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A Seditious Affair

By:K.J. Charles

sure, and Silas after him just a few savage thrusts later, spending hard and hot into the man pinned under his own bulky body.

They lay, locked together, gasping. The Tory had his face in the sheets; Silas had his in the Tory's shoulder and his arm trapped under the man's chest.

A few more breaths, then the Tory made a muffled noise of discomfort. Silas wormed his arm free and withdrew with wincing care, ever afraid he'd done damage. When he felt his legs would support him, he managed to stand, and went to the little pitcher of water provided by the house-still warm-to wipe himself down and throw a clean cloth to the Tory. Odd sod that he was, he didn't like to be observed in cleaning up, so Silas took his time stretching out the kinks and getting the wineglasses before he turned again.

The Tory lay on his back, eyes shut, sated. His face was flushed, lips reddened, skin marked all over by Silas's fingers.

God, he was beautiful.

"Here." Silas handed him a glass and sat on the bed. The Tory took it without looking. "What's this, then?"

"Hermitage. It's a French wine, from the Rhône."

Silas had no idea where that was, nor why it mattered. But it did matter to the Tory, any fool could see, and it cost Silas nothing to ask.

He sipped at the Hermitage, which the Tory had pronounced in a Frenchified way. It had that dryness on the tongue at first that he didn't much like, preferring beer or porter, but he knew by now that once you got a little way down the glass the taste could grow on a man. "Very fine."

The Tory opened his eyes then. They looked tired but deeply content, all passion spent. He smiled, and Silas smiled back. "It's good to see you."

Silas moved his glass to chink it against the Tory's. "You too. Been well?"

"Not so bad. Work. You?"

"Aye, busy enough. Lost one of my assistants a few weeks back, did I tell you?" That was understating it. Harry Vane, his old friends' son, had been reclaimed by the noble family his father had abandoned, swept off to become a gentleman. Silas wasn't going to mention that, of course. It was Harry's business, and for all he knew of good society, which was nothing, the Tory might mix in Harry's circles. He didn't think much of a good young radical, or even an idle one like Harry, going off to become a gentleman, but he wasn't going to put the boy's future at risk with loose talk. "And it's too damn hot."

"That it is. I'm going down to the country this weekend."

"Very nice. Back next week?"

Silas tried to ask it casual-like, but there was a definite twitch to the Tory's lips when he replied, "By next Wednesday, I think."

Silas shoved him, not hard, and the Tory sat up a little, making space. Silas moved to lie alongside him, feeling the heat of his bare skin.

"I finished the book," the Tory said.

"Oh, aye? What'd you think?"

"Good. Terrifying. Strange. I can't understand why you like it."

"Why would I not?"

"I wouldn't have thought you'd agree with it." The Tory gave him a wry smile. "After all, its burden is the need for man to keep in his place-"

"What?" said Silas incredulously.

"The overreaching man dares to play God and pays a terrible price. Abuses the natural order and creates a monstrous thing."

"Bollocks," Silas said. "That ain't what it's about."

"It's what happens."

"No. What happens is he creates, he's responsible for, something that should be"-Silas waved his hand-"great and strong, something that he owes a duty to. And he says to it, The hell with you. Go die in a ditch. I'll have my big house and pretty wife. And it says, You don't get to live in a grand house and ignore me. Do your duty or I'll tear you down. Treat me like I'm as good as you, or I'll show you-"

"That I'm not," the Tory interrupted. "The creature murders-"

"Because he ain't given a chance to live decent," Silas interrupted right back. "You treat men like brutes; you make 'em brutes. That's what it says."

"No, you create brutes when you distort the rules of nature and the order of things," the Tory retorted. "That's what the book's about. It's obvious."

"It's not." Silas snorted. "You think its author meant that?"

"Oh, do you know the author?" The Tory looked intrigued. "Who is he?"

"She."

"A woman? A woman wrote Frankenstein?"

"A girl," Silas said with some satisfaction. "Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin's girl."

The Tory's mouth dropped open. "That-female who married that appalling poet?"

"Mary Shelley," Silas agreed smugly. "Aye."

"Good heavens. No wonder she published it anonymously. A woman."

"And what's her sex to do with it?" Silas demanded, and they were off.

It wasn't as if he lacked political debate in his life. Silas ran a bookshop that sold mostly political philosophy. His nights and evenings, except Wednesdays, were taken up with pamphleteering, writing the often seditious libels at which he excelled, and attending meetings of the people who could no longer bear the stranglehold of the rich on England's neck. He had been in the struggle since he'd had his eyes opened by Euphemia Gordon, a radical firebrand and agitator for the rights of women, at the age of sixteen, and he'd never stopped fighting, not for gaol or flogging or the threat of worse. He believed in the cause, dedicated his life to it, hated the aristocracy and the gentry who let the people starve and wanted the working man kept in his place.

And then on Wednesdays he went to bed with the most dyed-in-the-wool Tory he'd ever met in his life.

Millay's was an assignation house. Not a whorehouse-nothing so honest-but a place where gentlemen who liked gentlemen could meet gentlemen like themselves. It was no place he'd normally set foot, but he'd been asked special. Someone for you to meet, his friend Jonathan had said. Gentleman set to get himself killed. Take a turn at him before he does, why not?

Silas could see it too that first night. The Tory had all the look of a man who was going to let his desires drive him downward, and Silas had very nearly walked away. He didn't play games, and he was damned if he'd use any of the filthy toys of violence laid out in the room. Just looking at whips and chains made him sweat, and he'd told the Tory there and then, If you want that, you can get it from someone else. But he'd fucked him all the same, because he was there, and been cursed rough with him too. Well, roughness was what the Tory wanted, and if you had the chance to take a lifetime's anger out on one of the bastards with his foot on your throat, why wouldn't you?

It had been good too. Better than he'd expected, in fact, because something had curled in his belly at the way the Tory responded to his hard hands and curt demands. It was pleasing to know you'd left a fellow satisfied, even if you hadn't particularly cared to. So when Jon had indicated a return bout might be welcome, he'd thought, Why not? A willing man to fuck, and the house was safe, clean, and dry. Might as well. And he'd come back, and …

There had been no whips or chains or other toys of the house laid out. Nothing at all but the mirror, the chair, the bed.

And Silas had remembered the Tory's fingers skimming the ridged skin of his back where the scars of flogging would never quite fade. He hadn't asked or commented, but he'd noticed the scars, and maybe even Silas's twitch at the table of torture implements, and it had all gone away. Consideration, that was what it was, and something inside Silas had shifted, just a little bit, at that moment. That tiny piece of thoughtfulness from a gentleman who wanted to be fucked into the gutter, but who noticed how the man in the gutter felt.

God knew quite how it had grown from there. How they had between them delineated the Tory's needs, and the

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