The tension in the rail carriage increased dramatically as the two men stared at each other. Philippe shifted his weight uncomfortably, squirming under the burning intense gaze of the other man.
"Answer me that, young sir- what makes you think you can care for my master as well as I?"
"That is none of your business,-"
RedVixen paused, chewing intently on the end of her pen. She had to come up with a suitable name for- ahem- the servant, one that would conceal his true identity, yet continue to give him a slightly comic air. She'd already changed his speech patterns around- that was a must, too many of her group knew the model of this character far too well. She'd been calling him Benoit, but that just didn't sit well. Benoit- Benjamin- no, far too English. Beau? Hmm, Bobo... She grinned and tried that in the sentence.
"That is none of your business, Bobo!" Philippe's voice reflected his intense discomfort. "You have no say in the matter of how I care for your master-"
A sound made her jump guiltily and scrabble to hide her notebook under more official paperwork.
"Rebecca? What have you there?"
"Oh! Nothing, Phileas- just working on my next assignment, you see, I was given background material to read and I've been too busy to do so lately."
"Oh, very well then." Phileas glanced around the parlor of the Aurora. She inspected his face critically- he was looking for Jules. His next words confirmed her guess. "Have you seen Verne?"
"Not recently," she said briskly. She gathered up her papers, especially the all-important notebook, and loaded them into a satchel. "He said something about enjoying the lovely day- an eminently suitable suggestion, if you ask me. And now, I must be going."
"Where to?" Phileas bent that intense gaze on her, instantly going into protective mode.
"This is Wednesday, is it not? You know I have a Garden Club meeting every Wednesday."
Phileas smiled indulgently. "Ah, yes- the Garden Club. It still amazes me that you take such an interest in gardening- and more so yet that you ladies can find so much to discuss that your meetings run so late into the nights."
Rebecca smiled, a secret smile. "Now, Phileas- just because I refuse to be an ordinary lady does not preclude me from having ordinary interests at times." She slung her satchel over her shoulder and strode from the Aurora into the sunlit afternoon. And believe me, dear cousin, we find plenty to talk about at these meetings... Not that I'd ever tell you about what we discuss, nor yet tell you the full name of the club.
The Aurora was currently tethered in the park surrounding Chattsworth's manor house. From here, it was but a short walk to the site of the Club's meetings- the elegant garden of Lady Melinda. Rebecca hurried through the fine afternoon, eager to reach the company of her fellow members of the Exotic Garden of Slash Club.
Edmund was at it again. He was sulking, like a schoolboy. He did it often, every time he did not get his way. Victoria smiled. This time, she knew exactly what was the cause of this sulk- she had been witness to a most extroardinary scene. She had been in the study, quiet and unseen, when Philippe and Edmund had entered, bringing an ongoing quarrel with them.
"Of course you must not do that! It is far too dangerous!"
Edmund was distraught, pacing the length of the study. Victoria slipped quietly behind the curtains, abandoning her search for a particular book.
"You are not my keeper, Edmund! What right have you to say if a thing is too dangerous for me to do? You, who risk all with scarcely a thought for others in your life who might care about you?"
Edmund halted and abruptly faced Philippe. "What do I care of the opinions of others? There is only one who matters to me, and I doubt that one cares at all in that same manner. However, you must not risk yourself, for there are those who wish to see you safe and unharmed-"
"Oh, really now! And who, pray tell, might these others be? Surely not yourself, who scarcely gives a damn about anything?"
Edmund was on him in a flash and had grasped him by the lapels of his coat. "There you are mistaken, Philippe- for I do give a damn, as you say. Otherwise I would not now be trying to talk you out of risking your fool neck on this harebrained venture."
Victoria held her breath. Surely he wasn't- but he was. Edmund pulled Philippe to him in a rough embrace and pressed his lips to the other man's. Philippe melted into his arms, then pulled away in stunned amazement when the door banged open and Bobo entered, a look of betrayal on his face as he gazed helplessly at his master.
RedVixen paused, waiting for the comments of her peers. Her eyes gazed at the uplifted faces, concealed by various elegant masks. Then the first comment fell into the appreciative silence.
"Surely that isn't all, Vixen? You aren't going to leave us hanging there?"
General laughter followed this remark.
"Alas, that is all for now," RedVixen replied. "Real Life kept intruding upon my creative efforts. Surely you know how that goes, TigerLilly?"
"That I do, that I do." The elaborately gowned and masked TigerLilly sighed. "'Twas well done, though, if more than a bit short."
"Can we have more?" Nymph piped up. "Please? If we beg really nicely?"
"Certainly you may," RedVixen smiled. "But I'm afraid you'll have to wait for the next installment of the Erotic Adventures of Philippe de Paris, as I suffered an untimely interruption when I began the next scene." She returned to her seat, amid sighs of regret.
"Who wants to go next?" TigerLilly asked, taking the podium at the front of the summerhouse.
"I do!" Raven rose eagerly. "I have completed the next episode of the Victorian Sex Slaves: the ongoing scandal."
"Carry on, then!" TigerLilly said. RedVixen sighed happily. All was well with the world.
Rebecca snuck quietly into the Aurora, hoping not to attract notice. It was long past one am, and she knew she would catch hell if Phileas were to spot her returning at this late hour. There were no lights, which was a good sign- perhaps she would make it in undetected. But no-
"Rebecca." A voice spoke from the shadowed hallway when she had nearly reached her room. "What kept you out so late this time?"
"The meeting ran over, cousin," she replied crisply, and continued on to her room.
"Enough of that nonsense, Rebecca- no Garden Club would meet this late at night. What have you been up to?"
"I told you, Edmund, I was at a Garden Club meeting. Now I am going to bed. Good night." She opened her door.
"What was that you called me?" Phileas' puzzled voice followed her into the sanctuary of her bedroom and she clamped her hands over her mouth to stifle a fit of giggles. Dear Lord, surely she hadn't just called him Edmund?
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