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The Hunting Box

by Alexandra Y. Caluen

Nick, Charlie, and Stephen, sons of an earl, a baronet, and a freshly knighted barrister, met at school and became fast friends. The young noblemen went on to university while Stephen read law in London. All three exchange letters and visits, even spending holidays together for the next thirteen years. Their terms of intimacy, while close, have been undefined: Nick and Charlie have a separate relationship, Charlie and Stephen another.

In November 1819, Nick invites his two friends for three weeks at his country lodge. He worries that their bonds may be sundered by circumstance: he is to be married. While this was always inevitable, they must all now face up to the changes it will bring.

Mere days into their country retreat, all three have confirmed their desire for more, not less, intimacy. Ideas are exchanged, affections shared, wishes expressed. Their days together strengthen the mortar of their new connection, giving it time to set.

Along the way, they indulge in every kind of intimacy, safe in the privacy of the hunting box. Will their plans and promises hold once they must part?


Nick was up and dressed before sunrise, intending to nip down to the kitchen, but stopped outside his room when he heard voices. Following the sounds, he arrived at Charlie’s room, where he tapped on the closed door. “Time for tea?”

A moment later, Stephen pulled open the door. He too was fully dressed and smiling. “Good morning.”

“How’s the baronet?”

“Repenting,” Charlie said from the bed, cradling a cup, heavy-eyed and regretful.

Stephen moved into the room, pulling another chair close to the bed for Nick. “I got in ahead with coffee.”

“You brought some?”

“I did.” Stephen arranged himself on a chair, brushing at invisible lint on his buckskins. “Your Mrs. Shipwood left a full kettle on the hook and it was the work of a moment to grind some beans. At home,” he said with exaggerated wistfulness, “I’ve only the one mortar and pestle. Your kitchen has half a dozen.”


“He’s brought chocolate, too,” Charlie said. “Apparently the secret to his neat figure is that the man lives on beverages.”

Nick stifled a laugh. “After last night, you’re one to talk!”

“And speaking of talk, should we?” Stephen made eye contact with the viscount, communicating that the mood conduced to confidences.

“I, uh, yes. Of course.” Nick cleared his throat. Stood to close the door, even though he believed no one else was in the house yet, then resumed his seat. “Charlie, Stephen and I spoke last night after putting you to bed and, not to put too fine a point on it, the terms of our intimacy have changed.”

Charlie looked from one to the other, consulted his cup, and appeared to be struggling with something. He finally gave up and laughed. “Oh, God, my head.” He set the cup aside, pressed his temples, then scrubbed his fingers through his disorderly hair. “Nicholas, my dear man. Do you mean to say you fucked? Because let’s give things their proper names.”

Stephen nearly fell off his chair laughing. Nick squirmed, mortified. “Not exactly? But, well, the intent was the same.”

“The intent,” Stephen said, wheezing. “Dearest Charles, I thought you wouldn’t mind, but truly? If I’ve overstepped, I apologize.”

“What? No! I mean no, I don’t mind. Why would I mind? Now all of us can speak freely and Christ, what a relief.” Charlie retrieved his cup, frowned at the grainy residue therein, and returned it to the nightstand. “That was wonderfully restorative, but one does find it a bit gritty.”

Stephen laughed again. “I thought, in the circumstances, to prioritize speedy delivery over perfect filtration.”

“I quite agree.” Charlie regarded his host, who was still pink about the cheeks. “Nick. My dearest dear. All the way here, when I wasn’t hoping you and I could indulge, I hoped Stephen would gird up his loins and speak his mind. I’m so very glad he did. And I’m so very glad you were receptive.”

Another burst of laughter from the barrister. “Receptive.”

Nick gave him an exasperated look. “Can you possibly compose yourself?”


A sigh, eyes closed, and a shake of his head. Nick then studied both his friends. “I feel I’ve been blind, or at least blinkered. I should be relieved, and I am, but I’ve so much to say to you both, and it worries me.”

Stephen did, in fact, compose himself. “No doubt it relates to Miss Ashton. Will we shoot today?”

“I thought a ride, perhaps?” Nick gestured to the three of them.

“Yes, so we’ll be free to speak,” said Charlie. “Then tomorrow with your gamekeeper.”

“Fine then. Tea, downstairs, and something to eat.”

Charlie grimaced. “For you. Ugh.”


THE HUNTING BOX also appears in the three-novella collection REGENCY LOVERS from JMS Books, LLC.

About the Author

A long time ago and three thousand miles away, I wrote my first novel - a historical romance - during graduate school. Twenty years later I finally dusted it off and published it. Since then I have written and published many more novels and novellas; all romance, most contemporary. My characters (of various genders and ethnicities) range in age from eighteen to sixty-five, with the average falling in the mid-thirties. I'm inspired by authors like KJ Charles, Laurie R. King, Dick Francis, and Jennifer Crusie. I've lived and worked in Los Angeles since 1995.

Statement regarding AI: all works published under the names Alexandra Caluen and A.Y. Caluen were written entirely by the human being legally named Alexandra Y. Caluen, utilizing no AI tools. This author does not grant permission for any use of the works in machine learning or generative AI.

All cover art for the works published as A.Y. Caluen was created by the human being named RK Young. The author image used on A.Y. Caluen paperbacks was created by RK Young with AI tools.