London, Kensington, 1888
Nicholas eyed the boy from across the room. The dancing couples were from time to time obscuring his view but the boy was now in his direct line of sight. His clothes were finely cut in the latest fashion signifying a social status matching Nicholas´ own, his hair was combed down but a few stray locks seemed to refuse to stay put and were standing out from his head. Shadows moved in the candlelit room, keeping half of the boy's face in darkness; the other half was illuminated in a soft golden light making his pale skin glow and his plump pink lips glisten. The boy's hair was brown with streaks of red, it was apparent that the boy had forced the curls of his hair to lay flat and Nicholas felt a strange longing to see them free, untamed.
Nicholas did not know the boy, but considering his young age maybe he had only recently entered the social scene that was London´s higher society. Nicholas figured that he must be around eighteen or nineteen years old. The boy's eyes were focused on the dancing couples but they would from time to time dart to Nicholas, linger only for a second and then move away quickly.
The boy had noticed him, of that he was sure. The boy had noticed that Nicholas was watching him; and it had made the boy jittery in his spot moving uneasy from one foot to another, twirling his glass. It had not made him move away from the line of sight though but rather linger in the same spot.
"Nicholas, I have not seen you for quite some time. Been away on business?"
The voice made Nicholas turn his attention from the boy and turn in the direction of the familiar voice.
"Simon, always a pleasure." Nicholas smiled at the man extending his hand. "Yes, I have been away for some time but not much has changed; same old people, same old discussions."
Simon grasped his hand, one eyebrow slightly lifted.
"Oh, there have been some new additions. I would love to make some introductions for you. There are some people I am sure would peak," Simon paused before continuing," even your interest."
Nicholas merely nodded, he did not like Simon, there was something predatory about him, something lurking beneath the perfectly polished surface. But Nicholas always kept the people he did not trust close that way being able to be one step ahead. Knowing Simon also helped him navigate with ease within the social scene. Simon knew everyone of importance and then some.
He followed Simon through the crowded room, grabbing a glass of champagne from a passing waiter. Simon began the introductions, as a swivel of young blushing debutants passed Nicholas by in a blur of too much perfume and giggles. A few men in town on business required longer conversations, and Nicholas made his best effort not to look bored as discussion of stock market and increased property value were flowing. The evening was beginning to turn into night and Nicholas was starting to feel a light buzz from the glasses of champagne that he had downed though out the evening. The dance floor was beginning to thin out, and people were standing in small groups making conversation as others were making their preparations to leave.
"It is getting late, I think I will say my goodbyes to the hostesses and make my way home," Nicholas said making a toast with the gentlemen he was currently entertaining and downed the remaining content of his glass.
"Oh, but you must have time for one more introduction," said Simon, smoothing out his mustache with two fingers.
"If you insist, Mr. Cowell," Nicholas said and moved with Simon across the room.
Nicholas knew who he was taking him to. The boy was engrossed in a conversation with an older woman. His hair was no longer slick; it had become tussled throughout the evening, probably from running his hand through it. Nicholas felt a thrilling notion to see the locks framing the boys´ face.
"I want you to meet Mr. Harry Styles, son of Des Styles," Simon made the introduction effortlessly as always.
Nicholas met the boy's eyes and stretched out his hand.
"Pleasure, I´m Nicholas Grimshaw."
The boy grabbed his hand more firmly than he had expected. Nicholas squeezed it back and held it a tad longer than socially accepted but only a tad. It was enough though to make a small blush arise on the boy's cheeks.
Being back in London definitely had its advantages, Nicholas thought to himself. He could already see himself introducing this innocent boy into the pleasures that were considered a crime so severe that the punishment was death. But in Nicholas´ world that fact only added fuel to an already burning flame.
The streets were foggy only illuminated by the flickering gas lamps. Nicholas pulled the wool coat closer around himself, cursing the fact that he decided to walk home instead of waiting for a carriage.
It had been another night filled with business discussions, cigars and expensive brandy. Ever since he had returned to London his evenings had been occupied with similar events. The sounds of the night surrounded him; a dog barking, a couple arguing, rustles of the rats feasting on the contents of a thrown over trashcan. He walked briskly across the street and eyed the corner a couple of girls usually occupied in hope of finding a gentleman in need of entertainment for the evening. The corner was deserted. He was not surprised; there had been another murder just last night. It was all over the papers, the ripper strikes again.
Nicholas pushed the thoughts of dead and desecrated prostitutes from his mind. More pleasant thoughts took their place, thoughts of pale skin and wild locks. Nicholas had not seen the boy since the party three weeks ago but he knew it was only a matter of time before they would run into each other again, and when they did Nicholas would make sure to get a chance to get to know the boy better.
He turned a corner again and his townhouse appeared before him. He had bought it recently and it had been a most fortunate buy. The two story red brick building with its steep roof, sporting many angles highlighted by the stained glass windows and iron railings, was a suiting home for a man of his position. Some people called it too modern, but Nicholas was a man who wanted to have all the latest facilities.
He had been most intrigued when one of the gentlemen he had met during the evening had told him that he was installing a water closet in his home and that it surely would soon be the must have of every wealthy home owner in London, as soon the sewer systems was better developed . If nothing it was a good investment opportunity and the man had mention that Tomas Crapper´s Company was working on the matter. Nicholas would make sure to look in to the issue as soon as possible.
He hurried up the stairs and turned the doorknob, stepping in to the warmth of his house. His feet sunk down in the thick red carpet and he hurried to close the door to at least partly keep the odors of London out.
”Oh sorry, sir, I did not hear a carriage, let me take your coat." Mr. Banner, Nicholas´ longtime butler appeared in the hallway, his clothes slightly wrinkled and one side of his grey hair ruffled indicating that he had been taking a nap, as he usually did when waiting for Nicholas to return for the evening.
Mr. Banner might not fill the quota for the perfect gentleman butler but he possessed other qualities that Nicholas valued much higher, discretion being the most prominent. And then add bad hearing and early sleeping habits to that, he was in Nicholas' mind the perfect servant.
"Yes please do, and do not worry about not hearing a carriage, I walked." Nicholas let the man take his coat and strode on into the drawing room.
"Can I get you anything, sir? And I have to say that walking home at this time of night seems like a foolish idea, sir. The streets of London are not safe anymore." Mr. Banner had followed Nicholas and was now hovering by the door.
"Unless someone mistakes me for one of the gay girls with my skirt tucked up I don´t think I have anything to worry about, Mr. Banner, but I will make sure not to linger on any street corners, and bring me a whiskey won't you." Nicholas plopped down in his favorite chair and went about taking his shoes off.
"Right away, sir," Mr. Banner mumbled and left the room.
The evening had started out rather slow; Nicholas had danced a couple of dances with a lovely young lady by the name of Gillian, a blonde with a family fortune that put most people in the room to shame. Nicholas was now moving through the crowd, exchanging pleasantries when needed.
His eyes caught sight of a head full of curls; the boy had done a much poorer job of taming them today Nicholas contemplated as he watched Harry from afar. He was standing next to his father, a man Nicholas was familiar with but nothing more. They were talking to none other than Simon Cowell and Nicholas made his way over to the three of them. He greeted the men, extending his hand to Mr. Styles.
"Mr. Grimshaw, always a pleasure to see you." Mr. Styles senior was a man who was not afraid to let his wealth show. His round belly stood out from him barely contained by his vest.
"This is my son Harry." Mr. Styles gestured to the boy standing next to him.
Harry met Nicholas´ eyes and the strangest thing happened. It was as if everyone else ceased to exist, all Nicholas could see was that boy. The voices around him became muffled. A small smile played on Harry's lips but only for a second, only long enough for Nicholas to notice. Nicholas was pulled from his daze when the boy began speaking.
"We have been introduced. Mr. Cowell was just telling us about how successful your business is."
Nicholas had to swallow before answering. What was happening to him? He surely must have had a tad too much to drink.
"How very kind of Mr. Cowell. I believe me helping him with his investments must have put him in a good mood."
"Harry has taken an interest in business, whatever for I have no idea. I keep telling him that we have people that do that for us but he is very insistent." Mr. Styles laughed so much that his big belly almost jutted out of his vest before continuing," I was just telling Mr. Cowell about Harry´s interest in business and he said that if one wishes to learn anything worth knowing about this matter it is you, Mr. Grimshaw, one should turn to."
”Oh, I don´t know, I am afraid Mr. Cowell is exaggerating. I know some but surely there are others just as qualified if not more in this town."
"Oh, I can assure you, Mr. Styles, Nicholas is merely modest. I believe that if you are considering letting Harry explore the world of business you could not ask for a better mentor than Mr. Grimshaw." Simon lifted his glass in Nicholas´ direction.
"Is that so? Well what do you say, Mr. Grimshaw? Could you find it in you to take my boy under your wings? He is only eighteen but he is very bright if I may say so and he is very eager to learn."
Nicholas nearly choked on his whiskey, the burning liquid got stuck in his throat and he had to swallow repeatedly to get it down. He coughed and wiped his mouth off with his handkerchief.
"I´m sorry, this came a bit sudden but am sure we can work something out. Why don´t you come by my office on Monday and we can talk?" Nicholas turned his attention to Harry who had remained silent during the conversation.
"I will. This is very kind of you, Mr. Grimshaw, I know my father disagrees but I believe that merely marinating one´s fortune is not the way of the future. One must make one's own." Nicholas noticed how the boy´s eyes were sparkling as he spoke.
Monday rolled in way too fast. Nicholas rearranged the papers on his desk for the tenth time that morning. The weekend had been spent visiting his aunt in Westminster. The two days had been filled with endless tea sessions and Mildred´s constant stream of chatter, leaving Nicholas with way too much time to daydream and think of the boy, to think of Harry. Think of how the opportunity to spend time with him had merely landed in Nicholas´ lap.
He would win the boy over, of that he was sure. But something was filling him with a bit of unease, a small voice inside was telling him that if he had this boy he might not ever want to let him go, which was of course a ludicrous thought. He always had to let them go, maintaining this kind of connection for too long always led to complications, suspicion. He could not have that. No he would enjoy the boy and make damn sure that the boy enjoyed himself and then he would end it like he always did, move on to something else. A soft knock on the door woke Nicholas from his musings.
"A Mr. Harry Edward Styles is here to see you sir." Nicholas´ secretary stood in the doorframe awaiting further instructions.
"Yes, send him in." Nicholas stood up from his chair to greet the man.
Harry strolled through the door, his hat in one hand and a bumbershoot umbrella in the other.
"Miss Fincham, would you please take Mr. Styles´ hat and coat and then leave us alone?"
"Of course, sir." Miss Fincham took the coat and hat and left the room, closing the door on her way out.
Nicholas gestured for Harry to sit down and took a seat behind his desk.
Harry leaned the umbrella against the wall and took the seat opposite Nicholas. Harry's hand went up to his hair as if he were about to run it through it, but he seemed to change his mind, letting it fall down in his lap instead.
"It is most kind of you to see me, sir." The color on Harry's cheeks rose as he spoke and he played with the hem of his jacket.
"The pleasure is all mine, Mr. Styles. I am actually looking forward to showing you all the tricks of the trade. Your father said you were eager to learn did he not?" Nicholas´ tone was suggestive. There was no reason not to test the waters a bit now when he had the young man alone for the first time.
Harry met his eyes and then looked away quickly.
"That is right, sir. I am very eager to learn, Mr. Grimshaw," Harry replied.
"Oh, if I am to educate you, please call me Nicholas, at least in private. May I call you Harry?" Nicholas went about shifting some papers around, awaiting the boy´s answer, knowing that it had been a most improper suggestion.
"Yes, please call me Harry." The boy´s voice was a bit shaky.
"Good. Now that that's settled, let's go about showing you what a day in my trade looks like." Nicholas gave the boy a reassuring smile and went about it.
It turned out that Harry was very eager to learn indeed. In the weeks that followed he had eagerly observed Nicholas and asked intelligent questions, forcing Nicholas to take down notes about making some changes in his well-established routines. The young man had followed Nicholas to meetings and business lunches and helped him sort through contracts and write letters.
Nothing impromptu had happened apart from glances that sometimes lingered a bit longer than necessary and one time Nicholas had put his hand on top of the young man´s as they were sorting through some papers. He had only held it there a couple of seconds but he had heard the boy inhale sharply and his cheeks had filled with the loveliest color of scarlet red. Tonight Nicholas was hosting a party at his house: - it was necessary from time to time but Nicholas dreaded these gatherings when he had to be the host.
Not that he minded to be the center of attention but having that amount of people in his home invading the only privacy he had made him uneasy. Harry had promised to help and was currently instructing the staff on the order in which the meals should appear and what drinks should be served.
Nicholas eyed his refection in the full-size mirror. The black straight slacks, with a crease in front and back, clung to his legs in a becoming way. He straightened the jacket and fixed his white tie. His brown hair was combed slick and he stroked his hand over it to make sure that there were no stray hairs. He was just about to button his cufflinks when a knock on the door interrupted him.
"Come in," Nicholas said, his back still at the door.
"All is set. I just wanted to ask if you need me to take care of anything else." Harry was standing behind him.
Nicholas turned around to face him. Harry was all dressed up for the evening, the black suit contrasting his pale features.
"Close the door." Nicholas´ voice came out raspier than he had intended.
Harry did as told, staying by the closed door. Nicholas´ eyes went over the boy taking in all of him. He was beautiful. Nicholas felt the need take over him, he had held back these past weeks - why he was not sure of - but tonight he merely could not resist temptation any longer.
He stepped closer to Harry, letting his breath play over the boy's face. The green eyes widened and Nicholas could see his adam´s apple bob as he swallowed thickly. Nicholas slipped one arm around Harry´s waist and pulled his body flush to his, the fabric of their suits rustled when making contact.
The boy began to say something but stopped when Nicholas pushed their lips together. The boy tasted of champagne and youth, filling Nicholas´s senses with a strange feeling and making him almost want to stop as it was consuming him. But all those thoughts went away when Harry inhaled sharply and then opened his mouth, meeting Nicholas´s tongue with his own.
His hands came up to Nicholas´s hair, dragging him close. Then Nicholas abandoned all thoughts of stopping and let himself surrender to the feeling. A flickering thought went through his mind; when had this happened? When had he let himself feel something for this boy other than lust? There could be nothing more than lust. He may not play by the laws and restrictions by society but he did play by his own rules and he did not love. There were boundaries to maintain, because when you crossed those you risked everything. Nicholas took calculated risks; he was a successful business man after all. Love, the word was foreign to him, was a risk not worth taking.
He pushed Harry against the wall kissing him rigorously as if that might make the strange feeling in his chest go away. The boy whimpered as their erections made contact and Nicholas moved his hips creating a friction that had them both panting within seconds. He moved his mouth to the boy's ear and whispered softly into it, never decreasing his movements.
"Do you like that, Harry? I can make you feel even better if you only let me. Will you let me?" Nicholas licked the boy´s ear and moved his mouth down the delicate neck.
"Yes." The boy´s answer was a mere whisper but Nicholas wasted no time.
He moved his hand and unbuckled Harry´s trousers and let them and the boy´s underwear fall around his ankles. Nicholas´ hand wrapped around the boy´s arousal, felling it throb in his hand as he began to stroke over the soft skin.
The boy´s body became limp and Nicholas had to hold him up as he slowly stroked him to completion. As the boy´s body began to convulse, his release spreading over Nicholas ´ hand and shirt, Nicholas looked up meeting the boy´s eyes. Green orbs meeting his, filled with an emotion consuming Nicholas. Nicholas wanted to break the stare, terrified by what he saw there, terrified that his own eyes revealed the very same thing.
He might as well dress up in women's clothing and stand on one of Whitechapel's street corners waiting for the ripper to take him because either way he was truly fucked and this story would not have a happy ending…..
Days became weeks. Winter made it´s appearance in London, scattered snowflakes fell to the ground, to immediately melt into water as they meet the cobblestone streets. If Nicholas had had the intention of making his affair with Harry brief, he was hardly keeping to that plan.
Harry was like no one he had ever met before. Maybe it was his youth making him fearless, but Harry was most of all full of life and joy in a way that Nicholas never could recall himself being. Having the young man around made him laugh and talk like he hadn’t in years, not since childhood had made room for the responsibilities of adulthood. He would take Harry out to theaters and operas and eat at the most fashionable restaurants.
They would sit up late in his drawing room, just talking- a drink in hand- long after Mr. Banner had tucked in for the night. Sometimes Harry would get that expression that he probably though as a bit naughty, but to Nicholas he looked more like a kitten about to leap on a yarn ball. He would get up from his chair and plop himself in Nicholas´ lap and kiss him, first on his cheek and then on the mouth.
Sometimes it led to nothing more than kissing, Nicholas pushing a giggling teen out of his lap after few minutes, urging Harry to go home, but sometimes he would take Harry upstairs to his bedroom. Harry’s expression would then turn into something more serious. His eyes would become dark, his gaze more intense. They would undress each other with hurried movements.
Nicholas would kiss the delicate skin on Harry´s neck, felling his blood rush just beneath the surface. He would then tip them into the neatly made bed, letting his hands run over the boy’s body.
He would kiss his way down Harry´s long torso; follow the treasure trail with his tongue. He would take him into his mouth, sucking him until he came with a soft groan. Sometimes Harry would reincorporate straight away, pushing Nicholas into the mattress and with more eager than skill finish Nicholas off in mere minutes with his mouth. Other times he would lay in Nicholas arms -eyes closed -a smile on his lips- stoking Nicholas slowly until he came over Harry’s hand and stomach.
Some people might say that Nicholas Grimshaw at the age of 28 had fallen in love, those people did of course not know Nicholas.
“You look so happy, if you don´t mind me saying so, sir.” His secretary, Miss Fincham, had commented one day as she was leaving the office.
Miss Fincham rarely remarked on personal matters and was a correct lady who took her job seriously. Nicholas had looked up from his desk and had for the first time reflected over how little he knew about Miss Fincham, apart from the fact that she was an excellent secretary.
“Well thank you, Miss Fincham. I must say that you are looking very elegant today. Is that a new coat?
Miss Fincham blushed and stroked her hand over the dark woolen coat she was wearing.
“Yes it is. I must ask, should I start preparing for an announcement party anytime soon?” Miss Fincham smiled standing in the doorway, her delicate hands clutching her purse to her chest.
“An announcement party? Whatever do you mean?” Nicholas eyed the woman in front of him curiously.
“Oh, I..I just presumed, with all the theater tickets and restaurants you had me book lately. I just presumed that you were courting a young lady, sir.” Miss Fincham´s eyes were big.
Nicholas squeezed the quill he was holding, the ink smudging his fingers.
“I would hold off on that announcement party. Have a lovely evening, Miss Fincham. See you in the morning.”
The unease Nicholas felt over Miss Fincham´s seemingly innocent remark, refused to leave him. On his way home from the office he took a detour to one of the local pubs.
The pint tasted bitter and he sat alone in a corner contemplating weather he should end things with Harry. On one hand it would be the safest thing to do, but on the other it was nothing strange with the young man wanting to learn the trade of business from him. No one else would see it as an inappropriate connection, it had after all been Harry´s own father who had insisted on Nicholas helping the boy along.
When he finally made it home the clock struck ten and he felt lose from the bear. He stepped into the house and took his coat off. Mr. Banner did not greet him, for once not woken from his slumber by Nicholas´ arrival.
Nicholas moved into the living room. The fire in the fireplace was almost burnt down, only leaving a faint red glow to light up the otherwise dark room.
Nicholas stopped in the doorway, eyeing the figure asleep in one of the leather chairs. The figure moved in his sleep, making the woolen blanket he wrapped around himself slide down to the floor, but he didn´t wake as Nicholas entered the room. Nicholas let his fingers hover in the air for some time before he ran them through Harry´s curls. The boy stirred and opened his eyes, a small smile creeping up his face.
“You are home.”
He nuzzled into Nicholas’ palm as he moved it down the boy´s cheek.
“Let´s go upstairs.”
Harry stood up dragging Nicholas with him up the stairs.
The wood made a soft squeaking sound as they moved up the steps. Harry´s hand felt warm in Nicholas´. The bedroom was only illuminated by the flicking from the gas laps outside; the smog over London rarely let the stars shine through.
Nicholas took Harry into his arms and kissed him, his lips were soft and he was still indulgent and warm from sleep. They fell into the bed, a tangle of arms and legs.
“ I want..” Harry paused tucking his head into Nicholas´ neck.
“What do you want?” Nicholas asked unbuttoning the boy´s shirt.
“I want you to show me how to be with another man.”
“What do you mean? We are with each other..”
“I mean like..,” Harry paused struggling for words,” ..everything. I want you to show me everything.”
Harry looked up from Nicholas ‘neck. Nicholas stroked his cheek, a small treble in his hand.
“Then I will show you everything, anything you want.”
The boy gasped and withered beneath him as Nicholas carefully circled the boy´s hole with one finger before slipping it past the rim, oil dripping into the sheets. He added another one scissoring them slowly as he moved them in and out.
“Are you okay?” He whispered into Harry´s ear as he pushed with his third finger.
“Yes,” the answer was merely a whisper.
He kissed the boys mouth feeling his hard erection between their bodies.
“I want you to get on your hands and knees for me.”
Nicholas removed his fingers and helped the young man to turn. He stroked over Harry´s back and down to his cheeks, separating them, revealing the pink hole, now glistering with oil. He let his finger circle around the rim seeing the boy shiver under his touch, his erection hanging down heavy between his thighs. He stayed there for some time just admiring Harry, stroking his finger round the rim.
“I´m going to push in now, I want you to try and relax, it won’t be pleasant at first,” Nicholas said as he stroked his own dick, lining it up against the boy´s hole.
Harry just nodded his head and Nicholas started to slowly push in. He felt the boy tense up as he pushed further in, the rim stretching around the intrusion. He stroked Harry´s back trying to get him to relax as he pushed all the way in, his pelvis meeting the round cheeks of the boy´s ass. He stayed still, sneaking his hand around Harry, stroking him into being fully hard again.
Nicholas started to moves his hips, pushing in and out of the tight hole. It felt so good, the heat, the pressure and Harry´s small pants. He urged the boy up so he would sit in Nicholas´ lap, making it possible for Nicholas to touch the boy, moving his hand up and down his shaft.
He moved his hips upwards and after a while Harry started do push down meeting Nicholas´ trusts. Nicholas licked Harry´s neck and started kissing his ear as he moved his hand faster feeling the young man tense up and then come, a sticky warmth covering Nicholas´ hand.
He pushed Harry gently forward, his head resting on the duvet as Nicholas moved faster, his hands holding a firm grip on the boy´s hips. Nicholas came with a louder grasp than he hand intended and filled Harry´s hole before he pulled out.
Later, after they had cleaned up best they could, Harry rested his head against Nicholas´ chest and as Nicholas felt sleep sweep over him, he heard they boy whisper:
“I think I love you, Nicholas Grimshaw.”
In the morning Nicholas let
himself believe the words had only been fragments of a dream.
Chapter 3 Family
The day that Nicholas took Harry to see his parents was a mild Friday in the beginning of March. Some ladies had taken their coats off and the streets of London were filled with people enjoying that spring finally seemed to have taken the city over, after a winter that had appeared far too long.
Nicholas was meeting a business associate a Mr. James Corden, up north to discuss some investments and Harry was coming along to observe. As Mr. Corden lived only a short distance from Nicholas´ family home he felt obliged to visit them, and he had also missed them terribly.
His relationship with his parents was heartfelt; Nicholas being their youngest son meant he had been a bit spoiled as a child. His parents had had him late in life; he had been, as his mother called it, a most pleasant surprise, his older siblings already in their teens when he was born. Eileen and Peter Grimshaw owned a country estate that had been in the family for generations and Nicholas felt guilty for not visiting his parents more often.
“I´m looking forward to meeting them.”
“What?” Nicholas turned his head away from the small window and eyed Harry sitting next to him on the stuffed leather seat. They had ordered a covered carriage as their trip would take several hours. The uneven pavement of the London streets made the carriage rattle and Harry´s leg felt warm next to Nicholas´.
“Your parents, I wonder if they are like you.” Harry smiled reviling those irresistible dimples.
Nicholas wanted to lean over and kiss them but settled for squeezing Harry´s leg.
“They are quite the pair I tell you that.”
Nicholas looked into the green eyes as the boy laughed, putting his own hand over Nicholas´ intertwining their fingers. For a moment Nicholas let himself imagine Harry being a girl he was bringing home to declare their engagement to the family.
His mother would surly cry; his father would beam with pride and tell Nicholas that he made quite the catch.
A dull pain spread in Nicholas´ chest before he was able to push it away. That day would never come; he had promised himself that he would not enter into a marriage of convenience.
He knew a lot of men with his tastes did, but even though a wife probably would be good for business and put a stop to the things he was sure some whispered behind his back, Nicholas could not make himself do that. He was not entirely sure of why, he found a lot of women both beautiful and witty, but the idea of living a farce inside the four walls of his home felt wrong, impossible to manage in the long run.
The hours stretched on and Harry took a nap, resting his head against Nicholas’ shoulder. Nicholas let his hand rest on Harry´s thigh as he tried to look over some documents, the rattle of the carriage making him sleepy as well.
The carriage pulled up at Grimshaw Manor just in time for afternoon tea. Nicholas eyed his pocket watch as he stepped out to the gravel in front of his family home. The sun was still set high in the sky, making the red brick building almost appear glowing. Nicholas marveled over how much better the air was out here away from the London smog. Birds sang and the trees of the garden were filled with light green leaves.
Nicholas helped Harry take the bags from the carriage and they made their way up to the heavy wooden door, to be greeted by both Nicholas´ mother and father, who appeared to have been waiting just inside the door.
“Father, Mother, this is Harry Styles. He is an apprentice of mine, well sort of.” Nicholas was never quite sure how to introduce Harry.
“Very nice to meet you, Henry Stars, must say you have quite the peculiar name, young man.” Nicholas´ father shook Harry´s hand.
“No father it’s Harry Styles,” Nicholas corrected trying to keep from laughing.
His dad´s hearing had started to recline in recent years and seemed to have reclined even further since Nicholas´ last visit.
Nicholas only sighed and took a deep breath, preparing to try to explain that Henry Stars was in fact Harry Styles but before he had the chance his dad had dragged Harry into the sitting room, calling his mother to make sure the tea was served.
Nicholas followed and sunk down in a decorated chair, as his mother pointed out were the tea should be served. A young girl wearing an apron placed the cups and a plate of biscuits on the small table. She must be new to the household, Nickolas felt relieved that Mrs. Oliver had someone to help her; she had been with the family since before Nicholas had been born and must be nearing seventy.
“Oh, it is so nice to see you, you don´t come around often enough. Don’t we say that all the time, dear? Our boy Nicholas should come around more often.” His mother sipped the tea and looked expectantly at her husband.
“Yes, dear, the tea is very nice.” Nicholas´ father patted his wife on her hand that was resting on her blue skirt.
Eileen Grimshaw shook her head before taking a nibble of the biscuit on her plate, not bothering to correct her husband.
“So, Henry, you plan to make a career in marketing I gather. It was I whom advised Nicholas to pursue it. If it had not been for my advice, who know what he would be doing? Probably been working at one of those music halls or what it is you call them in London.”
“Don’t be daft, dear. From what I hear it´s only criminals and ladies with questionable moral working those places.” Eileen swatted her husband’s arm.
Nicholas met Harry´s eyes and saw that he was biting his lip trying not to laugh as Nicholas´ parents´ bantered.
“Have you ever actually been to one of those music halls, mother?” Nicholas asked.
“No, dear God I would never set foot at one of those establishments. I hope that you are making sure that young Harry stays away from them as well. I can only imagine what goes on at those places, as his mentor you should set a god example.”
Nicholas moved uneasy in the stuffed chair, he had done a rather poor job of being some sort of moral example for young Harry; he was rather the one person that had ruined all of the boys´ virtue.
“You must show Harry around the premises,” Eileen said as they finished tea.
“Dinner will be served at eight. I had the west wing set out for the two of you by the way. Why don´t you take a walk and I have James bring your bags to your rooms in the meantime?”
Nicholas nodded and kissed his mother on the cheek before he and Harry headed outside.
Nicholas showed Harry the garden; his mother took great pride in it. She did just as mush work here as the gardener, if not more. It was filled with well-trimmed rosebushes, creepers and ramblers, hardy shrubs, herbaceous plants and bulbs. Nicholas could remember his mother often spending all day out in the garden and all evening with her nose in some new gardening book.
“It´s a lovely garden,” Harry commented.
“Yes it is.”
It felt strange, yet comforting, seeing Harry in the place Nicholas used to play in as a child.
After the walk they unpacked and rested separately in their rooms until dinnertime arrived.
A soft nock on the door alerted Nicholas that Harry was ready and he gave himself a quick look over in the mirror before he opened.
Harry was standing outside, a smile revealing his dimples. He was dressed in a black dinner jacket and he had attempted to comb his locks down but they still curled around his neck.
The massive oak table held at least ten different courses even though Nicholas had told his mother to keep the dinner simple. In time for dessert Nicholas felt like he couldn’t get another bite down but he still ate both the pudding and the cream pie.
“Henry, what does your father and mother do? Do they live in London?” Nicholas father wiped his mouth with a napkin and looked expectantly at Harry.
Nicholas opened his moth to one and for all try to correct his father but Harry made a dismissive wave in Nicholas´ direction.
“Yes, they live on London. Father mostly drinks whisky and smokes cigars and mother mostly spends her time disapproving of my father.” Harry bit his lip before smiling.
“That is a wife´s most important job I have heard.” Nicholas piped in.
“Do you have any siblings?” Nicholas ‘mother asked ignoring her son’s remark.
“Yes I have a sister, Gemma. She is actually getting married next summer, to a loud Irishman. Must say I was rather surprised when they declared their engagement, they are quite the opposite those two. But I think they fit well, he makes her laugh, doesn’t take life quite as seriously as Gem.”
“How wonderful, your mother must be so happy. We are ourselves waiting for our youngest to find himself a bride, are we not, dear?”
“ Dear? No, darling, it was pork. The hunting fortune has not been with me lately. Do you hunt, young Henry?”
Nicholas´ mother closed her eyes for a brief second before hiding a laugh in her napkin.
Nicholas had never been so grateful over his father’s bad hearing as now. He did not want to get in to yet another discussion with his mother about finding himself a suitable wife.
Harry answered Nicholas ‘father politely and they continued to discuss hunting until Nicholas´ mother declared that it was getting late and Nicholas managed to get Harry to move from the dinner table after repeatedly thanking Eileen and Peter for a wonderful dinner.
Nicholas took Harry back to his room, letting the heavy wooden door shut close behind them. He kissed him once having every intention of returning to his own room for the night but Harry pulled him close and started to unbutton Nicholas ´shirt. His breath smelled of wine and his hands were demanding. Nicholas surrendered to it, letting the young man take charge for once.
The sheets were draped over them and the bed squeaked a bit as Harry pushed inside keeping as quiet as he could and his trusts small. Nicholas moved his hand over his own erection bringing himself off, laying on the side, his leg hitched over Harry´s hip and his hole filled with Harry´s thick penis. He muffled his cry in the pillow as he came felling Harry follow shortly after.
In the morning they ate a big breakfast together with Nicholas’ patents before continuing on their travel.
Their visit to, Mr. James Corden, went beyond Nicholas’ expectations. Mr. Corden seemed utterly charmed by Harry and eagerly agreed to all of Nicholas´ business proposals.
Back in London things stayed the same between Nicholas and Harry; they spent days as well as nights together.
One morning over tea Harry mentioned that his parents were throwing an evening ball later in the month and that Nicholas most likely would get and invitation. Nicholas had nodded his head and continued reading the newspaper, an uneasy feeling in his gut. Wouldn’t Harry´s parents have noticed by now that their son hardly spent any time at home?
Chapter 4 Party
Nicholas gave his dripping umbrella to the butler at the door. The weather had become increasingly worse during the evening and when he hand arrived at the large building at Wells Street, it had been pouring down.
He looked around the crowded entrance, filled with guests such as him, trying to see if Harry was anywhere to be seen. Just when he was about to enter further into the Styles´ family home a hand grasped hold of him from behind and an unmistakable American accent cut through the chatter in the room.
“Well look what the cat dragged in, if it isn’t Nicholas Grimshaw.”
Nicholas turned around and was faced with a redhead in an, for the current fashion, much too low cut emerald green dress. She wore black gloves up to her elbows and a black parasol hung on her right arm. Nicholas´ face broke up in a grin and he took the lady´s gloved hand and kissed it before responding.
“Mrs. Aimee Chaloner, I had no idea you were back from the States, looking dashing as always.” Nicholas complemented.
“You see, love? Nicholas thinks I´m dashing. Ian was mortified when I said I would wear this, said it was hardly suiting for a married lady of my position.”
Mr. Ian Chaloner hovered anxiously behind his wife before extending his hand to Nicholas.
“A pleasure as always, Mr. Grimshaw. I and Aimee just got back last week.” He smiled pleasantly.
“I am so glad you are here Nicholas. I feared this would be one of those terribly boring evenings that dear Ian drags me to as it is god for business. But now that you are here you can fill me in on all the latest gossip in town.”
Mrs. Aimee Chaloner grabbed Nicholas´ arm and started to lead the way into the house.
“Darling, the parasol.” Mr. Ian Chaloner had to run a bit to keep up with his wife’s eager steps.
“What about it?” she asked lifting an eyebrow.
“You must leave it with the butler; it is hardly suiting for a lady to wear a parasol to an evening ball.”
Aimee rolled her eyes before turning over the parasol to her husband and strode on still attached to Nicholas´ arm.
“Ian has a hard time keeping track of you, my dear Aimee,” Nicholas said leaning close to the lady on his arm.
“Yes, he has the poor thing, why did he ever marry such a rude American gal?”
“Yes why did he?” Said Nicholas, laughter playing in his voice.
“Because I´m a firecracker in bed, all redheads are, did you not know? Or maybe you prefer them blond, I have a hard time keeping track. What ever happened to that nice Mr. King?”
“Now hush, Aimee, do not talk of things you know nothing about.”
“I know nothing only because you tell me nothing.”
“Maybe there is nothing to tell.”
Nicholas nodded to some business associates, keeping his voice low and his mouth close to Aimee’s ear as they spoke. The ball room was already crowded, music filling it and people were scattered around the area talking and nibbling on the canapés that was served on silver trays by waiters in black.
Nicholas saw Harry across the room. He was wearing a new suit, his hair was combed back and he was sipping on a glass containing a golden liquid. Nicholas had a hard time grasping that it was in fact the very same boy who had woken up in his bed this very morning. Then his hair had been wild, his eyes sleepy and his cheeks red. Nicholas had dragged him close kissing his head and tickled him until Harry had tumbled out of the bed demanding that he needed tea.
Aimee followed Nicholas´ line of sight.
“Is that young Mr. Styles? Oh Lord, have he grown up, a proper gentleman now day.”
Nicholas merely nodded, afraid that Aimee would pick up on something in his voice. He grabbed a drink from a passing waiter, drowning its contents in a matter of seconds. When he looked up again Harry was standing in front of them.
“Mrs. Chaloner? I´m I right?” Harry grasped Aimee´s hand.
“Yes you are, and the handsome gentleman at my side is Nicholas Grimshaw.” She answered batting her eyelashes.
“Oh, we have met, actually. I have been having the pleasure to train under Mr. Grimshaw for some time now.” Harry smiled his sweetest simile in Aimee’s direction.
Aimee’s hand went up to her décolletage and her eyes widened but she remained silent. That was the first time Nicholas had ever seen Aimee chocked and acting like a proper lady, a faint blush decorating her cheeks.
Nicholas coughed, giving Harry a stern look.
“Yes, that is right Mr. Styles is helping me with the business a bit, he intends to make a career in marketing and it’s good to get some practice.”
“Is that so?” Aimee seemed to regained her bearings and was sipping on a glass of wine she must have had snapped up from a passing waiter, a lopsided grin on her face.
The conversation moved over to safer topics as Aimee’s husband joined them. Harry was standing close to Nicholas and whenever Nicholas spoke he leaned in close, Nicholas feeling his warm breath on his cheek.
“There you are, I must introduce the man who has taken our Harry under his wings. This is Nicholas Grimshaw, meet my wife Anne Styles.”
Nicholas turned his attention from Ian, whom had been talking about his and Aimee’s resent trip and aimed it at Des Styles who had sneaked up on him. Next to the man stood his wife, Harry´s mum. She was a stunning woman; Nicholas could see where Harry had gotten his good looks from. Her dark hair was pulled back in a fashionable knot; she wore a high necked blouse and an indigo blue dress with fur cuffs and buttons running all the way down.
He took her hand and kissed it, it felt cold against his lips. He then meet her eyes feeling an immediate urge to look away, there was something searching in them, maybe a woman’s intuition and wisdom.
“Yes, we hardly see our son anymore.” Anne Styles smiled pleasantly but her lips were thin and Nicholas could feel the undercurrent of a warning there.
Des Styles seemed unaware of his wife´s cold demeanor towards Nicholas and mused on about how grateful he was to Nicholas and Nicholas completed him on his lovely home leading the conversation into a long and rather boring story about how Des had bought the Oriental rug that laid over by the fireplace.
Anne did not say anything else she just watched Nicholas and before she and her husband had to move on, making sure the other guest had a good time, she reached over brushing off some invisible dust from her son´s jacket, her eye´s soft and caring.
The unease would not leave Nicholas and when Harry asked him some time later if he would like to see his room he happily obliged wanting to escape from another dance with ladies with far too much perfume and far too delicate embraces for his taste.
Nicholas followed Harry up the stairs. They walked through a dark corridor before reaching Harry´s room. Nickolas stepped into the spacious room that still held visible traces of a childhood recently left behind, a toy soldier on a shelf, a couple of marbles in a can.
Nicholas´ heart was still beating fast after the encounter with Harry´s mum. Harry seemed unmoved by it though; he smiled and drew Nicholas in for a hug tucking his face into Nicholas´ neck.
Chapter 5 The break
Nicholas untangled himself from Harry´s embrace.
“We can´t, not here! Are you mad?”
He stepped over to the window to put some space between himself and the warm alluring body of the boy that seemed to have nestled himself into Nicholas´ life in way that was starting to become a problem.
Or the problem was that he had let things get this far. He had let himself be lulled into some fantasy where he could have Harry and no one would suspect anything. A fantasy world where Harry would live with him and they would wake up together in the mornings, kiss and then have tea and read the paper while eating scrambled eggs and toast. He felt nauseous at his own childish fantasies.
The other day he had a daydream about Harry and him getting a puppy. Harry would play with it out in the back garden, sunlight playing in his locks, the dog barking, playfully chasing a ball. How he even had let himself entertain that line of thought seemed unfathomable to him now, standing by the window of Harry´s childhood room, Harry’s mother´s hard eyes clear in his memory. Or maybe they hadn’t been hard as much as they had been afraid; a mother´s constant worry and fear for her child’s safety and happiness. She knew, of that fact Nicholas held no illusions.
“We can´t keep doing this, Harry. It has to come to a stop. I should have put an end to this madness a long time ago. I am to blame entirely.”
Nicholas kept his back to Harry, afraid that the young man might see the tears that were prickling at the corners of Nicholas ´eyes.
“What do you mean?”
Nicholas cleared his throat, wishing he had something to drink.
“I mean that your internship with me is over. We can no longer see each other.”
Nicholas forced himself to turn and give Harry a firm look before exciting the room.
Harry´s eyes were big, disbelief painting his face as Nicholas moved past him. Nicholas forced himself to keep moving. He held on tight to the banister as he made his way down the stairs constraining himself from running. He moved over to the butler asking him to fetch his coat and umbrella.
Heavy drops fell against the umbrella and the gravel was slippery under Nicholas´ dress shoes as he made his way home, moving fast as if chased, but he held no illusions about the fact that his demons would follow him all the way into his bedchamber.
The following weeks became a blur to Nicholas, mainly because he consumed a large amount of alcohol. To the extent that Mr. Banner even began to hide his flasks from him, or maybe he had just drunk them all, Nicholas was not sure.
He knew he had done the right thing, to continue his relationship with Harry had been impossible, especially as the boy seemed to hold such foolish hopes for its future.
Still Nicholas longed for the boy day and night, the ache never creasing, not even after he stumbled to bed after the evening’s fifth whiskey.
When the pain became too much and he tossed and turned in his bed, he took to the streets. Letting faceless boys satisfy him in stinking alleys, but letting his release drip down their chins only left him disgruntled and disgusted with himself. He gave them more money than they had asked for and fled fast, his heart beating against his ribcage, as if it were trying to escape.
If he had missed a couple of business meetings and neglected to appear at his friends´ dinners and parties, so be it. This was just a phase he had to go through and then everything would go back to normal, he mused reclining in his living room.
Harry had not contacted him after the party and Nicholas was grateful for that fact. He was just about to pour himself another glass of the red wine when Mr. Banner appeared before him.
“A Mrs. Aimee Chandlor is here to see you, sir,” Mr. Banner said.
“Tell her I´m not at home,” Nicholas answered noticing a slight slur in in his own speech.
“I´m sorry, sir, but..” Mr. Banner started to say as he was interrupted.
“You can leave, Mr. Banner. Nicholas and I have some things to discuss.”
Aimee plopped herself down in the chair opposite Nicholas and gave him a look over. She was apparently not pleased with what she saw as she wrinkled her nose and her expression became stern.
“You are coming to Italy with us, and no more of this.” Aimee made a gesture to the glass of wine Nicholas was holding.
“Why in the world you I go to Italy with you?” Nicholas asked, contemplating taking another sip of the wine but thought better of it and placed the glass on the side table.
“Do you want me to answer that?”
Aimee’s eyes became soft and she reached out stroking a lock of Nicholas´ hair from his forehead.
“Fine I´ll come,” he answered weakly.
Chapter 6 Italy
Florence in late September still held the kind warm nights that England could only produce in the heat of July and on most occasions not even then. Nicholas tossed the sheet aside and walked over the cool tiles of the floor to the open window. Stars scattered over the black sky and the air was filed with a spicy cent.
“That’s piccolo Carro. What you call it? Little dipper?” A hand reached past Nicholas´ shoulder and pointed to the sky.
“Tell me the other ones.”
Nicholas leaned back, feeling solid arms encircling him.
“There is grande mestolo and over there Orion, Acquario …,” the voice turned to a slow murmur in Nicholas´ ear.
“I don´t think you see all of those, you are making it up”
“Well, they are there even if you don´t see them.”
Nicholas turned catching the other man´s lips with his own, leading him back to the bed.
They made feverish love. Their bodies tangled in the sheets, the other man´s calf on Nicholas´ back as they moved together. Sweat tickled Nicholas´ forehead as he moved deep inside the man, finding a rhythm that had them both panting until he pulled out and came, touching the other man until their release mixed between them.
When Nicholas was about to fall asleep – his body heavy and satisfied- his arms and legs intertwined with the other man´s- the man surprised him by grabbing his shoulder, his mouth close to Nicholas´ ear.
“What is his name? The man you will dream of?”
Nicholas contemplated his answer for a few seconds his mind a blur of imagines; curly hair, soft skin, a laugh that was more of a giggle.
“His name is Harry.”
Nicholas closed his eyes.
“Harry,” the other man repeated, the syllables heavy with accent.
“Good night?” Aimee lifted her right eyebrow.
Nicholas sat down next to her. The breakfast was served on the veranda of the Italian home Ian had bought Aimee as a wedding present, a little over three years ago. Nicholas poured himself a cup of tea and took a sandwich from the tray. The house faced a meadow and Nicholas let his eyes rest on the lovely scenery in front of him.
“You do look better, I must say,” Mr. Ian Chaloner said, a book in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other one. “It´s the county air, I am sure of it. That is why I like to come here. London is full of smog, bad for your health, I tell you. I keep telling Aimee that we should move out to the country.”
“And I keep telling you that I would die from boredom. And I do think that our dear Nicholas perky appearance has a lot more to do with that hansom Italian we got to know last night, than the country air, my dear.”
A blush painted Mr. Ian´s cheeks and he pretended not to have heard his wife, turning his attention back to the book.
Nicholas watched the conversation with a smile.
“I was thinking of taking a walk after breakfast, would the two of you care to join me?” Nicholas asked not bothering to respond to Aimee’s remark about the handsome Italian.
“You take my wife with you. I want to finish this book and it is impossible with Aimee’s constant chatter.” Ian winked at his wife and duked away as she aimed a swat at him.
“Yes, a walk will do me god.” Aimee stood up and motioned for Nicholas to follow her.
He said his goodbyes to Ian and followed Aimee down the porch steps and into the country road. They walked in silence for a bit, their steps on the dusty road the only sound to accompany them for some time, before Aimee spoke.
“So are you going to tell me about what made you dive so deep in to the glass that I had to come and fish you out?”
“I was hardly in need of saving.”
“Well, Italy sure has its perks, I am glad I came with you here.”
“As much as I want to hear all about your night. You are going to tell me what the hell happened in London. Does it relate to that young Mr. Styles?”
The temperature was already high and Nicholas fixed his hat, turning it down trying to block out the sun.
“Yes, I guess it does. I should have never started anything with him in the first place. It was foolish. But I ended it and it was the right thing to do.”
Aimee was silent for some time just letting her step fall in stride with Nicholas´.
“Did you love him?”
Nicholas let out a dry laugh before responding.
“Love belongs in those ridiculous romance novels you read.”
“I love Ian.”
“Yes of course you do, my dear. I was not trying to insult what you have. But I am not like Ian and you, love are not for men like me. You must understand that.”
“How are you any different than Ian and I? Are you not made of flesh and blood, just like us? Do you not feel things, just like us?”
“I can never have what you and Ian has, don´t you understand that? Why should I let myself wish for those things when I can never have them? Do you want me to ruin my life, his life, because of something as silly as passion?”
“I..” Aimee began but stopped herself, her face taking on a contemplating expression.
Chapter 7 Back in London
At the end of September Nicholas returned to London. He dove into his work, spending his days and most of his evenings at the office. His trip to Italy started to feel like a distant dream and the time before that seemed even more unreal.
He would think of Harry every day, and every night as he went to bed he would push aside the dull ache in his chest from seeing the place where he and Harry had been as close as two people could be.
If Aimee had thought that Italy would fix him, she had been sorely mistaken. Still, he stayed away from alcohol when he was alone and attended his meetings and appeared on get-togethers and dances. He dreaded the day that he would run in to Harry something that was bound to happen sooner or later. He was actually rather surprised that it didn´t happen until the end of November.
It was at a gentlemen’s club Nicholas attended from time to time. Brook´s was known for its gambling and Nicholas usually stayed away from the gaming room´s rather making business connections in one of the small drawing rooms or eating a meal in the dinner hall. This evening though he was feeling lucky and decided to join a game of whist when asked by,Sir Charles Seely, a politician and landowner who Nicholas suspected could virtually talk anyone into anything if he put his mind to it.
Games were already in full swing when they entered the room that was filled with the smell of cigars and the sound of whiskey being poured into crystal.
“Today my, dear Nicholas’s, we will join two young men to see if our experience will beat their eager.”
Sir Charles Seely had probably had a bit more to drink than Nicholas first had noticed his movements not all that steady. Whist was played by four players, who played in two partnerships with the partners sitting opposite each other. Players cut or draw cards to determine partners, with the two highest playing against the lowest two. Nicholas hoped that his luck would be with him and that he would not have to team up with Charles as he doubted that the man’s experience would help them when the man hardly could stand on his two feet.
Nicholas looked around the tables in the room trying to locate their two opponents.
“This way, Nicholas.”
Nicholas followed the other man who was leading them to a dark corner of the room. If Nicholas had had any sense he would of course had made up some excuse to Charles and left the room at once when he saw who the two other players were. For some reason he did not, his mouth feeling dry and his heart beating fast.
By the table sat no other than Harry Styles and beside him sat a blond man that Nicholas vaguely recognized as Gemma Styles fiancé Niall Horan.
“There you are lads, I found us a player,” said Charles and plopped himself down at the table.
Nicholas extended his hand greeting Niall and when he extended his hand to Harry, the young man took it his brows slightly lifted.
The fortune both was and was not with Nicholas this evening. He was of course paired with Harry and they won easily, Niall seeming a bit unsure on how the game actually was played and Charles just mostly waving his cards back and forth, instead of actually paying attention.
Having to sit opposite Harry for the hour that the play took was pure agony for Nicholas. The boy was all he wanted and the only thing he had truly forbidden himself to have.
“How in the world could we lose?” Charles groaned.
“I have no idea but we must drown our sorrows in alcohol and our opponents must treat us. Is that not the rules of the game? Said Niall Horan, a big grin on his face.
“I believe so.” Harry answered and was already heading towards the bar.
Nicholas tried to make his excuses saying it was getting late and he better get going but sir Charles Seely would not hear of it.
“Are you trying to get out of buying, Grimshaw?”
Nicholas only sighed and let himself be dragged to the bar by Charles.
After two glasses of wine and a large brandy Nicholas was starting to feel more than a light buzz but the others had had far more to drink. Charles kept telling stories from his days at boarding school and Niall were laughing loud at the most boring of adventures that Charles was retelling.
Harry was swaying by Nicholas side a lopsided grin on his face. From time to time he would let his hand run over Nicholas thigh before the older man stopped him. The evening was starting to get out of hand. Nicholas had to get going, but he could not help worrying about Harry and how the young man would get home in his state.
“It is getting late I am afraid I have to get going.” Nicholas said, nodding his head before finishing his drink and getting up.
“So should I,” said Harry, standing up.
“Horan, you will join me for another drink won’t you?” Slurred Charles.
“Yes, one more pint will only do me good,” said the Irish man.
“I am taking you home to your mother,” hissed Nicholas as they were getting their coats.
“Really?” Said Harry, biting his lip.
Nicholas walked briskly almost dragging Harry with him. The young man swayed from side to side waving at people on the streets. Nicholas was starting to sorely regret not taking a carriage; he just wanted to get Harry home to his mother before the boy passed out.
Nicholas eyed the narrow ally in front of them knowing that the shortest way was through it. London at this time of night was not the safest place to be and certainly not for two gentlemen wearing pocket watches worth more than a year’s salary for some. The boy started to sing his voice slurry but still hitting the notes even in his drunken state.
Nicholas looked around but saw nothing suspicious so he carried on, a firm grip on Harry´s arm. The alley smelled foul and Nicholas kept his eyes trailed forward. Suddenly Harry screamed and yanked on Nicholas´ arm so hard he almost fell backwards.
Nicholas looked around while trying to find his bearings. Only a few feet to their left laid a woman. Her head was bent in an unnatural angel, her clothes were torn and a massive amount of blood covered her chest area. Nicholas forced himself to take a couple of steps in the woman´s direction and found himself looking into her open unseeing eyes. Before he had time to stop him Harry had moved past him kneeling besides the woman pressing his fingers against her throat looking for a pulse.
Nicholas managed to drag the boy away from the body and out to the street to call for help. Soon the alley was filled with curios bystanders and the distinct sound of a police whistle cut through the night.
Some time later the body was carried away and an older policeman, who had clearly been woken from his sleep, his hair unruly and his clothes hastily thrown on, took Nicholas´ statement. He nodded his head at Nicholas story about how they had stumbled over the body.
“Do you think it´s the Ripper?” Asked Nicholas after he had told the policeman all he knew, which was practically nothing.
“No, she only had multiple stab wounds. You read the papers I presume, sir?”
Nicholas nodded his head.
“Then you know he does things to the bodies. You better be going now, sir, your son seems to have had quite a shock.”
The policeman nodded to Harry who stood shivering, still looking into the dark alley.
“He´s not..” Nicholas started but thought better of it, “Yes of course, we should get going.”
He grabbed Harry by the arm and led him away all the way to Nicholas´ house. He did not want to take Harry home to his mother in the condition the boy was in.
He ordered Mr. Banner to prepare a bath and he washed Harry´s hair, sitting on the edge of the tub listening to Harry talk about that poor woman who had meet her maker in a dark alley north of St. James's Street.
When Harry asked him to join him in the bath he relented, taking off his clothes and sinking into the warm water. He kissed the young man´s pink mouth and let his wet strands tickle his face. They stroked each other underneath the milky water, extending trembling kisses until they came, lips still pressed together.
Nicholas dried them both off before they sunk into Nicholas’ bed and fell asleep.
“This changes nothing,” Nicholas said after they had breakfast and he had escorted Harry to the door, avoiding Harry´s eyes.
“You think you are going to be able to resist me from now on?”
There was something new in Harry´s ton, the undercurrent of a challenge.
“Well I would like to see you try,” the boy continued and with that he was out the door, leaving Nicholas looking into the wooden surface wondering what just had happened.
London, Kensington, 1891
He eyed the man from across the room. The dancing couples were from time to time obscuring his view but the man was now in his direct line of sight.
The man's eyes were focused on the dancing couples; he was leaning against the wall, a glass of wine in his right hand, the other one resting on the back of an unoccupied chair. The light from the candles made his features softer, les sharp.
From this distance he could of course not smell the man´s cologne or touch the light stubble on his chin but if he closed his eyes for a moment, his memory would conjure those sensations as if he was really experiencing them at this very moment. He swallowed what was left in his glass and placed it on a small table before crossing the floor.
“I have a business proposition for you, Mr. Grimshaw.”
The man startled for a moment, a light treble made the content of his glass almost spill over.
“Is that so, Mr. Styles?”
The both men looked into each other’s eyes for a moment, something unspoken communicated in a matter of seconds.
“Yes, would you like to join me in the library to discuss it further?”
The man seemed to contemplate the suggestion for a moment before he nodded his head, joining the other man as they walked across the floor closely, their hands brushing against each other from time to time.