Captive Prince:Book One of the Captive Prince Trilogy(84)

By: C. S. Pacat

Pale brows arched a fraction. “Your virtue’s safe. It’s just water. Probably.” Laurent took a sip, then lowered the goblet, holding it in refined fingers. He glanced at the chair, as a host might offering a seat, and said, as though the words amused him, “Make yourself comfortable. You are going to stay the night.”

“No restraints?” said Damen. “You don’t think I’ll try to leave, pausing only to kill you on the way out?”

“Not until we get closer to the border,” said Laurent. He returned Damen’s gaze evenly. There was no sound but the crack and pop of the banked fire.

“You really do have ice in your veins, don’t you?” said Damen.

Laurent placed the goblet carefully back on the table and picked up the knife.

It was a sharp knife, made for cutting meat. Damen felt his pulse quicken as Laurent came forward. Only a handful of nights ago, he had watched Laurent slit a man’s throat, spilling blood as red as the silk that covered this room’s bed. He felt shock as Laurent’s fingers touched his, pressing the hilt of the knife into his hand. Laurent took hold of Damen’s wrist below the gold cuff, firmed his grip, and drew the knife forward so that it was angled towards his own stomach. The tip of the blade pressed slightly into the dark blue of his prince’s garment.

“You heard me tell Orlant to leave,” said Laurent.

Damen felt Laurent’s grip slide down his wrist to his fingers, and tighten.

Laurent said, “I am not going to waste time on posturing and threats. Why don’t we clear up any uncertainty about your intentions?”

It was well-placed, just below the rib cage. All he would have to do was push in, then angle up.

He was so infuriatingly sure of himself, proving a point. Damen felt desire come hard upon him: not wholly a desire for violence, but a desire to drive the knife into Laurent’s composure, to force him to show something other than cool indifference.

He said: “I’m sure there are house servants still awake. How do I know you won’t scream?”

“Do I seem like the type to scream?”

“I’m not going to use the knife,” said Damen, “but if you’re willing to put it in my hand, you underestimate how much I want to.”

“No,” said Laurent. “I know exactly what it is to want to kill a man, and to wait.”

Damen stepped back and lowered the knife. His knuckles remained tight around it. They gazed at each other.

Laurent said, “When this campaign is over, I think—if you are a man and not a worm—you will attempt to gain retribution for what has happened to you. I expect it. On that day, we roll the dice and see how they fall. Until then, you serve me. Let me therefore make one thing above all clear to you: I expect your obedience. You are under my command. If you object to what you are told to do, I will hear reasoned arguments in private, but if you disobey an order once it is made, I will send you back to the flogging post.”

“Have I disobeyed an order?” said Damen.

Laurent gave him another of those long, oddly searching looks. “No,” said Laurent. “You have dragged Govart out of the stables to do his duty, and rescued Aimeric from a fight.”

Damen said, “You have every other man working until dawn to prepare for tomorrow’s departure. What am I doing here?”

Another pause, and then Laurent indicated the chair once again. This time Damen followed his prompt and sat. Laurent took the chair opposite. Between them, unfurled on the table, was all the intricate detail of the map.

“You said you knew the territory,” Laurent said.