Subject 15: Ch 18

Fane shifted, his skin prickling at the heavy embroidery rubbing along his scars. He still wasn’t keen on the new clothes, though he was getting used to them. He studied himself in the mirror hung on the inside of his wardrobe. Black kurta, black churidar, black leather jutti. He had to admit, it all moved nicely and fit comfortably, but it didn’t have all the hiding places his gear afforded him.

He sighed. The silver embroidery around the yoke and arms seemed too formal for him. He seldom saw anyone else wearing black. Was he standing out too much? He clicked his tongue, pulling once more at his clothes. He ran his hand through his hair. It had grown past standard issue. He reached for his gel. The undercut needed to be touched up, but the top at least could still be slicked back. He rubbed the gel into his hair until it set up. The mirror told him he was a respectable individual at face value, but the snide smile hidden under the surface called him a faker. 

Adjusting his harness, he ignored the cruel personality in the reflection. The leather had been constructed as a sash with the attachment option to have a secondary harness hitched to it to go under his right arm for a gun. His Glock shined against the raven colour of his clothes. Walking death. Intimidation was good and all, but would it be wrong in front of the oil Baron that the Prince was trying to impress?

A hard rap at the door told him to hurry up. He flicked the latch and let Shelly in while he went and washed his hands of the gel. “Did the tailor make it?” Shelly demanded. Fane nodded, wiping his wet hands on a towel. “The jeweller?” she pressed. He pointed to the box on the table. Inside was a torc style choker, a pair of gold rings, and a set of heavy gold bracelets. Shelly walked over to look at the pieces admiringly. A faint pink-red crept across her face. 

“I was lucky to get away with him not piercing my ears,” he grouched.

“He can joke!” Shelly exclaimed. Fane gave her the most withering gaze he could afford before a smile tugged at his lip.

“And he thinks he’s funny?” She turned away from him and put on an exaggerated pout.

How long had it been since he had a woman tease him? The men would do it occasionally at base, but most women didn’t really approach him too much. “Don’t get used to it; I’m testing a theory.” He tugged at his sleeves. A sneer passed over his face momentarily. Nothing felt comfortable.

“That you won’t get struck by lightning for knowing how to laugh?” She contemplated the cloth swatches lying next to the jewellery. They were all a varying shade of red and gold embroidery. A slight gasp escaped her. Fane looked at her, puzzled. “What?” he asked, walking over to look at the pieces. The patterns were subtly different, but nothing he recognised as having any meaning.

“Nothing. I remembered something, that’s all. Come on, you’ll be late to meet with Prince Ishan. How have lessons been going?” She led the way out of the room.

“Pretty good,” he answered her in Punjabi.

“Fantastic!” she answered back.

“I doubt I’ll ever be as fluent in it as Prince Orlov is in English, but I hope to have enough command in it in the next year that I can comfortably direct the men here,” he switched back to English. He was in the early phrases part of his lessons, though his teacher was already pressing him into speaking simple sentences. He locked the door behind them and proceeded down the hallway to the Prince’s office. Ajay was there retrieving a packet of papers. Fane greeted him.

“Shelly, why am I wearing black today?” he whispered to the woman while they waited for the Prince to come out of the private bathroom attached to the office.

“It’s intimidating.” She raised a shoulder.

“I thought so.” He nodded.

“Usually, it’s reserved for funerals and sad times.” She picked at a wrinkle under his sash.

“Is this going to be a problem with the Baron?” he asked. 

A frown crossed her face. “It’ll leave an impression, but I don’t think it’ll matter too much to the man.” 

Fane led her over to his preferred spot of observation. “What are you doing today?” he asked her, trying to make conversation while they waited for the Prince and valet.

“I have a meeting at the local museum to view a collection of antique swords.” Her eyes gleamed.

“That sounds like fun,” he chuckled. Shelly was practically salivating. If he gave her room, she’d start on a dissertation or two. To him, going and seeing a collection of swords sounded thrilling compared with what he was about to do.

“I’m tracing the history of religious memorabilia right now for this section, and some of the swords are ceremonial in nature. I want to see if there are enough symbols on them to draw a couple of conclusions on that I’m hypothesising about.” She gestured broadly to the room.  Fane suspected she was imagining the museum cases at her fingertips as she explained about sword hilt decorations. “Ajay’s joining me,” she added quietly, watching the large man through mascara eyelashes. Fane glanced between her and the bodyguard. Her cheeks were slightly flushed. Was he Shelly’s date that night he had joined Prince Orlov for his family dinner?

The Prince finally emerged, dressed in a bright white kurta and white dhoti, interrupted with onyx threading to mimic Fane’s own attire. His platinum hair was half pulled back with a silver hair stick. The pinch in Fane’s side kneaded into him. The walking embodiment of mercury turned to Ajay and said a couple of words. Ajay came up to a formal salute and nodded to Shelly. She followed him out of the room while Prince Orlov took up his seat behind his desk.

“Good morning, Mr Anson.” The Prince said as he went searching about his desk for a specific paper.

“Good morning, Mr Orlov,” Fane waited at the Prince’s desk.

“I will be talking to the Baron today. I have had Griyashi reschedule your language lessons for after.”

“Very good, sir. I was reminded by both the tailor and the jeweller of the formal gala this evening.” Fane bowed at the hip and stepped back from the desk.

“Was the tailor able to get everything set?” The Prince sorted through documents.

“Yes, sir,” Fane responded as he found his comfortable spot, out of the view of windows and doors, a shadowed place that gave him a full view of everything.

At eleven, Fane escorted Prince Orlov from his office to the waiting limousine in the courtyard. He was not keen on the idea that they would be going to the Baron’s house for this meeting. It did not fit with the hierarchy of royalty. Fane stated as much to the Prince once they were seated and on the road.

“I don’t blame you for the opinion. I’d rather have my meetings in my offices too. The Palace is one of the safest places I know of in this country. However, I don’t trust this man much farther than I can throw him. I’d rather he not even have been invited to the gala. I will meet with him at his estate to avoid having him on ours as much as possible,” the Prince admitted.

“Is he something to be feared?” Fane’s hand immediately crept to his side, counting the hard edges of sheaths and holsters. The Prince watched out the window, quietly thinking. Fane studied the line of his throat, the tension in his shoulder. Orlov sighed and shrugged, not voicing a reply.

Pulling into a lavish white and gold-plated monstrosity of a mansion, Fane developed a critical perspective of what the Baron was compensating for. The flowers blooming from every spot imaginable were white. Even the green plants that provided a base to the landscaping were explicitly chosen for their variegated white lines. Through the car vents, air circulated in with the deep smell of honeysuckle, brushing away the pungent smells of the city streets.

Fane and Orlov made their way into the Baron’s house to be seated in what Fane could only classify as a parlour that Midas’s cat threw up on. Everything was gold and white. Even the table linens were embroidered in gold. Fane took up a position to the side and behind the Prince, who seated himself on the most prominent chair in the room.

Twenty minutes later and the Baron finally made his appearance. Fane’s stomach soured immediately. The stocky man was dressed to match his house. Every finger held a heavy gold ring. About his neck hung several gold chains. He reeked of exotic tobacco.

The Baron appraised Fane with open, withering, dismissive, incredulity. He seated himself, his retainers seeing to his comforts. Behind him stood his two bodyguards, both in contrasting yellow to the Baron.

The man and the Prince exchanged formalities, which Fane was able to understand without too much difficulty, though nuances regarding hierarchy and formal speech went over his head. A tray of luncheons was presented to the Prince, who went about the customary gratuities afforded such a gesture. So far, Fane was keeping up with the conversation. He watched the two men interact and talk. At the very least, they could be civil together.

The Prince set down his bone-thin teacup on its dish. His tone shifted. Prince Orlov leaned back in his chair, watching the Baron steadily. Fane could only catch snippets of what was being said now. Larger, longer words interspersed with English imported vocabulary. Dialling the sound down, he left the business talk as white noise. He watched the opposing man and his bodyguards, observing the tension rise in the room. He waited, ready to come over the chair and put himself between the three men and the Prince.

The ornate man snapped a finger, and another retainer appeared with a set of blue rolled papers. Fane shifted, catching his employer’s eye. The Prince nodded to him. He approached the man with the documents and asked to look at the rolls in his best mastery of the phrase his teacher had taught him that morning. They were general blueprints, nothing hidden in the tight bundles. He returned it to the man and allowed him to spread them out on the table.

Fane returned back to his position, hoping he had been clear and steady in his presentation. The Prince and the Baron returned to their discussion. The bodyguards appeared board. The man who had brought in the blueprints had already left.

The rest of the afternoon dragged on as the Baron and the Prince talked solemnly about the blueprints. They looked like topographic maps to Fane, but that seemed odd to have been constructed on architectural papers. Prince Orlov would explain to him if necessary; otherwise, he didn’t need to know.

As the sun cast long shadows through stained glass and the white and gold room glowed a warm honey shade, the Prince wrapped up his conversation with the man. The Baron asked about the preparations of the gala. They were finally utilising small talk again, enough that Fane could decipher what they were discussing again. Would they have enough time to get back to the palace and prepare? It would be fine, the Prince reassured as he signalled for Fane to follow him out the door. The Baron wished him well as he saw them out the entrance and into the limousine.

The grand receiving hall glittered and dazzled. Gold-toned chandeliers burned overhead. Men and women dressed in formal attire milled around the edges, leaving way in the centre of the parquet floor for couples waltzing to strains of Bach. Night had set beyond the two-story windows, leaving the red velvet windows in dusky violets and soft crimson. Waiters floated amongst the crowd, glasses of wine and champagne gleaming on silver platters.

Fane tugged at his shirt. It was similar to the outfit he had first seen the Prince wear at the general’s dinner party. Orlov had mentioned the party to him during one of their many meetings that had taken place that week leading up to him taking over the men’s training. Initially, he tried to get out of it. Parties weren’t his thing.

Orlov had informed him Ajay would require assistance as guards for him during the party. It was an important time for Fane to meet with individuals of status that had to come in and out of the palace. He would have to familiarise himself with many people, and the party would be a prime moment to meet the merchants and nobles in question.

Orlov’s personal tailor showed up at his door first thing upon the Prince and his return from the Baron. Looking down at himself, he couldn’t believe what he was wearing. Admittedly, it was comfortable but bizarre. It was significantly more formal and form-fitting than any of the other outfits he had been bequeathed earlier. His shirt went down below his knees – a long kurta with elaborate embroidery. His pants were a weird level of tight and loose in all the wrong places. Shelly stepped in with instructions on how to get the pleats and ties to wrap appropriately. It was a couple levels more ornate than what he had been wearing earlier. The shoes. Now those he could get behind. They weren’t as stiff as his boots or the leather jutti, but he found them relatively nimble and silent on the flooring. The whole thing was red with gold trim from shirt to shoes. The tailor had gushed at how well it looked. He had to admit, the tailor knew how to match his fabrics. The snide personality in the mirror had even realised he looked good. 

Shelly led him around the floor edge, introducing him, but everyone blended together in a nauseating blur. On several occasions, she fielded a few questions with blushes and modest answers. Fane was only surviving through the most basic of conversation. He couldn’t quite grasp yet the nuances that were big questions. She had neglected to translate those questions that made her stutter and blush. He figured it was directed for her and didn’t matter for him.

Eventually, about his seventeenth individual in, he was beginning to stifle and wanted to escape. The man he faced off with was heavy, best described as round. Heavily encrusted in jewellery and gold cloth, he was off-putting at best. Fane had at least been able to greet him with a basic hello, how are you, nice to meet you greeting in Punjabi. It was the Baron from earlier. They chatted cordially about what Fane was doing for the royal family. Questions slowly stewed into a more pointed commentary. Shelly continued her translation, but they were becoming clipped and significantly shorter than what the man said. 

“Shelly, stop translating for a second,” Fane commanded gently, almost a whisper. She glanced at him, her cheeks hot. She looked like she was about to start crying. “What is this da vi’aha that I keep hearing?” He flubbed the pronunciation. Several times he had heard this when Shelly had not translated.

“They keep asking if we’re married. I didn’t think it was important that you need to answer the question when I could defend myself,” the translator bit out.

“It’s getting to you, though?” Fane led her to a quiet window looking out on one of the compound’s pools. The Baron stalked after them with a party in tow.

“I’m unchaperoned, leading around a man that is neither my father nor my brother. I’ve heard a couple of lewd things already.” She shrugged, her reflected outline bitter.

“Why not lie and say you are married to me?” Fane studied the crowd in the glass.

“Because I don’t want to deal with the lie later if I have to face these people again,” she replied rationally. The crowd, with the Baron in the midst, motioned them from the window. Fane followed Shelly to the floor.

“Fair enough. What can I do to make this easier?” He offered.

“I appreciate your thoughtfulness. I do.” She ducked as the Baron returned to his perturbed questions by his expression. Fane itched for his knife. His shirt was not convenient for the sheath he tended to keep at his hip, but the beautifully crafted leather and jewelled one at his back was begging to taste blood.

“What did he ask you?” Fane tested the waters, wondering if she was going to shorten what she had been asked. He pinned the man with dismissive aloofness, letting his icy persona drop the surrounding three meters of space a couple degrees.

“I’m being chewed out for being a little whore and you being some entitled ginger white boy if you want the gist of it. This guy’s a misogynistic, racist dick,” she whispered. It took everything for Fane not to turn deadly on the Baron. A chill ran down his spine. He glanced to his left. Orlov had appeared at his side.

Dressed in a white and silver matched version of Fane’s outfit, he gleamed, oozing his royal status. Lean and tall, his yellow undertoned fair skin and amber eyes screamed for attention. A formal turban, different from the religious ones Fane had seen on the streets outside the palace, hid platinum hair. Pins of silver threads and pearls hung from folds in clusters, sparkling in the glow of the chandeliers.

“Is everything all right here?” Orlov posed to Fane. The Prince’s face was closed off; a look of exhausted annoyance flashed through his eyes only for a second when his glance fell on the rotund man ruining his translator’s psychological stability.

“Shelly is done being harassed, and if she starts crying, I draw blood,” Fane hissed under his breath. The Prince glanced toward the petite woman in a sleek anarkalis and dupatta. It accentuated every curve perfectly yet left her covered in such a fashion as to not be considered indecent, even in such a culturally conservative region as New Punjab. Her hair was done up, and she had seen a cosmetologist for professional makeup for the evening. Orlov could commend Fane’s choice to be protective of her at the moment.

“Shelly?” The Prince directed the woman’s attention from the perturbing individual. Her cheeks were flushed scarlet, and her eyes sparkled around the edges. She informed Prince Orlov in as quiet and direct a manner as possible, keeping the explanation concise and unbiased. The Prince pursed his lips. They were in a bit of a quandary. All three of them needed to maintain some semblance of social civility in these circumstances to not jeopardise the royal family’s power, but all of them were done with playing the doormat.

“Shelly. How about you walk around with Ajay for a little while? I’ll act as translator for Mr Anson here. Take a break. If you want to leave, I completely understand,” the Prince offered. Relief eased through the woman’s shoulders. She thanked him graciously with a soft curtsy and joined Ajay to circulate with Prince Abhi.

That left Fane and Orlov facing down the man who had sent Shelly away with her tail between her legs. Orlov studied the Baron as he would study an ill-conceived farcically rendered statue, debating if it was poorly executed or if the creator had meant for it to be a philosophical statement on the quality of burnable rubbish heaps. Fane eased a step in front and to the side of the Prince, trying to provide him with some protection from the perverse Baron. Orlov snapped at the man. Fane shifted as the harsh words flew under the volume level of threatening hiss. The man turned ashen, a disdainful grimace raising his lips over his teeth. Those mingling close had gone quiet, watching the spectacle.

How badly Fane wished he could understand what was going on. He itched for his regular clothes, the ones with custom pockets. The ones in which he could hide a small armoury of weapons. This skin-tight outfit showed off his physique but did nothing for safety. He couldn’t handle that many people all looking at them.

“Anson?” Orlov nodded his head to the man. Fane snapped from the Baron’s profile to slide a glance to the Prince’s face. The man’s eyes glittered like chipped yellow diamonds, pinning the Baron. 

Fane eased up next to his employer, agitation slipping acid down his ribs. “Sir?” he breathed, wary he had dug himself a hole somehow with the Baron. He had a hand ready to draw a knife out of his sleeve if he had need. Tension resonated through his shoulders. The crowd had split, some remaining to witness the spectacle while others left to group around a massive doorframe. The rest of the royal family had moved out of the room into the next, where food spread on elegant silk tablecloths.

Orlov’s gaze dropped to Fane’s mouth and rested there for a second. Shoulders relaxed, the Prince leaned into his bodyguard’s ear to hide his face from the crowd. “Can you hate me for what I’m about to do later? Don’t slit my throat. Please, Fane?” he whispered.

The use of his first name hit Fane to the core. The burn in his side shot sparks through his scars, a rolling tidal wave crashing against his chest. He sought out the Prince’s eyes. Heat rose to his cheeks, noting the man’s fixation. Blond feathered eyelashes were lush and cloudy. His throat clicked in a dry swallow as the Prince’s eyes shifted back and forth across the slash of his lips. He did not have enough time to contemplate this change, or maybe he had all the time in the world as it slowed to measure every muscle twitch and shift between the two of them.

The Prince’s slim fingers found his chin and tilted his head back, exposing his neck. Orlov’s hand moved from his chin roughly, decisively, to circle behind his neck, his thumb feathering the soft spot under his jaw. Those eyes, Fane dropped into them, swimming, drowning. He was in trouble. Orlov pulled his head to him. Lips touched his, and the world shattered into a rain of comets and ice. He melted under the sudden contact, the semicircles of his golden-red eyelashes sweeping down over dusky blue to grace his cheeks before his eyes snapped wide in shock.

The Prince had kissed him. Not a peck on the cheek greeting either. The tick of the clock hand had stalled. He would swear to that to his dying day. It took what he could to contain the sudden shake that ran through his legs. Orlov withdrew himself from the kiss, leaving Fane perplexed and empty. He hesitated, regrouping his scattering thoughts before bowing to the Prince and stepping back and to the side of the man. The flustered man needed somewhere where the Prince wouldn’t be able to watch him. 

Orlov continued his discussion with the oil Baron. The man bowed deeply many times. Fane figured it was some type of plea for forgiveness. He hoped that he’d be able to figure out the language quickly. He was growing weary of not knowing what was going on. Irritation leaving creases at the corner of his mouth, the Prince dismissed the man.

Fane maintained his position at Orlov’s side for another hour as he mulled over what had happened. He greeted people with his shaky Punjabi and listened carefully as the Prince translated for him. His head wasn’t in the game, though. It was floating off on cloud nine.

After probably the fortieth introduction and exchange, the Prince made his way out of the ballroom. Fane followed him for a short distance around a corner before coming to a halt. Orlov walked a couple more paces before realising his bodyguard no longer followed him. He turned to find Fane in the hallway, studying floor tiles. “What is it, Mr Anson?”

“The fuck, Mr Orlov?” Fane ran a hand along his arm to still the shaking he could no longer hide.

“Mr Anson?” The Prince approached him cautiously.

“I am a man. You know that, right, sir?” Fane bit out. “I know you came to base thinking I was a woman when you showed up to recruit split-shot Anson, and I might have effeminate features, as I’ve been informed more than once, but you do know that, right?” Brittle, his voice slid on hot tears threatening at the back of his throat.

“Mr Anson, what is it?” Orlov’s fingers rolled as he fought to keep from shoving them in his pockets or crossing his arms to bury them against his sides protectively.

“I may not speak your language, sir. So, I probably am misunderstanding quite a lot of things here, but is it in your culture’s custom for the Prince to randomly kiss a guy full on the mouth? And I know that wasn’t any kind of greeting, so don’t insult my intelligence.” Fane checked his emotions behind an emergency wall. 

The Prince watched him closely. Fane’s eyes were dilated, the same as when he had first met the man. His cheeks were flushed like fever. He swayed ever so slightly; he could have passed for being drunk. His hand at his left was clenched, the elbow squeezing into his side enough to be noticed as different from his regular stance.

“I’m sorry. I may have ruined your reputation. If you have a woman back home, or…Ms Shelly? I didn’t mean to….” Orlov suddenly realised he had overstepped many boundaries. Fane was shaking. The Prince raised a hand to his mouth, covering an unruly emotion. He trembled as a cold draft chilled the hallway.

Fane swore he was being laughed at. “Am I a joke to you, some kind of status symbol?” His chest twisted tightly around his lungs, pinching and pulling to rip them apart. The lights above them dimmed, casting the hallway into harsh shadows. He was coming down from an adrenaline rush he had been trying to ignore while out on the floor. He had kept his feelings in check behind a mask of cool aloofness, but now, away from prying eyes, his exterior was crumbling.

“I am amazed you didn’t straight-up black my eye back in there. I’m glad you didn’t, honestly,” the Prince placated. Fane waited silently, wrestling with crushing the vestiges of his emotions from giving his tumulting brain away.

“Naag was accusing you of being a white spy that could never be loyal to me. I asked him what would prove your loyalty. He said that anyone not loyal to me would probably punch me if I kissed them.” Ishan tugged at his suit to settle out imaginary wrinkles.

“And you went along with that? Are you an idiot? Seriously? A kiss? What about stepping off the roof of the building or eating a scorpion? All that did was give him ammunition to smear your name.

“How’d you know I wouldn’t have?” Fane asked bitterly.

“I didn’t,” the Prince admitted.

“So, did you prove your point?” Fane flicked from studying the swirling pattern of the stone to the half-columns in the hall, anywhere other than his employer.

“Most assuredly, yes.” The Prince smiled.

“Well, I’m glad I could be your guinea pig, sir. I can escort you back to your quarters if you wish it. If you still need a guard for the evening, Ajay would probably be more than thrilled to work with you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m headed back to my room, Your Highness.” Fane fought his anger. He walked down the hallway, intent on passing the Prince and proceeding to the stairs.

“I didn’t mean to call your manliness into question. I was trying to keep -” the Prince began protesting.

Fane spun on him. “No, you were goaded into something stupid that could put your position into jeopardy while you did what you saw fit to continue ruling the way you do. I’m not telling you your methods were in vain. I’m just not in the mood to find out the reasons, ‘k? Follow me if you want a guard, else I’m leaving you in this hallway.” Fane turned, trying to keep close to the wall. He wanted to blend into the shadows and disappear.

“Mood? Reasons?” Orlov blinked as the ginger man walked past him in his blazing red suit. He caught Fane’s wrist, heavy gold bracelets clanking.

Fane stopped, refusing to face the man. He wanted to crawl into a small hole. Why can’t he drop it

The Prince took the couple of steps needed to put himself in front of the redhead. “Mr Anson?” The Prince asked again.

Fane couldn’t look at him. “You know that was your first time using my first name?” He finally looked up at the man.

“I’m sorry if that offended you, Mr Anson,” The Prince lowered his lashes in a bid for modesty.

“Prince, you are an idiot.” Fane freed himself from the man’s grasp. He made to get out from between the Prince and the wall.

“My name is Ishan,” growled the Prince, pushing Fane back to the wall, pinning him. One thigh pressed between his legs, trapping him. Orlov’s hand wound behind Fane’s head, tunnelling into his hair, pulling his head back. The Prince had expected resistance, knew Fane could get away if he wanted, but what he found was a smouldering heat in Fane’s eyes, a burning desire taking his ice blue to a warm cerulean. Orlov lowered his head, kissing him once again.

Fane closed his eyes, enraptured. He wanted the catastrophic heat to wipe him from the earth. The hallway shifted sideways as the temperature rose. Fingering the silk at the edge of his sense, he sought out the Prince’s narrow waist, pulling him closer. He wanted this to last. Fire ran the length of his scars, a heady numbness pinching his gut as Ishan’s thigh gently ground against him. A thought punched through his high about the same time the Prince pulled away. “Why do you insist on making fun of me today? I’m an enlisted man with no admirable background to his name. Stop,” Fane demanded.

The Prince pulled back, defeated, dejected. “I’m sorry. I thought-” Ishan began.

“I may have come from the streets. I may be a murderer. I have my pride and my honour, though. If I’m to remain being me, I can’t lose them now.” Fane was holding back the screaming burn encompassing him, making dark demands he refused to listen to. He looked away, trying to check himself. He needed to cool off. His body was coming unglued.

“Fane?” Ishan asked again. He shivered as the hallway chilled around him.

Fane finally faced the man, his anger cold and clear, his warm cerulean seeping into arctic glaciers. “I don’t want to ruin a good working relationship for a simple one-night tryst because you’re curious, Your Highness. You have a position to fulfil, expectations to uphold, and a family to save face for. When there is nothing here between us, I’d rather not ruin either of our reputations,” Fane bit out.

“But you -” Ishan tried to protest.

Fane levelled a disdainful look on him. “Don’t say it,” the soldier-turned-bodyguard whispered more to himself than to the Prince.

“You were enjoying it.” The Prince’s voice brushed up his spine. Fane’s gut dropped into his shoes. He couldn’t look the man in the eye. He couldn’t even reply. “Why not enjoy yourself for the evening?” Ishan offered. “You haven’t exactly told me you aren’t into other men, so I’m assuming things here.”

“Because I’m the one that gets to deal with the fallout tomorrow morning when you dismiss me from your bed. I’m the one that has to look at you for the rest of the time I’m here, knowing what we did and knowing that you don’t really care.” Fane shook the Prince off.

Ishan Orlov stood in the hall, mutely watching his ginger bodyguard walk away in the flaming red and gold kurta. His gut twisted. Resigning himself, he followed the man at a distance up the flight of stairs.

Fane led the way to Ishan’s apartment and waited until the Prince had closed the door behind him before he


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