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Authors: Charlie Cochrane

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Lessons in Discovery

BOOK: Lessons in Discovery
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This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.

Linden Bay Romance, LLC

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Lessons in Discovery

A Cambridge Fellows Mystery

Copyright © Charlie Cochrane 2009

Cover art by Dan Skinner and Beverly Maxwell

ISBN eBook: 978-1-60202-200-3

All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

First Linden
Bay electronic publication: May 2009

Lessons in


A Cambridge Fellows Mystery

Charlie Cochrane


For my family, who put up with my eccentricities marvellously. I, of course, have to put up with theirs.

Chapter One

Champagne. A dressed Cromer crab. Strawberries.

How Jonty Stewart could have got hold of strawberries on

the fifteenth of November only the angels could say, but there

they were on the table along with a jug of cream and a bowl of

sugar to indisputably prove their existence. Orlando Coppersmith reached across to take one of the little ruby-like fruits but a sharp slap to his hand stopped him.

“No pudding until firsts are done with, you know that!”

Jonty grinned like a schoolboy and began to heap crab upon their plates.

“Why all this opulence? I’ve not seen such a lunch in ages.”

The bright noontime sun slanted in through the latticed windows

of Jonty’s study, the mellow gold stone of St. Bride’s college

shining with a warm lustre.

“Do you really not know, or are you teasing me again, in

revenge for all the times I’ve teased you?” The blank look on

Orlando’s face seemed to show that he really had no recognition

of the significance of the date. “It’s exactly a year to the day that I came back to St. Bride’s and so underhandedly stole your chair in the Senior Common Room. Don’t you remember?”

Orlando smiled. “The day is forever etched into my memory.

That afternoon was the last time I enjoyed any peace and quiet,

for one thing.” A crab claw came flying through the air but he

swerved neatly to avoid it. “This champagne is truly


Charlie Cochrane

“Mother sent it, she always has champagne on her wedding

anniversaries.” Jonty admired the sunlight-kissed bubbles then

took a deep draught. “Do you know, the man who invented this

compared it to tasting stars. He was absolutely right.”

Coppersmith looked at his glass with something like

suspicion. “Just why did your mother send us champagne?”

“For our anniversary, of course. Do I need to spell it out to

you like I spell out
As You Like It
to my dunderheads of students?

She wanted us to have something special today, as she and father do.”

Orlando didn’t seem mollified by the answer. He knew that

Helena Stewart was exactly aware of what went on between him

and her son, but this gift seemed a touch too blatant. He drank it nonetheless, enjoying the food which he guessed Jonty’s mama

had also had a hand in providing.

“Seems appropriate, really—” Jonty had finished his seafood

and was ready for more chatter, “—as I often feel like we
a married couple in all but name. Oh, I say, let me slap your back.”

The food and drink had conspired to attempt an attack on

Orlando’s lungs and he began to choke. A whack from Jonty’s

strong hand dislodged the offending items, enabling him to take

several breaths, and another glass of bubbly, to recover. “You feel like we’re married?”

“Of course I do, don’t you?”

“I’ve never thought of it. Still, I guess that marriage of any

kind has never really entered my head.” Orlando frowned, having

to mull over that common thing, a revolutionary thought from


“Consider this. We spend as much time as we can together,

we often share a bed, we take holidays with each other, we are

absolutely faithful—well I am, I have my suspicions about you

and that chap from
the college next door
—so many things that any respectable married couple would do. It’s only the matter of 6

Lessons in Discovery

getting children that makes us different and neither of us have the anatomical requirement to oblige on that score.”

“And we can’t take the vows, Jonty, the marriage vows. No

respectability for us.” Orlando knew it galled his lover, not being able to walk hand in hand together along the river, never to be

able to dance together or show any untoward display of affection.

Perhaps one day the world would be a more understanding place,

but not now.

“Bit of a shame, if you think about it, because we live by

them. ‘For better or worse, cleaving only to one another’ and all that. Think we might do a rather better job of it than some of my father’s friends.” Jonty sighed, refilled their glasses and ushered his guest from the table to the deep armchairs before the fireplace.

“Such a shame that I can’t show everyone how much you mean to


Orlando’s chest swelled with pride. He knew exactly how

much they loved each other, and couldn’t help but bask in the

glow every time Jonty said something like this. He reached for

Jonty’s hand. “You mean the world to me, too.”

Jonty looked at him, as if he was making absolutely sure of

what he was about to say, which wasn’t a usual Stewart trait. “The university is modernising. These are new times. We don’t need to live in college anymore, you know. We could take a nice property up on the Madingley Road and set up house together. As long as

we had a housekeeper who wouldn’t be too fussy about how many

beds had been slept in. Miss Peters could probably find us a

suitable one.”

“A house?” Dining out of college had been shock enough,

going on holiday a jolt to the system, but to live outside of St.

Bride’s, that was unheard of. “And why Miss Peters? You don’t

think that she suspects about us?” Ariadne Peters was the sister of the Master of St. Bride’s, and the only woman, apart from the

nurse, permitted to live in the college’s hallowed grounds. 7

Charlie Cochrane

“I think it quite likely that she does, she being possibly the

most perceptive person in St. Bride’s. In any case, she’d be far too discreet to say anything as this college has seen enough scandal.

Nonetheless think on the idea of a house. I don’t propose it idly.”

“I will think on it, but you must let me recover from my

surprise at the suggestion before I can make a rational decision.”

Jonty nodded his head in acknowledgement and they refilled

their bowls with the last of the fruit. When there wasn’t even the merest hint of the existence of a strawberry left, Orlando wiped his hands with great precision then reached into his pocket. He

drew out a small red box which he handed to his friend. “Thought you might like this, as a memento of the last year.”

“So you did remember, you cunning old fox.” Jonty opened

the lid and immediately shut it. “I can’t accept this, it must have cost you a small fortune. Take it back, get the money and put it in your savings.” He flushed red and couldn’t even look his lover in the eye.

“I will not take it back and you will accept it. You were the

one who spoke of marriage, so perhaps this is an appropriate gift.”

Orlando opened the box himself, taking out an exquisite signet

ring—Welsh gold, of an amazing hue—that had been made

specially to his order, great subterfuge and a piece of string

having been used to gauge the size of Jonty’s little finger as he slept. “Please put it on for me.” He admired the golden circlet as it twinkled in the late-autumn light. Jonty could walk around

Cambridge wearing
ring and it would always be symbolic of their union.

Jonty slid the band over his finger, pronounced amazement

at the accuracy of fit, and grinned. “I’m ashamed to say that I

have no equivalent gift for you.”

“No need, strawberries in November are priceless. And

you’ve given me the best year of my life.”


Lessons in Discovery

“Truly? Even including murder most foul, an unwanted

suitor and our lives endangered?”

“Absolutely. Never been so happy.”

“And is that you talking or the champagne?” Jonty put his

head to one side, like a bird.

“Oh, definitely me. The drink would make me say much

naughtier things.”

Jonty smiled, indulgence lighting his face. “Let’s take a walk

up to the lock and enjoy this unseasonably mild weather.”

Through the latticed window the piercing blue of the sky, found

only in England in spring and autumn, mirrored Jonty’s eyes.

“Then we can come back here and read the sonnets together. Even

number eighteen.”

Jonty liked the early sonnets, although Orlando had been

terribly shocked to find out that the intended recipient had been a man. When he’d discovered number twenty-nine it had brought

tears to his eyes, speaking to him so clearly of his own situation—

the death of his father, the years of brooding and then the arrival of Jonty.

Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,

Haply I think on thee, and then my state,

Like to the lark at break of day arising

From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate…

Orlando always read it every time he felt low, which was

less and less often, now.

It was such a fine afternoon, they ventured far beyond the

lock to a stretch of river where a few rowing eights were

practicing, their red-faced coaches cycling along the towpath,

scattering ducks and little old ladies as they went.

“Did you ever attempt rowing, Dr. Coppersmith?” They’d

been content to use Christian names when they were in public on 9

Charlie Cochrane

holiday, but back in their own city they’d gone back to their usual formality.

“I did, with no great success. Every time I took to a boat I

seemed to have acquired an extra pair of knees and all four of the bony things kept trying to smack me in the ear.”

Orlando laughed and Jonty laughed with him. Orlando’s

attitudes had changed beyond all recognition this past year.

Before Jonty had come and stolen
chair, he’d been sullen, unsmiling, someone who viewed intercourse as akin to the

preparation of Egyptian mummies—he knew the procedures

existed, but the mechanisms were a puzzle and the process itself of no interest. Neither love nor easy laughter would have been

possible before Jonty came along. Anything was possible now,

even intimacy. Now they made love for all sorts of reasons, not

just for gratification but in friendship, for consolation, because they were happy or because they were sad.

Jonty smiled indulgently as they walked along, even while

he was sniggering just a little at the sight of a seven-foot oarsman suffering a tongue-lashing from a cox who was all of four foot

BOOK: Lessons in Discovery
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