Thorne stood at the weather rail, letting the wind and spray clear his head of the brandy. One task was completed, but the rest were still before him. He hoped that the Clarkes would take the news as calmly as the Major had. Somehow he doubted it; Rockingham seemed possessed of an almost preternatural calm. He'd had the urge to shatter it with a blow, before; now his thoughts strayed in another direction. What would that smooth face look like, if he grabbed the base of Rockingham's queue and pulled him down into a rough kiss? Would his hazel eyes look startled and widen? Would they narrow in anger? Or would they close, yielding to desire? Any of those would be a welcome change, but the last one especially so.
He shook his head. Even if Rockingham shared his tastes—and he suspected that was true, given the remarks he'd made about Marcus and Alexander—it was too much to expect that a peer of the realm would want the advances of an officer who was only a gentleman by courtesy. Even if he had invited him to dinner. Even if he'd seemed, once or twice, to be studying his face with more than ordinary attention. Even if he'd invited him to address him without rank... well. They'd meet again in London, something else my lord had invited. Maybe he'd get a chance to test his suspicions then.
It was filthy city fog, not salt spray, which blew against Thorne's face as he made his way along Bruton Street. He mounted the step at Number Twenty-Six and knocked at the door.
"May I help you, sir?" The Clarkes' butler spoke the words as if helping him would be very much against his wishes.
"Lieutenant William Thorne, of His Majesty's Navy," Thorne said. He supposed he'd be saying that phrase often enough, these next few weeks. "I have a letter for Sir Henry, from Admiral Lowell."
"I shall make sure he receives it."
"I was charged to give it directly into his hand," Thorne countered.
"If you will wait, I shall see if Sir Henry is at home, sir," the butler said, closing the door firmly enough to set the crape ribbons on the mourning wreath trembling. Thorne did not fail to notice that he hadn't been asked to wait inside. Either the man had a very high opinion of the Clarkes' importance, or, as seemed more likely, they weren't inclined to welcome anyone in a naval uniform just now. If that were the case, it gave him hope for how they might take his news.
The door opened again. "If you will come with me, Lieutenant? Sir Henry will be down to see you presently." The butler led him to an empty sitting-room with no fire lit, and departed without offering him refreshment or inviting him to sit. No, there was no love for His Majesty's Navy here.