In 1773, Lord Michael Haverly, third son of a marquis, is pressured to make a suitable match. But Michael has a secret -- he prefers men. He doesn’t want a wife. Then the wealthy daughter of a merchant proposes a marriage of convenience for them both, and Michael accepts.
Five years later, Michael is a widower with a young daughter and the unexpected freedom to live how he has always wanted.
George Jenks is the new valet to Lord Michael. George also prefers men, and when George offers a grief-stricken Michael comfort, their mutual attraction turns to passion and eventually love. One they both realize they are lucky to have.
Lord Michael had moved to sit on the edge of his bed, his hands grasped together tightly, his head lowered. George thought there might be tears in his eyes.
He did not know why but he set the dressing gown aside for the moment and knelt on the floor in front of his lord, and without thought put his hands on Lord Michael’s.
“Is there anything I can do, milord?”
Lord Michael glanced down at him, his blue eyes bright and alert even as, yes, he could see the sheen of tears there.
“I’m just tired, Jenks. Tired and sad.”
“Yes, you have a great loss in the passing of your wife, milord. Your grief is understandable.”
“Can I tell you something?”
“Anything. You can tell me anything and I will keep your confidence,” he said earnestly.
He smiled then. “Jenks. May I have your given name? I should know it but I find I am at a loss at present.”
“George, sir. George Jenks.”
“George. Can I call you that?”
“I wish you would, milord.”
“You can call me Michael,” he whispered.
“Oh, but that would hardly be proper.”
Michael shook his head. “I don’t wish to be proper, George. Not in the privacy of my own bedchamber. In here, I can have what I want, can I not?”
George did not wish to deny Michael anything. He was too beautiful and precious to George, though he couldn’t have quite said when that happened.
“Yes, Michael.” But still he hesitated. “If you are sure.”
“I am.” He turned his hands so that they were now clasping hands. “These are good, strong hands. But unexpectedly gentle.”
“I would never use them to harm you.”
“I did use them in anger a few times in my younger days, I am ashamed to say,” George admitted. And he wondered why he spoke this was to his employer and why his employer was gazing at him with no little wonder. It made George’s heart rate pick up.
“Our youth is past and cannot be answered for now.” Michael sighed. “I cared a great deal for Charlotte. She was dear to me.”
“Of course she was.”
“We were ... friends. The closest of confidants. But ... ours was not a-romantic love.”
George nodded, thinking he understood. “It is common among nobility and the gentry to have arranged marriages.”
“It is, yes. And Charlotte arranged ours herself.”
“Michael, please. I want to speak freely to you, George. Now that Charlotte is gone, I need a close confidant. One I can trust above all others. Can you be that for me?”
“Yes. I will definitely try.”
“I need more than your effort. I need your promise.”
“Yes, Michael, I promise,” George whispered.
“Thank you. I don’t know why, but I trust you to keep your word. I pray my trust is not displaced for then you could ruin me.”
George recoiled. “Not I. No, never.”
“Charlotte and I ... we were friends, as I said. But other than our precious Abigail ... ours was not a love match, George.” Michael looked away. “She chose me because she knew that my interests would be elsewhere and that’s what she wanted.”
He frowned and tried to understand what Michael was saying. Had they had an arrangement wherein Michael could keep a lover with his wife’s full knowledge?
“She approved of your keeping a mistress?”
Michael smiled slightly. ”She would have, had that been where my interests lie, but no.”
“I do not understand,” George admitted. He realized his hands were still grasped with Michael’s and he supposed two men holding hands for so long was ... wait. Perhaps he did understand. But was it too much to hope? Not that if Michael preferred men, as he did himself, Michael would find George of interest.
Michael was watching him, gaze focused solely on George’s face as though searching for something.
“Have I shocked you?” he asked at last.
George shook his head.
“Then you are speaking of --”
“My preference for male companionship.” Michael nodded. His grip on George’s hands tightened briefly before he let go entirely and stood up from the edge of the bed to stalk away from where George still knelt on the floor. “And now you know.”