?” Callum asked as he looked over at Henry, riding beside him on the road going north toward Dudley.

“He is very fine, sir.” Henry said, his little legs sticking out as he rested on top of the saddle.

“He seems to be being gentle with you.” Callum said as he rode the grey. Henry was focused on staying on the road and keeping what control of the horse that he had, “I thought we could have another look at that shoppe you and I visited. I also heard of a clothing shoppe, a tailor, there as well that I wish to visit.”

“You mean the shoppe that has all of the candy?” Henry asked.

“The very same.” Callum said and smiled as he looked over at the boy.

“I would like that, sir.” Henry said with wide excited eyes.

“Good, then we will go, and this time, I think we will purchase more lemon drops just for Aunt Martha, what do you think?” Callum asked.

“I remember that she had a funny face when she tried it.” Henry said and smiled.

“That she did.” Callum said and chuckled very loud, “Perhaps we will find something else for her as well. We can ask the man who runs it.”

“Alright.” Henry smiled wide and looked ahead on the road. Callum watched his son for a long minute and then turned his attention forward on the road as well.

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Callum took the bundles of the purchased clothing that had been placed in the cloth sacks for him by the tailor. He slung them over the rear of the saddle and secured them with two leather ties that were looped at the rear of the saddle on the grey. He looked down at Henry, who waited on the walkway and smiled down at him.

“Are you ready to go?” Callum asked.

“We can walk, sir, it’s just down the street.” Henry said and pointed toward the candy shoppe.

“I’ll tell you what, I can see that you want to get there in a hurry. How about you run ahead and have a look in the window first and you can decide upon what you want. I’ll bring the horses down and meet you there.” Callum said.

“I can wait.” Henry said but had an excited look in his eyes.

“Go on.” Callum smiled and nodded his head in the direction of the shoppe. Henry paused for only a moment and then took off at a run. Callum watched him for a moment and then pulled the reins of both horses and followed on foot, leading them slowly after the boy.

Callum tied the horses to the ring that was on the post near the stone steps in front of the shoppe. He looked over and saw Henry there with two other children, a boy and a girl, about his own age. Callum could see their eyes were wide as they looked in the window of the store. He walked up behind them, looking in the window himself, but seeing their reflections in the glass as he shifted only his eyes down.

“Do you see anything different, Henry?”

“Yes, sir. I don’t know what that is.” Henry said as he pointed, being careful not to touch the glass of the window. Callum bent forward a bit seeing what he was pointing at, colors were vibrant and unlike anything that Callum had seen before, even on their last trip here, the items almost shimmered and sparkled.

“I have no idea myself.” Callum said and looked over at the two other children, “Do either of you know what those are?” The girl looked up at Callum and shook her head in answer, “Then I would say that the thing to do would be to go inside and ask.” Callum smiled softly and stood straight, the girls eyes followed him and then she looked back in the window as she did before. Callum turned and went to the door, putting his hand on the handle and pushing the door open, the bell above ringing as the door swung. Henry had followed and was close at Callum’s heel, Callum closed the door after them, the bell ringing again. The man behind the counter stood and looked in their direction.

“Good day, sir.” The man said and recognized Callum almost at once.

“Good day to you, my good man.” Callum said and took a couple of steps as the man eyed both he and Henry, “We were out for a ride and thought we would stop again here in your fine establishment.”

“Yes, Captain, I remember you, and your son. It is a pleasure to see you both again.”

“Thank you, and likewise. My son was curious about what you have here in the window.” Callum said and pointed slightly toward what he meant. The man came around the counter and stepped closer, looking to where Callum was pointing.

“Ah, the candied preserves.” The man said.

“I’m sorry…the what?” Callum asked with more than a look of question on his face.

“Candied preserves, Captain. They are fruits that are boiled in a sweetening and then as they cool, they are dusted with granular sugar. Would you care to try one?” The man asked and took a small tray of them from the window and held them out. They were at Henry’s eye level and he was completely captivated by the sight, the yellows, the reds, even some that were a deep purple. All of them sparkled in the light of the shoppe. Callum reached for a yellow one, took it in his fingers, lifted it to his mouth and bit into it. His eyes went wide with surprise and he was in true heaven.

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Callum carried the cloth sacks into the house through the backdoor at the kitchen. He could see that Henry was a buzz of activity at the table with both Martha and Dustin, showing them everything that they had purchased at the Candy Shoppe in Dudley. Everything was laid out on the table on a large plate that Martha had provided for him. Henry was trying to get Martha and Dustin to try everything at least once. Dustin lifted his eyes at Callum, who smiled in return.

“It would seem your ride was good.” Dustin said to Callum above Henry’s chatter.

“Indeed.”

“What have you there?” Dustin asked.

“Items that we needed from a tailor.” Callum said.

“I was not aware that we needed anything.” Dustin said with a curious look.

“I should say then, items that I felt that we needed.” Callum said, going around the back of Martha and stopping behind her. He leaned to her ear, “The yellow ones are pears, the small red ones are cherries, and the purple ones are plums I am told. They are quite delicious I assure you. I also purchased more lemon drops just for you, as I remember how much you loved those as well.” Callum whispered, Martha turned and slapped his good arm.

“Scamp.” She said and Callum chuckled. He walked by her and then by Dustin at the end of the table, giving him a brief kiss on the cheek and then went out of the kitchen, up the stairs to their room. He opened the door and went to the bed that was made and set the cloth bags down on it. He opened them and began to pull items out of them, setting them out one at a time. Dustin came in and closed the door behind him.

“I think you made his day with that little trip of yours.” Dustin said as he walked up beside Callum.

“I hope so. He has had too many disappointments recently.” Callum said softly as he set out another item on top of the others.

“He is not the only one.” Dustin whispered and Callum looked over at him.

“What is it that you mean?” Callum asked.

“Nothing. I was speaking out of turn, I apologize.” Dustin said as he looked down at the items on the bed. Callum stopped and turned to face Dustin’s side. He reached out and put a hand on Dustin’s furthest shoulder, turning him to face Callum. Their eyes met.

“We had talked about no more hidden meanings with one another, did we not?” Callum asked, “Clearly there is something on your mind. Have I done something wrong?”

“No, it is circumstances that leave us the way that we are. I was only thinking of myself and my selfish needs.” Dustin smiled. Callum lifted his fingers and touched the soft chin of the tanned face. Dustin’s eyes were soft, warm, and in the light of the room, glowed a bit.

“I think I understand what you wish to have. I wish it as well. Perhaps if we are a bit careful we could do something about that tonight.” Callum said.

“Then you would make my day.” Dustin smiled wider.

“Whatever you want, my love. All you need do is to say something. You know that.” Callum whispered. He was gently brushing his fingertips along Dustin’s jawline, scanning those soft brown eyes that he loved so very much. Like deep pools that were almost bottomless, he could drown in them he thought. Callum leaned forward and kissed Dustin very softly, briefly and then went back to looking at him.

“What was that for?” Dustin asked.

“Just because. I needed to taste you. There are things that make my day as well, and that is one of them.” Callum whispered.

“Then perhaps I should make your week.” Dustin whispered and leaned forward, his lips parted, head turned slightly as his hands went to Callum’s waist, being mindful of the wound there. He kissed Callum gently at first and then leaned in with his body even more, pressing himself against him. The kiss became more passionate, Dustin sliding his hands around Callum’s waist and pulled on him a bit. Callum groaned in Dustin’s mouth and he let go, pulling back, “I’m sorry, I hurt you.”

“No, not at all.” Callum said quickly as they looked into each other’s eyes. Dustin could see a slightly pained look in them.

“I did. I am so sorry. You were right, we need to be careful, or at least I do.” Dustin said, “Why don’t you lie down for a bit. You must be sore as well from your ride.”

“I should take care of these clothes first, then perhaps I might.” Callum said softly.

“Let me help you.” Dustin whispered and turned to the items on the bed.

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“Quintan.” The soft voice said. Callum opened his eyes slowly in response to it. He felt the touch, the softness of lips to his own and focused. Dustin was nose to nose with him, “There was a special messenger just here.” Dustin said as he sat up, holding an envelope in his hand. Callum focused as he went to sit up.

“Special messenger?” Callum asked, blinking his eyes. Dustin waited for a moment and then handed out the envelope toward him. Callum looked at it and took it. He opened it and read it and narrowed his eyes, “It is from Lord Eldon.” Callum said softly as he continued to read, “Have you seen Thomas and Christian?”

“They are at Harbroughs, with Darin, I believe.” Dustin said softly, “What is it?” Dustin asked, knowing it could not be good. Callum lifted his head and set the letter on his lap and looked at Dustin.

“Do you trust me?” Callum asked softly, but he had that tone in his voice. Dustin searched his eyes for any clue.

“Of course I do. You need ask?” Dustin asked.

“I need to know that you do, beyond love, beyond anything else that we share.”

“It goes without saying, Quintan. You should know that, and should not have to ask it.” Dustin said and was becoming concerned, “Has something happened?”

“We must gather together, you and I, Thomas and Christian. There is to be a meeting with Lord Eldon and His Grace.”

“The Duke? Are they coming here?” Dustin asked with wide eyes.

“No.” Callum said flatly, “We are requested to meet with them…in London.”

“When?”

“As soon as possible.” Callum said.

“What about everything here?” Dustin asked.

“We need to see about it, make arrangements for it.” Callum said, “But first, we need to see Thomas and Christian.” Callum said and went to swing his legs. Dustin got off the bed to stand aside, Callum moved but reached out and took hold of Dustin by the hand and pulled him back to him going almost nose to nose, “Remember about tonight and what you said earlier. I will hold you to it.”

“I need no reminding, believe me.” Dustin said above a whisper, his eyes went narrow as he looked into Callum’s, “You must remember that they were my selfish needs and wants.” Dustin smiled out of the corner of his mouth. He leaned closer and kissed Callum, “You started something the other night with me, it was and has been on mind this entire time since then. I want it again, and I want it over, and over, and over, until I tell you to stop, do you understand?” Dustin asked and Callum was wide eyed this time, the memory flooding his mind of what they had done together the last time. Callum could only nod in reply, and swallowed hard, “Say it,…say that you understand what I want.”

“I do understand.” Callum said and swallowed hard again, his eyes never leaving Dustin’s. Dustin smiled wide and his eyes twinkled in the late afternoon light through the window.

“Good.” Dustin kissed Callum briefly and then went nose to nose with him, “Because I want it every night like that to begin with. I want you to bring it to me, and then I want you to do more and more each and every time. Do you understand?” Dustin asked and Callum could only nod in reply.

“You certainly are worked up.”

“You do it to me with just being who you are.” Dustin said as he pulled back. Callum pulled him back to him.

“I wasn’t done yet. There is something else.” Callum said. Their eyes were scanning each other’s. Callum pulled Dustin again closer to him, they were breathing each other in and Callum smiled out of the corner of his mouth, “You have your wants and needs, I understand that. I have my own wants and needs as well. I wanted to say to you that they are very much in line with yours. If you want me to do that with you, to you again, I would be more than happy to, and you need not ask.”

“I can’t wait.” Dustin whispered.

“Who said we had to?” Callum asked. Dustin swallowed hard and pushed into Callum, kissing him deeply.

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Callum waited and watched as Thomas and Christian read the letter from the special messenger. They stood in the parlor of Harbroughs. Dustin was sitting on the settee, Darin Talon was near him. They glanced at each other as Callum stood near the fireplace. The portrait of Christian’s mother hanging above it. Thomas and Christian looked at each other briefly and then looked toward Callum.

“Do you not find this odd, Quintan?” Thomas asked as he held out the letter toward Callum, “Lord Eldon summoning the four of us, listing us by name no less?”

“Why would you find it odd, Thomas?” Dustin asked as Callum took the letter back from Thomas’ fingers, folding it up and placing it back in the envelope. Thomas looked over at him.

“Because, my dear friend, we are the four that have stood against the Guardsmen. The four of us are the only men here on the property that offer any protection. Even though Hans is now gone and is not part of the equation any longer, who would there be to stop the Guardsmen from returning if we were all away? And to say this simply, Quintan is the only one that has met Lord Eldon. I have not,” Thomas said and then looked at Christian, “Have you, Christian?” Thomas asked, Christian shook his head in silent answer.

“You think it a trap then, Thomas?” Callum asked.

“At least a possibility, Quintan. Would you not agree?” Thomas asked. Callum thought for a moment holding up the envelope and then nodded his head, “If we were lured away…”

“They might try something else, you’re right.”

“But it is from Lord Eldon. I recognize the seal on the envelope.” Christian said.

“That too may be part of a deception. Who is to say that the letter was not faked, the seal used, Lord Eldon not knowing. I would not recognize Lord Eldon’s writing if I saw it.” Callum said, putting the letter on the mantle, “You have quite the devious little mind, don’t you, Thomas?”

“As I have said, I have had nothing but time to think after being carved up with that blade.” Thomas said and raised an eyebrow, “What would like to do now, Quintan?”

“I think I will perhaps send off a letter of my own, by my own special messenger, someone that I can trust completely in this.” Callum said.

“A letter? To Lord Eldon?” Dustin asked. Callum looked over at him.

“No, not to Lord Eldon. To the only other person that was listed here, His Grace.” Callum said, “Darin, if I could ask of you to deliver it for me?” Callum asked young Talon, who stood up and nodded.

“It would be my pleasure, sir.” Talon said.

“Thank you.” Callum said and smiled at him.

“Where would I find him, sir?” Talon asked.

“I will provide you the address of his home in London. You know London well, do you not?” Callum asked.

“I do, sir.”

“Excellent.” Callum said.

“Then what do we do?” Dustin asked.

“If it is genuine, His Grace will supply an answer, Darin can return with it, then we will know for certain.” Callum said.

“Makes sense to me.” Thomas said looking about at all in the room. All seemed to be in agreement with the plan so far with simple nods.

“Then I shall write it out. You can leave in the morning, Darin, if that would be alright?” Callum asked.

“Of course, sir.”

“Which gives you time to venture into the village and see a certain someone perhaps?” Thomas asked. Talon blushed a bit, “Time is wasting, Darin.” Thomas said softly.

“If you will excuse me.” Talon said and headed for the front door.

“Saddle one of the mares.” Christian said loudly, Talon looking over his shoulder and nodding as he reached the door. He went out, closing the door behind him. They were all smiling, Dustin shook his head and looked at Callum.

“At least you didn’t tease him.” Dustin said.

“Thomas beat me to it.” Callum said and smirked.

“Brute.” Dustin said folding his arms as he sat on the settee. Everyone laughed. Callum looked at Thomas.

“Thomas, tell me truthfully, what sparked this idea about the letter?” Callum asked.

“Something you said, about your family being used against you. If it is a deception from this Upton, and we were off to London, Martha and Henry would be vulnerable. It chills me to the bone to think of it, but it might just be something that they would do.” Thomas said.

“But she doesn’t know where Hans went.” Callum said.

“They don’t know that, nor do I think that they care. The point is,…you do.” Thomas said. Callum looked almost horrified by the thought that Thomas had just given him.

“Dear God.” Dustin said and stood up. He came over to Callum putting his arms around Callum’s arm, “What if…?” Dustin started to ask but Thomas just looked at him.

“There are a thousand what ifs in this.” Thomas said to Dustin then looked at Callum, “Which is why we must still remain on our guard, all of us.”

“Yes.” Callum said above a whisper. Dustin could feel him tighten up and looked at him.

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“Do you think Thomas might be right?” Dustin asked as he and Callum crossed the pasture back to the Cross. Callum had been lost in thought over everything that had been said at Harbroughs. The darkness was approaching all around them, and Callum felt it even more, almost like a stranglehold on his chest and throat as his mind raced.

“It is a possibility.” Callum said. He looked down as he felt a touch to his hand, Dustin taking his hand and putting it into his, “I hope not though.” Callum said, “All of this is my fault.”

“No, Quintan. You did and acted for the best, for Hans, for all of us.” Dustin said and stopped, still holding Callum’s hand, making Callum stop, “Do not lay blame where there is none. He is alive, thanks to you. We are alive, all of us. Nothing is going to happen, I’m sure of it.”

“I’m not. That’s the problem, there is no way to know.” Callum said and looked at Dustin, “If something were to happen to her, to Henry,…I…”

“Quintan, it will drive you mad if you think that way.” Dustin said as he stepped close to Callum, looking him in the eye, “We are safe for now, all of us. Write your letter to The Duke.”

“I love you, Dustin.” Callum said.

“And I, you.” Dustin gave Callum a faint smile and then leaned in and kissed him gently, “Now, go and write it while I take care of the mare and the colt. I will be in shortly.”

“Alright.” Callum said. He gave Dustin a brief smile and turned, walking across the rest of the pasture by himself. Dustin followed but made his way to the old stable while Callum went up the path of the knoll to the back door of the house. He went inside closing the door behind him. Martha was at the stove, Henry was at the table, looking through a picture book. Martha looked over her shoulder toward him and could see the concern on his face.

“Is something wrong?” Martha asked. Callum smiled at her as he stepped toward her. He bent down a bit and kissed her on the forehead and straightened.

“Nothing at all, my dear.”

“Are Thomas and Christian joining us?” Martha asked.

“No, they are not.” Callum said.

“Supper is just about ready.”

“Excellent. Dustin is taking care of the mare and the colt at the moment. I have something that I need to attend to. It won’t take long.” Callum said.

“I can wait on it for a bit, if you wish.” Martha said as Callum walked away from her going to the doorway into the parlor. Callum found the inkwell, quill, and paper. He brought it back to the table and set it down. Henry was watching him as Callum sat down, picked up the quill, dipping it in the ink and began to write.

“What are you doing, Papa?” Henry asked as he closed his picture book.

“I am writing a letter to a dear friend.” Callum said, dipping the quill again.

“Who is your friend?” Henry asked.

“You remember the man that came here to the Cross before I left for my ship with Thomas? He had supper with us when he was here.” Callum said as he wrote more on the paper. Henry nodded, Callum could see it out of the corner of his eye, “He is the one that I am writing to, Henry.”

“Oh.”

“Do you remember his name?” Callum asked as he dipped the quill again.

“No.” Henry said softly.

“His name is Arthur.” Callum said as he wrote more then dipped the quill again. Martha was listening and turned from the stove and came over to Callum at the table, standing at his elbow.

“His Grace?” Martha asked, “This has to do with your letter today, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, my dear, it does. I am trying to find out if there is something wrong. This letter and its reply will answer that.” Callum said as the back door opened, Dustin came in and closed it as Callum finished writing, signing his name at the bottom. He set the quill down and picked up the paper waving it a bit to set the ink to it. He looked up at Dustin and smiled briefly.

“All done?” Dustin asked.

“Yes, just now. How is the colt?” Callum asked.

“Frisky.” Dustin said and looked over at Henry, “You should be tending to him as well, you know.”

“I’m sorry.” Henry said and looked down for a moment.

“In the morning I would like you to take him out with the mare, let him run about.” Dustin said.

“I will.” Henry said.

“Good.” Dustin smiled softly.

“Would you care for supper now?” Martha asked.

“Yes, I am starved.” Dustin said.

“You always are.” Martha said and smiled at him. She turned back toward the stove, “Skin and bones all of you. I must bake more I suppose to try and put some weight on you.” She was almost mumbling to herself.

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“There is nothing that can be more terrifying than a storm at sea, the wind tearing at the canvas, tightening the ropes, the billies straining and the sounds of the deck as the ship rolls in the swells. All this can make a man’s heart race and tighten the throat as one step in the wrong direction can be your last. Watch there, the prow as it rises and falls in the deep swells, the spray in the wind, the run of the water over the deck as she fights to stay with it, to maintain the fight against the tempest. All that are there know and trust that the man, the Captain, knows what is best for both men and vessel…” Callum said and stopped reading from the pocket book as Dustin touched his knee and gave it a bit of a squeeze. Dustin smiled and nodded toward the little one that was next to Callum on the settee.

Henry was sound asleep, his little mouth open a bit, as he rested against Callum. The book was closed softly and set down on the cushion. Dustin reached forward and picked the little one up and put him to his shoulder.

“I’ll put him in bed and meet you upstairs.” Dustin said above a whisper. Callum smiled and nodded his reply and got up off the settee. He watched as Dustin carried Henry to the small hallway and to his room just off it. Callum went to the kitchen, going to the small narrow table next to the back door, bending and blowing out the candle there. He straightened and turned going back to the lamp on the wall near the doorway, blowing it out as well. He went into the parlor and went up the stairs, leaving the candle in the parlor burning for Dustin.

The room was dark when he opened the door. He went to the stand next to the bed and lit the sparker and touched it to the wick of the large candle there. The room began to glow slowly with the growing light. Callum set the sparker down and sat on the edge of the bed. He pulled off his boots one at a time and set them on the floor and then stood, pulling his shirt out of his pants and pulled it over his head. He shook his head to fluff his long tail behind him, dropping the shirt on the foot of the bed. He undid the wide belt about his waist and dropped it on his boots. He undid the flap at the front of his pants and let it fall open. He pushed them down over his hips and sat on the bed again, pushing his pants down even further and then worked his feet of the legs, taking the pants and setting them at the foot of the bed.

“My handsome warrior.” Dustin said as he closed the door softly behind him. Callum looked up and across the room toward him.

“I do not feel so handsome, believe me.” Callum said as he looked down. Dustin came to him and knelt in front of him.

“And why is that?”

“I am nothing but a solid scar, and I seem to have added to it.” Callum said, pointing toward all the wrappings about his shoulder and chest and then to the one about his waist. There was just a break showing a bit of bare skin between them.

“Nonsense. I find them very appealing, believe me.” Dustin smiled warmly.

“You are being too kind.” Callum said and gave a brief but false smile. Dustin took his hands and wrapped Callum’s.

“It is not kindness, I assure you. I know where and what each of these are from. I was there for most of them as you know. I also know they give you distress because you carry them, but to me, they are reminders of what kind of man you are, Quintan, the man I love, the man that I can call my own.” Dustin said above a whisper. Callum looked into those soft brown eyes before him, they seemed almost black in the candlelight. Callum lifted a hand and cradled Dustin’s chin in his palm.

“You are far too kind to me, Dustin.” Callum said above a whisper.

“Kindness is not my meaning, Quintan. There are men that I have known in my life, men without life themselves or know what life is. Those men are not you, Quintan Callum. I have never known anyone like you. You are so strong with life, you know what the meaning of it is, to love, to care, and more importantly to share that meaing. I count myself as more than fortunate to be included.” Dustin said, his eyes flashing in the candlelight.

“I couldn’t do this without you, Dustin. You are the reason for my being, you know that.”

“No, Quintan, I am a part of it, yes, but not the reason. We share it together.”

“My God I love you.” Callum said and leaned forward. Their lips touched softly, briefly.

“Would you want to show me how much you love me?” Dustin asked. Callum leaned forward again taking Dustin’s mouth with his own. Hands went around the thin muscled body and held on. Dustin moaned into Callum’s mouth softly as he was being taken, loving the feeling that his powerful lover had on him with those hands.

Those hands moved and slid down and clamped and kneaded the small firm mounds in the back of the long pants that Dustin wore. They moved up and pulled the shirt out of the pants as Callum worked Dustin’s mouth with his own. The hands lifted the shirt up and over and off Dustin and was tossed away, Callum breaking the touch of his lips and tongue for only that briefest moment and went back to it, taking Dustin’s mouth.

The hands again were on Dustin, gently but firmly rubbing him all over his chest and then his sides and then around to his back. Dustin moaned again into Callum’s mouth loving the touching of his bare skin. The hands went down and came around the front and found the growing bulge in the front of the pants. The hands worked it, groped it, rubbed it and then the fingers of the hands went to undoing the flap, letting it fall open and the hardened length stood free and up a bit. The fingers traced its edges, the soft smooth skin and then wrapped around it and pulled on it a few times. Dustin moaned louder into Callum’s mouth and the hands let go, sliding up the skin of Dustin’s sides and then were up under Dustin’s arms, lifting him a bit, making him get to his feet. He stood and then felt it, that feeling that always took him away that he loved so much. The warmth of the mouth on him, swallowing him, applying pressure to him and then sliding on him, now going back and forth. Dustin closed his eyes and put a hand onto soft hair of the head below him and let himself be taken. He could hear the sounds and they made the feeling even more pleasurable to him, the sounds of wet, sucking, licking, and then the hum that came from Callum as he did it. Dustin smiled a bit and then the feeling was gone, replaced by another, a hand on him, stroking him and then holding him against his own stomach and then another feeling and he gasped a bit. He felt the taking of one of his balls into the warmth, the wet, and then felt the suction, then the tongue working it over and then the pop of it being released. Dustin leaned back a little and the other was taken into the warmth. Dustin opened his mouth and panted out a couple of times and looked down. The popping sound was heard again. Callum looked up at him.

“I want you naked underneath me.” Callum said softly and wrapped his fingers around the length again, gently, softly, he moved his hand sliding it up and down, not pulling on the skin but tickling it as he moved. Dustin opened his mouth but could not speak at first, “Let’s get you out of these.”

“Yes.” Dustin whispered. He stepped back once and Callum got off the bed and to his knees. He put his hands on Dustin’s hips, turning him, guiding him to the edge of the bed. Dustin sat down. Callum moved his hands, wrapping the first boot, pulling it off, setting it on the floor, then the next. He took the legs of the pants and pulled them off, dropping them to the floor and moved in between Dustin’s legs, Dustin going back on the bed, resting on one elbow, the other hand going to the top of Callum’s head as he was swallowed again but halfway. The mouth tightened, the tongue moved a bit against the tip and Dustin groaned softly. The motion started and, the warmth and the wet as he watched the movement on him. Dustin was breathing through his nose heavily as it went on. Then Callum lifted his head, putting out his tongue and traced around the head that was lying against Dustin’s stomach.

“I want to taste it when you erupt in my mouth.”

“Keep that up and you will.” Dustin whispered and was taken again, making him groan a bit. He closed his eyes and felt the sliding of the warm mouth on him and then the sounds of the moaning that Callum made, Dustin knowing that he enjoyed what he was doing. The motions carried for a few moments longer, Dustin lying back on the bed and then he was let go. He exhaled at the loss of the feeling and opened his eyes. Callum got up off his knees and took Dustin’s legs, lifting them, beginning to bend Dustin in half on the bed and he watched as Callum bent forward and placed his mouth over his opening, tonguing it furiously all around and then in it. Dustin gasped and raised his arms, clenching hair and the feeling of ecstasy took him, his arms dropping to the bed as the tongue worked him over and over again.

“Oh God…yes…” Dustin whispered. Dustin closed his eyes yet again and then something else came, he was entered with something narrow, smooth. He opened his eyes and looked up at his bandaged lover.

“This is what you want, isn’t it?” Callum asked as he worked a finger in and out of Dustin, “I can see it in your eyes, you want more of this, don’t you?” Callum asked and began to work in another finger, “But you want something more than that, don’t you?” Callum asked and Dustin nodded then licked his lips, “You want what I have, don’t you?” Callum asked and Dustin nodded again, “Your wants and needs, and as you said to me earlier you want more and more each time. Is that not so?” Callum asked softly, but with a husky tone. Dustin nodded again. Callum gave a bit of a smirk and slowly pulled out his fingers with a slight twist. Dustin exhaled loudly and Callum smiled wider, “That’s what I thought.” He lowered Dustin legs a bit to where his hips were near the edge of the bed. Callum bent his knees a bit and put his tip at the wet entrance and pushed gently, spreading it out and began to slide in, “This is what you want.” Callum said. Dustin nodded and his eyes rolled back as he was entered. He pushed back against it a bit and more entered him, sliding it so gently, yet spreading him so wide. A width that he loved to feel filling him up inside. The movement stopped, Dustin filled and spread out inside to that point that he knew so well and he knew that Callum was fully in him now. He opened his eyes as he felt the weight begin to lay on him. They were eye to eye.

“This is what I always want.” Dustin said as he clasped his hands to Callum’s face.

“Then you shall have it, every night, if you so choose.” Callum smiled softly.

“I will never tire of this, my handsome warrior.”

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Darin Talon sat atop one of the geldings of the Guardsmen that survived the battle in the drive of the house known as Harbroughs. Callum handed the letter to him that he had written last night to The Duke of Wellington. Talon took the letter from him and placed it inside his tunic in the inside pocket.

“You know what to do and where to go, Darin?” Callum asked as he put his hand on Talon’s leg.

“Yes, sir.” Talon said giving Callum a nod.

“Once His Grace reads that, I am certain that he will want to give you a reply. If you would wait for it and then return here, I will be in your debt.” Callum said.

“It is nothing, sir, I assure you.”

“Be that as it may, Darin, I will. Rest yourself and the horse while you are in London. I know you wish to see your family, however…” Callum said.

“This is far more important, sir. My family can wait for a time.” Talon said.

“You’re a good man, Darin, and I thank you.” Callum said and gave him a smile and then pat his leg.

“I won’t let you down, sir.”

“I know you won’t, Darin.” Callum said and backed up a step. Talon gave Callum a nod, turned the horse and set off down the drive toward the road. Thomas, Christian, and Dustin watched as they stood behind Callum, “Hopefully he will be back by tomorrow afternoon.”

“I certainly hope so. I would hate to have Callista pining around here for him.” Thomas said. Christian chuckled, Dustin rolled his eyes as Callum looked over his shoulder back at Thomas, “What? She would, given half the chance.” Thomas said to Callum.

“Have a care, Thomas.” Callum said and then looked toward the road, seeing Talon riding south on it.

 

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