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She cheats on and I witness it for myself.
Owen walked to the door and closed it. "Sit down, there's something I need to tell you."
He sat down opposite Chris. "You're an enormously appealing young man, Chris. Having you cuddled up to me last night, and the touch of your lips, it was ... arousing. I wish that I could pursue my attraction to you. Lamentably, I can't."
If Owen had been standing, his knees would have buckled. "You're attracted to me?"
"Yes. I can't act on that attraction, but with your looks and your personality you'll have no trouble finding someone to sweeten your nights, someone to fall in love with, other than me."
"Couldn't I sweeten your nights?"
"No. I would be taking advantage of you."
"If I can make you happy it will make me happy. How would that be taking advantage?"
Chris's declaration put Owen in a quandary. Conflicting thoughts raced through his mind. He remembered how much pleasure he and Douglas had given each other, and that had been a relationship between master and servant. But it had been based on mutual love, and although he had great affection for Chris he did not love him. He didn't want to love him; he didn't want to love anyone anymore.
Admittedly though, Chris was having a powerful effect on him: Since Chris's arrival, Owen had gone whole weeks without pining for Douglas; seeing Chris each day was somehow dissipating his grief. Wasn't it only right to reciprocate by giving Chris the intimacy he craved? For that matter, shouldn't Owen grant himself that intimacy? The prospect of having Chris in his arms every night was enticing. While this wasn't love, maybe it was a worthwhile substitute.
But would it be disloyal to Douglas's memory? And what if he were to fall in love and Chris were to die? True, Chris was twenty years younger than Owen, but Douglas had died early so Chris's premature death was not inconceivable. Losing Douglas had devastated Owen. He was sure he could not endure another such loss. He would have to say no.
Then he remembered something Douglas had once said: "My joy would be complete only if you had the best possible life". In that instant he knew that by accepting Chris he would be honoring Douglas's memory, because the man who loved him more than he had known, would not want him to sacrifice the rest of his life to fear or nostalgia.
He rose and waggled a beckoning finger at Chris.
Chris searched Owen's face. "Does that mean-"
"Stop talking and come here" Owen said, opening his arms. "It means yes."
Chapter 7 - Hurdle
Owen had never gotten around to having the single-size bed moved out of the master bedroom. He notified Grayson that Chris would now be sleeping there, and directed that furniture be moved in for Chris's use.
Grayson had noticed Owen's stealthy glances at the young footman, and Chris's equally furtive glances at Owen. He hoped that this finally marked an end to Owen's grieving.
That evening, after changing into pajamas Chris went to the single-size bed and drew back the covers. He looked yearningly at Owen in the four-poster.
Owen patted the place next to him. "As long as you're back there in the morning when Mr. Jespersen arrives."
Chris hurried to the four-poster and climbed in.
But he stayed timidly at a distance.
"Don't be a stranger" Owen quipped, reaching over and pulling Chris to him.
Chris's muscles tightened.
"This was easier when you were drunk, wasn't it?"
"Well relax, this time you're here by invitation."
After a few moments of uncertainty, Chris happily snuggled up.
They lay for a while in cozy silence. Then Owen said: "I want you to tell me everything you and Devon talked about doing if you ever got the chance. We'll do all those things, and more if you want. In return, I need you to promise that if you ever dislike anything I'm doing, you'll tell me, even if it's something you asked for."
"I'll like anything you do."
Chris again tried to protest, but Owen repeated the requirement.