“Wrath is going to be late.”
Saxton swung around. Blay was standing in the doorway and dressed for guard duty, his clothes casual, his loose, zip-up fleece hiding all kinds of weapons. His red hair was still damp, as if he, too, had just arrived from his home, and the cherry Danish in his hand took Saxton back to Sunday evenings when they’d just woken up.
But it was extraordinary.
The appearance of the male, the recollection of their past, carried no pain. Not even nostalgia, really. It was more like part of the grocery list of prosaic events Saxton had lived, like when he’d bought a new suit from his tailor, or the last time he himself had had a Danish here at the Audience House…or even the fact that, yes, indeed, his own hair was also a little wet.
The absence of complication was a peacefulness that he drank in.
Saxton took the piece of toast out of his mouth. “I am so glad. I’m late as well. I just couldn’t get out of—” He stopped there. “Anyway. We’ve got a full docket. What’s his arrival time?”
Blay shrugged and finished his last bite. “I’m not really sure. Everybody who’s here to see him is being understanding. I guess George threw up his breakfast, so Wrath is calling in a vet to make sure that the poor guy didn’t get into anything.”
“Oh, no.” Saxton patted around for his phone. “I should call the house—no, wait. I don’t want to interrupt. Nothing can happen to that dog—”
“Nothing can happen to that dog.”
They both laughed. And then Blay got serious.
“Listen, my parents are so grateful for what you and…Ruhn…have done for Minnie. I guess you’ve taken care of those developers? Minnie is such a wonderful female, and the situation has been really bothering Mahmen and Dad. You know how my mahmen is. She’s a worrier.”
Saxton went around and sat down. “You have the two best parents I have ever met.”
“They love you.”
“And I love them.”
There was a quiet moment.
“I’m really happy for you and Ruhn, by the way,” Blay said softly. “And I hope that doesn’t sound weird. It’s not meant to be, I swear.”
“I, ah, I didn’t know anyone else was aware of us. Not that I was deliberately keeping it a secret or anything.”
“Minnie told my parents.”
Saxton took a deep breath. And then he reached for his travel mug, slid the top over, and took a sip. The coffee was just the way he liked it, sweet and not too harsh.
Somehow, the fact that Ruhn had made it seemed to put the male here in this room.
“May I be honest?” Saxton said.
He looked up at his old lover. “I’m happy for me, too. It’s been hard.”
Blay came a little farther into the room. “I know it has been. I didn’t know how to help, what to do. I hated seeing you hurting like that. It just killed me.”
“I tried not to show it too much. I thought I did a pretty good job at that.”
“But I know you.”
“Yes, you do.” Saxton ran his finger up and down the metal flank of the mug. “I was not expecting him. Ruhn, that is. At all. I didn’t think I would ever…feel like this again, and it changes everything. He is—okay, fine, it sounds corny, but he’s my other half. It’s happened so fast that my head is spinning and it’s terrifying sometimes, too—but more than anything, it’s brought me such joy and happiness.”
“It only takes an instant,” Blay murmured. “When it’s real, it’s like turning on a light switch. Click, and then there is illumination everywhere.”
“Yes. That’s it.” Saxton found himself smiling up at the male. “I’m at peace. I was thinking about leaving, you know.”
“Caldwell? You were?”
“I didn’t have a lot to look forward to. I mean, setting up all this”—he motioned around the office—“was a great distraction. But when it started running right and was less demanding, I began to drift. The harbor appears to have presented itself once more, however.”
“He’s a good male. I didn’t know he was gay?”
“He didn’t, either.”
Blay chuckled a little. “You can be irresistible. I know this firsthand.”
“I am complimented by that, kind sire.” Saxton put his hand over his heart. “Quite.”
They both laughed—but then a pair of doggen hustled by in the hall, jointly carrying a Shop-Vac, the hose of which bounced along the floor.
“Oh, God, no,” Saxton muttered as he got back up and went across to the office. “That bathroom better not have let go again.” He stuck his head out into the corridor. “What has gone wrong?”
The two servants stopped and bowed, and the one on the left said, “The toilet upstairs.”
“We fixed it,” the other confirmed. “But there is water on the floor.”
“I’m going to have that replaced. Thank you. Continue on.”
The pair of flushed and happy doggen trundled off as Saxton turned back again. Looking into the eyes of Blay, he smiled.
“All is well.”
“All is well, indeed,” the male said as he reached out and squeezed Saxton’s shoulder. “Very well—”
“Oh, excuse me. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
Saxton looked over. One of the trainees, Peyton, son of Peythone, was standing in the open jambs with an expression of urgency, his weight shifting back and forth on his combat boots as if only the upper half of him knew he’d come to a stop.
“It’s no problem.” Saxton stepped back. “Come on in. Do you need something?”
“I’ve got an issue.”
Blay clapped palms with the trainee and then glanced across. “I’ll let you know as soon as Wrath gets here.”
“And also about George.”
Saxton waved and so did Blay, and then he took a moment to measure his new place in life, his proverbial new address, which was such an improvement over his previous abode.
All truly was well that ended well.
Then he refocused and went back around to his seat. “Tell me what’s going on and how I can help?”
Peyton had woken up alone, but he remembered Novo saying good-bye to him—and then he’d had to snap into action because he’d slept through the alarm on his phone. He hadn’t even bothered shaving. He just showered, threw his clothes on, and cracked a window, dematerializing to the Audience House.
Even though he was going to be late to the pickup, and would probably miss the bus to the training center, he had to take care of this first.
“May I shut this door?” he said.
Saxton, the King’s solicitor, nodded. “Of course.”
After they were closed in together, Peyton paced back and forth in the narrow area between the file cabinets and the built-in shelves.
“My father wants to mate me to a female and neither she nor I consent. We’ve talked things over. I’m in love with someone else, and she is…” He didn’t think it was appropriate to share Romina’s story. “She wishes to remain single. The problem is…our sires have come to some kind of financial agreement and we’re worried they will execute it and we’ll be stuck.”
“So your father is paying a dowry, then.”
“No, he’s getting paid.”
Saxton showed surprise. “Really. Okay.”
“My sire has been trying to get rid of me for years,” Peyton said dryly. “It’s like a garage sale. Except I gather my price tag is considerably higher than five dollars.”
“And just to be clear, both you and the female do not consent. She is firm on that as well.”
“Yes. But from what she told me last night, our sires have made an appointment with the King. They’re coming here. I don’t know when, except it must be soon. My father’s been down to South Carolina, where the other family lives, a number of times already.”
“Peythone is your sire’s name?”