TEMAN was trying very hard not to laugh. Bathasar looked exceedingly annoyed, and Teman knew his lover was getting much closer to downright angry over everything he was having to do. But Bathasar was also an incredibly patient man—sometimes too patient, in Teman’s opinion—and was dealing well with what everyone was putting him through.

Which was a lot. Bathasar was used to making decisions; Teman knew this. But the amount of planning that went into a coronation was worse than anything Teman had seen in the nine months his lover had been on the throne.

At the moment, Bathasar was standing in the main portion of their rooms, arms out from his sides as the tailor pinned, tucked, and adjusted his new robes. Bathasar had tried to argue he didn’t need new robes, but everyone from Ahmed to Zalman had insisted that, for his coronation, he did in fact need to appear in something brand new. As such, he’d spent an entire morning the week before looking at swatch after swatch of fabric—and had later confessed to Teman they all looked the same to him, save the colors.

Teman knew Bathasar hated having to deal with the pomp and circumstance. He was perfectly happy talking to foreign leaders, working out trade agreements, and making decisions on things like land ownership. He could deal with dinners and court sessions, but he was much happier behind the scenes.

So, all the activity for the coronation had been wearing on him. Teman had, more than once, nearly dragged the man into bed to get him to rest. With the planning going on, he’d been spending his evenings and late into the night working on the duties he’d normally be occupied with during the day.

Teman couldn’t remember the last time they’d had sex. There had been too much going on. Bathasar apologized for it, but Teman knew his lover was having as much trouble as he was—and maybe even more so—because of it. But, thankfully, the mess would be over in one more week, and they could get back to some semblance of normalcy.

At least, Teman hoped so.

In the sanest part of his mind, Teman knew this was a formality. This was just a ceremony for the people of Neyem to celebrate the crowning of their new ruler. But Teman couldn’t help but wonder if it might change things for them.

He was used to change. He’d spent his life moving from place to place as a gypsy, members of his clan coming and going as the winds called them. He dealt very well, in fact, with it. But he began to wonder how much change this might entail. Would Bathasar realize there were other duties he would need to attend to? He’d insisted he wouldn’t marry, but he was the leader of their country, and Teman wasn’t sure Bathasar would continue to think that way. And Teman knew he couldn’t share Bathasar with a wife.

It was true they spent time with Cyrus and Nadir on a fairly regular basis. But that was different. There were no promises, no vows. There was no duty. They were friends to both, and they simply enjoyed each other’s company. Sometimes that meant sex, but as pleasure slaves, sex was a big part of who they were. With the conditioning and training still in place for him—and it would always be in place for Cyrus and Nadir—their minds were often on sex. And so, of course, that was part of their time spent together.

Would there be other pressures that might make Bathasar reconsider keeping him? He was, technically, a pleasure slave, but only in name, and many people knew it. Would his lover second-guess the wisdom of that now that he was more visible to the people?

These thoughts had been working on him ever since the preparations for the coronation began, but Teman did his damnedest to keep Bathasar from knowing what was on his mind. His lover had enough to worry about without his ridiculous fears.

He chewed on his lip as his doubts came back to him again, and he watched as Bathasar winced with another pinprick, this one to the shoulder. His lover did not enjoy pain like he did and was, in fact, a bit of a baby when it came to it. If Teman even accidentally pulled his long black hair too hard, Bathasar reacted badly.

The reaction made him smile again, and Teman pushed his worries back into the darker corners of his brain. If Bathasar didn’t want him after all… well, it would hurt—a hell of a lot, in fact—but he knew Bathasar would let him go and he’d figure out how to get over it. He’d go back to his family and find a way to move on. It would be his worst nightmare, but he’d do it. He just really hoped he wouldn’t have to.

“You look good in them,” Teman offered.

Bathasar rolled his eyes. “You’d say I look good in rags.”

Teman chuckled. “You have a point. But the red velvet really does look good. I like that color on you. And the tunic is cut quite well.”

“You know,” Bathasar said thoughtfully, then paused when he was stuck again. After a wince and another apology from the tailor, he continued, “I won’t need to worry about security.” He looked up, his gray eyes meeting Teman’s.

Teman raised an eyebrow. “Oh? Why is that?”

“Because all these damned layers will kill me first.”

Teman laughed; he couldn’t help it. “It’s only one more than you are used to,” he said, shaking his head. “The cloak.”

“But the cloak is also a thicker velvet with fur. I don’t need fur. I don’t need to be this damned hot!” he grumbled, then yelped. “Could you please watch those pins?” he asked with exaggerated patience, and the tailor shook his head.

“I’m sorry, Your Majesty, but if you would only hold still….”

Teman covered his mouth to hide his grin and stifle the laugh that wanted to come out.

Bathasar shot him a look. “One word, my love: denial.”

Teman attempted to straighten his face but failed. “Not much of a threat these days, love,” he said, shaking his head.

Bathasar’s eyes narrowed. “I’m sure I can make it a threat, my love.”

Teman cleared his throat and looked down to fuss with his own robe. “Yes, well, of course, love…,” he murmured with false exaggerated submissiveness. He was submissive in their relationship, and he rather liked it. He loved serving and pleasing Bathasar, but he also liked being denied—when it was active denial and not just a lack of opportunity.

Bathasar snickered. “I think it’s been too long for you,” he said, nodding. “And I think it might be a good thing to get my mind off of this horrible event.” He smiled, a little too sweetly for Teman’s comfort.

“Yes, Your Highness,” Teman mumbled contritely, making Bathasar laugh.

“Your Majesty,” the tailor whined.

Bathasar sighed. “Sorry, can we hurry this up?”

“If you’d stand still,” the man muttered, and Teman coughed to cover another laugh.