If the Shoe Fits

“You’re going to what?” Sean demanded, pinching the bridge of his nose, pushing his spectacles up. “What have I told you about having cake for breakfast, Highness?”

“Shove off,” Caspian said cheerfully. “I had a bit of fruit tart. And you heard me—I’m going to try the shoe on every last bloody person in the kingdom if necessary, if that is it what it takes to find the man I danced with at the ball last night. “You will help me.”

Sean glared at him. “You’re right, I will—by tying you to your bloody bed and leaving you there until you see sense! It was a ball, it was a tryst in a garden, and grossly inappropriate by the way for a prince to act in such fashion!”

Caspian rolled his eyes. “There is very little point in being a prince if I cannot occasionally get away with being an idiot.”

“Occasionally would be acceptable; every man alive deserves to occasionally be an idiot. But you are one constantly! You are not going foot hunting across the kingdom, I forbid it.”

“You’re my advisor, not my damn father,” Caspian snapped. “You do what I tell you!”

“I do what your father tells me,” Sean replied coldly, “And I quote: ‘Use any means necessary to rein in my reckless, impulsive, probably slightly insane son and keep him from driving everyone else crazy and murdering him in the street.’ Those are my orders, Highness, and I will follow them.”

Caspian made a crude gesture, then stomped off to where his bath waited. “You needn’t sound so happy about.”

“You needn’t sound like a petulant child,” Sean retorted.

“Shove off,” Caspian said again, and discarded his robe, then clambered into his bath, splashing soapy water all about.

Sean sighed and went to go pour a cup of tea at the breakfast table and look over Caspian’s schedule for the day once more. “You are far too busy today to go on a foot hunt.”

“Then cancel it all,” Caspian replied, head bowed as he scrubbed soap vigorously into his mop of strawberry curls. “I do not give a damn about teas and luncheons and musicals or whatever else my father has me doing in his futile attempts to make me the spitting image of my saintly brothers. Wonder what he would say if he knew Angelic Andrew likes—”

“Enough,” Sean interrupted, really not needing the image of the crown prince that Caspian was about to put into his head. “You’re not going on a foot hunt.”

“I am,” Caspian said, and Sean bit back a groan of despair at the stubborn tone to his voice. There was no arguing with Caspian once he got that tone, though he would try anyway.

At least, he consoled himself miserably, there was not a chance in hell that Caspian would ever find someone who fit the ornate buckled shoe with which he was obsessed. Caspian would tear the kingdom apart, but he would never find the foot that belonged to the shoe.

Readjusting his spectacles, he set the schedule aside and sipped his tea, picking unenthusiastically at his breakfast as he tried not to watch Caspian bathe. “So when do you want to begin your Great Foot Hunt?” he asked sourly. “I hope you are aware that your father will put an end to this foolishness the very moment he catches wind of it.”

“Knowing you, he will catch wind of it the very moment I let you out of this room,” Caspian replied, and abruptly stood up, water sluicing from his body—very golden, very broad, very well-formed and entirely too appealing body—and going everywhere as he climbed from the tub and stalked to where his clothes were set out.

Instead of the clothes, however, he picked up something else—

The goddamn shoe, Sean realized irritably. He was going to beat someone to death with that damn shoe before this was all over—probably himself, since this was all his fault and that’s what he got for thinking more like Caspian than like himself.

Stifling a sigh, he scowled at Caspian and said, “Put on some clothes.”

Ignoring him, Caspian strode over to the table and held it out. “Let’s start now.”

Sheer panic made Sean freeze for a moment. When he finally pulled himself together, he was rather pleased to manage a cold, flat, “No. You want to carry on with this nonsense, you go right ahead. I have little choice but to let you, in the end, no matter what your fathers bids me do. But I will not indulge your foolish behavior by being party to it. Find some other idiot.”

“Do you really want to drag this out indefinitely, Sean? Because I will,” Caspian said quietly.

The serious tone of voice, the solemn expression on his face, drew Sean up short. His heart started to beat rapidly in his chest, though he was able to keep his voice calm enough as he replied, “What are you going on about now?”

“I kept waiting for you to say something,” Caspian replied. “You didn’t. Then you were gone this morning, and only showed up at your usual time like nothing had ever happened. I thought you were just playing a game, last night. Did you really think I would not know you anywhere?”

Sean opened his mouth, then closed it again. He had thought Caspian would not realize—hard worked very hard to ensure it. Annoyance got the better of him, and he asked, “You knew it was me the entire time?”

“Of course I did,” Caspian said. “I’d know you anywhere, Sean.”

“I—why?” Sean asked, feeling lost. “You—you don’t like me, Caspian.”

Caspian scowled—and really, would it kill him to put on some clothes while they had this discussion. “That’s not true. Who else would argue with you constantly? You cannot stand people who mindlessly obey, you have no patience for people who act scared of you. I argue! I defy you. I keep you challenged and interested. You’re never bored around me, and I know this is the first time you’ve stayed so long in a post—and I’ve never kept an assistant as long as I’ve kept you. I’ve driven off every person who has tried to coax you away from me. You’re mine!”

Sean opened and closed his mouth again.

“I didn’t think you actually liked me, you know,” Caspian continued more somberly. “Not until last night. Then you pretended it hadn’t happened, and I couldn’t stand that. So tell me now, Sean—did you really just mean for it to be a tryst?”

He could keep lying, make Caspian so angry that he finally gave up. But he didn’t like Caspian thinking Sean was that callous, because he wasn’t that cruel, whatever the rumors said. “I thought that was all it could be, Highness,” he admitted.

“You’re a bloody idiot,” Caspian said, and threw the shoe at him. “So try it on?”

Sean rolled his eyes and threw the shoe aside, fighting a smile, unable to believe it. “Do you really want me to put that shoe on, Highness? Or would you prefer I take the other one off?” He smirked as his meaning sank in, Caspian’s thoughts on the matter plain, given he could not be bothered to dress.

“Off,” Caspian said. “All of it. Now. I want you in sunlight, not moonlight.” Then, in typical Caspian fashion, he bent and yanked Sean to his feet to take care of the matter himself. “I can’t believe you were actually going to let me wander around the bloody kingdom making people try on shoes. I’m not that stupid, Sean.”

“Oh, really, because I can recall—” As expected, Caspian cut him off with a kiss, and Sean was more than happy to set aside discussion of Caspian’s adventures in poor judgment in favor of keeping him too busy to come up with new schemes.

It might not be exactly what the king meant, but Sean sensed he would not mind.