Originally from the anthology For Love and Liberty.
New expanded edition available as a standalone June 16, 2017.
They are all rebels at heart…
Charles Foxworth is among New York City’s most fashionable men, though he is only pretending to be a dashing British aristocrat. Still, he is content with his role and has little interest in the war. His companion, Isaac Ward, has more invested in the coming conflict; Isaac was born a slave, and though he is now free, that freedom could be guaranteed if he chose to pick up arms. Then war arrives on the shores of the city and Charles’s idyll is over. He quickly realizes that the war could take from him the very thing he holds most dear: Isaac.
Word count: 15,000 words
First edition published by Seditious Sisters, Alyssa Cole, Lena Hart, Kate McMurray, and Stacey Agdern.
Bonus points to Jennifer Gracen who came in as a last-minute editorial pinch-hitter, for which I am deeply grateful.
“Pink, Mr. Foxworth?”
Charles looked down at his frock coat, carefully chosen for its fine weave and the pattern of embroidered irises climbing the edges of the lapels. The color was bright, yes, but didn’t strike him as being especially noteworthy, particularly in comparison to the rest of his wardrobe. Besides, ‘pink’ was such a pedestrian descriptor. The color was more like that of a rose at twilight.
“What of it?” Charles asked.
Isaac raised an eyebrow. “This color is a bit ostentatious, even for you. Last week’s ruffles were one thing, but—”
“I’ll have you know, Monsieur du Rochelle ordered this fabric especially for me from a little shop in London.”
“Yes, but perhaps we could limit ourselves to one affectation at a time. The coat is lovely, but paired with those breeches and the striped stockings, it is all a bit much, no?”
“It is perfect.”
Isaac let out an exasperated breath. He tugged on the lapels of the coat, forcing it to fit tightly across Charles’s shoulders.
“You are perhaps the worst valet a man ever had,” Charles said. “I should punish you for such insubordination.”
Isaac smoothed his hands down the front of the coat. “But you won’t.”
Isaac smiled slowly. “You seem to forget sometimes that I am not actually your servant.”
Charles smiled back. “You will never let me forget.”
Isaac took a step back and ran his gaze up and down Charles, as if he were admiring his own artwork. “You seem to forget, too, that we are at war. Perhaps a bit of austerity is in order.”
Charles waved his hand. “Austerity? Bah. Nay, the toll of war is perhaps an even greater reason to celebrate life. Do you not agree?”
Isaac did look skeptical, although he’d always dressed modestly. Presently, he wore a faded red waistcoat and shirtsleeves, and Charles knew he’d don the dull blue frock coat before they went outside. His clothes were usually plain, woolen things in somber colors. Isaac’s long, dark hair was pulled back from his smooth, brown face and tied with a simple black ribbon at the base of his neck; he never wore wigs or hair powder. He never wore any sort of ornamentation, save occasionally buckles on his shoes. And even now, he stared at Charles with those startling blue eyes of his and that seemed ornamentation enough.
“Do you think me excessive?” Charles asked, turning toward the mirror. “’Tis merely a dinner party at Colonel Bradon’s house I’m forced to attend. I suppose I could wear the green coat. Or the dark red one.”
Isaac gave Charles a half-smile. “You look fine, Mr. Foxworth.”
“You do think me foolish, though, I suspect.” Charles waved his hand dismissively. “No matter. I shall go attend the soirée as my old ridiculous self, and all the ladies will wonder why I have not yet succumbed to the charms of matrimony, because isn’t my new coat just dear, and oh, you know how it is, sweet lady, I merely have yet to find the right woman to warm my heart.”
Isaac looked on while Charles nattered on with a frown on his face. “Charles, I know—”
“Oh, pish, ’tis fine for you to stand there frowning. You do not have to converse with these people.”
Isaac rolled his eyes and stepped forward. He ran his hands over Charles’s shoulders one last time, smoothing out any stray wrinkles or imperfections in the new coat. Charles relished the touch, the warmth of Isaac’s palms, even through all the fancy fabric. Charles liked the affectations, the fine clothes, the carefully cultivated mannerisms, but he liked being naked with Isaac as well, perhaps more so.
He ducked his head and pressed his lips against Isaac’s. Isaac sighed into his mouth and snaked those warm hands up the back of his neck to the edge of his wig.
Isaac pulled back. “I wish to run my fingers through your hair. Without the wig.”
“I know, darling. I wish that, too, but Colonel Bradon and obligation call.”
“You look fine, as always. A bit like a peacock, perhaps, but devastating in your charms, and so very handsome.”
Charles smiled. “Thank you, dearest Isaac. I do appreciate a compliment. You are looking quite rugged today. Perhaps you are a mere beaver hat away from throwing that musket over your shoulder and marching off to war without me.”
“I swore I would not.”
“Yes. I am glad for it. I know not quite what I would do without you.”
Isaac stepped back and crossed his arms over his chest. “You would have to put on your peacock-colored clothes all on your own, I expect.”
“Where would the joy be in that?”
Charles tugged on his coat and examined himself in the mirror. He looked passable. A bit tired. Perhaps the rose-colored coat was making his skin look a bit sallow. It was too late to worry about that, however, because he would be late if he dallied any longer.
No matter that he would rather spend the evening with Isaac than with Colonel Bradon and his band of merry Loyalists, even with the new coat.