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November 15, 1997
Duel of Hearts (C/P PG-13)
by Sarah (firstname.lastname@example.org)
"You, sir, are a rogue and a knave!"
Lord Thomas Paris, young, rich and handsome enough to cause a flutter in some hearts and fury in others, indolently finished shuffling the cards before looking up at the man who had just barged into the game room at Sandrine's.
The most exclusive gentlemen's club in London valued its members' privacy and an ordinary trespasser would have been prevented entrance by Madame Sandrine's doorkeeper-cum-bodyguard, a Frenchman with a cloudy past known only as the Doctor. But this was no ordinary intruder.
The Marquis de Chakotay struck an imposing figure in the candlelit room. His black jacket stretched over impossibly broad shoulders that tapered down to a silver-embroidered waistcoat. White breeches clung to every curve of his strong thighs before tucking into a pair of gleaming Hessians. A curious tattoo, a souvenir of his travels abroad, accentuated his dark, exotic good looks. He glared at the blond aristocrat seated behind the green baize table. "Have you nothing to say for yourself, sir?"
"My dear Marquis," Paris drawled, "you have interrupted my game, disturbed my friends and insulted me to my face. You have yet, however, to state what my offense might be." Long white fingers idly played with the gilded lace at his cuffs as he spoke, his brilliant blue eyes flashing in a manner that his young friend, Sir Harry Kim,
knew bespoke danger.
"You have trifled with the affections of my sister, Lady B'Ella. You have led her to believe that you return her feelings," Chakotay snarled, leaning forward over the table. "I demand to know your intentions, as a gentleman, toward the lady."
Lord Thomas laughed. "I've been informed on more than one occasion that I'm a nobleman, not a gentleman." "
You cur!" Paris's head snapped back as the Marquis slapped a leather glove across his face.
The red welt stood in stark contrast on Paris's marble white face. His expression impassive, he said, "I demand satisfaction. I choose the sword. Name your second."
"Comte Ayala," Chakotay snapped and that young man nodded once, getting up from the table and standing behind him.
"Harry?" Paris asked with a raised brow.
"Of course, Tom." Sir Harry beckoned for one of the pages by the door. "You there, boy! Gary, isn't it?"
The gaunt youth bobbed his head. "Yes, m'lud."
"Fetch the Doctor. We'll need him to stand attendance."
"Yes, m'lud, right away!"
Harry looked back to Paris. "As the injured party, you also have choice of time and place. If we leave now we can reach the Common just before dawn -- I'm assuming you don't want to waste any time."
"You know me too well." He had met several past challenges at the Common. As the Doctor entered, carrying a small leather satchel, Paris pushed back his chair and stood.
Sir Harry said, "My Lord Marquis, Comte, if you have no objections, we can be off. We'll pick up the blades on the way."
The first hints of dawn were discernible as the small group gathered in the quiet clearing known as the Common. Even in the dim light Paris glittered, a peacock in blues and golds amidst a sea of black and white. He shrugged out of his velvet jacket and stretched, loosening his muscles and drawing the fine lawn of his shirt over his shoulders and chest. The lace edging his cravat matched that at his cuffs, both echoing the gold hair that had marked the Paris family since Hastings.
He took one of the swords Harry held out to him and did a few practice lunges. Off to one side, the Marquis chose a sword from Ayala and did the same. After a few minutes, they both turned to the Doctor.
"My Lord Marquis, Lord Thomas, if you will take your places," he said, indicated where each should stand. "The duel is to first blood." The Doctor looked at Paris, then at Chakotay. "You may begin."
The quiet of the dawn was broken by the clash of metal on metal and the mutters and grunts of fierce exertion. The men were evenly matched. Paris had speed, agility and a slighter longer reach. Chakotay had strength and intensity. The mechanics of parry and thrust, feint and dodge, were a dazzling dance of skill and power. Faster and faster the blades flew, the observers almost unable to follow what was happening.
Finally, the Marquis de Chakotay rushed forward in a furious lunge just as Lord Thomas dodged to the right. Their swords clashed and caught for a moment, then the Marquis' blade slid upwards, off of Paris's, and bit shallowly into the blond's side.
"First blood!" the Doctor called. The opponents broke apart, breathing heavily. "Is honor satisfied, Lord Thomas?" He pulled a strip of linen from his bag which Paris held tightly against his ribs.
"Yes," he panted. "What about you, Chakotay? Are you satisfied?"
"No, damn you! I demand to know your intentions toward my sister!" The Marquis looked ready to cross swords again. Sir Harry hastily interposed himself between the duelists, taking Paris's sword and prompting Comte Ayala to claim Chakotay's.
"My lords, neither Sandrine's nor this place is appropriate for such a conversation. Surely you can discuss things civilly in Lord Thomas's townhouse?" the Doctor suggested.
"Yes, surely your bloodlust has been appeased, Chakotay," Paris said. "Let's take this elsewhere. Comte, if you will see Sir Harry and the Doctor home, the Marquis and I will return to town in my carriage." He looked at Chakotay, who uttered a terse agreement.
Within moments, the only reminders of their presence in the clearing were the trampled grass and a blood-stained scrape of fabric.
"Your lordship is back from Sandrine's later than I expected. Oh, and your lordship's brought a guest! Will your lordship be wanting breakfast now or shall I wait until your lordship rings? What ever has happened to your lordship's shirt? Blood! It's so difficult to get blood out of linen. Will the Marquis be staying long?"
Paris held up a restraining hand to his valet. "Enough, Neelicks. The Marquis and I will be in the study. I'll ring if I need you."
"Very well, my lord."
"This way, Chakotay." Paris ushered the Marquis into a room filled with dark woods and rich leathers, shutting the door behind them. "So I've been playing ducks and drakes with the fair B'Ella's heart, have I?"
"You know you have, Paris. You've danced with her at every ball. If she doesn't want to dance, you sit with her. You've insinuated yourself into picnics and parties at every turn just to be near her." Chakotay paced in front of the fireplace. "People are starting to talk about your distinct attention to her."
"Ah, but has B'Ella? Has your sister actually said anything about my raising her hopes?" Paris asked, a smile playing about his lips.
The Marquis stopped short, a frustrated expression on his face. "She won't say a word against you, damn it. You've got her under some kind of spell!"
"B'Ella's a nice girl and I like her a great deal. But I'm not attracted to her nor she to me. We do, however, share an area of mutual interest."
Lord Thomas came up next to him and leaned to whisper in his ear. "You, my dear Marquis. I sit and dance with your sister so I can talk about you. I join parties so I can be near you. She thinks it's all quite romantic."
Chakotay tried to move away in surprise but found himself backed up against the wall as Paris's hands came up to cup the back of his head. He felt the heat of the younger man's body along his own. "You should have asked what my intentions are toward you, Chakotay," he heard, and then Paris's lips descended upon his own and he could hear nothing except the roaring of his own pulse.
And now we shall leave the boys to their own devices, just like any self-respecting Regency novel. By the bye,Georgette Heyer is a goddess and the 'gentleman/nobleman' line is an almost verbatim steal from 'The Devil's Cub', one of her best.