Mr. Bryan Kellner adjusted his spectacles and then folded his hands on top of his desk. “I understand you are here to settle the debts of Lieutenant Brock Parr?”
“I am.” Shane sat stiffly in the chair provided. But the man was polite enough, even though he must have noticed the slave tag. “Lieutenant Parr has command of my financial assets now.”
Kellner nodded and turned to Devon. “And you are?”
“Devon Parr, Lieutenant Parr’s brother.” He paused to bestow that charming smile of his on the old man. “I’m afraid Brock racked up those debts on my behalf. University, you know. I’m happy to represent him now as we pay them off.”
The old man nodded again, apparently satisfied. “Excellent. Well, then, let us discuss the interest that has accrued and the terms to which Lieutenant Parr agreed . . . .”
Shane relaxed a bit and allowed Devon to handle this end of the conversation. He’d know if they were being cheated. Not that Shane expected such. Kellner and Sons had a reputation to maintain as a respectable establishment.
Before long everything was settled. Shane fixed his signature to the papers, hesitating when he reached his surname. He was no longer a Corlisa. He was now Shane bast-Parr—which, translated from the Draconic, meant something like Shane, dependent of the Parr Household. He gritted his teeth as he dipped the quill.
Devon signed beneath him when he was done. A stamp and a seal later, and the business was finished. By the next morrow the brass would be transferred from Shane’s bank to Brock’s creditors.
“Are you still planning to tell Brock tonight?” Devon glanced at him as they stepped out of the building and onto the crowded sidewalk of the Ridge.
“Yes. He can’t stop the transfer at this point.”
“And hopefully, between us, we can talk him out of trying. What about the rest of your brass?”
They started south toward the Docks. “What about it?”
“Well, what are your plans for it?”
Shane shrugged. “I haven’t given it much thought. I’d always meant to pay for an education or commission for Brock’s boys. Dowries for the girls, of course. The rest I was saving for a rainy day.”
“No, I meant—I figured you would look after my nieces and nephews. I hope to do the same; I ought to make enough brass of my own someday. But where do you plan on investing it?”
“It’s already in safe, tidy investments.”
Devon fell silent for a moment. “You, ah, can afford not to play it safe. I mean,” he added hurriedly, “you have the luxury of being able to play with part of your fortune, at least. Three thousand a year in interest—Brock barely takes in four hundred drakes in a year, even with Emma’s dowry.”
“I’m well acquainted with a watchman’s salary, thank you.”
Devon grinned. “Shane, if you would let me invest part of your fortune—say five hundred drakes; that’s a pittance to you—I think I can prove that some risk taking will be worth your while.”
He rolled his eyes. “Firstly, that’s hardly a pittance. Secondly, what do you intend to do with it? Squander it in this new stock exchange you keep panting over?”
“Oh, it is a pittance. You just don’t have the right frame of mind for that fortune of yours.” Devon winked at him. “And as for the stock exchange—yes. I mean to invest it there, but I shan’t squander it. Come now. Don’t you have enough faith in me to risk five hundred drakes?”
“You should be asking your brother this, not me.”
“Nonsense. Even if he agrees to accept your brass, he’ll leave you in charge of it. Besides, I have something else to ask him.”
Devon linked his arm through Shane’s, pulling him closer as they avoided smacking into a pair of lawyerly types. “I’m going to ask his permission to court you, of course. All right and proper; I don’t want to skulk about like Tammy’s suitor.”
For a moment, Shane was dumbfounded. But he found his voice soon enough. “You little wretch. If you ask—and if Brock graces you with a response—I’ll strangle the pair of you!”
“You’ll do no such thing. Look, we both agree that we need Brock’s blessing. I’m sure you pictured yourself asking him for it—”
“I did! Down the road, when we’re both sure this is what you want.”
“But it really is my responsibility,” Devon continued, unperturbed by the interruption. “And, besides, I need to prove myself to my brother. He knows you’re an adult, even if you are legally his dependent. He doesn’t think of me that way.”
“No. And don’t bother widening your eyes at me—”
Devon laughed. “Should I try batting my eyelashes? No, there’s no point. You’re going to give in regardless.”
Somewhere along the walk to the docks, Shane made up his mind to Devon. It was selfish of him, and devilish convenient—to be the lover of the master’s brother was a sweet situation for a slave. Especially when said brother was good-natured, intelligent and absurdly charming.
Well, he could console himself with two facts: his position in Brock’s household was secure. He didn’t need to use Devon in order to improve it. And Shane would bring far more brass to the companionship. Granted, that brass legally belonged to Brock already. But Brock wouldn’t see it that way.
Besides, Shane was hardly taking advantage of the cub. Apparently Devon had already lost his innocence while he was at University.
On the other hand, Devon would be lowering himself by uniting with a slave. But this wouldn’t be a proper marriage with a proper contract. Dev—it suddenly seemed natural to think of him by his nickname—could back out at any time.
Shane didn’t share these thoughts with Devon. There was no need. By the time he agreed to handing over five hundred drakes for the pup to invest on his behalf, he was sure Dev knew the matter was settled.
And that explained why, as soon as they reached his flat and closed the door behind him, Shane put his mouth on Dev’s and backed him against the wall.
Devon didn’t resist. He moaned instead and wrapped his arms around Shane, opening his mouth to him. Shane slowed down, allowing his tongue to explore at leisure and—no. He couldn’t let things go further than that.
Shane bit Devon’s lower lip, teasing it, and then pulled away.
Devon looked at him through half-closed eyes. “What’s wrong?”
“We need your brother’s blessing, remember?”
He closed his eyes all the way and pulled Shane back to him. “You realize that you won’t get me with child, don’t you? You really can’t ruin me.”
Shane laughed as he pushed off of him. “Nonetheless . . . .”
“Yes, yes.” Dev gave up. “It’s a question of honor. I understand. For both of us, I suppose. I’ll speak to him tonight.”
Shane put a hand on his cheek. His skin felt soft against Shane’s calloused fingers—but the trace of stubble roughened it. It was a delectable combination. “I may not be high in Brock’s good graces tonight. Not after my confession. I doubt you will be either.”
Dev turned his head and kissed the palm of Shane’s hand. “Do you fancy waiting?”
Shane watched a strand of Devon’s hair curl over his fingers and then sighed. “No.”