Arriving in Bath Spa to accompany his sister Letty in her first experience of polite society, Jacob Longley, Lieutenant in His Majesty’s Royal Navy, is more at home on board the good ship Gloriana. To his surprise, he has a possible suitor of his own in the glamorous Sebastian Fforde.
However, beneath a sophisticated surface, Sebastian has his own insecurities. Even after the making the first move, he is not convinced about acting on his feelings. After boldly inviting Jacob to his home in the Cotswolds before his shore leave is over, Sebastian still hesitates.
Will either man act on their increasing attraction and growing friendship to make a life-long match together?
Once they re-entered the house, Pug’s dew-damp paws having being thoroughly towelled off, Jacob could hear no music from the morning room. He wasn’t sure to be disappointed or relieved that he had missed Sebastian, but as they got closer to the main reception rooms, he could hear his distinctive tones through the half-open door.
Having realised his mistress was in the room, Pug nosed his way in and was straight onto Aunt Hariette’s lap. The pause in the music break was explained as Sebastian was demonstrating the steps for Letty, as she looked closely at his movements, then followed his lead. Jacob took a seat next to his aunt and watched Letty become more fluent in her footwork with encouragement and occasional gentle correction from Sebastian.
With a charming smile for Miss Catchpole, he asked for the accompaniment to begin again and they prepared to execute the tricky pivot together. Letty had a look of sheer concentration on her pretty face as she mastered the steps at last. Aunt Hariette gave a round of applause, hastily joined by her companion who halted abruptly in her playing, as Sebastian bowed and said, “Bravo, Miss Leticia!”
“Now Jacob,” Aunt Hariette said briskly, “it is your turn. You must learn how to perform this dance with your sister.” Both Letty and Sebastian burst out laughing at the horrified expression on his face.
The companion, a kindly soul and aware of the service Jacob had done for her in walking the dog, said tentatively, “Perhaps we should leave the gentlemen to themselves? Since being watched while learning is never easy. I can always return in a while if more music is required.”
Did Jacob imagine the glint in Sebastian’s eye at that suggestion?
Letty added, “And Miss Catchpole, you deserve a break from playing so that your poor fingers don’t become sore.”
Having been tactfully overruled, Aunt Hariette suggested that the ladies had a cup of chocolate in the parlour for the duration, and rising to her feet, with Pug trotting before her, the women left the room, closing the door behind them.
Before Jacob could be start to be embarrassed, Sebastian immediately started to show him the movements of the dance. He was smiling and oh, so elegant in dark grey satin today. The colour suited him, Jacob thought, and was reflected in those ever-changing eyes, making them appear deeper, darker and all the more mysterious. Shaking off such distractions, he tried focus on Sebastian’s dancing pump clad feet.
Once the steps had been exhibited, Jacob rose to stand behind Sebastian as instructed. As he started to copy him, he felt like he was stumbling clumsily compared to Sebastian’s effortless style.
After a while, Sebastian looked over his shoulder to watch his progress.
“You have it,” he said encouragingly. “Now, for the purposes of our practise, I will be the lady,” and seeing that Jacob looked paralysed with embarrassment, he executed a deep curtsey to make him laugh, before offering a hand to his partner.
After several rounds, Jacob felt dizzy. This was a combination of being so near to Sebastian, holding his hand and the pleasure of moving together in patterns of the dance. At the same time, he knew his technique faltered and he was never sure if was doing the right thing at the right time. However, dancing with Sebastian and having him all to himself was a tortuous delight.
“You’re doing very well,” Sebastian said encouragingly, as they came to the end of a set of steps. “Perhaps we’ll pause here and join the ladies for refreshment. After that, your aunt might have forgotten that she wanted you to give a demonstration.”
Jacob grinned and remembering his manners, said, “You are very kind to help us.”
Sebastian smiled back warmly, “It has been a pleasure. Letty was so keen to learn and such a good student. Knowing the latest dances will stand her in good stead at those house parties in future. Also,” he said stepping closer to Jacob, “this was the best excuse I could think of to be close to you.”
Jacob was achingly aware that their hands were still clasped from the dance, bodies almost in contact. Sebastian looked at him teasingly from under his long lashes and deliberately closed the gap. Being slightly shorter, he rose forward on the toes of his dancing pumps to raise his lips to Jacob’s.
Even after the steady escalation of attraction and longing since his initial sight of Sebastian, Jacob was rocked by the power of that first touch. He thought that such a gentle kiss should be full of promise and not this earth-moving thunderclap. Jacob felt like the oaken main mast of a ship that had struck by lightning.
Sebastian moved away slightly, as if considering his next move. Those wonderful wide grey eyes were alight with passion as they flickered searchingly over Jacob’s face. Their lips met for another kiss, deeper and more confident this second time.
A timeless, blissful moment was interrupted by a scratch at the door and indignant whining from Pug. They moved apart immediately but Sebastian was still smiling, despite the hiatus. “Time for a different sort of refreshment, perhaps,” he said and his fingertips lightly, teasingly touched Jacob’s swollen lips before he moved to the door.