Companion to The Wrong Kind of Angel
Sam Holloway is a desperate man. Trapped in Dante’s, the high-class London brothel catering to men who love men, his only hope is to find a rich protector. Then he meets the young aristocrat with sad eyes.
Tristan Barrington, sixth earl of Chiltern, waited until the death of his father before acting on his unnatural desires. Dante’s has a reputation for quality and absolute discretion. He never expected to find in its sordid depths a glorious man who could master not only his body but his heart, as well.
In Tristan, Sam sees an opportunity to flee a life he hates, and he sets his sights on seducing the earl. Tristan vows to help him escape, but in the process not only uncovers the vile corruption at the heart of Dante’s but also suspects that Sam’s declaration of love was nothing but a lie.
Then Sam is gravely injured, and Tristan faces a tough decision -- leave Sam to his fate, or help him once again?
Tristan stood in the hallway of his home, back pressed against the door. He closed his eyes. Sam’s words kept racing around his mind. How unutterably foolish he had been. How unspeakably stupid. Shame and humiliation washed over him again, making him nauseous. At the same time, he was wracked by a sense of loss so deep that made his chest feel as though it were about to crack wide open. He pressed a hand there and tried to breathe and made his way to the study to pour a brandy. He stood by the fire a moment or two, then crumpled into a chair still clutching his glass. He wondered if he might cry, but he felt too numb, too bruised, too hollow.
He had no idea how long he had been there when the door opened and Alfie walked in.
"What the hell are you doing hiding in here?" he asked in his own inimitable fashion. Tristan couldn't speak. "Trouble in paradise?"
Tristan just sat. Alfie came closer and peered down at him. "Tris?" This time there was no drawl in his tone, no teasing light. "Tris, what is it? What has happened?"
Alfie reached down and took the glass carefully from him. He looked up at Alfie's face. The face of his childhood friend. He had to blink several times.
"Bit of a shock. That's all." He ran his hand around the back of his neck and tried desperately to think.
"I take it this is about Holloway?" Alfie sat opposite him and was staring at him. When he cared to make the effort, Alfie had the most penetrating stare of anyone he knew.
"Then tell me what is wrong with you. You look like someone stole your last sixpence."
Tristan smiled. "Not quite that bad. I just discovered that ... Samuel is not quite the man I thought he was." He had to swallow a couple of times before he could continue. "It would appear that I may have been taken for a fool."
It hurt to say those words, and it almost undid him. He rubbed his chest again as the crushing pain worsened. He felt so humiliated, so foolish.
"I'm sorry to hear it. I had just popped over to see if the both of you would like a little escapade, but perhaps this is not the right time. Is it all over?"
"Escapade? What on earth are you talking about?"
"A few ... like-minded people are taking a jaunt to the country for a few days. I thought perhaps you and Holloway might like to join in. I thought he seemed sincere. It looks like I was wrong." He sounded faintly surprised that he might be.
It would have been just what Samuel needed. A little company, a little fun. Tristan pinched the bridge of his nose.
Before he could respond, a commotion in the hallway interrupted them. Samuel burst into the room, followed by an agitated footman Alfie quickly dismissed.
Tristan stood as Sam strode over and gripped his arms. "Tristan, please let me explain, please listen to me."
"I said, unhand me." Tristan threw off Samuel's hands forcibly.
Samuel stumbled back, clearly shocked. He closed his eyes for a moment and then opened them. "Tristan I am so sorry you overheard that. Gareth is ... well, he overstates things and exaggerates."
"I didn't hear any contradictions."
"Can we speak alone?" Samuel cast an awkward glance at Alfie who watched the whole drama with unconcealed interest.
"Alfie, be a dear?" Tristan said.
Alfie smiled. It wasn't a pleasant smile. "Of course, my love. I shall be within calling distance if the brute cuts up rough." He sauntered from the room.
Samuel balled his hands into fists and glared at his retreating back. He then began pacing. His hand kept going to his mouth, where he rubbed and pulled at his bottom lip. "I need to explain something. I need to ... oh God, what a mess."
"Indeed. I shall be interested to see how you explain what Gareth said." Only years of ruthlessly masking his feelings and his nature allowed Tristan to remain reasonably impassive.
Samuel looked tortured, but his next words floored Tristan.
"It was all true."
"True?" The words came out as an incredulous whisper. He had expected emotional denials, explanations, excuses, appeals, but this?