“Good morning, Reiji.” Charon turned toward him and favored him with a smile of his own; Reiji contented himself with the fact that this was one of the honest ones, too. “How was your night last night?”
“Busy.” Reiji shrugged. “Nothing I couldn’t handle.” His gaze moved to the stranger standing patiently at Charon’s side. “Who’s this?”
The stranger’s eyebrow rose at his bluntness, but Charon answered him easily enough. “Forgive me. This is Lord Trenton Devereaux; he’s visiting us from the Siscaline Province. Trent, this is one of my senior boys and one of my most valued employees, Reiji Kendo.”
“A pleasure to meet you, young man,” Devereaux said, inclining his head slightly. The deliberate courtesy toward someone of the working class—much less toward a whore—made Reiji’s raised hackles settle down slightly.
“Likewise, I’m sure.” He couldn’t quite keep the twist of sarcasm out of his voice. He glanced at Charon, wondering again what the connection between the two of them was. Charon’s casual use of the nickname “Trent” snagged like a burr in the back of his mind.
Charon sighed so discreetly that Reiji almost missed it. “Lord Devereaux is an old friend, Reiji. We knew each other years ago, before I ever came to the House of Silence.”
Reiji’s eyes widened. Before Charon came to the House of Silence meant before he had packed his bags and turned his back on the capital, which meant that Trenton Devereaux had known him before he became “Charon Marque” at all. His gaze shifted to look at Devereaux with renewed interest.
Reiji was one of only a handful of boys in the House of Silence who knew that Charon was actually a member of the royal family. If Charon had had his way, he would have kept that information a secret all the way to his grave, but events had transpired against them and he’d been forced to turn to his family for help while dealing with the aggressive and underhanded tactics of Lord Darwin Montgomery the previous winter. Like the others, Reiji had vowed to keep the secret for him. Not because Charon was his boss, not because Charon held significant and undeniable power over each of them, not because Reiji owed the man his home and his life and whatever scraps of happiness he’d managed to carve out for himself here—but simply because Charon was Charon, and Reiji never could keep himself from doing anything the man asked of him.
“Old school chums?” Reiji guessed, trying to banish the image of a preadolescent Charon toddling around the playground at school.
Devereaux’s mouth curved in a smile. Unlike Charon’s, Reiji wasn’t quite sure how to read this one. “Something like that,” he said evenly.
“I’ve invited Lord Devereaux to stay with us for a short while,” Charon said. “I hope you’ll extend him every courtesy for the duration of his stay.”
Meaning if the man wanted to fuck him, Reiji was supposed to give him all the benefits of a paying client. That could be kind of interesting, actually; Reiji was dying to talk to him and find out more about the pre-House-of-Silence Charon.
Devereaux glanced at Charon. “I believe you were planning to show me that intriguing indoor garden you were telling me about?”
“Yes, of course.” Charon gave Reiji another small smile and gestured for Devereaux to precede him down the hall. “It’s right this way.”
Before leaving, Devereaux turned toward Reiji one last time. “Mr. Kendo, it was truly an honor to meet you. It’s satisfying to know that Charon has such loyal employees looking out for him here.”
“Someone has to,” Reiji retorted, uneasy with the man’s direct and—as far as he could tell—sincere gratitude. Just how close was he to Charon? He watched without moving as the two of them walked away.