<%@ Page Language="C#" %> The Horsemaster

The Horsemaster
(c) 2003 by Charlotte Frost


(England 1858)

"Whoaaaa," the elderly driver said as he pulled the gently on the reins.

The scrap wagon stopped and David grabbed his bundle of belongings. He held out his hand. "Thanks, Francis. Wish I could pay you."

The white-haired man pumped David's hand. "It's quite all right, young man. I've enjoyed your company. All the best." Francis nodded toward the iron gates next to the road. "Looks like quite a new home you have there."

"Yes, I hope it works out." David tipped his cap and jumped off the wagon. He waved. "Goodbye, Francis. Have a safe trip back to London."

The reins were slapped against the horses' backs and the wagon moved off.

Heart beating with anticipation, David turned toward the iron gates. Beswick Hall it read on the outside. An elegantly dressed servant approached. "What is your business, sir?"

David unfolded a letter and handed it through the iron bars. "I'm David Starsky. Master Cunningham has hired me to be in charge of making the furniture for his new wing."

The servant looked from the letter to David, eyeing him up and down. "You look rather young to be a craftsman."

David beamed with pride. "I started young. I do the finest work in all of England."

"Hmph. I doubt a young pup like you has seen much of England. Your 'cab' indicates a considerable lack of wealth for who one boasts so."

You can't blame me for trying, David consoled himself. Boldly, he replied, "I don't need to have travelled throughout England to know that I'm the best."

The servant looked him over once again. "Where are your tools?"

"Master Cunningham will be providing them. It is part of our agreement." And also one of my most clever tactics, making it sound like I required to have everything ready upon my arrival. Therefore I don't have to buy any of my tools myself.

"All right then." The servant opened the gate and stepped back, allowing Dave to walk through. "You may proceed. Just after the stables is a cottage where the Land Agent, Mr. Jenkins, resides. Report to him."

David tipped his hat. "Thank you." Joyfully, he walked along the lane that was lined with huge birch trees. He, actually, had only minimal experience at woodworking, but he knew he was good at it. It was his passion. He was also bolder than anyone he knew, and when he'd heard in passing that Master Cunningham, one of the wealthier inhabitants of the countryside outside of London, was hiring various craftsmen for the new wing of his grand house, David had not been shy about writing and boasting of all he could do. His pay requirement was very high, as he knew that would impress Cunningham all the more, since those with money only respected those who placed the same high value on it. If he was successful in producing a year's worth of fine furniture for Cunningham, David knew he would be on the way to leaving his life of poverty behind.

The mansion came into view as he rounded a bend. This is a new start.

Colourful gardens first greeted him, and then various cottages. A building that looked like a blacksmith shop was next to a carriage barn. Next to that was a huge building which was obviously the stables. David headed toward it. Inside it were lads tending to horses and cleaning out stalls. He stepped over the threshold, grateful for the wide aisle, since he'd always been nervous around horses. One that had gotten out of control had run over his aunt and killed her.

"May I help you?" someone asked brusquely.

David stopped and glanced to his right. A blond-haired man with hard expression was standing with one hand on his hip, the other holding a bridle.

"Uh...," David began, not used to being caught off guard. He wondered why the man looked so unpleasant. "I'm looking for Mr. Jenkins' cottage."

The arm holding the bridle shot out to point to the opposite end of the barn. "It's that way."

David leaned close, for he had found that was one of the most effective ways to intimate people. "Thank you. I appreciate your charm, good manner, and pleasant disposition. I'll be sure and let Master Cunningham know that you were exceedingly kind in pointing the builder of all his fine furniture for the new wing in the right direction."

The man's face fell behind a mask trying unsuccessfully to re-harden.

Bullseye. David didn't allow the grin he was feeling to show. He made sure he didn't blink. "What's your name?" he demanded.

The man straightened to his full, and not too inconsiderable, height. "I'm the head groom of Beswick Park. My name is Kenneth Hutchinson."

"Kenneth?" David had heard, but he wanted the arrogant man to know he was making sure he got it right.

"Y-yes. Kenneth."

He stutters! David wanted to delight in that, but he instead found himself feeling sympathetic. It was a harsh world outside. But this man Kenneth probably didn't know that. He'd probably been raised with a reasonably thick tin spoon in his mouth, and probably grew up around horses, so he was always assured a job amongst the rich. It's made him soft, he decided. Now certain he had the upper hand between them, David let himself be the one to soften just a little. "Make sure you don't touch any of my furniture – even in a raw state – and I'll steer clear of your stables."

Kenneth nodded. "Deal." But he was no longer frowning. Instead, his expression looked somewhat perplexed.

David walked on. There was a horse being led out of its stall ahead of him and, certain Kenneth was watching, he summoned his courage and tried to only imperceptibly give it as wide a berth as possible.

The horse was halted in front of the tack room, and David silently released a breath as he continued back out into the sunshine. On the left was a well-kept cottage. He went up to it and knocked.

The door opened and a middle-aged man with a tiny beard bellowed, "What is it?"

David barely stopped himself from cringing at being shouted at. "Are you Mr. Jenkins?"

"Of course, I am. And I'm very busy. KENNETH!!" he shouted toward the stables. Then, to David, "What do you want, young man?"

David produced his letter. "I am David Starsky, the woodworker who is here to make the furniture for Master Cunningham's new wing."

Jenkins glanced at the letter. "Yes, I see." But his attention was again elsewhere. "Kenneth! Where's my horse?"

David glanced over his shoulder to see Kenneth appear and say, "Just a moment, sir," before disappearing back into the barn.

David opened his mouth to speak, but Jenkins turned to him and said, "I'll have you know, Mr. Starsky, that I know your references were totally false, and I informed Master Cunningham of such. It is only because he felt you... 'brazen and bold," Jenkins curled his lip in disapproval, "that he was willing to try you out. I'll take great satisfaction in seeing you leave here when your 'craftsmanship' proves to be vastly inferior to the Master's expectations." He looked toward the barn again.

David cleared his throat to get the man's attention. "I will not be leaving here, sir; at least, not for that reason. I am the finest woodworker in all of England. That fact that you do not believe me is not important."

"Yes, yes," the man said impatiently. "We'll see about that." He gestured to the left. "Take your things to the little cottage at the end, next to the pasture. Your work shed is behind the cottage. The drawings that Master approved are inside. Get to work immediately. Meals for the craftsmen are served when the kitchen wenches ring the bell. You will be paid at the end of each week." He marched off toward the barn.

David stood there and watched as Kenneth led out a bay horse. Kenneth looked... not only angry, but downright unhappy. How can someone who has a full belly every day be unhappy? He glanced up at the mansion. No more hungry nights for me. This is my break.

"Sir," David heard Kenneth say in a pleading voice. He turned to watch Kenneth hold the horse while Jenkins mounted. "This is a different bit on account of the cut in her mouth. She may respond differently, but I'm sure she'll give you a good journey, if you're considerate of the wound's tenderness."

"I will be back after dark," Jenkins said, dismissive of Kenneth's words. "And I remind you that the Master expects his new horse to be well broke by Saturday."

"Yes, sir," Kenneth replied with a contriteness that made David wince.

Jenkins dug his spurs into the mare's sides, and she took off at a gallop. Kenneth stared after them, his expression hardening.

David turned away to find his cottage.

* * *

It had not been a bad first day. The list of tools and raw wood that David had sent ahead had been strictly adhered to. His designs for the new furniture had also been sent ahead and he was pleased with the ones that Master Cunningham selected. He got right to work, and was so involved in the beginning stages of his assignment that he was startled to hear the dinner bell. He followed the other craftsmen to the table in a dining area next to the kitchen. He found that his dinner companions were to be the senior servants: the butler, the cook, the parlour maid, Master Cunningham's valet, the head gardener, and a young woman who was the maid to the assistant of Lady Margaret, Master Cunningham's wife. Also in attendance at the meal was the head groom of the stables. Most everyone was friendly, but David wasn't asked many questions. Everyone seemed to keep to themselves; or, at least, be so focused on eating as to not be very conversational. Later, David watched as the remains of their meal were passed on to the lower servants, supplementing a measly bit of bread and broth.

Classes. How he hated the way it dictated the goodness of men, regardless of their accomplishments in life, or their kindness and value to others. There had to be a better way.

David worked well into the night, until his hands ached from shaping wood. He was walking around the grounds in the summer night air when he heard the unmistakable sound of trotting hooves hitting pavement, becoming louder. Finally, in the light of the lanterns, Mr. Jenkins pulled up next to the stables, his mare's sides heaving.

Kenneth appeared and held the mare's bridle while Jenkins dismounted. In a voice that penetrated the stillness of the night, the latter grumbled, "She needs work. She is very unwilling to turn to the left."

Kenneth very gently inspected her left lower lip with his finger, saying, "That is because of the sore in her mouth. When you put pressure on the bit to the left, she resists because of the pain. I was hoping this bit would go easier on her." He looked up, the now-familiar hardening face returning. "Perhaps it did, but the benefit is offset by a heavy hand on the reins."

Jenkins sighed tiredly. "It is your job, Mr. Hutchinson, to keep the horses at their peak at all times. Myself and Master Cunningham are both tiring of your constant excuses. If you cannot do the job properly, we will find somebody who will."

There was a slumping of Kenneth's shoulders that made David step closer. The groom said, "I cannot do a proper job without proper consideration for the stock. This mare should not be ridden until her mouth is thoroughly healed. In the meantime, there are other suitable horses for any necessary purpose."

Not so soft, after all, David decided.

"Be careful of your tongue, mister" Jenkins returned. "She is my mare, and the horse I like to ride. It is your job to keep her available at all times for that purpose. If she is unfit, then you will find me another horse and sell her."

"The cut is small and will heal in a few days," Kenneth insisted stubbornly, "as long as she is not subjected to pressure on the cut in the meantime. Whimsical is an excellent horse and in need of additional exercise, as he is getting restless in his stall. I respectfully submit that you consider him as an substitute mount for the rest of the week."

"If Whimsical is getting restless," Jenkins countered, "then I suggest you spend more time riding him. As for my mare, this discussion is closed. If you wish to be argumentative, I suggest you submit your resignation before you lose your position in a more humiliating manner." He turned away, bringing the situation to a close.

David stepped beside the nearest cottage, losing himself in its shadow. While Jenkins walked past him, muttering beneath his breath, David watched as Kenneth patted the mare's neck and whispered to her, then led her into the stables. He then continued to move near the barn, listening when he got close enough to hear the conversation between Kenneth and the stable lad on duty.

"... ridiculous, arrogant men," Kenneth was muttering. "They preach the Bible, and then they go and do this to one of God's creatures."

"Hopefully, it'll heal soon," the voice of the young lad said. "She's such a good mare; it's a shame that the Mr. Jenkins is so dissatisfied."

There were noises of the saddle and bridle being removed. Then Kenneth's voice, soft this time. "Rub her down good. She's had a difficult day."

"Yes, sir."

She's not the only who has had a difficult day, David thought. Obviously, there was some unease between the groom and Jenkins, and perhaps even Master Cunningham. He wondered if that was the reason for the frown that Kenneth wore so often.

* * *

"So," David said at dinner a couple of weeks later, "does anyone around here ever see Master Cunningham?"

They were some giggles from the ladies present, and some snorts from the men, as though the question had been a foolish one. David noticed that Kenneth, located on the opposite side of the table and a few places down the bench, reacted slightly, but then seemed determined to ignore the question.

"Master Cunningham is a very busy man," said the gardener. "But, yes, I see him frequently. His horse or carriage is always brought around to the front of the house. He apparently does not have much interest in being out of doors on his own estate. That is why one rarely sees him behind the house."

The assistant lady's maid, a young and amply-bosomed woman named Flora, said to David, "You must not have ever worked for a gentleman before."

"No, I haven't." David decided it was all right to admit that to this particular group of people. "I come from a country where household structures aren't quite so rigid." Especially amongst the poor.

"What country is that?" Flora asked.


"Really?" Commented the cook. "You don't have much of an accent."

"I have lived in England since I was eight. My family moved here when famine struck my native country. It was here that I learned my craft as an apprentice." Never mind that the "master" craftsmen was drunk a good part of the time, and I learned from observing and doing the work that he was supposed to be doing.

"You have not been introduced to Master Cunningham, then?" asked the man who was head of upkeep on the grounds.

"No. I was surprised that Jenkins did not bother, especially since Master Cunningham seemed to use such care in picking out his selections from my drawings. I had thought he was greatly interested in my work."

While there were more noises of amusement at his naivety, Flora said, "It is just as well to steer clear of him. He is known to have quite a temper. I have even heard it said that years ago he was known to flog servants whom he was unhappy with."

A quiver went through David. "Flog?" His noticed Kenneth's face hardening even more.

"Yes," said the elderly cook. "But that was years ago. Once he wed Lady Margaret – whom is now on holiday in Wales – she insisted he put a stop to it, and so he did."

The table got quiet, and David's pride compelled him to point out, "If anyone attempted to flog me, even the Master, I would not stand for it. I would return his insult, blow for blow, and then some."

"Restrain yourself!" the butler hissed. "Do not be heard to speak such things, or you will be thrown out."

"The desire to remain would not be worth being treated as an animal." Kenneth's head abruptly raised, just as David added, "No man is better than another man. Some are just more fortunate."

There were cries of blasphemy from around the table, but Kenneth's hard voice stood out from all the rest. "Even animals do not deserve to be mistreated the way man so often feels it is his right to do so."

As though relieved to have something else to talk about, the head of housecleaning, an elderly woman, said, "The Holy Book tells us that animals were put here to be servants to man."

"That is the common interpretation," Kenneth said. "I submit that it is a misinterpretation. I believe the real reason Noah was instructed to save all the animals from the flood was because they were just as important as man. God created the world for all living things."

There were tired sighs from around the table. No one disputed Kenneth, and David realised it was because they'd heard all this before and it was not worth arguing about. Besides, he had a suspicion that arguments in the past had been won by Kenneth.

No, not so soft, after all.

* * *

David wiped the sweat from his forehead, then returned to smoothing the back of the chair he was building. It was a terribly hot day. He was grateful to see Jenkins approaching, for he hoped it meant he could take a break. He stood, noticing that in the pasture near his cottage, two horses were standing at the fence. They seemed eager to greet Kenneth, who held two halters as he walked up to them, talking softly and stroking their faces.

"Mr. Starsky," Jenkins said in his booming voice. He was holding a piece of paper that looked like a letter.

David's attention returned to his superior. "Yes, sir?"

"I have received a notice from the London Lumber Company. They will have a new shipment arriving soon. In two weeks, you and I will ride to London and inspect their new wood. You will place an order within the budget set by the Master. You will return here while I stay overnight to tend to other business. The Company tells me that the order will be delivered by three days hence."

David's mind raced ahead. London was a busy city. Dirty and crowded. He didn't like it. Still, it would be nice to take a break from his work, but his mind was having difficulty with the word ride. "That'll be wonderful to get a new supply in," he said cheerfully. "But... we will be riding to London? Not taking a carriage?"

"Yes, of course. It will be faster that way."

David swallowed thickly.

"Is there a problem, Mr. Starsky?" Jenkins seemed delighted to have found a dent in David's heretofore impenetrable armour.


"I assumed your horse was in our stables." Jenkins's voice hinted at a question.

Not thinking fast enough to come up with a retort, David admitted, "I don't own a horse. I arrived in a cab." In the form of a nice old man who was willing to give me a ride for free.

"Hmph," Jenkins snorted. But he seemed too busy to make much of it. "See Kenneth then, and make sure he has a suitable mount ready for you." He turned and walked away.

David glanced at Kenneth, who was leading the horses out of the pasture. He had obviously heard the conversation, but he didn't react. He started leading the horses toward the stables.

Damn, David realised, he's not going to give me an inch. What do they say? A little humility is good for the soul? His resolve hardened. The people who say things like that had better be right.

David went back to his carving until the sun became unbearably hot, and the shade of the barn beckoned him. He squared his shoulders and walked toward it. How do I explain that a 'suitable mount' is no mount at all, but still manage to have a horse to ride to London? Kenneth seemed to have such compassions for animals, or at least horses. Perhaps that compassion extended to people?

David entered the barn and slowed his walk, telling himself that it was because he wished to prolong his time in the shade. The aisle was empty of animals, but some horses were being groomed in their stalls, and other stalls were being mucked out, with the soiled straw tossed into a wheelbarrow. There was no sign of Kenneth. He self-consciously cleared his throat and said to a lad grooming a horse, "Uhh, can you tell me where the horsemaster is?" He couldn't be far.

"In the courtyard."

David walked on. He came to the other end of the barn, which opened up into a U-shaped courtyard, which contained more stalls. Both horses brought from the pasture were tied to a fencepost. Kenneth was grooming one of them, a robust-looking grey.

David cleared his throat.

Kenneth looked up but didn't stop with the brush. "Yes?" There was a distant twinkle in his eye, giving away that he knew exactly why David was there.

David didn't like games when one could get to the point. "I know you heard Jenkins talking to me a few minutes ago."

"Yes, I did." Kenneth moved around the horse and brushed more vigorously.

"Then you also heard that him direct me to you for a 'suitable' mount for our ride to London in a couple of weeks."

"Yes, I heard. There are over a half dozen horses to choose from, including this one. You can choose one now, if you'd like. But you must wait until I have these saddled for Miss Kate's ride before I can show you the others."

David knew Miss Kate was a twelve-year-old visiting relative of Master Cunningham. How he envied the thought of being able to control a half-ton beast at such an age. Or at any age.

He was silent for a long moment, watching the way Kenneth so lovingly brushed the horse off. A lad emerged from the barn carrying two saddles and bridles, and he started to tack up the second horse. When Kenneth was finished brushing, he put a saddle on the grey, and then bridled him. When both horses were ready, he handed the reins over to the lad. "Take Mistress Kate for a two-hour ride. She particularly enjoys going around the lake."

"Yes, sir." The lad led the horses away, and David realised the second horse was for the lad to ride, as an escort for the girl. The horses were being led toward the front of the house, where Miss Kate was surely waiting.


David returned his attention to the groom. "Uh..." Dammit. There was no direction to go except that of truth. "Look, Kenneth," he glanced around to make sure they were alone. They were. Still, he took Kenneth by the arm and led him to the centre of the courtyard, to insure that no one in the barn would hear. When he released Kenneth's arm, the man brushed at it, as though flicking away an annoying fly.

"Speak, man," Kenneth demanded.

"I need your help."

The expression softened immediately, and David realised Kenneth was not accustomed to being asked for help. He continued, "I'm supposed to take that long ride into London with Jenkins in two weeks, and... well... I've never even been on a horse." No reaction. "Not only that, but my aunt, who raised me, was killed by a runaway horse. I've been scared to death of the brutes ever since."

The expression was unreadable. "What do you want me to do about it?"

"Well... do you, you know, have any horses that are... half dead or something? On their last legs? So that they wouldn't try anything like running off with me?" He waited, heart pounding. Never had he allowed himself to appear so weak to a relative stranger.

The blue eyes – such a deep blue, David realised – narrowed. Then Kenneth said, "That's no solution. Such a horse would never be able to keep up with Jenkins, and Jenkins will be outraged with both us, as well as the horse. Plus, the long journey would likely kill a horse in such a condition. It's against my duty as head groom to put you on an animal unsuitable for the journey."

David gulped.

Kenneth's face became thoughtful. Then, "I've seen you, sometimes at night, walking in the woods."

Puzzled, David replied, "Yes, I enjoy being out at night in the summer. Plus, walking is a welcome respite from working with my hands so much during the day."

Kenneth nodded, and David got the uneasy feeling that this man knew him – knew his inner self.

"Riding can be like that, too," Kenneth told him. His face softened further. "If you will meet me in the far pasture each night when the moon rises, starting tonight, I will bring a gentle horse and give you lessons. If you practice every night, and you listen to everything I tell you, you will be an adequate enough rider for the journey to London in two weeks."

David was amazed at the man's confidence. "All right," he agreed immediately. As he walked back toward his cottage, he wondered at the bargain he had stuck. He still had no desire to ride such an excitable beast as a horse. But, more than that, he wondered why Kenneth was willing to spend time with him, in secret no less.

He had seen glimpses of lessons being given to Miss Kate, as well as to the newly hired young stable lads who were expected to exercise the horses. So, giving riding lessons was a normal activity of the stables. David didn't think there would be anything unusual about himself taking lessons during the course of the day, as long as he still got an admirable degree of work done. But his particular lessons would take place at night, in a distant pasture, so no one would know.

Kenneth was sparing his pride.

* * *

When David arrived at the far pasture, he could see no sign of Kenneth beneath the light of the full moon. What he did see was the shadow of a group of horses within the pasture and it made him very nervous. He sat down on a rock, wondering if it were really possible he would one day be able to ride competently. Or even adequately. The vision was stamped on his brain of his aunt's death: the flashy chestnut galloping full speed down the hill toward the house, its rider screaming "WHOA! WHOA!" at the top of his lungs, to no avail. His aunt, whom had had a little bit of experience with horses in her youth, stepping away from her laundry and holding out her arms, trying to slow the crazed animal. David had heard it said that horses always tried to avoid stepping on people. But, on this fateful day, a white sheet fluttered in the wind, and the horse darted to one side – right into David's aunt, trampling her and throwing its rider in the process. His aunt died of her internal injuries later that night, as did the rider, whose head had swollen from being thrown. A neighbouring farmer shot the horse, which David had been grateful for. He still remembered the thought that went through his mind as he stared at its lifeless carcass: How can something so beautiful be so deadly?

He heard whistling and turned. Kenneth appeared, opening a gate and leading a horse through it. "I hope you haven't been waiting long," he said pleasantly.

"Just got here," David replied. Then, uneasily, "I didn't know there were going to be loose horses in this pasture."

Kenneth shut the gate and led the horse closer. "They won't bother us. They're all old."

"Retired then?" David asked, intrigued that equine servants would be allowed such leisure.

"Yes and living on borrowed time." Kenneth halted in front of him. "When a horse has outlived his usefulness, he is to be brought to this pasture and shot, then buried here. But when I bring them, if they still have some life in them, I turn them loose, so they can enjoy their final days in relative freedom. Of course, if I find one who is down in the pasture and suffering, or simply too old to get up again, I have to shoot him anyway." He gestured, "They are buried under the oak trees at the far end."

"I get the feeling," David said, "that if you had your way, all horses would be living free and mankind would have to do without."

Kenneth shook his head. "You misunderstand, as many do. I believe that God put animals on Earth to assist mankind, but not to be inferior to them. If the horse's strength and speed are beneficial to us, then we must benefit them by providing food and shelter, caring for them when they are sick, and providing them a life of peace and happiness, at least as much as we're capable. It's not our right to abuse them, merely because they are not everything we want them to be, every moment of every day."

The passion in Kenneth's voice was compelling. "It must be difficult," David said, "to work in a stable and see so much abuse, even casual abuse, on a daily basis."

"Yes." The reply was blunt and Kenneth led the horse away from David, closing the subject.

David followed. When they had come to more level ground, Kenneth stopped and said, "We are ready to begin your first lesson."

David gulped and stood at the groom's shoulder, determined to listen and not interrupt unless he had questions.

Kenneth lifted the flap of the saddle. "First, we need to tighten the girth before you can mount. A smart horseman loosens it whenever he's dismounted. If gives the horse a break from the tightness of the saddle. That is especially important on long journeys, for your horse will have more stamina with such considerations. But, equally important, you must remember to tighten it before you remount. Watch closely."

David stepped closer, enough to hear Kenneth's every breath.

The lesson continued. "You will see many people tighten the girth severely in one motion. This causes resistance from the horse, so that he'll bloat – fill his stomach with air – when he knows you are going to tighten the girth. When he does this, the girth loosens when he relaxes his belly after you are mounted, and you are in danger of having the saddle slip, unless you tighten it again from the horse's back. To avoid this inconvenience, it is better to tighten the girth in small phases. Therefore, the horse is not worrying that you will make it too tight and he will not bloat." Kenneth was tightening the girth, a couple of holes at a time, as he talked. "Tomorrow, you will do this part."

If I'm still alive, David thought. He could smell the animal's body. He was aware of its sheer power over his own. Ever since his aunt's death, he had rationalised to himself that if other people could ride horses without fear, then he could too. For, he'd always thought himself fearless. Yet, this was one area of life where he couldn't seem to overcome his lack of belief in his ability.

Kenneth continued to instruct, pointing out things about the bridle and how the action of the bit and reins worked. Then he said, "It's time for you to mount."

"Okay." David knew his attempt to sound confident had failed.

"I know you are afraid," Kenneth said. "In order for these lessons to work, you must trust me that I will not put you in harm's way. This horse is named Samson. He is used as a lesson horse and for slow, short rides. He is nine years old and still relatively young, but he does not have much fire. When you mount him, I promise you he will not move. He might shift his feet, merely to shift his weight, or to swipe away flies that are biting his undersides, but any such movement will not be because he is trying to unseat you. It will be nothing more than a step, so I assure you that you have no need to be concerned."

David nodded, listening carefully and deciding that he did, indeed, trust Kenneth. He hoped he wouldn't be sorry.

Kenneth took a step back so that he was no longer between David and Samson. He held the stirrup. "You cannot climb into the saddle the way you climb a tree. Even snug, the girth will most likely slip from your weight. Instead, you need to put your left foot in this stirrup, and push off the ground with your right. Place your hands here and here," he directed David's hands at the front of the saddle and at the back, "and grasp it for balance as you spring off the ground. Try to land gently. If you plop too heavily into the saddle, it will be uncomfortable for the horse, and he will be less agreeable to holding still in the future. Let's try it. Left foot here."

Awkwardly, David bent his knee and lifted his left leg. He was grateful when Kenneth grabbed it and placed the ball of his foot in the stirrup.

"Good. Now push off the ground when I count to three. I will give you a boost."

David wasn't sure what that meant, but he nodded.

"One... two... three..."

David pushed off with his right leg, and was relieved to feel a hand on his buttocks, helping lift him. He felt a momentary panic as the saddle rocked, but a second later he landed with a thud on the horse's back, Samson shifting like water beneath him. "Oh, oh, w-w-whoaaaa." His heart was pounding.

"It's all right," Kenneth said. "You landed a little heavy, but that was very good for your first time. Remember, Samson will not go anywhere until you tell him to. He is like most people, and does not want to work any harder than he has to, after all."

David released a heavy breath when he realised that, indeed, the horse wasn't moving after the initial twitch. His heart was still beating rapidly, though. He straightened up and was amazed to see how the moonlit darkness looked from this perspective. Though he had always handled himself against any foe, he'd was a bit on the short side and envied those taller. Now, he could be tall.

The lecture continued. Kenneth adjusted David's stirrups, talking all the while. David tried to be attentive, but he was still nervous about what Samson might do, especially if he got tired of standing in one spot. But he looked at Kenneth fully when the groom suddenly asked a personal question in a gentle, delicate voice. "Have you ever bedded a woman?"

David's eyes flared with indignant masculine pride. But before he could protest the question, Kenneth gently said, "I'm not talking about girls. I'm talking about a woman."

Curious, David's defensiveness left him. "Well, when you put it like that... I guess not."

Kenneth's face was bathed in the moonlight as it looked up at him. "When you are with a woman," he whispered passionately, "you treat her as though she were a blank sheet of music, and you are orchestrating a symphony. You treat her with gentleness, delicacy, and tenderness. You love all those unmentionable places on her body, in unmentionable ways. It makes her eager for your manhood. And then, when you have performed your manly duty, you are left feeling not only the release of your own desire but, more importantly, that you have given her pleasure that you have not given anyone else. That you have made her want you to visit her bed again, for she knows it will only result in her own enjoyment."

David stared at Kenneth silently, amazed at the use of such words. And feeling his own manhood respond to the passion in the groom's voice.

"It is that way with horses," Kenneth said.

David's stiffening wilted as he was kicked out of the imaginary bedroom.

"You need to use your body to effectively communicate your desires to the horse you ride. If you make the ride pleasant and do not harm or confuse him or in any way abuse him, he will put his complete trust in you. Such trust will make him eager to respond to your every wish. His desire to please will know no bounds. He will even give his life for you."

A funny expression crossed Kenneth's face on the last, and his voice had hardened in a distant way. David wondered what thought or memory was behind it. But the continuing lesson drew him away from his musings.

"Now, I am going to lead you in a circle, just so you can get used to the motion. You can drop the reins, as I will control them for a few minutes."

David commanded himself to relax as Samson started to move. His heart started pounding again, but he was determined to trust that Kenneth was in complete control of the animal. The movement beneath him felt awkward. But he was particularly grateful it was night-time and no one else around, for in any other circumstances it would have been humiliating to have someone leading his horse by the bridle, as though he were a small, inept child.

"How are you doing?" Kenneth asked after a few moments, glancing up.

"Okay, I guess."

"Hold your arms out."


Kenneth stopped and so did Samson. The groom stretched his arms out. "Put your arms out like this. It'll teach you balance and make you more confident."

David swallowed and stretched his arms out. Kenneth and Samson resumed walking. David was surprised to find that he felt no less secure than when his hands were at his sides.

"Very good," Kenneth said. "Now, I'm going to move to a faster walk, and then to a slow trot. It will feel bouncy, but try to keep your arms out and go with it."

"Okay," David said unsteadily.

Kenneth make clucking noises and the motion was faster. "Sit up nice and tall," he instructed.

David straightened. His arms were getting tired, but he kept them out. More clucking, and then he was bouncing. Oh, holy God. He felt like his insides were getting jarred. How can anyone tolerate this?

Kenneth looked back him, then abruptly stopped. "Sorry, I forgot how rough Samson's trot is. It'll be better when I teach you to post. For now, we're going to just work with walking, but you're going to take over the reins. I'll still have control though." Kenneth unhooked a strap that was wrapped around his body. He spent a while unravelling it, then he attached the end to Samson's bridle. "This is called a lunge line. I'm going to have Samson move around me in a circle. You're going to control from the reins and with your body. But by being on the lunge line, you won't have to worry about turning him."

It all sounded very complicated. David took a deep, steadying breath as Kenneth, holding the lunge line, moved back until he was about twenty feet away. "Now, we're going to work on how to get him to walk forward, and stopping him. Pick up your reins like I showed you before."

David concentrated as he listened to each of Kenneth's directions. He was able to get the horse to move forward, and then was pleasantly surprised that he could get Samson to halt completely by using a light pressure on the reins, or even just saying, "Whoa" very firmly. Kenneth must have been pleased, even though the butterflies never stopped within David's stomach, because a lecture on posting came next. After that, they were trotting, David desperately trying to rise and fall with the diagonal movement of Samson's legs.

"Don't fight the motion," Kenneth scolded. "Go with it."

David started to feel that it was no use. The bouncing was exhausting, and he felt he wasn't getting it right.

"Whoa," Kenneth said, and Samson halted. "That is enough for now. You have done very well."

David sighed with relief. He realised he was sweating heavily.

Kenneth held Samson's head, and then came the lecture on a proper dismount. When David finally slid out of the saddle, his legs wobbled beneath him, and he felt two feet tall.

"Get a good night's rest," Kenneth said. "I'll meet you here tomorrow. Take heart, for you did very well."

David merely nodded and started back the same way he had come.

That night, rather than fantasising about young Flora's generous bosom, he pleasured himself with images of the naked head groom doing unmentionable things to the unmentionable parts of a woman eager for his manhood.

* * *

David's body ached all the next day, and he was tempted to not show up for the next lesson. But Kenneth would be disappointed in him, and he didn't want Kenneth to feel that way toward him. So, he showed up.

With his aching muscles, it seemed all the harder to mount. He was more secure walking and stopping, since he felt pretty certain that Samson wasn't going to do anything unexpected. But when they tried the trot again, with his attempts to post, he felt he wasn't getting anywhere and the only result was frustration for himself, Samson, and Kenneth. He just couldn't seem to flow with the motion of the horse.

David thought he was going to pass out with relief when Kenneth finally gave permission for them to stop.

"Dismount a moment," Kenneth said.

David didn't understand why, but he was hardly going to argue. Remembering the directions from last night, he swung himself out of the saddle, but still landed more unsteadily than he would have liked.

Kenneth crooked a finger. "Drop the reins and come over here. Don't worry, he won't go anywhere."

Puzzled further, David shrugged and dropped the reins. Samson immediately put his head down to graze. He walked on unsteady legs to Kenneth. "Now what?"

David had barely gotten the words out before a fist slammed into jaw. Stunned, he staggered back, holding his jaw, anger roaring up in full force. He shook his head to clear it. When he had his full senses – which Kenneth seemed to be waiting for – the groom suddenly took off at a full run.

Bastard, David cursed inwardly, chasing after him. He felt the hurt of betrayal. What a cheap shot. And what the hell was that for? Did I do something to hurt his precious horse? Or is he getting back at me for something I don't even remember?

Still, for such a slender guy, he packs a hell of a punch.

All at once, David felt his breath shorten. Those damn legs of Kenneth's were too long, and there was no way David was going to catch up, especially with already being exhausted from trying to ride. What a lowdown, cowardly thing to pull. The lowness of it made him all the more angry, and want to run all the more harder. But he was wheezing for air.

Remarkably, the tall blond groom was slowing down as well, even as he glanced back to see David stagger almost to walk. Kenneth slowed down even more, as though he were waiting for David to catch up to him.

David's eyes were blazing as he came within a few feet. He clenched his fist, but realised that he barely had the strength to raise it, let alone throw a punch.

Kenneth held up his hands. "Let me explain first," he said, breathing only a little heavily, "before you hit me back."

Amazed that the other would speak of getting sucker-punched so casually, David was nevertheless grateful to drop his arms.

"Do you feel relaxed now?" Kenneth asked.

David blinked. "How about exhausted," he wheezed.

Kenneth nodded. "Good. That is the effect I was hoping for. You are a natural fighter, David. You have been fighting Samson all night, even though you don't mean to. You might win the battle in the short run, but you will lose the war in the long run. You can't ride effectively that way; nor can your horse perform effectively for you, when you insist on resisting his every motion." Kenneth was nodding again. "Now I think you are a pupil Samson and I can both work with."

Incredulous, David asked, "You couldn't have simply challenged me to a foot race?"

The horsemaster shook his head. "You would not have put yourself into it fully, for it would have seemed frivolous. I thought that making you mad would bring out the most in you." A hint of humour. "I think I was right."

David's eyes narrowed as he felt his breath beginning to return. He muttered, "Sometime after I've gotten my strength back, I'm going to get back at you for that."

Another nod. "I know. Your warrior's pride will allow nothing less." Kenneth turned back toward Samson.

But even after being the victim of such a cheap tactic, David realised he couldn't return in kind. He called, "But I'll let you defend yourself."

Kenneth turned, walking backwards long enough to reply, "I know."

When they returned to Samson, Kenneth helped David climb back into the saddle. The lesson resumed, and David was, indeed, too exhausted to try to ride. Instead, he merely bounced with the motion, and focused simply on timing his bounces so that his body gently rose and fell with the trotting movement of Samson's right shoulder.

"There, that is excellent," Kenneth said. "You've got it now. You let him do all the work, and all you have to do is bounce in tune with him. See how much easier it is?"

David nodded.

"We'll turn around and try posting to the other shoulder. It's the same idea."

The lesson went well, ending with a gentle canter. Again, his exhaustion allowed David to flow with the motion. The canter was only a step down from an outright gallop. The thought of the latter still sent his heart pounding, for it brought up all those images of the chestnut charging down the hill toward his aunt.

* * *

The next night Kenneth stopped using the lunge rope, so that David alone was in charge of Samson. They worked on turning, starting out a walk. Then Samson was trotting in a circle around the horsemaster, being guided by David. Eventually, came the canter. In later nights, they worked on Samson and David moving farther away from Kenneth, walking and trotting in straight lines, stopping, turning, coming back, and even a figure eight, finally at a canter.

Once, after a lesson, they talked about some of the unpleasant aspects of equine personalities, which Samson seemed to lack, such as rearing, bucking – and running away. Kenneth calmly told him what to do if here were on a horse where any of those things happened. For a runaway horse, he said, "Even pulling back completely on the reins, so that the horse's head is in his chest, will not stop a runaway. You must turn him into a circle, as his body has no choice but to follow his head. Even if he doesn't stop, he can't go anywhere, except to keep circling, until he is forced to stop from exhaustion. Or that you direct him into smaller and smaller circles that he eventually comes to a stop. Either way, by circling, you are safe from harm, because the horse can't go anywhere."

David felt his confidence growing, but he still looked upon the open pasture with dread. He knew the day would come when he would be expected to gallop freely across it and still be in complete control.

* * *

On the eighth night, David watched as Kenneth led a bay horse through the gate. But the horse wasn't Samson. This one was taller and carried his head higher. David gulped.

"You're now too advanced for Samson," Kenneth told him. "Besides, you can't call yourself a true rider until you have the ability to ride more than one horse. Like people, all horses have different personalities and individual quirks. They all have something to teach you. You'll become that much better at the art of riding if you are willing to listen to each one." He patted the sleek, bay neck. "This is Whimsical."

David gulped again, recalling the name. "Isn't he... you know, high spirited?"

"He can be. But I rode him quite a while this afternoon to take the edge off. He should be fine for you. But we will start out with a lunge line, until you are accustomed to the different feel of his gait."

David was grateful for the lung line, despite his pride bristling at needing assurance that Kenneth was in control of Whimsical's head. He quickly discovered that, while Samson had needed constant urging to keep up a steady gait in the later lessons, Whimsical needed to be held more in check, for he seemed always eager to go. Still, after much trotting in circles on the lunge, David felt himself relaxing, and realised that the principles were the same as when he rode Samson. Kenneth removed the lunge and they worked in a wider circle, with David in full control. Then they graduated to a canter, and David felt a surge of exhilaration that he was able to ride such a fine animal on his own.

After directing him to bring Whimsical to a halt, Kenneth walked up to him and said, "That was excellent. I knew you would do well with him. But if you don't mind, I'd like to cut tonight's lesson short. I've been up since three o'clock this morning, because of a sick horse."

"Oh." David dismounted, just now realising what a great imposition he was on the groom's time. "I'm glad you mentioned it. Of course, it's all right. Should we maybe postpone tomorrow night's lesson, so you can get to bed early?"

"No, let's keep working, since it's now only a week before your trip to London. There's still more you need to learn." The first smile David had ever seen appeared on Kenneth's face. "I hope you're able to feel some pride at what you've accomplished so far." He led Whimsical away.

"Yes," David called after him. "Yes. Thank you."

* * *

On the third night with Whimsical, the clouds covered the moon and the wind was blowing. Still, David assumed the lesson was on, so he showed up at the pasture. Kenneth was already there with Whimsical, and the horse reacted with a prance or nervous headshake every time the wind kicked up.

Because of the wind, it was harder to hear Kenneth's directions. They worked on cantering for a few strides, halting, then backing up. Then trotting and turning. Each pattern was repeated until David was successful at getting Whimsical to do what was asked, then the pattern was changed and he was given a new challenge.

They were cantering in a figure eight when the wind kicked up, and an owl suddenly shot from the pasture into the trees. Whimsical darted to one side. And then started galloping. Away from Kenneth.

For a moment, David sat up and pulled on the reins, confident of regaining control. But Whimsical only galloped faster, his long legs covering the ground in huge strides. David's heart shot into his throat as he realised that the mighty beast beneath him was at full speed, the wind whistling past his ears, and he had no control. Panic seized him.

It was just like with his aunt, and he wanted to squeeze his eyes shut and not face the disaster that was unfolding. The thick woods were coming closer and closer, and he was sure to be killed by a collision with a tree. For a moment, he considered diving off the saddle, but his limbs were frozen. He wanted to scream his dismay that this was how it was all going to end, but his mouth, too, was frozen.

All you have to do, the gentle direction came back to him, is turn a runaway horse into a circle. His body has no choice but to follow his head.

The trees were a second away.

David jerked mightily on the right rein. He had just enough forethought to sit up straight, in preparation for the sharp turn that was to follow. And follow it did, Whimsical seeming to turn sideways in a move that sent David bouncing in the saddle. For a moment, he thought he was going to fall, but he had some instinct of where his centre of balance was, thanks to the practice of riding with his arms sticking out. He stayed with the veering horse, who turned sharply to the right, but the centrifugal force sending him bending to the left.

David felt a sense of unreality, as he was unsure of just exactly what the horse was doing and how he should compensate. But a simple truth gave him hope: Whimsical was slowing.

He sat back and yielded to the awkward motion, letting it carry him, and by doing so he was able to get his bearings. He still held the right rein tightly, so that Whimsical was moving in a sharp circle, but he'd slowed enough the he was no longer drifting to the left. David seesawed the reins between his fingers, as Kenneth had taught, bringing Whimsical to a gradual halt.

When they were standing still, David's first reaction was relief. His second reaction was a strong desire for a riding crop, so he could explain a thing or two to Whimsical's hide about how unwise it was to run off like that.

Kenneth was running toward them. David put Whimsical into a trot to meet him. As he pulled up, the groom asked breathlessly, "Are you all right?"

David nodded.

"God, I'm sorry," Kenneth gasped. "Please forgive me. I didn't have time to work him this afternoon, and with the wind... he's been looking for an excuse all night to let loose. That owl or quail or whatever it was was just what he'd been waiting for. God, I'm sorry."

"It's okay," David said, marvelling at the fact that a mere two minutes ago he'd thought he was a goner.

"Good. You did great getting him back under control. Now let's get him back to work, using some really tight circles and patterns. He needs to learn that if he's going to pull something like that, he has to pay for it in sweat. Come on."

Whimsical was fussy for a while with the highly detailed patterns, but there came a point where David felt him yield completely to his demands to pay attention. It was as though Whimsical was saying, "Okay, okay, I know I was a bad boy. Just tell me what you want, and I'll do it." The powerful body felt totally different beneath David than it had all night. Completely obedient.

The horse was sweating so much he was foaming when David dismounted.

"I'm sorry again," Kenneth said. "I just now remembered what you told me about your aunt. You must have been terrified."

"Thoroughly," David admitted without embarrassment.

"That took real courage." Kenneth was looking him in the eye.

"Courage?" David asked on a high note. "It's a wonder I didn't soil my underwear."

"That's courage," Kenneth insisted. "Most people think that courage is when you aren't afraid. But courage is when you are afraid – but you're able to act anyway. You're a brave man."

David didn't know what to say to that.

"Tomorrow," Kenneth continued, "I'll bring two horses, and we'll ride together into the woods and out on the roads. That way, you'll get used to riding on different terrain."


The groom turned away, leading Whimsical.


Kenneth paused, looking back.

"Shouldn't, you know, Whimsical be cooled out and everything, since he got so hot?"

"Yes, of course. I'll take good care of him."

"Well... would you like some help?"

A shadow came over Kenneth's face. "I don't know if it would be a good idea for us to return together. Someone might see and wonder what we've been up to."

David considered that, then shrugged. "Does it matter? I mean, it's not like anything bad is going to happen to us. We haven't done anything wrong. And... besides, I don't really care anymore if anyone knows I've been taking lessons in secret. I know I can ride now and that's what's important."

Kenneth returned the shrug. "Okay."

They walked back to the barn together. There were already some buckets of water set out beneath the lanterns of the stable. Whimsical was unsaddled, and a halter replaced his bridle. David held the lead rope while Kenneth threw the buckets of water over Whimsical, then rubbed him down.

David petted the horse's face as Kenneth worked, realising that he felt no ill will toward Whimsical, despite the terrifying incident. On the contrary, in fact. "You know," he said, when Kenneth has paused in his rubbing to move to the opposite side, "all my life, I've gone out and gotten what I've wanted."

Kenneth glanced at him as he worked. "Doesn't surprise me. You're a fighter, after all."

"Yeah. And, because of that, I've never been surprised that things turned out like I wanted." David hesitated, thinking of the best way to pay the complimented he owed. "The only thing I can think of that I've ever feared is horses. Especially riding horses. Especially run away horses. And now, I don't have to be afraid of it anymore."

"Like I said," Kenneth noted, "you're a brave man."

He wasn't making his point very well. David gentled his voice. "This is the first time I've had the opportunity to learn that I can do something that I previously thought I couldn't. You can't put a price on a lesson like that."

Kenneth paused, looking at him.

"You're the wisest teacher I've ever known."

The look deepened, then the strong arm went back to work on Whimsical's coat. "Maybe being a wise teacher comes from having a stellar student."

David merely smiled, knowing he wasn't going to get much more sentiment from the groom than that. In fact, Kenneth's next words were, "Have you forgotten you were going to get back at me for that sucker punch?"

He had forgotten. But David was reluctant to share that fact. "Surely, you aren't suggesting that we go at each other tonight."

A shrug. "No. But I'm not one to forget my debts."

David wasn't sure whom it was who really owed whom. He muttered, "And you say I have pride."

Seriously, the other said, "I don't like owing people."

David sighed, realising that the subject wasn't going to be dropped until it was dealt with. "How about settling it with an arm wrestle? I really don't want to mess up your face."

"I messed up yours – a little bit, anyway."

The bruise hadn't gone unnoticed by the other servants, but David had politely told anyone who inquired to mind their own business. "I don't look like you." A bruise – even just one – would be much more noticeable on such pale skin.

A look of unease came over Kenneth's face. Then he started speaking in gentle tones to Whimsical. "All right, you frisky boy, I think we've got you all ready for bed." He patted the sleek hide, then moved the empty buckets out of the way. He took the lead rope from David. "You can turn in. I'll just walk him for ten minutes to make sure he's cooled out, then I'll put him away."

Puzzled by the dismissal, David could only reply, "Okay."

* * *

In the heat of the summer night, bangs plastered to his forehead, David milked the seed from his manhood, then collapsed into the mattress, panting. As usual, the fantasy of the groom doing unmentionable things to a woman's unmentionable places had brought him to a very satisfying completion. Tonight, however, despite the heat – or perhaps because it prevented him from falling asleep – he found his mind still active afterwards.

Now the groom -- horsemaster, David decided on the more regal title, for Kenneth was the master of horses -- explained to the woman he had just pleasured that another student was about to enter the room. He said it in the tone of one welcoming a new student, for he was always an instructor in these fantasies.

David had always accepted that his mind conjured unlikely scenarios when he wanted to arouse himself. He knew that dreaming of images that included another man was wrong, but he rationalised that God didn't know what he was thinking within his own thoughts. That's why speaking out loud was required for prayer.

The fantasy continued.

David entered, naked and feeling bashful, wanting to cover himself.

"No, do not be afraid," Kenneth gentled him with his voice. "We are all here to learn. And tonight's second lesson is that men also have unmentionable places where they would like unmentionable things done to them. I am going to teach you both how to satisfy their desires."

In his bed, with sweat from the effort of his prior release cooling on his skin, David began to stroke himself again.

Horsemaster Kenneth got up, his long thick manhood hanging in the aftermath of pleasuring the lady, and approached David. Cautiously, he raised his hand, then touched David on the chest. His hand moved about the hair there. "A man's skin is also pleasing," Kenneth said in a breathless voice. "See," he noted, looking downward, "your manhood is responding, David. I am very pleased by your progress already. Come to bed." He took David's hand.

Still feeling shy, David nevertheless obeyed, kneeling on the bed. He trusted the horsemaster implicitly.

David's manhood swelled in his hand. He was aware that the lady had disappeared, though the fantasy bed still carried the scents of the prior coupling.

"What is important to understand about a man's body," the horsemaster instructed, "is that the one unmentionable opening is small and tight and dry. It requires lubrication, so that it is not abused during the unmentionable process of manly love. It is time for lubrication, David. Bend over."

David's thighs quivered as he obeyed, laying his head and shoulders down on the silken bed covering.

"Very good. You are such an excellent student."

His unmentionable cleavage was spread by confident hands. He knew the horsemaster had full view of his dirty place, and it made him feel ashamed, even as his manhood lengthened.

Kenneth gently said, "We are taught throughout our lives to be ashamed of our unmentionable places. But if it were not for our unmentionables, we would never know the pleasure that God intended for us. That is why you need a good teacher to learn how to do the things that will pleasure those places."

David was tempted right then and there to tell David he was a good teacher, especially since he no longer felt quite so ashamed about his dirty place.

The hand on his left buttock eased its grip and rubbed... up... down... creating a most pleasing sensation along his flesh. It tingled in a way that made David wish the horsemaster would keep doing it and never stop.

The grip tightened again, and then he felt something at his dirty place. Something touching him, stroking him there. His manhood hardened even more, for he realised it was a finger... doing unmentionable things to that unmentionable place. He had to wriggle to maintain his balance when the finger filled up the area where his opening was. But it didn't push... just rested there, barely moving.

David wriggled. He couldn't help it.

"You need much lubrication." The horsemaster said it as though it was a verdict.

David held still, wondering where the necessary moisture would come from. The kitchen – where oil was kept for cooking – was a long ways away.

The bed shifted, and then warm moisture touched his dirty place. The wet warmth moved, and the surrounding flesh felt warm breath. And then he was hearing noises similar to when people are licking something.

He shuddered all over, for that is what the sensation made him do. He didn't think Kenneth should put his tongue in his dirty place; but even though it worried him, he spread his legs so Kenneth would have easier access.

Amazing things were happening to him back there... things that spread all through his body. His manhood jutted from between his legs, anxious for touch. Goosebumps were breaking out all over his flesh. His hips quivered repeatedly. He almost wanted to move away, for Kenneth's tongue kept moving and finding new areas to tantalise, and it seemed that this pleasure was so great that it must be sinful. If he could stop breathing long enough to speak, he might even ask Kenneth about the wisdom of it. Except... he trusted Kenneth. The horsemaster would not be doing this unless it was necessary to further David's education.

The hands shifted again, and then the area around his dirty place was kissed. The horsemaster made a very strange, "Mmmm" noise that made David feel soft all over. Except between his legs.

"David," the horsemaster said gently, "is your manhood eager for touch?"

"Yes." His reply came out in a breathless whisper.

"Did you feel confusion about whether you wanted me to lubricate you further, or stop and tend to your manhood?"

"Y-yes." No, he wasn't stuttering like the horsemaster did on occasion. (Occasions when he wasn't teaching.) It was only that his voice was quivering like his body had just done.

"Very good. You are an excellent student who is progressing at an extremely fast rate."

He groaned. He liked hearing the horsemaster say that, but he also wished Kenneth would do more unspeakable things to his unspeakable places.

"David, do you remember the riding lesson where I had to make you exhausted so you would not fight the motion of the horse?"

"Yes." He could scarcely breathe, so eager was he for further instruction.

"We will need to do something similar for this lesson. You are such a natural fighter, and we do not want you to fight my manhood when it does an unmentionable thing to your unmentionable place."

David's heart accelerated and his breathing became harsh. His manhood was a taunt as it had ever been.

"I am going to make you exhausted. I am going to let you do something one does not speak up to my mouth."

David felt the moisture at the tip of his spear drip off the end of his stout flesh.

"Stay still. I will take care of everything."

In the realm of fantasy, the naked horsemaster was suddenly lying face up between David's spread legs, his mouth two inches from David's aching spear.

"I do not normally allow students this. But I have been eager for your flavour, so I am making an exception in your case. I will use my lips and tongue to release your seed, so that it travels down my throat."

David gasped.

The horsemaster gripped David's thighs for support. "Enter my mouth, David."

Though he was not instructed to do so, David knew the horsemaster would not be upset that he hoisted his weight onto his forearms, so he could peek back between his legs and see the blond head poised to receive him. He had thought that the horsemaster had a most uniquely shaped mouth, and now he watched as he moved his hips forward, and those generous red lips parted to receive him.

He cried out as his manhood was enclosed in wet suction.

In reality, David had had a girl touch him with her mouth only once. And then she only licked at him like a sweet stick, for she had said it was too "nasty" to put the whole thing in her mouth. He had tried to pleasure his own self that way, but no matter how limber he got, he could never quite reach. It had become something of an obsession, and he often pleasured himself by imaging how wonderful it would feel if anyone ever swallowed him.

And now he knew. The greatest teacher he'd ever had was nursing his manhood as though it were vital to his existence. The nerves all along David's barrel were singing with joy, and his tender parts beneath were churning as his seed got ready to impregnate. He would only be impregnating Kenneth's throat with the pleasure of his flavour, but since pleasing Kenneth was the most important thing of all, it didn't matter that it wouldn't result in a child.

The moist suction was almost better than being inside a woman, for not only was there pleasant sensations along his entire manhood, but the horsemaster was using his tongue to taste David's leaking tip...

David quickly pulled down on the carriers of his seed. He did not want this fantasy to end yet. In his mind, he released his seed inside Kenneth's mouth, but he was careful not to reflect upon the details

His manhood was now just a small, shrivelled organ, good only for expelling the process of his kidneys. Still, his legs quivered with the memory of the recent pleasure, and Kenneth had closed his eyes and swallowed slowly while running his tongue along his lips. Though it was David who had achieved release, Kenneth acted as though he'd been granted the greatest pleasure.

"Mmm," the horsemaster said dreamily. He finally moved from between David's legs. "Your private areas have such pleasing flavours that I fear I will find it necessary to indulge on a regular basis."

"Yes, Master." He couldn't imagine being anything other than completely obedient to one who was so dedicated to educating him.

Kenneth was now kneeling beside David, his thick, stout flesh jutting from between his legs. The horsemaster said, "My manhood is most eager to do the most unmentionable thing to your unmentionable place. The process will be assisted by further lubrication. Lubricate my spear with your mouth, David."

David eyes darted up to those of the horsemaster, for he could not believe that he had been permission to return the most exquisite of sensations that had just enveloped his own private part.

Kenneth gazed back at him, his eyes unmoving and commanding.

David ducked his head and obeyed. Warm, tender, taut flesh filled his mouth as he shivered all over at the sensation he was causing. He sucked like the most hungry of infants.

"D-d-david," the horsemaster gasped. His hand gripped David's jaw, stilling him.

Confused, David reluctantly released the powerful shaft and looked up.

"Do not nurse it, or it will not have the stamina to do the most unmentionable of things. Only wet it, to ease the entrance into your most unmentionable place."

Disappointed, but wanting so much to please, David stuck out his tongue, well moistened, and bathed the flushed skin.

"Y-yes," the horsemaster said in a quivering voice, "that is correct. You may kiss the tip, and then it will be time for the purpose of tonight's lesson."

David pulled back and looked straight into the single, weeping eye. Then he stuck out his tongue and licked it. The flavour of the moisture was bold and masculine. He shivered.

Kenneth shifted away. "Spread your legs wide, and brace your arms against the bed."

As David obeyed, he felt the horsemaster's hand pet his hair, tender and gentle. The hand moved down his back, and then rubbed in a circle across his spine.

"I am going to mount you now," the horsemaster said.

David swallowed, imagining the horsemaster's flesh poised at his entrance.

"Remember, David, when Whimsical ran off with you in the pasture, and you brought him back under control? There was a moment when you felt him yield to your command, and that's when you knew it was going to be all right."

"Yes," David whispered, still feeling pride at the memory of that moment when he realised he was in charge of his own destiny.

"You must now be as Whimsical was. When my flesh takes command of your flesh, you must yield, despite your instinct to resist."

"I won't resist." David's words were breathless and determined.

"You must allow me to ride you."

"Yes." YES!

Fingers probed at his entrance. And then hot flesh took up the entire opening, pressing, threatening...

The huge cannon pushed.

David gripped his flesh and choked and gasped as his seed shot from his own cannon. Even as the exquisite sensations rushed through his body, he felt annoyed that he hadn't been able to time his release to match the imaginary claiming of his body by Kenneth. He'd wanted the full picture before him of every inch of the horsemaster's flesh making itself felt inside his eager sheath. And the way Kenneth would scream with joy with the moment of culmination arrived....

Bathed in sweat, David spent a few moments catching his breath. Summer heat nor not, he knew he would be able to sleep now. He wiped at himself with the sheet he was lying on (for none was needed for covering), and rolled over onto his side. Finally, the evaporating sweat was making his skin feel a little cooler.

As he drifted into sleep, David's mind returned to the room where the unmentionable thing had taken place. Recovered from his own small death, the horsemaster said, in the most gentle of voices, "I see that you are the only student truly worthy of my instruction. I will now devote all of my bedtime classrooms to you alone."

David smiled and began to snore.

* * *

The tune drifted off into nothingness when David decided that his throat was getting too dry to continue whistling. He had drank all his water and he hoped he and his mount – a long, rangy black mare named Spooky – would reach Beswick Park soon. Dusk was turning to darkness, and he had left London some three hours ago, having carefully picked out and ordered the next load of fine wood, leaving Jenkins to attend to whatever business a man in his position attends to.

Spooky's stride was long and reaching, showing her own eagerness to reach the stables, despite her fatigue. She'd been a good mount for the journey, as David had expected. Kenneth had brought her for David to ride the last two evenings when they had ridden together at night. Kenneth had called Spooky a "gawker" because she was always looking for things to spook at, hence her name. When she found something, all she did was make a gasping noise like a human, fidget a few steps, and then continue on, looking for the next thing to spook at. David had found her entertaining, for her ears were always straight forward, and her head swayed from side to side, as she anticipated danger in every shadow. He was particularly glad of her amusing antics on the journey to London early in the morning, for Jenkins's company was completely boorish. David also couldn't help but think that Kenneth would object to the way Jenkins kept such a heavy hand on the reins of his own mare, causing her to toss her head and fidget in her objections to her tender mouth being handled so strongly, since she was doing everything she was asked. In a way, David was glad Kenneth was not with them, for Kenneth seemed so sensitive about the mistreatment of God's creatures.

"Maybe it's around the next bend," David told Spooky hopefully. He had completely dropped the reins, knowing she would find the way home, and leaned his hands back on her hindquarters. He ached in places he didn't know existed, but he had to admit that Kenneth was right about how being on horseback could be as refreshing to the senses as taking a walk. And such a special thing, to himself particularly, to have the confidence to ride in such a relaxed manner. Spooky had stopped gawking a while back, for her whole focus was on getting home and back to her nice bed of straw.

Beswick Park wasn't around the next bend, nor the next. It was night-time before David and Spooky finally penetrated the iron gates, David muttering an exhausted hello to the gatekeeper. David wondered if Kenneth would be up, waiting for them, or if they would instead be greeted by a stable lad. He shied away from how much he hoped it would be Kenneth.

The long entrance lane finally curved into the horseshoe shape of the lantern-lit stables. David heard voices, one sounding angry, another – Kenneth's, he realised – sounding rather high pitched. Perhaps even fearful.

Puzzled, David dismounted – practically falling to the ground in exhaustion – at the post in front of the stables where Spooky had stopped. No lad appeared. In fact, all seemed very quiet, except for the voices coming from the tack room. David loosened Spooky's girth, then tiptoed along the stables until he came near the open window of the tack room. He listened.

"You have had four weeks with him," the angry voice bellowed. "All I wanted from you was to have him ready to ride. But you have failed me once again."

"Then ride him, if you must," Kenneth's defiant voice replied. "But he will most likely throw you at the first opportunity. He is still quite young and frisky and only green broke. He is not ready for a rider who is anything but outstanding."

"You!" the other voice accused, "judge my riding abilities! You learned everything you know from this estate. And you are nothing but a low-class bastard acting as a groom, because of my generosity!"

David eagerly awaited Kenneth's rebuttal to the insult. But there was none.

"I wanted the horse ready," the voice continued, angry now to the point of dangerous. "Once again, you cannot obey a simple instruction. The only way to deal with one such as you is a good flogging."

David didn't think the man meant it truthfully, so he was shocked when he heard a noise of something hard hit something almost as hard, and then a man cried out. His heart leapt into his throat, to hear Kenneth make such a noise. He moved back toward the stable entrance, pondering if he should interfere. Surely, this event, puzzling as it was, was not something Kenneth would want others to know about. The groom had spared David's pride with regard to the riding lessons. Perhaps he should return in kind.

More angry words. Another violent noise, and another cry.

David drew himself up to his full height, set his jaw, and entered the barn. The tack room was just to the left. He entered and demanded, "What's going on?" Kenneth was hunched back against the far wall in a crouch, as though to ward off further blows.

The stranger turned to him. He was elegantly dressed, and holding a thick cane in his right hand. David realised at once he was Master Cunningham, who had eagerly waited the return of his wife from her long holiday. She had been scheduled to return today while David and Jenkins made their trip to London. The Master's face was blazed red, his beady dark eyes now reflecting shock at David's appearance. "Who are you?" he snarled.

"I am David Starsky, the best woodworker in all of England."

The Master's face softened, as though eager to turn his attention from the other matter. "Yes," he said pleasantly, "I am glad to finally make your acquaintance. I have shown your completed pieces to Lady Margaret and she is quite pleased."

David pointedly looked away from Cunningham to watch Kenneth slowly straighten, obviously trying to hide his pain.

The Master followed his gaze. "Unfortunately, not all of my servants are as excellent at their craft as you are. My head groom has given me trouble before. I'm afraid that he requires occasional disciplining."

David looked Cunningham in the eye. "You are less than a man."

Kenneth stepped forward, "David, no – "

Cunningham's eyes bulged in disbelief, then they flared dangerously. "Do you realize who you are addressing?"

"I am addressing an animal," David replied, maintaining the eye contact, "for no human being would treat his fellow man as you have just done to Kenneth."

"Fellow man?" Cunningham spat. "He is a mere servant. As you are. I dare say, watch your tongue."

The man was afraid of him, David knew. For, if not, he would have already taken a more drastic action to the insult. He grabbed the cane from Cunningham, brought it down crossways over his knee in one powerful motion, and the stick broke in two. He tossed the pieces aside and glared at Cunningham, who was looking at him in complete shock.

David raised his fists. "Defend yourself."

Kenneth stepped closer, "David, don't! He is The Master!"

"Yes," Cunningham hissed, "I am The Master. And you are an insolent servant who is also in need of flogging."

David's eyes narrowed. "Let's see you try." He lowered his fists. "Go ahead."

Cunningham swallowed thickly. Then, "Leave my property. At once!"

David nodded slowly. "I thought so. All right, I'll leave. But Kenneth will be coming with me." Through the corner of his eye, he saw the groom look at him sharply. "So, you not only will have no more furniture for the new wing, you won't have anyone to run the stables. And Kenneth and I will enjoy telling everyone we pass what a coward Master Cunningham is, who is truly no master at all."

Cunningham was silent, staring back at him with shock and indecision.

David knew he had him right where he wanted him. No matter what the station, men were still men. And the cowardly ones were easy to manipulate. He said, "If Kenneth and I are allowed to keep our jobs, you have our word that we will make no mention of this incident." He showed his fists again. "If you dare cause him any harm whatsoever, you'll have to deal with me."

Cunningham's mouth had dropped open, and then his gaze shifted to Kenneth, as though trying to comprehend how one as inept as the groom had befriended a champion who was willing to defend him. Then he abruptly turned on his heel and strode away.

David watched him go. When Cunningham had disappeared past the far end of the barn, Kenneth's gentle voice said, "You shouldn't have done that."

David turned to him. "Why? He's a cruel, cowardly man, and doesn't deserve to be treated with respect."

"Don't you understand?" Kenneth hissed. "He is The Master. He could kill us and bury us and never have to answer for it."

David snorted. "Kill us with what? He wouldn't even challenge me with his fists. He's a coward and a weasel."

"He has the money to hire someone."

"Someone here?" David asked in surprise. Everyone he'd met had seemed reasonably kind, even the obnoxious Jenkins.

"What difference does it make if it's someone here or from outside?" Kenneth asked.

Puzzled, David said, "You fear for your life?"

Kenneth's eyes met his. "No, I fear for yours." Then, in a lower octave, "Mine isn't worth much." He stiffly turned back into the room.

David watched, realising the Kenneth was a completely different person than he had previously imagined. In his night-time fantasies, he had wanted to receive the other man's knowledge and power – intimately. Kenneth didn't look powerful right now. In fact, he looked... needful. It made David feel soft all over, in a way he wouldn't have anticipated.

David reached out and gently squeezed Kenneth's arm. "You are in pain. Come with me to my cottage, and I will tend to you."

Without turning, Kenneth waved an arm. "It's all right. I'am not bleeding."

"But you are wounded," David said tenderly, not even sure what he meant by that. "Please, come to my cottage."

Slowly, Kenneth turned. "Was Spooky a good mount for you?"

David couldn't restrain an ironic grin. Of course, Kenneth would ask about the horse. Not just because he was concerned about the horse, but also to cover his embarrassment at what had taken place. "Yes, she was excellent."

"I will care for her. She needs a good rubdown after such a long ride." He stepped past David.

David took his arm again and waited until Kenneth looked at him with shameful eyes. Gently, he said, "You can get one of the stable lads to care for her. Come with me, Kenneth. Please. It will put me at ease if I can see for myself your lack of injury." He studied the face that clouded over, and knew that defiance was imminent. How can one with so much anger not fight back when he was struck? Is it really because he think himself truly inferior to The Master? He drew his trump card. "I was humble and without pride when I asked you for riding lessons, and you didn't make me feel shameful because of it. It's not my intent to make you feel shameful either. I only want to help." He allowed a grin to spread across his face, though he felt anything but humorous. "Besides, I still owe you for that sucker punch." How can one who can throw a punch like that have withstood being flogged by a cane? "And my pride won't let me punch somebody who is in less than peak condition."

A tiny grin appeared at Kenneth mouth, and David knew he had won. He pushed his advantage. "Come on, let's get a stable lad to tend to Spooky."

Kenneth allowed David to lead him down the barn aisle. As they emerged at the opposite end of the barn, David nodded toward the large cottage nearest the stables. "Is that one yours?"

"Yes. Mine and the stable lads."

David looked up at him in surprise. "You don't have a cottage of your own?"

"No," Kenneth said casually. "All the lads need to be nearest the horses. It's a logical arrangement." He went up to the door and stuck his head in to summon a lad and tell him to tend to Spooky. He and David continued walking and didn't speak until they reached the last cottage.

After leading the way inside, David lit the lamp. Then he squeezed Kenneth's arm. "Make yourself at home. I'll bring water."

He returned with a bucket of water in each hand, and bandages tucked under his arm. Kenneth was sitting slumped in the single chair, his head bowed, staring at the floor. David was sad to see him like so... broken. He put the buckets down and touched Kenneth on the shoulder and said softly, "Take off your shirt, and lie down on the bed so I can take a look."

Silently, Kenneth obeyed, revealing pale skin in the lamp light. He went to the narrow bed and lay face down upon it, his head turned toward the wall.

David held the lamp over his back. A series of red welts was swelling up along the lower portion of Kenneth's spine, the straight line showing the path where the cane had landed. Higher up, there was a shorter, but more intense welt more toward the horsemaster's left side. David reached out and gently touched it.

Kenneth drew a breath.

"A rib might be broken there," David guessed.

"I doubt it," Kenneth said, his head still turned away, his whole body radiating embarrassment. "It'll be much less sore in a day or two."

Kenneth seemed to be speaking from experience. David dipped a cloth in the bucket of water, and decided not voice his appellation at the idea of such a repeat practice. "I thought the flogging of servants had ceased when Cunningham got married."

"It did," the turned away mouth replied. "Lady Margaret put an immediate stop to it, as she's a very gentle woman, and Cunningham loves her deeply."

David placed the wrung out cloth against the bruise over the rib, and Kenneth flinched before recovering himself.

"Easy," David soothed. "Just going to put some cold rags on you and try to numb the pain a bit." He continued with more cloths until there was a series spread along the horsemaster's back.

"You are a kind man," Kenneth said awkwardly.

David felt his stomach tighten, even though it was meant as a compliment. Perhaps it was because he so well remembered Kenneth's consternation when he first arrived, and he didn't like seeing this proud man having to humble himself so. He returned to the prior subject. "Despite Lady Margaret's instructions, the Master still sees fit to flog his groom on occasion."

"That is different," Kenneth said in a soft voice.

"How different?"

"H-h-e... h-h-e...," Kenneth swallowed, "likes it."

David was still for a long moment. He decided there was no way he could misinterpret the word "like" the way Kenneth had emphasised it.

Kenneth said, "He must do the flogging, in order to be a proper husband to his wife. I followed him once, years ago, after he was done with me. I needed... to understand. I watched as he bedded Lady Margaret within minutes after applying his cane to me. He was tender and gentle to her. But he cannot be a man at all unless he first does the flogging."

David pressed gently against the cold compresses, needing something to do. He couldn't comprehend such behaviour and didn't know what to say about it – regarding Master Cunningham or Kenneth.

Kenneth assured, "It doesn't happen often. His wife is frequently gone on holiday to Wales, where much of her family lives. She returned today from such a holiday. I knew he would be coming for me, since he would want to perform his proper husbandly duty to her."

This story was unlike any David had heard before. "Then... all that arguing about the new horse, it was just an excuse?"

"Yes, I suppose one could say that. He can always find reasons."

"I ..." David was uncertain how to word what was on his mind. He decided to ask his question outright. "Why do you put up with it? It's wrong for him to treat you so. You saw how easily he backed down from me. All it would take is a threatening fist, and he would turn tail and run before a blow was even struck."

Kenneth was a silent a long time, before he replied, "There is much you do not understand."

Tell me something I don't know, David thought. He gently squeezed Kenneth's shoulder. "Help me to understand. Please...?"

There was an extended silence, then the long pale body shifted until Kenneth was facing David. "He's the one who sired me."

"What?" Yet, even as David whispered the question in disbelief, he now understood why Cunningham had referred to his groom as a "bastard."

Kenneth's tone was level and without emotion. "My mother was the head milkmaid, whom the then young Cunningham took a fancy to. When his seed sprouted within her, he ordered her to get rid of the child – me. She pleaded for mercy, and the head groom at that time, Richard Hutchinson, told Cunningham that he would marry her, for he, too, had taken a fancy to her. He promised that they would raise me as their own and there would never be a question of parentage, and Cunningham reluctantly agreed. My mother died of a fever when I was a young child. My father took me into the stables with him from the time I could walk. I learned everything I know about horses from him." His eyes glowed with remembered affection. "One day, when I was eighteen, he was involved in an accident in London and was killed. I was then promoted to Horsemaster."

"Wow," David said when Kenneth fell silent. "I guess I do understand a little. But to flog the man whom he knows is his own son...."

"He is ashamed of me," Kenneth stated simply.

"That's hardly your doing," David protested, "and certainly not something you should pay for in bruises so he can bed his wife, pervert that he is."

"There is more." Kenneth's jaw hardened.

The cloths had grown warm against the horsemaster's body. David said, "I'm going to take these off and put on a bandage. It will give you support."

Kenneth's expression was far off. "Seven years ago, Master Cunningham decided he was going to start breeding racehorses. It was a dream of his, and he had made enough money in various dealings that he was able to participate in the sport. He bought a magnificent stallion named Hugo to be his foundation sire. I'd never seen a horse like that, and I took great pride in caring for him."

David mused, "Cunningham couldn't have thought too badly of you, if you let you care for such an animal."

A tiny small crept up the corner of Kenneth's mouth. "Yes, back then, I think he actually admired my abilities. Those were happy times." His eyes suddenly darted to David. "I had met a maiden in town. Her name was Katrina. Though she was a few years younger than me, she was a woman." His tongue worshipped the word.

David prepared his bandages, remembering the time in the pasture when Kenneth had first used that word.

"She was the love of my life," Kenneth stated reverently. "Kind, gentle, loving, amusing, energetic. It made me smile, each day, to know that I would return to our cottage – we had our own, of course – and be with her. I have heard many men speak of tiring of their wives after a number of years." The blond head shook. "That would have been impossible for me to feel anything but reverence for Kristina. Her... talents... as a wife were unending."

David restrained the urge to clear his throat. He loved it when Kenneth was willing to mention unmentionable things.

The pale features hardened. "One day, I returned to the cottage, anticipating dinner and my wife's loving arms, and I found her in bed, delirious with fever. It had come on very suddenly. My mother had died of fever, and I was consumed with a fear that can't be put into words. I was unable to think beyond saving my wife. I knew I had to get a doctor. There was no question who the fastest horse in the stable was. I flung a bridle over Hugo's head and mounted him – bareback – and left the stables at a full gallop. We galloped and galloped. When I felt him start to tire, I would kick him harshly and yell at him and fling the reins to urge him on. I was wearing a white shirt, and I saw blood splatter back to my shirt, from his nose." Kenneth's eyes grew wide at the recollection. "I knew I was killing him. Such a noble, loyal beast. Still, I urged him on. Then suddenly... he dropped beneath me. Dead. I ran the remaining distance to the doctor's. We laced up two horses to his carriage for greater speed. Still," Kenneth's voice grew very soft as his eyes glowed with moisture, "when we arrived, my darling Katrina was already dead, our child in her womb. I had not even been at her side to ease her passing. And the magnificent Hugo lay dead in the road, like a common abused cart horse."

David had never known anyone before who had loved – anyone or anything – so strongly. He touched Kenneth on the cheek. "You did everything you possibly could. Some things are in God's hands. You couldn't have known that riding Hugo still wouldn't have gotten you to the doctor in time. You had to try."

Kenneth swallowed thickly and met David's eye. "Katrina told me that one of the things she most loved about me was my kindness to animals, especially horses." He shook his head. "I don't think she would have wanted me to kill Hugo, even if it would have saved her life."

"She doesn't sound like the kind of woman who would have asked you to make that choice. You never thought about it, Kenneth. You just acted out of instinct, as any man would who is desperate to save someone he loves." When silence answered him, David started with the bandage.

"Everything changed after that," Kenneth continued in a pained voice. "My heart was broken every day, knowing my Katrina would not be there waiting for me when I finished my work. But I was not alone in my pain. Master Cunningham had lost the horse that was to sire his entire line of racehorses. By killing Hugo, I destroyed his dream. He was never the same, either."

"That's when he started flogging you," David realised, working with the bandaging.

"Not just me. The other servants, as well," Kenneth said. "Until he married Lady Margaret, and she put a stop to it. But he has always hated me since that day."

"You feel you deserve his hatred," David said, now understanding. "That is why you don't resist, even when you know he is coming for you."

"I destroyed his lifelong dream," Kenneth said with a hard frown. Then he looked at David. "Isn't that worth a few welts?"

David's jaw also firmed. "Lots of people have their dreams destroyed. But if they have any strength of character, they pick up the pieces and try again. They don't waste away the rest of their lives trying to blame people. It's only those who are weak who find excuses not to try, and invest all their energy in placing blame." He shook his head. "You aren't responsible for the fact that he never tried with another horse. Hugo may have been a magnificent stallion, but obviously others have bred successful racing stock without having Hugo as their foundation sire. Master Cunningham is a small man, Kenneth. He is beneath you. If you ever allow him to hurt you again, I'll flog you myself for being such a stupid fool." He tied the bandaging and stood, stretching his back.

Kenneth carefully sat up. "Then I will have twice as many welts for you to tend to."

David looked at him sharply, not accustomed to be spoken to in such a tone by an equal. Then he realised that has friend had meant the statement as humorous. They broke into laughter at the same time. Their amusement grew louder and louder....

Finally, they fell silent, David drawing the chair next to the bed, and sitting in it. "You know, in all the time we've spent together these past few weeks, this is the first time I've seen you laugh."

Kenneth, eyes still alight with humour, grew reflective. Then he admitted, "I guess I've been carrying a melancholy air for a number of years now." Slowly, his eyes rose to meet David's. "Sometimes... I feel such loneliness that I think I will die of it."

David nodded slowly. He wasn't quite sure he could say he knew how Kenneth felt, for he hadn't experienced a degree of loss equal to that of the groom. But he felt the other man was reaching out to him, and the least he could do was reach back. "I heard someone say a long time ago, that if a man has one true friend in his life, then he has been a rich man. But me, I was always too independent, too hell-bent on striving for the things I wanted, to care much about trying to acquire friends." He looked at Kenneth squarely. "But I think I've become a wealthy man."

Kenneth returned the gaze for a moment, and then broke the contact. "Perhaps it's time for me to stop longing for the past, and look ahead."

David nodded. "That's the best thing you've said all night." He slapped Kenneth on the knee. "It would give me great pleasure if, in the evenings after work, you will come here and share a drink with me."

"I would be honoured."

"No need to be honoured," David scolded. "Just show up."

Kenneth gazed at him for a long moment. Then, "I have never known anyone like you. You have courage and, dare I say, an arrogance that I find appealing."

"Yes," David agreed, determined to give as good as he got, "I knew when I first walked through your stables that we would eventually become friends. You looked angry with me, and I am accustomed to men stepping back from me. I knew we could respect each other."

Kenneth's eyes narrowed, as though he was trying to figure out if David was boasting or being truthful.

There was a knock on the door. "Daaaavid," a female voice cooed.

David rolled his eyes. "Flora. She often finds excuses to visit."

Kenneth grinned. "I do believe the young lady is hungry for your attentions. It has been rather obvious each day at dinner." He reached for his shirt.

"It's all right. I'll send her away, for I have not yet made up my mind to return her attentions. I don't believe I'm yet ready to settle down, and I do not want to encourage her, only to eventually turn her away."

"You're a man of integrity," Kenneth said, buttoning the enclosures. "But I must be leaving anyway. A groom is always up at dawn to tend to his horses."

"Ohh, Daaaaavid. Are you in there?"

David rolled his eyes at Kenneth, who smiled widely at his predicament. Then he opened the door. "Hi, Flora."

The young maiden batted her eyes.

Kenneth nodded politely at her. "I was just leaving."

David stepped aside to let him pass. He felt a hand squeeze his shoulder, and then Kenneth was gone.

"Do you have more laundry for me?" Flora asked eagerly.

"Yes, I do." David quickly gathered up the pile in the corner. As he handed it to her, he said, "I'm sorry I can't take time to chat tonight, but I have had a very long day."

"Yes, I know," she said. "How was your trip?"

"It was quite successful. But I must get some sleep before morning." He made sure she had full charge of the bundle, then gently took her arm and guided her away from the house. "Make sure you give me a full accounting tomorrow of your work this week, and I will pay you."

"Oh," she batted her eyes again, "I do not need payment. I enjoy doing your laundry."

David quickly banished the suggestive thought that crossed his mind. "I insist. So, please be thorough in your accounting. Goodnight, dear Flora."

She waved, cooing, "Goodniiight, David."

He closed the door behind him and undressed for bed. As he lay there, sleep did not come immediately. He imagined Flora's generous bosom, but that didn't inspire his manhood. He then imagined the horsemaster giving another lesson to him, but that wasn't particularly inspirational either, since now Kenneth appeared so different to him.

Instead, as his mind wandered, he eventually realised that it was himself who was master.

Kenneth was beneath him. David kissed him. And kissed him. And kissed him some more. Kenneth groaned with aching need. David held him gently and kissed him all over his body. And then stroked his back where Cunningham's cane had landed, soothing the tender area. Kenneth felt soft and comfortable in his arms. So trusting.

Though his manhood grew full with such thoughts, David fell asleep without seeking release.

* * *

David had never felt so stiff and sore in his life as when he awoke the next morning and staggered to work. Even all his successful lessons had not prepared him for a full day in the saddle. He sat down on the ground at his open shed and began to smooth the wood on the arm of a chair. He was looking forward to receiving even better quality wood from London in a few weeks.

After a couple of hours, he staggered to his feet with a groan.

"I see I'm not the only one stiff and sore this morning," a voice said.

David turned and Kenneth was leading a black horse to the pasture. Kenneth was smiling.

David smiled back. "Somehow, I think if I were younger I wouldn't feel quite this badly after such a long ride."

Kenneth chuckled.

David stepped closer, studying the rangy leanness of the horse. "Is that Spooky?"

"Yes." Kenneth had reached the pasture gate and loosened the chain.

"She doesn't seem to shy when you're leading her."

"Of course not. That's just a game she plays when a man is on her back."

David leaned his arms on the fence as Kenneth entered the pasture with the mare and locked the gate behind him. "Is she going to get turned out today?"

"Yes. She had a tiring day yesterday. So, today is one of liberty."

Spooky had started to prance excitedly and when Kenneth slipped the halter off, she suddenly galloped away from him, rearing and bucking.

David watched with delight as she continued to rejoice in her freedom. Kenneth came to stand by him, on the other side of the fence, and was also watching her.

David said, "This must be one of the favourite parts of your job."

"Yes," Kenneth replied. "This and delivering a newborn foal. Or nursing a sick horse back to health. Or training a high-strung colt to be obedient without breaking his spirit."

David started to put his foot up on the lower plank of the fence, but then winced and decided against it, for his leg muscles were so sore.

Kenneth looked at him. "Tonight, I will bring liniment and rub you down like I do the horses. You will feel better."

"That sounds like a treat." To put it mildly.

"I should have done so last night. You were in more pain than I was."

It seemed odd the way Kenneth spoke of last night so casually. David laid a hand on his friend's arm. Gently, he said, "Don't let Cunningham ever treat you like that again."

Kenneth turned to watch Spooky, who had galloped away, and was now rolling in the dirt. "He doesn't bed Lady Margaret often. He'll not come back out to the stables for a long time."

David squeezed Kenneth's arm until those deep blues eyes met his. "Don't let him. For me, if not for you. I can't stand to see one such as you be treated so by one such as him."

A tiny smile lit Kenneth's mouth corner. Then he simply nodded.


They both turned at Jenkins's booming voice. The man was walking toward them angrily. "There is no LOAFING allowed at Beswick Park!"

Grinning, they both stepped away from each other and returned to their work.

* * *

"Boy, I've been looking forward to this all day," David said as he flung aside his shirt. Kenneth was sitting in the chair beside the bed, a bucket of water and cloths at his feet. He was pouring liniment into the water. David crashed onto the bed, face down.

Kenneth studied him for a moment. Then the groom said, "I believe you will need to remove more clothing for me to do an effective job. Surely, your lower body is more sore than your upper body." Eyes alight with amusement, he added, "I didn't think you would be shy."

"I'm not." David got back on his feet and started to remove his trousers. "It's just...," he trailed off. Kenneth's gentle, accepting nature made him want to be honest with him. Even about unmentionable things. After all, wasn't Kenneth the first between them to mention the unmentionable?

Kenneth was watching as he stepped out of the trousers. David boldly said, "I have not returned any of Flora's flirtations. My manhood is lonely and might be quick to respond to any touch." He quickly slipped off his underwear and jumped back onto the bed, face-down.

"The stallions are like that," Kenneth said. His gentle, understanding tone made David feel warm inside, for he'd been correct that he could tell Kenneth anything. "If you start rubbing their legs, they often unsheathe themselves, even when a mare is not around. An aroused stallion, with no outlet for his desire, can be very dangerous. So, it is important to distract him while working on his sensitive areas."

David felt a hand on the back of his calf as Kenneth said, "I will keep you distracted with conversation as I work with your legs."

"I hope you aren't going to talk to me about the same things you talk to horses about."

Kenneth chuckled. "No, I doubt that the things I say to distract them will be appreciated by you." Kenneth dipped a cloth in the bucket of water. "The water will be cool, but the liniment should penetrate your skin and warm your muscles."

David tried not to react to the cool cloth as it began to rub at his calf.

Kenneth said, "When you had been here just a few days, you mentioned America at one of the meals."

The subject surprised David. "Yes. The New World, as it used to be called."

"Do you know much about it?"

David shrugged. "I have heard it said that with all the land available, any man can have their own plot. And therefore, there are not the class distinctions between men like there is here."

"You have strong feelings about the classes," Kenneth observed as his strong fingers worked in the liniment, warming David's calf.

"I detest them," David said. "I was born poor. But I have worked hard for everything I wanted, and now I am making a decent living at carpentry, taking wages from an aristocrat who is lower than an animal. And yet, he is supposed to be of higher 'breeding' than myself. It makes no sense."

"But without classes," Kenneth said thoughtfully, "it seems that there would be chaos. All lands need their fields worked and such. If there were not a class of people to do those things, then how would they get done? Not everyone can be of the highest class."

"In America, I think that most men who are not born into money, make money via wages for hard work, like we do here. But, over there, they can invest that money into land, cultivate that land, make a profit off of it, and buy more land and make even greater profit, and so on. There will always be people who need to make a wage, until they have enough to by their own land. With so many oppressed people, or people seeking fortune, crossing the ocean from so many different countries, it seems that there would be no shortage of available work forces in America, if one had so much land that they needed labourers."

"You seem to have thought about it," Kenneth observed. He was doing something wonderful to David's knee.

David shrugged. "Sometimes, I have felt fanciful and thought about taking a ship to America. But the cost is extreme." He made a noise of approval as knowing hands now started on his thigh, warming it. "You've apparently thought about America, as well."

"Yes. As a schoolboy, I was intrigued by the idea of a far-away land. But, as I've gotten older, I feel that my life is here, with the horses. After Katrina died, I have sometimes thought of it again. But I would never have the courage to leave here."

David considered that while his eyes were closed in appreciation for the soothing hands. When Kenneth had switched to the calf on the other leg, he said, "Maybe the reason you feel you lack courage is because you don't have enough reason to go. That might be my reason, as well. Crossing the sea to a strange land is a difficult." He tilted his head toward his listener. "If we went together, perhaps we both would find the courage."

Kenneth's hands paused, and he gazed at David for a long moment. Then he smiled bashfully, the hands beginning again. "Perhaps."

"Maybe we should start saving our money. Just in case we decide to go some day."

"I have already been saving," Kenneth noted softly. "For... something, somewhere, sometime. I've never known the particular reason. Perhaps it was just to give myself hope that there was a reason to keep living each day, after my darling Katrina left me alone."

They were silent for a while. Then David said, "I don't know whether I should be relieved or envy you that I have never known a love like that between you and Katrina."

Kenneth's complexion became tender and warm, matching the movement of his hands. "I don't believe a man has actually lived, until he has known a love like that. Despite the great emptiness in my heart since Katrina's death, I have never wished that I'd never loved her at all." His eyes grew distant. "It was an intimacy like none I've ever known before. Perhaps she was not like most women, because she shared herself with me. Not just the warmth and pleasures of her body, but her thoughts as well."

"Hmm," David mused when Kenneth stopped talking, "I guess I've never wished for a woman's thoughts. I've always been too interested in my own." With amusement, he said, "Perhaps that's why I have never known a woman like your Katrina?"

Kenneth chuckled. Then, he asked, "You have never had a lover?"

"No. Not one I could call my own."

"And yet... you do not seem to suffer for the lack of company."

"I guess that's because you can't miss what you never had." Finished with his legs, Kenneth was now working on David's buttocks. David felt exposed, hands touching him there, deeply massaging, but he focused on his question. "And you? Since Katrina's passing, you have never taken a fancy to any other?"

"There will never be any other," Kenneth said firmly. "I confess that sometimes I-I-I... notice things. About women. And wonder how they would feel. And then I hide myself away and imagine myself with Katrina."

"And ease the ache in your manhood," David finished for him.

The hands paused.

David's eyes widened, for he realised that he'd accidentally mentioned a very unmentionable thing.

The room was very silent.

Finally, the hands returned, now on his lower back. Kenneth stuttered, "I-I-I w-w-was not certain th-that other men did such things."

"Are you kidding?" David asked with relief. He thought's Kenneth's stuttering was rather endearing. "All the boys do it, even if they never admit to it. I know. I grew up around other boys. When one can't spoil a young maiden, and one does not care for the company of prostitutes or have access to a brothel, then a man's right hand is all this is available to ease the ache. A man's hand can be his best friend. That's why God made men's arms the length that they are – they are the perfect measurement for grasping his own manhood."

"Perhaps God made them that length only with the intention to piss."

David shook his head. "I can't believe any entity as great as God would not have figured out that man would find it convenient to ease his own special ache with his hand. Otherwise, why would God have made man so that he pisses and fertilises with the same hole?"

Kenneth stopped rubbing and appeared thoughtful. Then looked at David and said, seriously, "You realize, I hope, that this is a completely absurd conversation."

"No, it isn't. God and pissing and fertilising are some of the most important things in life."

Kenneth held up the cloth and mock threatened, "If this didn't have liniment on it, I would use it to wash out your mouth."

"Let's see you try."

David was aware of the tension crackling between them as Kenneth held the cloth poised, and David was waiting to retaliate if Kenneth attacked. He didn't know if he hoped Kenneth would or wouldn't.

Then Kenneth relaxed and started on David's upper back. "You're incorrigible."

"Yep. That's me."

They were silent for a while. Then, seriously, Kenneth asked, "Since you grew up around many boys...?"

"Yes?" He wondered what Kenneth was shy about asking. Surely, it had to be another unmentionable thing. He'd never had such interesting conversations before becoming acquainted with Kenneth.

"Is it true, what I have heard, that sometimes boys will... w-will use other boys as girls?"

"There was a boy in our village that," David nodded. "He liked other boys. Not girls. I'm sure he talked some of them into letting him use them like a girl. Or maybe he let them use him. I heard things like that, anyway. Never saw him touch a boy like that, myself. But he was different."

Kenneth swallowed delicately. He had put the cloth aside. "You never... y-you've never... done any unmentionable thing... like that?"

Realising the rubdown was over, David pulled the sheet from where it had been discarded on the floor, and covered his middle with it, before turning onto his side. His manhood had been quite active during the massage, but not to the point of distraction. But now these current distractions were likely to backfire. He propped his head in his hand. "No, I've never done anything like that. I have heard boys talking that you can keep a maiden a virgin, and still be inside her. I...," David shrugged, feeling unexpectedly bashful himself, "I find it hard to believe a woman would let a man do that."

Kenneth blinked. In a gentle, distant voice, he said, "When Katrina had her unmentionable female times, she would turn over and let me have pleasure in her forbidden place. She... seemed to enjoy it."

David blinked. So, it was true. Some women – real women – allowed men to do that. And he decided that he liked forbidden place much more than dirty place or even unmentionable place. He unconsciously adjusted the sheet around him and he wondered how the difference in words might enrich his fantasies. "How did it feel?" The words were out before David realised he'd spoken.

Kenneth's expression was distant. "Like... something forbidden. Not loving like the womb. But... tight. Hard, in a way that is difficult to describe. Exciting. And... strangely intimate in a way that the other is not."

David didn't even try to hide the fact that he was snaking his hand under the sheet to soothe his manhood, which was quite interested in the conversation. He now had more fuel than he could have ever imagined for his late night indulgences.

Kenneth slapped his leg and stood. "I meant to distract your manhood. Instead, I have teased it." He gathered up his supplies and reached for the liniment. "I think it's time for me to go. I hope you enjoyed it."

"Yes," David said, fully aware that they were both were conscious of the double meaning. Then sincerely, as he flexed the muscles of his limbs, "That's much better." He smiled warmly. "Thank you."

Kenneth indicated the lantern. "Should I blow it out?"

David shrugged, trying to be nonchalant. "Sure. That rubdown will put me right to sleep."

Kenneth bent over the lamp. "Goodnight, David."


The light went out. When the door was shut, David lay listening to footsteps leaving down the row of cottages. When he could hear them no more, he flung the covers aside and stroked his manhood, which was eager for further details of a woman taking pleasure from her loving husband entering her forbidden place, and how boys used other boys as women. Eventually, all he saw in his mind was Kenneth.

The massage was over. Without comment, Kenneth reached beneath David's body and stroked his manhood. It was so pleasurable that David reached for Kenneth's trousers, pulled them down to his hips, and grabbed the long pale, bobbing flesh. He started stroking it, loving the length and thickness and power.

Breathlessly, Kenneth said, "We will stroke each other until one of us finds release. Then, that one will be crouch down and be mounted by the other."

David stroked himself with greater force as he imagined the two of them trying to milk each other most successfully, while each was trying to hold back his own release so that he got to do the mounting.

The motion of Kenneth's hand was too perfect. David's manhood was singing with joy and he let it sing, spouting its liquid over Kenneth's milking hand. As David caught his breath, and Kenneth moved back to allow him to turn over and crouch down, he realised that the nerves in his forbidden place were starting to quiver in anticipation. His forbidden place was like a blank sheet of music, and Kenneth's manhood was going to compose a song there.

David sprouted, milking the generous seed from his spout with well-practised hands. One night, he hoped he would last long enough to imagine Kenneth's pale, proud manhood taking pleasure from his forbidden place. That he would be able to imagine the intimacy that Kenneth said came from such an exciting joining.

After he wiped off his belly, David wondered if that night might be tonight. If he pleasured himself again, his manhood might have more stamina while he imagined all the details of his body's most forbidden place being visited by Kenneth in the most unmentionable way.

David started stroking himself again. Is he, right now, doing the very thing that I am? Perhaps even imaging the same thing?

His seed sprouted even more quickly the second time.

* * *

On Sunday, when all members of Beswick Park returned from services, David followed Kenneth to the stables to prepare their horses for the afternoon's ride. Kenneth had asked him if he'd enjoy a leisurely ride through the nearby forest, in the daylight for once, and David had eagerly agreed. Now, he held Spooky by the bridle while a stable lad saddled her. Kenneth tacked up Whimsical.

The sun was shining, but a cool breeze stayed away the worst of its heat, and carried the scent of autumn. They rode away from the estate at the trot, with Whimsical tossing his head and swishing his tail.

"What's wrong with him?" David asked when they paused at the top of a hill. He had to admire the way Kenneth seemed so relaxed atop such a nervous horse.

"He's just full of himself." Kenneth pointed to the meadow below them. "I'll gallop him to the end of the clearing to take the edge off. You are welcome to follow at your own pace."

"Spooky can gallop, too, can't she?" David's voice brightened. "Maybe we can make it a race."

Kenneth chuckled. "If you like. But I have to warn you that Spooky is hardly the runner that Whimsical is. Nor is she as young."

David shrugged. "We can try."

"You go first then. Whimsical and I will catch you well before the end of the meadow."

David had to give Spooky a firm kick before she would move away from her companion. He trotted her down the hill until it levelled out to the meadow. Then he applied more leg pressure, and she broke into a gallop. He kissed and clucked to her, shaking the reins to encourage her on. No, this was nothing like when Whimsical had taken off with him. Spooky didn't seem near as enamoured of raw displays of speed. Still, David's eyes began to water at the wind blowing past.

The sound of hooves were suddenly upon him and, ten yards to his left, Whimsical passed them with ease, Kenneth barely having to encourage him. Kenneth was bent forward over his neck, accenting the firmness of his buttocks within his white riding breeches. It was another picture David would mentally put away for his fantasies.

He was suddenly aware that Spooky had veered to the left. David caught sight of a rabbit in the corner of his eye, just as he realised he had lost his balance and he was going to fall. He had no chance to react; he hit the ground on his side with a thud that knocked the wind out of him.

He lay there, catching his breath, wondering how he could possibly have been so stupid to let himself get distracted while riding a horse that was known to spook easily.

Damn Kenneth's beautiful behind.

Once recovered enough, David hoisted himself into a sitting position. Nothing was throbbing. Whimsical was galloping toward them with an alarmed-looking Kenneth, while Spooky was contentedly grazing beneath the nearest tree.

"Are you all right?" Kenneth demanded as he jumped from the saddle.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," David said. He put a hand to his head. He didn't pretend to think he wouldn't feel the effect of that thud for the next few days. But he was certain he had no lasting injuries.

Kenneth had put his arm around him and was feeling his limbs. "Are you certain?" He looked so worried.

"Yeah." David nodded for emphasis. "Help me up"

Kenneth's body felt strong and powerful as helped David his feet, and then steady himself on his two legs.

"What happened?" Kenneth asked.

"I was an idiot and wasn't paying attention. She spooked from a rabbit."

Kenneth looked into his eyes. "You're certain you aren't injured?"

"Yes. Just... very injured pride, is all." David brushed at the dirt on his trousers.

Kenneth took him by the arm. "Then you must re-mount at once, before your courage has a chance to run away from you." He was leading David toward Spooky.

David realised that he did feel a little shaky at the idea of getting back in the saddle, but he knew it was the right thing to do. He was grateful that Kenneth held Spooky's bridle, because it took all his strength to push off the ground and spring back into the saddle. Kenneth waited until David gathered his reins, then started walking back to Whimsical, who was grazing where he had dismounted.

David followed Kenneth at a walk, and watched Spooky's head as she cocked it this way and that, no doubt looking for more rabbits to take issue with.

When Kenneth was mounted, he said, "You should canter her, at least. Get your confidence back, and let her know that you are back in control and that she won't get out of the afternoon's ride by finding more rabbits to spook at."

David swallowed, but turned her back toward where she had first spooked. Since it was in the direction toward the estate, she went into a canter easily. He made sure that he was well in the centre of the saddle, and watched her ears prick straight forward, her head held high, as she looked for the monsters in the meadow. He almost hoped they would come upon another rabbit, so he would have a chance to correct her before she spooked severely enough to unseat him again. But a part of him was relieved when no other rabbits showed themselves. Still, he felt comfortable to be back in the saddle. When he turned her back around, he saw Kenneth riding Whimsical in a circle, at a canter. Whimsical was completely obedient to his rider's commands, which were so subtle that horse and rider seemed like perfect dance partners. Whimsical wasn't fussing in the least, and his neck was arched, so that his mouth was yielding freely to the bit. He then suddenly halted – no doubt from Kenneth's commands – and then backed up about ten steps. He then walked forward, now on a loose rein, and Kenneth patted him lovingly, his mouth moving to whisper whatever sweet things he whispered to horses.

David trotted Spooky up to them. When he halted, he said, "You look like you were born in the saddle. I guess you've never been thrown, huh?"

Kenneth grinned. "Are you kidding? I've hit the ground more times than I can count."

David felt better all ready.

"It's inevitable, if you ride frequently enough." Kenneth's tilted his head to one side. "I guess it's been a while though, since the last time. Which is good, because hitting the ground hurts a lot more as you get older. How are you doing?"

David patted Spooky. "I'm fine. She's a little keyed up right now, but I'm sure she'll settle down as we go along."

Kenneth gestured ahead. "There's a little pond about a mile away. We'll stop there."

David nodded. Flora had packed them a picnic lunch when she learned of the ride, and David looked forward to indulging. They started off at a trot, and then slowed to a walk when they reached the shade of the forest, riding single-file. David kept one eye on Spooky's head as she moved it warily from left to right, occasionally gasping at the slightest ruffle of bushes and trees caused by the breeze. This was the Spooky he was more accustomed to, and David kept his other eye on Kenneth, as he sat so tall and confident upon the back of the sleek, long-striding Whimsical. When the wooded path widened enough for two, David put Spooky into a trot until she was abreast of their companions. He asked, "If you were ever able to go to America, what do you think you would do there?"

Kenneth looked at him for a long moment, and then he shrugged. "I imagine something similar to what I'm doing here. They have horses in America, too." He thought a moment. "It would be good to have a patch of my own land to farm."

"You know anything about farming?"

"No. Do you?"


"What would you want to do, if you went to America?" Kenneth asked. "More woodworking?"

David shrugged. "I suppose. But it doesn't really matter. I can be a merchant or another type of craftsman. I've even worked at preparing a ship for sailing. I can pretty much adapt to anything."

"Except farming," Kenneth guessed with a brief laugh.

"Yeah. Except farming. Or... livestock. Anything with animals and plants, I'd best stay away from."

"Hmm," Kenneth mused. "You are the bravest of men when it comes to confronting other men, but you are timid when it comes to innocent plants and animals."

"Yeah," David relented. "And you're the kindest of men toward innocent animals and people, but you don't insist that others treat you likewise."

Kenneth considered that, then concluded, "We are complicated men."

David decided he liked that. "Yeah, complicated."

They continued in silence for a while, then David said, "Do you mind if I ask you something... personal?"

Kenneth looked back at him with his deep blue eyes. "Go ahead. I don't wish us to have any secrets from each other."

That made David feel warm inside. He smiled. "I was just wondering... how did you find out that it was Master Cunningham who sired you? Didn't your parents – the ones who raised you – agree to never speak of it?"

"My father – Richard Hutchinson – told me. He thought I should know my true origins. I suppose so that I never thought myself inferior to the higher classes."

David looked at him sharply. "Yet... you let Cunningham flog you. Because you believe that you are inferior."

Kenneth looked thoughtful for a long moment. Then he said, "Perhaps, as you have said before, it's really because I felt I deserved it. Because of destroying Master Cunningham's dream, by riding Hugo to death. And... I can understand him being ashamed of me. I am a reminder of his one night of indiscretion with my mother. My existence does not allow him to forget."

"His indiscretion isn't your fault," David pointed out.

"No. But... I can understand how he feels." After a moment of silence, he smiled gently at David. "I won't let it happen again. Somehow, it helps to know that... th-that someone will care if he flogs me again." He cocked his head to one side. "Funny how that can make such a difference in one's viewpoint."

The trail was started to narrow again, and David halted Spooky, and waited until Whimsical was commanded likewise. He gently said, "Lots of people at Beswick Park care about you, Kenneth. I hear them talk. It's just that you distance yourself from everyone. Therefore, no one approaches you because they feel unwelcome."

"I have always preferred the company of horses to people," Kenneth said, a bit bashfully. "Except for my parents, Katrina... and you."

David grinned. "Okay, then. I guess I don't mind being your very best friend, at the exclusion of everyone else."

"You are the only true friend I've ever had." Other than Katrina went unspoken, David knew.

"You are the same for me, Kenneth."

Kenneth pointed. "The pond is just this way. I am getting hungry for Flora's meal."

"So am I." David let Kenneth and Whimsical lead the way.

They came upon the pond a few minutes later. It was still in the woods and was well shaded. They dismounted and tied the horses to tree branches, since there wasn't any grazing nearby, and Kenneth took the saddle bags to the bank of the pond and began to remove the ingredients. As he did so, he said, "It is almost sad to see Flora put so much effort into getting your attention, since you seem determined to not return her flirtations."

David shrugged, having already bitten into a sandwich. He was lying on his side, propped on an elbow. "Like I said before, it wouldn't be fair for me to return her flirtations, since I'd fear that my intentions would be less than that of a gentleman."

Casually, Kenneth said, "I'm sure she would spread her legs for you, even without promises on your part. I'm almost certain she lost her maidenhood years ago." He was sitting with his legs crossed, and bit into his own sandwich.

"I'm surprised you'd recommend such, considering your own unacknowledged origins."

"I'm not recommending it," Kenneth corrected. "It is only that I know how lonely it can be for a man, to not have release for his urges. An eager young lady is not something that all men are privy to."

"Including yourself," David said gently.

"Yes. But – "

"You haven't exactly been looking," David finished for him. "Neither have I."

Kenneth sighed, gaze on the ground. "I should probably start looking."

"Saying that, you sound like a man headed for the Tower."

Kenneth allowed an ironic smile. Then he said thickly, "It's only that I fear I'll compare any future mate to Katrina. And it is impossible to believe any woman can ever match up. It would not be fair of me."

"How long were you and Katrina married?" David wondered.

"About six months."

David blinked. As that fact penetrated his brain, he slowly took another bite of his sandwich. Six months wasn't a very long time, considering the depth of Kenneth's devotion to his wife. He couldn't help but wonder if Kenneth's strong attachment to Katrina's memory stemmed more from infatuation with the sexual pleasures of an eager young wife, rather than the fact of her perfection. He felt guilty to realize that he was glad Kenneth had had his wife such a short time.

"You're surprised," Kenneth observed.

David shrugged. Carefully, he said, "It's just that you've talked about her so much – with so much reverence – that I was under the impression you'd been married for a long time."

"I didn't need to be married for a long time to know that Katrina was the most perfect wife a man could ever have."

David didn't say anything. As he reached for an apple, he found himself with a strong wish to remove Katrina's perfection from Kenneth's longing heart. Jealousy is indeed one of the seven sins, he castigated himself. I've never felt its power so strongly before.

"You seem disturbed."

David looked up. Kenneth was looking at him with such a tender, concerned expression. He focused on his apple. "I just hate to see you ache for something you can't ever have again."

"The memory is enough, " Kenneth said nobly.

David regarded him sternly. "It's time to think about the future, Kenneth. God allows us to be on this earth only a certain amount of time. Yearning for the past is wasteful of the gift God has given us."

Kenneth blinked. "You are angry with me."

David released a heavy sigh. He put the rest of the apple aside, no longer hungry for food. At least, not the kind Flora had prepared. He made an effort to gentle his voice. "No, I'm not angry. Just... concerned. And tired of talking. I want to go to America, Kenneth. I want you to come with me. There, we can have our own plot of land. We won't be looked down upon because we aren't noblemen. America is a country where every man has a chance to make something of himself. We deserve that chance."

Kenneth gazed at him for a long time. Then he shook his head, mouth twisting in ironic amusement. "Is that how you think it is? America is a land where classes won't matter, even though it's been settled by Englishmen and others who look down upon every man who was isn't born of high rank?" He made a harsh noise. "Just because a man crosses an ocean, it doesn't change who he is. A selfish man will still be selfish man. A cruel man will still be a cruel man. A thief will still be a thief. And an arrogant English nobleman will still be an arrogant nobleman; he'll just be an arrogant American nobleman, instead of an arrogant English nobleman."

David couldn't help but admire the thought Kenneth had put into his dream. "So," he asked, "If that's true, then why have you sometimes dreamed of going there?"

Kenneth's expression grew distant. "Because America is... vast. I've heard that only a small portion of the continent has actually been settled. There is enough land for every man to have his own plot."

"That's important to you, even though you can't farm?"

"Yes," Kenneth nodded firmly. "Land is wealth. We can learn to farm. Or we can hire labourers, if we can make a living in other ways. Once you have land, it's always yours."

David was spellbound by the passion in the sea blue eyes. And his heart was thundering in a wonderful way, listening to Kenneth say "we". He hoped his own eyes were just as passionate as he sidled up near Kenneth. "Let us find a way to get there."

"I-I-It is very expensive," Kenneth said, his eyes locked with David's. "I know many get there by indenturing themselves to noblemen, who provide for their passage in exchange for five years of service on their behalf."

"I will be no man's servant," David said with determination, their eyes still locked. "We will find the money ourselves. Even if it takes us years to acquire the money, we will do so."

There was no reply. Only a look of such longing in Kenneth's deep, soulful eyes.

David felt as though he were drowning in passion alone, so great were the feelings of them both. Breathlessly, he asked, "Will you close your eyes and pretend I am Katrina?"

"What?" came the whispered question, but no movement of the enchanted gaze.

"Close your eyes, Kenneth."

Kenneth obeyed.

David glanced at the fully shaped lips, so beckoning to his taste buds. He closed his own eyes, leaned forward, and whispered, "Pretend I am Katrina."

Electricity surged through his body as his lips pressed against Kenneth's. Kenneth moaned and David grabbed him by the shoulders, their lips locked, and pushed him to the ground. David's manhood demanded freedom, but his hands were too busy, rubbing up and down Kenneth's arms. Kenneth squirmed beneath him as he allowed his mouth to open, and David took his opportunity and pushed his tongue inside. His entire body melted against the one beneath him.

Kenneth moaned again. And again. He grabbed David by the sides, and then his hands moved around to the front, feeling along David's chest. They rubbed against tiny, erect nipples, as though searching, and then they found their way inside the unbuttoned top of the shirt. They dived in and frantically rubbed at the hair there, pressing until David rolled over, a thrilling realisation going through him that Kenneth was at least as strong as himself.

Kenneth tore his lips away, hands frantically working David's chest, and roughly muttered, "I don't want to pretend you're Katrina. I want to pretend that you are you."

David's heart soared with joy. His yes opened as he said, "Then you don't have to pretend at all."

Lips attacked his. Kenneth's long, hard body was on top of him – rubbing, squirming, grinding against him. David rubbed, squirmed, and ground back, arching his hips up to demand, as he was demanded of. Kenneth obliged and grabbed his wrists, pinning him, and ground his body even harder against David's, stealing his breath all the while.

Whimsical nickered.

David gasped as Kenneth suddenly looked up. Kenneth scrambled to his feet, looking in the same direction as Whimsical and Spooky.

David was still trying to learn how to breathe again. "What is it?"

Kenneth was still watching into the woods. "Someone is coming." He quickly ran his hands through his hair and patted at his clothes.

David stood, grateful that his hardness was easing. He rearranged his own clothes.

Voices came next. Casual, cheerful ones. A young girl's voice. A man's that David recognised as one of the stable lad's. Still no sign of them.

Whimsical nickered again.

"It's Miss Kate and Sean," Kenneth said. "They must have gone out for a ride." Then he called, "Hello there! Sean? Miss Kate?"

David tugged at his shirt again, pushing back his disappointment. He knew Kenneth had no choice but to acknowledge their voices, for it seemed they were drawing closer.

A moment later, Kate appeared, riding sidesaddle on her dappled grey. Right behind her was Sean, riding a more common looking horse. "Kenneth!" Kate said with delight.

Kenneth waved. "What a beautiful young lady you are, riding atop your beautiful Minstrel."

"And a rightly fine young rider she is," said Sean as the pair drew closer. Then he said, "We didn't know you were here. It isn't our intent to interrupt your picnic."

David nodded politely at Sean as Kenneth held Minstrel and helped Miss Kate dismount. "Nonsense," Kenneth said. "We had just started on Flora's fine food. There is enough for all."

As David resigned himself to company, he wondered what Flora would think of her specially prepared picnic feeding so many other mouths. He wondered if it would annoy her so much that she would lose interest in him.

He hoped so.

* * *

It was inevitable that they all returned to Beswick Park together. David had little enthusiasm for conversation, but he obliged when the other three made an effort to include him. His thoughts were far away, wondering what Kenneth would think of his boldness in initiating a kiss. Certainly, he had responded eagerly, but that was an eagerness common to men who had been without a passionate companion for too long a time. Perhaps now, with an opportunity to compose himself, and reflect on the fact that the good book would not approve of such things, Kenneth would make a point of not visiting David's cottage tonight.

* * *

David left Spooky to the care of the grooms, muttering something to the others about needing to spend some time this Sunday to catch up on his work. He was grateful to be alone as he went back to a chair that resisted his attempts to finish it. He had to keep working on the curvature of the left arm rest, to make it equal to the one on the right. All the while, his thoughts churned with images of Kenneth's hard, strong body, rubbing against his own. Kenneth's eager hands rubbing all about his flesh. Kenneth pinning him against the ground, as though to ensure that David would not try to escape his ravages.

I have never wished so much to be held captive by another. There. He had admitted it. He was the boldest of men, but he wanted to be bested by someone bolder.

No, not by someone, he corrected himself. Not by anyone. But by Kenneth. He is the only man worthy of me.

He paused in his work and tilted his back to look at the sky. Will God punish me for wanting another's manhood? The preacher men say that to lie with another man is wrong, according to the good book. But they also say that God created animals to be servants to man. Kenneth doesn't think that is correct. He reads it differently and thinks that God created animals such as horses to work with man. He strongly believes that God did not intend animals to be inferior. Perhaps he is right. And perhaps preacher men are wrong when they interpret what the Bible says about men lying with other men. After all, if man is imperfect and sinful, how can he be pure enough to truly know what the Bible says?

* * *

Night had fallen. David undressed and flung himself into bed. Kenneth had not been at the evening meal. That was not particularly unusual, for Kenneth sometimes had to miss meals in order to tend to a sick or injured horse. One night a few days ago, Kenneth had not come to David's cottage after sundown, because a mare had foaled in the stable. David had waited and waited. The next morning, Kenneth apologised and explained why he had not made his evening visit, and David had felt foolish for feeling angry. The sight of the newborn foal had lifted his spirits and made him feel ashamed of his selfishness, and ashamed for doubting Kenneth's friendship.

Tonight, he did not feel anger at his loneliness. But, instead, a heartache that he had never felt before. Is this what men felt when they claimed that they loved someone so much that they could hardly bear it? His feelings for Kenneth brought intense pleasure, but also this pain that made him almost want to sob. What was the use of his life, if he couldn't have Kenneth in his arms? What if Kenneth didn't want him at all, that way? Could he bear to be near him, but not touch? And not feel his touch? Not feel the hard strength of his powerful body?

David swallowed thickly and squeezed his eyes shut, closing out everything except his pain and longing and loneliness.

An eternity later, he jolted upright when he thought he heard footsteps outside. He strained his ears, and flung the sheet aside when he heard soft boots on the small porch. In three long strides he was at the door, just as he heard a whispered, "David?" on the other side.

David tore the door open, stepping behind it to cover his nudity. "I wasn't certain you would come," he confessed in a whisper, then closed the door behind his visitor.

Kenneth stood slumped before him in the darkness. "Are you serious?" he asked raggedly. "I have yearned for you every moment since the pond. I could not even bear to sit at the same table with you at dinner, and not have you."

They stepped toward each other at the same time and threw their arms around each other, squeezing with a mighty force, their lips locking together. David's manhood swayed against Kenneth's clothing and, as one, they backed up toward the small bed.

David was on his back on the mattress before he realised what had happened, and Kenneth's big, powerful body was on top of him. Hands grabbed his wrists, pinning him, and the ever-hungry mouth finally left his lips, allowing him to breathe, and started devouring his throat.

David grabbed the blond head, which was thinner than it looked, and tried to curl the strands around his fingers. He knew he was tugging hard, and the result was that his mouth was taken once again. Now, the hands left his wrists and rubbed furiously up and down the naked flesh of his torso. His own hands left delicate strands and felt at Kenneth's chest. He was annoyed with the clothing there, and grabbed it and tugged.

Gasping, Kenneth pulled away and sat up. He put his arms over his head and grabbed at the back of his shirt, then pulled it over his head in one frantic motion. He struggled with the enclosures of his trousers for an eternity, but finally they were free of his long legs. He turned back to the bed and his naked body stretched out on top of David's own and reclaimed his lips.

David died.

Now he was in heaven, having not even been stopped at St. Peter's gate. He still had some sensation of flesh, because the most perfect-feeling flesh was pressed against his own, all along his length. His lips had long stopped being his own, for Kenneth had taken possession of them some time ago. David realised his body was now a fascination, for Kenneth's hand glided up and down it, grabbed and squeezed it, and pressed and fondled.

A new sensation now. Liquid. Appearing between their bodies. Kenneth's nose exhaling heavily against David's face. His whole body relaxing. But only for a moment. For then he resumed devouring David's carcass.

Only David's manhood had life. His left arm was pushed up, and then Kenneth's face pressed against the pit there and inhaled deeply. Then he licked.

David's body shuddered, and it was only when he heard himself groan that he realised his numb lips were finally free. His manhood was singing, expelling its seed between their bodies.

He wanted to rest, but Kenneth's lips were upon his again. Kenneth shifted, and his hand reached between their bodies, rubbing against David's belly. He brought his hand up just as he pulled back a little. Then his hand was placed over David's mouth, which was still panting, fingers spread. Instinctively, David reached up with his tongue and tasted the drying residue that his nose smelled so intently. From above, Kenneth tongued the fingers as well, tasting the combination of each other.

David couldn't tell the taste of his seed from Kenneth's, but his manhood began to harden once again. He licked at the fingers more eagerly, trying to time it so that he actually licked Kenneth's tongue instead. There was a moment when their tongues found each other, and Kenneth groaned loudly and removed his hand. David was covered once again with the trembling body, this time his head lifted from behind, and his lips were pressed even harder.

He knew he was going to die again. Kenneth was lunging against him, pushing off from the leg that was now against the mattress. David's hardness received an occasional brush from Kenneth's plump seed carriers, and it strained, seeking more. Kenneth had the advantage, though, being on top. His manhood surged against David's belly, toward his sternum. He groaned against David's mouth, his breath exhaling heavily against David's face.

David's body was being devoured in every way possible. Suddenly, the back of his hair was gripped and Kenneth froze and shuddered, his mouth finally breaking away to cry softly against David's neck. David lay gasping, one arm coming up to lie across the back of Kenneth's languid body. A new little pool of sticky warmth expanded between them.

Kenneth kissed David's neck, then shifted back as far as allowed by the wall next to the narrow bed. He reached in the darkness, and David held his breath as searching fingers found his manhood. Kenneth enclosed it, and David gasped with delight, his body arching up as he thrust into the sheath made by the hand. It was now he who was desperate for more contact, and he strained his neck to kiss Kenneth's chin. When Kenneth leaned down obligingly, David grabbed him by the shoulders and pushed him down. He shifted out of the way, carefully of not losing the grip of the loving hand.

Kenneth was now almost lying flat on the mattress, and David attacked him, licking the centre of the pale chest, marvelling at his smoothness. The masculine flavour inflamed him, and he moved his tongue around, desperate to taste every inch, and then laid his head down on the precious skin and rubbed his cheek all about, still licking. He undulated against the hand that pulled at him so deliciously; yet, he ached for more. He raised his upper body, looked down at the halo of the blond hair that outlined Kenneth's face, at the closed eyes and mussed hair of passion. David studied those enticing full lips for just a moment. Then he bent his head and claimed them.

His seed sprouted, and he groaned against the mouth he possessed. Kenneth's hand stayed with him until his manhood began to shrink. Then he was released.

They collapsed against the mattress, Kenneth partially on his side, against the wall, and David with his face against Kenneth's other side. They drifted peacefully....

"You have unbridled me."

David shook himself awake. The statement had been made so bluntly. It carried wonder, but also a hint of fear. Vulnerability.

He leaned up on an arm and laid his head on Kenneth's shoulder. Kenneth was lying flat on his back. Tenderly, David assured, "I think you would agree that all your precious horses need to be unbridled and given their liberty, on occasion. Perhaps it was long past time for the head groom to take his own advice."

"Yes," Kenneth whispered, his arm now coming up to wrap around David's back. "It has been so long since I have felt like this."

David swallowed, rising up just enough to see Kenneth's face. "I've never felt like this." He was acutely aware of his own vulnerability.

Kenneth looked at him, his eyes visible in the moonlight. "It's long past time for you to have someone to call your own."

David's heart swelled within his chest, constricting his throat. He choked out, "I – I... It is beyond anything I could have imagined, that someone like you would want to be the one for me."

Kenneth's expression softened. He reached up and brushed his fingertips along David's face.

David closed his eyes, savouring the tender feel.

Kenneth's voice said, with wonder, "I don't understand why someone like you would like someone like me. You are brave. I am... I – I too easily yield to others."

David opened his eyes, kissing the fingertips that neared his lips. He gently took Kenneth's wrist and brought the hand down against his smooth chest, squeezing it. "You are... passionate, Kenneth Hutchinson. There is something very appealing about a man who knows exactly what he feels, and what he believes, no matter how much others look upon his feelings and beliefs with disdain. And you were not the least bit yielding when you came to me tonight." He said the last with a touch of ironic humour. "You are a man who knows what he wants. That is rare, for most men are too busy trying to place themselves strategically into the good favour of others. Most men live their lives in an ongoing state of prostitution, willing to stoop to any act for personal gain." David shook his head. "You are not like that, Kenneth Hutchinson. While I will tell a man anything to get what I want from him, you stand by the things you believe in, no matter how it causes others to see you, no matter how painful or lonely it makes your life." David swallowed thickly. "I have never known a man like you before. And I have certainly never before wanted a man – or woman – the way I want you."

Kenneth stared at him for a long time. And then he reached out and grabbed David by the back of the head, bringing him down against his chest. David was kissed along his cheek, these kisses gentle and loving. Worshipping.

"I cannot stop tasting you," Kenneth said when he finally stopped. "Your very being – magnetism, spirit, personality – whatever one chooses to call it, intoxicates my soul. I fear I will not be able to sit at the dining table with you, without yearning to pleasure you the way a man such as yourself needs and deserves to be pleasured. Even now, I want to make your body sing yet again."

David reached out and traced the lips that had spoken such poetry. "I know exactly how you feel," he said, then grinned. His finger paused, so he could lean down and kiss those enticing lips. They were so sweet... so pleasing. How amazing that he now had Kenneth in his bed. His voice was suddenly tight when he said, "I have never known such torture as earlier tonight, when I feared you would not come."

"I thought about not coming," Kenneth confessed. "After tasting you at the pond, I knew you would be my undoing. I know my own weaknesses, and I knew if I came here, then we would continue what happened at the pond. So, I thought about not coming. Then I thought, 'Why not continue what happened at the pond? Why not let my soul sing with joy?' I had already told you a while ago that I have been melancholy for too long. I didn't want to deny myself the very thing I today realised I wanted."

David waited until Kenneth stopped speaking, then he laid back against the mattress and said, "We can't let anyone else know. They will not understand a relationship such as this."

"No," Kenneth agreed. "They will spew the Bible and damnation. I have heard of horrible things that are done to men who find their passions quenched by other men. There is no law to protect those such as us." His voice strained. "I will go insane, day after day, waiting for nightfall, so I can come to you and share this pleasure we have indulged in tonight. And then I'll have to leave before dawn, so that no one knows how I have spent the night."

It was suddenly sounding very complicated. David said, "The stable lads will know you aren't at the cottage, will they not?"

"They will not question my absence. I am their superior. But I cannot be seen leaving here in the daylight. By anyone."

David snuggled close. "But we will have the nights, Kenneth. It will be worth the secrecy, just to be together. At least... until we go to America." The far away land now seemed more enticing than ever.

"If we go to America," Kenneth cautioned, "it will be the same. They will not welcome ones such as us."

"Then we can never speak to others of what we do in darkness. But that shouldn't matter. What goes on between us is a private matter. We would not want to speak of it anyway. Our love is for us alone."

David watched as Kenneth closed his eyes wearily. Then Kenneth said, "My manhood is stiffening again, already. It liked it very much when you said 'our love'."

David got up on his elbow. He waited until Kenneth opened his eyes, then leaned close to him. He whispered, "I do love you, Kenneth. With all my heart." He bent his head, and let his lips land heavily upon the enticing ones beneath him. It was a long kiss, tender and arousing. David's own manhood was willing again. Kenneth tasted even better than he had in David's night-time daydreams. So much of what he had fantasised about had already come true. But there was so much more....

David slowly pulled back, loving the look of unbridled passion on Kenneth's face. Then he glanced at the window. The moon was full and bright, the peak of its glow falling toward the middle of the bed. How beautiful that blond head would look beneath it.

David shifted and took Kenneth's hand. "Sit up," he directed in a whisper. "Come sit in the moonlight." He patted the bright spot on the mattress and stood out of the way.

Looking up at him with puzzlement, Kenneth obeyed and sat on the edge of the mattress, in the light of the moon.

"You're beautiful," David stated simply. He knelt on the floor before his love, and gently pushed his legs apart, his hands resting atop the long, slender thighs. The stout manhood was reaching toward him. He eyed it hungrily, then looked up. "I have often daydreamed about pleasing you this way."

Kenneth's eyes didn't move, gazing at him, but they narrowed in incomprehension.

Thought so. David closed his eyes, stuck out his tongue, and leaned forward. He licked the end of the stout spear, tasting the strong flavour of seed that was so similar to his own. Kenneth gasped, "Almighty God."

No, not God, David mentally corrected, Me. He closed his mouth over the eager shaft.

Kenneth grabbed his hair. "Oh, dear God." Then he gasped again – a sharply in-drawn sound – as David danced his tongue along the ultra sensitive underside.

Katrina never did this for him, David decided with assurance. And satisfaction. Unlike his fantasies, the reality of Kenneth's hardness took up his whole mouth, and he was having trouble keeping a consistent suction. He worked harder.

"You are a sorcerer," Kenneth groaned.

That's right, Kenneth Hutchinson. And from now on, Katrina is going to be a fond, but very distant memory. Where she belongs. When you think of pleasure, you will now think of me.

Damn, you taste good. Velvety skin surrounding stiff flesh. Distinct flavour at the tip.

Fingertips stroked the side of his face.

David glanced up, releasing the shaft enough to see that Kenneth's head was thrown back. Uh-uh, not allowed. He pulled off his prize and whispered, "Open your eyes." He waited until Kenneth did. "I want you to watch me pleasure you. Watch how I devour your manhood. My manhood will take great joy in knowing you are watching."

Kenneth gazed down at him. "You are a sorcerer, " he marvelled again.

Slowly, David nodded. He worked his mouth, until it was well filled with spit, and then stuck out his tongue. Keeping his eyes on the horsemaster's face, he wriggled his tongue around until it found the ultra-smooth crown. He lavished it with his moisture.

Kenneth drew a sharp breath. He set his jaw. Then pulled forward with the hand that was at the back of David's head.

David grinned. "Keep watching," he whispered. Then he obeyed the demanding hand, closed his eyes, and took the entire manhood into his mouth. He sucked. Lovingly.

Kenneth made a noise that didn't sound human. His hand pressed harder, holding David to his generous length. His thighs quivered within David's hands. He groaned again, then gasped, "I fear my seed with sprout."

"Mmmm," David responded, wanting to be clear that that was the very reaction he was hoping for. The symbolism of accepting this man's seed would be even more powerful that the fact of holding Kenneth within his mouth. There was no escaping that it was indeed power that he felt. His own manhood was almost fully stiff, enjoying how one man could so completely command another, via such a simple giving of pleasure.

Both hands on his hair now. The hard shaft jerked within his mouth, and David had to be careful to keep his teeth out of the way. Kenneth was thrusting awkwardly, and it made it harder to suck. Finally, David captured the crown between his tongue and the roof of his mouth, and Kenneth cried out, his fingers digging into David's scalp.

David was puzzled that there was nothing different happening as Kenneth exclaimed his pleasure, other than the shaft growing still. Then, suddenly, strong pungent flavour was on David's tongue. He swallowed.

"Ah!" Kenneth cried exquisitely, and quickly drew his manhood back, so that it slipped off the edge of David's lip.

David realised with amusement that Kenneth's organ was too sensitive to tolerate being swallowed around, for David's own flesh was often unable to be handled immediately after release. He swallowed again, still getting used to Kenneth's flavour and thinking this time was the first of many. He watched while Kenneth collapsed back onto the mattress, exhausted.

After a long moment, Kenneth whispered, yet again, "You are a sorcerer."

David grinned. "I think I like that title, especially hearing you say it so much." He got up on the bed and took Kenneth's arm. "Come on. Up here."

Kenneth groaned, but moved so that they ended up on their sides, drowsily facing each other. David reached out and traced a generous lip. He waited until Kenneth's eyes opened, then whispered, "I've accepted your seed into my body. I am yours."

Kenneth gazed at him drowsily. Then he smiled and whispered back, "Why do I get the feeling that it is I who is the possession?"

David grinned, deciding, not for the first time, that he admired Kenneth's intelligence. "Perhaps it's because your manhood is so eager to be owned by my lips and tongue." He shook himself awake and started moving down Kenneth's body, anticipating the pleasure he could create yet again, the way that Kenneth would yield to him.

"David," Kenneth admonished, "my manhood is spent. It has no more seed left to give."

"But you will still enjoy it," David reasoned. "I wish to fall asleep while nursing upon you."

"You are madness personified," Kenneth said in the tone of one happily doomed.

David grabbed the small, shrivelled shaft and gave it a firm pull to get it interested. Then he guided it to his mouth, and relaxed against the mattress, sucking noisily. He marvelled at the different texture of the skin, at the way it gradually begin to smoothen, causing the fleshy barrel to shift within his mouth.

After a few minutes of silence, Kenneth's hand tugged at his shoulder. "Come up here," he beckoned gently. "Please, come up here with me."

David sucked heavily, then released the flesh that was almost limp again. He moved until his head was on the pillow, inches away from Kenneth's. "Did it really not feel very good?"

"No, it is not that. It is only...," Kenenth's voice was suddenly bashful, "that I enjoy... talking with you. You are the most interesting person I have ever met. And I don't want you down there when I'm sated. I want you up here. With me." His hand pressed against the hair of David's chest and rubbed lovingly.

David kissed him. It was on the tip of his tongue to apologise, but he then realised that Kenneth wouldn't have understood what he was apologising for. One so kind-hearted probably couldn't understand the feelings of power and possession that had swept through David when he held Kenneth within his mouth. But... it seemed that Kenneth would love him, anyway, without the pleasure that David was capable of providing.

His lips finally released Kenneth's, but then Kenneth leaned forward and they connected once again. David could not believe how this simple act made him feel as though he were floating, and that everything was perfect and right.

When Kenneth pulled back, he marvelled, "My heart may very well burst, it is so full of love for you."

David kissed him once again, but quickly, not even knowing how to respond to such a passionate statement. Except with the truth. "I love you, Kenneth."

The snuggled down against each other and fell asleep.

* * *

In the middle of the night, they woke up and pleasured each other once more. Then they dozed until the sun peeked over the horizon, and Kenneth quickly got dressed and left.

David missed him immediately.

* * *

A few days later, at the midday meal, David tried not to notice the smiles and pointed conversation that Flora made in his direction. He was also trying not to notice Kenneth, for they both tended to avoid eye contact while sitting at the table, as everyone always sat in the same spot, and Kenneth was across from David and a few seats to the right. They had discussed a previous night how certain they were that an explosion would take place if their eyes dare meet for a moment. It was difficult enough, just being so near each other, for David found himself daydreaming about being on his knees beneath the table, nursing Kenneth while he ate his meal.

Leery of the all-too-common tightening in his pants, David said to no one in particular, "Is that the Lady Margaret who was out in the garden this morning?"

"Yes," the parlour maid said. "She always stays so busy with the affairs of the state, that she rarely gets a chance to wander the grounds."

"She has not yet come to see you?" the butler asked David.


"I have overheard her saying that she is very happy with the furniture you have made."

"It would be nice if she could manage to tell me that directly some day."

An elderly woman, the head of the kitchen maids, shook her head. "It is not for one such as yourself to expect flattery from one such as her. She is a fine mistress, as fine in character as in her family blood, and only the most privileged are graced with her presence."

"Well, then," David made a concerted effort to not criticise one who was not present to defend herself, "I guess I am not appropriately 'privileged' then."

"You are privileged to be working here," the butler stated firmly. "Only a fool would take your station for granted."

"I am not a fool," David said as levelly as he could manage, his blood beginning to boil for different reasons than thoughts of Kenneth. "Nor am I anyone's dog. I am a man, and as such, I deserve to be treated with respect, even by the Lady Margaret."

"It is said," the cook said calmly, as though to diffuse the argument brewing, "that the mistress will be leaving for Scotland soon. Master Cunningham has business affairs there, and he is too busy to tend to him, so Lady Margaret will be going there on his behalf."

"Hmm," David mused, uneasy about the idea of the mistress leaving, but not sure why, "it seems she likes to be away from her husband."

Flora giggled, but the cook admonished, "David! How dare you speak thus."

David shrugged. "Just an observation," he said innocently, just barely capturing Kenneth's grin out of the corner of his eye.

Flora giggled again.

* * *

"You must be truthful with Flora," Kenneth said. They were lying, side by side, in the darkness, after a wild flurry of pleasure that had exhausted them. David had not even had a chance to taste Kenneth, for their excitement at being together again had caused multiple releases from each of them, merely from writhing around on the narrow bed. "She will feel some encouragement, as long as you do not directly turn her away, and it is cruel to lead her on so."

David looked over at him. "I haven't done anything to lead her on."

"Your silence is all that is needed to encourage her."

David sighed. "I suppose you're right. It's just that is has been nice having her do my laundry and such. I don't suppose she'll still be interested once I break her heart."

"Probably not." Kenneth gave him a sympathetic hug.

"And she won't laugh at my jokes at dinner."

Kenneth chuckled. Then he rolled toward David and started kissing him again.

* * *

"Uhh... Laura?" David stood in the threshold of the servants' kitchen.

The slender, middle-aged, dark-haired women turned. "David. What are you doing here?"

"I was wondering if I might borrow some oil."

"Borrow?" she asked sceptically.

He realised how silly that sounded. "No, I guess I mean... take. Have. You won't miss it, will you? If you can kindly give me a small jar?"

"What do you want it for?"

"For my tools. Covering them with oil helps prevent rust and keeps their parts limber."

Her expression softened. "All right." She turned to the cupboard and selected a small jar. She spent a moment over the stove, filling it with grease from an old pot. She handed it to him. "There you are."

"Thanks." He nodded at her. "Thanks very much."

* * *

As David walked back toward his cottage, he spotted Flora doing laundry at a large tub next to the well. Though it was the last thing he felt like doing at the moment, he knew that an unpleasant conversation with her was going to happen at some time, so he may as well get it over with. Sighing forlornly, he tightened his grip on the jar of oil, and approached the hard-working maiden (though Kenneth didn't think she was truly a maiden).

"Flora," he called to her as he approached.

She straightened and wiped her brow, then broke into a smile as she turned toward him. "David! What a pleasant surprise."

"Yeah... uh... well, I saw you working and I thought I'd stop by. I... I need to talk to you.

Her expression softened immediately, while brightening with hope. "Yes?"

Uh-oh. She's got the wrong idea already. He cleared his throat. "Uh, Flora, I – I need to set you straight about something."

"I'm listening," she said pleasantly.

"You seem to... like me."

"Yes." She batted her eyes, while retaining a gentle quality he hadn't seen before. "I like you very much, David."

Oh, no. He gulped. "Well... I probably should have said something before now. So – you know – you don't get the wrong idea."

"The wrong idea?" she asked.

"Yes. You see, Flora," he gently took her arm, "I'm – I'm already... taken." He watched her eyes narrow. "My heart belongs to another."

She gazed at him for the longest time, and for a moment he thought it was going to be all right. Then, suddenly, her eyes blazed with fury, and her fists clench. "You-you beast! You animal!" Her tiny fists swung at his chest, and he grabbed them. "How dare you! After all I've done for you!" She spun out of his grip, grabbed the wet laundry from the tub, and threw it at him. "I've been cleaning your clothes for months now!" She grabbed more from a wooden basket beside the tub and threw them at him. "I hate you! I hate you! Get out of here!"

David quickly grabbed at the clothes – for they were his – and clamped down on his protest that she'd got paid for doing his laundry. But he'd heard it said that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and he thought he now understood that saying. "I'm sorry, Flora," he said as sincerely as he could manage, and then rushed away with his bundle, the jar of oil still clenched in his hand.

"Does she know what a beast you are?" Flora yelled after him.

* * *

"Where is Flora?" the butler asked as the servants sat down at dinner.

The parlour maid replied, "She does not wish to eat. Her heart has been broken." She cast an accusing glance at David.

Kenneth's spoon was halfway to his mouth, and he paused, glancing at David. David lowered his eyes as Kenneth said, "She'll get over it, I'm sure."

"Hmph," the maid said. "Men always see things so simply. They know nothing of a woman's heart. Especially a young woman who is growing older with each year and has yet to be wed."

David was aware that most everyone at the table was looking at him. Some of the glances were amused, others merely curious. But the maid's wasn't the only one of disapproval.

He wiped his mouth. "Excuse me." He got up and left the table, deciding to return to his work.

* * *

His self-pity and discomfort was such that he was all the more eager for Kenneth's visit that evening. As always, he attacked his love with searing kisses as soon as Kenneth was inside the door.

Kenneth returned them eagerly, but his arms did not come around David. Instead, they gripped his arms until the kisses came to a halt.

"What's wrong?" David asked worriedly, not understanding how Kenneth, too, could possibly hold Flora's current state against him.

But Kenneth had no thoughts of Flora. Instead, his expression became soft and loving, as he whispered, "I want to do something for you. Something special."

David's thoughts raced. He already had his own plans for their "special" activities tonight. He wondered if Kenneth might possibly be thinking the same thing. "Yeah?" he asked breathlessly. "What?"

Kenneth grinned in the low light of the lantern and kissed him gently. Then put his arm around David and led him toward the bed. "You know, I am sure, how it pleasures me beyond measure when you take me in your mouth."

David's manhood became steel.

Kenneth's breath fluttered along his throat, and then a kiss was planted on David's cheek as they paused beside the bed. Lips found him, but they were careful about pulling back before the passion became too great. "Tonight," Kenneth whispered, "it will be my throat which drinks."

David's heart fluttered, then flipped over. He thought he might faint. Oh, how he had wanted to be in someone's mouth. Ever since he was thirteen and had discovered that his male organ was the centre of all physical pleasure. He had hoped to ask Kenneth to return one day, the pleasure that David regularly bestowed on him. But he had not expected Kenneth to offer; nor had he expected it to happen this soon in the growth of their love.

He collapsed back to the mattress. Take me. Then he wrested with the fastenings on his trousers.

"So eager," Kenneth teased, kneeling beside him. Then he bent and planted a very deliberate kiss on David's mouth. It was tender and sweet, and full of passion. David groaned deliciously, while still working with his pants. Kenneth's lips sent him floating on a cloud of air, the way angels were said to. But he came back to Earth when his pants were finally down far enough for his throbbing cock to bob free.

He made a noise that meant come hither look.

Kenneth paused and glanced down. He smiled warmly as he reached for David's taut length. His hand gripped it.

"Ahhhh," David cried. "It is so eager for your attentions."

Kenneth shifted to look into his eyes, his face soft and tender. "I'm not sure I'll know how to do it. I want so much to please you as you have pleasured me."

David grabbed Kenneth's hand and separated an index finger. "Pretend you are nursing." He sucked on the finger, demonstrating.

Kenneth took his hand away. "My manhood responds even when you suckle my finger." He stood and started to undress.

David grinned, watching him.

Kenneth's own erection was firm and strong and eager. Got my own plans for that, David thought.

Kenneth stepped to the lantern and blew it out.

David held his arms out, so anxious to touch after being separated. Kenneth got on top of him and kissed him some more, pulling David's head back and exposing his neck. David shivered as the devouring kisses moved down his throat, into his chest.... wet tongue lapping at his left little nipple, then noisy kisses down his quivering stomach, into his thick forest of hair, his manhood brushing against Kenneth's cheek.

David gently pushed at the top of Kenneth's head, encouraging him farther....

The tongue dipped down to his seed carriers, then moved right up his spear. Wide, wet, lapping tongue. David gasped, restraining himself from forcing those teasing lips. The tongue was at his crown now, circling around, creating the most exquisite sensation....


Wetness enclosed his upper shaft. He lurched with his hips. "Oh, God, yes!" He spread his legs wider, and groaned when Kenneth grasped his lower shaft. Eyes slit with arousal, David rose up and shifted the pillow behind him, so he could lie back and watch. Beautiful blond head bent over his crotch, bobbing up and down. Tongue exploring him, soft lips holding the softness of his manhood, hesitant teeth trying to avoid him....

"Kenneth," David touched his chin. When Kenneth released him and looked up, David gave his own instruction. "Curl your lips around your teeth," he said, then demonstrated . "That way, you will not have to be wary."

Kenneth nodded and bent his head again. David was torn between closing his eyes and concentrating solely on the feel of the pleasuring mouth, or watching himself being pleasured so. He compromised, closing his eyes while reaching out and settling his hand in delicate palomino strands. He felt the motion of Kenneth's head, and felt the wonderful suction.

"God," David groaned. His crown was captured nicely between a loving tongue and the roof of Kenneth's mouth. "That's incredible. Keep loving me, just like that." He felt his testicles churning in preparation for their task.

He stroked Kenneth's head.

Another groan developed deep within David's chest. He felt the instinctive urge to draw back in preparation to lunge forward and release. He held Kenneth's head in place. He couldn't press down into the mattress, but he could lunge forward. He cried out just as the exquisite sensation raced up his barrel, and he pressed deeper into Kenneth's mouth, then opened his eyes as he quivered all over.

Kenneth was releasing him, then delicately swallowed. He looked up just as David was catching his breath. He grinned.

David grinned back.

Kenneth whispered, "It is... a special feeling."

David nodded. "Yes. It is." Then he groaned happily.

Kenneth straddled his body, his stout length poking at David's stomach as he lips captured David's.

The taste of his own seed was especially flavourful right then, inside Kenneth's mouth. They kissed deeply of each other, until Kenneth pulled back. Breathlessly, he said, "My manhood is most eager for the same attention."

David grinned at him while an arm rested at the back of Kenneth's neck. "Your very eager manhood has a very special reward coming tonight."

Kenneth gazed at him.

David's grin widened. Then he gently whispered, "I brought oil. From the kitchen. For... lubrication."

Kenneth continued to stare.

David said, "I have dreamed of feeling you inside of me."

Kenneth's face flushed, and then he captured David's lips with renewed fury. His hips ground his eagerness into the softer flesh of David's belly. His hands frantically petted and stroked at David's body. David, still mellow from his release, let himself be felt up and devoured, for Kenneth's eagerness was one of the greatest prizes of his life.

Abruptly, Kenneth pulled back. He gazed into David's eyes in the darkness and said, "Do you know what it will be like? You will cry out in pain. You will bleed."

Oh. Those things had never happened in David's fantasies. Kenneth had said it in a tone of one merely giving unpleasant information. David summoned his boldness from deep within and was determined to not flinch from the horsemaster's heated gaze. "And I will have you inside of me," he pointed out victoriously. "I will no longer have to imagine of it."

It had the desired effect. Kenneth cupped the back of David's head and joined their lips in such a way that David felt he was being consumed with each of his love's trembling breaths. He was clay, to be spun and moulded in any way his beholder chose. This was such a far greater and thrilling station than his lifelong one of ultimate independence.

Suddenly, the kisses ceased to be demanding, and instead became tender and sweet. They were planted all about David's face, while he was cradled protectively within Kenneth's arms. With the hungry mouth having left his lips, David took his chance to point out, "The jar of oil is right there." He nodded toward the little wooden chest beside the bed.

Kenneth paused, then traced David's lower lip. His trembling voice warned, "Once I begin to enjoy you, it will be impossible for me to stop."

"Good," David said quickly, "for I would not want anything to disrupt the pleasure you claim from me." His own voice was breathless with impatience. In fact, perhaps it was time to take matters into his own hands. He abruptly spun out of Kenneth's arms and lay facedown on the mattress. He spread his legs and said to Kenneth, "Oil me. Then mount me. And ride me as one of your prized steeds." He drew a breath. "You are, after all, the horsemaster."

Kenneth grabbed the oil from the table, muttering, "You are arrogant and brash and unfathomable."

"And that makes me the most prized of your entire stable." The moon disappeared behind a cloud, leaving the room in darkness.

The mattress creaked as Kenneth knelt between David's spread legs. "You are my only prize," he whispered passionately, "when it comes to my stable of pleasure. You have spoiled me for any other."

David felt oil drip between his buttocks. He spread his legs helpfully. More oil nestled at his forbidden place, and he clamped down on a gasp of startlement when he felt a thick finger feel around that place. He had no memory of anyone ever touching him there, other than himself. He felt the finger moving within the thickness of the oil, and then it pushed inside.

He did gasp this time, for so rude the intrusion seemed. He took the edge of the covers he was lying upon and bunched it up, and brought it close to his mouth. Kenneth manhood was much thicker than his finger, and he knew the other had been right that he would cry out when penetrated.

The finger pushed in and out. Kenneth's other hand was on David's buttock... squeezing... rubbing... feeling. The skin there tingled.

The finger wriggled. "You are so very tight. It almost seems impossible."

"Almost," David stressed.

"It was like that way with Katrina," Kenneth said breathlessly. "It is so difficult at first."

No thoughts of Katrina allowed in our bed, David thought, though he was grateful Kenneth had experience at this. "Then we will have to repeat this many times, so that it is no longer difficult."

"Every time you speak," Kenneth said with defeat, "my manhood leaps. It loves everything you say, and the way you say it. It cannot identify bragging or exaggeration."

"That's because it knows that I am the one who orchestrates it pleasure. It can think of nothing else."

Kenneth groaned as the finger pushed as deep as possible, making David unsure as to whether he wanted to swallow it or squirm away, so deeply did it seem to know him.

"Indeed," Kenneth admitted, withdrawing the digit. "It's so eager to know your forbidden place."

"No longer forbidden," David reminded.

Kenneth growled again as the mattress shifted. Then he said, "I will oil myself, so that your opening will have no resistance to the demands of my manhood. I will be able to enter with one firm thrust."

David brought the bunched quilt against his mouth. He was so eager for Kenneth's spear, even as he accepted that he probably didn't realize how great the pain would be.

"I will need the pillow to place under you," Kenneth said as he grabbed it. When Kenneth tried to raise him, David pulled back his hips to make room for the pillow. It felt strange as he settled his flanks back upon it. He wondered if it would be easier if he got in a crouch.

But Kenneth, breathing heavily in the darkness, had pulled his left buttock aside and David felt the thick heavy manhood being placed against the place where they would join.

"I do this," Kenneth gasped in a tender voice, "because I love you so very much."

David wanted to reply, but something was caught in his throat. Then a sharp pain flared at his opening, and his colon felt as flame, as heavy pressure seared through him. He bit down on the bunched quilt, his chest making a vibrating noise of agony. A part of him demanded to know why he was letting this happen, as the flame continued to burn, telling of his body's abuse.

It was like nothing he had ever known before – this pain, this yielding. He let go of the cloth to take a breath, and he realised he was owned. Steady, rhythmic pressure now. Not so much pain. And a sound. Harsh breathing behind him as Kenneth thrust powerfully. Then hot breath on his back and Kenneth groaned deeply, still moving in the deep, claiming rhythm. David's manhood surged, finding pleasure in Kenneth's pleasure. The motion wasn't quite so harsh now. But steady and deep. Kenneth's hand was gripping his shoulder, as though to steady himself.

Then words. "I want... to live... inside... of you."

David's heart flipped over. He lay there for a different reason now, trying to absorb all of Kenneth's passion into himself. When Kenneth groaned again, David groaned, too.

It was pleasant now, the weight filling up his lower body. He wanted to shift in order to fondle himself, but Kenneth was too heavy.

"So perfect," the horsemaster crooned.

David felt himself melting all over. He thought he understood now what Kenneth had meant by the intimacy of this act. When David had taken women to his bed, the connection he had experienced with them had been physical only. It had never felt like this.

A long groan was coming from Kenneth. Long and deep and full of pleasure. Building pleasure. "I wish it to never end," he gasped, his tone saying that it must.

David wondered what it would feel like when the peak was reached. He wanted it to end because his opening still felt afire. And yet... he didn't want it to end too fast. He, too, wanted Kenneth to live inside of him. To know that the most masculine part of Kenneth was connected to his body.

Suddenly, the steady motion collapsed into quick, shallow thrust. Kenneth groaned loudly, and then cried out from his chest, as though trying to stifle the yell in his throat.

David waited, but didn't feel anything, other than the increasing heaviness of Kenneth's sweating, sated body. There was no sensation within his bowels. He only knew that Kenneth was moving to one side and they were no longer joined. He turned over onto his back, trying to curb the urge to rush to the chamber pot. Beside him on the narrow bad, Kenneth was on his back, gasping. Occasionally groaning in a way that made David envious – in the most wonderful way.

David lay still, partially against the wall so there would be enough room for them both on the mattress. Kenneth let out an airy sigh of finality. Without thinking about it, David said, "You have tamed me."

Kenneth slid closer, his expression soft in the moonlit darkness. "No one can tame you."

"You have. If any man would have even suggested that I let him do what you just did, I would have killed him. But you... I wanted it from you. And I will want it again."

Kenneth laid a hand on David's cheek. Then he moved even closer and kissed him in the gentlest possible manner. When he pulled back, he whispered, "You unbridled me. I tamed you." His voice told of the wonder of the dichotomy.

David grinned. "We are complicated men."

Kenneth grinned back. Then he shifted up on his side and pushed David down to the mattress. His lips claimed David's in the most possessive manner. They both panted when they pulled apart. Kenneth declared, "You have given me pleasures I had not even imagined. My manhood will now spend the days aching all the more to know your pleasures at night. It will be eager to join with you. Always."

David felt he'd already recovered enough that he could fathom the idea of taking such physical abuse again. "If your mouth pleases me as it did tonight, I will happily give your manhood what it wants."

Kenneth's eyes shined with joy and disbelief at the wonder of them. Then he gently asked, "Did you find pleasure in it, at all?"

"Yes," David replied immediately. "But next time, I would like to try it differently. My manhood was getting aroused, and I would like to be in a position to stroke it while your manood is taking its pleasure from me." He grinned ironically. "And then both our manhoods will be happy while we are joined."

Kenneth nodded eagerly. "With practice, the perfection of our pleasure will become even more perfect." He leaned down. "I love you so." He then claimed David's lips.

David relaxed completely, only groaning with pleasure. Kenneth's hand rubbed along his chest, in a way that was affectionate and loving and not really arousing. David started to drift off when Kenneth shifted, sitting up, then standing. He brought the basin of water near the bed, and took a cloth and started to clean himself. David drifted some more, until Kenneth whispered, "I need to clean you."

David turned over and spread his legs. He wanted to drift some more, but the water was cold. He was surprised that he didn't feel any trepidation about his most forbidden place being tended to by Kenneth. Yes. Intimacy.Finally, he knew what it was like to love and be loved. Kenneth had changed the entire focus of his life. "I want to go to America," he said. They hadn't talked about it in a while.

Kenneth dabbed him dry, then said, "Tomorrow I will bring ointment to help heal any tears." He covered David's lower body. Then he sat on the edge of the mattress and said, "I want to go to American, too. But I don't know how one goes about it, even if one has the money." He turned. "David, I have lived here at Beswick Park my entire life. I don't know how to 'go' to places. If you know how to get to America, then tell me what I need to do to help us get there."

"Well, first," David considered, "we need to know how much – "

A cracking noise hit the door. They both sat frozen in silence and fear.

"Who can that be?" David finally whispered, throwing the covers aside and getting up. At the door, he listened but didn't hear anything more. Slowly, he opened it, then peaked around the edge to hide his nudity.

Kenneth had his trousers on and brought the lamp, which he'd lit. He held it up to the door. Runny egg yolk ran down the outside of the wood.

David gasped. "Flora perhaps?"

"Do you think she heard us?" Kenneth whispered fearfully. "Do you think she knew what we were doing?"

David swallowed. "I don't know." If she did hear us, whom will she tell? Or what if it was somebody else? But somebody else wouldn't have done something as childish as throwing eggs.

"I-I-I'd better go," Kenneth said, turning to get the rest of his clothing.

David's body sagged. For the first time since discovering their passion, he and Kenneth weren't going to spend the night in each other's arms. Which was all the more ironic since, tonight, they had done the most intimate of things.

We are going to America, David decided grimly. Going to America, where we can be our own masters and don't have to answer to anybody.

* * *

Flora had reclaimed her usual place at the dinner table the next day, but she sat silently and with her eyes lowered. The lack of her normal, jovial mood affected everyone else and there was little conversation. David tried to tell himself that Flora wouldn't be foolish enough to tell anyone else, if she'd heard or otherwise figured out what they were doing. Besides, she had probably thrown the eggs out of the hurt of David rejecting her, not because she saw or heard anything. Except... it bothered him that the eggs had been thrown after he and Kenneth had coupled.

Away from the dining table, all David could think about was how perfect he and Kenneth's nights were, how he had missed falling asleep with him last night, and how he wanted to get to America as quickly as possible. There, he and Kenneth would be free men in a young, free country, with a world of potential ahead of them. He decided that the next time he could find an excuse to go to London, he would start making inquiries about how much money it would take and when the next ship was scheduled to leave. He knew Kenneth had money saved, but he didn't know how much and if it would be enough, even if combined with the money he himself had been saving since arriving at Beswick.

* * *

Later that day, David saw the stable lads polishing a fine carriage. Kenneth wasn't around – they tended to avoid each other as much as possible during the days – so he asked one of the lads, "Who is this fine carriage being prepared for?" He couldn't help but admire the craftsmanship.

"It is for Lady Margaret. She is leaving for Scotland tomorrow."

"Hmph." David's stomach churned as he walked back toward his woodshed. If Lady Margaret was leaving, that would most likely mean that Master Cunningham would attempt to bed her tonight. Which, in turn, meant that the Master would be visiting his head groom for "inspiration".

David's fists clenched as he considered all the things he wanted to do to the Master. He felt a need for action, to prevent any attempt upon Kenneth from ever taking place. But if Master Cunningham made it as far as the barn, then David wanted to be at Kenneth's side, to defend Kenneth. His love had promised him that he wouldn't allow himself to be abused any longer, but David knew promises of any kind were always easy to make when away from the circumstances of the promise. Kenneth had a lengthy pattern of allowing such abuse.

Yet, David felt he had to spare Kenneth's pride and at least allow Kenneth the chance to defend himself, the way any worthy man should.

Still, he couldn't simply stand and wait to see what the result would be. He had to be nearby, in case Kenneth needed his help.

* * *

As the sun disappeared from the horizon, David wondered if, perhaps, Kenneth would simply show up at the cottage like always. Then he wouldn't be around when Master Cunningham came to the stables. It seemed an easy way to avoid a confrontation. But Kenneth obviously wasn't into avoiding uncomfortable situations, for he'd always remained at the stables when he knew the Master would be coming. This time, David suspected that Kenneth would also be waiting. But he hoped for a different reason than being determined to tolerate his "punishment" for destroying Cunningham's past dream of a racing stable.

David paced his cottage, waiting a full fifteen minutes after darkness had fallen. Then he could wait no more. Convinced that Kenneth would indeed be at the stables to confront Master Cunningham, he tiptoed into the night and toward the stables, keeping himself hidden in the shadows as he darted from cottage to cottage. Everything seemed quiet, as though everyone else knew what was going to take place and were determined to turn a blind eye to it. Just as David came to the last cottage before the stables, the one where the lads and the head groom stayed, he heard determined footsteps upon the ground, approaching. It was Master Cunningham.

He was strutting forward, waving his cane at his side in tune to his stride.

Strutting like a fucking peacock, David snarled to himself. And it looks like he's got a new cane for his little perverted interlude with his son.

Just as Cunningham disappeared into the barn, David tiptoed quickly down the outside, until he came to the window of the tack room, which was still lit with lanterns. He crouched down.

"You have failed in your assignment once again," Cunningham announced with anger. "My new horse is fractious and unrideable."

Fucking prick. Why don't you tell the truth about why you're really here, instead of making up stupid excuses about your horse?

"Of course," Kenneth replied coolly. "Your horses, in particular, seem to have a multitude of problems whenever Lady Margaret is leaving or arriving at Beswick."

Bullseye, Kenneth!

"You have learned insolence, like the other," Cunningham spat dangerously. "Well, he is not here to protect you this time."

"I have never needed his protection," Kenneth said, but David was worried to hear a faltering in his voice. Then came the stutter. "I-I only allowed your treatment, because you are my f-father."

Silence. David wished he could see the look on Cunningham's face.

Then another snarl. "That damned Hutchinson couldn't keep his word! You were never to know. Well, you'll never get anything from me!"

A bitter laugh. "Ha! You think I want anything from you?" Kenneth demanded on a high note. "I want nothing!" Anger and hurt now. "Least of all your filthy name!"

"Why you ungrateful – "

David's heart leapt into his throat as he heard scuffling. And then a sharp noise – something breaking – and a moment later a cry. Then another cry. "Stop! Stop!"

It's not Kenneth! He realised. But that thought only increased his foreboding.

He ran around the corner and rushed inside the barn, cringing at the sound of further blows and cries. Cunningham was crouched down at the floor at the threshold of the tack room, arms held about his bloodied head, to trying to ward off the cane, which came down full force from where Kenneth stood with eyes wild and his face enraged.

David lurched forward and grabbed at the cane. "KENNETH!"

Kenneth yanked the cane back, and they scuffled for it, while still on their feet.

"Kenneth! Kenneth!" David shouted over and over, but Kenneth seemed entranced within his rage.

"Dear God," Cunningham cried, slithering away on the floor, "somebody help me! HELP ME!"

Kenneth and David both looked down at him, their struggle ceasing. David gulped, trying to believe that since Cunningham was conscious, his injuries weren't life threatening. Outside the far end of the barn, noises were heard of people coming out of their cottages and asking each other about the sounds they'd heard.

David grabbed the cane out of Kenneth's stunned arms and flung it away. He jerked him out of the tack room. "Come on, let's get out of here. Come on!"

Stumbling, Kenneth followed David.

"Dammit," David swore, pulling on him some more, "we have to run. Come on!" He let go and took off running out of the U-shaped stable yard. He glanced back just once to make sure Kenneth was following. He was.

David only stayed on the road until he rounded the bend toward the gate to Beswick. Then he darted to the left, into the woods that led toward the far pasture.

He ran. And ran.

* * *

Wheezing like he never had before, David staggered to the ground, desperate to catch his breath. Breathing less heavily, Kenneth collapsed into a sitting position on a rock.

They didn't speak for a while, but David could no longer hold in the despair he was feeling. "Dear God, what have I done?" he finally muttered. He gasped for breath again, then looked up, where Kenneth sat dejectedly on the stone. "This was my fault. I made you do that. I had no idea you react so... strongly."

Kenneth slowly shook his head. Tiredly, he said, "I have dreamed about doing that many, many times. Getting back at him. But I never had the courage, until now. I-I don't know what got into me. I didn't mean to hurt him so." He glanced up, blue eyes wide and moist in the darkness. "Do you think I've killed him?"

David quickly shook his head. "He was making too much noise, carrying on too much to be mortally wounded." How he hoped that was true.

"We should not have run," Kenneth said.

David's mouth dropped open. "Are you joking? Cunningham is a powerful man. I've heard that he has many allies in the courts. Even if he's only mildly injured – I have heard that head wounds bleed a lot more than their true severity – you would be locked up for a long, long time, at the very least. I probably would be, too, simply because I'm your friend." He staggered into a sitting position and took Kenneth's hand. "We have to get away, Kenneth. We can't go back. Our only chance is to not let ourselves be caught. If we are imprisoned – for any length of time – I couldn't bear it. If you are imprisoned, I will not be able to stand being apart from you. And I would not bear knowing you were locked up, when you were merely giving Cunningham what he's had coming for a long, long time." He squeezed Kenneth's arm.

They heard a distant shout and the whinny of a horse.

"Oh, God," David said, staggering to his feet, "they're on to us. We have to keep moving. Any ideas on where we should go?"

Kenneth also stood, though he looked reluctant. "There is a little-used road we might be able to shadow. It will lead us to Bristol in about two day's time."

David brightened. "Then we can find a way to board a ship to America. Come on!"

They started running.

* * *

They found the road and alternately walked and ran parallel to it. But after three hours, they could still hear horses in the woods. Not just behind them now, but out to the various sides of them, even some in front.

"They are surrounding us," Kenneth gasped. They were walking now.

"If they come upon us," David gasped back, "we have to fight them, Kenneth. It's our only hope."

Kenneth nodded. "I know." Then he shook his head. "I had no idea they would come this way. I thought surely they would expect us to head toward London and get lost in the crowds there."

David squeezed Kenneth's arm. "Do not blame yourself. We have to save our strength for what lies ahead. If at all possible, we need to try to get at least one of their horses. Let's agree to focus on unseating them and trying to grab the loose horse. Even one horse will be better than none."

Kenneth nodded.

"Perhaps we should stop," David said, "and wait for them. Then we would have the element of surprise. We could wait behind some rocks or trees, and then jump whoever comes upon us first, take his horse, and gallop away."

"I don't think it will work."

"Why not?"

"It might work," Kenneth relented, "but I don't think there will be any advantage. After chasing us all this time, the horse will not be fresh. And being ridden by both of us will tire it all the more. The others will surely catch up to us. Besides," he said with a hint of humour, "not all horses are agreeable to being ridden by two men at once."

"Oh," David said, hopes fading. But he brightened again as his mind raced ahead. "Perhaps we should stop and turn back toward Beswick. That would throw them off."

"I'm certain I've heard voices behind us," Kenneth reminded. "I think they have taking precautions against us doing that very thing."

David wished Kenneth had something positive to say. "How many do you think there are?"

"I would guess eight at least. Two in each direction."

David couldn't disagree, based upon the varying sounds they'd been hearing. "Who do you think they are, exactly?

"I've been trying to figure that out," Kenneth confessed. "Master Cunningham should not have been able to round up a group of men so quickly. Jenkins could have gathered some men together – including many of the lads – but they wouldn't be this organised. And if he got help from some of the neighbouring estates, it should have taken longer than this to get them together." He was silent a long moment. "Unless...."

"Unless what?" David's heart pounded at his companion's foreboding tone.

"Unless they're the escort that was to take Lady Margaret to Scotland. If so, that means they're from Wentworth Estate, where Mistress Cunningham's parents reside and where Margaret was raised, before she married Master Cunningham. The Wentworth escorts are deeply loyal to her and most have been soldiers. The Wentworth Estate is not far from here. They would have already had their horses ready for leaving first thing in the morning to Scotland, and would have rendezvoused with Lady Margaret's carriage on this road."

Kenneth's speculations were making too much sense. With dread, David said, "So, if these horsemen are the escort from Wentworth...."

"We are doomed," Kenneth finished simply. "There is no point in fighting. Their skill alone, to say nothing of their organised number, will overpower us. They might even kill us."

Bitterly – for they had already come this far – David said, "Better to die fighting than rot in a prison." He stopped and faced Kenneth.

Wearily, Kenneth nodded. "I wish I could regret what I did to Master Cunningham. But I only regret that I lost control. I don't regret that I fought him. It's... a strange feeling... to fight for what is right. An exalting feeling. Even if the end result is doom."

"It isn't always doom," David said gently, a part of him refusing to believe that it was going to come down to this, their lives so brief, their love affair even briefer. He managed a tender smile. "You've been fighting for what you believe in all your life. You've always protected your horses."

"Not always successfully," Kenneth reminded.

"But you kept trying, because it meant something to you." David's own words gave him hope. They started walking again. "I'm not ready to give up yet. Not without trying. I will fight them."

"Your courage will be your death," Kenneth said without judgement.

David noted, "God gave me my courage for a reason. I can't believe it was all so I could die of it without having made something of myself."

Gently, Kenneth said, "Many young men die without having a chance to make something of themselves. And," he swallowed thickly, "if you die first, I have no wish to live. I will fight until they kill me."

"Then we both will fight."

"Care to put your words into action?" A deep, amused voice inquired in front of them.

They both gasped in surprise and stopped. They slowly turned to look around them, as they came to stand back-to-back.

Out of the darkness of the woods, the even darker forms of horses appeared all around them. One of the riders lit a lantern. The men wore armour and the gleam of their sabres and revolvers shown brightly.

"I am Major Snow," the same voice announced to them. He was a heavily bearded man. "I am the master of Lady Margaret's mounted escort. As you can see, you are surrounded. We are armed and you are not. I ask, in the name of Lady Margaret, that you surrender peacefully. You will not be harmed."

If David had learned one thing in life, it was never to trust an adversary. But he didn't know what move they could possibly make against this kind of opposition.

The Major nodded to the man at his left. "Take them."

David's heart pounded. He felt Kenneth's tight back against his own and wondered what he was thinking. In the distance, he heard the approach of a carriage along the old road.

As the man dismounted and reached to his saddlebag, another also dismounted. The Major continued, "We regret it is necessary to tie your hands with ropes for the time being, to insure your co-operation. It's only temporary."

Until the rope goes around our necks, David thought. The dismounted man was coming toward him with a rope. Another was coming toward Kenneth.

Now or never. "NOW!" He lunged at the unsuspecting man, surprised at how easily he knocked him over. He was aware of the sound of Kenneth's fist landing, and of the others jumping from their horses. He grabbed for the downed man's revolver, and abruptly realised he didn't know how to use it. He grabbed it and flung it away with one hand, while unsheathing the sabre with the other. This he could use. He swung, sabre in hand, just as others were close enough to jump him. Instead, they jumped back to avoid the slice of the sword. Kenneth's man was out cold, and he was slugging relentlessly at the next who had come toward him. The other soldiers were standing around, trying to jump into the fray. Some part of David wondered why they didn't use their revolvers and end it.

"Stop!" a shrill voice cried from the direction of the road. "Stop! Please, stop!"

David barely jumped to one side to avoid being grasped by the leg by the first man he had downed. He was aware that the Major was still mounted and had merely moved his horse out of the way of the fracas. David didn't dare let up, and sliced at the air toward the two men who were still trying to lunge at him.

"Dear God, STOP!" the woman's voice cried again. "I beg you! I am trying to HELP you!"

Through the corner of his eye, David saw Kenneth freeze. He realised forlornly what a mistake it was, as men grabbed Kenneth by both arms. They almost seemed to be holding him up, for Kenneth was sagging with exhaustion.

The others had stepped back from David. He still held the sabre threateningly.

A middle-aged woman with blond hair appeared, dressed in the clothing of the well-bred, though not exactly looking her Sunday best. Angrily, she cried, "Stupid, stupid fools!" She looked directly at David and stepped toward him, even though he held the sword. "Don't you realise these men could have easily killed you! I told them not to harm you, and they obeyed my orders at the peril of their own lives. If you had seriously harmed them, or worse, I would have had to allow them to kill you." She swung around to watch some of the soldiers help up the one Kenneth had temporarily knocked out.

"A mere scuffle," the Major assured. "Such a manly combat helps keep my men on their toes. These two fought courageously against all odds." He turned his horse away to see to his soldiers.

She stepped toward Kenneth, her voice softer. "Kenneth, is it true what they have said? That it was you who attacked Master Cunningham?"

"Yes, my lady," Kenneth replied obediently, with lowered eyes.

"It was self defence!" David said, still wielding the sabre.

"Hush," she admonished. "Let him answer."

"Who the hell are you?" David demanded.

"David!" Kenneth scolded.

"I am Lady Margaret," she replied simply.

Kenneth caught David's eye and nodded, as though to say, "Obey her."

David let his arm drop to his side, though he still kept his grip on the sword. He was uneasy with the way Kenneth, after such a valiant fight, now looked so ready to play servant to the mistress of Beswick Park.

She said to Kenneth, "You could not possibly have done such a thing without good reason."

David bit his tongue, for Kenneth seemed to also wish his silence.

With lowered eyes, Kenneth said, "I did not mean to injure him so severely. He... came for me. As he sometimes has. Ever since... Hugo's death. I decided I would no longer accept his thrashings."

She glanced at David. "No doubt with the encouragement of this one."

Kenneth's eyes rose to meet hers. "David has given me... strength of character. But, tonight, something seemed to... burst. A madness came over me. Once I struck Master Cunningham to defend myself, I could not seem to stop. And I beat him even more severely than he has ever beaten me." Kenneth drew an exhausted breath. "Will he die?"

"I doubt it," she said simply. "He was complaining too much of the pain he was in and his great desire to see you both hang at the Tower, to be on his death bed."

Kenneth released a breath. "I am glad."

She stepped back so her glance could take in them both. "What were you planning to do?"

"Go to America," Kenneth replied.

David looked sharply at him. "Kenneth!" He couldn't believe that Kenneth would give away their plans so easily.

Lady Margaret nodded. "Of course. I should have realised. Flora has told me that you both have mentioned it before."

David's eyes flared. What else has Flora told her?

The Lady grinned slyly at him. "Don't think badly of Flora. She tells me many things. It's not out of desire to gossip, but because we converse regularly."

David's eyes narrowed, not believing a woman of class would have "conversations" with a servant girl.

"Don't look so suspicious," Margaret admonished. "I have many conversations with the servant maidens and women. They have an opening into the world of the ordinary people and the servant class. Sometimes, I find that world much more interesting than the boorish company of my own relatives and friends."

David blinked, not sure if he should dare believe anything she said.

She turned back to Kenneth. "How were you going to get to America?

"A ship out of Bristol, we hoped. We had no time to plan."

She nodded. "Indeed." She glanced behind her. "Morton."

A man, dressed expensively in the clothing of a butler, stepped forward. She told him, "Have one of the soldiers escort you back to Wentworth. Go to my safe and take out all the American money and bring it here."

He blanched. "My lady!"

"All of it," she emphasised. "Go. At once. Find out everything you can from Hector about our cargo ships leaving Bristol for America in the near future. Then bring back two fresh horses with you."

David's head was spinning with confusion. Kenneth said softly, "My Lady...?"

"You both look dead on your feet," she observed. "Please accept for the hospitality of my carriage for the time being." She turned toward the road, where the carriage, framed by lanterns, was waiting.

Kenneth started to follow, and David said, "No!"

Both Lady Margaret and Kenneth paused and looked back at him.

David said to Kenneth, "It's a trap. We have no reason to trust her. We have injured her husband."

"We have no reason not to trust her," Kenneth emphasised. "If she wished us harm, she could have had her soldiers kill us. Lady Margaret is a woman of honour."

David felt his heart start to pound. He didn't understand why, after everything they had been through, Kenneth was so willing to believe her intentions were benign.

Kenneth's weary face softened and he moved to David. He raised his hand and squeezed him on the shoulder. "David, there comes a time, in life, when one must learn to trust. I understand how, in your impoverished upbringing, survival depended upon your fists. But," his voice softened so that Margaret, who was waiting, couldn't hear, "last night, you learned the value of yielding yourself completely to another. Yield to me now. I have never known Lady Margaret to cause anyone harm."

"She seems too clever," David protested beneath his breath.

"She is wise," Kenneth corrected. "No doubt, you are not used to meeting anyone like her." He paused, his expression all the more weary. "Besides, what good would it do us to run now? Her men would only hunt us down again. And we would be again in this very spot, only her temper, and that of her men, might be much less placid by then."

David took a heavy breath and threw the sword down. He still didn't like it. But he couldn't deny the logic of Kenneth's argument.

Seeing that they were following, Lady Margaret turned back toward the carriage.

* * *

They both sat uncomfortably in the carriage, which was far more elegant than either of them had ever been in before. But the driver served refreshments, which they were both very grateful for. And only until they'd sat on the plush cushions did they realise how thoroughly, thoroughly exhausted they were.

"The American dollars," Lady Margaret explained, "are money my sister was going to use for her voyage to America. But she died of illness before setting off. I have sometimes thought of going there myself. But my life is here."

"So," David scoffed, "you're just going to give the money to us, because you don't want to bother taking it back to the bank to exchange into guineas?"

"No," she replied firmly, meeting his gaze across the carriage.

David's jaw firmed. "I will be no one's servant."

"Listen," she scolded. "For once, shut your arrogant mouth and listen."

David blanched. He was not used to be spoken to thus, and certainly not by a woman.

"I am not giving you the money. I am investing in America. It has grown quickly and has a prosperous future. I would like a stake there. Take the money and make something of yourselves. I want a half of all profits. Once you are settled, I require that you write me once a month to let me know the status of my investment."

"What if we lose all your money?" Kenneth asked quietly.

"Then I will have made a poor investment."

"Why are you helping us?" David demanded.

She eyed him up and down. "Because, annoying as you are to try to have a conversation with, I admire men with spunk and dreams and ideas. It is, after all, I who granted your employment, after reading the boastfulness in your application."

David blinked. Again and again.

She seemed amused to have finally rattled him. "If you pleases you, think of the investment money as a gift for your having actually lived up to your bogus reputation."

David's mouth fell open as he tried to think of something to say.

"Also," her voice softened as she turned to Kenneth, who bowed his head as she spoke, "I am sorry for the pain and suffering my husband has caused you, Kenneth. And I know full well the story of Hugo's death, and how frantically you were trying to say the life of your dear wife."

Kenneth glanced up, his eyes bright with fatigue and gratitude.

"You have been good to Beswick Park. I wish Beswick Park could have been as good to you." She smiled softly. "Beswick Park will feel your absence greatly."

"Sean should be the head groom," he told her. "He is a good man. Honest, clean, and capable. And very loyal."

Margaret nodded. "I will consider it.." She sat back against the seat cushion and regarded the two. "Such an interesting pair you are. Dark and light. Fire and kindness. Foolish initiative and quiet intelligence. If you work together, you can accomplish anything." Her eyes fell on Kenneth once again. "So lonely you have seemed for so long. I am glad you have found such a friend."

"The gain isn't his alone," David said with pride.

She nodded thoughtfully. "I am sorry to lose your services, as well, David Starsky."

He nodded he acceptance of her compliment.

She continued to study them in a way that made David uncomfortable. Then she nodded, as though to herself. "I believe Flora was right in what she suspected."

Even David lowered his eyes when she said that.

"I hope you are not foolish enough," she continued, "to think that America will treat you any differently than they will here. Paris is the only place I've heard of that will not object to your brand of affection."

Neither man spoke.

"For that matter," she went on, "I strongly suspect that America will be quite different from what you think. The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence."

David wondered what she meant by that.

"But," she amended, "I know there are some things men must discover for themselves. They cannot be told. Especially not by a woman."

There was the sound of horses, and Lady Margaret looked out the window. "Morton brings the horses." She turned back to them. "He will guide you to an abandoned cottage not far from here, on the Wentworth property. There, you should be able to rest safely until you are ready to travel again. When you reach Bristol, turn the horses in at the Hansen Livery and tell them they are mine. I would suggest you stay off the streets as much as possible, to protect yourselves. My husband sent his men looking for you in the direction of London, but word might get as far as Bristol. You will no doubt have bounties on your heads. So, be careful." She opened the carriage door as Morton approached, carrying a satchel. "What is the word on the ships, my dear Morton?"

He bent his head into the carriage. "There is a cargo ship leaving in approximately two weeks, for Virginia. Any passengers are expected to help sail the ship." He glanced at David and Kenneth. "You are to report to Captain Neiman with this letter." He presented a paper and pen to Lady Margaret, and she signed it.

David's heart started pounding. After all his dreaming, after all they had been through tonight, America now seemed so close.

"What about the money?" Margaret asked.

Morten held up the satchel. "It is all here, my lady."

"I suggest," she said, offering her hand to Morten so he could help her step out of the carriage, "that the first thing you use the money for is to buy some new clothes. And a suitable locker within which to carry the money without threat of theft."

Kenneth, then David, followed her out.

"We'll never forget this," Kenneth told her. "How can we ever repay your kindness?"

"Make lots of money in America," she replied simply. Then, to Morton, "Take them to the old cottage. I will return to Wentworth Hall, to rest up before starting for Scotland."

"Yes, my lady."

"My lady," David said, the words feeling awkward on his tongue. She turned to him. "It seems I have misjudged you." Those words felt awkward, too.

"You still don't trust me completely," she said, studying him. "No matter. But take good care of Kenneth."

That finally made him smile. "I will."

She then looked at Kenneth. "I hope your steady kindness and intelligence will keep David from looking before he leaps into disaster. For both your sakes."

Kenneth smiled wearily. "Goodbye, my lady. Thank you ever so much. And safe travels to Scotland."

"Farewell. Safe travels to you across the sea."

* * *

When David's eyes drifted open, he had to squint from the sun shining in the window. He felt Kenneth curled at his back. They were lying on a filthy, naked mattress. But, the night before, it had seemed like heaven when they were finally able to lie down and sleep after their exhausting night. He remembered that they were in an old, abandoned cottage on the Wentworth Estate property. Judging from the sun's angle through the trees of the forest, it looked as though it might be eleven o'clock.

David's eyes landed on their single belonging – the satchel a few feet away. Neither he nor Kenneth had even looked in it. But it was the money Lady Margaret had given them as an investment to get their start in America.

A hand moved up his clothed chest and rubbed. "You awake?" a gentle voice asked.

David took the hand and squeezed it. "Mmm. Awake and filthy."

"And sore," Kenneth said. "My body aches in every muscle."

So did David's. "It's going to be a rough ride to Bristol." He rolled over, and did indeed feel the full force of those aches. But Kenneth's clothed body, smelly as it was, was very comforting, and he rested his cheek against the stale shirt. "I remember crossing a nearby stream. Perhaps we can bathe and wash and dry our clothing today. Then start for Bristol as evening is approaching. We have plenty of experience travelling at night. It might be safer. And maybe there's fish in the stream we can catch. I'm famished."

"It's unfortunate for us," Kenneth said, "that Lady Margaret had to leave for Scotland. Otherwise, I'm sure she would have seen to our accommodations while on her property."

David turned and gazed at the satchel. "Don't hate me."

Puzzled, Kenneth asked, "Why would I hate you?"

"Because of what I'm about to do." David dragged himself off the mattress and collapsed to the floor with a groan, all his abused muscles coming awake. He took the satchel and undid the buckles. "I still can't trust someone who just suddenly... appears... like that – and gives us exactly what we needed." The buckles were loose and he flipped open the top.

Bundles of odd-looking money stared back at him.

He whistled with admiration as he picked up a bundle and leafed through it..

"How much is it?" Kenneth asked.

David brought out more bundles, calculating as he did. "I think there's about twenty-two hundred here."

"Really?" Kenneth asked, joining him on the floor. "That's amazing. We will be able to do anything we want when we reach our new home."

David looked up and met Kenneth's eye. And smiled.

But Kenneth then looked away.

"What is it?" David asked.

Kenneth glanced at him hesitantly. "I-I still feel I should go back. And face what is coming to me."

"Kenneth," David whispered intently, "we can't. You would not get a fair trial, especially with Lady Margaret not there. It would take away our hopes for a future. This way," he shook the bundle of money, "we can have almost any future we desire."

"I know we can't go back," Kenneth said gently. "It is only that... it feels unfinished to me."

"Your situation with Master Cunningham has always felt unfinished to you," David pointed out. "It always will. You know he's your father, but you will never gain from that fact. You have only been hurt by it." He squeezed Kenneth's hand. "You must put it behind you."

Outside the cottage, the horses whinnied. Then a voice called, "Hello there! Kenneth? Mr. Starsky?"

David put the money back in the satchel and quickly laced it up. Then he followed Kenneth out the door to greet their visitor.

It was Morton. He dismounted his horse and took the saddlebag. "Good morning, or should I say noon, gentlemen? I have brought food."

"Terrific," David said, stepping forward to accept it. "We're starving."

"There is fresh water in the stream."

"We would invite you inside," Kenneth said, "but I'm afraid the dwelling is in rather deplorable condition."

Morton looked up toward the sky, "And it is too beautiful a day to be indoors." He looked back at them. "When will you be leaving?"

"We're going to rest up," Kenneth replied, "a few more hours, and then do most of our travelling at night."

"That is probably wise, as long as you stay alert," Morton said.

David had laid out the food – mainly breads and meats – on the landing. He ventured, "I don't suppose you happen to have brought any extra clothing."

"No, I am sorry. I considered it, but I could not find any that would be appropriate for your journey." He mounted his horse.

"We can buy our own when we get to Bristol," Kenneth assured.

Morton tipped his hat. "Safe travels to you. And please invest her money wisely in America."

"We intend to," they replied in unision.

* * *

They arrived in Bristol two days later. They turned in their horses to the livery, checked into a hotel, then found Captain Neiman and let him know they were in town and would be ready to sail whenever the ship was. He told them it would be about ten days. They then shopped for suitable clothing for their voyage, as well as a few other necessities.

On their third day in Bristol, they indulged in the services of a bathhouse. The bathhouse was connected to a brothel, but they declined the offers of the latter. Instead, while each sat soaking in a tub at opposite corners of a private room, David continually ran his eyes over Kenneth's flesh that was visible from the top of the tub. Kenneth would alternatively return the gaze, then blush and look away. Finally, he protested, "A bath – especially a paid one – is supposed to be relaxing. Your ungentlemanly conduct is making it... uncomfortable."

Eagerly, David said, "Wait until we get back to our room. I am going to do things that are the most ungentlemanly of all. He circled his tongue around his lips, savouring the not-so-distant future.

Kenneth looked away and studied the paintings on the wall.

David growled hungrily.

* * *

It was annoying having to dress just to make the five-minute walk to their hotel room. But David felt cleaner than he had felt in longer time than he could remember. He was certain that Kenneth felt the same, and he had every intention of taking advantage of all that mutual cleanliness. Nothing quite like the thought of getting grubby again via sweat, labour, and the smell of expelled seed.

As soon as the door was shut behind them, they greeted each other as they usually did whenever in private – by throwing their arms around each other and kissing passionately.

They kept it up for a long time, swaying back and forth, until David could no longer stay silent. He laid his head against Kenneth's chest and kept the gentle swaying motion. "You know what I was thinking about at the bath house?" He rubbed his cheek against the top button of Kenneth's shirt, then looked up him.

Kenneth's eyes were gentle and wanting. "That your manhood wishes to know what it is like to be inside of me."

David blinked, his blood thickening.. "How did you know that?"

"Your eyes gave it away." Kenneth kissed him gently, then more hungrily.

David groaned.

Kenneth pulled back just enough to whisper, "And I wish, so much, to be known by you so intimately."

That was all the encouragement David needed. He grunted agreeably, a deep masculine noise that declared I'm taking charge. He pushed Kenneth back to the bed, until the horsemaster stumbled and fell back. David was on top of him in an instant, pressing him down, kissing fervently, while wrestling with the buttons of Kenneth's new shirt. As soon as he had exposed his chest, he kissed down into it, Kenneth's flavor inflaming him even more than before. In the past, he had loved Kenneth out of a desire to express his passion for him. Now, his actions were more purposeful. He wanted Kenneth aroused and aching for his manhood. He wanted Kenneth yearning for it, the way he himself had yearned for Kenneth's domination in his fantasies. At the crucial moment, he wanted Kenneth to cry out with pleasure instead of the pain he himself had experienced during their first coupling.

Kenneth gasped as David licked wetly at his tiny little nipples, and the horsemaster's hands worked at his trousers. David waited until the clothing was open, then he snaked his hand down and rubbed the palm of it over the underclothing that covered Kenneth's firmness. Kenneth groaned while wrestling further with his pants. David kept up the steady pressure with his hand, while never slowing the strokes of his tongue as his moved farther down. Very deliberately, he circled his tongue around Kenneth's navel, delighting in the way the bare belly quivered, and the way Kenneth's manhood tried to force its way between David's rubbing fingers.

"Shh," David soothed, straightening. Very gently, he directed, "Lie still."

Kenneth froze in place, panting.

"I'll see to your pleasure," David told him, reaching to push the pants the rest of the way off. "You don't need to do anything at all. Except... enjoy it." The pants were down to Kenneth's ankles. David worked with boots and socks, and then pulled the trousers off. He moved up Kenneth's body. He enjoyed the way Kenneth deep, blue, trusting eyes watched up as he removed his shirt. David realised that this was the first time they had made love in the daylight.

Honouring that fact, he abruptly stood; and, with very deliberate motions, began removing his own clothing. He watched Kenneth watch him, amazed at how arousing it was to be unveiling himself before Kenneth's eyes. For that matter, he too got to enjoy the sight of his love waiting for him – something he had never been able to do in the past. The girls he had coupled with had always been shy and insisted on covering themselves as much as possible. Now, when it mattered most, David finally quenched his visionary hunger.

Kenneth erection was thick and bobbing. As David pulled his pants away, his own stout spear flaunted its freedom.

"You are," Kenneth said breathlessly, "even more magnificent in daylight than in darkness."

"And you are a feast for my eyes," David said, using them to draw a line of stares down the long, pale body.

Kenneth lay back, gasping, as though in defeat. He closed his eyes and pleaded, "Devour me."

David came toward the bed, warning, "That's only going to be step one."

Kenneth groaned.

David couldn't wait any longer. He got on top of Kenneth and kissed him a long, long time, as they had when they'd first shared a bed. Then, reluctant as he was to release the succulent lips, David moved down and wetly kissed and licked at Kenneth's pale, bare chest. He nibbled at a tiny nipple. Then he kissed further down, occasionally nipping. Kenneth started writhing and undulating and gasping, which inflamed David even more.

When his mouth reached golden hair, David replaced it with his fingers. He used them to furrow through the curly strands in soothing gesture. When Kenneth finally seemed to calm, David kept up the motion of his fingers, but turned to the stout manhood jutting from Kenneth's body. David's mouth watered. He closed his eyes... stuck out his wet tongue... leaned forward... and enclosed the flaring head.

Kenneth moaned loudly.

David's taste buds savored the tender the skin, the salty tip, the stout power. He gradually began to suck more forcefully... and take more of the length within his mouth.

"I will die from pleasure," Kenneth cried.

David was unimpressed. Without disturbing the motion of his lips and tongue, he reached down to Kenneth's plump seed carriers. He grasped them in his hand, then squeezed with a rolling motion of his fingers.

The magnificent manhood swelled and stabbed at the back of his mouth. Kenneth cried out, and David's throat was being bathed in creamy fluid.

He let it rest on his tongue a long time, enjoying the flavor of his love. Then he pulled off and swallowed loudly. He watched Kenneth watch him through slit eyes. Then he ran his tongue along his lips.

Sated, Kenneth slurred, "You are a master at pleasuring me. I will never have another in my bed."

That's the idea, David approved. He slid up the long body, then lay alongside, partially straddling his love. He lifted Kenneth's head and kissed him long and deep.

"I am floating," Kenneth whispered when David finally released him. "I am floating on a cloud of joy and peace."

"You haven't seen anything yet," David told him, sitting up. Gently, he commanded, "Turn over, my love."

Pale buttocks were presented to him. He rubbed them with his hand.

"Hmm," Kenneth murmured. As David's hand covered more area, the long legs eventually spread.

David got beneath them, still rubbing. He now used both hands, one on each buttock, feeling how the flesh relaxed beneath his loving fingers.

Kenneth murmured, "My manhood is eager yet again."

"Good," David approved. He squeezed the right buttock. With his left hand, he snaked it beneath Kenneth and found the semi-soft flesh. He gripped it.

Pale hips undulated.

David stretched out his legs behind him. He positioned his right hand so his fingers could spread the lower end of the smooth cheeks. The tight ring of muscle revealed made his manhood throb. Since he couldn't grip himself, he squeezed Kenneth instead, feeling both of them grow. Then he stuck out his tongue and licked at the portal to pleasure.

Kenneth jolted. "David!" he admonished.

David gripped the heavy manhood even harder, trying to beckon Kenneth to hold still, and went back to his tasting. The skin was wrinkled and clean and smelled heavily of Kenneth.

Kenneth groaned, loud and long. His buttocks began a slow undulating motion, similar to waves in a sea. The noise he made was continuous. The tip of his manhood moistened David's hand. "Enter me," he pleaded.

David tried to push his tongue in, though he knew that's not want Kenneth wanted to be filled with. His flesh was too pliant to force the opening. He straightened, keeping his grip on Kenneth, and shifted to reach the little vial of oil on the nightstand. They had asked for it from the hotel's cook this morning. He manoeuvered the tiny bottle until oil spread along his fingers. He straightened and put his fingers between Kenneth's cleavage, feeling along it until he found the opening. He stroked it, trying to rub the oil along it. Then his index finger wriggled at the orifice. Kenneth raised his hips, pressing back, and David pushed his finger in.

Kenneth jolted again, from pain or pleasure, David wasn't sure. But his hips kept undulating, as though seeking further stimulation. David's own manhood was steel, so envious it was of the tightness gripping David's finger. David continued to wriggle the finger, drawing more groans from Kenneth, until the portal opened enough to allow him to move more freely. The finger pressed in deeper, and David watched in fascination as the second knuckle was swallowed up by Kenneth's eager body.

"Pleeeease," Kenneth groaned, the motion of his hips never stopping.

David slowly pulled the finger out, his heart thundering as he listened to Kenneth groan yet again. It was magical, the sensations he could cause. The way he could orchestrate the horsemaster's pleasure. As learned in his fantasy, it was indeed like conducting a symphony, creating their own special music.

He applied more oil, then stuck two fingers in at the same time. Kenneth gasped, lunging against David's hand, reminding it to renew its grip. Now, David had two fingers to create magic with. He twisted them around, while moving them in and out.

The undulating buttocks were too much to resist. They looked fleshy and tasty. And so wanting. David bent and bit into the left one.

Kenneth cried out and quivered all over, his anal muscles clasping down on the fingers, his manhood trying to dig a hole in David's palm.

David found it difficult to let go of the flesh in his mouth. Instead, he tongued it, then mouthed it hungrily, just gently enough to make Kenneth want more.

Kenneth's head was thrown back and his eyes squeezed shut. "Plunge yourself into me, or I will die."

David's manhood threatened to obey on its own. David took a deep breath, trying to will it under control. He continued to move the fingers – so easy it was now, even it that tight space – and stroked Kenneth's manhood with his hand. Enticingly, he beckoned, "Tell me when you are about to explode. Then I will fill you." He wanted to try to enjoy it at the same time, for he knew he would only last a few seconds. It was the curse of men with so few opportunities.

Kenneth growled as his manhood now moved rhythmically within David's grip. David reluctantly pulled his fingers from Kenneth's body to take the vial of oil and pour it over the flaring head of his spear. Then he plunged back into Kenneth with the pair of fingers, stabbing at him with a rhythm matching that of Kenneth's undulating hips.

"It's too good," Kenneth sobbed. "You are a magician." His voice became more high-pitched. "You are not of this world."

David stopped the stabbing motion and moved the fingers in a circular, quivering motion.

"Yes!" Kenneth cried. "YES!"

David pulled them out and positioned his phallus at the moist opening. He plunged.

"AHHHHHH!" Kenneth screamed.

David undulated once, and his cry matched the horsemaster's. Liquid spurted into his hand....

It was a long time before they caught their breaths. David's hand was squashed, and it was only the pain that made him move off of Kenneth and slip to one side. It was not only the physical pleasure that sated him so, but the immense masculine satisfaction of knowing his seed had been planted deep within his love, even if it would never sprout. It was all the more special, knowing that they could do this time and time again. In America, they could have their own land and home, and not have to meet in secret in order to love each other.

David's dozing was roused when a hand petted through his hair. He opened his eyes and saw Kenneth clear, blue orbs gazing lovingly at him. They smiled at each other.

"You are a magician," the horsemaster said. "You create pleasure that is not possible."

"You used to call me a sorcerer," David teased.

Kenneth's hand continued to pet him. "That word has sinister connotations. You are a magician, with some special insight into God and how He meant for men to find pleasure from the bodies that He gave them."

David's smile left. "There will be few, if any, who will see it like that."

"Doesn't matter," Kenneth whispered. "We know the joy that we find in each other. There can be no evil in love as strong as this. I pity the rest of mankind, especially those who feel their pleasures to be wicked."

David draped a protective hand across Kenneth's body. They dozed a little longer. Eventually, the mattress creaked, and David watched as Kenneth moved to the window and looked out.

Such a beautiful man, David realised more than ever, seeing him fully nude in the daylight.

Kenneth watched out the window a long time. Then he said, "For the first time in my life, I do not know what tomorrow will bring." He turned toward David. "And I have never been so happy."

His chest swelling with love, David considered Kenneth's words. He grinned and said, "For the first time in my life, I do know what tomorrow will bring. And I have never been so happy."

There was a moment while Kenneth digested that; then, simultaneously, they said, "We are complicated men." Both laughed.

Kenneth returned to bed and they curled up together. He said, "I have been thinking. For a man who is soon to be at sea, and setting out on an adventure for America, I do not think that 'Kenneth' is a very apt name. It sounds too... refined."

Intrigued, David turned toward him, snuggling close. "What would you like your name to be?"

"My father had friends who called him Hutch, instead of Hutchinson. I have always wished I had a nickname. It signifies... affection."

David traced his love's lips with a finger. "What would you like your nickname to be?"

"My father was a good man. The most excellent of teachers to me. I would be honoured to take his and be called Hutch."

David smiled warmly. "Then Hutch it is," he said tenderly. "Perhaps this would also be a good time for me to ask you to stop calling me David. Where I grew up, the boys always called each other by their last names. I am accustomed to simply being Starsky. I only took on my full name, because I thought it would be more suited to the job at Beswick Park, and working for the Cunninghams."

"Starsky," Hutch tested on his tongue. "It is not a common name."


"And you are not a common person."

"Most definitely not."

"Then we will be... Starsky and Hutch?"

"Yes," Starsky grinned. "I like that. Starsky and Hutch. Especially if the two names are always said together."

Hutch kissed him.

* * *

A week later, they set sail for America. After a month at sea, they arrived in Virginia as Starsky and Hutch.


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