Silver frowned and scratched out the last sentence he had written.
This bloody paper was not cooperating with him at all.
Of course, if he were going to be honest, it was entirely his own fault – his mind would much rather think of the fact that once Pierce returned from his duels they would be heading out to his yacht for a week.
None but the two of them, and thinking of it ruined any chance he had of finishing his paper for the day. With a sigh he set his quill aside and fussed with his papers.
Only a few weeks ago he had assumed he would be spending his summer locked away in this very library putting the finishing touches on the paper he would be presenting to the academy. He had fully intended to do exactly that, deviating only occasionally to gaze wistfully at the yacht that would either be leaving or returning to port, catching snatches of Pierce here and there.
Now his sister was engaged to Seymour and Pierce had made it very clear what he intended to do once they were finally completely and utterly alone – no shrieking females to make them go for yet another fitting, no friends to come and ask if it was true Pierce had finally put the question to his sister, he was going to kill whoever had started that rumor.
He looked up at the sound of several pairs of feet stomping noisily toward him, and coolly regarded the men who approached.
“St. Rose,” Mathews greeted, sitting down without so much as a by your leave, close enough their thighs brushed and Silver jerked irritably away.
Except suddenly he was pinned from the other side two, sandwiched between two lumbering oxen on the bench he’d taken, with two more occupying the chairs on the other side of the table.
A heavy arm fell across his shoulders and he picked up his pen knife. “Winthrop, unhand me at once or I shall be forced to take extreme measures.”
The arm vanished. “Alright, St. Rose, alright,” Winthrop said lightly. “You always were a tetchy fellow.”
He was not tetchy. Silver tried not to let the words sting, and set the pen knife down with a frown. “What do you lot want? Can you not see I was attempting to get some work done? Go bother someone else.”
“Ah, but St. Rose,” said one from the other side of the table – Van Moore – with a teasing pout. “You are the one we wanted to see. Is it true Fairfax has finally succumbed to your sister’s wiles? A lovely thing, your sister, but of course—”
“But of course you would not speak so crassly about my sister, so I’m certain I did not just hear you speak,” Silver said coldly, glaring at all of them. “If you have come here to be rude, then I suggest you take yourselves off again, gentlemen.”
The fourth man, Islington, gave an aggrieved sigh. “Come off it, St. Rose, you know we mean no harm. Must you always be so uptight? We mean no offense, of course. I think we all have been madly in love with your sister at one point or another. It is hard to take that we never stood a chance, if she has finally managed to rope Fairfax into making a long overdue offer.”
Silver’s glare did not ease. “My sister is not getting married to Pierce, you great big imbeciles, and I will thank you not to continue spreading such idiocy about. She is marrying an old childhood friend of ours, and they are quiet besotted with each other.”
“Now lay off,” Winthrop said, once more settling a hand on his shoulder, ignoring Silver’s look. “We’ve been hearing everywhere that Pierce has finally taken up with St. Rose, and what the devil else is that supposed to mean?”
He tried not to be hurt, because after all hadn’t he always kept his distance? Never had he given any indication as to his feelings for the man who seemed never to spare him a second look because Silver had been confounded as to how to attract him.
Oh, the times he had envied his sister for her ability to talk and charm…
“I’m certain I couldn’t imagine,” Silver said bitterly. “Now—”
“Last I checked, gentlemen,” Pierce said, and Silver jerked around to see Pierce standing behind them. “There were two St. Rose children, and while the sister is lovely…” He smiled, and Silver’s ire faded away beneath the knowledge that warm smile was solely for him. “She is only my friend.”
“Pierce,” Silver said, wishing he could say more, but as ever his tongue hated him.
Before Pierce could reply, the entire table erupted into laughter and a few suggestive comments for which he would shortly be going for his penknife if they did not desist.
Rough hands clapped his shoulders and back.
“Well, why didn’t you simply say, St. Rose! Speak up next time! Pierce, stop taking all the pretty ones for yourself! First you charm the sister and now you have taken the brother. Leave a St. Rose for the rest of us.”
Pierce grinned and moved close enough Silver could smell him, touch him. “Now, now, Cress and I are just friends. And what Silver and I do is none of your business, miscreants.”
The laughter erupted again, and Silver felt his cheeks burn. “Pierce,” he hissed.
He merely got another grin, and warm fingers sliding across his cheek. “Ready to go, Silver?”
“Yes,” Silver said fervently, scribbling a note for the clerk who always assisted him to have his things packed up and sent back to his room. He glared his way free of the men crowding him and finally reached Pierce – his heart still tripping over itself at the way Pierce held out a hand, and held his so firmly, and drew him just the slightest bit closer than propriety dictated.
He barely noticed the way the ruckus around them had faded, eyes only for the man he’d always loved, and who was now somehow his.
“Get any work done?” Pierce asked softly.
Silver shook his head, mouth quirking. “No. Someone planted distracting ideas in my head. I’m horribly behind in my work now, Pierce.”
Pierce grinned. “Then I guess I’d better make it up to you. Come along, my star, our yacht awaits.”
Flushing, hideously embarrassed as always when any reference to his idiotic letters came up, Silver allowed Pierce to drag him away, the men who’d been harassing him forgotten entirely.