Rae snarled in warning as he stepped onto the wide balcony, leaving the ballroom behind.
He’d let Lord L take Bene somewhere quiet for a ‘private word’ but he’d known the man was lying through his teeth.
When would people figure out that Benedict belonged to him?
Even if it hadn’t been his plan at the time, by the end of the second night it was the only thing he’d wanted, though he’d tried hard not to admit it. Against all the bloody odds, he’d somehow wound up with Benedict as his lover.
As his. End of sentence.
When would they damnable bastards get that and cease with their machinations?
Sometimes he wondered how many of them were put up to it by the King and Queen, who had accepted their son’s defiance with much displeasure – but Benedict had stunned everyone by continuing to defy them. Those first weeks had been a nightmare, and more than once they’d nearly given in and called it off.
Benedict was his and Lord L was about to be reminded of that.
The bastard in question turned from where he was standing far too close to Benedict, who looked weary and angry by the transparent attempts to entice him. If Rae had left well enough alone, Benedict would have solved the problem neatly and tidily.
Rae didn’t want neatly and tidily.
He wanted blood.
“Burroughs,” Lord L said with undisguised rudeness.
“I believe,” Rae said, forcing his teeth to unclench, “that you have been told before that you are to keep to yourself and away from what is mine.”
Lord L laughed. “That temper…” He clucked and turned back to Benedict. “Highness, I wish you would see the reason in my argument.”
“I told you to bugger off,” Benedict said.
Mouth tight, obviously displeased, Lord L stepped forward and placed a hand on Benedict’s arm. “But you must realize—”
“I told you not to touch him again,” Rae said angrily. He was overreacting, he knew he was, his nasty temper had always been at its worst when it came to his lovers – especially this one, for Benedict was so much more than a simple lover.
Lord L sneered. “Going to throw something else at me?”
“Oh, I’m going to throw something all right,” Rae promised, voice ominously soft.
Too late Lord L figured out what that could possibly mean, and he attempted to get away – but anger and jealousy made Rae quick, and before the man could do more than let out a startled yelp, Rae grabbed and pitched him over the side, hearing the satisfying sound of an imbecile yelping in pain as he landed in her Majesty’s roses.
Benedict smiled faintly. “Just had to outdo the champagne incident, didn’t you?”
“Shut up,” Rae snapped. “Must I lock you in your room to get any sort of peace and quiet?” He sighed heavily and turned sharply away, stomping back through the ballroom and out of it, into the crowded hallways, tension easing only when he’d finally made it to Benedict’s rooms.
Their rooms, really, except Rae was never allowed to forget that he was just a commoner, even if he was Benedict’s paramour.
No one seemed to think of them as more than that – paramours, lovers, with the unspoken understanding that eventually it would end. That, more than anything, drove him to lobbing heavy objects at interlopers, pitching obnoxious fools off balconies.
Could none of them see they were more than that? Benedict had never brought anyone to his room back when he’d seduced all and sundry at the bidding of his family. They both faced constant ridicule and harassment. Did everyone think they faced that for something so trivial as an impermanent liaison?
The sound of the door opening and closing revived the tension in his back and shoulders and he let another long, sad sigh as a hand landed gently on the small of his back, turned him so that he was pressed up against soft velvet, surrounded by the smell of myrtle, apple blossom, and the amber that seemed to cling always to Benedict. He breathed it in, tension fading away as Benedict simply held him.
“I am sorry,” Benedict said, voice low. Guilty.
Rae pinched him and looked up with a glare. “If I were mad at you, you would know it. I am not, so do not make stupid apologies.”
Benedict smiled faintly, some of the shadows in his eyes fading. “Yes, beloved.”
Rolling his eyes at the endearment, something that had started out as a taunt but somewhere along the way turned serious, Rae reached up to sink his hand in Benedict’s hair. The gesture was as natural to them as breathing now, so too the way Benedict immediately bent to kiss him.
Rae immediately took control of it, feeding his anger and hurt into it, taking Benedict’s mouth, bruising his lips, and he would feel guilty except Benedict matched the fury, and arms around Rae’s were nearly tight enough to affect his breathing
He broke the kiss with a force of will. “I suppose I should absent myself from the palace for a time.”
Benedict grinned. “Actually, if you’ve decided to start throwing people, I’ve a whole list for you.”
“I wish you were half so enthusiastic about your work,” Rae groused, but there was no heat behind it. He gave in to an impulse to taste Benedict’s throat, feeling his anger fall to emotions that only his prince could stir.
The moan Benedict gave him was a balm, a sound that he was determined none but he would ever hear from Bene again.
Satin-gloved hands smoothed around his hips, then one slid up to tangle in Rae’s hair while the other slid down to cup his ass, pull him closer. Rae hummed his approval and yanked impatiently at the neck cloth keeping him from more of Bene’s delectable throat.
“Bed,” Benedict said hoarsely.
Rae smirked briefly, thinking of what they’d done in the office yesterday without the services of a bed, but allowed Benedict to herd him toward the massive oak bed decked in blue.
His boot caught on the rug as they were nearly there, and with a startled cry he stumbled back, sending them both landing awkwardly on the edge of the bed.
Benedict chuckled and Rae made a face. “I’m glad there will never be a reason for you to carry me over any threshold,” he retorted.
That only made Benedict laugh harder. “No, beloved, you’d be much more likely to throw me over it.”
Rae glared and abruptly surged forward, shoving Benedict down on the bed, pinning his wrists. The scent of amber was thick and heavy here – Benedict’s scent, pleasure’s scent. Mingled faintly with it was the almond and sugar smell of the marzipan Benedict had fed him, bit by torturous bit, the night before. “If you hadn’t noticed, brat, I am more than happy to throw people around.”
“I noticed,” Benedict said, eyes full of a warm fondness that Rae could not recall seeing in the eyes of anyone but his family – and his family’s eyes didn’t hold that additional heat.
How, Rae still wondered from time to time. How had they gone from wanting to kill each other to laughing at their own clumsiness, to teasing one another? He knew, and yet sometimes he wasn’t so certain he did. Three brief nights should not result in such drastic changes.
But they had. Even now, two years later, Benedict still possessed that last mask Rae had worn – emerald green decorated with teardrop amber.
Still holding Bene’s wrists, Rae bent down to kiss him, slow and soft and thorough, different from the harder, hungry kiss of before but just as drugging. From that very first kiss Benedict had been more intoxicating than the finest brandy, more potent than any drug. His lips were soft, warm, startlingly pliant – it had always taken his breath how willingly Bene submitted to him.
Oh, not always, that would be boring…but Bene liked the way he took control, especially their kisses.
Rae did not disappoint, kissing his lover until breathing became absolutely necessary, drinking in the sight of the wet, swollen lips, the passion-dark eyes, trailing eyes slowly down the fine, lean body – still regrettably clothed – to the unmistakable evidence of Bene’s desire. As if it wasn’t apparent anyway. Smirking, he released his hold on Bene’s wrists and cupped his hardness, pressing firmly before trailing his fingers lightly along the length, smirking all the while. “Do we still want to talk about my habit of throwing things?”
“Yes, “Bene gasped, bucking beneath his touch. “However, we can set the discussion aside for a later time, if you prefer.”
“I prefer,” Rae murmured. Abruptly he let go and slid off the bed, stepping back. He shrugged out of his jacket and gave Benedict a look. “Undress.”
Benedict grinned and moved to obey, shrugging out of his jacket and tossing it carelessly aside before going to work on the studs of his shirt, eyes on Rae the entire time.
Rae returned the hot look, then let his gaze stray to lap up every new piece of flesh laid bare to him. Old jealously tried to stir, reminding him that more than few pairs of eyes had seen this very sight, just as countless pairs of hands had touched the body he would soon take.
It was there his jealousy – he admitted, not his finest trait – always was soothed. Bene had ever been the seducer, the one in control. Only one person had ever possessed the prince, and Rae would do terrible, terrible things to any fool he caught thinking about it.
He wondered if any of them were suitably grateful for the fact that he could not read minds.
Probably not. Idiots, every last one them.
At last free of the aggravating layers of clothing that society required be donned, Rae returned to the man waiting eagerly for him. Though Benedict was every inch a prince, with the sort of schedule and preferences that only the rich and seemingly idle could afford – he had long ago learned that Benedict was far from the idle sort. When not doing his family’s bidding, Benedict had often escaped into hunting or riding, even swimming.
The physical activity had given him a fine, trim and muscular form that much of the nobility lacked. Rae never tired of the sight, of making the muscles ripple and strain beneath his amorous assaults.
Hands wrapped lightly around his hips, smoothing around to cup his ass, and Rae moaned low as he took another kiss, this one hard and hot, making the hands exploring him stutter briefly to a halt.
He bit down on Bene’s bottom lips as he pulled away, feeling the faintest hint of stubble as he tasted Bene’s jaw before exploring neck and throat, tasted one fine shoulder before dipping his head to nip sharply at one nipple, then licked it slowly before moving to repeat the torture with the other.
“Rae,” Benedict gasped his name, long and slow.
Smirking, Rae continued the assault, pausing only to gloat – but it came out a startled hiss instead as a hand wrapped firmly around his cock, tugging hard, and when he was able to speak again he glared. “Behave.”
“No,” Benedict said with a mischievous grin, stroking him slowly, free hand running up Rae’s thigh, his side, splaying across his back to hit the spot there that always made Rae shudder.
Swearing, Rae leaned down and bit him hard on one shoulder, making Bene yelp, his hand falter.
“Behave,” Rae repeated, and was able to twist free enough to reach the bedside table, fumble with the glass jar there.
The scent of amber, already heavy, thickened even more, oil glistening on Rae fingers as he returned, shining wetly on Bene’s thighs as Rae spread them wide and settled between them. He teased lightly along the length of Bene’s cock, oil mingling with the wet proof of Bene’s passion. Rae’s own breathing grew heavier as he rolled Bene’s sac, the sounds that elicited more necessary than air and he tore his eyes from the sight of his hands on Bene only to look into the pleasure-glazed eyes staring back at him, a hungry need on Bene’s face that was Rae’s alone to feed.
Making a low, rough noise, Rae leaned forward to kiss him, loving the soft lips that moved beneath his, the tongue that tangled with his own, Bene as greedy for his taste as he was for the prince’s.
He reached blindly for more oil, hearing it spill but not caring as he had managed to get enough, pulling away from the kiss only to push Bene’s thighs far enough apart to strain, liking the way it made his legs tremble with the effort, liking even more the way Bene grasped the headboard and rolled his hips, eagerly riding the finger that Rae slipped inside him, crying out when one quickly became two.
Yes. Such tight heat, such fine hunger and need. No one else’s. Lord L might be the favored beau, and highly sought after – but it was Rae Benedict had chosen, with Rae he stood in defiance, and Rae’s name he was gasping in that low and needy voice.
Satisfaction and a burning need to claim thrummed through him, and Rae pulled his fingers out, quickly slicking his own cock before slowly pushing into that tight heat, groaning low as Benedict pushed back.
Never hesitant, his lover, not here.
Rae wasted no time increasing the fervor and pace, thrusts fast and hard and sure, Benedict moving easily with the demanding rhythm, eyes watching steadily throughout, burning with emotions they seldom bothered to name, never needing to. Rae leaned down and kissed him hard, the heady kiss matching the rhythm of their bodies, until he tore away to gasp for breath. He wrapped a hand around Benedict’s cock and stroked it hard, fast. “Now, pretty bird.”
“Hunter!” Benedict came, heat spilling over Rae’s hand, across his stomach, body clamping down tight and Rae shouted his own climax, spilling deep into his prince’s body. He collapsed with a long groan, moving only some indeterminate time later when Benedict slid away.
Grumbling disapproval, he looked up to express it when Benedict returned with a cloth to clean them up, and displeasure faded away entirely once they were once more tangled together in bed.
Benedict tugged on the cords that held the drapes open, leaving them in a dark, warm nest that smelled of amber and marzipan, salt and musk, faint traces of apple blossom and myrtle from Benedict’s perfume. Rae breathed it in, and pressed a soft kiss to Benedict’s jaw.
“We should go away for awhile,” Benedict said softly into the darkness, idly stroking Rae’s back.
Rae snorted. “A nice idea, but I don’t see it working.” Benedict’s family wanted him where they could attempt to take him away from Rae.
He felt the laughter in Benedict’s chest before he heard it, but the mischievous tone to it caught him by surprise. “We could run away. Perhaps off to a nice, secluded place in the mountains. Maybe a hunting lodge that’s fallen into neglect now it’s become unfashionable…”
“Bene…” Rae stirred, sitting up slightly, tugging lightly at the hairs on Benedict’s chest, frowning even though he knew Bene couldn’t see the expression.
But gentle fingers unerringly found his lips in the dark, tracing them fondly, before sliding around to tug him back down to lie on Benedict’s chest. He could feel a strong and steady heartbeat beneath the warm skin. “I’ve been quietly arranging it,” Bene said softly into the dark. “All is ready, we could leave tonight if we really wanted. If they want me that badly, maybe they’ll learn to behave and stop upsetting you.”
The heartbeat beneath him had increased to a furious pace, betraying the anxiety that years of training and practice kept from Benedict’s voice and manner. Rae’s beat just as quickly.
It was on the tip of his tongue to ask if Benedict was certain, but he knew Benedict wouldn’t suggest such a thing idly – and he’d apparently made all the arrangements.
To just leave it all behind for a time…no one to spark his temper other than Bene, no one judging and haranguing… He shifted, rose just enough that he could feel Benedict’s breath, knew it mingled with his own. “Tomorrow,” he said softly. “I can at least set your affairs in order for them.”
“Tomorrow, then,” Benedict said the words lightly, but he nearly vibrated with the same elation that was filling Rae.
Rae closed the remaining space between them and kissed Benedict with aching slowness, savoring every bit of it, dizzy with the knowledge that his pretty bird had contrived to escape – with and because of his Hunter.