Aston curled his lip as he glanced about the restaurant. “Well, well, look who’s here. I’m amazed Darling let you off your knees long enough to leave the palace. Or does he take the bitch role? I’ve never figured out which of you is the woman.”
“Oh honey, the bitch is all me. If you had a dick at all you’d know that.”
Aston shot to his feet, but Maris didn’t blink or back down.
Maris raked Aston with a sneer. “You lost your tongue or your nerve?”
“I don’t want to get fag blood on me and catch whatever disease you’re carrying.”
“Then by all means, shall I show you the door . . . or would you rather go out through a wall?”
“Come on,” Nylan said, rising to his feet. “I’ve lost my appetite.”
“You’ve lost more than that.”
Maris looked past Nylan’s shoulder to see Drake standing there with an expression on his face that said he’d heard the majority of this conversation.
Drake stepped back so that his guards would have access to the two men. “Brux Nylan and Aston Hyrun, you are both under arrest for treason and any other charge I can think of while I eat.” An evil glint shone in Drake’s eyes as he met Maris’s gaze. “I think they’re both going to find out all about the bitch position in jail.”
“You can’t be serious!” Aston snarled.
“This is outrageous!” Nylan shouted. “I’m calling my father.”
Drake patted him on the cheek. “You do that, puddin’. I can’t wait for your father to confront my brother.” He smiled at Maris. “We should probably sell tickets for that event, eh, Mari?”
As Drake’s guards hauled them out while they screamed obscenities, Maris glanced around the shocked diners. “Sorry for the drama everyone. Two felons being arrested is always newsworthy. But to make it up to everyone, your dinners are on me.”
Ture gaped at his remarkable offer.
Drake leaned in to whisper to Maris. “I’ll cover it for you.”
“You don’t have to.”
“Then let’s split it.”
“If it’ll make you feel better.” Maris scowled. “Why are you here, anyway?”
Drake inclined his head to a beautiful blond sitting at a table. “Date. It impressed her that I got in here— thank you for that, by the way.”
Maris rolled his eyes at how little it took to make Drake happy. “Thank you for your help.”
“No problem. I don’t like people insulting any of my brothers.” He held his hand up to Maris. When Maris took it, Drake pulled him into his arms. “Love you, bro.”
“Love you, too.”
Drake clapped him on the back then returned to his date.
Maris paused as he caught the strange look on Ture’s face. “I’m sorry if I embarrassed you.”
“You didn’t embarrass me. I can’t believe you came to my rescue.”
Maris brushed his fingers against Ture’s chin. “I told you I wouldn’t let anyone hurt you. That includes insensitive guttersnipes.”
Ture helped Maris clear the table as amazement filled him. No one had ever stood up for him before. He glanced over to Drake who was laughing with his companion. The prince was a lot more handsome than he appeared in state photos. And Ture could understand Maris’s devotion to the royal family. They did stick together in a way few families did.
Most of all, they watched each other’s backs.
When they returned to the kitchen, Maris told the waiters to bring him the tabs for the diners who’d been present during the confrontation.
Ture touched him on the arm. “You don’t have to do that.”
“Yes, I do. I’m not going to have a restaurant full of people smack talk my man or his business for something I did. What kind of bitch do you think I am?”
Ture’s breath caught in his throat. It was the first time Maris had referred to them as a couple or used any kind of ownership term for him. Maris hadn’t even realized he’d done it as he resumed rinsing dishes.
But Ture had heard it and it brought tears to his eyes. For Maris, this was a major step.
And it meant the universe to him.
* * *
Hours later, Ture was cleaning out the oven when he felt Maris behind him. As he turned, Maris gave him a light, sweet kiss.
“I’m about to run the receipts for my charges. You want me to batch the rest?”
Ture was surprised by the offer. “You know how?”
Maris grinned. “I do. Ana showed me.”
“Then yes. Please.”
“You know, I can also enter in the orders and do payroll.”
“Oh my God, I would love you forever if you did.”
A wicked light entered Maris’s dark eyes. “Forever?”
“And then some.”
Maris squeezed his arm before he went to Ture’s office to do the paperwork Ture despised with every part of his being. He’d meant what he said. If Maris hadn’t been perfect before this, this would have cinched it.
He looked over to Bertram.
“I finished the dining room. Is there anything else you need me to do?”
“No. I’ll let you out. Thanks for helping.”
It really wasn’t. Bertram had bitched under his breath the whole time. But he was reliable and, most of the time, extremely efficient at his job.
Ture walked him to the front door and bid him goodnight before he locked it again and checked the bathrooms. Satisfied everyone was gone, he headed back to the kitchen to finish the last bit of cleaning and breakdown.
As soon as that was done, he went to his office to find Maris entering orders. His hands flew over the keys. He was far more proficient at it than Ture.
He started forward then stopped as he saw a large shopping bag on the couch. “What’s this?” he asked with a frown.
“It was delivered right after Ana went home. It’s just a few things I got for the baby.”
Ture smiled. Every day something new showed up that Maris had bought for either the baby or Anachelle. “You keep this up and everyone’s going to think you’re the baby’s father.”
“I can’t help it. Zarya and Darling keep emailing me for my opinion on things they’re buying for their rugrat and when I see them and like them, I want them for Ana, too. Every baby needs to be spoiled.”
“You’re doing an awesome job of it.” Ture blinked back tears at how generous Maris was. He’d never known anyone with a bigger heart, and the fact that so many had hurt him made Ture want their blood for it.
How could anyone not love and adore Maris?
He moved to stand behind the chair so that he could rub Maris’s shoulders while he finished up. “How much more do you have?”
“Just this then I’m done.”
“Wow, you’re fast.”
“This is nothing. Try doing flight reports, schematics, checks and plans every night after you’ve spent all day on patrol. If I forget to order shallots, no one’s life is going to end and I won’t burst into flames an instant before the vacuum of space rips my ship apart.”
Ture cringed. “I don’t like that thought.”
“Neither did I. And I would have liked it a lot less had I ever done so.” Leaning back in the chair, Maris looked up at him as he sent the order in. “All done.”
“All done,” Ture repeated as turned the chair so that Maris faced him. “Hmmm, I think that deserves a reward of some kind.”
Maris arched his brow. “What kind of reward?”
Biting his lip, Ture shrugged. “I don’t know….”
Maris froze at the hot look in Ture’s eyes as he ran his hands up Maris’s thighs. He hardened instantly.
Ture straddled his legs then pulled him in for a scorching kiss.
Growling in pleasure, Maris ran his hands under Ture’s shirt, over the hard muscles. “You keep this up and you’ll never have to do paperwork again.”
Ture laughed as he cupped Maris then undid his pants. His breathing ragged, he slid to the floor, between Maris’s parted thighs. Just as he bent forward to taste him, Maris’s link buzzed with the unique tone that was reserved solely for Darling so that Maris never missed his calls.
Silently, Ture cursed the man’s timing.
Maris picked it up and answered it while Ture sat back on his haunches. He braced his elbow on Maris’s thigh and propped his head on his hand.
“No, it’s okay. Did you need something?”
Ture rolled his eyes. It really wasn’t okay. At least twice a week Darling interrupted them. The only thing that kept him from cursing them both was the knowledge that Darling was the sole reason he had Maris. More than that, Darling was the reason he was alive right now.
So it allowed him to accept something that would have normally made him insane.
“Yeah, I’ll be there in a few minutes . . . okay.”
Ture sighed heavily as he closed Maris’s fly.
“I’m sorry,” Maris said sheepishly. “The League is stepping up their efforts on our heads and he wants to—”
Ture interrupted his words with a kiss. “It’s fine, Mari. I told you. I’m not jealous. Irritated, but not jealous. And I’m not irritated at you.” Darling’s was the neck he wanted to wring. “Go on. I’ll take Ana’s gift home and have some chocolate mousse waiting for you when you get back.”
Maris brushed his finger down Ture’s cheek as he stared at him in wonder. True to his word, Ture had yet to get angry over Darling’s calls or whenever Maris went to meet him. Instead, Ture bribed him to hurry back with evil things such as the delectable mousse he made that melted in Maris’s mouth and left every tastebud in his head singing. “With extra topping?”
Maris hesitated as Ture stood back. “Are you still going to love me after you’ve made me too fat for my clothes?”
“There will just be more of you to love.”
Rising, Maris pressed his cheek to Ture’s, and closed his eyes as he savored the warm scent of Ture’s skin. For the first time in his life, he was torn between wanting to stay and needing to go.
He’d almost told Darling it could wait. Never in his life had he felt that compunction.
Tonight he did.
And honestly, that scared the hell out of him. He didn’t like change. He never had.
But things were changing fast and he wasn’t sure if it was for the better or worse. Pulling back, he cupped Ture’s cheek. “I’ll return soon.”
“I’ll be waiting.”
Maris nodded, yet as he left, he wondered how much longer Ture would be willing to wait.
“You about done?”
Maris looked up from the orders he was placing to catch Ture standing in the office doorway. “Almost… Did you really mean to order two hundred radishes?”
An evil grin spread across his gorgeous face. “I did. You have something against the mighty radish?”
Maris held his hands up in surrender. “Not the cook, but yuck. However, if anyone could possibly make something so repugnant tasty, I have all faith in your abilities.”
Smiling, Ture moved to stand behind Maris’s chair so that he could review the order Maris was finishing up for him. “I still can’t believe you do this for me without complaint. I detest this part of the business.”
Maris shrugged as he leaned back in the chair. “Paperwork doesn’t bother me in the least. And it makes me feel more useful than ruining Hauk’s night when I beat him online. Not to mention the real reason I do it…”
“And that is?”
He turned the chair around and pulled Ture into his lap. “The sooner I get you home, the sooner I can ravish you.”
Biting his lip, Ture put his arms around Maris’s neck. “I definitely like that thought.”
Maris kissed him until someone cleared their throat. They looked at the doorway to see Anachelle standing there unabashedly.
“Guys? I really hate to intrude, but my water just broke.”
With a light gasp, Ture launched himself to his feet. In a total panic, he started to Anachelle, then turned back to Maris, then circled around again. It would be comical if Ana didn’t need to get to the hospital.
Maris caught him by the arms. “Breathe, baby. It’s okay. I’ll lock up and finish…and clean the water off the floor. You get her to the hospital, and I’ll meet you there.”
“Okay.” He panicked even more.
“Ture,” Maris said calmly. “Look at me, sweetie.”
“Calm down. She’s not going to have the baby on you. I promise. Drive safely. It’s only five blocks away. Let her out at the emergency room doors, park and then head inside. Okay?”
“Gods, I love you, Mari.” He gave him a quick kiss then went to Anachelle to get her out of the restaurant.