Today I am so pleased to welcome Sebastian Nothwell back to Joyfully Jay. Sebastian has come to share an exclusive excerpt from Mr. Warren’s Profession (which we reviewed here and loved). Sebastian has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving a big welcome!
“The house was properly built in 1731,” Lindsey began. “Before that it was little more than a hunting lodge. Capability Brown designed the hedge maze, though we’ve let the topiary go since then. Would you care to see it?”
Aubrey hadn’t the first idea who Capability Brown was, but he acquiesced to the plan and followed Lindsey across the property.
The hedge maze, with twelve-foot walls casting impenetrable shadows, gave him pause. Uphill from the house, its elevated position kept its coils hidden. The air of a trap hung around the entrance.
“It’s not as complicated as it looks.” Lindsey stepped into it and looked back at Aubrey. “Just keep making right-hand turns ‘til you reach the centre.”
“What’s in the centre?” Aubrey asked as he caught him up.
“I suppose I ought to preserve the surprise. But since you asked: a folly.”
Aubrey didn’t wish to appear as much of a fool as he felt for not knowing what “folly” meant in this context, and so kept silent.
The path twisted, turned, and forked, yet Lindsey’s stride never wavered. He kept his head high and his eyes forward. Aubrey, on the other hand, had a devil of a time keeping his own head from swiveling back and forth between the dark alcoves looming on either side. Some contained shaggy green figures—the promised topiary—most overgrown into an unrecognisable state, though Aubrey thought one upright creature with two fuzzy antennae might have been a rabbit.
Aubrey began wondering if they hadn’t taken a wrong turn at some point. Then Lindsey, with a cheeky grin, brought him around the final corner and into what he could only suppose was the folly.
Six gleaming white marble pillars supported a domed roof over the larger-than-life-sized statue of a woman wearing a sheet and carrying a bow with a nocked arrow. She stood upon her pedestal with a hunter’s readiness, her head turned from the altar before her towards the wall of the maze, as if she’d heard something over her shoulder.
“Temple to Diana,” said Lindsey when Aubrey looked to him for explanation. “It’s not original to the maze. Father had it installed as a wedding present for Mother. Rowena and I used to picnic on the altar.”
“My sister.” Lindsey stepped up to the folly as if it were no more remarkable than a public water pump. “Elder sister. Keeps me in line. You’d like her, I think.”
Aubrey, about to follow Lindsey into the false temple, paused mid-step. None of the other men he’d fucked had tried to introduce him to their families. He’d certainly never met any sisters.
Lindsey looked back at him and, seeing his hesitation, added, “It’s terribly pagan, I know, but I assure you it’s quite harmless.”
Aubrey laughed and approached the folly. Up close, he could admire how the sculpted marble mimicked flesh and falling cloth. He could also admire the smooth curve of Lindsey’s throat as Lindsey craned his neck to point out the constellation map engraved in the ceiling.
On their way out, the path forked. Aubrey tugged Lindsey towards the shadowy right-hand path.
“That’s a dead end,” Lindsey said, a note of apology in his voice.
“I know,” said Aubrey.
Then he pulled him into the alcove for a kiss, and had the satisfaction of leading a dazed Lindsey out of the maze.
Lindsey Althorp, the only son of a wealthy baronet, has never worked a day in his life.
Aubrey Warren was born in a workhouse and hasn’t stopped working since.
Buoyed by Lindsey’s optimism and fuelled by Aubrey’s industry, the two men strive to overcome the class gulf between them. But a horrific accident reveals a betrayal that threatens to tear them apart forever.
Sebastian has brought two copies of Mr. Warren’s Profession to give away to two lucky readers. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Tuesday, October 30th at 11:59 pm ET.
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