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imagined.  College honour, academic rigour had been the creed
he lived by, nothing more important to him than a beautiful thesis
perfectly proved. Now, Owens could have all the coded letters,
tied up in tinsel with a bow on top, if he could only have his
friend well again.
The crisis came the third night that Jonty lay on the little bed
that bound all Orlando s hopes and fears. His fever seemed to
deepen and no amount of sponging could stop the sweating. Miss
Peters had sat with them until the wee small hours, bringing
drinks for both men, trying to coax the patient and his carer into
taking at least a little water in.
 Tonight will see a resolution one way or another, she d
said with an honesty and simplicity that Orlando appreciated. The
odd occasion when she was out of the room had seen him take the
opportunity of grasping Jonty s hand, of whispering urgent pleas
in his ear. Once he d just leaned over and kissed his brow,
demanding that he come back to him. On this occasion he hadn t
let Jonty s hand out of his grasp even when Miss Peters returned
to the room.
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Lessons in Discovery
As the bells of Bride s chimed three o clock, the fever broke
and subsided, leaving Jonty s breathing clearer and easier than it
had been these last few days. At last Orlando could be persuaded
into his own bed for a well-earned rest.
Orlando still managed to be awake early enough to watch
Jonty regain consciousness. He felt a knot in the base of his
stomach as he realised that the first words would be,  Hello,
Orlando. Lovely to see you, and was then proven correct.
The double joy of knowing that he still retained some
memory, deeply buried somewhere, of an incredible twelve
months and the fact that his special friend looked as if he might be
making a recovery almost brought him to tears. But he was
determined that Jonty wouldn t see him cry yet, and made do with
ruffling the man s hair, upbraiding him for having worried them
all so and saying that he would go and find a pot of tea.
They drank the brew in peace, the only interruption being
Miss Peters bearing buttered toast, a thermometer and a broad
grin. She was bold enough to pinch Jonty s cheek, calling him a
silly goose, and offering Orlando a place on her team of amateur
nurses.
After Jonty had eaten some toast, drunk some tea and
demanded more of both, he asked for a full rundown of the last
few days, posing question after question and barely sparing
Orlando s blushes.  Bed bath, eh? That was a bit daring, even for
you.
 Will you ever stop that mouth of yours? Anyone could hear
you!
 If I had a pound for every time you ve used that expression
or similar I d be as rich as Croesus. People could quite easily hear
and take no notice whatsoever if it weren t for the song and dance
you make of things.
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Charlie Cochrane
 Jonty Stewart, I haven t nursed you for three days just to
end up in a flaming row. If you won t stop your mouth, I will.
Orlando leaned over from where he sat on the bed and pressed his
lips to Jonty s.
It wasn t as clumsy as his first attempt at a kiss had been,
back in January. In fact it was almost acceptable. Weak and
strange as Jonty felt, he couldn t resist lying back, pulling
Orlando closer to kiss him passionately in return.
With apparent reluctance, Orlando broke the embrace and
pulled away.  Sorry, Jonty. Shouldn t have done that here. I
should have waited. Couldn t.
 It doesn t matter to me, Orlando, the sooner the better as far
as I m concerned. You have no idea how much I ve missed
kissing you.
Orlando smiled, gently brushing his hand along Jonty s arm.
 Think I must have missed kissing you as well. Is it always as
nice as this?
Jonty laughed, regretting it straightaway when the activity
ended in a coughing fit, something that made Orlando fuss over
him like a mother hen. He got his breath back and flapped his
friend away.  I m fine. Honestly.
 You need to take care. I shouldn t have been making you
frolic this early in your recovery.
 Bit of frolicking is just what the doctor ordered, or if he
didn t, he should have done. Can t think of any better way to
improve my mental state. He stopped, full of suspicion.  Have
you been here all the time?
Orlando nodded, rather shamefacedly.
 Well that was daft of you. You could have caught this
yourself. I was laid out three days, you reckon? Nasty business.
 It was, Jonty. Very nasty. Orlando touched his friend s
arm again.  May I ask you something?
 But of course, anything.
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Lessons in Discovery
 You must have been the first person I ever kissed.
 As I understand it, yes, or so you told me. There may have
been droves of them, I suppose, and you kept me in the dark.
 Idiot. You can take it as read that you were. What I would
like to know, and I assume that you ve told me before but it s lost
to me now, was I the first person you kissed?
Jonty considered for a moment. He remembered what
wonderful consequences had occurred when he d first discussed
his previous love with Orlando. They could hardly repeat them
here.  No, I m afraid not, although it would have been quite nice
to have been in the same boat. When I was first at Bride s there
was a boy called Richard Marsters. We were very close. He
watched Orlando colour, begin to study his hands, but pressed on.
 He didn t love me like you used to. Jonty saw his friend s face
lift, look into his eyes. He had the distinct impression that the man
was going to say something I still love you, hopefully but the
scene was interrupted by Miss Peters, who had arrived to scoop
up the breakfast things.
 I think you could do with another bed bath, young man.
She beamed at the fact that Jonty had managed so much to eat and
drink and then positively smirked at his embarrassment.  Oh, it
won t be me doing the bathing. I ll leave that to your very able
nurse here. I ll just go and get some warm water. The two young
men were left with a distinct cloud of awkwardness hanging over
them.
 You don t have to bath me, not if it would make things
embarrassing. I could submit to the iron fist of Miss Peters.
 No! No, it s all right. I can manage. Orlando studied his
hands.  I d like to. I didn t mind at all looking after you.
 I know that. You tended me in the aftermath of the first set
of murders and it was pretty gruesome at the end. I would very
much like you to help me now as I trust no one in the world as I
trust you, not even Mama, although you mustn t tell her that or
www.lindenbayromance.com 81
Charlie Cochrane
she ll cuff me. I suspect that you ve been worrying yourself sick
these last few days and I don t blame you. I would have done the
same myself if the situation had been reversed. I ll submit to you
bathing me like a newborn infant, only I shan t cry or be sick.
 You d better not be.
The hot water arrived, Miss Peters departed and the
operation began. Jonty tried hard to avoid Orlando s gaze, simply
enjoying the experience without wishing to discomfort his friend.
Orlando had set to work in a brisk and efficient manner, mopping
Jonty s back and chest, drying as he went, getting not a drop on
the bed. Legs, arms, face, neck were also tackled, although he was
beginning to slow down once every area bar one was almost done.
With a noticeable sigh, he reached for Jonty s underwear, but was [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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