Benedict nodded to the footman who took his things, then stepped into the private salon where he and Rae would sample all the perfumes and colognes they’d ordered, testing and debating….and he did enjoy these rare afternoons of theirs. No one but each other for the next three hours or so.

Except that as he entered, he realized there was a conversation going on. Rae was speaking…in a friendly tone…to someone other than him…

Glare in place, Benedict stepped into the room and suddenly understood for the first time why Rae always started throwing things when one of his former lovers approached him.

There was nothing else the man standing far too close to Rae could be. Benedict could spot a former lover practically with his eyes closed.

Of course he knew Rae must have had previous lovers. No one could know the things Rae knew, or do what he did, without one or two paramours in his past. That didn’t, however, mean that one of them needed to come into their salon, on their afternoon, and speak to Rae with that much familiarity.

Benedict snarled and crossed the room. He was the one who’d gotten Rae. He was the one who got glasses and books thrown at his head every other day. He was the one who got to stand that close. “Rae.”

Rae looked up at him, clearly startled by the chilly tone. “Benedict,” he said slowly. “You’re late.”

“I was kept overlong. You know how Lord Q goes on and on.” Benedict couldn’t help the ice in his voice. “I see you found other amusements.”

Ah, there was the anger. Rae smiled in a way that promised Benedict would pay and pay dearly for his obnoxiousness. “Highness,” he said, reverting to formality. “This is Brian Demore, an old friend from school. He was just telling me he’s finally proposed to a girl we used to harass on a daily basis.”

“Highness,” Brian said, mirth in his eyes as he watched the two of them. “It is indeed an honor to meet you. Rae speaks often of you in his letters. I would stay longer, but I’m afraid the girl in question is waiting for me, and I am running late. Good day to you. Rae.” He vanished quickly from the room.

Benedict blinked. “You write about me? To a former paramour?”

Rae glared at him, hand going to a bronze figurine sitting on a small side table. “Bene, we are friends. We were paramours, as you say, for all of one night. Now,” he moved suddenly, quickly, and only experience with his tantrums allowed Benedict to duck in time. The heavy bronze crashed into the wood behind him, and Benedict cringed at the bill that would be coming his way in the next few days. “Why are you being such a bloody arse?”

Benedict reached out and snagged his wrists before Rae could cost him anything more. “I’m the only one who can stand that close to you and live to tell about it.”

Rae only glared. “Not at the rate you’re going. Are you saying you don’t trust me?”

“Oh, right. If that had been Lord F—”

“Mention him again and you will see what happens when someone stands this close to me.” The words were a promise, not a threat.

“So you’re allowed to be jealous of my former lovers, even though you know why I bedded them, but I’m not allowed to be jealous of your former paramours when I know nothing about them or why you had them to begin with?”

Rae only glared more furiously than ever, and tried in vain to jerk his wrists free. “I’ve had four lovers in my life, Bene – that’s what, a tenth of what you’ve had? A twentieth? They all chose different people. I chose you. Now let me go or you will find out just how much damage my boot can do to your—“

Benedict cut him off with a kiss, suddenly in a very good mood. “I do love you, Rae.”

“You are mad, and don’t think you’re out of trouble yet,” Rae hissed, but his struggles, as Benedict leaned in to kiss him again, were token at best, and neither noticed a few minutes later when the master perfumer stepped inside – then immediately turned around again and locked the door behind him.