Convincing Arthur— Novella
London Legal Series, Book #1
Regency-set M/M erotic romance
Release date: 1/12/2016
Word count: 25,000
This book has been previously published, and has been edited from its original release.
A holiday in the country to indulge his wildest fantasies...
Arthur Barrington knows exactly what he wants. A practical man. Someone who values discretion. Commitment. In other words, someone like himself. His old friend, Leopold Thornton, an overindulged son of a wealthy viscount with a reputation for vice and debauchery, couldn't be less of a good candidate.
Yet when Leopold extends an invitation to his country estate, Arthur agrees. Perhaps a holiday with the sinfully beautiful man will help him get over a recent breakup. Then he can return to his thriving London law practice and resume his quiet life.
Ten years ago, Leopold learned the hard way that patience doesn't always have its rewards. Now that he has Arthur all to himself, he isn't going to let a second opportunity pass him by. And he certainly isn't above using pleasure to tempt Arthur into his bed.
Leopold has only a few days to open Arthur's eyes to the possibility that he's the man Arthur is looking for. That his love is genuine—and he's worthy of Arthur's heart.
This book has been previously published.
Warning: Includes a gorgeous bad boy who’s been in love with a conservative solicitor for a decade. Indecent acts in a forest between two hot men. Angst. More explicit sex. And expectations turned upside down.
© Copyright Ava March
Arthur leaned toward the window to get a view of the house as the carriage approached it. Neat and understated, the two-story country home didn't look like a den of iniquity. Even the front door was plain and utilitarian, without even a portico over the small stone landing. But the many chimneys jutting from the roofline marked it as far more than a mere cottage. The lanterns stationed on either side of the door illuminated the rich, honey-gold stone on the exterior of the house. The size and elegant, clean lines brought to mind a typical residence of a country gentleman, and it was not at all what he expected from someone like Leopold Thornton. Then again, appearances could be deceiving. He shrugged. Soon enough he'd discover if the inside of the house resembled a cross between a gambling hell and decadent brothel.
He tucked the papers he had been reading back into his leather bag and doused the small brass lantern, cloaking the interior in darkness. A part of him still could not believe he had accepted Thornton's invitation. Nor did he believe Thornton only intended for them to go shooting together. Yet here Arthur was.
Casual liaisons went against his nature, but perhaps four days with Thornton could be just the thing to take his mind off Randolph Amherst. He could not deny it still hurt that Randolph had not put up even a show of resistance when Arthur refused to continue their relationship. Apparently he meant far less to Randolph than Randolph had meant to him. Granted, he had never fancied Randolph in love with him, but he'd believed the man cared for him, and he had loved Randolph. How could he not? They had been together for a decade, and Randolph had been his first and only lover. Such intimacies were not treated lightly, at least not by Arthur.
Other men, however, did treat them lightly.
Leopold Thornton, for example. Handsome as sin and wicked as all hell. A temptation evidently even Arthur could not resist.
Shaking his head at himself, he let out an exasperated sigh. Thornton's reputation spoke for itself, and if one listened carefully, one discovered Thornton did not limit his dalliances to those of the female gender. Something Arthur suspected years ago when the two men had been better acquainted. Even though Arthur did his best to keep his private life behind closed doors, judging by how Thornton asked after Randolph whenever Arthur happened upon him, Thornton had been aware of Arthur's own preferences for some time. But Thornton had not once made an overt or even not-so-subtle advance until two weeks ago. Mere coincidence? Unlikely. Though he did wonder how the hardened rake had learned exactly when he said good-bye to Randolph, never mind that the relationship existed in the first place.
The carriage slowed to a stop before the house. The front door opened, and a footman emerged to see to the door of the carriage. Arthur grabbed his bag and, stooping to fit through the narrow opening, got out.
He stood tall, squaring his shoulders and relishing the opportunity to stretch his legs. Three days in that rented coach had taken their toll on his joints. While he spent a fair portion of time seated behind his desk at his office, at least there he had the freedom to move about whenever he pleased.
His gaze swept over the house again, lingering on the front door. Trepidation began to settle low in his stomach. Pushing it aside, he lifted his chin and marched up the few stone steps. No point turning back now.
Four days with Thornton and all memory of Randolph would be wiped from his senses. Then Arthur could return to London and quietly search for an amiable man who understood the meaning of the word "discreet" and who recognized the value of commitment. Without any family to call his own, he truly wanted to find someone he could share his life with, for the prospect of growing old alone held absolutely no appeal. He had hoped that someone was Randolph, but...no.
The door opened as he approached, jarring him from his melancholy thoughts.
"May I take your coat, Mr. Barrington?" the butler asked the moment he stepped over the threshold.
Arthur handed his leather bag to the elderly man. After unbuttoning his greatcoat, he slipped it from his shoulders and exchanged it for his bag. The coat he could survive without if the servant misplaced it, his clients' documents he could not.
"Evening, Barrington. Welcome to Ramsey House."
The drawled words wrapped around Arthur like hot velvet, prickling the hairs on his forearms. A shiver raced up his spine. How could Thornton make a simple welcome sound sinful?
Clutching the handle of his bag tightly, he turned to find Thornton, who slouched against the corner of a wall next to a corridor that led to the back of the house. A wavy chunk of his black hair hung over his brow, skimming his lashes. Arms crossed over his chest, his stance was all casual nonchalance, but the wicked glint in his gray eyes said otherwise. The man was, quite simply, beautiful. Indulgent vice personified.
Arthur swallowed hard and found his voice. His mind vaguely registered the echo of the butler's footsteps as the man left the marble-floored entrance hall. "Good evening, Thornton. My apologies for the lateness of the hour. One of the carriage wheels cracked, stranding us on the road this morning, and"—he gestured to fill in the mundane details—"took an unheard of amount of time to fetch a replacement."
"No apologies are necessary. I'm relieved you made the journey to Yorkshire safely, if not without a bit of inconvenience." Thornton paused, holding his gaze for what felt like an endless moment. Those gray eyes swept down Arthur's body and then back up to his face.
Arthur clenched his fist, fighting the urge to pass a hand over the front of his coat to verify he was still fully dressed. After Thornton's thorough perusal, he certainly felt like he stood naked in the small entrance hall.
A hint of a satisfied smile tipped the edges of Thornton's full lips. Then he pushed from the wall. "Come. I'll show you to your room."
Arthur mentally shook off the discomposure and nodded, then followed him up the stairs to the second floor. They were of the same age, both nine and twenty, and of the same height, but their similarities ended there. Thornton was all lean, graceful lines where Arthur had more bulk to his frame. The cut of his black coat and trousers announced he frequented the best tailors in London, whereas Arthur did not see the need to waste his money in such a fashion. His clients cared not about the cut of his coat, only that he appeared competent and trustworthy. Something any decent tailor could accomplish.
Nor did their differences end with their appearances. Where Arthur had applied himself in his studies, helping at his uncle's office and eventually assuming all responsibility when the man passed away, Thornton defined the term "wastrel". An indolent fourth son of a very wealthy viscount, a man Arthur held in the utmost respect. His three older brothers were staunch, industrious men, replicas of their father. Given how the viscount doted on Thornton, granting him limitless largesse in addition to funding his extravagant lifestyle—including a town house in London, a country estate, nights spent at the gambling tables and frequent visits to the best brothels in London—Arthur rather thought his lordship lived vicariously through his youngest son.
A shame, really. Perhaps a bit of discipline would have reined in Thornton. There had been a time about a decade ago when Thornton had been an amiable young man, full of promise. Arthur had met the nineteen-year-old Thornton back when Arthur worked as his uncle's secretary. He frequently accompanied his uncle on calls to a client's home, and during one such call, Viscount Granville had summoned his youngest son into the meeting. Thornton had listened with rapt attention as his lordship and his uncle discussed the purchase of a new property. He and Thornton had even become friends. But then London sank its teeth into Thornton, quickly corrupting him.
Arthur followed Thornton as he turned right at the top of the stairs. So far, the interior of the home matched the exterior. Nothing extravagant or garish. No gaming tables or scantily clad females—or males—in sight. Even the few paintings lining the walls were tame landscapes.
Thornton opened the third door on the left and gestured for Arthur to enter. "I hope it meets with your satisfaction," he said in a silken tone as Arthur passed him.
Was that whisky on his breath? Somehow Arthur kept from rolling his eyes. When wasn't the man foxed, or at the least, slightly inebriated? Thornton likely forwent tea in favor of a stiff drink with breakfast.
Arthur stepped into the bedchamber decorated in muted autumn greens and browns. A small seating area was angled in front of the fireplace, and a large bed stood off to one side. The tan drapes covering the two windows were closed, blocking the view of the grounds behind the house.
A footman arrived, carrying Arthur's trunk in front of his well-rounded belly. He deposited the trunk on the short table beside the chest of drawers. "Shall I unpack for you, sir?"
"No. I can manage it myself."
With a nod, the footman left the room, closing the door and leaving Arthur alone with Thornton.
The man leaned a shoulder against the door and crossed his arms over his chest. "Care for a bite to eat? The kitchen can prepare whatever you'd like."
"No, thank you. I stopped at an inn along the way. Dreadful stuff but edible." Needing to give himself something to do, Arthur set his bag down, flipped the latches on his trunk and began to unpack, putting his folded clothes into the chest of drawers. His fingers hovered over his underclothes, and then he snatched them up and put them with his shirts. What did it matter if Thornton saw his drawers? He'd see them soon enough, if the man's hungry stare was any indication of his intentions.
"Leave out whatever you need pressed. A servant will see to it."
Arthur nodded his thanks. He shook out the wrinkled bottle-green coat and draped it over the straight-backed chair at the nearby desk.
"Care for a nightcap?"
"Why? Do you need one?" More?
Oh hell, why had he said that? He was Thornton's guest, not his keeper.
Thankfully Thornton didn't appear put out by the rude comment. "No. You're here. I thought you might prefer a drink after the trials of your day."
He let out a harrumph as he set his shaving kit on the washstand. "I feared the carriage would be stuck on the side of the road forever, and I'd have to walk the rest of the way. Traveling is severely overrated."
Thornton quirked one dark eyebrow. "That it is," he replied, with a familiarity that held a hint of their old friendship.
A pang of regret gripped Arthur's heart. Thornton had been a good friend there for a while. They now moved in vastly different social circles, frequented different haunts, though sometimes they happened upon each other on the street or at a club. Occasionally he saw Thornton at his father's house, lurking about, when Arthur paid a business call. But the days of meeting him at a tavern for a drink were long gone. Perhaps this holiday together could be a way to rekindle their friendship? No, no. What was he thinking? They had nothing in common except a shared attraction to those of their own gender.
"So, that nightcap… Yes or no?"
"Thank you, but no." Arthur closed his empty trunk. "Do you think the weather will hold tomorrow?"
"It should. The sky was clear last I looked. I take it you want to be out with a firearm in hand before dawn." A grimace flicked across Thornton's face.
"Yes. Is that a problem?"
"No. I can drag myself out of bed at such an ungodly hour…for you."
The click of a lock sliding home reverberated in the room. Thornton pushed from the door and crossed to Arthur. Thornton didn't walk; he prowled with a distinctly leonine grace. Head tipped down, the edges of his lips curved in a knowing smirk that left no doubt as to his intentions.
Arthur stiffened. While he wouldn't deny a strong physical attraction to Thornton, he also could not deny the trepidation leaching back into his stomach. He hadn't expected to be buggered within minutes of arrival.
Thornton slowed as he came nearer, as if giving Arthur the opportunity to voice his refusal or bolt for the door. He didn't take it. He held his ground, the attraction crackling in the air between them, lighting up his senses in a way he had never experienced before. His breaths came short and shallow, his chest suddenly working under the force of them.
Thornton took one more step, closing the last remaining distance, his gaze locked with Arthur's. He placed a hand on the chest of drawers beside Arthur, blocking the path to escape, and slowly, ever so slowly, leaned even closer. So close Arthur could make out the midnight-blue flecks in his heavily lidded gray eyes. The faint scents of whisky, the enticing spice of cologne and clean male skin wafted around him. Warm breath fanned Arthur's parted lips: teasing, tempting. A tremble of anticipation rocked him.
"You refused supper. You refused a nightcap." The words were low, a mere rumble of sound. Thornton's mouth barely moved. Then he dipped his head at the last moment before their lips touched.
Disappointment began to crash through Arthur when a hand palmed the placket of his trousers, long fingers wrapping around his hardening prick.
Thornton looked up at him through his black forelock, his eyes blazing with lust. "Is there anything I can tempt you with tonight?"
"Regency doesn't get any better than this. The love scenes are both tender and lava-hot... The period part of this period piece is, as always with Ms. March, executed flawlessly... - Whipped Cream Erotic Romance Reviews
"Convincing Arthur is a surprising good book that literally knocked my socks off." - Erotic Horizon Reviews
"Convincing Arthur was a truly great read. ... The love scenes are written very well - very steamy, yet also very sweet. Ava March is now on my auto-buy list." - Smexy Books
"Ava March has written a very captivating historical romance. This is the kind of story that will leave any reader panting and these are characters that one would not mind visiting again." - Sensual Ecataromance
"Ava March's descriptive writing pulled me into the era, as always, and allowed me to feel the chill in the air, and the currents of desire and need passing through the characters. I loved reading Convincing Arthur and look forward to reading future releases from this talented author." - Literary Nymphs Reviews
"I am quickly becoming a big fan of Ava March and Convincing Arthur is just one more reason. What a great book! Well-written and fleshed-out characters make for a wonderful read that I gobbled up in one sitting." - Reviews by Jessewave
"...it's quite original, and daring as well." Reviewed by Elisa Rolle