"Ray, there's something I need to tell you," Fraser said.
"Yeah, well can it wait a minute?" Ray asked, leaning in with the rabbit's foot. "'Cause it's really hard for me to powder around your mouth when you're, you know, talking."
"I'm not sure it can," Fraser said, twisting his head around and bumping Ray's hand so he showered face powder on the chair two inches from the dark blue velvet of Fraser's breeches.
"Dammit, Fraser, I just got you into these clothes! Do not make me have to change them!"
"I wouldn't mind wearing the brown suit."
"The brown suit is at the laundress, okay? So you're stuck with the red one. I don't know why you're complaining, you look good in it."
Fraser cleared his throat. "I certainly didn't mean to complain, Ray."
"Stop sweating, it makes the powder run," Ray said, leaning in and brushing the rabbit's foot around the corner of Fraser's mouth. Shit, now he was sweating. But hey, just 'cause he was a valet didn't mean he couldn't notice that the hottest lover in Spain had a nice mouth, right?
"Ray," Fraser said, turning his head and almost biting the rabbit's foot, "your sister was here last night."
"Fraser, stop talking, I'm almost--my what?"
"Your sister. Francesca. She seemed to have misplaced most of her clothes, as well, and--"
"Augh! Stop talking!"
Fraser snapped his mouth shut.
"My sister? You slept with my sister?"
Fraser's eyes went wide.
"Well? Answer me!"
"You asked me to stop talking, Ray."
"Start again! Fast!"
"Did she say that?"
"My sister does not discuss her lovers with me, Fraser! I choose to pretend she doesn't have any! My sister is a respectable widow who--are you raising your eyebrows at me? You got a lot of nerve, Fraser. My sister is a widow!"
"So Francesca didn't mention her visit."
"Well then, forget I mentioned it."
Ray glared. "Yeah, like I'm gonna be able to do that. Now sit still so I can finish this and get the fuck out of here." Fraser did, he sat still as a stone while Ray finished powdering his face, applied kohl around his eyes, and pressed a patch to the corner of his mouth and tried not to think about those eyes looking at his sister, that mouth kissing his sister. "Pick your own damn jewelry," he said, and headed out the door. "But gold, okay? Silver doesn't go with that suit. And try not to sleep with anyone while I'm gone."
"Just stay away from him, Frannie, okay?"
"Excuse me?" Frannie put her hands on her hips, which somehow only emphasized the fact that she was wearing her lowest-cut, most bright blue dress, trimmed with the lace Ray'd brought back for her from his and Fraser's trip to the Low Countries.
"Look, Frannie, you heard what I said! Just stay away from him, okay?" And that was about all of this conversation he could handle. He headed for the door.
"Ray!" Frannie snapped behind him. Shit. She'd never listened to him before, and she wouldn't now.
"Frannie, you are in over your head!"
Frannie glared at him. "Meaning?"
"Meaning he's the greatest lover in Spain! You think he's gonna, what, settle down with you and have a bunch of pretty babies?"
Frannie shrugged. "If he doesn't, at least I'll have fun in the meantime. He was really sweet yesterday. He's coming over tonight for a game of chess."
"A game of chess? You know that's code, right?"
Frannie grinned. "Well, sure. Every woman in Spain knows that's Don Benton's code. Probably every woman in the world."
Ray covered his ears like that could block out the horror. "Oh, God, Frannie! Don't you got any self-respect? Look at this!" He pulled the long roll of paper out of his pocket. "This is the list, okay? This is the list of every girl he's slept with!" He jerked his hand and the list unrolled, running the full length of the Vecchio house before hitting the wall, still mostly rolled up. "Six hundred and forty in Italy! Two hundred and thirty one in Germany! A hundred in France! Ninety-one in Turkey! And in Spain--yeah, right here in Spain--one thousand and three, okay? Except I guess now it's one thousand and four! And that's just since I started working for him!"
Frannie just stared at him. "You keep a list?"
"That's not the point!"
"I mean honestly, you keep a list? What are you going to do with it, wallpaper the house?"
Ray's mouth opened and shut. "I just--he might want it someday, okay? Like, what if he wanted to get in the Guinness Book of World Records? They'd want proof, right?"
Frannie just rolled her eyes like he was the stupid one.
"Fraser, you cannot go to my house and sleep with my sister." Ray tilted Fraser's chin up to dab perfume behind his ears.
"It would be rude to stand Francesca up, Ray." Fraser looked tense and stubborn.
"No, Fraser, you know what's rude? What's rude is expecting me to pick your clothes and your jewelry and do your makeup so you can go have sex with my sister!"
Fraser blinked. "I'm very sorry, Ray," he said. "Of course you're right. I'll go as I am."
"Sit down!" Ray shoved Fraser back into the chair with a firm hand on his shoulder. "I let you go out with half your makeup on, I'll be the laughingstock of every valet in Seville. Jesus, don't you have lines? I have sat by and watched you take advantage of a lot of girls, Fraser, because we're friends and okay, you pay pretty well, but this is my sister!"
"I don't take advantage of them," Fraser said very quietly. "Francesca is a grown woman, Ray--"
"You don't--? You don't--?" Ray sputtered, shaking so hard with rage that his hand slipped and left a smear of eyebrow pencil across Fraser's cheek. He spilled a little oil onto a cloth and wiped it off, unable to meet Fraser's eye, ignoring Fraser's pulse racing anxiously in his throat. "Look at you, Fraser! You look like some goddamned painting already, like God wanted you to make girls crazy, and then you go and hire me? The most talented and fashion-conscious valet in Spain? How is that not taking advantage?"
"I hadn't looked at it in that light," Fraser said, a little unsteadily.
Ray repowdered Fraser's cheek and gave him a shove. "Go on, go," he said bitterly. "Wouldn't want you to be late."
But Fraser didn't move. He sat there looking at Ray for a long, long moment, his blue eyes fixed on Ray's face.
"What? I got something in my teeth?"
Fraser shook his head, picked up the carved box that held his father's chess set, and walked out. Ray sank into the chair he'd vacated and put his head in his hands.
Ray heard Fraser's heels clacking on the cobblestones from several blocks away. If he weren't stupid, he'd pick up his damn suitcase and go, now. But he couldn't. So he sat on the front steps and waited.
Fraser turned the corner, his little box under his arm, not a hair out of place, looking as perfectly neat and pressed and made-up as when he'd left half an hour ago--half an hour ago? Ray hated him, Ray hated him, and when Fraser saw Ray's suitcase he turned white under the powder, like he'd never really thought Ray might leave.
"What is wrong with you?" Ray burst out, jumping to his feet. "Jesus, Fraser, you're the most famous lover in Seville, in Spain, probably in the whole damn world, and when you want a quick fuck you go to Frannie? You go to my sister? What is that?"
"I checkmated her in three moves," Fraser said, and his voice was tight but determined.
"Don't bother with your stupid little euphemism with me, Fraser, I--"
"I checkmated her in three moves," Fraser repeated, louder. "Usually I try to tailor my game to my opponent so as to provide her with an opportunity to improve, but tonight I was in a hurry."
Fraser's eyes looked huge in the flickering light from the streetlamps. "To get back before you left."
Ray slumped against the wall. What was he supposed to say to that? "You really expect me to believe you're just playing chess with them."
"Well, they invite me over for chess, Ray!" Fraser actually sounded indignant.
"Yeah, Fraser, because everyone knows that's your code!"
Fraser set his little box on the stairs and took a step towards Ray. "It's not a code."
"They think it is!"
Fraser ran a thumb over his eyebrow, smearing the eyebrow pencil Ray had so carefully applied half an hour before. Ray couldn't even get enough braincells together to protest. "I can't help that," he said, sounding--sounding defeated. Defeated and sincere and unhappy.
"And you go anyway."
"It would be rude to refuse!" Fraser protested.
"What's rude is leading them on," Ray said. "They probably all think they're the only one you don't think is pretty enough to screw!"
"It would be a gross injustice to simply assume that when a girl invites me over for a game of chess that she is"--Fraser cleared his throat--"that she is offering me sexual favors. It can't be easy for a young Spanish girl to find a good opponent at chess."
"Yeah, because most girls don't play chess!"
"Precisely," Fraser said, as if Ray were agreeing with him instead of two seconds away from hitting him over the head with his own chess set.
"Look, Fraser, has that ever happened? You know, that a girl wasn't disappointed when you didn't put out."
Fraser tugged on his ear. "Once."
"Yes, Ray. Doña Stella Kowalski plays one of the most cunning endgames I've ever seen."
Ray's jaw dropped. "You slept with--I mean, you played chess with Stella Kowalski? Her husband would kill you if he knew that!"
"He does have a reputation for jealousy," Fraser admitted. "But really, Ray, you should have seen it. The neatest queen sacrifice I ever--"
"God, Fraser, you're the most annoying man in the world!"
The corner of Fraser's mouth quirked up. "Yes."
"But not the world's greatest lover."
"It would seem doubtful," Fraser agreed. "Although I like to think that I would be--"
"Okay," Ray interrupted, trying to wrap his head around this new version of the world. A version, he had to admit, that he liked a lot better than the old one. "Okay, you just need to learn to say no, that's all. We'll practice. I'll be a sex-crazed señorita, and you be you. Okay, ready?"
"Do you want to have sex with me?"
Fraser swallowed. "Yes."
"Augh! Get with the program, Fraser, you gotta say no! Come on, imagine I'm coming on to you."
"I am imagining it, Ray. I think that's the trouble. Perhaps if I were to imagine Fr--er, someone else?"
Ray thought about that. Suddenly he could hear his heartbeat going in his ears like castanets. "You aren't--you aren't saying--me?" His voice cracked. Fraser took a step closer, and Ray pressed back against the wall. "Is this a joke, Fraser? Because if this is a joke, I'm gonna--"
Fraser kissed him. And damn, if he wasn't the greatest lover in the world then Ray didn't ever want to meet that guy, because Fraser's mouth was doing funny things to Ray's insides and he was pretty sure that rearranging his internal organs any more than this would be bad for his health. He tried not to wrinkle Fraser's nice red silk coat but it was hard to keep his hands off him, hard to keep from clutching at Fraser's arms, impossible to keep his head from falling back when Fraser kissed his neck--
Fraser fell to his knees and attacked the fastenings of Ray's breeches.
"Here?" Ray hissed. "In the street? I don't even rank the bed?"
"I can't wait for the bed, Ray," Fraser said intently, his hands making short work of Ray's buttons. "But my calculations indicate that the odds of anyone seeing us are--" He stopped talking as the flap of Ray's breeches fell open. For a second he just knelt there, staring at Ray's cock, which was hard enough by now to be sticking out the front of his underwear.
Ray stayed frozen against the wall, shaking and terrified and so turned on it hurt, and then Fraser leaned forward and didn't even lick or kiss or anything, just--just closed his eyes and pressed his cheek against Ray's cock, breathing in deep like he was home.
"Oh sweet Mary mother of God," Ray breathed, reaching out and pushing Fraser's wig off his head, running his fingers gently over Fraser's soft dark hair. "My heart can't take this, Fraser, you look--"
Fraser pulled back, just slightly, looked up at Ray, and Jesus, there was face powder on Ray's cock and smears on Fraser's face. Fraser's lipstick was smudged from kissing and a kohl-colored tear was running down his cheek, there was gonna be dirt all over the knees of Fraser's silk stockings and it was the hottest thing Ray had ever seen.
"Please," Ray breathed, not even caring that anyone could look out the window and see them.
"Yes," Fraser said.