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Vor romance is much too complicated. I know, I myself have introduced a Betan complication previously unknown in the labyrinth of political alliances, trickery and secrecy governing love affairs in Vorbarr Sultana. Now that I am Lord Dono, not Lady Donna, my history of intrigues is even more tangled.

You would think I would have been more loyal to my surprisingly naïve and sweetly handsome ex-boyfriend and less to my double-agent cousin, Byerly. But Byerly has always treated me like a brother, and is…dependable in his duplicity. I have so many ex-boyfriends, but only one family member who ever supported me.

Ivan is still angry with Byerly about Richars' assault, bless his heart. I have long forgiven Byerly. I wish him well.

Indeed, I've done all I can to encourage his fondest hope, which is to seduce and persuade Ivan Vorpatril to be his lover.

Teasing Ivan was such a pleasure. Fucking Ivan was such a pleasure. Now I have a real cock without the need for straps, it seems a shame to give him up to Byerly, but I think he can make Ivan happy—and I'll be busy.

By did try to ask me what Ivan liked in bed. Not so bluntly as all that, but he did ask, that day we made Ivan into my witness. Ivan looked so sad, poor thing, seeing my naked body. That was new, and funny. It's a beautiful body, if I do say so myself. I've always appreciated a good looking man's physique, and now I have one.

After Ivan had left, we fell into our old, gossiping ways. By was smirking. "He said you looked normal, when you have an adult man's body hair and a pre-adolescent's penis. He's never been to bed with another man, has he?"

"I don't know what that was about, By. He has a normal-sized cock, if that's what you were wondering."

"But he doesn't…"

"A gentleman never kisses and tells, Byerly."

He laughed. "You've been waiting to say that. You used to tell."

"I wasn't a gentleman, then."

"I didn't pump you for information, then."

"Heh, you said pump."

He laughed for real, then, like when we were children.

"You like Ivan, don't you?" I asked him. "He is pretty. He has such a nice mouth, and he knows how to kiss beautifully. It comes from dating all those Vor maidens who don't go past first base."

"He's Lady Alys Vorpatril's only son," Byerly said.

"Right, that's why you'll have no competition. Why do you think he hasn't gotten married?"

By smoothed his lapels. "I had hoped it was because he only liked men."

"He thinks he only likes women, dear heart, which is why he's so tragic about—Lord Dono. Ah, what might have been!" I snickered. "I think he's like me and could go both ways."

"You say that about everyone."

"Ah, but I've been to bed with Ivan."

"As I said, you say that about everyone… don't hit me! Your punches hurt more, now."

"Right," I said. "I'm stronger. I love this. I don't understand why you don't spend hours every day…"

"Masturbating?" By cut me off.

"Oh, I'm sure you do, darling, I was going to say, lifting weights in the gym. Look at my arms!"

"Very nice, Dono, but I think of you as a…sibling. A cousin or something."

I faked a laugh with my new voice, and found myself really chuckling. It's wonderful to feel so free. The pleasure of having the right body is nothing I could have anticipated. Even with the uncertainty of our plan's success—no, especially with that uncertainty—I felt exhilaration.

I still feel that way, perhaps even more so now with my adult man's body, though my main scheme now is throwing Byerly and Ivan together.

I saw them together at the emperor's wedding. I did bring them together, then, at least as a reason for Ivan to confront By about his role in the whole plot. How I ever had an extra-marital affair with someone so repulsed by subterfuge, I don't know.

It's difficult to feel charitable toward anyone who loved me in a woman's body, even Ivan, who was perfectly nice about it. Poor Ivan, he was so worried about me. Perhaps we'll be friends.

I was standing on the terrace and I could hear them, Ivan angry and growling. He walked a few steps away, and then turned back.

"Dono has forgiven me," By said. "Can't you?"

"You have your hand on my…" Ivan said in a low tone.

"I know. Ivan," By said.

"That feels—God. Stop it."

"You like it."

"Shut up. Oh God. You aren't— oh!"

"Your eyes are crossing."

"Look, you…Byerly! Stop! It does feel good but I don't…oh what the hell."

There was quiet and then soft sucks and smacks and gasps.

"You can kiss," Byerly said softly.

"So I've been told," Ivan said. "Here."

"What is it, vodka?"

"Just drink, Vorrutyer, I'm not drinking alone."

"You need an excuse for an escort home?"

"Stop leering."

But I knew he couldn't. How could he stop smiling when he'd finally got what he wanted? I could hear them, taking sips from the bottle and stopping to kiss. Finally there was a groan, and a crash into the bushes. "Shit," Ivan said.

"Are you really that drunk?"

"Shut up," he said, as they staggered away.

Olivia was at my elbow. She smelled delicious. "Dono," she said. "Eavesdropping?"

I slid my arms around her waist. Her breasts crushed against my chest. Oh she felt good. "I've heard what I needed to hear," I told her neck. She shivered.