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Westeros' Most Eligible Bachelor

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Dong Snow? Prince Jon caught with his pants down!

Royal family’s legal team threatens ‘fire and blood’ on hacker of ‘private photos’ 


‘Drunk and disorderly’ Prince Jon tossed from Dorne bar

‘He was a mess’

Onlookers disgusted with ‘savage’ behavior: ‘It’s the North in him’ 

More Wildling than Prince!

Jon Snow snaps, attacks pap in Flea Bottom 


Val Rayder spills the tea!

Prince Jon’s former lover is ready to tell all: From sex to heartbreak

‘His drinking just got to be too much for me’ 


Trouble in King’s Landing? Sources say King Rhaegar fed up with son’s wild ways

Could Prince Jon be ‘cut’ out of the family?

Plus: Rumors of royal dating TV show swirl!

Prince Jon Targaryen has had a series of blunders and scandals the past year, all stemming from his high-profile breakup from longtime girlfriend, Val Rayder. Close family friends claim his heartbreak has caused him to “act out,” though inside sources say his wild behavior started long before he and Val called it quits. The prince’s love of the drink has been an open secret in King’s Landing, though the royal family has dismissed it as nothing more than the typical wiles of a young man his age.

Now, talk around the Red Keep suggests King Rhaegar—no stranger to scandal himself—is extremely unhappy with his youngest son’s recent outrageous headlines. The royal family’s lawyers have been putting out fires left and right, including a lawsuit filed by a celebrity photographer after he was assaulted by the prince as well as the shocking leak of private boudoir photos.

“Rhaegar and Lyanna don’t know what to do with him,” one source told our little birds. “There’s even been talk of enlisting him in the King’s Guard or City Watch just to get him out of their hair.”

A spokesperson for the royal family denies this, however. “King Rhaegar and Queen Lyanna love and support their son and trust him to uphold the family name.”

But just how far will that support stretch? Rumor has it the royal family has been in talks with a production company owned by media mogul Robert Baratheon about a reality show starring none other than Prince Jon...and twenty lucky ladies all vying for his heart—and a royal title, of course. Will this be enough to rehabilitate his image from disgraced bad boy to Westeros’ very own Prince Charming?  

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Jon was too hungover for this. Closing his eyes against the blur of trees streaking past the tinted window, he leaned his head back on the seat. “I can’t believe I agreed to do this.”

“If you’re having regrets, it’s too late to back out now. You already signed the contract,” Tyrion reminded him, like the annoying prick he was. Jon opened his eyes to look at his communications secretary seated across from him, but the man’s nose was still buried in his phone, thumbs tapping away at the screen. Jon’s personal bodyguard, Sandor, sat beside Tyrion, stoic and unmoving, black sunglasses concealing any expression on his face.

“I’m bloody well aware of that,” Jon said through gritted teeth. His father had all but held the pen in Jon’s hand as he signed his life away for the next ten weeks—and then some, depending on the outcome of this ridiculous stunt.

Tyrion finally spared him a look, eyeballing his disheveled state with barely disguised reproval. His smile was droll. “Perhaps you shouldn’t have stayed up all night partying. You knew we had an early morning.”

“It wasn’t all night,” Jon refuted without much heat, looking back out the window. Bad idea. He pinched the bridge of his nose where he felt the beginnings of a headache. “Fucking Theon,” he muttered to himself. Theon Greyjoy, an old family friend, had flown into King’s Landing the day before with Jon’s cousin, Robb Stark, promising a stag party of epic proportions before Jon tied on the “old ball and chain,” as Robb had joked. Jon had asked him what Talisa would think of that, which had mercifully ended Robb’s torment over Jon’s upcoming venture into reality TV, though Theon had persisted in his sharp-tongued jabs all night.

Theon was clearly seething with envy and resentment; he’d always been a petty, jealous man. In hindsight, Jon realized his friend had likely hoped to sabotage his first day on set. He never should have let the bastard talk him into staying out till four in the morning, long after even Robb had taken the chauffeured car back to the Red Keep to pass out—though probably not till after first making a drunken, weepy phone call to his wife back home in Winterfell.

“You know, you’re your own worst enemy,” Tyrion continued as if Jon hadn’t spoken. “Excessive drinking, heavy partying, illicit drugs—”

“Shade of the Evening is practically legal now,” Jon argued, but Tyrion talked over him.

“—multiple indiscretions with women. We’re trying to do damage control, remember? Yet you’re already back to your old ways on the eve of your TV debut. What’s wrong with a quiet night in? Just a few drinks in front of the telly?”

Jon rolled his jaw, battling his rising temper. “You’re one to lecture me about excess. And—seven hells, multiple indiscretions makes me sound like a lecherous pig. As of right now, I’m still a free man.”

“Yes,” Tyrion said dryly. “But the husband of that married woman you were recently caught snogging would like a word with you.”

Exasperated, Jon blew out a breath. He did feel pretty bad about that one. “I didn’t know she was married. And it was only a handjob, anyway.”

Tyrion rolled his eyes, back to his phone. “If you kept them all to only a handjob, we wouldn’t have to worry about secret love children potentially cropping up, now would we?”

Jon’s face flushed hot at that. “You know that was a fucking lie. I’d never even met that woman before in my life! As soon as we hit her with a defamation suit, she folded like a house of cards. And that kid was clearly Myrish, fucking hell.” Frustrated, he jerked a hand through his hair. He always used a condom. Always. He wasn’t a bloody idiot.

Sandor made an uncharacteristic sound, drawing Jon’s gimlet-eyed glare. It sounded like a snort. “Is this funny to you?”

“No, Your Highness,” he rasped, though Jon swore a smirk teased the corner of his mouth. By virtue of being his bodyguard, Sandor knew more of Jon’s antics than even Tyrion did. The press, too. It was a bloody good thing he was loyal.

His communications secretary waved his hand dismissively. “Point is, the next ten weeks are a chance for you to put all that behind you. Keep your head down, be your usual charming self—and I know you can be, when you try—pick a woman to be your wife, and the public will love you again.”

Jon couldn’t help his derisive scoff. “It’s just that easy, huh?”

Tyrion pinned him with his shrewd, black-and-green eyes, and smiled. “You’re too cynical. You’d be amazed what a good love story can do.”

Love. At that, Jon swallowed and looked away. He wasn’t sure if the wave of nausea that hit him then was from Tyrion’s words or the alcohol still sloshing around in his stomach. “It’s not a love story. It’s a farce,” he said lowly. “These women all know that, right? They don’t actually think they’re going to marry a prince on a bloody TV show.”

Tyrion shrugged. “You might surprise yourself yet, Jon Snow.”

“Don’t—” Call me that, he started to snap but bit his tongue. He couldn’t fault the man for a moniker he’d had all his life, one coined by the press and meant to demean and belittle him. Although it’d become a sort of pet name over the years, for Jon, it was still a permanent reminder of his scandalized birth and questionable legitimacy, a sneer at his very Northern looks. His father, who’d only been a prince then, had been married before, to Princess Elia, and had sired two children on her, Rhaenys and Aegon. But not long after Aegon’s birth, Rhaegar had divorced Elia—something royal family members never did—and very quickly wed Lyanna Stark, a Northern woman from a once noble house, in a hush-hush ceremony. About seven months later, Jon had been born. The timeline had been fuzzy, and his parents had always insisted he was merely born prematurely, but the media had nearly consumed itself with speculation over the divorce and a child conceived from an extramarital affair with the future king of Westeros.

Rhaegar had brought much shame to the royal family, long before Jon ever had—but Tyrion was right about one thing: A good love story could work wonders. Over time, the public forgot about the scandal and the slight done to the disgraced Princess Elia, eventually won over by Lyanna’s charms and wit and how obviously smitten Rhaegar was with her. If he’d stepped out on his wife, who could blame the besotted lad, truly?

Of course, Jon himself could never quite cleanse himself of his father’s sin. And lately, all he seemed to do was confirm the public’s perception of him as the bastard wild child. The mistake. The fuck-up.

With a sigh, Tyrion tucked his phone away in his inside jacket pocket and opened the mini fridge to the right of his seat. Fishing out a sealed water bottle, he tossed it to Jon, who caught it and eagerly cracked it open. “Look, it’s only ten weeks of your life,” Tyrion said as Jon chugged the water. “And then...however many months you want to devote to the chosen woman after this. We’ll work that out after the fact. All you need to do for now is commit yourself to these twenty women. Act like you’re already married.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Jon argued after swallowing half the bottle.

“Doesn’t it? You’re going to have to treat them all as if they’re the one for you.”

Bemused, Jon shook his head. “It’s like a bizarre form of polygamy this country has accepted simply for the sake of entertainment. Is this supposed to be chaste or what?”

“Gods, no. You want people to watch, don’t you?” Tyrion shuddered. “Just don’t be a slut. Well. Not too much of a slut, anyway. You’re still a prince, after all.”

Jon curled his lip in annoyance but finished off the rest of his water before asking, “Do I get to know anything about these women, or am I going in blind?”

Tyrion’s eyes shifted evasively. “That wouldn’t be fair now, would it?”

“These women already know who I am,” Jon pointed out.

Tyrion just shook his head. “That can’t be helped. Don’t worry about it so much. I’m sure Olenna picked only women befitting a prince.” He grinned, obviously amused by something he’d said, but Jon didn’t get a chance to inquire further. The car slowed to a stop then, and he craned his head back to the window. Highgarden castle loomed ahead of them, the topmost keeps reaching beyond what Jon could see from the backseat window.

The door swung outward, handlers descending on the car. Sandor was out the door already to scout for danger before giving the all-clear. Tyrion shuffled out of his seat. “All right, it’s showtime.”

Jon was swarmed the moment he unfolded himself from the car, squinting against the harsh glare of the early morning sun. He froze briefly, an instinctive response after a lifetime of cameras being shoved in his face and paps screaming at him to provoke a front-page worthy reaction.

This time there were no flashes, no insults about his Northern looks, no leading questions about what he’d done the night before. Instead, he was being ushered forward, strangers giving him instructions he didn’t understand as they bleated into their earpieces. Tyrion marched ahead of him, outpacing him even with his shorter stride.

Someone shoved a paper cup of coffee into Jon’s hand. Surprised, he looked at it, then at the man who’d given it to him. Or boy. With his baby face and scraggly facial scrub, Jon couldn’t guess his age. Sandor advanced on him, threatening, and he shrank back. “Coffee! It’s just coffee! Black, right? Tyrion said that’s what you drank.”

Jon held up his hand to stop Sandor. “Aye. Thank you…?” he trailed off expectantly. The man-boy smiled nervously.

“I’m Pod. Podrick, Your Highness. I’m your personal assistant while you’re here. Anything you want, I’ll get it.”

Jon tipped his cup to him in cheers, then took a sip, flinching as he scalded his tongue. He coughed. “Thanks. Maybe a touch below nuclear next time.” He smiled to show he was joking—mostly—but Pod’s eyes widened, cheeks going red.

“Oh, of course! I’ll get that now—” He reached for the cup to take it away, but Jon twisted his body away, holding the cup close.

“No! No, it’s fine.” He needed caffeine, badly, even if he had no taste buds by the time he finished the cup.

“Jon!” Ahead, Tyrion beckoned him forward, and Jon ambled after him, unhooking his sunglasses from his collar and sliding them on to shield his eyes. Sandor brought up the rear. The throng of people they’d accrued began to peel off, though a few, including Pod, flanked his sides as they droned on about what he needed to do and what he should expect. Jon didn’t bother to listen, certain it would all be explained ad nauseam throughout the day.

Instead, falling in step with Tyrion, he studied his surroundings, the briar labyrinth they were funneled through to reach the courtyard. Truthfully, Highgarden was even more beautiful than King’s Landing. It was colorful and well groomed, not the cramped urban sprawl of alleys and buildings like the seat of the royal family. The lush-green courtyard was overflowing with ornate fountains, gardens bursting with roses and ivy—the picturesque scene marred only by the large equipment trucks parked haphazardly around the manse, people scurrying back and forth with single-minded purpose as they got the set camera-ready.

“Where’s my prince? Ah, there he is!”

Up ahead, Olenna Tyrell, the matriarch of the Tyrell family and executive producer of “Westeros’ Most Eligible Bachelor,” stood in the arched entrance of the palatial keep at her back. She was dressed in a perfectly starched, sage green pantsuit, her white hair pulled back in a severe bun. She was 70 years old and still a formidable force, fearless and unwavering in heels a woman half her age would stumble in. Jon had met her several times already while his team had hammered out the details in his contract, and even now, he was slightly terrified of her.

As he approached, she spoke briefly into a walkie-talkie, then held out her hand to greet them. “Tyrion, always a pleasure,” she said, as he clasped her hand in his.

“I’ve delivered the package on time, as promised,” he quipped. Jon shot him a scowl and shook Olenna’s hand next. Sandor hung back like the obedient and silent sentinel he was. Or a guard dog, even—which was why he’d been dubbed “the Hound” in the press.

“Your Highness, I’m so very pleased you showed. Tyrion had me half-convinced we’d need to put out an APB in case you became a flight risk.” The weathered lines at her mouth creased in a faint smile, but her eyes were sharp, challenging. Like she was daring him to run now.

Unnerved, Jon shrugged it off. “I’m here, so you can call off the hounds.”

Her smile widened, even as her eyes sharpened on Sandor behind him, sweeping up and down in mild disapproval. “You can call off your Hound, as well. I assure you, this place is locked down tighter than Tywin Lannister’s bunghole.” Tyrion chuckled at that; there was no love lost between him and his notoriously priggish father. The man was rumored to shit diamonds and gold—and not just because he was ridiculously wealthy. “We have our own security team stationed around the grounds. No one’s getting in or out without our knowing.”

“I’m afraid his job is to be at my side at all times.”

Olenna arched an eyebrow. “That’s going to put quite a damper on your dates, then.”

Jon smiled. “It usually does, aye.”

She sighed. “We can put him up in a room near you at night. But otherwise he needs to stay out of the shots, or the whole illusion of this show will be ruined.”

When he shrugged in agreement, she barked a command into her walkie-talkie, then directed them to follow her. “Come. I want you to meet the team. The people who will be your family for the next ten weeks.”

They followed her across the grounds, her heels clip-clopping on the uneven cobblestones. Jon was amazed how easily she navigated the stone paths in such precarious shoes, all the while talking over her shoulder to them.

“Let me show you the control room where the magic happens. Everyone you’ll need to know—well, except the bachelorettes, of course—is in this room. Oh, and don’t be surprised if Bobby rears his fat head from time to time. He likes to meddle, throw his dick around. It makes him feel like he’s important.”

Jon had met the showrunner precisely once during negotiations. The man was larger-than-life, literally, and flew off the handle at the smallest provocations but was also easily mollified with a bawdy joke or a pint of beer. He’d been mostly uninterested in the details as Olenna talked, only keen to interject with unsolicited anecdotes about all the celebrities he knew.

Olenna led them to a glass-encased greenhouse that had been gutted and refitted with a bank of TV monitors and other transmission equipment.

“Look alive, people, you’re in the presence of royalty,” Olenna announced dramatically as they stepped into the control room. All eyes turned to Jon, and he tried not to shift uncomfortably, skin crawling under the sudden attention. Conversation ceased, and a few people even half-curtsied, half-bowed, unsure how to greet a prince. This was probably as unprecedented for them as it was for him.

He pressed his lips into a smile, lifting his hand in a half-hearted wave. “Ah. Hello.”

Olenna snorted at the wide-eyed looks. “You’d think they’d never met a prince before,” she muttered and waved Jon forward. He obliged as she snapped her fingers at a short, slender man with a nose hooked like a beak and a pointed goatee. “This is Petyr Baelish, producer. We call him Littlefinger. Don’t ask why.”

“Wasn’t planning to,” Jon replied, shaking the man’s hand.

“Your Highness, what an honor,” Petyr said. His smirk was disquieting. Slimy. Jon disliked him on principle already.

“Jon is fine,” he corrected, raising his voice so everyone could hear him. If he got Your Highness’ed to death for the next ten weeks, he was going to drink himself right into rehab as soon as he got off this set.

“And the wolves?” Littlefinger asked. Jon blinked.


He smirked again. “It’s what we call the bachelorettes. You know, like throwing fresh meat to the wolves. Would you prefer them to call you ‘Your Highness’ or just Jon?”

Jon opened his mouth, but Olenna snorted. “Save your plotting for when the cameras are rolling, Littlefinger.” She dismissed him and gestured to the next producer, a plump, bald man, who bowed over Jon’s hand.

“Varys,” he said in greeting.

“My master of whispers,” Olenna said fondly.

Tyrion piped up. “I thought we called him the Spider.”

She laughed, and Varys turned to Tyrion with a smile. “Ah. Tyrion the half-man.”

Jon’s back stiffened, his hackles rising, but Tyrion smiled blandly at the bald man. “Yes, I might be half a man, but I’m still twice the man you are.”

To Jon’s confusion, Varys tittered with amusement. “You always were so clever.”

Already exasperated with their banter, Olenna shooed Varys away. “All right, enough of this. I need the two of you to check in with the girls. Make sure they’re on their way.”

Jon’s stomach dropped as he looked to her. “Oh—are we starting now?” He thought he’d have more time to prepare himself for what was about to happen.

She gave him a pitying smile and patted his shoulder. “Oh, my dear. You have a lot to learn about show business. Now, let’s go meet Oberyn.”

It turned out, filming a TV show was just a lot of hurry up and wait. After Jon was paraded around before more of the crew, he was shown to his guest house he would share with Sandor (“The ladies will be staying in the castle as far away from you as possible,” Olenna explained. “We don’t want any intrepid young lady getting any ideas and sneaking into your room at night—well, at least not without our cameras present.”), but before he could even ask his new shadow, Pod, for a water and a couple of aspirin, he’d been whisked away to wardrobe, then makeup and hair to be primped and prodded and shellacked with more foundation and hair gel than he’d ever worn in his life.

Now, nine grueling hours and five pickups later, he stood next to Oberyn Martell, the host of the show, dressed in a royal blue, two-piece suit, not a wrinkle in sight, every curl on his head perfectly coiffed, and his wingtips so shiny they squeaked when he shifted from foot to foot. And still, he was expected to wait some more, the producers barking commands in his ear: “Don’t move from your mark. Don’t touch your hair. Seven hells, you fucked it up—get Satin out there now!”

Once the hair stylist had reset his hair—which involved arranging a single curl at his temple—Jon turned to Oberyn, but only barely, lest he fuck up his hair again. When Olenna had fitted him with a small, wireless earpiece to help guide him through the initial introductions, Jon hadn’t realized they’d be scolding him like a naughty child all bloody night. She was in the control room with the other producers; Tyrion was in there as well, mostly for the free entertainment.

“How do you do this, year after year? Just stand here for hours on end. This is maddening.”

Oberyn, who was simultaneously texting on his phone and flirting with his blushing production assistant, chuckled. Tossing his phone to the young woman, he dismissed her and focused his attention on Jon. “Squats, my friend.” He demonstrated, lifting his suit pants at the knees to bang out a few squats. Jon stared at him, mystified, as Oberyn stood straight and slapped his own arse. “Glutes made of Valyrian steel right here. Helps fight the fatigue. And the ladies—and men—love it.”

Blowing out a breath, Jon turned back to the driveway, where any minute now a limo would arrive to reveal the first of 20 potential “brides.” “Thanks for the tip,” he muttered, inadvertently flexing the muscles in his own arse. His gym routine was just fine, thank you. Westeros Weekly had voted his “Tightest Tush” in the country, much to his brother Aegon’s eternal ire. That had given Jon a petty thrill, at least.

His brother might be the crown prince and first in line for the throne, but he’d gotten a little flabby and comfortable in his age, having settled down with his posh wife and two twin boys (a third baby already on the way). His duty as heir was complete.

Jon’s duty, as he was now only fourth in line for the throne, was to clean up his act and stop fucking up so much. According to his father, a fiancée was just what he needed to give that illusion of stability and respectability he apparently lacked.

“Nervous?” Oberyn asked conversationally as a PA scurried by, spraying the driveway with water to give it a camera-ready sheen. Jon took a shuffling step back so his shoes and pants wouldn’t get soaked, jumping when Petyr squawked in his ear, “Back on your mark!”

“Bloody hell,” Jon muttered to himself, stepping back on the green tape.

Oberyn kept talking as if Jon had answered him. “Don’t be. These next couple of months are about to be the best of your life. Being chased by beautiful women, all vying for your love and attention. What could be better?”

When he put it that way, Jon couldn’t really argue. Still, he knew he had to be on his best behavior during all of this. That allowed for very little fun.

Olenna’s voice was in his ear suddenly, after a long, unusual silence. “All right, the first batch of girls will be pulling up in sixty seconds. Move it, people! Let’s go, let’s go. Jon, stand up straight. Didn’t anyone ever teach you princes not to slouch?”

Jon rolled his eyes but pushed his shoulders back, hands clasped in front of him. The set was a flurry of last-second fixes and additions, then the crew were all running for cover as Olenna barked at them to clear the set. In his periphery, Jon was aware of all the cameras trained on him, the boom mics hanging overhead just out of frame, ready to capture everything. As promised, Sandor stood just behind the camera crew, where he wouldn’t be in the way. Just in case one of the bachelorettes got a little too aggressive.

“Cameras rolling!” Someone shouted through his earpiece. “Limo one, shot one, take one. And...action!”

A sleek black limo rounded the fountain then, slowing to a stop yards away from him in the circular driveway. Another PA, who was dressed in a butler outfit, stood nearby, ready to open the door. Jon could hear faint screeches from inside the limo. Eyes glued to the door, Jon swallowed, distantly aware of the producers murmuring in his ear as they set up the shot. On Olenna’s command, the PA opened the back door with a flourish, and Jon held his breath as the first bachelorette emerged.

He almost wilted in relief as she cleared the limo, standing to her full height. She was gorgeous, with wavy brown hair, dark eyes, a pert button nose and big dimples. And, gods be good, she was wearing a skintight, forest green dress with a neckline that plunged nearly to her twat.

He was staring, he realized, and not at her face. As she sauntered toward him, Jon immediately snapped his gaze from her cleavage to her eyes, his face contorting with a friendly smile.

“Hi,” she greeted, her cheeks dimpling.

“Hello.” He started to reach out a hand, but she bypassed it entirely, leaning in to balance herself on his shoulders as she kissed one cheek then the other before pulling back. Still gripping his shoulders, she gave them an affectionate squeeze.

“I’m Margaery Tyrell.”

With a blink, Jon looked toward a camera. “Really?”

“Cut!” Olenna screeched, sending the set into chaos once again. “Don’t look at the camera! What are you doing? Now we have to do it all over!”

Jon ignored her lecture as runners and grips descended on them. Margaery released him, stepping back as the extra bodies squeezed between them. “Are you serious? Tyrell?”

Olenna scoffed in his ear. “Yes, that’s my granddaughter, what of it? She’s a lovely girl, and you’d be lucky to have her.”

Jon cut his eyes back to Margaery, who tossed her shiny hair over her shoulder as a PA fussed with the neckline of her dress, trying to stretch the straining fabric over her generous breasts. If he squinted, Jon was sure he could make out the faint pink of her areola.

“Am I obligated to pick her then?” Jon asked out loud.

“If you don’t, I will,” Oberyn interjected good-naturedly.

“Of course not, of course not,” Olenna assured him. “I mean, you’d be a fool not to, but, I promise you, it’s completely your choice. But if she makes it to the top four, that certainly wouldn’t hurt.” Jon rubbed at his forehead before he remembered his makeup.

“Okay, we’ll do it again. Have Margaery approach him from the limo; we’ll just start from there. And somebody tell her not to say her bloody surname this time! What am I working with, a bunch of amateurs?”

With a sigh, Jon resumed his previous stance and waited for the cue again. This time, when Margaery approached him, he was ready, his stately smile firmly in place.

He was Jon fucking Targaryen, and he was a godsdamned prince.

The next few women he met were equally gorgeous—a redhead named Ros, who dropped all pretenses and kissed him full on the mouth when he went to shake her hand (prompting a warning growl from Sandor); a willowy woman, Missandei, with springy, caramel-colored curls and a sexy septum piercing; Melisandre, a redhead with eerie ruby-tinted eyes that gave him the willies; and yet another redhead, Ygritte—Jon was beginning to wonder if the casting call had specifically asked for redheads.

Hadn’t that been a tabloid rumor at one point, his supposed preference for women with red hair? He couldn’t remember now. But that was how the media worked: You’re spotted with a redhead once, and you’re forever branded a ginger fetishist.

He was almost ready to beg Olenna for some more variety when a blonde woman finally emerged from the next limo of bachelorettes. Blessed relief, he thought, but as she approached him, his jaw dropped open of its own accord.

She was dressed in the most garish ball gown he’d ever seen, the look completed by a gaudy, gemstone-encrusted tiara secured in her big, bouncy curls. She looked like a giant ball of pink, sparkly fluff. She looked ridiculous.

She smiled shyly at him, dropping into a deep curtsy. “It’s so nice to meet you, Your Highness!”

Jon recovered, coughing out a forced laugh. “Thank you. Please, call me Jon.” He’d already corrected a few of the other women. One had even mistakenly called him by his brother’s name.

Once he remembered her name, she was definitely getting dumped first.

She blushed. “I’m so sorry, Jon! I’m Shireen.” Awkwardly, she leaned in to hug him, and Jon did the same, though it was impossible to figure out where to put his hands with all the pink tulle in the way.

“It’s nice to meet you, Shireen. I’ll talk to you inside,” he said, a smile stretching his face unnaturally. With a breathless giggle, Shireen spoke to Oberyn next then bustled up the path to the keep where the other women had been wrangled inside for copious amounts of booze and absolutely no food to help soak it up.

Jon couldn’t hold back anymore. “Are you kidding me? She’s a child!” he snapped. Olenna scoffed in his ear.

“She’s twenty.”

“She looks thirteen!”

“I bet she’s older than some of the floozies you’ve been papped with,” Olenna said sharply, making him flush with embarrassment.

“I’m not dating her,” Jon ground out, feeling ridiculous arguing with someone who was just a voice in his ear. “I’d feel like a pervert. I’m 28! How is that supposed to help my image?”

“Look, I didn’t pick her,” Olenna said. “She’s Bobby’s niece, and she wants to be an actress. He thought this would be a good stepping stone for her.”

He scowled into the nearest camera. “What is this, the family hour? Is everyone here just looking to take advantage of me and my family for their own benefit?”

“Oh, don’t act so wounded, darling.” Olenna tutted with bored indifference. “We all know you’re not actually looking for true love here.”

Varys butted in then. “Jon, you’re not obligated to pick any of them. If you don’t like her, you can dismiss her after tonight.”

“Really?” Jon challenged, an edge to his voice. Varys tittered.

“Well, of course, there will be a few ladies we’ll...encourage you to keep on. You want a show people will watch, don’t you?”

Not really, he thought, but he huffed out a mocking laugh. “There’s a catch, then. Naturally.”

“Let’s keep it going. We’ve got a lot to film tonight,” Olenna said, her voice brooking no further argument.

The rest of the bachelorettes were a blur—a gawky, lumbering blonde named Brienne; a curly-haired brunette, Meera; Talla; Alys; Jeyne—two Jeynes, actually. That was going to get bloody confusing. And those were just the women whose names Jon remembered.

By the time 38-year-old divorcée Cersei Lannister greeted him, Jon didn’t even have the heart to protest. He just laughed under his breath as she walked away, making sure not to glare at the camera this time.

“You could have warned me,” he accused, but it was Olenna who responded.

“Tyrion says not to kill him and that it wasn’t his idea. He’s right, it wasn’t. He didn’t even pull any strings to get her on here.”

“Then why is his sister on a dating show with the man he works for?”

Olenna’s laugh was so ominous, he felt chills down his spine. “You’ll see. Every show needs its villain.”

Jon was ready for a bloody drink. “Tell Tyrion he’s fired.” He was only half-joking.

“Don’t be so rash. We’ve got one more bachelorette. Don’t you want to meet her?”

“I’d rather meet the Stranger, to be perfectly honest.” But Jon faced down the limo for the last time, rolling his neck, his shoulders, shaking out his hands, taking a deep breath and blowing it out. Oberyn gave him a quick shoulder rub.

“You’ve got this, my friend. One more beautiful lady to go. You never know—she might just be the woman of your dreams.”

He very much doubted that. “Let’s just get on with it.”

On Olenna’s signal, the “butler” opened the door for the last bachelorette...and out stepped the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.

She had long, silver-gold hair, as bright as moonlight, and haunting eyes the color of amethyst stones. She was petite, a tiny little thing, and without her stilettos, he knew the top of her head would only just reach his chin.

He knew she was the perfect height, the perfect fit, to tuck her face in the crook of his neck.

As she inched toward him, Jon’s stomach dropped somewhere in the vicinity of his knees. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t speak. Words stuck in his throat.

She stopped in front of him, a ghost of a smile on her face. The sight of it triggered something in him. Something primal. Something beastly. His heart began pounding wildly, blood rushing in his ears. He finally found his tongue again.

At the sneer that overtook his face, her smile slipped, and for a second, she actually looked afraid.

He growled out, “What the hell are you doing here, Daenerys?”

Chapter Text

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Jon was lost in a godsdamned hedge maze, and somehow the bloody camera crew was still up his arse.

“Get that fucking thing out of my face,” he snapped at the red-bearded cameraman. Sandor, gods bless him, was right by his side. He was his shadow in that way, always anticipating his every move; he’d probably known Jon was going to make a break for it even before Jon himself knew.

Sandor shoved the cameraman back. “Fuck off,” he growled, but when Jon hit a dead-end and spun around, the cameraman was back on his trail. They had a guy with a fucking boom mic following him and everything.

It was the bloody paparazzi all over again. Angrily, Jon swiped at the camera to shove it away from him. “What the fuck is wrong with you? I said turn it off!”

“Hey, hey, what’s going on?” Jon spun around to see Petyr Baelish seemingly materialize from the briar-patch wall. “Why’d you run just now?” he asked, face a mask of concern.

Jon’s eyes bulged. “Are you fucking serious? You arseholes ambushed me back there!” he yelled.

Littlefinger held up his hands in a conciliatory gesture. Then he motioned for Sandor to step aside. With a faint huff of annoyance, Sandor backed up to give them space, folding his arms over his chest. “Ambushed you, how?” Petyr asked. “Why don’t you tell me what happened?”

Jon stared at the man as if he’d just pulled his pants down and taken a shit right in front of him. “Don’t fucking do that,” he snarled. “Don’t play innocent, mate. Why’d you bring her here?” His anger momentarily choked him. Flustered, he dragged a hand down his face, gouging his thumb and finger into his eyes.

“Jon, it’s OK. Easy, easy,” Littlefinger said soothingly, his raspy voice grating on Jon’s last nerves. Why the fuck did he always sound like he was whispering? “Why don’t you tell me why you’re upset? What is it about Daenerys being here that’s got you so spooked?”

Jon dropped his hand to glare at him. “You know damn well—” He stopped abruptly, the fog of shock and rage clearing suddenly. Petyr watched him expectantly, a gleam in his beady little eyes despite his fake sympathetic frown; he stood just behind the camera, out of frame, the boom mic hanging above them, ready to capture everything.

His earpiece was conspicuously silent, too. For the first time all night, there was no Olenna buzzing in his ear, reprimanding him for ruining the scene. No demands to get back to his mark and reshoot it. They’d followed him with camera and mic. As if they’d known he would run the moment he saw Daenerys.

And now they’d sent Littlefinger to talk to him.

This was planned. Of course it was. They knew what they were doing bringing Daenerys here. This was exactly what they’d wanted, what they’d hoped for. For Prince Jon to flip the fuck out on camera and give them a good story. Something to hook the audience.

Well, he’d be damned if he was going to give it to them.

They didn’t know; they couldn’t. No one knew. Not even Tyrion, and as Jon’s communications secretary and the know-it-all cunt he was, he bloody knew everything.

Unless…Daenerys had told them.

She wouldn’t do that. Would she? No. Not when she was the one who’d ended it.

Then why was she here? It didn’t make any fucking sense.

“Jon?” Littlefinger prompted, sharper now. Wild-eyed, Jon snapped out of his thoughts and stared at the producer. Petyr tried again. “What’s the matter? Why did you run back there?”

The way he asked that–as if he already knew, or at least had a suspicion. Maybe they didn’t know, not really, not everything. Maybe they meant to scratch the surface, hoping to peel back long-buried secrets, all for the entertainment of the mindless drones that consumed this shite programming.

Mind still racing, Jon slowly shook his head. “I wasn’t expecting her, that’s all,” he said carefully, trying to spin a lie faster than Littlefinger could unravel the truth.

As expected, Petyr seemed unconvinced. “So you ran?” He smiled pityingly. “From your own family? Dear old Aunt Daenerys? Are you two on bad terms?”

Licking his lips, Jon forced a fake laugh. “Of course not. I just...I thought the public was sick of the royal family’s, ah, dynastic interbreeding, I think I heard it called once,” he said instead, smile tight. “Isn’t that why I’m here? To date a more...common woman?”

Petyr chuckled. “Best not say that to any of them. Let’s say a woman of the people, hm?”

But that was the point, wasn’t it? Why these women were here. Marry a prince, become a princess, after all.

And Daenerys is already a bloody princess, a voice in the back of his head reminded him.

He blew out a breath, fighting the urge to run his hand through his hair—with as much gel as they’d put in it, his hand would get stuck, anyway. Jon could sense Littlefinger was like a dog with a bone now, but he wasn’t keen on stripping himself bare for the camera, no matter what Littlefinger or Olenna wanted.

So he did what Tyrion had taught him to do when it came to the prying media—give them something by giving them nothing.

“I was just shocked to see her here. It’s been years since I last saw her,” he answered. “I didn’t even know she was back in Westeros.”

She was in Essos, last he’d heard, anyway. Back with Drogo, again. That was what he’d read in the tabloids: Princess Daenerys steps out with the Khal! Before he’d finally told himself enough , to stop keeping tabs on her, stop wondering what she was doing, where she was, when she would be back.

He’d succeeded this time, though it still didn’t stop Val from breaking up with him in the end.

“That’s all? You were just shocked to see her?” Littlefinger prodded skeptically.

Jon let loose a sheepish laugh. “Wouldn’t you be?” he joked. “If you realized your own aunt was apparently keen on dating you?”

Littlefinger smirked. “Not if she looked like your aunt. But I admit that would be strange, I suppose, if it were anyone else. Not for Targaryens, though. King Rhaegar, your father, was the first Targaryen to marry outside of the royal bloodline, was he not? Twice, at that. It’d be quite normal for you to marry your aunt.”

Jon was losing his patience. Aware the camera was still trained on his face, however, he shrugged, slipping his hands into his pants pockets. “Why would I make that decision yet, when I have more than a dozen other women to get to know first?”

Littlefinger tipped his chin, conceding his point. “Of course. Let’s head back so you can do just that, shall we?”

Despite his outward calm, Jon’s stomach began to knot with dread. “Do I need to reshoot the scene? With Daenerys?” he asked, managing to keep his voice level. Gods, he needed a drink. Badly. No doubt the women were already five drinks in, while he was still disappointingly sober.

Petyr smiled, and only then did the cameraman and the rest of the crew start to retreat. With the interview finished, Sandor fell in beside Jon once again. “No, I don’t think that will be necessary. We got everything we need.”

Of course—because Jon storming off at the sight of his aunt before she’d even gotten a single word out was probably exactly what they’d needed.

Thankfully, Littlefinger knew how to lead them out of the hedge maze. Once they’d hiked back up to the driveway, Jon trying not to slip on the wet lawn in his unscuffed wingtip shoes while refusing Sandor’s attempts to help him, Daenerys was long gone. Which was a bloody relief, though he knew she was just inside the Highgarden castle with the rest of the women.

In the spot where Jon had left him, Oberyn waited, seemingly unfazed by his runaway-bride act. Littlefinger had Jon and Oberyn first film an insincere conversation about how Jon was feeling, then they trekked the rest of the way to the castle. Only then did Olenna finally speak to him through his earpiece.

“Margaery’s not looking like such a bad prospect now, is she?”

Mouth twisting sourly, Jon shook his head. “You’re a nasty woman, you know that?”

She hmph’ed. “You’re not the first to say that, and you won’t be the last. But just wait. You’ll be kissing my arse by the end of this. Once the public is kissing your arse again.”

“After you’ve thoroughly humiliated me on national television, you mean?”

“Darling, you’ll have twenty women embarrassing themselves just for a chance to suck your dick,” Olenna said breezily. “Believe me, you’ll come out of this looking as wholesome as pigeon pie.”

Not with Daenerys here, he thought grimly. His palms grew slick, and he wiped them on his thighs.

“She’s right, my friend,” Oberyn said at his side, surprising him. He must have heard Olenna in his own earpiece. “On this show, the public only really cares about how badly the women look. The bachelor can do no wrong. Well, mostly no wrong.”

“Mostly?” he asked, and Oberyn grinned.

“Surely you remember Daario Naharis, don’t you?”

Jon cut him a look of disgust. “You think I actually watch this rubbish?”

Oberyn chuckled. “You should have done your homework, my friend. Anyway, Daario proposed to one woman at the end of his season, but then the media caught him hooking up with another woman he had previously eliminated. He tried to do damage control, saying he was confused about his feelings, but then another woman came forth to say he was also hooking up with her after the show. He never recovered from that scandal. I think he even had to flee to Essos, that’s how badly the people of Westeros came to loathe him. The audience doesn’t like being deceived.” He shrugged. “Just don’t pick the wrong woman, and you’re golden.”

At that, Jon snorted to himself. And what if they were all the wrong woman?

By the time he made it inside the castle, ushered to a large receiving room in the left wing, most of the women were shitfaced or well on their way to getting there. Hovering at the arched entranceway, he saw PAs circulating the room, and among them Varys, disguised in an inconspicuous server’s costume, passing out champagne when the women neglected the free bar. When the cameras were pointed elsewhere, Varys would whisper in a woman’s ear as he topped off her glass. No doubt sowing mischief and paranoia among their ranks.

Master of Whispers. No shit.

Once the camera crew set up the shot for Jon’s entrance and a PA shoved a glass of champagne into his hand, Oberyn called for the women’s attention. A hush fell across the room until Jon walked into the room, at which point they erupted in applause and cheers. Jon plastered a practiced smile on his face, not looking at anyone in particular as he stood next to Oberyn.

Especially not her. She was there, though, somewhere among the gaggle of half-drunk women teetering in their stilettos, tugging at the precarious necklines of their dresses. She’d always been petite, shorter than most women, but her classical Valyrian looks ensured she never got lost in a crowd.

“Ladies, welcome!” Oberyn greeted, and they all screeched as one. He lifted his glass, and they followed suit. Jon squeezed the stem of his glass, wishing it was a tumbler of whiskey instead. Champagne was going to do fuck all to make the next few hours of this night tolerable.

“By now you’ve all met our Bachelor—Prince Jon Targaryen,” Oberyn continued, resting his hand on Jon’s shoulder. He paused for another wave of applause and whistles from the women, then continued, “No doubt you’re already pretty familiar with him, as most of Westeros is.” Another pause, this time for nervous giggles. “Now it’s time for him to get to know you a little better. Unfortunately, by the end of tonight, five of you will be saying goodnight to our sweet prince, so I suggest you do your best to leave an impression.” Oberys waggled his eyebrows suggestively. “Don’t be afraid to pull out all the stops.”

The ladies laughed obligingly, and Jon did, too, albeit a bit fearfully. When he realized Oberyn was watching him expectantly, he cleared his throat and lifted his glass.

“I look forward to getting to know you all better. Cheers,” he said, and they echoed him with breathless awe, drinking their champagne when he did. He fought the overwhelming urge to down the whole thing. A couple of the women didn’t bother with similar restraint.

As the women erupted in giddy chatter once more, Jon turned to Oberyn. “What now?” he asked through his teeth, still smiling.

With a shrug, Oberyn drained the rest of his champagne. “Now you find the woman of your dreams.” He winked. “And maybe I’ll do the same.”

He found himself talking to the tall blonde woman first, avoiding the women actively making eyes with him or making a beeline in his direction. She stood off by herself, awkwardly lumbering more than a head over everyone else, including him. Even in flats! He had to tip his head back just to look her in the face. Bloody hell, she could wear him like a coat.

“Brienne, right?” he said in greeting. Like he could forget her name. She was taller than any runway model he’d ever met—or fucked, for that matter.

In his ear, Olenna sighed dramatically. “Really? That’s who you go for first?”

Brienne looked surprised that he should be talking to her. Her blonde hair was short and pushed back from her face in a stylized sort of pompadour, and she wore a sapphire-blue jumpsuit. Surprisingly stylish, despite how uncomfortable and gangly she looked in it.

“Yes, Your Highness. I mean...Jon,” she corrected herself, a blush coloring her cheeks. He smiled, sticking his free hand into his pants pocket.

“Do you like men shorter than you?” he asked conversationally. She had a good foot on him, after all. They would look absurd on camera. Theon would never let him hear the end of this.

“Everyone’s shorter than me,” she answered robotically, as if she was used to this question.

Bor-ing,” Olenna snarked through the earpiece. “Why are you wasting our time? We all know you’re not going to fuck this one.”

“Fair point,” he conceded, though whether he was talking to Olenna or Brienne was anyone’s guess.

Brienne turned sheepish. “You look...taller on TV.”

Jon took a large gulp of his champagne and smacked his lips. “That’s what they all say.”

He glanced around the room, and almost instantly, like a godsdamned moth to fire, his eyes were drawn to Daenerys, her long silver-blonde hair a beacon in the sea of red and bottle blonde. Due to his initial shock at seeing her, it hadn’t really registered with him then what she was wearing, what she looked like after a seven-year absence. Now, he took her in.

Tonight she wore a simple black dress with a hem that skimmed the floor and a neckline that plunged between her breasts. It was provocative but rather unremarkable, considering half the women there were nearly busting through the seams on their own gowns. Still, the sight of her cleavage, the exposed pale skin between her small, rounded tits, made his mouth go dry. He knew just how soft her skin was there, could nearly recall the feel of it on his fingertips, his lips, his tongue.

Face going hot, he forced his gaze upward and met her eyes, briefly, before he immediately looked back to Brienne, angry with himself that she’d caught him staring at her.

Misunderstanding his sour expression, Brienne pushed her shoulders back and drew to her full height. Seven hells, she gained another two inches on him. “Are you threatened by tall women?” she challenged.

He smiled his first genuine smile of the night. He had to admire her fortitude.

“I like to think I make up for my height in other ways,” he said. She smiled, uncertainly at first, but when he held his champagne flute out to her, she tapped hers to it. Together, they drank.

It wasn’t long before the other women began to circle him like vultures, swooping in to pry him away for their own five-minute sales pitches. He felt a bit like prey, being bandied about and picked over till there was nothing left.

Ros, the redhead who’d already shoved her tongue down his throat once tonight, struck first, quite literally sinking her claws into his arm as she pulled him away from Brienne mid-conversation.

“I thought you were the crown prince,” she told him with absolutely no preamble. She stroked his shoulder, her ample bosom nearly spilling out of her gold dress as she rested it on his arm. “The heir to the throne, I mean.”

He stared at her. “No. That’s my brother. Aegon.”

She pouted, her full red lips puckering in confusion. “Aren’t you Aegon, too?”

He tried not to scowl. Damn his parents and their antiquated royal naming conventions. “Aye. He’s Aegon VI, I’m Aegon VII. I’d understand how you could be confused,” he said slowly. “Except my brother is already married. It was a pretty big deal about four years ago. It was a five-hour televised event. They turned it into a national holiday and everything.”

“Why’d your parents give you both the same name?” she asked.

Where was a bloody server with a drink when he needed one? “It’s a family name,” he explained, his words clipped by his mounting annoyance. “I go by Jon. I’ve always gone by Jon. Everyone’s always only called me Jon.”

She smiled slyly at him. “That’s easy enough to remember, at least.”

“One would think,” Jon said. Finally, a PA made her way toward them, tray stacked with full champagne flutes. Thank fuck. As she passed by, he swiped a glass of champagne from the tray, exchanging it for his empty flute.

Turning back to Ros, he could see the wheels spinning in her head. For some unexplained reason, when her hazel eyes glinted devilishly, he felt a chill of fear crawl down his spine. “Did you know I once worked for a traveling mummers’ troupe in Braavos?”

Well. She certainly had his attention now. “Really?” he asked.

“I’m quite acrobatic.” She leaned in close to lower her voice. “And very flexible.”

Jon almost jumped out of his skin when Olenna suddenly hooted in his ear. “Now we’re talking!”

He wasn’t surprised when Margaery Tyrell came for him next. Actually, he was more surprised she wasn’t the first to get her hands on him. “Mind if I steal you for a moment?” she asked sweetly as she fluttered her falsies at him, unfortunately interrupting Ros’ demonstration of a backbend.

“Ah,” Jon glanced at Ros, the split of her dress revealing the crotch of her black thong. It was pretty damn impressive, he had to admit. He was sad to miss the rest of her one-woman show. “Sure. Excuse me, Ros. Really lovely talking to you.”

Ros smoothly transitioned into an upright position, her face flushed as wispy red curls tumbled from her updo. She glared at Margaery but shot him a suggestive smile. “I can show you my split later.”

The camera followed as he and Margaery relocated to a more private corner of the room. “I’m so sorry for interrupting the show back there,” she said with a laugh.

He smiled. Bloody well doubt it. “It’s fine—I think she was about to start charging admission, anyway.”

Margaery laughed again, playfully touching his arm. Noticing her hands were empty, Jon flagged down a server to get her a drink, which she accepted graciously. “So what do you do, Margaery?”

She flipped her hair over her shoulder, and he tried not to stare at her tits. Was it his imagination or was the neckline of her dress cut even deeper than it had been earlier? There was no way she had any underwear on.

“I’m a social media influencer,” she said matter-of-factly as he sipped his champagne.

Miraculously, he managed not to do a spit-take. “Oh?” He coughed. “Is that so? And...sorry, what does a social media influencer do exactly?” he asked, though in truth he didn’t give a shit.

“I have over three million followers on Instagram,” she explained. “Mostly, I promote clothes and makeup brands. But, really, I do it so I can use my influence to help others.”

He gulped half his champagne before responding. “How so?”

“Through my partnerships with clothing companies, I can acquire defective clothing they can’t sell and donate them,” she explained. “I work with a lot of organizations that feed and shelter homeless people.”

“Oh.” Maybe he’d been too hasty to judge her. “That’s quite wonderful.”

“I really do love helping the less fortunate,” she murmured. Then, with a wink, she laughed. “Of course, I’m not opposed to free clothes for myself, either.”

Of course. He smiled blandly, pretending to listen as she prattled on some more about her Instagram following and supposed good deeds. It wasn’t fair to compare, he knew, but Margaery’s talk of charity work made him think of Daenerys.

Daenerys, who’d moved to Essos six years ago and soon after began her partnership with Breaker of Chains, a nonprofit that helped free women from sex slavery and assisted others affected by human trafficking. It was work she’d did under the radar for little acclaim, and as far as he knew, was still doing.

When she wasn’t attending lavish parties on the arm of Khal Drogo, that was.

Once again, his eyes sought her out. He scanned the room till he found her on the other side, chatting with two women. The one with the septum ring, Missandei, he remembered, but the other girl he couldn’t recall at all. Even looking at her now, with her mousy brown hair and mousy face, nothing stood out. Of course, standing next to a woman like Daenerys, a knockout even without her silver hair and violet eyes, most women paled in comparison.

She was laughing with them, casually sipping her champagne. She always did know how to work any room she was in. That was expected of any member of the royal family: Daenerys, Rhaegar, Lyanna, Aegon, Rhaenys, Viserys, himself. They’d all received the same etiquette training.

Jon had always been total shit at it, though. He hated the forced courtesies, the rigid niceties. All the arbitrary expectations. From birth, he’d been doomed to fail. Jon Snow, the black sheep of the family—quite literally.

In their teens, however, Daenerys had found it endearing. She’d liked it. She’d liked him.

Until she didn’t, he supposed.

Now, he narrowed his eyes as she smiled at Missandei, listening intently to her story. She didn’t once look at him.

He drained his champagne, flashing Margaery a wan smile when she laughed at her own joke though he had no bloody idea what she’d even said.

Daenerys was here for something. For a reason. She would find her way to him. Eventually. He could wait her out.

Jon was talking to Shireen by the lit fireplace when Melisandre cornered him suddenly, sending the young girl scurrying away in mild terror. Jon couldn’t blame her. With her scarlet-colored dress and long, flowing sleeves, Melisandre reminded him of a spooky woods witch. The red eyes certainly didn’t help. Seven hells, those were scary as fuck.

“Prince Jon,” she intoned in greeting.

The Red Witch, he thought with some amusement.

“You must really like the color red,” he commented, finding himself staring at a giant ruby choker around her throat. It was strangely hypnotizing. Jon shook himself free of his stupor and swigged his whiskey. He’d had to switch to the big guns not too long ago.

She smiled queerly at him. “Red is the color of extremes. It’s the color of love and passion, fire and blood, energy and life. Red is a very seductive color.”

He blinked. “Ah. Perhaps that’s why my ancestors picked it for our family crest, then,” he said easily, the alcohol doing its job to loosen his tongue and soothe his ill humors.

“It’s also an auspicious color for marriage.”

He nearly choked on a mouthful of whiskey. “Is that what you’re hoping for?” he asked after he’d finally stopped hacking like a cat with a hairball. “A marriage into the royal family?”

Her creepy smile remained fixed in place as she glanced around. “Aren’t we all?”

He lifted his drink at her honesty. “And here I thought you were here for me and my sparkling personality.”

Melisandre tipped her head thoughtfully. “I’m here because my guru told me you were the one. The prince who was promised.”

Fuck me. He polished off the rest of his drink in one gulp.

Cersei Lannister was absolutely the drunkest one there. Or maybe just the meanest, though Jon knew the two weren’t mutually exclusive.

And she seemed more interested in shit-talking her ex-husband than getting to know him.

“He was a drunken buffoon,” she said as she sipped her wine. Jon very politely didn’t point out the obvious.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” he monotoned. She shrugged.

“Don’t be. He’d gotten fat and lazy in his middle age. I’m glad to be rid of him.” She smiled at him, a cruel twist to her mouth. “And just as I’m hitting my prime.”

At the predatory glint in her emerald green eyes, he tried not to shudder. “Is that so?”

She sidled up closer, fussing with the lapel of his suit jacket. “I could do things for you that you’ve only dreamed of. I know these young tramps might seem more appealing, with their perky tits and empty heads, but that’s not what you really want, is it?”

He chuckled nervously. “Well, it depends on the occasion, I suppose.”

Cersei sneered, pulling away from him. “My ex was like that. Developed a sudden affinity for hot young things. Meanwhile, he’s pushing fifty while his scale’s pushing 250.” An unattractive yet humanizing snort left her then, and she swirled her wine before finishing it off.

Jon cleared his throat. “Would you like more wine?” he offered, and she nodded dismissively. He didn’t stick around a second longer.

“Bloody hell,” he muttered to himself once he was at the bar. He nodded to the bartender, Olly, another PA in costume who also happened to be commendable at mixing drinks. Olly turned toward his end of the bar, practically tossing a wine seltzer at the woman he was currently serving to tend to Jon instead.

“Whiskey neat. White Walker, please,” Jon said.

Olly nodded eagerly, but someone else spoke. “White Walker?”

He glanced to his right. The woman with the wine seltzer was the last redhead of the group, Ygritte. She regarded him with mild disgust and pity. “Oh, you know nothing, Jon Snow.”

Jon scowled, already annoyed. “Excuse me?”

She wrinkled her nose. “You’re a prince, and you drink White Walker? Everyone knows the best whiskey is R’hllor.”

“Is that so?” he asked, trying not to lose his temper, not with the camera in his face. He’d already had a shit night—the last thing he needed was to be mocked by a woman who really thought she’d get to marry a prince on a reality TV dating show.

Ygritte shrugged. “At least, where I’m from, it is. But I’ve always known we’ve had superior taste compared to you Southerners.”

He bristled. “Oh? And where are you from?”

She smiled, showing off a slightly crooked front tooth. It was oddly refreshing, considering half the women in the room had such obvious veneers. Judging by her unruly red curls, her freckled face left unobscured by too much makeup, and her total lack of dental work, Ygritte didn’t seem too concerned with her looks. She was cute, he decided, in an unaffected way.

“Up North.”

That explained the accent. It was even thicker than his cousins’ Northern burr. His mother had long lost any trace of her accent, having been in King’s Landing for nearly thirty years now. Enough elocution lessons as princess (and then queen) had stripped her of nearly every identifying aspect of her Northern identity. They couldn’t break her entirely of her humble upbringing, though. After a few drinks or a few minutes with her siblings, she’d slip back into her familiar accent. Even Jon had picked up some of her linguistic quirks, much to his father’s consternation.

“The North is pretty big,” Jon told Ygritte.

She shrugged. “You wouldn’t know it.”

“Try me,” he pressed. “Half my family is up North.”


He paused. “All right, I don’t know it.”

She laughed, and Jon felt the tightness in his chest lessen, the simmering anger easing—especially when Olly set his drink down in front of him.

“Thanks, mate.”

Ygritte gestured to the bartender. “Get him a shot of R’hllor, too.”

“I don’t take shots alone,” he told her. She narrowed her eyes at him warily then agreed.

“Two shots.”

Olly grabbed the bottle and lined up two shot glasses, pouring them in rapid succession. Jon took his, and Ygritte, hers. Gingerly, they clinked them together so as not to spill the liquid, then they knocked them back.

As he swallowed, the burn in his throat surprised him. He tried not to cough, especially when he noted her lack of reaction after taking her shot. Ygritte arched an eyebrow in question, and he cleared his throat.

“That’s good,” he said hoarsely, and she laughed.

“Like being kissed by fire, aye?”

Reluctantly, he laughed as well. A real laugh that surprised him. “Ygritte, right?”

She grinned that crooked-tooth grin again. “You remembered.”

His smile widened. “You’re easy to remember.” Damn, even he was a little hard after that line. Tyrion was right; he could be charming when he wanted to be. When he remembered how to be.

To his surprise, Ygritte blushed faintly, though she tried to play it off with an unimpressed eye-roll.

Olenna piped up in his ear then, startling him. “Ask her what she does for a living.”

“What do you do, Ygritte?”

She tossed her wild hair out of her face. “I’m a wilderness guide. I take people out into some of the most remote places in the North.”

“So them to their possible deaths?” he asked, half in jest.

She snorted. “The opposite. Usually. There are some occasions when people have to be airlifted back to civilization. Or a hospital.” Her blue eyes flashed with excitement. “But it’s an experience of a lifetime most people will never forget. It’s quite an adrenaline rush, being thrown into the middle of nowhere and having to figure out how to make do with only the supplies on your back.”

Seven hells. She might just be a bit off her nut after all. Still, wilderness guide wasn’t social media influencer, at least.

“Do you hike on these...expeditions?” he guessed cluelessly. As a prince, he’d never even gone camping a day in his life. He didn’t sleep in anything less than a five-star hotel.

“Oh, yes, among many things. We hike, we rock climb. I teach people what vegetation they can eat, and what will kill them. I teach them how to hunt.”

His eyebrows shot up. “Hunt?”

“Aye. Bow and arrow. There’s nothing like taking down an elk or a bear with nothing but an arrow through the eye,” she said proudly.

He swore to the Seven that was Olenna snickering in his ear.

“Wow. That’s...that’s impressive.”

Ygritte gave him a challenging look. “Tell me. You ever gutted and skinned your own dinner before, Jon Snow?”

Yeah, that was definitely Olenna laughing in his ear. Long and hard. “Oh, yes. I can picture the hometown date already,” she crooned, positively delighted. “She’s a keeper.”

Daenerys still hadn’t come to him.

Over the course of the night, his annoyance steadily grew, as one by one he talked to every woman there but her. Every time he spotted her across the room, she was engaged in conversation with someone else. Aside from that first time, she never made eye contact with him again.

Just what in seven hells was her game? She seemed more keen on making friends than talking to him. He fumed silently but kept a polite smile on his face all night, faking a half-hearted interest in whichever woman he happened to be talking to.

Jeyne W, or maybe it was Jeyne P, was yammering on about something he couldn’t give a shit about when he finally saw that Daenerys was alone, turning away from the bar with a glass of red wine in hand.

“Excuse me,” he interrupted distractedly, not waiting for a response from Jeyne P—shit, or was it Jeyne W?—before he stalked off. By now, he’d had more than enough alcohol to hype him for this confrontation.

This had been years in the making.

Jon hastily intercepted Daenerys before she could ingratiate herself with anyone else. As he loomed before her, she jerked back in surprise, nearly sloshing her wine over the side of her glass. For a brief second, he felt victorious having caught her off guard, as she’d done to him earlier that night.

But Daenerys recovered quickly and actually had the audacity to smile at him.

His own smile was biting. “I’m surprised to see you here,” he said with forced easiness. “I figured you’d still be with Drogo.”

He thought the name might jar her further, shake her confidence, but she looked unbothered. “I broke up with Drogo some time ago. Don’t you keep up with the tabloids?”

Now he was the one who was surprised. Turning over her unexpected declaration in his head, Jon drank his whiskey to give himself a moment. Of course, if she was here, she couldn’t still be with Drogo. Unless this was all an act. Some kind of ruse.

After he’d gathered his composure, he said, “I think you and I know better than most that the tabloids are bullshit.”

“Language,” Olenna hissed through the earpiece. “This is still a family-friendly program.”

Daenerys shrugged. “That’s true. Still, I kept up with the tabloids, even in Essos. They’re obsessed with you over there, did you know that?”

Jon flexed his jaw. “All flattering, I’m sure.”

Her violet eyes danced with faint amusement, though she affected a frown. “Dick pics, Jon?”

A flush heated his face, and he took a hearty swig of his drink to avoid answering. Gods damn you, Val, he thought sourly. She’d sworn up and down she hadn’t been the one to leak those photos to the gossip sites, but she was the only woman he’d ever sent photos like that to. He was certain he’d never sent a dick pic to anyone else. Ninety percent sure, anyway.

He didn’t know what to believe, but Val had seemed genuine in her denial, near tears even when he and his legal team had threatened her with a lawsuit. She must have been hacked, she’d insisted. Despite her sit-downs with the press about their breakup, he didn’t think she was vindictive enough to humiliate him to that degree. How could she be? She’d been the one to kick his sorry arse to the curb.

“Well, you know me,” Jon said through clenched teeth. “The family fuck-up.”

Aggrieved, Olenna sighed in his ear. “We’re not going to be able to use any of this.”

Something flashed across Daenerys’ face, but it was gone before Jon could process it. “I don’t know about that. Every woman I’ve talked to here seems very... impressed with what you have to offer.” She hid her smile in her glass.

He grimaced. That thought hadn’t even crossed his mind till now, that all these women had already seen his cock.

“Is that why you’re here?” he asked abruptly. At the edge in his voice, her smile fell. “To see me make a fool of myself on national television?”

Her eyes widened. “Of course not. I—”

“Why avoid me all night then?”

Daenerys sipped her wine, her free hand fidgeting with her drop earring. His eyes narrowed on the simple gesture. A nervous habit he recognized. She was anxious, despite her affected nonchalance.

“Well, you ran away the moment you saw me, Jon,” she said drolly. “That doesn’t normally inspire confidence in a girl, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Why are you here?” he demanded, even as he felt the cameras pressing in.

She smiled tightly. “They rang me up and asked. I just thought...Might be fun.” Again, another shrug, a strange blitheness in her posture at odds with the strain around her mouth and eyes.

Her seeming antipathy cut deep. Maybe it was all an act, maybe not. But he’d always been quick to anger, and he lashed out before he could think better of it. “So you’re just here to have fun. At my expense. Here to get more publicity for—what are you working on these days? A charity? A clothing line? Trying to get a bit part in a movie maybe?”

Her expression shifted, all mirth gone. “You think so poorly of me.”

This time, he was the one to shrug, a petty part of him reveling in her hurt. “I haven’t seen you in years, Dany. I don’t know who you are anymore.”

Her nostrils flared, her own temper flaring, but she forced a smile regardless. “So you won’t even give me a chance then, I suppose?”

A chance to what? A chance to break his heart again? Jon swirled his drink, watching the amber liquor swish around the glass. “There’s nineteen other women who deserve that chance more than you do.” Who haven’t blown that chance once already. “Nineteen other women I can probably count on to stick around when things get tough, even without the contractual obligation.”

Her face went ashen, but he didn’t give her a chance to respond. Knocking back the rest of his whiskey, he turned his back on her and walked away.

As he stormed out of the room, Littlefinger immediately intercepted him. As if he could sense Jon’s frustration, Sandor appeared as well, ready to bodycheck the producer the moment Jon gave him the cue. “I’m not going back in there,” Jon said before Littlefinger could even open his smarmy, too-small mouth. His confrontation with Daenerys had left him rattled, amped up on his own righteous anger.

Petyr smirked. “No, not now,” he agreed. “Olenna needs you in the control room so you can tell us who you want to cut first.”

Jon’s body deflated with relief. “About bloody time,” he muttered. It was probably the only thing about this shitshow he was looking forward to. That, and hopefully downing enough alcohol to blackout and forget this night.

Littlefinger took Jon and Sandor over to the greenhouse-turned-control room, which was abuzz with PAs and crew scrambling as Olenna barked orders at them like a drill sergeant. Even so, her eyes remained glued to the bank of TV monitors that loomed before her, where, back in the receiving room, the women continued to drink and play nice while plotting each other’s demise in not-so-hushed whispers.

Upon his entrance into the control room, Olenna glanced at him and huffed, snapping her fingers impatiently. “Makeup! Darling, you look like you’ve got whiskey coming out of your pores.” As if magically summoned, the makeup artist, Ellaria, materialized from nowhere, armed with her powder and brush.

As she patted at his forehead, Jon tried not to cringe away while she worked. Holding still, he closed his eyes and scowled. “You’ve got Littlefinger and Varys all but waterboarding the women with alcohol back there. What did you expect?”

She rolled her eyes. “I expected them to get embarrassingly pissed and entertain us. I expected you to exercise more restraint.”

He opened his eyes and stared at her. Did she even know who she’d signed up for this shit? “Well, you were entertained, weren’t you?” he said wryly.

Lounging in a nearby chair, Tyrion piped up. “I know I was,” he quipped. For once, he wasn’t nose-deep in his phone. Probably didn’t want to miss a single moment of this bloody circus.

Jon jabbed a finger in his direction. “I haven’t forgotten your part in this,” he snapped.

Tyrion tried not to smile. “I found my sister to be quite charming, really. Normally, this late in the evening, she can barely stand up straight. This is the most coherent I’ve heard her in years. I think you could be a good influence on her.”

“Fuck you,” Jon said, a refrain Tyrion was so used to hearing by this point he only laughed in response.

“Just try to keep your wits about you,” Olenna admonished to end their banter. Turning around to face a whiteboard where she had taped headshots of all twenty women, she held her arms out in a sweeping gesture. “All right. You’ve met the field of contestants. You’ll be knocking out five tonight. It’ll be an absolute bloodbath. Exciting stuff. Tell me who you want to cut.”

After Ellaria added the finishing touches to his makeup, Jon stepped up beside Olenna to survey the headshots. The faces swam together before him, and he squeezed his eyes shut to blink away the optical illusion. Perhaps he shouldn’t have had that last glass of whiskey after all. Looking at the photos again, he blew out a breath. He’d forgotten half their names once again, but thankfully each headshot was labeled.

“Seven hells. I guess...” He squinted. Talla? Which one was that? She looked familiar enough, he supposed, but when he tried to recall a single conversation with her, his mind came up completely blank. Well, that made it easy enough. He tapped her headshot. “She can go.”

Olenna nodded and ripped her headshot down. When he looked to her, she rolled her hand for him to continue. “And?”

“Ah…” Jon considered the pool of ladies again. “Right. Shireen. I look like her bloody nanny standing next to her.”

Olenna ripped that headshot off gleefully. “Fine by me.”

Jon pointed to Cersei next. “Her.”

“Absolutely not.”

He looked at Olenna, surprised. “What?”

“I told you, we need a villain,” she said crisply. “The audience wants to feel like you could make a colossal mistake. Cersei stays, at least until the top five. Top three is preferable.” She held up her hand when he started to protest. “But we might have some late contenders for the villain role. Competition tends to bring out the claws.”

Sighing, Jon crossed his arms over his chest. “Fine. One of the Jeynes, then.”

“Which one?”

Jon’s eyes darted between the two headshots. No wonder they blended together in his mind—they looked nearly identical. Plainly attractive with brown hair and brown eyes. “Bloody hell, I don’t know. Jeyne W?”

Olenna ripped her headshot down. “Two more. Who else?”

He rubbed at his beard. “Who was the one who confused me with my brother?”

“Ros? Oh, no. No. She’s our slut.”

Jon’s head snapped around. “Oh, well, that’s not very nice.” Though undeniably true.

Please. She was ready to do splits on your face back there.” Olenna rolled her eyes. “She knows her role, and she plays it well.”

“Well, I’ve never been one to judge a woman for her sexual proclivities,” he said diplomatically.

Olenna snorted. “Of course you wouldn’t.”

Ignoring her pointed jab, Jon went on. “I didn’t mean Ros. I meant the other one who called me Aegon. At the limo.” He found her headshot and nodded at her. “That one. Wylla.”

With a flick of her wrist, that photo came down as well, fluttering to the ground. “One more. Who’s the unlucky girl?”

Finally, Jon looked at Daenerys’ headshot. He’d been stalling, really, until this point. It didn’t matter who he cut; it was all the same in the end.

She was the only one he truly needed to consider.

He should cut her. He would. He wanted to but...he knew Olenna wouldn’t let that happen, not this soon. She was brought here for the drama, after all; gods, even now, there was a slight tremor in his hands, the adrenaline from talking to her still coursing through his veins.

But what if he insisted? What if he refused to film anymore unless she left? He was pretty sure there’d been no stipulation in his contract that he had to pick who they wanted him to pick. Ultimately, it was his decision; Olenna had promised him that much.

What could she do if he refused to play their game?

“Clock’s ticking,” Olenna said impatiently, hands on her hips. “The longer you delay, the drunker those girls get.” She considered this. “Actually—take your time.”

He blew out a breath and looked back at Daenerys’ photo. Swallowing, he gave a curt nod.

“All right.”

Varys and Petyr had herded the women into another room that had been set up for the elimination ceremony. After Jon finished his deliberation, he was immediately sent back to the castle. Oberyn greeted him in the hallway just outside the room where the women waited, drawing Jon in for a dramatic on-camera pep talk.

“Are you ready for this?” he asked, hands gripping Jon’s shoulder to hold him in a soul-searching gaze.

Jon sighed heavily, as if it were the most difficult decision of his life. “I think so. I just don’t want to hurt anyone.”

“If they’re not right for you, they’re not right for you,” Oberyn said solemnly. “Better to hurt them now then later, when they’re in too deep.” Jon blinked. That was surprisingly deep for a reality TV show host.

Jon nodded, just as gravely. He should win a bloody Mummers Award for his acting. “I’m ready then.”

“All right, my friend. I wish you good fortune in the wars to come.” Oberyn slapped him on the back then sent him on his way. Until someone yelled cut and had Jon wait while they reset the scene so they could film him entering the room alone.

It felt like walking in front of the firing squad. Twenty pairs of eyes followed him as he stopped by a table set with the blue roses he was to hand out to the women he kept. Why blue roses, he had no fucking clue. “You’re a prince,” Olenna had told him in the control room. “Red roses are too generic.”

Taking a deep breath, Jon stood stiff-backed, hands clasped in front of him, as he scanned the two rows of women before him. They looked terrified, despite the wooden smiles fixed to their faces. Not Daenerys, though. Of course not. She stood stoically, her face unreadable, her eyes trained on something over his shoulder.

“Thank you all for being here tonight,” he began, reciting the lines Littlefinger had fed him earlier. “It was a pleasure to get to know all of you this evening. Unfortunately, I can only pick fifteen of you tonight.”

Dramatically, he reached for the first rose. This was the first impression rose, the one Olenna had told him to give to the woman who’d stood out to him the most so far. (“Or the woman you most want to fuck. I don’t care.”)

The women shifted nervously as they waited, holding their collective breath.


The redhead’s face lit up in surprise and delight, and she peeled away from the others to stand before him. “Ygritte, after you practically force-fed me whiskey earlier tonight, I knew you were someone I would like to spend more time with,” he said, smiling when she laughed. She might be a bit mental, but she was fun, at least. “Will you accept this rose?”

She nodded as she took the rose from him, a grin spreading across her face. “Of course.”

He kissed her cheek, and she walked back to her spot, smugly ignoring the jealous glares a few of the other women shot her. Jon picked up the next rose from the pile. Already he’d forgotten the order in which Olenna wanted him to call the rest of the women up for “optimal dramatic effect.” He was just going to have to wing it.


Unsurprising to anyone, Margaery came up to accept her rose as if she were accepting the crown for “Miss Westeros.”

Next, he called Brienne, then Ros, Melisandre, Missandei, Yara, Cersei, Meera, Alys, Gilly, Alayaya, and Shae.

He was pretty damn impressed with his ability to recall that many names at one time—but now he was down to the Jeynes, and fuck him if he couldn’t remember which one he agreed to keep.

He took a stab at it. “Ah. Jeyne...W?”

The corresponding Jeyne gasped in shock and relief, and he swallowed a curse. Nope, that was the one he was supposed to cut.

“Wrong one, you twit,” Olenna hissed in his ear. “Gods be good, are all princes this boneheaded?”

Jon smiled tightly as the girl bounced up to him to accept her rose before al but skipping back to her spot. What did it bloody matter, anyway? Jeyne W or Jeyne P, both would be gone sooner or later.

Picking up the last rose, Jon took a deep breath. The remaining women looked positively sick to their stomachs. Even Daenerys, who’d seemed unaffected before, was staring at the ground now, a stormcloud darkening her face.

He felt a tiny trill of satisfaction. It was petty and cruel, even, but it was nice to elicit some kind of reaction from her, finally. To return some of the pain she had caused him.

He licked his lips, stalling as long as he could to really draw the anticipation out, even taking a moment to smell the rose. Then, with little ceremony, he said, “Daenerys.”

Her head snapped up, the disbelief plain on her face. There was an audible gasp from the others as they all looked to her, seemingly stunned by his choice. Daenerys didn’t move for a second, as if she were sure she’d heard wrong. Or maybe she thought it was a trick. Jon waited in silence until, finally, she stepped forward. His eyes tracked her, unblinking, as she approached, her shoulders pulled back, chin up.

Ever the fucking princess.

When she stopped before him, he casually twisted the rose between his fingers to consider it, then he held it out to her. “Will you accept this rose?”

Daenerys stared at him, her eyes alight with confusion though she kept her face blank. Eventually, she nodded. “Yes,” she said quietly, not even offering him a smile.

As he’d done with everyone else, Jon leaned in to kiss her cheek. Suddenly hit with her familiar scent, he closed his eyes. His lips grazed her soft skin, and he lingered, a little longer than he had with the other women, he knew. He didn’t think he imagined her quiet intake of breath, but she stood absolutely still until he pulled away. Her eyes darted to his, searching, but then she turned away, head held high as she slipped back into her spot.

Dry-mouthed, Jon swallowed, telling himself not to stare a second longer. He was grateful when Oberyn entered at that moment to handle the rest of the elimination ceremony, because suddenly he couldn’t remember what came next.

“Ladies, I’m sorry, but if you did not receive a rose, you must say your goodbyes now,” Oberyn announced.

One by one, the remaining women came up to hug Jon farewell. Mercifully, only Shireen cried, bursting into tears as she ran from the room, a camera ready in the hallway to catch her mortifying exit.

More champagne was passed out then, and Oberyn beckoned all the ladies to gather around. They all lifted their glasses, the mood drastically shifting from dread to drunk elation.

“Congratulations to you all, and welcome to your home for the next ten weeks!” Oberyn said, his glass raised high. When all the women cheered, not even Jon could resist the pull of their contagious excitement. He found himself laughing along with them, but as he went to drink his champagne, he locked eyes with Dany across the circle from him. Unsmiling, she looked to him, then away and sipped her drink. His smile slipped into a brooding scowl.

Gods help him. It was going to be a long ten weeks.

Chapter Text

WMEB Moodboard

Bobby B Productions
“Westeros’ Most Eligible Bachelor”
Tape #023

Partial transcripts of one-on-one
interviews with contestants
[May 23, 2019; 8:06 a.m.]

Varys: Brienne, good morning. [laughing] Sorry, am I speaking too loudly?

Brienne: No. Just have a bit of a headache, that’s all.

Varys: Oh, I’m sorry. Would you prefer we do this later? Perhaps one of the other girls will be happy to do her talking head first. [pause] Margaery seems particularly chipper this morning. I could ask her—

Brienne: No! I mean, I’m fine. I’m ready. I’m sure the coffee will kick in soon.

Varys: [sympathetic murmuring] Yes, it seemed like you all went pretty hard last night. You looked like you had a good time though. I noticed you spent a lot of time talking to the prince.

Brienne: [blushing] I don’t know that it was a lot of time. There were quite a few other women vying for his attention, too.

Varys: Yes, but I couldn’t help but notice how he approached you first, out of everyone else there. I’m sure it didn’t escape the other ladies’ notice either.

Brienne: [visibly uncomfortable] Prince Jon is very...kind and courteous. I’m sure he was just being polite.

Varys: [more laughing] Polite, courteous. Is that all you have to say about our bachelor?

Brienne: [smiling shyly] Well...he’s very handsome, isn’t he? He has a very self-deprecating sense of humor that I appreciate. After a while, I hardly even noticed he was, ah...that much shorter than me.

Littlefinger: How are you feeling about the prince? Is he everything Westeros Weekly promised he would be?

Yara: Well, he’s quite pretty, at least. More so in person.

Littlefinger: It’s the hair, I think. Do you normally go for pretty boys?

Yara: [snorting] You could say that. I suppose I like my men a bit more on the femme side.

Littlefinger: [chuckling whisperily] Some men might be a bit insulted by that.

Yara: [scowling] And those men can suck my dick.

Varys: And how do you feel about your chances? With the prince?

Missandei: Chances of marrying into the royal family as a black woman? [shrugging] Probably not good.

Varys: Oh. [heavy, uncomfortable pause] Well, I don’t know about that. The Targaryens are pretty open-minded, don’t you think?

Missandei: [smiling] Are they? They’ve only just recently started marrying outside of their family.

Varys: Well, times are different now.

Missandei: Then why am I only one of two black women here?

Littlefinger: So, it’s probably safe to say you have a bit of a leg up on the other women here, don’t you? Having grown up with the prince, I mean.

Daenerys: If you think knowing how to push someone’s buttons in the way only a younger relative can is an advantage, then yes, I suppose I do.

Littlefinger: [smirking] Is that all he is to you? Your annoying younger relative?

Daenerys: [smiling] Technically, he’s older. By seven months.

Littlefinger: Ah, right. Your nephew who’s older than you. A bit confusing, isn’t it?

Daenerys: Perhaps. It all seemed pretty normal to me. Growing up, I never really thought of him as my nephew.

Littlefinger: You two were close then, growing up?

Daenerys: [pause] [fiddling with her earring] Sure. We were—

Littlefinger: [crosstalk] Remember, not to me, to the camera.

Daenerys: Of course, forgive me. Jon and I were close growing up. Rhaegar and Viserys were so much older than me, but I was of a similar age with Jon, so it was inevitable we spent a lot of time together. Aegon and Rhaenys were around a lot, as well. [smiling] But I’m sure you knew that already as the media has obsessively documented every aspect of our lives.

Littlefinger: Mm. Not every aspect, I imagine. I’m sure there’s still some secrets left to be told.

Daenerys: [silence]

Littlefinger: [smiling] Or perhaps not. Let’s move on.

It took Jon way too long to realize the pounding he heard wasn’t in his head but was instead coming from the door to his room.

With a groan, he rolled onto his stomach and shoved his pillow over his head to block out the knocking. It might not be in his head, but the sound wasn’t doing his vicious hangover any favors. “Fuck off,” he muttered, squeezing his eyes shut. It was probably just Tyrion or one of the castle staff come to inform him that his father had “requested” his presence for breakfast. Which was usually just an opportunity to ream him over whatever tabloid rag he was splashed across that particular morning.

Another insistent knock had Jon growling in frustration. “Fuck off!” he yelled this time, but the intruder was not to be deterred. A timid voice spoke through the closed door.

“Um. Your Grace. I mean. Jon? Sorry to wake you, but Olenna needs you in hair and makeup. Like, now?”

Podrick. Right. Bollocks. Jon had almost forgotten where he was. He wasn’t in the Red Keep back in King’s Landing; he was in a guest house in Highgarden, filming a bloody dating show.

Well. At the very least, he’d successfully drank enough booze the night before to almost forget his poor life decisions. It was the small victories in life, really.

Sighing, Jon tossed the pillow aside and rolled out of bed. His whole body hurt. Even his eyeballs. “Don’t worry, Sandor, I’ve got this one,” he shouted to the connecting room where his bodyguard slept. A raspy grunt was his only answer. The Hound wasn’t a drinker—as his high-stakes job protecting a prince very much necessitated constant sobriety—but he was even less so a morning person, a quality Jon normally appreciated.

Padding barefoot to the door, he swung it open to squint bleary-eyed at his well-meaning assistant, who held out a coffee cup in offering.

“G’morn—oh!” Pod’s face turned beet red, and he averted his eyes skyward. “Sorry! I didn’t, uh, I didn’t know you were, uh, uh...indecent.”

Confused, Jon looked down and found himself stark naked. “Oh. Shit.” He quickly covered his junk with his hand and stepped behind the door. Thankfully, there didn’t seem to be any cameras around yet to catch him with his dick out. Not that the whole of Westeros hadn’t already seen it all. “Sorry, mate. I usually sleep in the nude. Come inside.”

Stammering, Pod ducked inside the guest house, and Jon closed the door behind him. The poor lad still didn’t know where to look, so Jon grabbed his pants—the suit pants he’d worn the night before, which in his inebriated state he'd apparently draped over a marble statue of a fat, naked baby sniffing a bouquet of roses. Absolutely hideous. Drunk him probably thought to spare sober him the sight.

“All right, it’s safe to look,” he said once he had his cock tucked away and his pants zipped. Wryly, he added, “Nothing we haven’t all seen already, anyway, right?”

Pod cleared his throat. “I haven’t—I mean, I don’t read that kind of stuff.” Amazingly, he turned even redder. “It don’t feel right, you know? Anyway, it’s, like, a sex crime to publish photos like that, innit?”

Jon stared at Pod, momentarily taken back. Then he snorted, rubbing at his temple where his headache seemed to be the worst. “One would think, aye. But good luck getting the City Watch to give enough of a shit about that to actually do their fucking jobs.” Especially when the Lord Commander already actively hated Jon’s guts, the gods only knew why. Jon suspected Janos Slynt just hated any man who was younger, richer and more attractive than him (not a high bar to cross, truthfully). No doubt Slynt had gotten a good laugh at the royal prince having his wang plastered all over the internet.

“Maybe you shouldn’t take photos of your prick if you don’t want them to get out,” Slynt had sneered rather unhelpfully when Jon had first reported the crime. Jon would have lunged over the desk to punch him square in his ugly little frog face if Tyrion hadn’t been there to temper his rage.

Clearing his throat, Pod offered the paper cup to Jon once more. “Tyrion thought you could use this.” He looked sheepish. “Black coffee with a few drops of milk of the poppy?”

“Oh, gods bless him,” Jon groaned, snatching the coffee from him. He gulped it down gratefully, this time only mildly scalding his tongue. His assistant was a quick learner. “And you. You’re a good man, Pod.”

Pod beamed like a dog getting his head patted. Already, Jon felt better, the throbbing in his head lessening. “What time is it?” he asked. Without his phone—confiscated by Olenna the day of his arrival—he was completely unmoored and adrift.

“Quarter till eight.”

Jon nearly choked on his coffee. “Are you shitting me?” he spluttered. Gods, no wonder he felt like utter shit. He’d only been asleep for a few hours. Though his memory was hazy, he remembered partying with the women until three in the morning, getting steadily more shitfaced than even Cersei Lannister, which had not been an easy task. “Why the hell does Olenna need me this bloody early?”

“Well, we always start filmin’ at nine,” Pod hurried to explain. “And hair and makeup takes a while. And she said you probably need to shower first…”

He did reek of sweat and liquor. Pinching the bridge of his nose, Jon sighed. “Fuck me. Fine. Give me ten minutes.” Finishing his coffee, he tossed the empty cup to Pod, who fumbled to catch it in the air. Then he just stood there, gaping stupidly at Jon, who made a move for his pants zipper. “Well? Unless you wanna see my cock again, I suggest you get the fuck out.”

Pod was already scrambling for the door. “Yes, sir, I mean, Your Grace! I mean, Jon!”

Thanks to the milk of the poppy and a shower so hot it was a wonder he had any skin left, Jon was feeling much better. His hangover had all but dissipated by the time he’d emerged from the hair and makeup trailer. Still, he slipped his sunglasses on over his eyes to block out the harsh morning sun and nursed another cup of coffee as he followed Varys across the castle grounds, Sandor at his heels.

It was a long trek to an open grassy field, one of the few spots not overflowing with exotic flower gardens or hedge mazes. He could already see the women gathered around a confusing set that looked like an obstacle course and PAs armed with garden shears, crawling on hands and knees to carefully trim the odd too-long blades of grass in the otherwise perfectly manicured lawn. The two camera crews were there already, of course, filming every second, hoping to catch something salacious for Olenna to cobble together into a story later.

Today was the group date, Varys had dutifully explained while Satin styled Jon’s hair. More accurately, it was a competition that would determine the winners of a cocktail hour with Jon. For some reason, it had sounded vaguely ominous, and a lot of effort for just a drink, but at least Jon himself didn’t have to compete. All he had to do was kick back and watch the women make complete fools of themselves just for the chance at a half-arsed date with him.

Seven hells. This whole farce was cruel, and they were all batty for agreeing to it, him included.

As they approached their destination, Jon spotted Olenna among the contestants, giving them the rundown of the day’s scheduled activities. When he crested the hill, there was a palpable shift among them: backs snapping straight, breasts pushed out, hips popped to the side. They were noticeably changed from yesterday, too; gone were the glamorous, overly stylized hair and body-hugging gowns. Today, the women wore simple tank tops and leggings or shorts, hair pulled back in artfully messy buns or sleek ponytails.

Olenna turned away from the women to greet him. “So good to see you, Jon,” she said, though she certainly didn’t sound happy to see him.

“Thank you for the wake-up call,” he replied, adding silently: you old bat.

She eyeballed him critically. “Ellaria truly is a miracle worker, isn’t she?” Giving his crotch a pointed look, she arched an eyebrow. “Mother have mercy, is that the style with men your age these days? Can your twig and berries even breathe in those pants?”

Resisting the urge to self-consciously adjust himself, Jon ignored her dig at his tight jeans. “Where’s Oberyn? Isn’t he the one who normally monologues this rubbish for the cameras?”

Olenna waved her hand dismissively. “Pish. He’ll be here later. Oberyn’s been doing this for fifteen years now. He knows what’s required of him, so he gets the luxury of sleeping in.”

“Lucky bastard,” Jon groused. Fixing a friendly smile on his face, he turned his attention to the women. “Morning, ladies.”

“Morning, Jon,” they chorused together. Despite his cantankerous mood, his smile widened into a genuine grin. Maybe he could get used to this, after all.

His smile slipped, however, when his gaze gravitated toward Daenerys. She wasn’t even front and center—no, in a surprise to exactly no one, that was Margaery and Cersei, who were slyly trying to edge past each other with jabs of their elbows just to get his attention.

Daenerys never competed for a man’s attention. She didn’t have to. She hated being fawned over, and she openly disdained men who shamelessly courted her, which, of course, only made them want her that much more.

Not for the first time, he wondered what she was even doing here, especially when she seemed so uninterested in their predicament. Dressed in black capri leggings and a loose, off-the-shoulder top, her silver-blonde hair plaited down her back in a simple braid, she stood off to the side with Missandei, the two whispering among themselves and snickering behind their hands.

Jon scowled to himself. Well. At least, she’d made a friend here. That was all she could hope to go home with.

“Oh, what’s got you so pouty now?” Olenna huffed, snapping him out of his annoyed thoughts.

“I expected better coffee,” he lied. “Did you have this shit flown in from the Iron Islands? It certainly tastes like it.”

She rolled her eyes. “That’s a blend from the crownlands, Your Royal Highness. I thought you’d appreciate a taste of home.”

He snorted. “In that case—no wonder it tastes like pig shit.”

Amused, Olenna finally smiled. “Good. I like a prince who can take the piss out of himself. I assume my dear Spider briefed you on today’s schedule?”

Jon took a sip of coffee. “Something about a competition? Truthfully, I stopped listening when he said I didn’t really have to do anything.”

“That’s not strictly true, but, yes. We’re going to have a good old-fashioned tourney.”

“A what now?”

“A tournament. A tourney. Like the royal family used to hold way back in the day,” she explained. “I thought it seemed fitting, considering you’re our bachelor. The women will be divided into two teams, and they’ll compete in different contests. Archery, jousting, a melee—”

“Jousting?” Jon repeated incredulously. “You can’t be serious—like, with fucking horses and everything?”

Olenna was unfazed. “Of course not. We couldn’t get the network to sign off on that. Animal rights activists would have been up our arses. We still get death threats about season eight when we went to Yi Ti and the bachelor wore a monkey-tail hat as is custom for the men. You would have thought we’d slaughtered the poor monkeys ourselves.” She made a vexed sound. “No, the women are going to be wearing costumes and using padded sticks. It’ll be completely safe.”

Flabbergasted, Jon stared at her, stammering. “Oh—all right—I mean—wait, did you say a melee, too?”

“Darling, why are you so gobsmacked? You really haven’t watched this show before, have you?” She shook her head pityingly, then her face darkened as she narrowed her eyes at something over his shoulder. “Oh, bloody hell. Incoming.”

Before Jon could even ask, a familiar voice bellowed behind him, nearly causing him to jump out of his skin. “Where’s that royal prick at?!” Jon turned around, freezing like a deer in headlights when he saw Robert Baratheon, a six-foot-four bull of a man, barreling toward him. “What did you do to my niece, you fuckin’ bastard?!”

Preventing the Hound from springing into action at the approaching threat, Olenna stepped in front of Jon to block Robert (from picking him up by the neck to throttle him, if the murderous look on his face were any indication). “Bobby. Calm down. You know you can’t hurt the talent.”

Robert jerked to a stop, wheezing so hard Jon thought he was going to start billowing smoke from his nose. Red-faced and sweaty, he jabbed a meaty finger at Jon. “Talent, you say?” he roared. Sandor growled in warning, squaring up with Robert, but the man didn't falter. “He wouldn’t know talent if it got down on its knees and sucked his tiny little pecker—”

“Well, that’s hardly a fair characterization,” Jon interjected, his own temper flaring, but Olenna held up a hand to silence them.

“Bobby, you’re going to give yourself another heart attack,” she said, exasperated. “What’s this all about?”

He glowered at Olenna, his face almost purpling. “He broke poor Shireen’s heart! She called me last night in tears! She was absolutely inconsolable!”

Jon was grateful for his sunglasses, so the man couldn’t see him roll his eyes. Bloody hell, broke her heart? He’d spoken all of fifty words to her! Their time together didn’t even amount to more than ten minutes, total, for fuck's sake.

“Oh, she’ll get over it,” Olenna snipped. “Just hire her an agent like you wanted to, put her scenes from the first night on a reel, and she’ll be golden. That’s what this was all about, anyway, wasn’t it?”

Robert flexed his jaw, jowls trembling as he glanced between her and Jon. Everyone else had faded away, his bodyguard, the PAs, the camera crew, the producers; even the women didn’t dare make a sound, no doubt enthralled by the spectacle before them. Jon held his ground, staring at the belligerent buffoon in front of him. The fat man might’ve had more than half a foot and a hundred pounds on him, but Jon was a fucking Targaryen prince, and he did not kneel.

“Was she not good enough for you?” Robert demanded. “Is that it? My niece wasn’t good enough for the high and mighty Jon Snow?”

That bloody fucking nickname. It was an effort, but Jon dug deep for the diplomatic courtesy that had been drilled into him since infancy. Not that he used it often, much to his parents’ chagrin, but he knew if he didn’t tread carefully right now, he’d be sporting a couple of black eyes by the end of the day, and he doubted even the prospect of being tossed in the castle dungeons for assaulting the prince could dissuade Robert from clocking him.

Jon bared his teeth in a farce of a smile. “Of course not. She was simply out of my league, and I knew I wasn’t ready for a woman of her calibre.”

Olenna scoffed at his bald-faced lie, but Robert seemed more impressed. His face color downgraded from eggplant to pomegranate, anyway. He snorted. “Damn right, she’s too good for you!”

Olenna had had enough of the dick-slinging. “All right. Are we done here? Can we move on and do our jobs now? Would that be okay with you, Bobby?”

“That’s what I pay you for, isn’t it?” Robert barked, but already his mood was improving drastically. He rubbed his hands together. “What’s on the docket for today? Something good, I hope.”

“We’re going to have ourselves a little tournament today,” Olenna explained, turning to the women. “Our girls are going to be competing for our sweet prince’s affections. We’ll put them on separate teams, where they will then split up and compete in three competitions: a joust, a target archery competition, and a melee. In each one, they will win an allotted number of points for first place, second place, and so on. At the end, we’ll total the points, and the team with the most amount of points wins a chance to booze it up with our bachelor.” She turned back to Jon and Robert, her thin eyebrows raised in question. “Sound good?”

Jon shrugged, but Robert looked more than pleased. “Melee, you say? Bloody hell, the audience will love it. Nothing beats a good cat fight!” He chortled deep in his big belly and slapped a beefy hand down on Jon’s shoulder, rattling his teeth inside his head. “And this is why I pay you the big bucks, Olenna. You’re a diabolical genius. Now, start the damn joust before I piss myself!”

Oberyn finally deigned to grace them all with his presence, amazingly looking no worse for the wear, though he’d likely had a wilder night than the rest of them. After stumbling out of the castle, Jon had caught the host snogging the Jeyne he’d cut earlier that evening when he’d stopped to puke beside a giant water fountain on his way back to his guest house.

Jon wasn’t sure if he was insulted by the man’s audacity—or impressed.

After a quick pass under Ellaria’s makeup brush, Oberyn winked at her and slapped her arse, earning a flirty punch to his shoulder. Then it was showtime as he instantly slipped into the consummate host role to explain the rules of the tournament for the cameras.

Jon stood beside him, glad for the sunglasses that allowed him to rest his eyes while he pretended to listen to this drivel again.

“You’ll be split into two teams, Team Rose and Team Stag. Six of you will participate in the jousting portion of the tourney—don’t worry, no real horses will be harmed. You won’t even need to know how to ride a horse as you’ll be wearing these costumes—” On cue, a PA, dressed in a full-body suit that looked like a knight riding a horse, trotted by, prompting laughter from the women. Oberyn grinned and continued, “And you’ll be using padded pugil sticks instead of lances, of course, so no women will be harmed either.”

They cheered gratefully, though some of the women like Ros and Cersei rolled their eyes, annoyed with either the rules or the game itself. In any case, Jon didn’t blame them. This competition was clearly designed to humiliate them.

“The second contest will be a melee, a free-for-all, if you will, where six more of you will be placed in an arena to fight to the death. Kidding! Of course.” This time, the women laughed nervously. “You’ll be given a plethora of foam weapons to go nuts with. If you get pushed out of the designated area, you lose, and the last person standing wins. Depending on when you get knocked out, you’ll be assigned a number of points, which will help determine whether your team wins or loses at the end of this.

“And lastly—the target archery competition. No, you won’t be shooting each other—” He wagged his finger. “So get that idea out of your head right now. Four of you lovely ladies will be working on your target practice. To ensure no one accidentally sticks someone with the pointy end, you’ll be using these suction-cup arrows on archery targets.” The same costumed PA handed Oberyn a bow and arrow, which he then shot into the pack of women, who shrieked as they dodged it.

“Now, as there are currently an odd number of contestants, one of you intrepid souls will compete in the jousting contest and the melee to make sure your team has a chance to even the score. The points will be tallied at the end of the tournament, and the team with the most points will enjoy a lovely drink—or two or three—with our prince here, while the losers are sent back to the castle in complete disgrace.” With a perfectly veneered grin, Oberyn turned to Jon. “Any word of advice for our competitors?”

Jon cleared his throat. “Have fun, and, ah, fight fair? Hospitals don’t make for great first-dates, or so I’ve been told.”

The ladies giggled as Oberyn placed a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Anyway, we have our own on-set medic to tend to injuries, just in case. Don’t worry, that’s usually just a precaution. Now, let the games begin!”

Despite his reassurance, the girls turned uneasy, sharing looks of mild alarm even as they clapped. Admittedly, Jon was a little concerned, too.

But it was just reality television, he reminded himself. How bad could it get?

Holy shit, these women were actually going to kill each other.

Jon watched in horror as Yara sent another contestant—this time Shae, the "intrepid soul" who'd stupidly volunteered for both the joust and melee—flying from the “arena,” which was just a large padded wrestling mat. Ros, Jeyne W and Alys had already lost in the melee and now stood scowling on the sidelines with the other women who weren’t currently competing.

Seeing the bloodlust in Yara’s eyes, the second-to-last woman standing, Meera, tossed her foam sword aside in defeat and purposely stepped off the mat to avoid a similarly brutal fate as Shae.

At one point, Jon himself had seen his own life flash before his eyes, when an errant ax had come hurtling through the air at his head. It wouldn’t have been too big of a deal, considering it was made of foam and rubber—if Sandor, acting on reflex, hadn’t bodyslammed Jon to the ground to save him from the airborne projectile. They’d had to take a half-hour break for the on-set medic, Samwell, to determine Jon hadn’t broken a rib or dislocated his shoulder.

Thankfully, there’d been no real damage done, other than some vexing grass stains on his jeans, a broken pair of sunglasses, and a wounded ego.

Oberyn jumped onto the mat to grab Yara’s hand, lifting it over their heads. “We have a winner!” he crowed victoriously. In celebration, Yara hocked a perfect loogie, with so much force and distance, it landed near Jon’s foot.

“Fucking hell,” he exclaimed, jumping out of the way.

As she took a victory lap around the ring, her teammates cheered her on, all except Ros, who was still smarting from Yara’s earlier—and completely unnecessary—suplex move, and Shae, whose busted chin was currently being tended to by Samwell.

The on-set medic had already been working overtime during the jousting competition; half the women had needed treatment for possible concussions after Brienne had knocked them flat onto their arses.

In the moment, she’d been a raving beast out for blood, and not even the tears of her opponents could stop her. But after Oberyn had crowned her the jousting champion three times in a row, she’d finally seemed to snap out of her haze and had become so distraught, Jon had taken her on a walk (at Varys’ insistence, and with a camera in tow, of course) just to calm her down and reassure her, no, she hadn’t actually put anyone into a coma; Gilly just might not be able to hear out of her right ear for a few days, that was all.

It’d been a calculated moment, no doubt orchestrated by Olenna who was watching from the control room with Robert, to show the viewers how caring and romantic Jon was. But all he could think about was how bloody ridiculous it must look—Jon taking a stroll with an hysterical Brienne, still dressed in her costume, as if he were leading a horse around the castle grounds.

Gods, he dreaded the tabloid headlines already: Prince Jon, Horse Whisperer.

Ros had cornered one of the poor PAs and was now demanding justice for the melee results. “Shouldn’t this bitch be disqualified for attacking her own teammates?” The PA looked around wildly for help, but Jon just sipped his water and studiously avoided making eye contact. Frankly, when Ros wasn’t dripping sex like a leaky faucet, she was quite terrifying.

Unruffled by the women’s growing hostilities toward any and everyone in their immediate vicinity, Oberyn came to the PA’s rescue. “Relax, darling. You all get points, but Yara gets the most amount for winning. It all helps your team in the end.”

Ros crossed her arms over her chest with a pout. Hefting her foam ax onto her shoulder, Yara sidled up beside her. “Don’t worry, love. When he picks me for a one-on-one later, I’ll be sure to put in a good word for you.”

Ros rolled her eyes and sneered. “Why are you even on this show? I think it’s pretty obvious to everyone that the prince isn’t exactly your type.” She smirked, but Yara only shrugged, unconcerned.

“What can I say? I’m always up for new experiences.” She wiggled her eyebrows suggestively. “If you’re ever up for one, let me know.”

Frowning, Jon leaned in closer to Oberyn. “Wait a minute. Is she gay?” he asked under his breath.

“Would it be a problem if she were?” Oberyn’s perfectly sculpted eyebrow hiked up to his hairline.

Sheepish, Jon scrubbed a hand down his beard. “Er, no, of course not.” Then he frowned and shook his head. “Wait. Yes, it would be.” At Oberyn’s gimlet-eyed glare, he quickly explained, “I mean—the point is for me to pick a woman to date and potentially marry. Dating a lesbian kind of defeats the whole purpose of the show, doesn’t it?”

Oberyn scoffed. “Right. You want to find a nice woman to settle down with, the women just want to find true love, and we’re all here for the right reasons.”

Before Jon could retort—not that he had a good retort, actually—Oberyn slipped back into his hosting persona. Cupping his hand over his mouth, he shouted to the women. “All right, ladies, on to our last event—archery!”

The target archery competition was three rounds total, with the four remaining contestants—Daenerys, Ygritte, Melisandre and Cersei—shooting three arrows during each round to tally their points for a final score. It was all quite tame, considering the bloodbath they’d just witnessed. Way less potential for injury and personal embarrassment.

Pity. Jon thought he might have enjoyed seeing Daenerys, stately and dignified princess that she normally was, have to prance around as a horse. But no doubt her contract specifically prohibited something just like that. The crown wouldn’t willingly risk the body and reputation of one of their own.

Well. Unless it belonged to the black sheep of the family, he supposed.

As it was, the target archery competition really was only a contest between Daenerys and Ygritte. No surprise there. Ygritte was a bloody wilderness guide who could take down a damn bear, allegedly, and Daenerys, like Jon and every Targaryen before them, had been trained in every pointless sport possible: polo, competitive sailing, rowing, archery, just to name a few. Jon much preferred polo and rowing, but Daenerys had always been pretty good with the bow. She wasn’t tracking and killing her own dinner, but Jon had seen her hit her fair share of bullseyes at many a charity event.

In the first round, Cersei’s first two arrows fell well short of the target, and the third sailed right past it. Melisandre at least managed to stick one arrow to the target. Ygritte and Daenerys hit two bullseyes apiece; in the second round, after adjusting their technique and stance to compensate for the inferior equipment, they both hit the bullseye with all three arrows.

In the final round, after Cersei’s second to last arrow went wildly askew, she hurled her bow at the camera and stormed off the field, ranting as she went. “This is stupid and childish, and everyone knows this whole bloody thing is rigged, anyway!” She shoved Littlefinger aside when he tried to talk to her. “Oh, fuck off, you buggering, sniveling little weasel!”

“Well, it appears Cersei has forfeited the game,” Oberyn said gravely at Jon’s side, mostly for the camera’s sake. Watching from a few yards away, her disgruntled teammates grumbled angrily to each other.

Jon was glad Varys didn’t appear then to persuade him into chasing after her. Based on what he’d already intuited about her in their one conversation, she’d be more inclined to shove an arrow up his arse than welcome his sympathy or pity. He didn’t think anything short of a bottle of Dornish red could do the trick in comforting her, anyway.

Melisandre, while equally as terrible at archery as Cersei, seemed less bothered by her failure. After her last arrow failed to hit the target, Jon clapped politely, and she turned to look at him, unsmiling and unblinking. She just stared at him as if she could see to the heart of him—and found him wanting.

He started to sweat. Seven hells. Was she trying to hypnotize him?

Miraculously, he managed to break eye contact and turned back to the action just as Daenerys made a bullseye.

“You’re pretty good,” Ygritte told her with mild approval. “For a princess, I mean.”

Daenerys smiled, readying her next arrow. “I’m passable. It’s much easier to hit a stationary target.”

Ygritte smirked at that, squaring up to take her shot. “True.” Arms straight, arrow nocked, Ygritte pulled the string taut then released it. Yet another bullseye for the redhead. “There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as bringing down a wild, unpredictable beast that could kill you if you’re not careful. You ever tried to do that before, princess?”

“I can’t say that I have, no.” Daenerys didn’t take her next shot, instead waiting for Ygritte to finish.

“No, I’m sure you’ve always had someone to bring you food your whole pampered life.” Nock, draw, loose—a third and final bullseye. Her team erupted in shrieks, and Ygritte turned back to Daenerys, a challenging glint in her eye. Daenerys’ polite smile didn’t waver.

Jon knew that smile well. It was the same smile she wore at state dinners, forced to listen to bloviating Westerosi lords and dignitaries from Essos condescend to her even as they tried to sneak a peek down the front of her gown.

Right now, he would bet she was imagining Ygritte as the target.

And judging by how she hit a second bullseye then, he was right. Her own team cheered, quickly drowning out the others. Oberyn lifted his hands to halt the action and draw everyone’s attention.

“Right now, Team Rose is in the lead by four points. If Daenerys fails to hit the bullseye, Team Rose will win the tournament. But if she does, Team Stag will pull ahead by just one point to secure the victory—as well as the date with Prince Jon.”

Daenerys blew a piece of hair out of her face. “No pressure,” she muttered to herself, taking up her stance.

Missandei shouted from the sidelines. “You can do it, Dany!” Her teammates joined in on the chorus of support.

Lifting her bow, Daenerys took aim and pulled the string back, arms holding steady. Absurdly, Jon found himself holding his breath, until she glanced at him suddenly, catching him off guard. For a brief moment, she held his gaze before looking back at the target. He frowned to himself, but he had no time to puzzle out the look in her eyes before she released the string. The arrow sliced through the air, sailing, sailing—

—and missing the bullseye by a significant margin, hitting the second to outer ring. Her team deflated with groans of disappointment as Team Rose exploded in excitement. Ygritte jumped up and down before running to her team to celebrate.

Oberyn clapped his hands together. “Congratulations to Team Rose! Now, you all get to enjoy a celebratory beverage with Jon while Team Stag must head back to the castle. Don’t despair too much, however—one of the losers from today’s challenge will be chosen by the prince himself for a private date later tonight!”

Jon smiled tightly, only half-listening to Oberyn explain to the winners what they could expect on their collective date with him. His narrowed eyes followed Daenerys as she joined her dejected teammates. Some of the girls like Missandei and Gilly consoled her with hugs; the others weren’t quite as conciliatory, however, despite Daenerys’ apologies.

And they bloody well shouldn’t be. Because if they knew Daenerys as well as he did, then they would know she’d just thrown that competition on purpose.

Chapter Text

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King’s Landing
September 3, 2011

Jon stepped out onto the balcony and exhaled, for what felt like the first time in hours. 

He’d endured hours of excruciating small talk with members of his father’s Small Council and staged photo ops with lords and ladies alike—who, more often than not, were just biding their time until they could talk to the king about policy proposals and potential business deals—but he’d finally managed to slip away for a moment’s peace. 

More importantly, he had tracked down Daenerys to this very spot, blessedly free of the sycophants he’d seen latched onto her all night as well.

She stood at the railing, her back to him, face turned down as she tapped away at her phone. Her hair spilled down her back like rivulets of moonlight, kissing the exposed blades of her shoulders. Beyond her the city of King’s Landing sprawled outward for miles, and all the streetlights and building windows glowed amber, casting her in a dreamlike softness.

Gods, was she a sight for sore eyes. Tonight was the first time he’d seen her in months, since she’d left for a summer abroad in Pentos. It was part of a diplomatic exchange program Rhaegar had encouraged her to take part in while she was on break from uni; as a princess of Westeros, she could curry a lot of favor with the varied governments of Essos, which was crucial when it came to trade between the two continents.

Daenerys had finished the program a few days ago, though she’d gone home to Dragonstone first for a brief respite before finally flying to King’s Landing for this state dinner. Jon had been on edge all week, anticipating her return. As part of the program, she’d been traveling extensively, often through remote areas, and had been mostly unreachable, except for the occasional email or text to keep him updated on her adventures. Otherwise, it was radio silence. Before then, he hadn’t realized a summer could feel so bloody long.

Jon cleared his throat. “Hizdahr zo Loraq seemed quite taken with you in there.”

At his voice, Daenerys spun around. When she saw him, her eyes lit up, but she quickly schooled her face into a mask of nonchalance and quipped, “I think Hizdahr would be taken with a potted plant if he thought flirting with it could ingratiate himself with your father.”

Jon stepped closer and slipped his hands into his pants pockets, willing himself to play it cool. He longed to touch her, to brush the hair behind her ear and trace the constellation of freckles down her neck and across her collar bone. He wondered if there would be new ones to discover; her skin looked freshly sun-kissed, her shoulders bronzed, her cheeks pink. Or was that a blush? Was he doing that to her?

He bit back a grin. “I don’t think a potted plant would look half as good as you do in that dress.”

And, bloody hell, did she look good; the strapless black dress hugged her deliciously, from her breasts to her hips where it flared out slightly in an A-line drape all the way to the floor. Classy and understated—save for the high slit that offered a tantalizing peek at her toned thigh every time she shifted in her heels.

Daenerys’ violet eyes danced as she fought a smile. It was a losing battle. Still, she rolled her eyes at his flattery. “Please. This old thing?” She snorted, a sound he had missed dearly since she’d been away. “I’m afraid I pale in comparison to His Magnificence.”

Hizdahr was pulling out all the stops tonight. He’d donned a lavish, teal-blue tokar covered in rare, and no doubt expensive, Meereeneese gemstones. On his head, he wore a gold diadem, and above it his wiry red-black hair had been artfully styled into the shape of wings, his beard combed into two pointy prongs.

“We all do,” Jon said drolly.

She gave him a critical once-over, her eyebrow arching in approval. “I don’t know. You look quite dapper tonight. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in that suit before.”

He shrugged, stupidly pleased by her compliment. “This old thing?” 

She finally laughed, just a soft sound of amusement, before she fell silent, her eyes unblinking as she stared at him. She clutched her phone to her breast and bit down on her lip. “I hope you know how much I missed you.”

Jon swallowed. “I missed you, too.”

As he moved closer, her eyes darted over his shoulder. “Jon—” she began nervously. Her voice held a warning, and with it the same apprehension that always hung over them, clouding every stolen moment.

He shook his head, desperate to reassure her. “Sandor’s keeping a lookout. Told him I needed a cigarette,” he explained. She narrowed her eyes at him, the corners of her mouth curving in a faint smile.

“Nasty habit, that.”

“So are you,” he admitted. He was close enough now he could smell her. She smelled different from what he remembered—some combination of floral and spice he didn’t recognize. A perfume from Essos, perhaps. He inhaled deeply, wanting to commit the new scent to memory. His hands twitched in his pockets. “Except you’re much harder to kick.”

“Did you just compare me to a cigarette?” she asked with feigned offense. Even so, at his proximity, her eyelids drooped, her face lifting to his as if magnetized. 

He smiled, pulling his hands out of pockets and granting himself permission to touch her. “Damn right I am. Let’s count the ways. You’re extremely addictive. Holding you just feels natural, like you’re the perfect fit.” He caught a lock of her hair to demonstrate, running the silky strands between his fore and middle fingers, like he would hold a cigarette. When he let her hair drop, it brushed against her collar bone, which he skimmed with his fingertips, finding one of those coveted freckles. Then he moved his thumb to her mouth, grazing her plump lips, which instinctively parted for him. “And when I breathe you in…” He dragged his thumb down her chin and throat and lingered between her breasts, the soft skin left bare by the bodice of her dress. “I can feel you,”

Her throat constricted with a swallow, and her tongue darted out to wet her pink lips. They spread in a slow smile. “Sounds more like indigestion to me, Jon.”

He chuckled, fingers idly tracing her sweetheart neckline. He could feel the pounding of her heart at his fingertips. The Others take him, it was an effort not to nudge the dress down just to get a handful of her tits right then and there. “Something like that, I guess. You know I’m not a bloody poet.”

Her pupils were deep and black, fat with want. The flush in her cheeks was deeper now, spreading down to her chest. He wondered if her nipples were dark and rosy, too, like they always got when she was aroused. “I don’t know about that. I always thought you were pretty good with that mouth of yours,” she said in a low murmur.

He kissed her then. It’d been too fucking long since he’d last tasted her—three months and fourteen days, to be exact. Yes, he’d counted, like the bloody lovesick fool he was.

Still, they kissed like no time had passed, their mouths fitting together in that perfectly familiar way. Their lips slid together, parting, tongues touching. Daenerys whimpered, and the sound ignited a fire of triumph from his chest down to his cock. Usually, he’d have to work a little harder to elicit that kind of whimper from her, but he’d barely touched her yet. She must be as starved for him as he was for her.

“Jon,” she whispered into his mouth, her tongue swiping over his bottom lip. He looped an arm around her waist and hefted her weight against his chest. In her haste to wrap her arms around his neck, she clocked him in the chin with her phone, but he was too preoccupied to care. 

His other hand dropped to her leg, finding the slit in her dress to push open and grasp bare flesh. He gripped the back of her thigh, petting the silky-smooth skin with his thumb as he stroked his tongue into her mouth. When he slid his hand up to her arse, she moaned into the kiss, nipping at his bottom lip. Jon dipped his fingers beneath her panties and followed the swell of her cheek to the crease of her thigh, then to the folds of her cunt, making her gasp into their kiss. He growled, shoving the crotch of her panties aside to rub his fingers up and down her lips, her cunt growing nice and wet as he teased her.

“Fuck,” he groaned, pushing his hand farther between her legs so he could sink his fingers inside her from behind. In her surprise, her teeth sank down into his lip, hard, making him hiss, but before he could do much else, Sandor coughed, loudly, from his post at the doors to the balcony.

The bloody signal. With an uttered curse, Jon abruptly jerked his face back. Daenerys’ eyes popped open in shock and confusion, her lips still parted in an aborted kiss. He heard the Hound’s raspy, “Your Grace,” and only had time to push her away from him and shove his cunt-slick hand into his pants pocket before Rhaegar stepped out onto the balcony.

“Jon,” he started, then stopped, surprised at seeing Daenerys, too. “Oh, Dany. Good, I found you both. What are you doing out here? We have important guests inside.”

Flustered, Daenerys only made a strangled sound, lost for words. Jon turned around, hoping like hell his father couldn’t tell he’d just been making out with his aunt. Pressing down on his erection through his pocket, he cleared his throat. Fuck, this was awkward. “Just needed some air. You know how bloody stuffy these things get,” he said, voice far too husky and obvious. He cleared it again to speak more lightly. “I found Dany out here trying to make her escape, too.”

Rhaegar rolled his eyes, crossing his arms over his chest. He was dressed in a simple black tux, but as etiquette dictated for these royal functions, he also wore his crown made of Valyrian steel and set with large square-cut rubies; on his right shoulder, a brooch bearing the Targaryen sigil of the three-headed dragon. “Always the jester. I hope you managed not to insult our guests with your jokes, at least.”

Composing herself, Daenerys tucked her hair behind her ear; Jon wished she hadn’t, as her neck was splotchy from embarrassment and arousal. At least, he'd not gotten the chance to mark it up yet (and he definitely would have, given another minute or two). “He’s kidding, Rhae,” she said smoothly. “I was actually just...telling him about some of my diplomatic efforts while I was studying in Pentos.” Her brow furrowed. “Did you know there’s an entire underground network in Essos where women are bought and sold as bed slaves? It’s supposedly illegal, but everyone at the top just turns a blind eye because it’s so profitable to their countries.”

Horrified, Jon looked at her, completely thrown by her diversionary topic of choice. She made an apologetic face. “That’s—seven hells, that’s fucked,” he blurted. 

“Indeed,” Rhaegar murmured with a frown. Then he shook his head. “Actually, speaking of Essos—I was just talking with Drogo. He seemed keen to meet with you, Dany.”

She looked surprised. “The Khal?”

“Do you know him?”

She shrugged. “Not really. I mean, we were introduced once, briefly. He owns a manse in Pentos and does a lot of business with the city magisters.”

Rhaegar smiled. “Seems you made an impression then.” He made to turn around and gestured toward the door. “We should return to the dinner.”

Jon looked to Daenerys again, who widened her eyes helplessly and made to follow her brother. With Rhaegar's back turned, Dany hastily reached behind her to pull her knickers out of her arse, and Jon had to swallow a snort of laughter. She shot him a glare.

Suddenly, his father turned back to him, his disapproval evident. Jon groaned inwardly. What had he done now? “When you speak to Val again, son, please do try to be a bit more courteous and attentive.”

“Who?” Jon asked, cluelessly.

“Mance Rayder’s daughter.” Right. The buxom blonde, Jon recalled now. Vaguely. She’d been chatting him up earlier, but he’d been too focused on tracking Daenerys around the room to remember much of what they’d discussed. “I’m in talks with him regarding refugee settlements in the north, and the last thing I need is you insulting him by offending his daughter.”

With that, Daenerys and Rhaegar disappeared inside. Agitated, Jon raked a hand through his hair then patted his empty suit pockets for a pack of cigarettes he didn’t have, knowing it was futile. 

May 23, 2019

Fucking hell, he would kill for a cigarette right now.

Jon’s fingers itched to hold one, to stick it between his lips and take a greedy drag to soothe the agitation coursing through his veins. But all he had was this gods-damned frozen strawberry daiquiri, which kept giving him brain freeze every time he went to chug it. 

He eyeballed one of the nearby cameramen. That one looked like a smoker. His fingernails were stained yellow, and judging by his scraggly hipster beard and ridiculous top knot, he probably even rolled his own cigarettes. Jon made a mental note to ask him later, when he didn’t have cameras in his face and women crawling all over him.

He snorted into his drink. He was a fucking prince, and this was what he’d been reduced to: bumming smokes from commoners.

“Are you OK?”

Jon blinked, reminded that he was in the middle of a conversation with Margaery. Her team had won the tournament and the subsequent group date with him, and she’d wasted no time in separating him from the pack so she could make her move.

“What was that?” he asked, licking the fruity concoction from his lips. Shit, he hadn’t been listening to her at all. He’d been lost in his thoughts, too fixated on his sudden craving for nicotine.

Her brow creased in mild concern, and she touched his arm. “You made a weird sound. I thought you might have choked on your drink or something.” She smiled. “Good thing I know how to perform abdominal thrusts.”

He stared at her dumbly. “Pardon?” 

“I took a first-aid class,” she said by way of explanation. “I know what to do if you’re choking. Here, I’ll show you.”

Margaery set her drink down on the water feature they stood next to and circled around him. He got the distinct impression of being hunted and held still, as if that would somehow ward off the predator. Suddenly, she was pressed against his back, her arms snaking around his waist. “Oh—OK,” he said, baffled, though, truthfully it wasn’t the worst situation to be in. He could feel her breasts on his back (no doubt her intention). They were soft, a decent size and shape, and obviously not fake. He could appreciate that.

She rested her chin on his shoulder, her mouth close to his ear. “When you’re choking, abdominal thrusts lift your diaphragm to expel the food or whatever is blocking your airways,” she said, all but purring the words. This was quite possibly the strangest dirty talk he’d ever heard.

Very deliberately, she ran her hands down his chest to his abdomen then lower still, where she lingered awfully close to his groin. He wasn’t a doctor, but he was pretty certain his diaphragm wasn’t anywhere in the vicinity of his cock.

Margaery laughed airily, her breath tickling his ear. “Someone certainly works out, don’t they?”

At her compliment, he preened. He did work out, and he was bloody proud of it. He had to, just to combat his life of excess. In fact, these past two days were the longest he'd gone without exercising in a while, which was probably contributing to his black moods. He was going to have to hit the small gym attached to his guesthouse soon. This perfect arse and six-pack were really all he had going for him these days—and he’d be damned if he let himself go like Aegon had. Sometimes, in his darkest moments of self-pity, Jon would just think about the Westeros Weekly feature story lamenting his brother’s “soft doughy middle and distressing bald spot” and he’d feel a wee bit better about himself (and extremely grateful for his mother’s hardy Northern genes). 

Acutely aware of the cameras and the dozens of PAs and varied crew watching this very bizarre seduction, Jon cleared his throat and gave a gracious chuckle. “Thank you. Let’s hope you’re around the next time I swallow a cocktail shrimp wrong.” 

Releasing him, Margaery grabbed her drink and stood before him again. “Believe me, you’re in very good hands with me.” With a smile, she plucked the pineapple chunk off her drink’s garnish skewer and popped it into her mouth. 

“Oh, I believe it,” he said mildly, wondering just how much Olenna was enjoying her granddaughter propositioning him on camera. “You handled that, ah, pugil stick during the joust pretty well.”

She laughed, instinctively covering the shiner darkening her left cheekbone. “If you mean before I ended up face-down in the dirt, sure. That was actually kind of embarrassing.”

Jon grimaced and reached out to move her hand so he could examine the bruise. “It’s not too bad. Makes you look tough.”

Dropping her hand, Margaery smirked at him. “Maybe you could kiss it and make it better.”

Seven hells. He almost rolled his eyes but thought better of it. After that horrifying tourney, Olenna had taken him into the control room to spell out her demands: “You need to spice this up a little. We’ve had the violence, and now we need the sex. You’ve been the perfect gentleman so far, but it’s time to start swapping spit with these women, OK? Chop, chop, sweet prince. I want the audience at home to be creaming their knickers when they watch this. Is that clear?”

Jon hoped to never hear the words “cream” and “knickers” come from Olenna Tyrell’s lips, ever again. Still, if she wanted the playboy prince, who was he to argue?

A slow, seductive smile spread across his face. Gently, he brushed his thumb across her bruise then leaned in to kiss her cheekbone. He lingered there a moment before pulling away, just barely. When Margaery turned her face toward his, he kissed her. The juice of the pineapple still lingered on her lips, and he deepened the kiss for a proper taste. Not bad, at all.

He hoped Olenna was getting a kick out of this, watching her own granddaughter suck face with the prince.

Scratch that—she probably was.

At that disturbing realization, he gave an involuntary shudder and pulled away, effectively ending the moment. He started to say something to diffuse the sudden weirdness, but thankfully he was saved the trouble by one meddlesome redhead.

While they were snogging, Ros had crept up on them. She cleared her throat suddenly, a high-pitched sound that drew their attention to her. “I’m so sorry to interrupt!” she said sweetly, but the gleam in her eyes said otherwise. Payback for the previous night, Jon was sure. From the corner of his eye, he saw Margaery scowl at her.

Ros held out a glass of daiquiri to Jon. “I just thought you could use a refill.” He didn’t, but he took it anyway, both hands now full of the shite beverage. When Ros looked at Margaery, she feigned regret. “Oh, no! I didn’t think to bring you one. Maybe you should run along and get one for yourself.”

Jon looked at Margaery, who flashed him a large, fake smile. “I guess that means my time is up. I really enjoyed getting to know you better.”

What had she learned, exactly? How many fillings he had? Jon smiled in response, and she reached out to rub her thumb across the corner of his mouth. “Oops. Got a bit of my lipstick on you.” With a wink, she walked away, an exaggerated sway to her stride.

“Maybe you should get some ice for your face while you’re at it,” Ros called after her, then she grinned at Jon, grabbed his arm and dragged him to the gazebo to sit while he tried not to spill either of his drinks. The other women were huddled at the outdoor bar nearby, but in no time, another one of them would swoop in to scare off Ros—if that was even possible—for their brief and shining moment with him.

Truly, it was a paltry prize for the beating they’d all endured earlier.

Although, the four archers had escaped the day’s activities relatively unscathed, lucky them. Probably only Cersei had been humiliated by the day’s events, as well as her team’s loss; considering Daenerys didn’t even seem to want to spend time with him, Jon didn’t think she was doing much wallowing right now.

Before he could lose himself in thoughts of Daenerys yet again, Jon forced himself back to the present. “You put up a good fight today,” he told Ros.

She huffed out a laugh and flipped her hair over her shoulder. At some point after the tourney, she’d pulled out her bun and had stripped down to her sports bra. He squinted, examining her closer. She looked like she had more makeup on now, dark-red lips and a smokey eye that seemed entirely too heavy for daytime. Then again, he thought the shit they shellacked on his face was too much, too, but Ellaria insisted it looked perfectly natural on camera.

Ros made a face. “That Yara is a bit of a brute, isn’t she? Someone should probably tell her men don’t like women who can kick their ass.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” he said, grinning. “Might be kind of fun.”

She smirked, leaning into him. “Of course, we all like it a little rough sometimes, don’t we?”

Jon sipped from the daiquiri she’d brought him. Thankfully, the bartender, Olly, had been a bit more heavy-handed with the alcohol in this one. “Only when safe words are used, darling.”

Ros looked positively delighted by that, her green eyes dancing devilishly. Immediately, Jon regretted toying with her. The Seven only knew what kind of demented ideas he’d just put into her head.

She snaked an arm around his shoulders, her fingers playing with the hair at his neck. “I feel like there’s so much to learn about you,” she hummed in his ear before nipping at the lobe. He winced.

“You could read my ex’s tell-all if you’d like a primer,” he muttered into his drink. 

Wrinkling her nose, Ros leaned back with a sympathetic pout. “Your ex is kind of a bitch, isn’t she?”

Jon coughed on his drink, swallowing hard, even as his expression turned stony. He mustered as much dignity as he could while holding two daiquiris. “She’s actually a lovely person, and we’re still good friends.”

Which was mostly bollocks, of course. As far as he knew, Val still resented him for his behavior at the end of their four-year courtship, and he hadn’t been too happy with her either once she’d run to the media to divulge everything about their breakup and then penned a damn book about their relationship, thanks to a generous six-figure publishing deal. And, of course, there was still the unresolved issue of who had leaked the dick pics. But the official statement released by the royal family had been that the breakup had been amicable and that there was nothing but great admiration and mutual respect between the prince and Val Rayder, the daughter of the chief doyen of the indigenous peoples of Westeros. 

Obvious lies to anyone with a functioning brain, but they had a public perception to maintain, after all.

If Ros was cowed by his censure, she didn’t show it. “Then she must not be too bright. All I know is, if you and I were together, I’d never let you slip through my fingers,” she said with a simper, combing her hand through his overly gelled hair. He tried not to scowl when her fingers caught on the glued-together strands and she was forced to tug them free.

He smiled tightly at her. No way in hell she’d ever get the chance to find out, that was what he knew.

“Well, isn’t this cozy?” A shadow loomed over them, and they craned their necks around to look at the intruder. Yara.

With a smirk, she braced her arms against the back of the loveseat where they sat. Ros sneered at her. “It was until you showed up.”

Yara straightened and held up her hands. “Oh, don’t let me ruin the moment.” With that, she launched herself over the back of the loveseat, wedging herself in between Jon and Ros. He shifted out from underneath her, but her jostling caused Ros’ drink to splatter all over her lap.

She squawked indignantly. “Excuse me! I was talking to him!”

“And you still can,” Yara said patiently. She smiled at the redhead. “The more, the merrier, I say.”

With a huff, Ros stood up and flicked the offending strawberry slurry off her leggings. “Whatever. Now I have to go clean up.”

As she stalked away, Yara blew her a kiss. “Don’t worry, I told you I’d put in a good word for you!”

One of the cameras chased after her, while the others lingered on Jon and Yara. He couldn’t help but laugh. “I think she might be a little scared of you. Admittedly, I think I might be a little scared of you, too.”

She kicked her feet up on a small table and smirked. “Oh, I’m a fierce competitor, but I promise I don’t bite. Except when asked.” 

He eyed her doubtfully. “’re interested in competing? For me?” he asked, just for clarification. 

Yara swept her arms out. “I’m here, aren’t I? And I’d say I’m having more fun than a lot of these twats who are taking this way too seriously.”

“Well, it’s a pretty serious competition,” he said, though it was hard to say with a straight face. Crossing his ankle over his knee, he puffed his chest out. “Some might even say I’m a pretty serious catch.”

Yara snorted. “And so am I, love.” Plucking one of his drinks from his hand, she downed it all in one go.

He smiled. She had some hefty balls, he’d give her that.

“Moment of truth.”

Oberyn placed his hand on Jon’s shoulder, and with the other, he gestured to the women gathered before them. “You’ve had a chance to mingle with the winners of the group date. Now it’s time to award the group date rose.” He paused dramatically for effect. “So. Who’s the lucky girl who will get a one-on-one date with you while the others are sent back to the castle?”

Jon twirled the blue rose between his fingers as he studied the contestants. They shifted nervously, chewing on their lips and smoothing their hair behind their ears. “First, I just want to say that I enjoyed talking with all of you today, however briefly. And I just want to commend you all on your sportsmanship earlier.” And, of course, by sportsmanship he meant their deranged eagerness to maim and/or kill each other for his favor.

His expression turned grave. “With that said, I can only pick one of you. And that person is...” He took a deep breath, and they all did the same, as if he were about to make a life-or-death decision. He exhaled, hoping they would do the same before they passed out. “Ygritte.”

She gasped, and the others applauded politely, though their disappointment was so palpable he could all but taste it on his tongue. As she stepped forward to accept his rose, they glared daggers at her back. Jon felt his armpits grow damp, aware that some of those daggers were aimed at him, too.

“Thank you,” Ygritte said with a wide grin, clutching the rose to her chest. Oberyn clapped his hands together.

“Excellent! Now, you two will get to know each other more intimately, while the rest of you must head back inside. Let’s go, ladies.” He shooed the dejected women off, and they began their trek through the garden to the castle, their feet dragging. Oberyn joined them, wrapping his arms around Shae’s and Alayaya’s shoulders to do his hosting duties of comforting them (supposedly). A couple of the cameramen split off to follow the group, and the rest stayed behind with Jon and Ygritte. Sandor lingered nearby as well, though far enough away he didn’t interfere with the scene.

Alone with Ygritte, Jon was suddenly at a loss. He’d spoken to her a handful of times, maybe, but he still didn’t really know her, and now he was supposed to treat this like an actual date? When was the last time he’d gone on a date? With someone new? And that didn’t just entail him fucking them in a bathroom or a car while Sandor kept a lookout for nasty paps and nosy fans?

Not since Val, in any case, and their first date had been years ago at this point. Even then, he’d only initially done so at his father’s urging. Someone else had arranged everything for them; all he’d had to do was show up to the restaurant with Val on his arm, much to the delight of the press, who had, of course, been informed by Tyrion ahead of time and were there to capture everything.

Bloody hell, he really needed to take a cold, hard look at his life choices up to this point, didn’t he?

“Thank you for the rose,” Ygritte said again, pointedly, as if to get his attention. Jon realized he’d just been standing there like a buffoon. 

Automatically, he smiled at her, even before he’d fully registered what she’d said. Her face was pink, maybe from the thrill of being chosen, or possibly just from being in the sun all day. Jon himself felt a bit flushed, despite the excessive amount of sunscreen he’d had put on under his makeup. “Only fake tans on set,” Ellaria had told him sternly, though why she’d had to strip him down to his smalls to lather him in the stuff when he wore pants and a shirt all day, he had no idea.

“You came in clutch for your team,” he said. “I thought you’d earned it.”

She squinted at him thoughtfully. “Hmm. I don’t know. This is the second rose you’ve given me, including the first impression rose.” With a grin, she playfully tapped the rose against his chest. “I think you’ve got a bit of a crush on me, Jon Snow.”

He cringed at the loathsome nickname but laughed all the same. “You were very impressive with the bow,” he told her diplomatically. Knowing he couldn’t just stand there with her all day like a gawky schoolboy, or else Olenna would certainly ream him out later, he began to walk, Ygritte falling into step beside him. A stroll through the gardens sounded marginally romantic, right?

Cameras scurried in front of them, and Jon tried not to look directly at them as he and Ygritte walked. Sandor kept pace with them, some yards away. “I’m much better with real arrows,” Ygritte confided, scrunching her nose. “Those fake arrows were a detriment. Otherwise, all of them would have been bullseyes.”

He shook his head, holding his hands behind his back. “You managed just fine. Cersei, on the other hand...” At the memory of her tantrum, Jon huffed out a laugh. Even Littlefinger had looked terrified of her as she’d stormed off set. If Cersei had been on the winning team, she would have earned the rose for that alone.

“I only just won. Your aunt was surprisingly good, too,” she said, arching her brow at him. Jon went rigid at the mention of Daenerys.

“We’re royals. We have a lot of useless talents,” he said with a forced smile. “As you said, we’re not out in the woods chasing down our own dinner.”

Ygritte turned sheepish. “I didn’t mean—that wasn’t a dig at you. It’s just, you know. Shit talking the competitors.” She laughed.

Somehow, Jon thought it was a little more than that, at least when it came to Daenerys. No surprise women often felt threatened by her, seeing as how she was a literal fucking princess. A beautiful one, at that

“In any case, you’re not wrong,” he said with a shrug. He needed to stop thinking about Daenerys so damn much. She wasn’t here —which she’d made sure of herself, he reminded himself, bitterly. “We’re all a bit pampered. I could probably stand to learn how to put some of these skills to use in the real world.”

She smiled slyly, brushing loose wisps of hair out of her face. “Well, if you keep me around for hometowns, I could make that happen for you. Could even teach you a new skill or two, like how to skin a rabbit.”

His face dropped. Fucking hell, he hadn’t actually been serious. The thought of schlepping through the wilderness to murder poor little bunnies made his skin crawl. Still, he forced out a laugh. “That would be—ah—”

She hooted with laughter, grabbing his arm. “Jon, I’m just pulling your leg! Gods, you should have seen your face. Don’t you fancy-pants people go hunting for sport? Hang the carcasses on your walls and everything?”

Viserys did occasionally, though, truthfully, Jon didn’t know if it was so much for sport as it was to quench some psychotic urges. 

He deflected. “Fancy-pants people? Is that what they call us where you’re from?”

Ygritte grinned. “Aye. It’s a term of endearment.”

Shaking his head, he smiled. “Personally, I find my fun elsewhere.”

“Oh, I’ve seen the tabloids,” Ygritte said breezily, then she grabbed his arm and pulled him to a sudden stop. Looking around, Jon saw that they’d somehow wandered into a hedge maze without him realizing it and momentarily panicked. He remembered the last time he’d gotten lost in one of these bloody things, and he’d be damned if he needed Littlefinger to rescue him again. When she stepped closer, however, he quickly deduced her game.

She was almost his height, even in sneakers, so he didn’t have to look down to meet her eyes. “You’re quite the ladies’ man, aren’t you?”

He snorted. “You shouldn’t believe everything you read.”

Her brow furrowed. “So you’re not good with women?”

He faltered. Damnit. “I wouldn’t say that—”

Smirking, she leaned into him. “No? Then show me.”

Seven hells, these women were horny as hell—and he would be an absolute wanker to complain. With a small smirk of his own, he grabbed her by the hips and closed the gap between them, taking her mouth in a kiss. Ygritte wrapped her arms around his shoulders, the rose in her hand tickling the nape of his neck as she stuck her tongue in his mouth. She didn’t wait for him to direct the kiss, instead taking charge herself. He appreciated her boldness...even if she was a bit aggressive with her teeth. And the tongue sucking. 

When they broke apart moments later, his lips felt sore, like a tiny kitten had been gnawing at his mouth the whole time. He quirked a smile at her and released her, discreetly rubbing at his lips. It was weird having cameras in his face as he snogged a woman, but it was no different than the paps hounding him any other day of the week, he supposed. At least here, there weren’t a bunch of twats screaming obscenities at him the whole time.

“Not bad.” Ygritte eyed him critically, then bounced her shoulders in a shrug. “I suppose you pass.”

Insulted, he opened his mouth to object, but then he understood: Her flirting style was much like her kissing, bossy and kind of rude. Most women weren’t willing to give him lip the way she was, and she didn’t seem impressed or daunted by who and what he was. It was refreshing, at least.

As they turned to exit the hedge maze in the direction they’d come, he took her hand with a smile. “I’ll try to do better next time.”

When Jon walked into the control room later that night, Sandor at his side, he was met with whistles and catcalls. He rolled his eyes but took a bow, anyway. “Was that enough sex for you?” he asked Olenna, who was bent over an editor’s monitor, forwarding through footage of the tournament. His date with Ygritte was over, as was any more on-camera obligations for the day, thankfully.

Olenna didn’t look up. “Darling, I’m as dry as a day-old biscuit, but that’s probably because I’m postmenopausal,” she retorted. He gaped at her in muted horror, unsure how to respond. Unbothered by his silence, Olenna continued, “However, for the lonely housewives watching this on their TVs at home, I’m sure it’ll be plenty.”

“Bloody hell,” Jon muttered to himself, raking a hand through his hair with some difficult. Gods, he couldn’t wait to shower so he could rinse out all the product in it. “Does anyone have a fucking cigarette?”

Olenna finally straightened, turning to face him as she crossed her arms over her chest. “Absolutely not.”

His eyebrows shot up. “Excuse me?”

“There is no smoking on my set. I can’t have my bachelor smoking. Do you know how trashy that looks?”

Jon’s mouth dropped open. “Seriously? Trashier than hooking up with multiple women at once?”

She scoffed. “Yes. The general audience can forgive philandering, but smoking? Inexcusable.” She looked at him with disapproval, and he felt like a little boy being scolded by his grandmother. “That stuff will kill you, you know.”

“Not if this show doesn’t do it first,” he shot back, then sighed, rubbing at his eyes. “Fine. Can someone get me a drink, at least? And I mean a real drink, not that fruity shite you had us drinking all day.”

Olenna snapped her fingers at a PA. “You heard the prince. Get him a whiskey.” The harried guy dropped what he was doing and scurried out of the control room. “Tyrion told me you’d quit smoking. He said you were cleaning up your act.”

Traitor, he thought darkly. “Tyrion’s a bloody narc,” Jon griped, leaning against a table. “Where is he, anyway?”

She flicked her wrist dismissively. “I think he said he had some press releases to put out. Something about preemptive fluff pieces to combat all the ‘slutting around’ you’ll be doing on this show.”

He rolled his eyes. “At least he’s finally doing his job.” He liked Tyrion, most days, having worked with him for nearly a decade now, but it was his fault he was even doing this bloody show in the first place. It’ll be good for your image, he’d said when he’d first approached him with the idea. The people will love you again.

If this was the cost of their love, then Westeros could go hang.

“Speaking of doing one’s job.” Olenna arched her eyebrow. “You need to pick your next date. We want to announce it to the women tonight so that those who don’t get picked can seethe about it all night. Tell me who you want to take out tomorrow, and I’ll have Oberyn inform the others.” She pointed to a whiteboard where the headshots of the remaining contestants were taped. “There’s your refresher if you can’t remember who was on the losing team.”

He couldn’t, not all of them, anyway, but it didn’t matter. He didn’t need a refresher. He already knew who he was going to pick, had known since the tournament ended.

“Daenerys,” he said without hesitation, and Olenna smirked. He felt a flush creep up his face but made a point to ignore her knowing look.

“Excellent choice. It’s like you know exactly what I want. I think you’re finally getting the hang of this.” She snapped her fingers at another PA, who jumped out of her seat to do Olenna’s bidding. “Get the invite ready and take it to Oberyn.” 

Jon didn’t even want to think about what Olenna had planned, or how the producers would manipulate them this time just to get the footage they wanted. He’d probably come to regret it, but at the moment he didn’t care. He needed to get Daenerys alone (as alone as they could be with prying cameras around, anyway) and talk to her; he’d been obsessing all afternoon, just trying to make sense of her actions, and it was driving him fucking mad.

Daenerys didn’t want to be here anymore? Fine, but he wasn’t letting her off that easy.

Bobby B Productions
“Westeros’ Most Eligible Bachelor”
Tape #037

Partial transcript
with Ygritte Wilde

Varys: Tell me about your date with Jon. You’re the first to get a one-on-one with him. How did that feel?

Ygritte: [smiling] Wonderful.

Varys: Try to speak in full sentences, it helps us later in post.

Ygritte: Oh, right. [clearing throat] I had a wonderful time on my date with Jon. He’s very charming. And nice. And funny. Not a bad kisser either. [laughing]

Varys: [tittering] So I’ve heard. Margaery said the same thing.

Ygritte: [visible surprise] Oh—he kissed her?

Varys: Oh, you didn’t know? Sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything. How tactless of me!

Ygritte: [frowning] No, it’s fine. I mean—when did he even have time to kiss her?

Varys: I believe they kissed just prior to your date with him, during drinks. They were alone for a few minutes…

Ygritte: [pause] Well. I suppose that’s not terribly surprising. [forced laughter] Of course, he’s going to kiss a bunch of us. Guess I’m going to have to get used to it, huh? I’m tough, I can take it. I think he and I just really clicked from the moment we met. It’s just different, you know? Deeper.

Varys: Oh, absolutely. You did get the first impression rose from him, after all. And then the first one-on-one.

Ygritte: Exactly!

Varys: So how do you feel about the fact that Jon chose Daenerys for his one-on-one date tomorrow?

Ygritte: He did? When?

Varys: Just now, actually. She got the invite moments ago.

Ygritte: Oh. [shrugging] I guess it’s a nice consolation prize for her. I’m sure losing earlier was rough. She’s probably not used to that. [smiling smugly]

Varys: [tittering some more] Oh, yes. I’m sure a candlelight dinner alone with the prince will be a nice consolation prize, indeed.

Ygritte: Wait. They’re having dinner together?

Varys: Yes. They get to dress up for it and everything, you know, the whole nine yards. I imagine it’ll be pretty romantic.

Ygritte: [huffing] Well, bully for her. You know—I don’t get it. Why is she even here? It’s weird, don’t you think? Like, that’s your nephew! Why are you trying to date him? It’s gross!

Varys: It’s the Targaryen way. Not so much these days, I suppose, but perhaps she’s just trying to revive the family tradition. [smirking]

Ygritte: Then why come on this show? She had, what, 28 years to get him to fall in love with her or whatever, and he didn’t. Clearly, if he wanted to be with her, he would have just been with her! He wouldn’t be here trying to find a wife. I mean, right?

Varys: [shrugging] Maybe she thought this was her last shot.

Ygritte: [rolling her eyes] I think it’s a little pathetic, honestly, but whatever. I hope she has a lovely time with him. I’m not worried about her at all.

Jon sat in the middle of an open colonnade at a small table set for two, the little flames on the long taper candles flickering in the soft spring breeze. From where he sat, he had a nice view of an expansive grove and Highgarden’s three ancient weirwoods. The trees were so large, their gnarled branches had grown intertwined and stretched high above the colonnade, creating a roof of blood-red leaves above him. At the trunks of the weirwoods was a pool of water that reflected the colors of the shimmering setting sun.

He had to hand it to Olenna; it was bloody romantic.

His knee bounced restlessly as he waited for Daenerys. He almost laughed; strange that this would be their first actual date, ever. If it even counted, considering it was all orchestrated for a damn TV show.

Finally, he heard a distant noise—the sound of heels on stones. He craned his head around to see Daenerys walking toward him, alone but for the cameraman following her. There was another in his face to capture his reaction; he tried to control his face, but it was hard.

She was fucking gorgeous in a champagne-colored silk dress that fluttered around her feet as she strode toward him, the slinky material held up by thin, delicate straps. Her wavy silver-blonde hair was down and parted heavily to one side, draped over her shoulder, and her violet eyes, rimmed in kohl, looked as dark as plum wine.

He dry-swallowed, cursing himself, her, Ellaria, whoever dressed her, and everyone involved in this whole gods-forsaken farce. This had been a mistake.

But it was too late to change his mind now. As she came closer, he made himself stand, buttoning his suit jacket because he wasn’t a bloody Andal. She was holding a blue rose, the petals resting between her breasts. Obviously, his gaze was immediately drawn to that area of her anatomy, and he cursed himself again. She had to know what she was doing to him.

When she finally reached him, she came to a stop and regarded him curiously.

“Hi,” he said and rolled his eyes at himself. The Others take him, was that the best he could do? Jon pulled out her chair for her and gestured to it. “Sit.” So he wouldn’t sound like he was only capable of monosyllabic commands, he added, “You look nice.” A fucking understatement.

“Thank you.” She set the rose down on the table and demurely smoothed her dress down before perching in her seat. Jon sat down as well, their elbows touching as he unfastened his suit jacket. Their seats had been placed on one side of the table, so they were practically sitting on top of each other. It was so they could get both of them in one frame, the cameraman with the top knot, Thoros, had so helpfully explained earlier. Jon had grown impatient waiting for the date to start and had struck up a conversation with the camera crew to pass the time. (Thoros did, in fact, roll his own cigarettes.)

After an awkward silence, Daenerys said, “You look nice as well.”

He shrugged. “They have decent wardrobe here.”

“They provide your outfits?” she asked, incredulous. 

“The suits, at least. I brought some of my own clothes. Is this one of yours?” He eyed her dress. He didn’t recognize it, but surely, she’d purchased new clothes in the time that she’d been in Essos. She’d left six years ago, and he’d only seen her once in all that time, briefly, for Aegon’s wedding. And then she was gone again.

She rolled her eyes. “Yes. All the women had to provide their own wardrobe for this.” 

His mouth hitched on one side in a wry smile. “That doesn’t seem like much of a hardship for you.”

“Packing ten weeks’ worth of clothes? Not exactly easy.”

His mood darkened. “You’ve packed for longer,” he reminded her, and she looked away, fiddling with a folded napkin on the table. Frustrated, he blew out a breath. “So what does my father think of you being here? Did he even know you were doing this show?” He must not; no way would he have agreed to it. 

She lifted her shoulder. “Fortunately for me, I stopped caring what Rhaegar thinks.”

That surprised him. Jon fell silent, turning that over in his head, trying to make sense of her declaration. He didn’t have much time to think about it, however, as two servers appeared then, silver platters in hand. They removed the lids and placed a plate of food before both of them. Jon’s mouth watered, the smell of steak hitting him hard. He waited while the servers filled their wine glasses and placed the single blue rose in an empty vase. Once they retreated, he picked up his utensils, eager to dive in.

Daenerys’ light touch on his arm stopped him, and he glanced at her. She made a face as she quietly said, “You’re not supposed to eat.”


Her eyebrows shot up. “We’re not supposed to actually eat, at least not until the date is over. That’s what the producer told me, anyway.”

He stared at her stupidly. “That doesn’t make any kind of sense—”

She removed her hand from his arm. “They want us to talk during the date, and the mics pick up all the chewing sounds. It will ruin the shot.”

Jon looked to Thoros, who shrugged apologetically. Frustrated, Jon dropped his knife and fork and reached for his wine glass. “Bloody hell, fine. Let’s talk then.” He hadn’t realized how ravenous he was until now; the show had kept him on a steady diet of mostly coffee and alcohol so far.

Daenerys lifted her wine as well. “That’s why I smuggled in a few boxes of granola bars,” she said, almost conspiratorially. “Sometimes Missandei and I lock ourselves in our room and scarf down two at a time just to sober up.”

“You two seem to get along well,” he said wryly, then swigged his wine. It was a decent Dornish red, at least.

She smiled. “Missandei is awesome. You should try to get to know her. I think you’d like her, too.”

Rankled, Jon scowled at her. She was something else, wasn’t she? “Sure. Maybe I should have invited her on this date instead.” When her smile slipped, he went on, “I mean, at least she’d want to be here, right?”

Daenerys took a sip of her wine, slowly, as if to aggravate him further, before she replied. “We’re all here because we want to be, Jon.”

“Could’ve fooled me. What, with throwing that archery competition and all.”

She lifted an eyebrow. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said primly.

He set his glass down, with so much force he nearly spilled it. Gods, the smell of the steak was making his stomach cramp with hunger. He was growing increasingly agitated, not in small part due to her indifference. “No? You just make perfect shot after perfect shot until the very end when suddenly you miss by a league?”

Daenerys shrugged and set her glass down, her plump, cherry-painted lips pursing together. “The bow was weird. It threw my aim off.”

Jon scoffed. “Ygritte said the same, yet she managed to win.”

“Ygritte’s also a true markswoman, and I’m just a silly princess with silly hobbies,” she said mockingly, yet her voice lacked any real bite despite her bitter words. Which, inexplicably, angered him even more.

“Cut the shit, Dany,” he snapped. At least, that rattled her, finally. “You know, and I know, you missed that last shot on purpose. And I bloody wanna know why. Suddenly, you want to leave, but you’re the one who signed up for this. I didn’t make you come here.”

She didn’t meet his gaze, reaching up to her ear out of habit, but she dropped her hand when she realized she wasn’t wearing any earrings. She lifted her shoulder in another shrug. “You already said you weren’t going to give me a chance, not really, so why should I stick around?”

Jon sneered. “Oh, come off it. You’re the most stubborn person I know. You don’t know the meaning of the word quit.” He considered that, then said caustically, “That is, except when it comes to me, I suppose.”

Her eyes darted to the cameras then back to him, and he stiffened. He’d almost forgotten about the damn cameras.

Daenerys shifted in her chair, her knee bumping against his thigh. “Yes, I’ve always been a stubborn ass, and you’ve always enjoyed a challenge, haven’t you?” This time, she held his gaze, as if daring him to object.

It dawned on him slowly. He huffed out a laugh of disbelief and shook his head. Bloody hell. She’d played him, hadn’t she? Of course, he’d be pissed off about her purposely losing the chance to go on a date with him and would want to know why—all but ensuring her some alone time with him.

Damn her. How did she still know him so well, after everything?

Slowly, his eyes slitted in a dangerous glare, though there was no real heat behind it, not this time. Not of the angry variety, anyway. “You’re a real pain in the arse, you know that?” 

She smiled and reached for her wine again. “I do know. Shall we cheers to that?”

He didn’t let her drink, instead reaching up to turn her face to his. When her lips parted in protest, he captured them in a kiss, his tongue stroking into her mouth with little preamble. He was infuriated and desperate and— gods help him —it’d been too damn long, he just needed to taste her again.

A soft sound of surprise stuck in her throat, but then almost immediately she was kissing him back. He cupped her face, angling her chin up so he could open her mouth wider and sweep his tongue over hers. Her fingers curled around his wrist, holding his hand there. She tasted of wine, tart and sweet; it made him thirsty, like he’d been a man parched for ages, and now he never wanted to stop drinking from her. 

Jon released her face, reaching around her to drag her chair closer, then he grasped her hip and yanked her to the edge of her seat, her body pressed to his as she all but fell into him. All the while, he didn’t stop kissing her, biting and sucking at her lips and tongue. He wedged his hand between her arse and the chair, palming her cheek. Her hands came up to grab his neck, pushing underneath the shoulders of his jacket to scrape her fingers across the bunched muscles there. He felt the bite of her nails even through the material of his shirt and shuddered, breathing hard through his nose but unwilling to release her mouth just yet.

He could spend hours there, kissing her, tasting her, making up for lost time. But soon he became all too aware of his erection, pressed painfully against the fly of his pants, which in turn made him think of the cameras and all the watchful eyes on them—and for a fleeting moment, the familiar fear of getting caught slammed into him, hard.

On reflex, he pulled away, sucking in a deep breath. Daenerys made a sound of disappointment, and her hands clutched at his neck to hold him there as they both caught their breath. Pained, he closed his eyes

He wanted to bury his face in her hair. To hide. Fucking hell. He’d lost his head for a moment, and now everyone would know exactly what he felt for her. And if it wasn’t obvious to anyone with working eyes that there was something more between him and Daenerys, he had no doubt Olenna would do her damnedest to uncover what they’d tried so hard to keep secret and make sure everyone in Westeros knew it, too.

As he struggled with his own inner demons, Daenerys panted against his mouth, her kiss-swollen lips abraded by his beard and wet with his saliva. Whatever lipstick she’d had on was gone, smeared around her lip line and likely staining his own mouth now. The thought made his cock throb harder, and he gritted his teeth against the impulse to take her hand and press it to his groin just to relieve the pressure. Gods, he was grateful for the table hiding his erection from view. 

Slowly, that annoying, deeply ingrained apprehension began to fade, and gradually he relaxed, his forehead coming to rest on hers. She didn’t pull away.

She was here, he told himself. For him. I stopped caring what Rhaegar thinks. Maybe Jon couldn’t say the same, not entirely, not yet. But at least he had some time before he had to worry about the repercussions of his actions.

He let out a shaky breath, and she licked her lips. “You’re not running away from me this time,” he told her, his voice low and husky. He knew the mics would pick it up regardless, but it didn’t matter; no one else would understand what he meant, but she would. 

Jon should’ve been dead on his feet, considering it was nearing two in the morning and he’d been up since eight, filming pick-ups and talking heads until his date with Daenerys. Now, after a long and forceful discussion with Olenna—one in which she called him a  “gormless twit” more times than he could count—it was time for the second rose ceremony.

It would be mostly painless, at least; he only had to cut one woman tonight. He felt oddly amped about what was to come. Or maybe he was still on a weird, physical high after that kiss with Daenerys, fueled entirely by adrenaline and lust. She’d always had that kind of effect on him.

Fucking hell, it was like he was a bloody teenage boy all over again, still wet behind the ears.

“Whenever you’re ready, Jon,” Oberyn encouraged him, once they got the go-ahead from the cameraman.

He nodded and decided to kick the ceremony off with an innocuous choice: “Gilly.” She seemed as shocked as the others to receive the first rose of the night; he hadn’t spoken more than a handful of words to her the past couple of days, but she was harmless enough and thus worth keeping around for now.

He rattled off the rest of the names in no particular order and with surprising ease; thanks to Olenna yelling them at him for a couple hours straight earlier, they were finally drilled into his head. Alys, Margaery, Meera, Ygritte, Missandei, Cersei—on and on it went. When he got to Daenerys, she accepted her rose with little fanfare. Neither of them spoke as she took the flower from him, only holding his gaze for a beat longer than necessary before she joined the rest of the women who’d been chosen to stay another night.

That left the last two: Ros and Brienne. The latter was pale-faced, hunched over in embarrassment, while the former stood proudly, a smug smile on her face. Even so, her eyes glinted with irritation at being in the bottom two. She was about to get a whole lot more irritated.

Holding out the rose, Jon called the last name. “Brienne.”

Oh, seven hells—she looked like she was actually about to burst into tears. Jon froze, bracing himself, but Brienne pulled it together, mouth quivering and eyes watering gratefully as she approached him for her rose. She thanked him profusely, and he smiled in relief, squeezing her hand before letting go.

Which left Ros, who looked absolutely gobsmacked at getting the boot. Oberyn waved her forward. “Ros, please say your goodbyes now, and then you must leave.”

Anger swiftly replaced her bewilderment, her cheeks turning bright red, but she forced a wide, pained smile as she stepped up to Jon. He stifled a grimace. Showing that much teeth couldn’t be natural. Dutifully, he took her hand, though she tensed as if she’d much rather slap him than let him touch her. He couldn’t really blame her. He was about to dump her on national TV, after all.

“Ros, I think you’re a lovely girl—” Bollocks. “And I enjoyed getting to know you.” Absolutely bollocks. “But you were quite crude about someone dear to me, and that’s just not something I can abide.” This time, her whole face went red, and the other women looked at each other in wordless confusion. Jon pursed his lips in consternation. “For that, I’m afraid I have to let you go.”

He kissed her cheek, surprised she let him, and she jerked her hand out of his, lips still stretched in a grimace of a smile. “I hope you get what you deserve,” she said through her teeth, the threatening innuendo of her words not lost on him. But he simply smiled as she turned and stalked out of the room, not bothering to say farewell to anyone else.

No doubt she thought she’d been a shoo-in for the top three. And if it had been up to Olenna, she would have been, or at the very least, top five. The older woman had been positively livid when he’d told her his plan, arguing with him until she was blue in the face—“You can’t send the slut home this early! Have you completely lost the plot? Who cares if she called your ex a bitch—who, by the way, absolutely is a bitch!”

Jon could have suffered Ros’ aggressive come-ons a while longer; it wasn’t exactly a chore having to make out with a beautiful and sexually vivacious woman. But the thing was, if he was doing this whole thing to change public opinion about himself, keeping Ros around, the kind of women he would have been regularly papped with before this show, wouldn’t do him any favors.

Maybe this show was a joke (it was definitely a joke), but the longer he was here, the more determined he became to use the opportunity to actually, genuinely turn things around. It was bloody time. He was nearing 30, and what did he really have to show for it but a string of bad decisions and self-destructive behaviors? Sure, he’d done some admirable charity endeavors here and there, but what had he really accomplished for himself?

If he thought too hard about it, he was going to need more booze, and his crippling dependency on alcohol was definitely one of the habits he needed to kick.

After Ros’ exit, Oberyn returned to Jon’s side. “Well, I think I can speak for all of us when I say we will certainly miss Ros.”

At that, Yara snorted, quite loudly, and a few of the other women covered their mouths to hide their laughter. On cue, servers filtered into the room with trays of champagne, which they quickly passed out to the remaining contestants. Jon took a glass for himself and lifted it in toast at Oberyn’s bidding.

“Congratulations on surviving yet another rose ceremony, ladies,” Oberyn announced. They all cheered, and Jon smiled, buoyed once again by their excitement. Already, he was beginning to feel like a new man. 

Over the tops of champagne glasses, Jon met Daenerys’ eyes. She arched her eyebrow, just barely, and he knocked back his champagne, draining the whole glass in one go.

Well. Maybe he didn’t need to kick every old habit.

Bobby B Productions
“Westeros’ Most Eligible Bachelor”
Tape #039

Exit interview
with Ros Bianco

Littlefinger: I’m so sorry to see you go, Ros.

Ros: [arms folded] Whatever. I don’t [expletive] care.

Littlefinger: How are you feeling right now, can you tell me?

Ros: [huff of laughter] How do you think I feel? I’m [expletive] humiliated! 

Littlefinger: Why do you think he cut you?

Ros: He said it was because I insulted his ex or something. [sniffling] I don’t know, it was stupid. Not my fault his ex is a [expletive]

Littlefinger: Would you like a tissue?

Ros: No, I don’t want a [expletive] tissue! [wiping eyes] Ugh. This is so dumb! This whole thing is a joke. I mean, he's not that good-looking, and he’s not even the next in line to the [expletive] throne! 

Littlefinger: You’re too good for him, I hope you know that.

Ros: Damn right, I'm too good for him! He’s too short for my tastes, anyway. [crying in earnest now] Whatever. I don't care about this whole thing. I just want to go home and see my mum.

Littlefinger: [smiling sympathetically] Is there anything else you’d like to say before you go?

Ros: [sniffling, wiping at face] [suddenly angry] You know what, yeah. [expletive] him and [expletive] this stupid show! [flips off the camera and pushes it away] Get out of my [expletive] face! 

Chapter Text

WMEB Moodboard

“Olenna wants to see you.”

Littlefinger’s serial-killer voice was so incongruous in the safe space of his guesthouse that Jon nearly dropped the barbell he was holding above his chest. “Shit!” he grunted out. Thank bloody fuck, Sandor caught it before it could crush his windpipe, hefting it back onto the rack to secure it.

Good spotter, if not very adept at detecting intruders, apparently. 

Breathing hard, Jon sat up on the bench and leveled the producer with a mutinous glare. “It’s not good form to sneak up on someone when they’re holding 200 pounds of iron over their head, mate.”

Littlefinger dipped his chin in apology. “Forgive me,” he murmured, eyes dancing with malicious amusement. Seven hells, he really did look like he was there to murder him. All he was missing was a ski mask and a knife. “Perhaps 200 pounds was too ambitious for you.”

Grabbing the towel and water bottle Sandor held out for him, Jon blotted the sweat from his face then tossed the towel down. Jon knew the man was purposely trying to antagonize him, even though he could easily bench press the stringy little twat. He looked like he’d never even seen the inside of a gym. Jon decided to ignore his jab, swigging half the bottle before he spoke. “What does Olenna need from me?”

“She needs to talk to you about what comes next. And then she needs you to do a sit-down interview.” Petyr smiled. “With me.”

Fan-fucking-tastic, Jon thought, his irritation spiking despite the rush of endorphins from his workout. He stood. “By all means, I wouldn’t want to keep her waiting,” Jon said dryly, gesturing for Littlefinger to lead the way.

He followed Littlefinger through the gym and out of his attached guesthouse, Sandor trailing them across the grounds to the control room. Inside, Olenna was watching some footage on the wall of  TV screens. Each one showed a different angle of the same scene.

“You needed something?” Jon asked without preamble.

Glancing at him over her shoulder, she wrinkled her nose. “You couldn’t be bothered to put a shirt on?”

Jon looked down at himself. After his early morning run on the treadmill, he’d stripped out of his shirt before settling in to lift weights for the past hour. He was still shirtless, his torso glistening with sweat. Amused, he smirked at her. “What? Is this too distracting for you?”

She tutted her disgust at him, turning her eyes back to the screen. “Darling, don’t flatter yourself. I’ve been happily widowed for thirteen years now. The only thing that gets my blood pumping these days is TV ratings.”

He rolled his eyes. “What did you want to talk to me about?”

Olenna made an impatient sound, shushing him with her hand when he stepped up beside her. “Watch this.” She ordered the editor to rewind the footage on one of the screens and told her when to stop. A close-up of Cersei’s face filled the screen, a wine glass lifted to her mouth. When the footage started up again, someone else’s voice cut in from off screen.

“—and what I do for a living is none of your business.” 

Lowering her wine glass, Cersei licked her smirking lips. “Maybe not, but I’m sure the king would be interested to know that his son is dating a stripper.”

The camera pulled back, and Jon finally saw that the other voice belonged to Shae. Her arms were crossed in defiance as she faced off with Cersei. They were outside on a patio, but they weren’t alone. A few of the other girls also filled the frame, seated on two couches arranged around a low table: Brienne and Meera, as well as Daenerys and Missandei. They all looked uneasy watching the exchange between the two women, though Daenerys seemed more intent on the yogurt in her hand, taking slow, deliberate bites.

Shae flared her nostrils. “I was an exotic dancer—”

“A stripper,” Cersei corrected snidely.

“And not that I need to explain myself to you or anybody else, but I made damn good money, enough money to eventually quit my job and start my own business—”

“Designing costumes for other strippers,” Cersei pointed out, and Shae flushed an angry red.

Meera spoke then. “I’m sure we all have things in our past that we regret—”

“I don’t regret doing what I had to do to survive!” Shae snapped at her, and Meera held up her hands, sinking back into the couch in quiet defeat.

More diplomatically, Missandei said, “Designing and making clothes is a really difficult skill to master. You should be proud.”

Daenerys jumped in. “A lot of the women I work with in Essos pick up trades like that. If you’re interested, I could use someone of your talent in my organization, to teach them useful skills like yours and help transition them back into society.”

Cersei scoffed, loudly. “Sure, why not make it a family affair?” She waved her glass of wine between Daenerys and Shae. “You can help the whore while your nephew fucks her.”

Unbothered, Daenerys took another bite of her yogurt and shared a look with Missandei but otherwise said nothing. Jon snorted under his breath, surprised by her restraint. Growing up, Daenerys had been pretty hotheaded and reactionary—much like him, but their etiquette training had certainly helped curtail the worst of it. Or maybe she’d just learned better patience while in Essos.

He didn’t want to think about her time in Essos.

Cutting Olenna an exasperated look, he asked, “Why are you showing me this? I don’t care about this petty bullshit.”

“Just wait,” she said. She didn’t tear her eyes from the screen, her expression gleeful. Jon glanced back, just as Shae got in Cersei’s face.

“I might be a whore, but at least I’m not an old hag with three children and the pathetic delusions that a younger man would have any interest in my dried-up twat when even my ex-husband didn’t want me.”

Cersei’s normally sneering face morphed into one of abject hatred, and before Jon knew what was happening, she tossed her glass of wine in Shae’s face. Everyone else gasped, rearing back in shock.

Then complete chaos erupted on set.

With a shriek, Shae threw herself at Cersei, but before she could rake her nails down the blonde’s face, Brienne was between them. She bodily pulled Shae off the other woman.

“Whoa, whoa, enough!” Brienne bellowed, swinging the petite brunette around like a rag doll. Missandei and Daenerys scrambled over the back of the couch before Shae’s flailing limbs could catch one of them in the face, Daenerys’ cup of yogurt splattering all over the table. Meera threw herself in front of Cersei to hold her back, and within seconds, producers and PAs swarmed the set to help break up the fight.

“Fuck you, you haggard bitch!” Shae screamed over her shoulder as Brienne and one of the PAs dragged her away from the patio.

The camera cut back to a red-faced Cersei, who was yelling at Varys as he did his best to calm her down. “That bitch attacked me! I should press charges!” The editor paused the footage there, on Cersei’s mouth stretched wide open; it was like peering into the gaping pits of all seven hells.

Horrified, Jon looked to Olenna. He had no words. No, actually—he had a few. “What the fuck?

She laughed. “Right? And that was only an hour ago!”

Was that meant to be reassuring? “Bloody hell. Are they drunk already? It’s only ten in the morning!” Immediately, he felt like a judgmental twat. The Seven only knew how many mornings he’d woken up still drunk off his arse. In fact, today was the first day in a while where he hadn’t woken up with a hangover. 

“No—well, Cersei, perhaps, but that seems to be her baseline,” Olenna mused, tapping a fingertip to her chin. “But that’s just the nature of the game. Throw enough women together to compete for a man, and the claws always come out.”

“Charming,” Jon said flatly. “Not at all concerning, the kind of message we’re sending to the young girls of Westeros.”

“Mm, yes, and I imagine those tabloid stories you regularly feature in send a much better message to the youth of this country,” she shot back.

Jon ground his teeth together. Damn her. He hated when she bested him in their battle of wits. “How do you always do that?”

She smiled. “Chin up, darling. I’ve had many more years at this, and I’ve sparred with men far more clever than you.” She turned away from the screen, and he followed. “Anyway, I want you to take Cersei and Shae on a two-on-one date.”

He did a double take. “You can’t be serious.” She stared at him, unblinking. Seven hells, she was dead serious. “They’re going to kill each other, Olenna. Or—worse—they’re going to kill me! And I am way too important to die just yet.”

She gave him a look, like, Really? Jon huffed and waved a hand at Sandor, who stood by the door. “Well, not just anybody gets a bloody bodyguard, you know.” If Aegon and his sons were to die in, say, separate plane crashes, Jon would become the most important royal family member in the country, second only to his father. Not that he thought about that often or anything.

“I might be more moved by your sudden concern for your mortality if you weren’t already hurtling toward an early grave with your liberal use of drugs and alcohol,” she retorted.

His face went hot. Once again, she had a point. “I’m turning things around,” he said defensively. “I’m here, aren’t I?” 

“Yes, with one foot out the door at all times, but it’s something, at least. Anyway, we’ll have people nearby to intervene should things get out of hand. Your little dog, too.” She sniffed her disdain at Sandor. “In any case, I certainly do hope things get a little out of hand. That’s the point. You take them both on a date, let them go at it for our entertainment, then you dump one of them.”

Jon’s eyes widened. “What—just dump them, right then and there? No rose ceremony?”

“No rose ceremony,” she confirmed. “They’ll compete against each other for an immediate save from the ceremony that will come later. The other one will leave immediately.” Olenna jabbed an accusatory finger at him. “You already got rid of my Slut. You’re not getting rid of my Villain, not yet. Do you understand?”

“Fucking hell. Aye, I get it.” Heaving a sigh, he tried to card his hand through his hair before he remembered it was pulled back in a bun. “Can I at least shower before you throw me to the wolves?”

“You’ll have time for plenty of showers before your date. You’re not doing the two-on-one until tomorrow. First, we fly to Dorne.”

That was a pleasant surprise, at least. “You mean we actually get to leave the castle?”

“Absolutely. You get a nice little vacation on the sunny beaches of Dorne, and hopefully we get a lot of good footage.” She rubbed her hands together. “Lots of skin, lots of drama. I’m excited. This is going to be fun.”

It was kind of terrifying, how sadistic she looked in that moment. Jon inched toward the exit. “Can I go back to the gym now?”

She snapped out of whatever violent, flesh-filled fantasies were dancing before her eyes. “No. I need you to do a sit-down with Petyr right now, and then you can fuck off for the rest of the day. Tomorrow we have an early morning flight.”

Shaking his head, Jon turned away and blew past Littlefinger without a second glance. Petyr hurried after him, with Sandor bringing up the rear. As Jon stalked out of the control room, Olenna yelled after him. “And for gods' sake, take a damn shower first! I could smell you coming all the way from your guesthouse.” 

Freshly showered—and shellacked in approximately three layers of face paint—Jon sat down in a chair in front of Littlefinger and a camera. He held still while they mic’d him up and smiled when Pod appeared to give him a fresh bottle of water. Once the PAs feeling him up scattered, Jon cracked the lid on the bottle and took a hearty swig before handing it back to Pod, who also made himself scarce.

With Jon’s full attention, Littlefinger gave him a mealy-mouthed smile. “So, Jon. I’d just like to get your thoughts on everything that’s taken place since the last time we spoke.”

“Sure thing,” Jon said, adjusting the collar of his denim button-down. The top button was left undone, the sleeves rolled up over his forearms for a casual look. His hair was still slightly damp from his shower, and he wore a stylish pair of glasses even though he had excellent eyesight; he just liked how they looked on him. Despite his current company, he was in a good mood. Amazing what a sober state of mind could do for his attitude, even if these interviews were tedious and full of stock responses Jon had long ago memorized at Tyrion’s coaching to avoid saying anything too incriminating.

“As Olenna mentioned this morning, we’ll be flying to Dorne tomorrow for a few days. How do you feel about that?” Petyr asked. Harmless enough.

“Dorne is a beautiful province,” Jon replied. “I’ve been there many times, especially the capital, Sunspear. My family used to vacation there a lot when I was younger. I look forward to going with the ladies and spending this time with them, and hopefully getting to know them better.”

Petyr smiled at that. “You might get to know them quite intimately. Dorne is famous for its nude beaches.”

Jon let out a laugh. “It’s always been less uptight compared to the rest of the country, that’s for sure.”

“Have you ever visited one of their nude beaches?” Littlefinger pried.

Jon refrained from rolling his eyes. He was sure the man already knew the answer to that question, as every public outing of his life was well-documented. Everywhere they went turned into a media circus. “I have, though I have not participated personally.”

“Really? You don’t strike me as a shy guy.”

Jon kept his smile fixed in place. “Shy, maybe not.” He shrugged. “But as a member of the royal family, I like to think I’m smarter than to whip my knob out in public.”

Littlefinger chuckled, like they were just two friends shooting the shit. “No, you only do that in private. On camera.”

He was going to punch him. He was going to punch this fucking rat so hard he would be shitting his teeth out for weeks.

Instead, Jon took a deep breath and exhaled, slowly, through a gritted smile. “Oh, come on. You’ve never gotten a little freaky while sexting and wanted to document the moment for your girl?” He made a face. “Or maybe no one’s ever asked you to, hm? Don’t worry, mate. Not all of us have a cock women want to see.”

Littlefinger just laughed again, though there was a tightness around his eyes that assured Jon he’d hit his mark. With an easy smile, he relaxed into his chair, waiting patiently for the next question.

The man didn’t waste any time. “So I know we talked yesterday, but that was before your one-on-one with Daenerys.”

Jon stiffened. He’d known it was coming, of course, but he was wary all the same.

As if to make him squirm, Littlefinger waited a beat before continuing. “How do you think the date went?” 

It was an innocuous enough question. Still, Jon had the distinct feeling he was walking into a viper pit. Carefully, he answered, “I had a great time with Dany—”

“And Dany is Daenerys, yes?”

Jon hesitated. “Yes. Family nickname. Only close friends and family call her that.” He smiled. “She’d probably kill you if you ever called her that.”

Petyr raised his eyebrows. “Noted. So, you had a great time with her. Elaborate.”

He blew out a breath, racking his brain for a satisfactory answer. It was hard to think about their date without thinking about their kiss. That bloody kiss. It had been all he could do to get through the obligatory post-rose ceremony celebration just so he could get back to the privacy of his guesthouse and take care of the hard-on that had been plaguing him ever since their kiss.

“Before that first night, when she stepped out of the limo, I hadn’t seen her in some time. It was nice to catch up and talk,” he said and bit back a scoff. Nice. Who the fuck was he kidding?

Certainly not Littlefinger. The man simpered in amusement. “That kiss looked a little more than just nice.” 

Jon shifted in his chair, a false smile plastered across his face. “Aye. I guess I got, ah, swept up in the moment with her.”

“Hm. I must say, from an outsider’s perspective, it didn’t look like your typical first kiss. Actually, you two looked pretty comfortable with each other.” Petyr arched an eyebrow. “Like maybe you’ve done that before.”

Jon stared at him, the hairs on the back of his neck standing up. The man knew something, Jon was fucking convinced. He’d made enough snide comments; he couldn’t just be shooting in the dark. But how? Nothing of this nature had ever appeared in the rags, he knew that much. It was Tyrion’s job to track and kill any potentially damaging rumors or stories, and he’d never once come across anything about him and Daenerys.

Hoping to deflect, Jon forced out a gruff chuckle. “Well, who hasn’t fantasized about making out with their aunt, right?” he half-joked. Petyr laughed along with him.

“So would you say that was normal for you? Growing up, you thought about Daenerys in a romantic way?”

Sitting up straighter, Jon cleared his throat. Gods, he could feel the flop sweat coming on. “She was—is—always has been beautiful,” he hedged. “Of course, I noticed that.”

“Seems she must have felt the same about you,” Littlefinger said.

His smile was more of a grimace. “I was as surprised as anyone when she stepped out of that limo.”

“Now, that I believe,” Littlefinger said with a smirk, then he tried another tactic. “You two seem to have a bit of a love-hate relationship. There’s some tension there.”

At that, Jon couldn’t help his laugh. “You try dating family.”

“Oh, I’d rather not,” Petyr said, amused, but he kept at it. “Is there some history there? Something that happened between you two in the past to lead to such acrimony now, maybe?”

Other than her taking off for Essos and breaking my heart then hooking up with another man not long after? he thought bitterly. “Dany and I essentially grew up together. We butted heads a lot.” He shrugged, affecting more nonchalance than he felt. His heart was racing. “We just know how to push each other’s buttons.” Among other things. 

Littlefinger feigned concern. “Sounds contentious. Do you think that makes for a good foundation for a relationship? Are you worried at all?”

The question gave Jon legitimate pause. It was a fair question, one he wasn’t sure he had an answer to. He swallowed and pressed his lips into a thin smile. “I guess that’s what we’re here to find out. If she wants to be with me—if I want to be with her —we’ll have to figure out if we’d even work together.” And this time, out in the open, without all the secrecy, without all the lies. The thought was suddenly a ball of icy fear in his stomach.

Littlefinger must have seen something in his face because he asked, “What are you thinking right now?”

Startled, Jon cleared his throat again. “I was just thinking…” A number of questions ran through his mind: Why did she want to be with him now? What had changed in the six years she’d been gone? Could he get over what happened between them in the past? Would Rhaegar even condone a relationship between them? 

It would help if he could have a bloody conversation with her off camera and away from the mics. Until then, he didn’t dare ask her.

Others take her, she couldn’t have dropped him a bleeding line before coming back to town?

Realizing he was scowling, Jon rubbed a hand down his beard and managed to fake an easy laugh for the sake of the camera. “I was just thinking that she’s up against some stiff competition, so she’s got her work cut out for her.”

Jon was relieved he didn’t have to share his flight to Dorne with the women, but he wasn’t sure Tyrion was much better company.

As his communications secretary bored him with the details of press statements and fluff pieces he’d orchestrated on Jon’s behalf, plus TV appearances scheduled after the show wrapped, Jon closed his eyes and sank down into his plush seat, swirling the glass of whiskey in his hand. Olenna had chartered a private jet for him (plus Tyrion and Sandor) and had booked the women on a separate commercial flight. While the small Cessna wasn’t as luxurious as his own private jet, it was nice not to have a camera or a producer in his face, even if it was only for a few hours.

“Did you hear me?” Tyrion asked, pitching his voice louder so Jon couldn’t feasibly pretend to ignore him. Not without being blatantly rude, anyway.

He opened his eyes. “Aye.” The Lannister man was seated across from him. Sandor was across the aisle on the opposite side of the plane. Even with his sunglasses on, Jon knew his bodyguard’s eyes were closed. In the air, there were less imminent threats to Jon’s safety, so he took his rest where he could. 

Tyrion was unconvinced by Jon’s assurance. “What did I say?”

Jon racked his brain for a believable lie but knew he couldn’t fool him. “You said working for me was the best thing to ever happen to you. You were thanking me profusely for giving you a job.”

Unimpressed, Tyrion rolled his eyes. “Your father is technically the one who gave me the job.” Closing the portfolio in his lap, he pushed his reading glasses onto the top of his head and gestured for the flight attendant to refresh his drink. “As much as I like to hear myself talk, I would like your thoughts on some of these matters,” he said after the attendant had topped off his wine.

Jon groaned. “I’m just trying to enjoy this brief interlude of uninterrupted peace before I have to film again. I’ll worry about things that come after the show, after the show. First, I need to make it through the show.” He took a swig of his whiskey.

Tyrion pulled his glasses back down and perched them on the bridge of his nose. “What are you so stressed out about? We all know you’re going to pick Daenerys, anyway.”

Jon inadvertently inhaled a sliver of ice from his drink and choked on it. “What? ” he demanded between violent coughing fits. His face was hot, though he couldn’t say whether it was from the lack of oxygen or Tyrion’s bold statement. “Says who? What makes you think that?”

His communications secretary shrugged. “I saw the kiss.”

“You weren’t even there,” Jon accused hoarsely. His lungs had finally stopped seizing.

Tyrion gave him a droll look over the top of his glasses. “You do know this is all being filmed, right?”

Jon huffed. “Then you know I’ve kissed a lot of these women.” He sat up taller in his seat, shifting restlessly. “I don’t know who I’m going to pick yet. There are a lot of viable options. Ygritte. Margaery.” He shot Tyrion a narrowed-eye look. “Maybe I’ll pick your sister.”

He was unbothered by the threat. “It’ll be your funeral, then. Cersei will eat you alive.”

“I thought you said I was a good influence on her,” Jon reminded him.

Tyrion laughed. “With the proper dose of poppy’s milk, maybe.”

Jon sighed and let his head loll back on the seat. “Got any on you now? I’ve got a date with her the moment we get to Dorne.”

“I’m sorry,” Tyrion said sincerely.

“Even worse, it’s a double date, except I’m the only bloke and I’ll be caught between two women who want to kill each other.”

“Who’s the other date?”

“Shae.” Jon winced. “She’s a stripper. Ex-stripper, I mean. I feel bad. I have to cut her.”

Tyrion became indignant on her behalf. “What’s wrong with strippers? It’s a fine profession. Extremely lucrative. Sex workers are highly respectable these days.” The man was a connoisseur of strip clubs. He patronized them more than Jon did, which was saying a lot, and was probably the sole reason half the clubs in King’s Landing stayed in business.

Jon rubbed at his forehead. “I’m sure my father would disagree. And I don’t think you want to draft that particular press release either, do you? ‘Disgraced Prince Brings Home Stripper to Meet His Family.’” Tyrion conceded his point with a tip of his head. “Anyway, Olenna won’t let me cut Cersei yet. She likes the drama.”

“Cersei’s always been good at that,” Tyrion agreed in a murmur. “Well, at least this way, you get the unsavory bit out of the way up front, right?”

With a snort, Jon finished the rest of his whiskey. “What makes you think that’s the only unsavory bit of this trip?” he asked. He didn’t even have to signal to the flight attendant for a refill; the man was ready with the decanter, pouring him a generous amount.

Tyrion smiled. “Didn’t I hear something about a nude beach?”

Jon shook his head. “Which is something I should avoid, considering my cock is partly why I’m here—”

“Partly?” Tyrion interrupted. “I’d argue it’s a big part.”

Jon grinned despite himself. “Why, thank you. I had no idea you felt that way about me.”

Tyrion fixed him with a deadpan look. “You know, I feel like we spend an exorbitant amount of our time together talking about your cock. Don’t you think so?”

“You’re the one telling me how big it is.”

He let out a long-suffering sigh, and Jon chuckled. The tiniest smile appeared on his bodyguard’s face, too. So he wasn’t asleep, after all.

“You should embrace this experience,” Tyrion said, apparently bored with the talk of cocks. “Have fun with it. You act like dating a couple dozen women at once is a nightmare.”

“You ever tried dating a couple dozen women at once?” Jon shot back. “It is a nightmare.”

“I’ve done something with a couple dozen women at once,” Tyrion said smugly. “I still say just throw yourself into the process. Stop worrying so much.”

“Easy for you to say. You’re not the one who has to worry about how all of this affects my reputation and my family.”

“Technically, I do. I’m the one putting out the fires behind the scenes.”

Shaking his head, Jon turned to watch the clouds pass by his window and sipped his whiskey in silence. After a moment, he looked back at Tyrion. “How does my father feel about this?” he asked abruptly. “About Dany being here? He can’t be happy.”

Tyrion glanced at the papers in his lap and shuffled through them, avoiding Jon’s gaze. “Not really, no.”

Jon frowned. “Why did he let her come then?”

Tyrion shrugged. “He didn’t really have a choice, did he? Princess Daenerys is an adult, and she’s fully within her rights to make a decision like this. And the contract was already signed by the time the king knew. What could he do at that point?”

“Oh, I’m sure he could have thought of something. You don’t become the most powerful man in Westeros without being able to pull a few strings,” Jon said wryly. He stared hard at his tumbler, swiping his thumb through the condensation on the glass. “She must know I can’t pick her. My father would lose his shit. He’s the reason Targaryens don’t intermarry anymore.”

Tyrion stared at him. After a moment, he asked, “What’s the deal with you and Daenerys?” Jon went still. “I knew you two were close before she went to Essos, but that kiss was...something else. Did you two ever—”

“No, of course not,” he said automatically, and Tyrion lifted a skeptical eyebrow. At that, Jon hesitated. Why was he lying? He wasn’t on camera, and obviously Daenerys didn’t care if their relationship, past or present, remained a secret. It didn’t make sense to keep up the ruse, at least not with Tyrion. Anxiously, he rubbed his palms on his pants before blurting out, “OK. We might have...fooled around a little. When we were younger.”

At the confession, he felt himself blushing. Tyrion was stunned, even if he’d clearly suspected as much. “Really? I’m surprised I never heard anything.”

“We kept it on the downlow.”

“Still. I’m pretty good at my job.” He looked a little putout. “I make it my business to know these things. That way I can properly lie about them.”

“No one was supposed to know, that was the point.” Jon raked a hand through his hair. “Except someone must have found out because I think Olenna knows. Why else would she have wanted Dany on the show?”

“Olenna knew before me?” This was really bothering Tyrion for some reason. Jon scowled at him.

“Not the issue here, mate.”

With a beleaguered sigh, Tyrion scratched at his beard. “What is the issue? Does it really matter what happened in the past if you’re going to date her in the present? Kind of renders the whole need for discretion moot, don’t you think?”

Jon felt like they were going around in circles. “My father is the issue. He’s forbidden us to marry other Targaryens.”

Tyrion shrugged. “Technically, you could still pick Daenerys. Doesn’t mean you have to marry her,” he pointed out gently. “Or anyone you choose, for that matter. You’re the one who said it was all a farce, anyway, right?”

Jon didn’t respond. He knew it was a rhetorical question. Tyrion went back to his work, and Jon turned back to the window to continue brooding. The man had a point. Jon was only here to repair his public image. He had no intentions of marrying whoever he picked. What had Daenerys hoped to accomplish coming on this show? Even if Jon did choose her, Rhaegar was never going to approve. It couldn’t happen.

Fortunately for me, I stopped caring what Rhaegar thinks.

When had that bloody happened, anyway? For as long as Jon had known her, Daenerys had idolized Rhaegar. Not that he could blame her, not when her own father had been such an arsehole. As Rhaegar’s younger sister, she’d always deferred to him. Rhaegar might have been authoritative and emotionally distant with his own children, but he wasn’t abusive the way Aerys had been. In comparison, Rhaegar probably seemed like a saint to someone like her.

Once King Aerys’ mental and physical health had begun to deteriorate in his later years, Rhaegar had made the decision to move him to the family’s castle on Dragonstone so he could be cared for privately, away from the prying eyes of King’s Landing. His younger children, Daenerys and Viserys, had gone with him, while Rhaegar and his family stayed at the Red Keep to act as his father’s proxy in sovereign matters. Aerys passed away a couple years later, and Rhaegar was officially crowned king. By then, Daenerys was a young teenager; Viserys was a man grown, but he was still far too immature and self-centered to care for his little sister, so Rhaegar had her brought back to King’s Landing to live with them. He raised her alongside his own children, so it was no wonder she came to think of him as a surrogate father.

At that age, Jon had begun to rebel against Rhaegar’s rules, but even then he’d always been desperate for his father’s approval. There was only so far he had been willing to push. In that way, he and Daenerys had been a lot alike. Hiding their budding relationship had never been a question.

And now they were about to reveal their relationship in the most public way possible. He squeezed the bridge of his nose then knocked back half his whiskey.

Irony was a son of a bitch.

Bobby B Productions
“Westeros’ Most Eligible Bachelor”
Tape #045

Partial transcripts of one-on-one
interviews with contestants
[May 26, 2019; 12:23 p.m.]

Varys: How do you feel about your upcoming date with Jon?

Shae: I’m excited! I don’t feel like I’ve gotten a lot of time with him yet, so I’m happy he chose me for this date.

Varys: He also chose Cersei. Does that upset you?

Shae: I’m not worried. This is my time with him, and I’m going to make the most of it, whether she’s there or not.

Varys: You could be sent home at the end of this date, though. 

Shae: I don’t think he’ll send me home. I mean, if it’s between me and Cersei? She’s a [expletive]! She’s awful, and mean, and manipulative. I know he can see right through her. I don’t think she’s his type, anyway.

Varys: And what do you think the prince’s type is?

Shae: [rolling her eyes] Not old enough to be his mother, for one.

Littlefinger: There seems to be some animosity between you and Shae. Tell me about that.

Cersei: [shrugging] There’s nothing between us. Truthfully, I don’t think about her at all. 

Littlefinger: You two were in an altercation yesterday morning.

Cersei: She overreacted. If she can’t handle a little show like this, what makes her think she can handle the life as the prince’s wife?

Littlefinger: She seemed pretty upset with you. You’re not mad at her?

Cersei: Why would I be? I don’t care about her. I don’t care about any of them. I’m not here to make friends. She’s nobody to me, just like all the rest of the girls. They’re sheep. I’m a lion. And the lion doesn’t concern itself with the opinions of sheep.

Littlefinger: [chuckling] So you’re not worried Jon will cut you today?

Cersei: [smirking] No, I don’t think I’ll be the one going home today. It would be stupid to cut me. And I don’t think Jon is stupid.

When Jon saw the horses, he stopped dead in his tracks. “You’ve got to be shitting me.”

Shading his eyes with his hand, Varys murmured sympathetically. “I’m afraid not. I thought you were a decent rider, though?”

Jon cut the producer a look, squinting in the Dornish sun. With little surrounding vegetation, the sun always seemed brighter here in Dorne, reflecting off the sandy desert terrain, and now Varys’ bald head. It was windy, too, this close to the sea, and the breeze was kicking up a lot of sand into his face. At least, they’d let him pull some of his hair back so it wasn’t flying all over the place.

Decent? Mate, I’m a damn good rider,” he said, indignant. He hadn’t won every polo match he’d ever played in just to be called a decent rider. “That’s not the bloody point. How the hell am I supposed to have a date with two women on a fucking horse?”

“Women love a man on a horse,” Varys said with a shrug. “This is just the activity portion of the date. Areo here—” The hulking man holding the reigns of the four sand steeds waved to Jon. “—Areo will guide you three on a tour of the Shadow City, which will then take you to the dinner portion of the date. There you’ll have to make your decision who to cut.”

“Seems needlessly convoluted. Can’t we just skip to the dinner?”

Varys smiled. “Convoluted is the point. More entertaining that way.” His walkie talkie crackled with a mumbled directive Jon didn’t catch, and Varys brought it to his mouth. “Got it.” He nodded at Jon. “All right, the women should be here soon, so let’s get in place.”

Varys directed Jon to his mark. While they set up the shot, Jon introduced himself to Areo, who in turn introduced him to the horse he would be riding, Dancer. Her coat was as black as coal, and she had a mane and tail as red as fire. She was a beautiful horse; he was going to look pretty striking sitting astride her. The mental image helped soothe some of his annoyance.

Varys called for quiet on the set the moment the limo pulled up. It slowed to a stop far enough away from the horses so as not to agitate them. Dancer knickered softly, and Jon stroked her mane to quiet her. “Easy, sweet lady.” 

The limo doors opened, and Shae emerged first. The moment she spotted him, her face lit up, and she took off for him in a sprint. Alarmed, Jon moved away from the horses and instinctively caught her when she launched herself into his arms with a squeal. 

“Whoa, hello,” he said, except his words were muffled by her tits. He was motorboating her, and not exactly by choice.

“Oh, I’m so happy to see you!” she said in her light, lilting accent. The first night he’d talked to her, she’d told him she was from Lorath and had moved to Westeros ten years ago; that was the extent of what he knew about her, really.

Which made her greeting a bit overblown.

“I’m happy to see you, too,” he lied, trying to subtly disengage her limbs from around his body. When she finally did release him, she slid down his body, her eyes twinkling as she grinned up at him.

Cersei approached him in a more subdued manner, thank the Seven. As Shae stepped aside, Cersei shot her a sneering look but smiled at him, leaning in for a hug. He kissed her cheek. “I’m glad to see you, too,” he told her.

“I’m charmed,” she said, her words dripping with sarcasm. Or maybe that’s just how she spoke about anything: with barely contained scorn. She arched an eyebrow at the steeds behind him. “Oh. A horse ride. How...rugged.” She glanced at Shae and smirked. “Too bad you didn’t get the memo.”

Shae was wearing a short, flouncy skirt and a crop top, which certainly looked sexy, but definitely wasn’t appropriate for horse riding. In contrast, Cersei wore black jeans and a soft, V-neck t-shirt.

Shae blanched at the sight of the horses. Still, she forced a valiant smile. “I can handle it,” she boasted. “I’m always down for new adventures.”

“Just so you know, riding a horse isn’t the same as riding a mechanical bull,” Cersei told her.

Jon cleared his throat. “I’m sure it’ll be fine. We’ll go slow.” He introduced them to Areo, as Varys had instructed him to do, and Areo went through the spiel of their planned tour. After getting acquainted with the horses, like a gentleman, Jon helped Shae onto her horse, trying not to look when she (not so accidentally) flashed him. Once seated in the saddle, she artfully arranged her skirt in front of her crotch, which was smart because Jon was pretty sure she only had a thong on. 

Seven hells, she was going to be sore later. And by the end of the day, that wasn’t going to be the only reason her arse was chapped.

He turned to help Cersei, but she boosted herself onto the back of her steed without his assistance. “You’re a rider?” he asked.

She smiled smugly, tossing her golden blonde hair over her shoulder. “Since I was twelve. My father thought that horse riding was a sign of a cultured person.” No doubt she’d meant that as a dig at Shae.

“Or, at the very least, a sign of money to burn,” Jon japed as he mounted Dancer. He swung into the saddle with the careless ease of a prince who’d all but grown up in the royal stables.

Except, when he came down, he accidentally sat on his balls.

“Sweet merciful fuck,” he squeaked out. Everyone looked at him, perplexed.

“Are you OK?” Shae asked in concern. Cersei observed him with a mildly bemused look. He was sure his face had gone tomato-red as he struggled to contain the scream of agony trapped in his chest.

Jon eventually grunted out an affirmative, despite the fact that his left ball was squished between the saddle and his thigh. Why had he decided to freeball it today like a fucking tosser? He hadn’t gotten the memo about the damn horses either, and his jeans were too tight for boxer-briefs.

Discreetly, he shifted in his seat, not wanting to clue them or the cameras in on his predicament. Finally, his trapped ball popped free, and he blew out an aggrieved breath. 

Just what he needed from this fucking show: testicular torsion, rendering him sterile for life. Good thing he was just the bloody spare.

“I’m good,” he said gruffly, shooting Areo a dirty look as if this were somehow his fault. “Should we get on with it?”

The Shadow City was a popular tourist attraction because it was practically a ghost town during the day, save for guided tours like the one they were on. It came alive at night, however, as tourists and residents alike trickled in from a day spent at the nearby beaches to visit the underground bars and nightclubs that made up the city. People flooded the streets, wandering from bar to bar, feeding their drunken revelry with booze and Shade of the Evening.

It was definitely a spot Jon had hit up a few times in his wilder days (so, earlier this year). Nighttime was the only respectable time to visit this city. During the day, the businesses were deserted and barred off, which made for an extremely boring tour, Jon found. He pretended to listen to Areo’s memorized factoids as they trotted down the mostly empty streets on their steeds. Other sightseers partaking in their own tours, on horseback and on foot, stopped to gawk and point at them as their calvary passed.

“Holy shit, that’s Prince Jon!” he heard more than a few times. As soon as the phones came out, the PAs would swoop in to block their not-so-covert attempts to film him. He waved to them regardless, knowing he was ruining the footage of the date and definitely not caring.

To her credit, Shae seemed fascinated by the tour, ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the appropriate moments. Cersei surveyed their surroundings with apathy, probably too sober to find much enjoyment in anything.

Sadly, Jon could relate. He feigned interest every time Shae reached across the gap between their horses and batted at him, exclaiming, “Jon! Look! Do you see that?” At one point, in her excitement to get his attention, she nearly toppled sideways off her horse. Jon reached out to steady her, but the sudden movement spooked her horse, who bucked her free of her saddle. She screamed as the horse took off, but Jon locked his arm around her back and hoisted her up onto Dancer’s back with him. Luckily, Dancer didn’t panic, only pawing at the ground nervously.

“Are you all right?” Jon asked. Shae clung to him, her face pressed against his chest. Her breaths were labored, but after a tense moment, she nodded.

Areo took off after the rampaging steed, and Sandor ran up to them. He’d been following behind them in a golf cart with Varys and had leapt into action the moment the horse took off. Varys was slower to react, still in the process of putting the golf cart in park.

“All right, boss?” Sandor demanded. Jon nodded curtly.

Finally, Varys caught up to them. “Is everyone OK?” Varys huffed, red-faced from his burst of exertion. The cameramen moved in closer to capture all the drama, and the tourists once again whipped out their phones to film.

“I’m fine,” Shae said shakily, lifting her face from its hiding spot.

“Do either of you need medical attention?” Varys asked. For once, he sounded genuine.

Jon shook his head, waving Sandor off, who retreated back to the golf cart with the all-clear. Shae let out a breathless, tremulous laugh. “No, it’s fine. I’m just—I’m a klutz, I guess.”

Cersei, who’d pulled her horse around to watch the scene, rolled her eyes. “Oh, please.” 

Areo had tracked the runaway horse down to a shady patch of grass and was leading him back to their group.  “Sorry about that,” he said ruefully once he was within earshot. “The horses are well trained, but animals can still be hard to predict. This is why we advise riders to stay in the saddle and let the horse do the leading.”

Shae looked sheepish.“It was completely my fault.”

“Are you OK to get back on the horse?” Varys asked her. “Or should we end the date here?”

“No! We can keep going,” she insisted, but she was reluctant to let go of Jon. He stifled a sigh.

“You know what, it’s fine,” he said. “Why doesn’t she just ride with me?”

Everyone but Cersei looked pleased with that suggestion. “You’ve got to be joking,” she muttered under her breath, then she spurred her horse onward, leaving them behind.

Shae smiled sweetly at him, and he returned it, helping her get situated. Luckily, she was tiny enough to squeeze into the saddle with him. She snuggled back against him, making sure to wriggle her arse into his groin, and he reached around her to grip the reins. With that, they slowly caught up with Cersei.

Thankfully, the tour only lasted another half hour. Areo took them to an “empty” building, which Jon knew from past visits featured some of the country’s finest nighttime drag shows. For now, it’d been retrofitted for their dinner date. Jon dismounted Dancer first, then helped Shae to the ground. Cersei was already waiting at the entrance, her arms crossed over her chest. Jon thanked Areo, then offered his arm to Shae as he led her inside. He offered his other arm to Cersei, and to his surprise, she took it. A server waiting just inside the entrance held open the saloon-style doors for them then directed them to a small table set for three. There were plates of pasta at each setting, and a basket of fresh, buttery bread.

Bloody fantastic, another delicious meal he couldn’t eat.

“Oh, this looks good,” Shae exclaimed, sitting down once he’d pulled her seat out for her. Next, he pulled out Cersei’s seat.

“Please tell me there’s wine,” she muttered. Jon bit back his smile as he took the seat between them. Instantly, another server appeared with a bottle of red wine, giving them all a generous pouring. The camera crew had taken up strategic spots around the room, all but fading to the background save for the camera directly in front of them.

Jon lifted his glass in a toast, and Shae and Cersei did the same. “I had a wonderful time with you both. Thank you for taking this tour with me,” he said. They tapped glasses and drank. He fought the urge to finish off the whole glass in one go.

It was weird, being on a date with two women at once. He’d had threesomes before, but nothing quite like this.

And somehow, it wasn’t even the most awkward dinner engagement he’d ever been a part of. He’d once been seated next to Mance Rayder at a state dinner—and that had been after his and Val’s messy breakup. Jon was fairly certain it had been his father’s punishment for potentially jeopardizing domestic relations, but Jon had managed to power through that evening—with a generous helping of Shade of the Evening. Of course, later that night he’d passed out in the godswood of the Red Keep after pissing on his mother’s prized winter roses, but by that point the state dinner had been over.

If he could get through that, he could certainly get through this.

Cersei and Shae seemed to have gotten the memo about not eating during their dates, as they nursed their wine and ignored the pasta. Shae seemed nervous while Cersei seemed bored, though he suspected she only had the two modes: bored or drunk. Jon racked his brain for something to talk about. 

“So, what do you think of Dorne?” he asked conversationally. “Have either of you been here before?”

“Oh, it’s amazing,” Shae gushed. “This is my first time, but already I think it’s one of my favorite places.”

Cersei scoffed. “It’s hot and humid, and there’s sand everywhere.”

Jon couldn’t argue with that. The humidity did tend to wreak havoc on his hair.

Shae rolled her eyes. “You seem fun on a vacation,” she quipped, smiling tightly at the other woman. “Is there anything you actually like?”

Cersei held up her glass. “The Dornish red is pretty good.”

Jon smiled. “Where are you from, Cersei? I don’t think you ever told me.” Of course, he already knew because he knew where Tyrion was from. Still, he played dumb for the sake of the cameras.

“The Westerlands. And if you ask me, it’s a lot prettier than Dorne.”

“Well, he didn’t ask,” Shae interjected hotly.

Cersei feigned incredulity. “I”m sorry, little dove. Have I done something to offend you? You seem very hostile today.”

Shae’s face reddened, and she looked between Jon and Cersei. “No, I—you know what you did.”

Cersei widened her eyes, making a clueless face. “No, I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.”

Seeming to realize she couldn’t hash it out in front of him, Shae snapped her mouth closed. Caught between them, Jon took a hearty sip of his wine and set his glass down.

“I’m sure it must be weird having to live in the same house when you’re all dating the same man,” he said with a forced laugh. “Must get tense. I think anyone in that situation might lose their heads a little bit. I know I would.”

Cersei smirked. “I think that might be the difference between me and the other girls. I don’t lose my head.”

Shae gawked at her. “You threw wine on me!”

Briefly, Jon closed his eyes. It was too much to hope for a relatively painless date, wasn’t it?

Cersei clucked her tongue. “I hope you’re not still mad about that. It was just a little spill. My hand slipped. And I don’t think Jon wants to hear about these childish things, do you, Jon?”

He smiled with way too much teeth. “I want to hear more about you both. What interests you. What do you do in your free time, Cersei?”

Her green eyes danced mischievously. “Mostly, I take care of my three children. They’re the center of my world. But other than that, I’m afraid I’m a pretty boring person.” She fixed Shae with a pointed look. “Now, Shae here has a much more exciting hobby, don’t you?”

Shae narrowed her eyes at the older woman. “I’m a clothing designer,” she said through gritted teeth. “It’s nothing special.”

“That’s great,” Jon tried, trying to avoid making her spell it out. “That’s a really useful skill to have. We all need clothes, right?”

Cersei snorted. “Not her customers.”

Well, he’d set that one up, hadn’t he? Jon drained his wine, suddenly sure he was as much a spectator on this date as everyone else in the room.

Shae’s face reddened. “Oh, why don’t you just come out and say it already?” she snapped.

“What do you mean?” Cersei asked innocently. Shae leaned toward her, as if Jon wasn’t even there. He scooted his chair back.

“That I’m a stripper! You wanted him to know, didn’t you? I’m a stripper, and I make costumes for other strippers! Happy now?”

Cersei effected a sympathetic pout. “You sound upset. I’m sure Jon doesn’t judge you for that. Do you, Jon?”

“Of course not,” he said on reflex. He had a healthy appreciation for the female body, he thought. But it didn’t matter; Shae wasn’t listening to him.

“Some of us have to work for a living,” she seethed. “ Some of us don’t get to just live off daddy’s money and a fat alimony check from our deadbeat ex!”

If she was hoping for a reaction like she’d gotten yesterday, she failed. If anything, Cersei seemed pleased with Shae’s outburst. “You seem to have a disdain for the inherently wealthy,” she mused. “I’m not sure you would fit in with Jon’s world.”

Shae’s eyes went large. “And you think you would? You two have nothing in common! And you’re old! You think he wants to fuck a middle-aged woman with three kids?”

In response, Cersei just sipped her wine, letting the words ring in the silence that followed. Gods, Jon had to hand it to her; she was absolutely diabolical. She’d perfectly manipulated that conversation to her advantage, and judging by the stunned look on Shae’s ashen face, she understood she’d been played, too.

Seizing on the drama of the moment, Varys sent in a couple of servers. One cleared the food and replaced them with empty plates to make it look like they’d eaten. Jon only had a fleeting moment to mourn the loss of pasta before another server appeared, brandishing a silver serving tray. He stopped in front of the table and lifted the lid to reveal one single, blue rose. Jon carefully picked up the rose, and the server scurried off the set. Cersei and Shae didn’t move through it all; it was so quiet, Jon could hear the scuffling of the cameramen’s boots on the hardwood floor.

He blew out a breath. “As you both know, I can only give one of you a rose today,” he started, concentrating hard on the blue-hued petals. They were already beginning to wilt in the hot Dornish climate. “I had a really good time with you two today. I hope you did as well—ah, the dinner notwithstanding, perhaps.”

Clearing his throat, he looked to Shae first. Her lips were pinched together, going white at the edges. “Shae, you’re a very sweet girl. I think we’d have a lot of fun together, and I want you to know I don’t hold your profession, past or present, against you.”

He turned to Cersei next. Her eyebrow arched in that faintly judgmental way of hers. “Cersei. I respect that you’re a single mother trying to do the best for your children and who isn’t afraid to...go after something for herself, too. I think that’s admirable.” He looked back at the rose and dug deep for some sentimental schmaltz the audience could believably choke down. “I like you both. But I have to go with my heart here. So.” He glanced at Cersei, who seemed wholly unsurprised. “Cersei, will you accept this rose?”

A squeak of disbelief came from his left, and he could practically feel Shae’s internal struggle not to pick up her butter knife and ram it into the base of his skull. With a self-satisfied smile, Cersei took the rose. “Of course, I will. Thank you.”

Jon twisted in his chair to face Shae, whose face had gone purple from the effort to restrain herself. “Shae, I’m sorry. I really do respect you—”

She couldn’t hold back anymore. “You’re picking that hag over me?” she exploded. “She’s evil!


Gently, Jon reached for her hand. “Can I walk you out?”

She slapped his hand away. “Go to hell!” she hissed, standing up so fast she knocked her chair over. “You might think you’re too good to marry a stripper, but you sure have no problem enjoying our services. I know I’ve seen you in the VIP section multiple times where I used to work!”

“I’m a loyal patron of the arts,” he balked. Not his finest defense.

With a huff, Shae stormed out of the building, nearly bulldozing a PA on her way out. Bloody hell, was there a way to dump a woman without making her hate his guts? He was oh-for-two here. Three, if he counted Val.

He looked to Cersei. “Well.” He let out a pained laugh. What the fuck did he do now? He tried to recall Varys’ instructions prior to filming. Right. Now they were to ride off together into the sunset, a perfect ending to a hellish date. “Should we go?” He offered his hand as he stood up, and she took it. 

“I would love that.”

They walked toward the saloon doors, but before he could open the door for her, Cersei pulled on his hand to bring him to a stop. When he turned to face her, she grabbed his face and kissed him. He drew her in by her hips to return the kiss, but he was unprepared for her to slide her leg between his; he nearly choked on her tongue when she pressed her knee against his cock. 

She pulled away with a smirk, then nuzzled the side of his face. “I think you and I are going to have a lot of fun together,” she whispered in his ear, before biting down on his earlobe, hard. A shiver of foreboding slid down his back.


Chapter Text

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King’s Landing
June 15, 2005

“Stand up tall.” Rhaegar pushed on Jon’s shoulders till his spine was ramrod straight. Then he frowned. “And put your hands behind your back, for the Seven’s sake. You’re not a bloody savage.”

When his father turned his back, Jon made a face but did as instructed. He stood next to his parents in the Great Hall, in the center of the dais where the ceremonial Iron Throne sat. Centuries ago, it had been forged from a thousand swords, but legend had it that one of their Targaryen ancestors had melted the ugly-arsed thing down with dragonfire in symbolic protest. Complete bullshit, of course; dragons weren’t real. According to the history books, the original throne had most likely been lost in a wildfire that had razed all of the original Red Keep to the ground before it was eventually rebuilt. These days, the throne was just a boring, ordinary chair that was far less likely to kill the poor wanker who sat in it.

Everyone, even the castle staff, was gathered in the Great Hall to await the impending arrival of their honored guest, but Jon didn’t get what the big deal was; it was just Daenerys. She was family. She wasn’t going to care for all this pompous formality. The Red Keep was her home, too, even if she’d been away at Dragonstone for the past three years. He’d last seen her at King Aerys’ funeral a few months ago, but she’d been sad and withdrawn then, and the smoke from the pyre had stung Jon’s eyes when he got too close, so he’d kept his distance, letting all the other well-wishers and mourners console the princess and her brothers. King Aerys had never really cared for Jon, anyway, finding him to be an insult to the hallowed family name. Then again, in his last years, King Aerys hadn’t really liked anyone, not even his own children.

Jon’s half-siblings, Rhaenys and Aegon, had also been at the funeral, but they were absent for Daenerys’ return today. Instead, they were spending the summer with their mother in Dorne, where she had grown up. After the scandal with Lyanna and Rhaegar, Elia had finagled a very generous divorce settlement, which included one of the crown’s private residences in Starfall. Rhaenys and Aegon usually spent half the year there and half the year with Rhaegar, alternating holidays.

Jon was used to hanging out the four of them together, even if Rhaenys tended to look down on him like an interloper and not just her annoying younger brother. She hadn’t forgiven his mother for the dissolution of her own parents’ marriage and sometimes even blamed him, as if Jon had somehow forced his father to cheat on her mother. Intuitively, Jon knew it wasn’t his doing, but even so, he couldn’t help but feel guilty, like maybe it was his fault. Would Rhaegar have married Lyanna if she hadn’t gotten knocked up with him? He didn’t know.

Aegon was mostly cool; he’d only been a baby himself when everything had gone to shit, so he had no frame of reference for which to blame Jon. But the older he got, the more he began to mimic Rhaenys’ behavior toward him. Sometimes, he could be a real prick.

It might be nice to hang out with just Daenerys. At least, she never treated him like an outsider in his own family.

Finally, the doors of the Great Hall opened. Rhaegar placed his hand on Jon’s shoulder in quiet warning to stop his restless fidgeting. A tall, white-haired man appeared first, pulling a suitcase behind him, and at his side was Daenerys. As the pair drew closer, the castle staff all curtsied and bowed in deference to the princess. She acknowledged them with a passing smile.

The last time Jon had seen Daenerys, she’d been dressed demurely in all black, a long-sleeved dress and tights, her silver-gold hair smoothed back in a chic twist. Now, her hair was free of any bindings and cut shorter than he remembered. It used to come down to her waist, but now it barely reached her shoulders. She wore a modest floral blouse and white shorts with strappy sandals.

Jon couldn’t tear his eyes away.

When they reached the dais, the white-haired man bowed. “Your Grace.”

Rhaegar smiled. “Good to see you, Selmy. Thank you for returning my sister to us safely.”

Barristan Selmy returned the affection. “It’s my duty, but most importantly, it’s my pleasure.” He gave Daenerys a fond look, and she rolled her eyes.

“Don’t listen to him. I had nothing to read for the flight because I forgot to charge my tablet, so he was forced to talk to me the whole way here. He’s pretty cranky he missed his nap.”

“Daenerys,” Rhaegar scolded in jest, then smiled. “It’s rude to speak ill of the elderly.”

Barristan huffed good-naturedly at the jab to his old age, making Daenerys laugh. Then, peeling herself from her bodyguard’s side, she bounded up the two steps of the dais and grabbed her older brother in a fierce embrace.

“I hate the circumstances, but it’s good to have you back, sis,” he told her when she eventually pulled away. In the past couple years, she’d shot up a few inches, but she was still more than a head shorter than Rhaegar.

With a sad smile, Daenerys nodded before turning to Lyanna. The older woman stepped forward to hug her, too. “Oh, look at you! You’ve grown so much!” she exclaimed. Releasing her, Lyanna cupped her goodsister’s face. “Are you well?”

“Yes, thank you. Better now that I’m here. Dragonstone feels kind of empty these days.”

Murmuring sympathetically, Lyanna kissed her forehead. When she stepped away, Daenerys finally faced Jon. Her smile turned shy. “Hi, Jon.”

He gave a start when he realized he was still staring. “Hi,” he blurted, his face running hot. Then, for some bizarre reason, he bowed to her.

Her eyes went wide, and she groaned loudly. “Oh, no. Not you, too.”

Embarrassed, he grimaced. “Sorry. Ah. I mean. Hey, Dany.” Except, to his horror, his voice cracked, jumping up an octave. Bloody puberty.

Rolling her eyes, she smiled, then suddenly she was hugging him. As she squeezed him close, her cheek brushed against his. How the hell did she get as tall as him? “I’m so happy to see you,” she said in his ear.

His arms were slow to move, heavy and sluggish. He’d forgotten how to hug. What was wrong with him? Why did she feel so—so good against him? And why did she look so different? She didn’t, not really, except, gods, she really did. She even smelled different. girl. Clean and sweet, and...

Oh, fuck, oh gods no. Now was not the time for an erection!

Grabbing her arms, Jon thrust her away from him. He smiled painfully when she looked at him in confusion. Seven hells, he hoped his boner wasn’t apparent to her or anyone else in the hall.

“It’s—I’m, I mean, it’s, it’s really good to see you, too,” he stammered.

She looked wounded by his reaction but forced a smile. “Thanks.”

Rhaegar spoke then. “Why don’t we show you to your quarters, Dany? It’s the same place as before, but we’ve made some improvements I think you’ll appreciate.”

Daenerys nodded, and he beckoned to one of the staff. The young woman curtsied before grabbing Daenerys’ suitcase and scurrying out of the Great Hall. With one last searching look at Jon, Daenerys stepped off the dais and trailed after the woman, Selmy following close behind her. Rhaegar dismissed the rest of the staff, and they scattered, hurrying off to resume their duties.

“It’ll be nice to have her around here again,” Lyanna mused out loud, then she gave her son a teasing look. “Maybe Jon won’t be so grouchy now that he has someone his age to play with.”

They were teenagers, not babies, he wanted to tell her, but he was still too muddled from the hug to speak properly.

“What do you think?” Rhaegar asked him directly, pulling his wife into his side.

Stupidly, he replied without thought. “She’s...pretty.”

Rhaegar looked at him sharply. “What?”

Realizing what he’d said, Jon turned red again. “I—I don’t know, she just looks different, I guess,” he tried to cover.

His mother seemed amused by his floundering, but Rhaegar definitely wasn’t. “She’s your family, Jon,” he scolded.

Jon was bewildered by the reprimand in his father’s words. Trying not to laugh, Lyanna put a hand on Rhaegar’s shoulder. “Rhae, he’s a teenage boy,” she said, as if that wasn’t as equally as embarrassing.

Still, Rhaegar looked perturbed. He shook his head, giving Lyanna a censuring look. “That’s my baby sister. She just lost her father.”

Her face softened. “It’s sweet you want to protect her. But you know your son. He’s never done anything to hurt Daenerys, or anyone else for that matter. It was a harmless comment. She is pretty, and she’s going to be a beautiful woman one day. What are you going to do then? Scare off every man who notices?”

“I can bloody well try,” Rhaegar said gruffly, and she rolled her eyes.

It was mortifying that they were talking about him like he wasn’t even there. “May I be excused?” Jon asked through clenched teeth. Rhaegar gave him a stilted head nod to dismiss him, and with that, Jon jumped off the throne steps and jogged down the length of the Great Hall, shoving the doors open in search of fresh air to cool his flushed face.

All that just because he’d said Daenerys was pretty? Seven hells, what would they have done if he’d kissed her?

Not that he planned to. Or wanted to!

Fuck. Now he was thinking about kissing Daenerys. 

Water Gardens, Dorne
June 1, 2019

The infamous Water Gardens of Dorne was a proverbial smorgasbord of tits and arse.

And cocks, but as a devoted admirer of the female form, Jon rarely paid as much attention to the latter.

Unless it was impossible to ignore, like this gentleman’s.

“Fucking hell, that’s a giant dong,” he muttered. The man attached lumbered by, bare-arsed to the world, and straight into one of the shallow pools, splashing as he went. Even as he waded in deeper, the water did nothing to conceal the monstrosity dangling between his legs.

At his side, Oberyn sounded almost wistful when he spoke. “Yes, it is,” he said admiringly. Jon looked to the host. The man was oiled down from head to toe, his tan skin glistening in the sun. His neon-green swim briefs left very little to the imagination, but Jon was grateful for that much, at least. He didn’t think he wanted to know what Oberyn Martell’s knob looked like.

“Is that what you’re wearing on camera?” Jon asked, perplexed. Suddenly, he felt overdressed in his red swim trunks.

Oberyn laughed. “No, my friend. I’m not here to work. I’m here to play. You’re on your own today.” He clapped a greasy hand on Jon’s shoulder and squeezed. Then, sipping from his fruity cocktail, he strutted across the pink marble walkway, proud as a peacock. Beneath a blood orange tree, he was stopped by a group of women who recognized him, and he happily stopped to pose for photos with them.

They recognized Jon, too, but the press of cameras and security around him kept the fans at bay. The producers wanted to keep the popular nude resort open during the filming of his group date so it would feel authentic, but the presence of royalty among the cast necessitated a larger security presence than normal, even in addition to Sandor’s services. Some of Daenerys’ standard security team had also been flown in to provide extra protection for the trip.

Varys appeared beside Jon then. “All right, we’re bringing in the ladies. They’re going to come around that water fountain there,” he explained, pointing across the courtyard. “Then you’re going to take them down to the beach.”

“Where we all presumably get naked?” Jon guessed.

Varys simpered. “Well, we certainly can’t ask anyone to take their clothes off for the cameras. But perhaps some of the girls will feel particularly...inspired by the atmosphere.”

“When in Dorne,” Jon said wryly. Dorne was just a different world from the rest of Westeros. The producers had posted signs everywhere to alert everyone that filming was taking place while PAs ran around passing out image release forms among the guests. Far more people than Jon would have expected were apparently cool with appearing naked on telly.

The bald man grinned. “Precisely.” Then he was on his walkie-talkie, giving Littlefinger the cue to send in the women before ducking out of view of the cameras. Within seconds, the women were rounding the main water fountain feature, flanked by security and moving like a pack of wolves.

Wolves dressed in very skimpy bathing suits.

As soon as they saw him, they broke into a run. Jon was momentarily frozen in place, mesmerized by all that jiggling flesh. He wasn’t sure if he was excited or terrified.

No—that was definitely excitement. Once they got closer, he broke into a grin. It was hard to be upset when you had half-naked women barreling toward you. Margaery was the first to reach him, literally bouncing, tits and all, into his arms.

“Jon!” she squealed, wrapping her legs around him, and he tried not to laugh. Was there some clause in their contracts that said they must screech every time they greeted him? Not even his family was ever this excited to see him.

Which was sad, if he let himself think too hard about it.

“Margaery,” he said, before she snuck in a peck on his lips. He was aware of the cameras rolling, the curious ogling of onlookers. When Margaery finally untangled herself from around him, she let her hand trail down his bare chest. She smirked at him and tugged teasingly at the waistband of his trunks before releasing it.

“Don’t you look handsome,” she purred. The others were just as blatant in their admiration, and he tried not to preen too obviously. Margaery stepped aside to let the other girls have a go at him. Ygritte was next, then Alys, then Alayaya. Thank fuck, they didn’t all try to hug him. Otherwise, they would have been there all day.

“You all look gorgeous,” he said, and they did. Most were in bikinis, though a few were in one-pieces or cover-ups. He let his gaze sweep over them, unable to stop himself from specifically searching out Daenerys. She stood toward the back of the pack with Missandei; not far from them, Jon recognized two of her own personal security guards, Jorah and Grey. Daenerys was one of the few wearing a one-piece, a white, low-cut swimsuit. He had no idea how she managed to make something so classy look so deliciously sinful.

Or why he couldn’t seem to not notice her, even in a crowd of half-naked women. Stifling a sigh, Jon forced his attention to the other women. “Are you ready to enjoy some drinks on the beach?” He gestured behind him, where the Summer Sea met the white sands of the Water Gardens resort. “I believe there are a few cabanas reserved for us.”

They all chorused their agreement, some going so far as to clap excitedly. Gods, if they were this chuffed about the beach, they must have been feeling as cooped up in Highgarden as he had been.

They followed him away from the pools down to the adjacent beach. It was crowded with clothed and unclothed tourists alike, lounging in their own private cabanas and treepods. A few cameras were already set up around the cabanas designated for them, so Jon led them in that direction. Margaery and Alys quickly commandeered each of his arms, and he made small talk with them as they walked, asking about their flight and how they liked their rooms. Aside from his two-on-one with Cersei and Shae, this was the first time he was seeing any of the women since they’d arrived in Dorne. From what Varys had told him, the contestants were sharing rooms in a section of the resort that was blocked off from the other guests. Jon had his own private suite set a bit farther away from them and anyone else who might try to hassle the prince of Westeros. The resort was technically private, but anyone could access it if they shelled out the cost of a day pass. Already, Jon could spot the bloody paps camped around the beach, snapping away with their professional cameras.

Probably all hoping for “Dong Snow,” the sequel. Like he was dumb enough to be caught with his pants down a second time.

The alcohol started flowing the moment they posted up at the cabanas, the PAs swarming with trays of boozy, colorful drinks, paper umbrellas and all. He cheersed all the ladies and took an experimental sip of the fruity concoction. It was better than the frozen daiquiris, at least.

Soon, Jon felt himself relax as he mingled between the different cabanas where the women had naturally split apart into separate groups. Within no time, the alcohol had them all feeling pretty loose and uninhibited. Not surprisingly, it was Yara who got the ball rolling.

“When are we going to strip off?” she asked from one cabana over, wagging her eyebrows suggestively. “I’m feeling a bit overdressed.”

The others laughed, albeit some more nervously than others. Jon smiled at her and shrugged. “I’ll be keeping my clothes on, but please, don’t let me stop you,” he said diplomatically. “I support a woman’s right to do whatever she chooses with her body.”

Cersei scoffed into her drink. “I bet you do.”

Seated on his right, Margaery pouted. “You won’t join us?”

He grimaced with false modesty. “Sorry. I’m afraid if you see the whole package now, you might not want to stick around for the finale.”

They all giggled at his self-deprecating joke. Only Yara made the obvious remark. “We’ve already seen the whole package, love. Why do you think we’re all here?” Which made the others positively shriek with laughter.

It was flattering, maybe, but also mildly embarrassing. Jon tried not to let it bother him. “Amazing what a good filter can do, isn’t it?”

Just then, the naked man with the giant cock plodded by their cabanas, dripping wet like he’d come directly from the pools. The women went silent, likely as stunned as Jon had been the first time he’d seen the unnatural wonder between the bloke’s legs. For fuck’s sake, it practically reached his knees.

Ygritte was the first to break the collective stupor. “I think we just found the next bachelor,” she muttered to Gilly and Meera, and once again they all erupted into peals of laughter.

Startled by the raucous noise, the man shuffled to a stop in front of their cabanas. He smiled shyly and said, “Hodor,” before bounding off again, this time right into the surf.

“Was that Valyrian?” Jeyne W wondered out loud.

Cersei curled her lip. “No, you twit. Nobody speaks Valyrian anymore.” Apparently, she’d reached the “mean drunk” threshold of her daily alcohol consumption.

Jeyne W went red in the face, but Daenerys interceded in her defense. “That’s not entirely true. A lot of Essosi languages are derived from Valyrian. Anyone can get by knowing basic Valyrian there.”

Cersei glared at her. “I’m impressed,” she said tartly. “I thought you only spoke Dothraki on account of your savage boyfriend and his savage friends.”

At the allusion to Drogo, Jon went rigid, but Daenerys smiled serenely at the blonde woman. “Se lī savages issi tolī kirimves naejot sagon lēda ao.

Missandei slapped a hand over her mouth to muffle her snort, but everyone else looked at each other, clueless. Jon recognized the words as Valyrian, but it had been years since his lessons, and even then, he’d slept through a lot of them.

Realizing she was being mocked but helpless to retort, Cersei glowered and muttered something inaudible into her cocktail.

Mercifully, Yara eased the tension as she stood up from the cabana bed. “Fuck it. I’m too hot for clothes.” With that, she yanked her bandeau bathing suit top off over her head and flung it aside, conveniently at Jon’s head. He caught it before it could smack him in the face. When she bent over to shimmy out of her bottoms, the other girls jumped up to do the same.

As they disrobed in front of him, his first thought was of Olenna, back in Highgarden and, he presumed, her absolute glee at this turn of events.

His second thought was: Why the fuck was he thinking about Olenna while a bunch of women stripped off in front of him?

Shaking himself, he watched them all dash off into the water. A few of the cameramen took off after them as well, not wanting to miss a single frame of bare, jiggling flesh. Their shouts and laughter grew distant as they splashed around in the surf. It was like the set-up to a really bad lesbian porno, he thought with some amusement. One he’d stroke off to, of course, but, still, kind of corny all the same.

“Try not to leer so much, Jon. It’s not very becoming for a prince.”

Jon looked to his left, surprised to find Daenerys still seated on the cabana bed with him. Disappointingly, still clothed, too. Jorah and Grey stood some distance away from the cabanas with Sandor and the rest of security. Poor blokes had to be dying in their long sleeves and pants.

“It’d be rude not to appreciate the show, wouldn’t it? It’s all for me, after all,” he replied drolly.

Even behind her designer sunglasses, he could tell she was rolling her eyes. “Surely, this is a slow day for you.”

He smiled, pleased by her annoyance. If he wasn’t mistaken, she was actually jealous. Usually, she was good at hiding it, but she always deflected with cutting remarks to effect an air of apathy. “You could join them, you know,” he needled. “Please, don’t feel like you have to stay here just to keep me company.”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” she retorted, but she was smiling now. “I’ve made it 27 years without appearing topless in the rags. I’m not about to give them the satisfaction now.”

Jon looked around to make note of the paps he’d seen earlier, but when he craned his head to the right, he found Brienne seated alone at one of the other cabanas. She looked uncomfortable, her arms hugging her knees to her chest. She, like Daenerys, had left her suit on, a plain black halter top tankini.

“Not a fan of skinny dipping?” he called to her, smiling to show he meant no harm. She grimaced apologetically.

“Not with so many people around,” she said, her face turning pink. He gestured for her to join him and Daenerys on their cabana, then motioned to a nearby server for more drinks.

“You’re right to protest this injustice. Why should only the women be the ones to get naked?” Daenerys said once Brienne had joined them in their cabana. As the PA handed her a cocktail, she raised it to Jon and Brienne in salute. “Here’s to full equity in on-screen nudity.”

Brienne laughed, albeit shyly. Jon rolled his eyes good-naturedly. “Until this moment, these women had seen more of me than I’d seen of them. How is that equity?”

Daenerys twirled her drink’s paper parasol, quickly doing the math. “One cock for, what, twenty-two tits?” She cast her eyes toward the naked women frolicking in the water. “I think it’s still skewed heavily in your favor.”

Jon shook his head. Tyrion was right. There was way too much time spent talking about his cock.

Although, when it was Daenerys doing the talking...

“How are you enjoying Dorne?” Jon asked Brienne, shifting discreetly to ward off the effect that particularly arousing thought was having.

She swallowed the drink in her mouth before responding. “It’,” she said haltingly, then she gave an embarrassed laugh. “Just a bit out of my comfort zone, I guess. I hadn’t even packed a bathing suit for the show. Petyr tried to put me in a thong bikini.”

She blushed even just saying the words. Oh, she was too bloody pure for this show.

Daenerys smiled at her reassuringly. “Littlefinger’s not very good at reading women.”

“Not very good with women, period,” Brienne blurted, and Daenerys threw her head back with a laugh. Jon could just imagine Littlefinger quietly seething to himself as he watched this in his makeshift control room. He was probably devising even more elaborate ways to humiliate them as they spoke.

Encouraged by Daenerys’ reaction, Brienne continued, “I don’t think he understands proportions. I would look ridiculous in a bikini, let alone a thong.”

Jon thought she was being way too hard on herself. “I don’t think so. You’re very statuesque. You have a model’s body.”

“And Jon would know all about that,” Daenerys retorted. He took it in stride.

“More than most men, aye,” he said smugly.

She snorted, rolling her eyes again, then set her drink aside and shifted onto her knees to lean across him. Covering his mouth with her hand, she spoke directly to Brienne. “He talks a big game now, but you didn’t know him as a kid. He was such a muppet.”

He scowled, swatting her hand away. “Alright, I seem to recall you liking me just fine back then,” he reminded her, pointedly.

She flashed him a grin. Oh, she was definitely sloshed, judging by the rosy flush on her neck and chest. With the deep cut in her suit, and bent over as she was, her tits were dangerously close to his face—and dangerously close to falling out. She pinched his cheek. “Still as broody as ever, though.”

“And you’re still a pain in the arse,” he huffed, pushing on her shoulder to force her back. With a laugh, she plopped down on the bed, but his fingers lingered at her collar bone, her skin silky-soft to the touch.

Bloody hell. There were eleven other women, all stark-naked and clamoring for his attention like it was an uncensored episode of “Blackwater Bay,” and all he could think about was bending Daenerys over his lap and pushing the crotch of her suit aside to find out if her cunt still tasted like Arbor gold and Dornish plums.

“Broody can be charming,” Brienne offered, discomfited by their obvious flirting. He jerked his hand away from Daenerys as if he’d been burned.

“Thank you, Brienne,” he said, forcing a cheeky smile. “I know who I’m inviting on my date tonight.” He winked at her, which only made her blush harder.

He didn’t know the details of the date yet, just that he was meant to select a few women for a more intimate tryst later, and he hadn’t spent much time with Brienne yet, so why not her? It couldn’t be as horrific as the two-on-one, in any case.

Margaery and Alys came running back to the cabana just then, apparently impatient that Jon hadn’t joined them yet. They were soaked head to toe, like a couple of mythical mermaids—if mermaids waxed every inch of their bodies bald. “Come on! The water feels so good!” Margaery urged playfully, grabbing Jon by his hand and pulling him to his feet. With a laugh, he went willingly. What kind of wanker could resist the call of these beautiful naked sirens?

And yet, he couldn’t help but to spare one last look at the two women he’d left behind.

Daenerys definitely wasn’t smiling anymore. 

As his chauffeured car pulled up to the designated location for his date, Jon knew immediately what kind of night he was in for. They’d returned to the same building where he’d had his ill-fated dinner with Shae and Cersei two nights ago: the Bawdy Badger.

An innocuous restaurant by day, the place transformed into a seedy nightclub that regularly featured drag shows and exotic performances every weekend night. It wasn’t the weekend, but Jon didn’t think they’d been brought here just to have a chat at the bar.

“Fuck me,” he muttered, eyeballing the throng of people already gathered around the entrance. Then he had to laugh to himself. Well. If nothing else, it promised to be a hell of a night.

Although—if a nude beach was outside of Brienne’s comfort zone, a drag show might give the poor thing a heart attack.

As promised, he’d invited her on the date, as well as Yara, Missandei and Melisandre; if he’d known what they would be getting up to, he might have chosen someone else. But Varys had wanted to keep the date a surprise, and now he bloody knew why.

He turned in his seat to Sandor. “This place should be familiar to you,” he said wryly. Sandor grunted, a faint eyebrow raise his only acknowledgement of the nights Jon had pissed away at the Bawdy Badger. “That’s a good lad,” Jon said approvingly.

When a PA opened the back door, Sandor got out first to secure the perimeter. Once he got the clearance, Jon unfolded himself from the backseat to follow suit. Stepping out into the street, he was greeted by a wall of screams, camera flashes momentarily blinding him.

This was the Shadow City he knew, the streets swarming with stumbling drunks and party-revellers and overzealous fans. Blockades around the entrance of the Bawdy Badger kept the pedestrians back so Jon was able to slip inside unmolested. As per Varys’ instructions, Sandor didn’t let Jon linger, so he simply held his hand up in greeting as he passed by the people screaming his name.

Inside, his dates had already arrived, perched on stools at the bar, as still as statues while Ellaria and Satin made some minor adjustments to their hair and makeup. They weren’t filming just yet, other than the cameras that were always rolling just in case drama went down. Spotting him first, Missandei waved. He smiled in return, idly wondering if Daenerys was upset he’d picked her friend for the date tonight. She was the one who told him to get to know her better, wasn’t she?

Varys was busy talking with a PA, but when Jon entered, he shooed the man away and approached Jon and Sandor. “It’s too noisy up here, too much background noise from outside, so we’ll be doing the filming downstairs,” he explained, speaking loudly. With all the commotion outside, not to mention the PAs chattering and running around to set up last-minute touches for the cameras inside, it was hard to hear him. “We’ve cordoned off everything inside, and we’ll bring in some extras to fill out the scene later. But first we’ll pick up with you arriving and greeting the girls downstairs. Sound good?”

“Would it matter if I said no?” Jon asked, amused. Varys smiled.

“Not really,” he admitted. “But you’re the talent, and we do want to make you happy.”

Jon snorted. Based on how often Olenna seemed to get off on torturing him on screen, he very much doubted that. “In that case, I’d be much happier with a drink.”

Varys signaled to the bartender, who, if Jon’s hazy drug- and alcohol-soaked recollections held up, was actually a regular bartender of the Bawdy Badger and not just a PA in disguise.

It wasn’t long before Jon had a whiskey in hand, though he’d barely had a sip of it before someone snatched it away from him. “The fuck—” He looked over his shoulder to find Yara knocking back half his drink. He should probably feel more irritated than he did. “They aren’t feeding you girls enough booze? I find that hard to believe.”

“They ply us with far too much wine for my taste,” she complained, seeming to savor the whiskey on her lips. “I think they hoard all the good shit for you.”

“Perks of being a prince, I suppose.”

“Oh, sod off.” She sneered at that, making him laugh. He didn’t know if he really wanted to date Yara, but she was definitely someone he could shoot the shit with. He could see them being genuine friends outside of this circus.

Of course, he could also see her punching him in the dick when it came time to dump her.

Yara swigged one final sip then tried to return the tumbler to him, but he waved her off. Not like he couldn’t snap his fingers and send the PA running for another one, anyway. At his generosity, Yara gave him an appreciative look. “Thanks, love. You know, I always figured Theon was wrong about you. I don’t think you act like an entitled prick at all.”

He jolted back in surprise. “Pardon?” He frowned. “Wait, how do you know Theon?”

She looked thoroughly entertained by his cluelessness. “Theon’s my brother. You didn’t know?”

His jaw dropped. “Brother—Theon has a sister?”

She smirked. “Well, certainly not by choice. Not by my choice either. Bit of a tosser, isn’t he?”

That he was. “He never said a word about you coming on this show,” he said, dumbfounded. “And after he gave me such a bloody hard time about doing it myself.”

“Oh, he has no idea I’m here. I didn’t tell him.” Yara finished off the whiskey. “We’re not close. When we were younger, he was sent away to boarding school, and then once I was old enough, I took off and spent most of my 20s traveling the world.”

Now that she was talking, it was starting to come back to him. Theon had mentioned an older sister at some point, one he rarely saw. In fact, he suddenly recalled a story Theon had told him, when he was completely pissed, about accidentally feeling up his sister at a family reunion because he hadn’t recognized her until he had his hand down her shirt.

At the time Jon had laughed at Theon’s misfortune, but now he felt his stomach churning slightly. Seven hells. He didn’t think he could date someone Theon fucking Greyjoy had fondled at some point, sister or not. Or, rather, especially because it was his sister.

He tried to shake off the disturbing thought by gesturing to a PA for another whiskey. “Well, I already like you better than him,” he admitted, and she chuckled.

“Most people do.”

The other three women finally joined Jon and Yara just as the PA handed off his drink. In greeting, he kissed Missandei’s cheek, then Melisandre’s. Brienne had to crouch to accept his kiss, but she blushed all the same. “Have they let you lot in on what they have planned yet?” he asked conversationally.

“They’ve been very hush hush,” Missandei said. She looked gorgeous in an orange sleeveless gown, her springy curls gathered on the top of her head. She shifted in her heels nervously. “Do you know anything?”

“Oh, I think I’ve some idea,” he said vaguely and grinned. “But I think half the fun will be in surprising you all.”

They began to loudly object to his secrecy, but thankfully Varys swooped in to save him. “It’s showtime. Jon, we’ll take you down first so we can film you greeting your dates.”

He was quickly ushered down the steps to the basement level. For the time being, Sandor was left upstairs since his presence was unneeded in the relative seclusion of the downstairs club. Once they were ready to bring in the extras, Varys said they’d send Sandor downstairs, along with more members of the security team currently stationed outside.

Ellaria and Satin followed close behind, giving Jon his own quick (and, quite frankly, bloody unnecessary) touch-ups. It was strange to see the downstairs empty, though the stage was lit up brighter than usual, likely for the cameras’ sake.

Jon got on his mark and waited for the cue, then the ladies were there, clomping down the stairs in their heels—all except Brienne, probably because the producers had taken pity on Jon.

They went through the staged greetings and cheek kisses, then the lights dimmed suddenly, surprising even Jon. In the near pitch-dark, he heard the women’s muttered confusion.

Then, the stage lit up with a solitary spotlight. In the center of it stood an imposing individual in full drag. Slowly, she lifted her head, the large black and white feathers of her headpiece dancing with the movement. Beneath the gaudy accessory, half of her shoulder-length hair was dyed black, the other half white. Her face was painted black and white to mirror the wig, and her sequin-and-tulle gown also alternated between swatches of black and white. She clearly had a theme going on.

“Welcome, Prince Jon and company.” A dramatic pause followed, and she struck a theatrical pose for effect. “To Jaqen H’ghar’s Hall of Faces!”

Missandei and Brienne let out anxious, high-pitched giggles, while Melisandre remained nonplussed. Did anything fluster this woman? At his side, Yara blurted out, “What the fuck?”

Curling one hand around the mic, Jaqen pointed a long white fingernail at her. “I see this one has never heard of Jaqen H’ghar. Let me do the honors. Every weekend, people from Dorne over come to watch my kings and queens work their magic on this very stage.” She waved her hand at them all. “And tonight, you will do the same.”

With a squeal, Missandei buried her face in her hands. “No!” she laughed through her fingers. Brienne had gone ashen, her eyes wide, and Jon was afraid she might yak.

Jaqen nodded, the feathers doing another little jig. “Oh, yes. You will strut your stuff across this stage, doing your best impressions of Westeros’ beloved royal family as you lip sync for Prince Jon’s affections. He will be accompanied by two other surprise judges. By the end of the night, the prince will choose his favorite, and the winner will be safe from elimination.”

They all groaned, their horror bubbling out in fits of nervous laughter. All of them but Melisandre, again, who only shrugged her indifference.

“I can’t wait to see this,” Jon laughed.

Jaqen tilted her head, looking for all the world like a strange, exotic bird. “Oh, did Your Grace think you would just kick back and relax tonight?” She smiled. “Darling, you’ll be working it for us, too.”

Jon’s face dropped, even as the women erupted in gleeful cheers. “Fuck me.” 

The women were immediately taken backstage to be transformed, and the producers and PAs got to work on staging the room. In front of the raised stage was a judges table. Tiered benches were placed around the rest of the room, and the extras were brought downstairs to fill them up. The security guards were camouflaged throughout the room, blending in with the extras. Jon easily recognized Sandor, nearly a head taller than anyone else there, and even Grey, who’d been pulled from princess duty for this specific gig, apparently. Made restless by the wait, Jon made his rounds through the crowd to greet the fans, politely declining selfies with those brave enough to ask.

Once it was time to start, Jon took his seat at the judges table, and Jaqen emerged from the curtains, mic in hand to emcee the event.

“Ladies and gentlemen—and other distinguished guests who’d rather not be labeled—allow me to introduce our guest judges for the evening! First, you know him as a best-selling rapper whose debut album amazingly went triple platinum within just two months—please welcome, P-Payne!”

Jon flinched as the crowd went berserk, their screams amplified tenfold by the acoustics of the confined space. P-Payne got his start after a short-lived stint on “Westerosi Idol” as a sweet, clean-cut pop singer, walked out onto the stage, smiling and waving at the crowd. The women behind Jon started to push forward, desperate to get a hand on the rapper or even just his shoe, but security quickly subdued them.

P-Payne grabbed the mic from Jaqen. “Thanks, mate. I’m stoked to be here and hopefully help my good friend Jon find the woman of his dreams.” He grinned as the crowd swooned, and Jon rolled his eyes. He wouldn’t exactly call the man his friend. The last time he’d even seen P-Payne was at an awards gala three years ago; at the time, P-Payne had been snorting lines off the toilet seat in the men’s bathroom.

Jon couldn’t stand the wanker. He was wearing sunglasses inside, for fuck’s sake.

After exchanging some more banter with Jaqen, P-Payne returned the mic and exited the stage to emerge below, slapping hands with eager fans before joining Jon at the table. “Sup,” P-Payne said casually. Jon resisted the urge to remind him of proper protocol when greeting the royal family, instead giving a bored nod of his head.

Jaqen flipped her hair over her shoulder—which was now a long black-and-white checkered wig that nearly reached the floor. “Next, our final judge is a personal friend and confidant of Prince Jon, someone who knows him very well: Tyrion Lannister!”

Silence greeted him as he walked onto the stage, followed by a confused smattering of applause. “Seriously,” Jon said out loud, amazed.

Jaqen held the mic down for Tyrion, who grimaced and glanced at the crowd. “Ah, thank you. For having me. This should be a fun night for us all.” More confused silence, broken only by a few polite claps.

When Tyrion joined Jon and P-Payne, Jon shook his head. “What the fuck is happening?”

Tyrion hopped up into his seat. “I’m not really sure, except Varys told me the third judge—who was actually the last bachelor, Bronn, I believe his name was? Anyway, he was supposed to be here, but he was arrested on outstanding charges of solicitation the second he landed in Westeros this afternoon.”

“And you were the best they could come up with?”

“In a bind? Apparently,” Tyrion said with a shrug. He leaned across Jon to shake P-Payne's hand. “Hi, P-Payne. Huge fan.”

P-Payne looked bewildered. “Who are you?”

Jaqen demanded their attention again, drawing the focus back to the stage. “Now, for the main event—drumroll, please. Everyone put your hands together for our first performer, Yara, as Prince Viserys!”

“Oh, gods.” Jon was already laughing before Yara even appeared, Jaqen fading into black when the harsh spotlight illuminated her on the left-hand side of the stage. She had on a silver-blond wig that fell to her shoulders, a slender silver crown and a black and red three-piece suit. Amazingly, she managed to capture the perpetually haughty sneer Viserys always wore as well as the near maniacal look in his eyes.

Yara winked at Jon, just before the music kicked in, then she was mouthing along with the seductive crooning of Symon Silver Tongue. She was pretty good, actually, perfectly capturing the sensual, serpentine movements of the famous pop singer while simultaneously spurning the crowd as only Viserys could.

Once Yara brought her performance home with a gratuitous thrust of the mic stand at her crotch, Jon stuck his fingers in his mouth to whistle his appreciation, then cheered as loudly as the crowd. Still true to character, Yara flipped them off and stormed off stage, nearly toppling Jaqen off the edge as she disappeared into the wings.

Despairing, Tyrion sighed into his hands. “Viserys is going to lose his shit when he sees this.”

“He’ll just demand you write up a useless cease and desist letter,” Jon said with a laugh.

He shot Jon a deadpan look. “Exactly. And how well do you think Olenna is going to take that? I’ll have both of them up my arse then.” He craned his head around. “Where’s the bloody booze?”

Jon felt his pain, acutely, but apparently Varys thought the judges drinking on camera would look too “trashy.”

“Well!” Jaqen exclaimed into the mic. “I’d certainly hate to wake that dragon! Judges?”

Tyrion realized the cameras had panned to him first. “Oh, uh,” he stammered, leaning into the mic placed on the table before him. “Well done.”

“Very true to character,” Jon offered. Jaqen looked expectantly at P-Payne.

“Yeah, I really felt her anger and disdain,” he said seriously. “But maybe next time, try uplifting the audience instead of scorning them.”

Jon shared a look with Tyrion. This tool really thought he was on an episode of “Westerosi Idol.”

Apparently, Yara didn’t appreciate his commentary either; from offstage she yelled, “Fuck off, you twat!”

“Anyway,” Jaqen deflected. “Our next drag king will one day be the King of Westeros—I give you, the lovely Melisandre as Prince Aegon!”

Melisandre took the stage then, dressed as the heir apparent, with a closely cropped wig of waxen hair and a much more elaborate crown. Jon lost it at the exaggerated paunch they’d given her beneath her suit jacket, laughing so hard he had to clap a hand over his mouth.

As she launched into her performance, it took a moment for the music to register in his brain. Once it did, he started laughing even harder. His half-brother positively loathed Tom Sevenstrings, lead singer of Brotherhood without Banners, ever since Tom had gone on a live, unprompted tirade while being interviewed on “A.M. Westeros,” calling Aegon a “pompous cunt” who “exemplified the worst of the privileged, arrogant royal family whose dynasty is rooted in the violent colonization of this once fine country.”

In reality, Tom was still cross that Aegon’s wife, Arianne, a one-time TV actress, had snubbed him years ago in favor of the prince.

Jon wondered if Melisandre knew about the bad blood between them. Had that been in Westeros Weekly at some point? It was possible, in one of those clickbaity “10 Facts About the Royal Family That Will Blow Your Mind!” listicles they regularly recycled.

At the end of the song, Jon cheered, half-wishing she’d done something more embarrassing—like trip off the stage, maybe. Jaqen turned the mics back to the judges for their input, then she introduced the next performer, and suddenly Jon was not nearly as amused.

Missandei filled the spotlight, her springy curls squished under a wig of black hair. A fake beard had been glued to her face, and she wore a red suit, the lapels embroidered in black dragons—a replica of a suit Jon recognized from a function he’d attended a couple years ago. At the time, he’d thought it the height of fashion, but now it just looked pretentious as fuck.

“Seven bloody buggering hells,” he said, sinking into his seat in horror. All around him, the crowd roared in sheer delight as Missandei began to lip sync to a synth-heavy track by DJ Marillion. Even Tyrion was laughing. No doubt the cameras were focused tightly on Jon’s reaction. Despite his apprehension, it was impossible not to watch. He peeked through his fingers. Missandei was playing to the crowd, winking and blowing kisses to the women up front as she strutted across the stage.

The worst part was when she turned around, the padding in the arse of her pants overly exaggerated. The audience went wild when she bent over to twerk.

“I have never in my life done that,” he protested to no one in particular. Tyrion heard him, though.

“Perhaps you should!” he yelled over the music. “It seems to be working quite well for her!”

Jon scowled at him. But it was hard to stay indignant, watching such an inflated parody of himself on stage. By the end of her song, he was laughing, and when she looked to him and bowed, he tipped his head in regal approval. He could laugh at himself. He’d learned how to a long time ago.

Jaqen looked perplexed as Missandei walked off stage, shielding her eyes as she squinted into the crowd. “Prince Jon, how did you get down there so fast?” she asked to cued laughter. Jon rolled his eyes and gestured for her to get on with it. “So how did she do?”

“While I’m not sure that’s exactly how I walk—” he started, but Tyrion interrupted him.

“It is.”

Jon reached across the table to cover his communications secretary’s mic. “But I must say, I’ve never been quite so attracted to myself till now.” The crowd roared with more laughter.

Once it died down, Jaqen introduced the last performance of the night. “We saved the best for last, His Royal Highness himself, the king of kings: the beautiful Brienne as Rhaegar Targaryen!”

Jon was surprised by the uncanny resemblance. She had Rhaegar’s height—and then some. His father kept his hair long, even longer than Viserys’; under the silver-gold wig, Brienne wore the ceremonial dress of the king, a military uniform topped with an ermine-lined cloak and sash. A full ruby-encrusted crown and scepter completed the picture.

If he’d expected shy Brienne to cower on stage, he’d been dead wrong. She disappeared into the performance completely and marched the length of the stage with a strange sense of authority, devoid of all self-consciousness. Even then, she wasn’t afraid to ham it up, acting out the lyrics with dramatic flair.

By the end, he shot to his feet to howl his approval. Everyone else did the same. As if jolted out of a haze, Brienne seemed to notice the crowd for the first time. She turned beet-red and hastily bowed before running off stage, the applause carrying on long after she was gone.

“Bloody brilliant,” was all he could say when Jaqen asked for his opinion.

P-Payne piped up. “She’s obviously a natural. I just think maybe she could smile a little more while she’s on stage.”

Not even his diehard fans in the audience agreed with him, some in the crowd even booing. In the ensuing awkward interlude, Varys suddenly appeared behind Jon. “Come with me.”

He quickly ushered Jon backstage while the women were directed out front to the judges table, still in their costumes. Backstage, Ellaria, Satin and a whole crew of stylists awaited him, where they immediately began stripping him and readying him for the spotlight.

Once Jon was down to his boxer-briefs, Jaqen appeared. “Who do you wish to be tonight? Whose face will you don?” she asked in that affected cadence of hers.

“Are we staying on theme?” Jon asked, wincing as Satin hastily combed his wayward curls back, tying them off into a bun at the nape of his neck.

“It’s preferable, but don’t let me limit your imagination.”

Jon smiled. Well. That didn’t really leave him much choice, did it?

It took them nearly half an hour to transform him, then they rushed him to the stage just as Jaqen was announcing him. “My kings and queens, it's what you've all been waiting for. Please, bend the knee for Prince Jon—or should I say, Princess Daenerys!”

Flipping his elaborately braided wig over his shoulder, Jon said a quick prayer to the Seven then sashayed to the center of the stage with the practiced sway he’d seen Daenerys demonstrate on many a red carpet and world stage. Or he tried, anyway, but in the obscenely tall stilettos and floor-length dress, it was more of a bowlegged crab walk. Between that and his very manly beard, Jon was sure he really ruined the effect of the performance.

All in all, he only tripped once in the heels as he performed a sexy little number, “Seasons of My Love.” At one point, he gave up and hiked his dress up to kick the heels off, though he gravely misjudged his aim. One just barely missed beaming Tyrion in the head. A few women in the crowd almost came to blows over laying claim to the shoe.

At the end of the song, everyone got to their feet. The women at the judges table catcalled and jeered. Unsurprisingly, P-Payne was the only one who looked less than entertained. Jon bowed deeply, his wig nearly flopping onto the stage. He stood up to straighten it.

Jaqen brought the contestants up on stage to join Jon. In her black-and-white manicured hand, she held a single blue rose, which she pointed at Jon’s chest.

“Looks like you’ve had a bit of a nip slip,” she stage-whispered. The audience laughed as he looked down to see the plunging neckline of his navy blue gown had shifted during his performance, his exposed nipples saluting the crowd.

“Whoops,” he laughed and adjusted the thin straps of the dress over his pecs.

“Fashion tape, darling,” Jaqen said with a conspiratorial wink.

As they lined up beside him, Jon hugged each woman, congratulating each of them on their performances. Yara surprised him by kissing him full on the mouth, much to the amusement of the audience.

Jaqen shooed Yara aside, and she went to stand at the end of the line. “No bribing the judges,” she scolded, handing Jon the rose and microphone.

Jon cleared his throat. “Fortunately, I’m not so sure she’s Daenerys’ type,” he joked, and they all laughed. He should feel more uncomfortable in a dress, shouldn’t he? It was quite freeing, really. He adjusted the straps again. A bit too freeing. “In all seriousness, I just want to ladies did a wonderful job tonight. If I could give you all a rose, I would, but unfortunately I can’t. And I really think Brienne earned this one. You absolutely surprised the hell out of me.”

Blushing bright red, Brienne accepted the rose and hugged him again. Briefly, he wished he still had the heels on. Jaqen took the mic back and thanked everyone for coming. “Thank you to our judges, especially. Please, stand up and take a bow!”

The crowd clapped for Tyrion and P-Payne, who waved graciously. Then, because he couldn’t resist a little self-promotion, P-Payne shouted into his mic, “Stream my new album, HOUSE OF PAYNE, out this Tuesday!” 

Bobby B Productions
“Westeros’ Most Eligible Bachelor”
Tape #068

Partial transcript
with Brienne Tarth

Varys: You must be feeling pretty good right now.

Brienne: Oh, yes. Tonight was wonderful. [laughing] I never in my life saw myself doing something like that before!

Varys: You were quite believable on stage. You’ve never done that before?

Brienne: Oh, no, definitely not. But I guess I’ve just always felt more comfortable in men’s clothing than a dress. [pause, then nervously] You don't think the king is going to have me arrested, do you?

Varys: [tittering] Of course not. In any case, I'm sure you'd have a defender in Prince Jon. He really seemed to like your performance, too.

Brienne: [blushing] I guess so.

Varys: He’s shown you a lot of attention lately. How does that make you feel?

Brienne: Oh...I guess it’s just really nice to be noticed. And especially by someone like that. Most men don’t give me the time of day. I never would have thought he’d take an interest in me but...I think Jon isn’t as shallow as all the rest.

Varys: [smiling knowingly] Do you think you’re falling in love with him?

Brienne: [blushing, stammering] Oh, I don’t, I don’t know, it’s too soon to know for sure, isn’t it? But…[grinning] well, I really, really like him. I think he’s just swell. So...maybe. I think I definitely could someday. [blushing even more]

Jon had never appreciated room service more in his life, and as a man accustomed to regular gourmet cuisine made by the finest chefs King’s Landing had to offer, that was saying a lot.

In between sips of wine, he took his time relishing the large plate of pasta; the noodles were drenched in a creamy sauce, prawns and mussels cooked to perfection. Chewing on the last exquisitely seared scallop, Jon sopped the dredges of the sauce with the slice of garlicky bread and tore into it. It was a rich dinner, not the protein-heavy meals he normally ate to stay in shape, but after being endlessly tormented by the show’s kitchen staff with food he couldn’t even bloody eat, he figured one night of indulgence couldn’t hurt.

Tomorrow, it was back to Highgarden, and then who knew when he’d next get to enjoy a meal like a normal person, instead of having to furtively scarf down a cold plate of food out of sight of the cameras?

Finishing off his wine, Jon belched loudly and winced. That had probably been loud enough to wake Sandor in the adjoining room. With the rose ceremony over, filming was done for the night (aside from the cameras that had temporarily been installed in the corners of his suite—“just in case,” Varys had chortled), so once he’d made it back to his room, Jon had dismissed Sandor’s services for the rest of the night. Jeyne W had been the unlucky loser of the rose ceremony; she hadn’t cried or cursed him, at least. His decision hadn’t been personal; he’d cut half the women now if he could.

Truthfully, he just found it kind of fucking annoying having to refer to her by her last initial every single time. There weren’t even two Jeynes anymore, for fuck’s sake.

He was just about to unbutton his pants when an unexpected knock came on his suite door. Jon checked the time on his watch. It was two in the morning. Shit, maybe he had woken Sandor up. Except Sandor would have knocked on the door connecting their rooms, not the front door. Jon stood up to answer it. If it was Varys, he swore to the old gods and the new he was going to drag that bald bastard down to the sea and drown him himself.

“Others take you—” he was already growling as he swung the door open but stopped abruptly when he saw who was on the other side.

Daenerys scrunched her nose. “Well, that’s not very nice.”

He stared at her. There was a cameraman with her, Thoros, but otherwise she was alone, dressed in a simple swimsuit cover-up and sandals. Definitely not the slinky little dress she’d been wearing for the rose ceremony earlier.

Eyeing her skeptically, Jon braced his arm on the door jamb. “What are you doing here?”

She shrugged. “It’s our last night here. Thought you might want to have a little fun.”

He narrowed his eyes at her, trying not to smile. Olenna had warned him an intrepid contestant would eventually try to sneak into his room, hadn’t she? “So you came to my room in the middle of the night? This is a little desperate, even for you, Dany.” He tsked, making her roll her eyes. “I’d invite you in, but I don’t think that’d be very fair to the other women.”

“I’m not trying to sleep with you, Jon.”

His face fell. “What?” He’d only meant to take the piss out of her—he would have invited her in—

Ignoring him, Daenerys grabbed his arm to pull him outside. “Just come on.”

“Wait,” he protested, bewildered. He didn’t even have shoes on. “I should tell Sandor.”

“Trust me, I don’t think you’ll want him around for this,” she said, the mischievous glint in her eyes silencing him.

Oh, he knew that look well. Curious, Jon allowed her to lead him away from his private suite, the door automatically shutting behind them. Fucking hell, he didn’t have the door key on him. He’d just have to pester Sandor later to let him back in.

Taking his hand in hers, Daenerys picked up her pace as they maneuvered through the resort until they were practically jogging, Thoros running to keep up with them. Unlike during the daytime, the grounds were mostly empty, the guests either asleep or at the nearby clubs. The pools and beach were closed at night, so Jon was surprised when she led him down to the spot on the beach where they’d filmed the other day.

Far removed from the resort lights, the beach was nearly pitch-black, the faint moonlight on the crashing tide and white sand the only illumination.

It was strange, suddenly, to not be surrounded by a camera crew; he realized he didn’t even have a mic pack on, the PAs having removed it after the rose ceremony had wrapped. Daenerys did, however, a choker necklace that was equipped with a small mic; they all wore them when they were on the beach or at the pools, where they were likely to be in skimpy bathing suits—or nothing at all.

“Are we allowed to be here?” he asked over the roar of the sea.

She stopped and turned to him, her eyes wide. “Allowed?” She laughed. “Jon, are you or are you not a bloody prince?”

The salty breeze whipped his hair into his face, and he clawed it back with his hand. “You know what I mean,” he said with a scowl, gesturing to Thoros, who’d caught up with them on the beach. The light on the camera helped brighten the too-dark scenery, making Jon squint when he looked directly at it. A bit belatedly, he realized that if Thoros was there, then the producers were already aware of what they were up to.

“Ignore him,” she said. “We couldn’t really do anything in the daytime, but I thought at night there’d be enough cover.”

“Enough cover for what?”

In answer, she bent over and quickly plucked off her sandals. Then, before he could blink, she ripped her cover-up off over her head.

She wasn’t wearing anything underneath. Thanks to the camera light, he got a good look at her bare tits and her smooth cunt—no hair, he realized with a start. That was new.

He had no time to admire the view because a split second later she was darting toward the water. “Dany!” he yelled after her.

She answered with a high-pitched shriek as she splashed through the surf. “Come on!” she called over her shoulder.

“Are you mad?” he shouted to her, exasperated.

Laughing, she turned back to him. “No! Are you scared?”

His hesitation was short-lived, the worry about being naked on camera—a second time—quickly dissipating. They’d blur out his cock and balls, anyway.

Without a second thought, Jon yanked his undershirt off and quickly stripped out of his suit pants and boxer-briefs. At least he’d had the forethought to take off his suit jacket and button-down in the room. Then he was streaking into the water, reflexively crying out when the cold water lapped at his balls. “Fucking fuck, that’s fucking cold!” he hollered, stomping through the surf to reach her. In the time it had taken him to disrobe, she’d waded farther out. The waves bobbed around her but didn’t quite reach her tits, so when she faced him again, he could see how her nipples had beaded into tight little furls, her flesh covered in goosebumps. His own cock had surely shriveled up to the size of a worm, but at the sight, he felt the retreating blood reverse course to fill his stiffening member.

Good bloody thing the water was waist-high now.

Jon reached out for her, pulling her body flush against his. She gasped, apparently not expecting his abrupt manhandling, but she leaned into him eagerly, her own hands clutching at his waist beneath the water. He wanted to hold her at arm’s length and drink in the sight of all that pale, naked flesh in the silvery moonlight, but more than that, he wanted to feel it against his. It’d been six fucking years.

He pressed his forehead to hers, his breathing labored—from the exertion of running but also from adrenaline and excitement. Her wide amethyst eyes locked with his, her pupils blown wide in the dark, but he liked to imagine it was partly out of lust, too. His head was growing thick and foggy, and he closed his eyes to concentrate on the feeling of her breasts pressed to his chest, the wet nipples dragging across his skin as she swayed slightly with the waves.

He moved his hand to her neck, lifting her face to his to capture her lips in a hungry, furious kiss. Just as quickly, her tongue was in his mouth, her cold hands circling his neck as she lifted her body against his. He sucked on her tongue, pulling her hips as close as he could. His cock was hard now, cradled against her belly, slipping along the silk of her skin under the waterline. She whimpered.

“Dany,” he groaned, and kissed her harder, dragging his hands down her breasts and sides to plunge them under the water. Jon grasped her arse, roughly palming the plump cheeks, and her pelvis rubbed against his stiff cock. He started to hoist her off the ground. Gods, it would be so easy to bring her down on his cock right then and there, to thrust home—

Suddenly, he was sideways, water rushing over his head. He felt the force of the sea rip Daenerys out of his grip, and for a terrifying moment he flailed helplessly in the current, tits over arse, before he got his feet back on the sandy bottom. Then he crashed through the surface, spluttering and coughing. “Fuck,” he choked out, hastily swiping the saltwater off his face. “Dany!”

He heard splashing nearby and frantically turned toward the sound, his relief swift when he saw her standing just a few feet away from him. Her long hair was completely drenched and plastered to her face and chest. Apparently, she’d taken an unexpected dip as well. "Are you alright?" he asked.

Clawing the wet silver strands out of her eyes, she spit out some water and laughed. “Yeah,” she rasped, pushing against the tide to reach him once again. They were closer to the shore now, the water receding around them. She wrapped her arms around her bare breasts, seeming more self-conscious than she’d been a moment ago. “But I guess we should get out before we manage to drown.”

He finally laughed, slicking his wet hair back off his forehead. “Guess so—” But as he turned toward the shore, he caught sight of Thoros, the camera pointed directly at them, and grimaced. Despite the rogue wave that had taken them out, he was still hard as a fucking rock. He really didn’t want to walk out of the ocean with a raging hard-on. “You go first. I just...need a minute.”

With a knowing look, Daenerys gradually waded out of the water. Jon watched her for a moment longer, getting a peek at her perfectly shaped arse as she quickly ran past the cameraman, hands shielding her breasts and crotch. Then, as she hurriedly pulled on her cover-up, Jon turned away and gritted his teeth, willing his erection away.

Luckily, with the cold seawater, it didn’t take long, and soon he was joining Daenerys on the beach, Thoros filming them both from a safe distance away. Daenerys watched him stride toward her with open admiration, her bright eyes lingering between his legs.

“Mm. Just as I remember it,” she murmured, and he raised his eyebrows. Seeming to catch herself, she added innocently, “From the photos, I mean.”

After struggling to tug his pants up his wet legs, Jon scooped his shirt off the beach and shook the sand out of it. “Looking at your nephew’s dick pics, are you? Bloody pervert,” he chastised with mock disgust, and she laughed as he shoved his shirt down over his head.

“You can’t blame a girl for being curious.” Her cover-up clung to her wet curves like a second skin. He could see the dark outline of her nipples through the damp material. Good thing he already had his pants back on.

Reluctantly, they began their trek back to their rooms. Before they left the privacy of the beach, however, Jon pulled her to a stop, turning her back to him for one last kiss. Her lips were salty and cold but quickly warmed beneath his.

As expected, Sandor was less than pleased when Jon roused him from his sleep to let him into his suite some time later. “Mate, you can lecture me later,” Jon told him. “Right now I need a warm shower.”

And a bloody good yank, he thought as he shut the door in Sandor’s face.

Chapter Text

WMEB Moodboard

June 3, 2019

The moment Jon stepped out of the chauffeured car, Podrick was there to greet him with a cup of coffee. Which was brilliant, because Jon had gotten approximately three hours of sleep the night before. It felt like he’d only just closed his eyes when a PA was banging on his suite door, telling him he needed to be out the door in fifteen minutes if he was going to make the scheduled flight from Dorne to Highgarden.

Like he wasn’t a bloody prince who could shut down the whole bloody airspace of Westeros with one bloody phone call if he needed to.

“One of these days I’m going to have you knighted, Pod,” he said as he accepted the coffee, pulling his sunglasses down to shield his eyes. Sandor kept pace on his other side as they made their way to the guesthouse. Tyrion stayed behind in the car, still haggling with someone on the phone about only the gods knew what. Over the years, Jon had perfected the art of tuning Tyrion out, so he’d managed to doze off on the ride from the private airport while his communications secretary ranted away on his bluetooth earpiece.

Podrick beamed at Jon’s compliment, his face going red. “Anything else I can get for you?”

“A one-way flight out of here, preferably somewhere tropical and very, very remote?” Jon asked.

Podrick wilted. “Er—”

“Ah, worth a shot.” He slapped a hand on Podrick’s shoulder. “That’s all, thank you, Pod.”

Podrick ducked his head in deference and made to turn away when Jon came to a sudden halt. Grabbing Podrick by his shirt collar, he spun him around to face him. “Podrick.” He eyed his red-faced assistant suspiciously. “Do you have a twin brother, by any chance?”

Podrick looked bewildered. “Ahhh—n-no?”

Strange. Jon could swear he looked just like...but, no. That was absurd, obviously. The lack of sleep had clearly made him delusional. He shook the thought from his head and gave Podrick’s shoulder a squeeze. “Never mind. Just promise me if you ever go on to become a pop singer-turned-rapper, you won’t turn into a huge, insufferable twat.”

Confused, Podrick started to nod, then quickly shook his head. “Of-of course not, sir. I mean, Your Highness. I mean, Jon.”

Jon turned and left him there to ponder on his cryptic comment, trekking across the freshly manicured lawn with his bodyguard in tow. Unfortunately, a PA intercepted him, all but sprinting across the yard. Sandor moved to shield him, ready to bodycheck her into the grass, but the PA smartly stopped a few feet away, doubling over as she gasped for air. “Olenna wants to see you. In the control room.”

Jon groaned. “Bloody hell. Can’t that woman even give me a moment to piss?” With a dramatic sigh, he altered his course to head for the control room instead. Inside, he discovered a familiar scene: Olenna yelling into a walkie-talkie as PAs ran around like chickens with their heads cut off.

“Tell those little bridge trolls they can shove their cameras right up their unshaved arseholes,” Olenna snapped into the walkie-talkie. Pausing to consider her words, she added, “And then tell them no comment.”

Jon slipped his sunglasses off, hooking them over his shirt collar. “In my experience, I found waxing to be more effective than shaving.”

Spinning around, she pointed a finger at him. “You.” Her eyes narrowed into dangerous slits. “This is your fault.”

Startled, he looked around. “My fault? That someone didn’t shave their arsehole?”

“I don’t give one bloody fuck about anyone’s arsehole, shaved or not,” she snapped, jabbing her finger toward the door. “I’m talking about the paps crawling all over our grounds. We’ve already caught some of them trying to scale the damn walls. We’re shooting down drones from the sky like it’s the third act of ‘Aegon’s Conquest’ out there!”

“Terrible movie. Extremely historically inaccurate,” he said, earning a glare, so he shrugged. “The media have known I’m here for some time now. So what?” Although, now that he thought about it, there had been more paps at the gate than usual this morning, all trying to swarm his car, but he was too used to the circus to pay it much attention.

“Believe it or not, it’s not all about you. Westeros Weekly splashed a bunch of photos of you and Daenerys at the beach all over their website and social media.” She made a sound of disgust. “Those bloody parasites will do anything for clicks.”

He was too alarmed to appreciate the hypocrisy of her statement. “They have pics of us at the beach?” Suddenly, his and Daenerys’ midnight rendezvous in the ocean didn’t seem like the sexy, clandestine affair it had been mere hours ago. He raked a hand through his hair. It wasn’t the first time his dick had been plastered all over the rags, but Daenerys…He blanched. “Fuck. Dany.”

Olenna snatched a tablet out of a PA’s hands and tapped the screen a couple times before handing it over to him. “Some sleazy little snake must have been camped out near your suite at the resort, just waiting for a golden opportunity like this.”

Apprehensively, Jon took the tablet from her. The headline on the page she’d navigated to read: PRINCESS T&A AMID ROYAL PDA! Prince Jon gets hot and heavy with Auntie Daenerys during sexy naked romp! With a grimace, he kept scrolling. The first couple photos of him and Daenerys in the water weren’t too revealing, at least; the pap was too far away, and it was too dark to see much of anything but grainy silhouettes. But it got worse from there: Daenerys, spotlighted by the TV crew as she ran across the beach to get her clothes, not quick enough to shield her breasts from the rapid-fire pap photos. Then Jon as he emerged from the surf, in all his mostly-flaccid glory.

He quickly scrolled through the rest of the photos, stopping when he reached the last batch of him and Daenerys kissing on their walk back to their rooms.

“Shit,” he muttered, closing his eyes briefly. “My father is going to love this.”

Olenna sneered. “Oh, yes. I’ve been fielding belligerent phone calls from the Royal Office all bloody morning. You cannot imagine the absolute joy I felt at getting reamed out by the fucking King of Westeros for—and I quote—enabling the sexual exploitation and abuse of the royal family.

Jon flinched, though he wasn’t surprised. At his parents’ direction, his own team had gone scorched-earth after his dick pics had leaked. He had no doubt his father would bring the same fire where it concerned his baby sister. “Does Dany know yet?” he asked, handing the tablet back to Olenna, who tossed it down on the table.

She sighed, pausing a moment to listen to a transmission on her walkie-talkie before turning the volume down. Then she continued, “Yes, we isolated the princess the moment she was on our property to break the news to her.”

“How is she?”

“Understandably a bit upset that her tits are today’s frontpage news,” she said dryly. “But, really, I don’t know what she expected. Don’t get me wrong—bloody good TV, the footage is spectacular. All the other girls know now, too, and woo, boy, are they apoplectic. Not because of the pics, of course, but because they didn’t think to do what she did first.”

He scowled. “Is that really important right now?”

She looked at him like he was an imbecile. “Damn right it is. I’ve still got a TV show to produce. Your princess knows that, too. She handed me gold on a platter full of shit nuggets.”

Apprehension prickled along the back of his neck as he narrowed his eyes. “What does that mean?”

Olenna shrugged. “She’s got a mind for this line of work, clearly.”

“Did you tell her to take me skinny dipping?” he asked sharply.

“Darling, don’t get your precious knickers in a twist. We didn’t tell her to do anything.” Olenna snorted. “If I’d planned it, I would have had more than one bloody camera with her, that’s for sure.”

Despite her reassurances, his paranoia was piqued. He’d thought Daenerys had come to his room for him, but what if it’d just been a ploy to get more camera time? To position herself as the lead contender? He still didn’t trust her motivations for being here, and he didn’t like feeling like he was being played for a fool.

Oblivious to his internal struggle, Olenna continued ranting. “Nothing chaps my arse like being scooped. I don’t like not having the upperhand when it comes to my own bloody show.” She tapped the walkie-talkie antenna against her mouth as she thought. “I need a way to turn this back around in our favor.”

A throat clearing drew their attention to the doorway where Tyrion stood. His hair was wild and wind-swept, and he looked winded, as if he’d hurried from the car to the control room as quickly as he could. “If I may offer a suggestion?”

Olenna arched a skeptical eyebrow. “Please. I’m all ears.”

Jon glared at him. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me about this sooner? You just let me sit in the car with my thumb up my arse the whole ride here!”

Tyrion rolled his eyes. “Sorry I couldn’t coddle you during yet another one of your crises, Your Highness, but I was a little busy already doing damage control.” He waddled closer. “As we discovered with Jon’s own, ah, scandal, ignoring the situation doesn’t work. You can’t sweep it under the rug, even by threatening legal action. It just brings more attention to it. The best solution might be to lean into it. So, my suggestion is we do a charity calendar. Perhaps you know about the calendar the Citadel does every year?”

Olenna’s face lit up with excitement, but Jon didn’t follow yet. “The Citadel?”

“Yes, the archmaesters pose for a calendar every year to raise money for scholarships,” he explained.

Jon was growing impatient. “And?”

“Well,” Tyrion hedged. He clasped his hands behind his back. “It’s a nude calendar.”

“Tyrion, you’re a bloody genius,” Olenna crowed. He looked pleased by her praise.

“What am I missing here?” Jon asked, looking between them.

“I just got off the phone with the outreach director at Baelor’s Blessed. That’s one of the parties I was talking to in the car while you napped.” Baelor’s Blessed was a nonprofit that offered shelter and other necessary services to the homeless population in King’s Landing. Jon had done charity work with them before as one of his pet projects royal family members were expected to take on.

Tyrion cleared his throat before continuing, “I pitched a nude calendar to them. Featuring none other than the prince of Westeros himself.”

Jon’s eyes bulged. “What? Absolutely not—”

“It’s perfect,” Olenna interjected.

Tyrion held up his hands. “As I said, I think we should take control of the narrative.”

“By plastering my dick across a calendar?” Jon said, vexed.

His communications secretary winced. “Not technically. We wouldn’t see your dick, per se; it’d be strategically hidden. Otherwise, that’d just be porn. You can pose naked with the contestants—”

“There are 12 girls left,” Olenna added. “It’s bloody brilliant.”

“—without actually showing anything. And we tell the media it’s for charity. Take the wind out of their sails with our own photos. Lean into it.”

“No,” Jon said stubbornly, just as Olenna insisted, “Yes.” At his scowl, she rolled her eyes. “Oh, come on, Westeros’ Tightest Tush. What have you got to be embarrassed about? I’ve seen the footage. You check yourself out even more than the women do. Which is already a lot.”

His face went hot, though he couldn’t exactly refute her accusation. It wasn’t his fault he'd been blessed with the Targaryen genes. And he worked bloody hard for this body.

Olenna made an executive decision. “We’re doing it. We’ll cancel the plans for the mud wrestling pit we had scheduled for today. Frankly, Littlefinger’s ideas are getting kind of stale, and it’s a bear trying to clean that pit of hair extensions afterward.” She pressed the button on her walkie-talkie and began barking more orders. “OK, new plan—someone find me a photographer, stat.”

Exasperated, Jon turned his glare on Tyrion again. “So, your grand idea to handle Dany’s nudes is to blast out more nudes?”

He grimaced in apology. “I was thinking more like—you would be nude while the women would be clothed.” Jon’s jaw dropped, and Tyrion hurried to explain, “It would look more chivalrous that way, not too pornographic. And it would be a fun twist on your standard pin-up calendar, don’t you think?”

Jon stared at Tyrion, mystified. “Who do you even work for, exactly?”

Sandor made a quiet sound that sounded suspiciously like a laugh, and Tyrion flashed him a knowing smile. “You, my friend. And if I know anything about you—you’d much rather take the heat than let the princess suffer it alone.”

The bastard was right, of course, but Jon’s good feelings that had lingered from the night before had evaporated in the face of his renewed doubt about Daenerys. Bristling slightly, Jon shook his head. “Well, I’m sure my father is going to be thrilled when you tell him all about your brilliant plan.” Feeling a flicker of triumph at the look of dread on Tyrion’s face, Jon tossed his unfinished coffee in the trash and blew past his communications secretary.

“If you’ll excuse me,” he said with a mocking bow. “Looks like I need to go wax my arsehole now.”

Bobby B Productions
“Westeros’ Most Eligible Bachelor”
Tape #073

Partial transcripts of one-on-one
interviews with contestants

Littlefinger: I guess we should start with the elephant in the room.

Daenerys: [smiling grimly] Whatever could you mean?

Littlefinger: Your little skinny dipping incident has made frontpage news. How do you feel about that?

Daenerys: I feel...not great, obviously. Insofar as my impulsive actions have brought embarrassment to my family. I’m really more concerned about how this reflects on my work in Essos, all the women my organization helps. My top priority is to them, and it’s hard being stuck in here, unable to do anything, but I trust my board of trustees to handle any problems while I’m away.

Littlefinger: Hm. Of course. But how do you think your brother, the king, is feeling right now? Seeing these photos?

Daenerys: [wincing] I’d really rather not think about that. I’m sure Rhaegar is angry, of course.

Littlefinger: That your naked body is everywhere, or that you were papped kissing his son? [smirking]

Daenerys: Both, probably. [fidgeting with earring] He knew I was here, and he knew what it could mean, so he’ll just have to accept it. I can’t live the rest of my life by his rules.

Varys: How did you enjoy Dorne?

Margaery: Oh, Dorne is lovely. It’s one of my favorite destinations. I try to vacation there as much as possible. And my followers always appreciate when I post photos of my travels there. Not that I could share any photos this time, of course, since you took our phones.

Varys: [chuckling] Forgive us. And how did you enjoy being there with Jon?

Margaery: It was wonderful getting to enjoy everything Dorne has to offer with Jon. I just wish we had more time together. There were so many places I’d love to show him. [smiling slyly] Maybe in the near future.

Varys: Maybe. You know, the others found creative ways to spend more time with Jon. [leading pause] Well, Daenerys, specifically, I suppose.

Margaery: [frowning] What do you mean? What did she do?

Varys: Oh, you haven’t heard yet? [smiling]

Littlefinger: And how do you feel about that?

Ygritte: [scowling] It’s kind of like cheating, isn’t it? I’m sure we all had thoughts about sneaking over to Jon’s room while we were there, but maybe some of us didn’t think it’d be fair. [scoffing] Well. I’m not surprised a princess would think the rules don’t apply to her like the rest of us mere peasants. These bloody royals always think they’re so much better than us, don’t they?

Cersei: She’s smart, I’ll give her that. [sipping wine]

Varys: You’re not concerned?

Cersei: Why should I be? Desperation makes women do crazy things. And it’s obvious Daenerys is desperate. [scoffing] She has to flash her [expletive] to get Jon to even notice her. Truthfully, I just feel sorry for her. [finishing her glass of wine] Who do I have to [expletive] around here to get a top off?

Dressed in nothing but a white terry cloth robe, Jon felt like he was walking onto the set of a porno. It was doubly disconcerting seeing everyone else fully dressed, from the photographer to the crew scrambling to make last-minute adjustments to the set. The flesh-colored cock sock he had strapped on under his robe made him look like a bloody Ken doll; he’d almost rather go without the damn thing, but he wasn’t exactly keen on causing a stampede on set by whipping his dick out.

Varys led him to where Olenna, Oberyn and Tyrion waited, chatting with the photographer about the vision for the calendar. As they approached, Tyrion greeted him first.

“Jon, this is Davos. He’ll be shooting the calendar for us over the next two days,” Tyrion said. Jon shook his hand.

“It’s an honor, Your Highness,” Davos said. Instantly, Jon warmed to him. He had a thick brogue accent he couldn’t immediately place, but it made him think of the North, where his mother’s side of the family lived. It was strangely welcoming.

“Call me Jon. It’s nice to meet you.”

Olenna raised an eyebrow at him. “I trust Ellaria took good care of you.”

“Indeed,” Jon said wryly. “Actually, I think she might have secured herself the final rose.”

Oberyn chuckled. “She is quite creative with that waxing kit, no?”

Olenna held up her hand. “I’m going to stop you right there. Obie, be a good dear and go record your pickups before I’m forced to remind you of our anti-fraternization policy.”

With a wink, Oberyn sauntered off the set with Varys. Jon was amused. “You have an anti-fraternization policy on a show where you encourage your bachelors to boff as many contestants as possible?”

She pointed a finger at him. “You can boff whoever you want, but you wouldn’t have anyone to boff if I let that little weasel Oberyn work his charms on all the contestants.”

Jon stared at her, affronted. “I’m a prince. I’m not threatened by a bloody game show host.”

At that, Olenna leveled an arch look at him. “Then you don’t know Oberyn very well.” When he wound up to reply, she waved him off. “Save it, we don’t have time for a dick-measuring contest right now. We’ve got to hit the ground running today.”

They wouldn’t be able to shoot the entire calendar in one day, Olenna explained, especially since it was already well into the afternoon, so they would shoot it over the next two days. The first shoot would feature him and Melisandre. Alys would be next, then Meera, Margaery, Gilly, and Missandei; tomorrow they would do Daenerys, Brienne, Alayaya, Cersei, Yara, and Ygritte.

“As Tyrion said, this isn’t porn. The women will be clothed, and you will be posed in a way to conceal your little,” she wiggled a finger in the direction of his crotch, “Egg.”

Egg?” Jon sputtered, insulted. “Surely, we can come up with a better name for it.”

“Well, when you think of it, let me know.” Dismissively, she checked her watch. “We needed to start the first shoot ten minutes ago.”

“Not my fault Ellaria was very thorough,” Jon muttered, shifting uncomfortably.

Olenna spoke into her walkie-talkie. “Petyr, bring me Mel. Actually, bring all of the women.”

“All of them?” Jon asked. “Is that smart?”

“I guess that depends on your definition of smart.” She smirked. “They’ll have to take turns watching you canoodle with each woman, and after the skinny dipping incident, everybody’s on edge. Tensions are bound to boil over eventually,” she gloated. At her ominous words, Jon suppressed a shudder.

Davos walked them through the plan for the first shoot; on first glance, the set looked innocuous enough, staged with a background painted to resemble the stone walls of a cellar or dungeon. In the center was what appeared to be an altar. “What will we be doing, exactly?” Jon asked, eyeing the elevated platform.

Olenna answered for Davos. “Melisandre has that kooky witch vibe, so we decided to play that up. You’re going to lie on the table, and she’ll be performing a ritual sacrifice on you.”

He nearly choked on his own spit. “A ritual what now?”

“It’s just acting, darling,” she said, waving his concern away. “First, we have to film the women arriving.” She glanced at him and rolled her eyes. “Oh, for fuck’s sake, pick your jaw up off the floor. You get to frolic with beautiful women all day, just like every other day. How bad can it be?”

As much as it killed Jon to admit, Olenna had been right. The calendar shoot was more fun than he’d expected—though Melisandre had been a bit too comfortable with the prop knife for his liking. He might have also broken out into a minor sweat when she started chanting in High Valyrian, and he wasn’t quite sure she hadn’t, in fact, cursed him.

“She’s improvising,” Olenna had assured him afterward, though she discreetly had the prop knife confiscated when Melisandre wasn’t looking.

By the third shoot of the day, Jon had gotten pretty used to stripping naked on set. The women actually seemed more uncomfortable than he did, some even dissolving into fits of hysterical giggles when the photographer would order them to move a hand or a leg to properly conceal his knob from view. While the other women lacked Melisandre’s flare for the dramatic, their shoots went quickly enough. They managed to knock them out in an orderly fashion, thanks to Olenna’s drill sergeant-like precision.

That left Gilly as the last shoot of the day. Olenna and Davos had everyone moved to Highgarden’s expansive library, where lights had been set up ahead of time. Apparently, the shoot was a nod to Gilly’s job as a librarian, a fact Jon did not know (or, more likely, couldn’t be arsed to remember from the few times he’d spoken directly to her).

Ellaria quickly touched up their makeup, though it did little good for Gilly, whose face turned bright red the moment Jon removed his robe. He couldn’t blame her, really. It wasn’t every day one got to see Westeros Weekly’s “Tightest Tush” up close and personal.

Once they were ready, Davos instructed Gilly to climb up the rolling library ladder while Jon stood beneath her with one foot up on the bottom rung, mostly to show off his arse. As Davos began snapping away, Gilly reached down, as if to hand him a book, but the heavy tome immediately slipped from her fingers, the corner of the thick spine nailing Jon directly between the eyes.

“Ow,” he hissed, rubbing at the spot.

Gilly’s eyes went round with horror. “Oh, buggering fuck! I’m so sorry, Your Highness—” She tried to scramble down the ladder but moved too quickly, her feet tangling in the rungs. Everyone gasped as she lurched backward. When she let out a shriek of terror, Jon reacted on instinct to grab her, earning a kick to his stomach for his efforts. He doubled over in pain, somehow managing to hold on to her.

Fuck me,” he croaked. Bloody hell, were her heels made out of lead?

They were swarmed immediately; Sandor—gods bless him—yanked the poor woman out of his arms. Gilly let out a sharp cry as he shoved her at a PA, then grabbed Jon’s arm to guide him a few steps back, putting distance between him and everyone else.

Tyrion, who’d been observing the shoot from the sidelines, waddled over as quickly as he could. “You OK?” he asked, concerned.

Taking a deep breath, Jon straightened and gave him a curt nod. Sandor released his arm. “At least she missed my balls,” he said through his teeth, breathing through the pain.

“What the hell was that?” Olenna bellowed at Gilly, who was still being propped up by the PA. “Are you trying to kill my bachelor?”

Gilly was already crying, tears streaking down her cheeks. Another PA appeared with Jon’s robe, and he wrapped himself in it. “I don’t think it’s quite that dire,” he said in her defense.

“I’m s-sorry,” Gilly blubbered. “I think—I think I might have hurt my ankle.” She tried to put her weight on her foot and yelped as she stumbled. Another PA came to her aid.

Heaving a great sigh, Olenna rolled her eyes skyward. “Well, isn’t that just great. Someone get the bloody medic. Now!”

The two PAs helped Gilly hobble over to a large table where she collapsed in a chair. The other women, who’d been corralled into the library to watch, rushed to her side with murmurs of sympathy. “I’m sorry,” Gilly kept repeating, snot and tears mixing on her face. Olenna cut Jon a needling look, and with a sigh, he made his way to Gilly’s side. The women shuffled out of his way as he squatted in front of her, reaching for her hand.

“Hey, you’re gonna be fine. Don’t worry,” he said soothingly, and she wiped the back of her hand across her nose.

“I’m sorry I kicked you. I’m just s-so bloody clumsy,” she hiccuped. He squeezed her hand.

“Don’t worry about me. I’m more worried about you,” he crooned, trying to ignore the snot bubble forming in her left nostril. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the cameramen pull in close.

She blinked at him tearfully, her slight buck teeth pushing into her bottom lip. “They’re not gonna throw me in the dungeons for assaulting a prince?”

“No, I’m sure my father’s more inclined to throw you a parade,” he said dryly, and she finally laughed, albeit weakly. Samwell arrived then with his medical kit, and Jon moved away to let him do his work. Gingerly removing her shoe, Samwell began by asking her a few questions, then he tested her ankle, probing at the bone, carefully rotating her foot. Gilly bit back a cry. The skin looked slightly inflamed already.

“It’s probably just a sprain,” Samwell said, with an apologetic wince as he looked up at Olenna. “It should be fine if we ice it, but she should probably keep any weight off it for a few days at least.”

Olenna huffed dramatically, shaking her head. “I guess we’re done for the day, then. Give her some ice and ibuprofen for the pain.”

Jon helped Gilly out of the chair. “Up you go. Let’s get you back to your room,” he offered, pulling her arm around her neck so she could hop on her good foot. He and Samwell walked her out of the library, the cameras trailing after them. The other women sighed at his chivalry, offering words of encouragement to Gilly as they passed by. When they thought he was out of earshot, however, Jon heard Margaery whisper to the others, “She’s totally playing it up for his attention, right?”

Bobby B Productions
“Westeros’ Most Eligible Bachelor”
Tape #075

Partial transcript
with Gilly Craster
[June 4, 2019; 2:07 a.m.]

Littlefinger: How are you feeling? How’s your ankle?

Gilly: Oh, I feel OK. It’s a little hard to get around, but I’m more embarrassed than anything. I can’t believe I kicked the bloody Prince of Westeros on telly.

Littlefinger: [chuckling] Let’s be honest. He probably deserved it.

Gilly: Oh, no! I don’t think that! I would never—no, he was so nice to me, even though it was completely my fault. [laughing] I’m such an oaf.

Littlefinger: No? You don’t think he deserves it, not even a little bit? I mean, it’s been weeks now, and you’ve barely gotten to spend any time with him. He hasn’t picked you for any of the dates, no one-on-ones. And after the debacle today, he could cut you. You’re telling me you’re not a little bit upset he hasn’t taken the time to get to know you yet?

Gilly: [faltering] Well...aye, I guess I’m a little upset he hasn’t picked me for anything. But then look at me, when it is my moment with him, I completely cock it up!

Littlefinger: Don’t beat yourself up too much. Desperate times call for desperate measures, right? [smirking] Now you’ve definitely got his attention, eh?

Gilly: I guess. [visible confusion] I didn’t mean to—I mean, I didn’t plan to drop the book on him or anything.

Littlefinger: Of course not. You’re a sweet girl.

Gilly: I—I think so.

Littlefinger: I’m sure Jon sees that, too. Sam seems to think so, at least.

Gilly: What?

Littlefinger: Samwell. Our medic. He helped bandage you up after your little fall. You two talked for a while, right? Some of the other girls said he was in your room for quite a while after.

Gilly: [blushing] I—um, I—I don’t know—can I, um, I think I need to lie down. Can I go? My ankle is really starting to hurt now.

Thanks to Gilly’s butterfingers, Jon now had a small goose egg on his forehead. In preparation for the second day of the calendar shoot, Ellaria had done what she could to minimize the discoloring, but she assured him Photoshop would do the rest.

The contusion wasn’t the only reason for his foul mood. He’d had to do hours of talking heads with Varys the night before, discussing not only his photoshoot experience with every single woman so far, but also the skinny dipping incident with Daenerys and the ensuing fallout. By the end, it’d left him feeling cross, and the hours spent tossing and turning afterward hadn’t helped either.

Three cups of coffee were not the cure-all Jon had hoped for. Ellaria had already been on the receiving end of his short temper that morning. “What crawled up your arse?” she muttered after he’d snapped at her for poking his eye with her makeup sponge. He bit back a rude retort; the last thing he needed was a reputation for being a diva on set, especially when he was specifically there to rehab his poor public image.

After leaving the makeup trailer, Jon and Sandor were directed to the gated outdoor pool. Once inside, a PA bolted it shut behind them, and Jon took a moment to survey the area. The pool itself was pretty large, with a fancy waterfall feature feeding into it. Shrubbery and other flora surrounded the pool, giving it an open, exotic feel despite the enclosing gate. The women were already there, their hair and makeup done up in advance of their shoots that would come later in the day. At the moment, they congregated around the pool gazebo, which by the looks of it featured a full-service bar, if the glasses of mimosas being passed around were any indication.

Jon knew the first shoot of the day was Daenerys. She wasn’t with the women now, so he craned his head around until he found her, standing off to the side with Olenna, Davos and Tyrion, listening intently as they detailed the shoot for her. She was dressed in a light kimono; through the sheer material, Jon could see she wore a white bathing suit underneath. Part of her hair was braided back to keep it off her face, and her skin glistened with sunscreen and oil.

Jon crossed the stone terrace to join them. “Bold move putting us outside, Olenna,” he interrupted, squinting up at the sky. “You’re not worried about drones out here?”

“His Grace has declared a no-fly zone around Highgarden,” Tyrion explained matter-of-factly. “Air travel will be rerouted for the next 12 hours, and a small contingent of soldiers has been deployed with the authorization to shoot down any unmanned aerial vehicles that breach the two-square-mile perimeter. Anyone caught in violation could face prison time.”

He blinked. “For a photoshoot? Seven hells, seems a bit drastic.”

Daenerys lifted an eyebrow, a droll smile on her face. “Rhaegar’s never been one for half measures.”

His eyes cut to her, but he said nothing. At his blank look, her smile fell, her brow furrowing in slight bemusement. Olenna changed the subject, “Anyway, we’ve got another busy day ahead of us. After the disastrous shoot with Gilly, we’re behind schedule. We need to make up time today so we can squeeze in the last shoot we couldn’t get to yesterday.” She cupped a hand over her mouth to yell. “Let’s go, people! I don’t pay you lot to stand around doing fuck all! Move!”

She and Tyrion walked away, leaving Davos to give Jon a quick run-through of his shoot with Daenerys. As he was talking, a PA swiped a comb through Jon’s beard before clearing the set. Another took Daenerys’ kimono and Jon’s robe. In the distance, Jon heard the faint giggles of the other women from the gazebo. Someone even whistled. Yara, probably. As the crew adjusted the reflectors around the pool, Jon finally looked at Daenerys again.

When she saw she had his attention, she arched an eyebrow at his cock sock. “So this was Tyrion’s grand plan? Trade one royal’s nudes for another royal’s nudes?”

Jon rolled his eyes. “I guess he figured my dick is old news by now.”

She huffed out a laugh. “I very much doubt that,” she said, her eyes darting to his crotch again. He gritted his teeth—now was not the time for an erection. How could her just looking at it make him hard? He grasped around for his earlier annoyance to stamp out the growing arousal. Daenerys continued, “Anyway, I appreciate it. But you shouldn’t have to take the hit for me. It was my bollocks idea to go skinny dipping.”

She rolled her eyes good-naturedly, but his lip curled. “I don’t know if I’d say that. It’s certainly gotten you a lot of screen time, hasn’t it?”

Daenerys narrowed her eyes. “What?” She shook her head, her expression quickly turning incredulous. “That’s what you think? That I did it for screen time?”

He shrugged. “I think you know how to play the game.”

The hurt that flickered across her face gave him pause. “You signed up for this, Jon,” she said quietly. “If I’m playing the game, it’s because you made it into one.”

Before Jon could respond, a PA interrupted to remove Daenerys’ mic pac from her bathing suit so it wouldn’t get wet in the pool, reminding him they were still being filmed. He sighed, frustrated. Seven hells, he just needed one moment alone with her to hash everything out, to understand what the hell was going on inside her head, but he just wasn’t willing to do that in front of a national audience. One of these days things were going to come to a head.

Once they were ready, Davos directed them to get into the pool. Jon went first, descending down the steps into the shallow end. The water was cold, and he splashed in quickly so it was above his waist, concealing any unfortunate shrinkage. Luckily, the cock sock was waterproof, so it wasn’t going to cling too much. Jon turned around as Daenerys waded in behind him. She hissed from the shock of it, and her nipples beaded instantly, the thin swimsuit doing little to conceal her bodily reaction to the cold.

“Might wanna warm up a little first,” he told her, smiling. She scowled, dipping beneath the water to acclimate faster. It lapped at her collar bones, her hair floating across the surface like clouds of silver, and she held her chin above the water so as not to mess up her makeup.

A couple PAs tossed a few pool inflatables into the water, and Jon and Daenerys grabbed them before they could float too far out of reach. At Davos’ direction, Jon hefted Dany up onto one of the pool rafts. While they got situated, Davos took a few test shots, looked at his display screen, then instructed the PAs to adjust the reflectors. The filming crew moved closer to the edge of the pool as well, extending boom mics over the water so they could pick up their conversation.

While they waited, Daenerys shifted onto her stomach on the pool raft, dangerously close to tipping over. Jon grabbed the inflated pillow to hold it steady, and she met his gaze. Gods, her eyes were insane in this light. “Thanks.”

He pulled the raft closer when it threatened to drift away. “It’s what I’m here for,” he said dryly. “Window dressing.”

She sat up on her elbows, and, with a sympathetic frown, she gently touched the bruise on his forehead. “And yet we’re all still debasing ourselves for scraps of your attention,” she said with a small smile.

He arched an eyebrow. “What’s the matter? Not used to having to fight for what you want for a change?” His words came out more biting than he intended.

Her lips thinned. “I’m here, aren’t I?”

“And how long before you cut and run this time?” he retorted. She looked away, and he blew out a breath. He didn’t know why he was antagonizing her.

As if he could see the tensions between them, Davos called out, “Let’s try something else.” Daenerys slid off the raft into the water, and a PA brought over another giant inflatable pool float: a black and red dragon, wings and all.

Jon snorted. “Hilarious,” he muttered, managing to hoist himself up onto it without his balls popping out of his sock. He grabbed Daenerys’ arm and easily pulled her up with him. Together, they awkwardly shifted on the back of the dragon, Daenerys valiantly trying not to knee him in the dick as she got situated. Finally, she plopped down between his legs, like they were both straddling a horse. Their feet dangled over the sides of the dragon as she clung to its neck. At the photographer’s suggestion, Jon gathered her wet hair and pushed it over her shoulder, then he brought his hands to her hips. Davos snapped away, offering encouragement. Daenerys arched her back to push her shoulders back and her breasts out, her arse pressing into his crotch. He took a deep, bracing breath, willing himself not to react. She always knew how to work the camera.

They tried a few different poses: one had Daenerys on her knees, bracing her weight on his shoulders as he grabbed the backs of her thighs; another had her sitting between his legs and facing him, her legs draped over his like some tantric sex position (which unfortunately brought back a very vivid memory, involving him, her, and the private locker room off the Red Keep’s tennis court). They didn’t speak, moving obediently whenever Davos told them to. Still, there was a natural rhythm to their movements. His hands knew just where to go, where to hold her. Sometimes it was hard to stop himself from venturing even farther, from pulling her into his arms and burying his face against her breasts, or slipping a hand to her arse or between her legs. As he watched her eyes gradually darken through the shoot, Jon knew her thoughts were on a similar path. The tensions from before had clearly transformed into something entirely different, one that needed no direction from Davos, who had gone silent as he frantically snapped away from the edge of the pool.

In fact, Jon only remembered where he was when Davos called it a wrap. “I think we’re good,” Davos said, startling them both. “You two can get out now.”

Reluctantly, Daenerys disentangled herself from Jon, sliding over the side of the dragon into the water. Jon made to follow, kicking his leg over the dragon’s head to slide off the side after her, but he didn’t kick high enough. His foot caught on the inflatable horn, and the float shot out from under him as he ungracefully pitched over the side, landing right on top of Daenerys.

She tried to brace against his momentum, but he ended up dunking her under with him, the water swallowing their shouts of surprise. Luckily, they were still in the shallow end; Jon floundered only for a second before his feet hit the ground, and he immediately shot through the surface, yanking Daenerys up with him. She surfaced with a sputtering laugh.

“Shit, sorry,” he coughed, wiping the water out of his face.

“It’s OK.” Laughing slightly, she swiped at her eyes, too. Miraculously, her eye makeup didn’t budge. “I suppose it’s payback for the beach.”

He shook his head. “Nothing to pay back. I don’t regret what happened,” he said. And he didn’t, not a damn bit.

She stared up at him, droplets of water clinging stubbornly to her eyelashes. “Me neither.”

Jon felt his earlier resentment toward her soften. “Come here,” he murmured, stooping to get his arms under her legs so he could hoist her into the air. Caught off guard, she wrapped her arms and legs around him, holding on tight as he waded through the water toward the steps.

“Everyone OK?” Davos asked. PAs hovered nearby, towels in hand.

“Aye,” Jon answered. Instead of setting Daenerys down on the stairs, he carried her all the way out of the water. She watched his face intently, her arms tightening around his shoulders as she rested her forehead against his. Jon didn’t even realize Davos was still taking photos until they were out of the pool.

“Brilliant,” he said to himself, shaking his head as he scrolled through the photos on his camera’s display screen. Daenerys finally unwound her legs from his waist to drop her feet to the ground, and only then did Jon release her. They took the towels the PAs handed to them.

“Pat dry! Pat dry, you bloody twit!” Olenna yelled as she hurried over to him. Rolling his eyes, Jon carefully patted his face dry. She clucked her tongue as she looked him over. “Oh, it doesn’t matter. We need to wash all the greasy sunscreen off you before the next shoot, anyway. I was just hoping to not have to waste time restyling your hair.”

“I only exist to make your life harder,” he said dryly.

She sighed. “Certainly feels like it,” she grumbled, then turned on her heel. “Come on. Let’s get you back to hair and makeup.”

Jon traded his towel for his robe, shrugging it on as he glanced over at Daenerys. Her back was to him as she dried off, scrunching her hair in the towel to wring out the excess water. At some point, her bathing suit had ridden up her arse, the bottom wedged between her cheeks. Walking past her, Jon reached his hand out, slipping two fingers between her cheeks. With a gasp, she jolted as he gave a quick tug, the elastic snapping back into place on her arse. When she shot him an admonishing look, he winked.

“Don’t want to give them another show, do we,” he said cheekily, then continued on his way to hair and makeup with his bodyguard at his side.

“You have to be shitting me,” Jon said when Tyrion showed him the last set of the day. Fake snow covered the ground, and a backdrop gave the illusion of a boundless snowscape beyond. It was staged to mimic the Wall that used to mark the border between the North and the lands beyond, what was now the northernmost region of Westeros. The Wall was an ancient relic that once separated the indigenous folks from the rest of the population, but since the crown had annexed the northernmost lands some centuries ago, the Wall now just served as a very lucrative tourist trap.

Davos tried to assure him. “Don’t worry, it only looks cold,” he said with a grin. “You don’t have to worry about shrinkage.”

“Oh, good,” Jon deadpanned. “Because my dignity has been of utmost importance this entire shoot.”

Davos pulled a face. “Dignity. That’s a funny name for it,” he joked, earning a laugh from Tyrion.

Jon huffed. “Better than Egg.”

“Sadly, neither is worse than what I’ve heard people calling it on Twitter,” Tyrion said.

Jon looked at him in alarm. “Wait—what are people calling it on Twitter?”

Tyrion only shook his head in response, pantomiming zipping his lips shut. Just then, Varys herded all the women into the room, as they had done for every shoot before. Ygritte peeled away from the group to join Jon on set, and he tried not to laugh. She was costumed in an obscene amount of layers, as if she were actually dressed for the cold, a fur-lined hood pulled up over her wild red curls. As she approached him, she beamed, clearly happy to finally have her turn with him. It hadn’t escaped Jon’s notice that the contestants had become increasingly agitated with every shoot, having to watch him get handsy with each and every woman. Many of them, like Cersei and Margaery, were openly trading barbs with each other now, all for the benefit of the cameras that were constantly filming. Even Gilly was forced to participate, posted up on crutches as she favored her injured foot. Samwell hovered nearby to keep an eye on her.

“Hi,” Ygritte said, stopping in front of him.

Jon welcomed her with a hug and a kiss to her forehead. Seven hells, it was hard to get his arms around her with all the fur. “I’m glad one of us is dressed for the occasion.”

She pouted, looking down at her outfit. “I feel a bit cheated. Almost all the other girls were practically naked for their shoots, and they’ve got me dressed like a bloody auroch.”

Jon smiled. “A cute auroch.”

She wrinkled her nose. “Please tell me you’re not one of them furries.”

At that, he laughed. “Don’t think so. It’s probably a bit late for me to be discovering new sexual proclivities, but anything is possible, I suppose.”

She surveyed the set, scuffing her boot through the fake snow, then she arched an eyebrow at him. “Gonna be a little hard to suspend disbelief with this one. What kind of idiot hangs out at the Wall naked?”

“You didn’t expect the nobility to be sensible, did you?” he said, and she grinned. “Guess you’re just gonna have to warm me up yourself.”

Ygritte gave him a once-over, her bottom lip disappearing between her teeth. Then she smiled slyly at him. “I’ll do my best.”

A PA approached them, and Jon unbelted his robe before shrugging it off, handing it over to the man. Davos took a few test shots in the meantime, and once he was satisfied, he began calling out directions to them. Given the very public nature of his everyday life, Jon was pretty used to posing for a camera, but Ygritte was less comfortable. All her natural charm disappeared when she was actively trying to pose, leaving her looking stiff and awkward beside him. It had been the same with some of the others, too, like Brienne and Meera, so Jon did his best to put her at ease, too.

“This must make you feel a little homesick,” he said, and she looked up at him in surprise. They were facing each other, his arms wrapped around her shoulders as she clung to his waist.

“A bit, aye,” she agreed. “This is the longest I’ve been away from home. Actually, this is my first time leaving the North, period.”

“Really? So Dorne must have been completely alien to you,” he said, and she snorted.

“It’s not like we don’t have the Internet up North. I’ve seen Dorne before.” She shrugged. “We just don’t run around with our tits and arses out.”

He grinned. “If it were as hot up North as it is in Dorne, you might.”

“Maybe.” Her face had relaxed, her previous discomfort fading, as she temporarily forgot about Davos.

“Might make your job more interesting if you did let your tits and arse out,” he suggested. “Think about it. Wilderness hikes in the buff.”

Ygritte played along. “Aye, you might be onto something. Being naked is the most natural state of being, isn’t it?”

“What better way to become one with nature?” he said sagely. He took a moment to push her hood back so her face wasn't obscured as they talked.

She pretended to think it over. “I’m not sure my boss will go for it, though.” She scrunched her nose. “He’s my dad. It’s a family business.”

“Well. Tell him it comes highly recommended by the prince of Westeros.”

She smirked at him. “He’s not too fond of you, actually.”

Jon puffed up, slightly offended. “That’s because he hasn’t met me yet.”

“I’m not sure that will help. He doesn’t like the royal family. Thinks you’re all a bunch of puffed-up ninnies.” She shrugged. “But you’re welcome to come and try to change his mind. I’d love to show you my home, if you like,” she said, more shyly.

Normally, she was all bravado, so sure he was going to choose her. Her confidence was refreshing, but in moments like this, he found her shyness endearing, too. The more she talked about her life up North, the more intrigued he was. As long as she wasn’t talking about skinning and spit-roasting rabbits, that was. “I’d like that,” he said, finding he meant it. Her smile widened, and at that moment, it was easy to forget about the cameras. Impulsively, he leaned in and kissed her. Even she seemed caught off guard by it, though she quickly responded, her lips parting under his. Jon was faintly aware of the room full of people watching them—including eleven pairs of eyes shooting daggers at them—so he kept the kiss light, his tongue barely grazing hers. Even so, it was much better than their first kiss.

When he pulled back, she grinned at him, blushing lightly.

Davos cleared his throat, reminding him where they were. “Alright, I think we got the shot. That’s a wrap, everyone.”

Jon held perfectly still while Satin made a last-minute adjustment to his hair, squeezing his eyes shut when he spritzed something near his face. Then the hair stylist was gone, and Jon had nothing to do but wait some more. He stood at the front of the elimination room for the scheduled rose ceremony, eleven blue roses laid out on the table next to him. The women shifted restlessly, some complaining loudly about their heels pinching their feet. Under the glare of the lights, Jon could feel the perspiration beading along his back beneath his button-down shirt.

What the hell was the holdup? Normally, Oberyn would have kicked off the rose ceremony by now, but Jon had been waiting for more than ten minutes. It was extremely awkward, staring down twelve anxious women who were watching him closely, as if they could ordain who would be getting a rose and who wouldn’t just from looking at his face.

Finally, Oberyn appeared, striding into the room with a purpose. Relieved, Jon looked to him but frowned when he caught the somber expression on the host’s face. Oberyn turned to address the women. “Forgive us, ladies. I need to speak with Jon alone for a moment.”

They all looked at each other in confusion as Oberyn gestured for Jon to follow him. Bewildered, Jon trailed him out into the hallway. Of course, the cameras followed; whatever it was, it was meant for TV.

“What’s up?” Jon asked once they were away from the women. Facing him, Oberyn clasped his hands together, pressing his index fingers against his pursed lips. After a moment of deliberation, he brought one hand to Jon’s shoulder in a comforting gesture.

“My friend, it brings me no joy to tell you this, but I’m afraid the unimaginable has happened.”

Immediately, Jon’s mind began to race with every worst-case scenario possible. Something had happened to his parents. To his siblings, his nieces and nephews. The king had been assassinated by some far-right radical. Westeros Weekly had found a second woman claiming to be knocked up with his love child.

“What? For gods’ sake, mate, what is it?” Jon snapped, his dread ballooning with every second that passed.

Oberyn squeezed his shoulder. “It was brought to our attention.” He paused dramatically, taking a deep breath before he powered on, “That one of the contestants has engaged in an inappropriate physical relationship with one of our staff.”

Jon stared blankly at him, still not quite comprehending as his anxiety continued spiraling leagues ahead of his critical thinking abilities. “Physical—what?”

“I know,” Oberyn agreed solemnly, nodding. “Believe us, we were just as shocked as you when we found out.”

It took a moment, but it finally hit him that nothing actually terrible had happened, to his family or otherwise. “Oh, thank bloody fuck.” He shook his head. “I mean, who? Who are we talking about?”


He blinked. “Really?” he said, surprised. She seemed so...mild-mannered and meek. “What happened?”

“After her accident on set, another contestant alerted us to some...peculiarities. So we reviewed the footage, and, unfortunately...she was caught on camera kissing our on-set medic in her room.”

Jon jerked his head back. “Him?” he blurted.

Oberyn nodded gravely. “I’m afraid so. Of course, we fired him immediately. It’s completely against the rules for anyone on our staff to engage in a physical relationship with our contestants. We apologize profusely to you for our staffer’s unprofessional behavior.”

“Fucking hell.” Jon rubbed at his jaw, bowled over by the revelation.

“I know this is a shock to you,” Oberyn continued. “You came here to find your wife, your soulmate, and someone you thought could possibly be that person for you has betrayed you. This must be very upsetting to you.”

Jon stared at him. Truthfully, he was just insulted. She chose that bloke over him? A fucking prince? Well. There was no accounting for taste, he supposed.

“I guess—I just—really?” he repeated, incredulous. “Samwell the medic? Are you quite sure?”

“Unfortunately. We reviewed the footage ourselves. It’s undeniable.”

“Well. Fuck.” Jon tried to compose himself for the cameras, though he wasn’t entirely sure how he was supposed to act. Angry? Distraught? “So, what now? What do I do?”

“As it’s against the rules for the contestants to enter into any kind of relationship with our staff, I’m afraid Gilly is disqualified from this experience,” Oberyn explained. “We thought you would like to be the one to break it to her.”

“Oh, fuck off—are you serious?” Jon barked at him. Oberyn held his hands out in a calming gesture.

“I know. I know it will be uncomfortable for you. You’re probably so hurt, you don’t even want to look at her right now. But I think it will be best coming from you.” With that, he gestured to a PA, who hurried back into the room. A muffled commotion followed, and after a moment, Gilly was led out into the hallway, hobbling along on her crutches. She glanced between Jon and Oberyn, wide-eyed with terror. Jon glared at Oberyn, but the man ignored his glower, helping Gilly over to Jon.

“I think you two have something to discuss,” he intoned, then he stepped aside, out of frame of the cameras. Jon clenched his jaw, shoving his hands into his pants pockets.

“What’s—what’s going on?” Gilly asked, her voice small and shaky. Her eyes darted to the camera that pushed in close.

Angrily, Jon shoved the camera back. “Can you give us some fucking space, mate?”

The cameraman, Thoros, held up a hand and backed away, but only barely.

Jon turned to Gilly. She was hunched over on her crutches, her sprained foot strapped into a walking boot. It clashed horribly with her emerald green evening gown. Jon felt horrible for what he was about to do, which didn’t really make sense, considering he was the one who’d technically been slighted.

“Gilly.” He stopped, not sure what to say. He decided to just be direct. “Did something happen between you and Samwell?” he asked bluntly.

Her face went pale. “I—how—oh gods. I’m so sorry! It was just a kiss, I swear! It didn’t—it didn’t mean anything! He was just—he was so nice to me, and I was so upset about what a mess I’d made of the shoot, I—Jon, I’m so sorry, you have to believe me!”

She started to cry, and Jon blew out a breath, dropping his head back. “Seven hells,” he muttered. He was about to dump a woman for hooking up with someone else even while he was hooking up with other women. Really, irony was a cunt. “Gilly, please, don’t—stop crying,” he said through his teeth. He just had to rip it off like one of Ellaria’s wax strips. “I have to cut you. I’m sorry.”

With a piercing wail, Gilly covered her face with her hand, wobbling unsteadily on her good foot. With a wince, Jon looked around helplessly, then with a resigned sigh, he pulled her into a hug.

“I messed up, I know I did,” she sobbed against his chest. “I never meant to hurt you. I really didn’t.”

Somehow, he managed to keep his face straight. “I know. I just don’t think it could work between us now.” It was strange that he should be the one comforting her. Bloody hell, this was terribly embarrassing all around. Olenna could have found a better way to do this, but of course she’d want to maximize both their humiliation.

Thankfully, Oberyn stepped in then. Jon released Gilly, whose blotchy face was wet with tears. “Gilly, I’m afraid I have to ask you to return to your room and pack your belongings,” he told her. “You must leave tonight.”

She nodded dejectedly, casting Jon one last baleful look. “I’m sorry, Jon.”

He didn’t say anything, pressing his lips together as the PA from earlier led her away. Another cameraman trailed after her. After a moment of tense silence, Oberyn directed Jon to the elimination room. “We should tell the others.”

Jon heaved a sigh. “Great. Then my humiliation will be complete.” He walked in first, Oberyn at his heels. The chatter among the women died instantly upon their entrance, all eyes on Jon as he took his place at the front again.

“Ladies, Jon has something he would like to tell you,” Oberyn announced. Jon scowled at him, briefly, then cleared his throat, holding his hands behind him.

“Unfortunately, I just had to send Gilly home. It was brought to my attention that she was—” He looked at Oberyn for help, who just nodded in encouragement. Jon stifled a sigh. “She was fooling around with a staffer.”

All the women gasped, a low murmur of disbelief rippling through them. Some covered their mouths in shock—as if Gilly’s misfortune wasn’t ultimately to their benefit. Others whispered urgently to each other. To the side, Jon saw Margaery nudge Alys, the two exchanging knowing smirks. He narrowed his eyes. It wasn’t hard to surmise who the snitch was.

Oberyn held up his hands to quiet the women. “I know this is a shock to all of us, and I know you must all feel immense sympathy for the pain Jon is feeling right now.” Jon’s eyes nearly rolled to the back of his head as Oberyn continued, “But while this has been an unusual night, I’m afraid the rose ceremony must take place as planned.”

At that, their reaction was even more outraged, their protests going unheeded. Jon would have been surprised—if he wasn’t already so disillusioned with what Olenna would do for maximum drama. Just like that, Oberyn removed one of the roses from the table and walked out of the room, leaving Jon to do the rest. When he reached for the first rose, the women held their breath. He stalled as he considered the rose, not sure what he should do now. He wanted to laugh; to think, he’d been planning to give Gilly the first rose just to make her feel better after her injury.

“Daenerys,” he heard himself saying, to his own surprise. Not that he’d had any intention of eliminating her that night; he just hadn’t intended to call her name until after he’d given out a few other roses first, just to keep her on her toes. A bit dickish on his part, maybe, but in that moment calling her name had been wholly instinctual.

She stepped away from the others to approach him. “Will you accept this rose?” he asked. She nodded as she took it from him, leaning in to hug him, her arms coming up around his neck. He lingered there for a few seconds, inhaling deeply before releasing her. When she pulled back, her brow was creased in concern.

“You OK?” she asked softly, her words meant just for him.

He nodded, squeezing her waist to reassure her, then he looked at the remaining contestants. Once she had returned to her place, Jon had made up his mind. He called the next woman. “Ygritte.”

By the end, he was left with two women: Margaery and Alys. Their expressions had changed significantly from the self-assured ones of before. He held onto the final rose longer than necessary, letting them really sweat it out, before he finally spoke. “Alys.”

Letting out a breath, she didn’t even look at her friend as she hurried up to accept the rose from him. As Jon hugged Alys, Margaery stood stock still, slack-jawed with disbelief. Even the others seemed stunned by his choice. He knew, on paper, Margaery Tyrell was everything he should want in a wife. She and everyone else probably expected her to make it to the top three, at least.

With the rose ceremony completed, Oberyn returned to dismiss the unlucky loser. “Margaery, you must pack your bags and leave immediately,” he told her gently.

She didn’t move for a second, glancing around incredulously as if she expected someone to interfere. Olenna, probably. Jon half-expected the executive producer to put a stop to it, too, but nothing happened. He suppressed a grim smile as she finally forced herself to move, approaching him with jerky steps. When she stood before him, he took her hands in his.

“Margaery,” he began. “I think you’re a wonderful woman, but I just don’t think we ever really connected emotionally, and I’m looking for something more real with the woman I hope to marry. I’m sorry.”

Despite her forced smile, he recognized the murderous look in her eyes very well. Like grandmother, like granddaughter. Don’t worry, he wanted to assure her. He was certain Olenna would exact her revenge on him, one way or another. “Thank you for the opportunity,” she said with false sincerity, like this had been a mere interview. In a way, he supposed it was.

He hugged her. “Good luck with your Instagram following,” he said. She fixed him with a gimlet eye, then tossed her hair over her shoulder as she stalked out of the room, her head held high. Oberyn exchanged looks with Jon, shaking his head slowly as if in awe. Or horror, more likely.

Jon imagined he must pity him the new arsehole Olenna was certainly going to rip him later for dumping her granddaughter.

Bobby B Productions
“Westeros’ Most Eligible Bachelor”
Tape #079

Exit interview
with Margaery Tyrell

Littlefinger: This must be a shock to you.

Margaery: I mean, I respect his decision, but I’m a little surprised, yes. I think I have everything Jon could want in a wife. I mean, in the past I’ve dated CEOs and statesmen from all around the world. I’m not trying to brag, it’s just the truth. [pause] I guess I don’t really understand what he means when he says he wants something more real.

Littlefinger: Do you think he meant that you’re fake, perhaps?

Margaery: [fake smiling] If he’s calling me fake, then he’s not as bright as he thinks he is. I’m more real than a lot of those other girls’ [expletive], that’s for sure.

Littlefinger: [whispery chuckling] So why do you think he cut you then?

Margaery: I think he doesn’t know what he wants, honestly. [tossing hair] I think he’s not really serious about finding a wife. I think he probably thinks of this as one big stag party. Honestly, I almost feel sorry for the woman he chooses in the end. She has no idea what she's in for.

Littlefinger: You don’t think he’s here for the right reasons?

Margaery: No. I think he’s a 28-year-old man who’s just trying to fill the void inside himself with women and drinking and partying when deep down he probably knows he'll never measure up to his brother or be the man his father wants him to be.

Littlefinger: Wow, so you—

Margaery: And frankly, I feel sorry for him. It must be hard being the spare and knowing you’ll always only be second best. I worry about him, really. [widening eyes, blinking] I can only imagine the kind of damage that does to one’s psyche and self-esteem, you know?

Jonerys Calendar Shoot

Chapter Text

WMEB Moodboard

King’s Landing
June 16, 2013

“You’re very loud.”

At his playful accusation, Daenerys gasped, jabbing an elbow into his stomach in retaliation. Jon let out a quiet oof but chuckled when she cut him a dirty look over her shoulder. “Me! You’re one to talk.”

He wrapped his arm around her to pull her against his chest, his thumb caressing the underside of her breast. Her bare shoulder was too tempting, her pale skin luminescent in the moonlit darkness of his room, and he pressed a kiss there. “I’m just saying. Sneaking around is kind of pointless if you wake the whole bloody castle with your screams,” he said, though, truthfully, he felt too damn proud to actually be annoyed by her loudness.

Anyway, it was a big bloody castle.

Hmphing indignantly, Daenerys twisted in his embrace to face him. Her cheeks were still flushed from their recent round of vigorous sex (position of choice: the Dornishman’s wife, one of his faves—really, when it came to her, they were all his fave). “Then I guess it’s a good thing we won’t have to sneak around for the next few months,” she said with a pointed eyebrow raise.

With a groan, Jon rolled onto his back. “Don’t remind me,” he muttered crossly. He knew he was pouting, and he didn’t care. Now that she had graduated, she would be leaving him for Essos as part of the diplomatic exchange program once again—this time for much longer, and who knew when she’d be back. With her completed degree in international relations, she planned to assist the same organizations she’d previously worked with on matters of human rights monitoring and advocacy.

She swore she wouldn’t be gone that long, but the work sounded pretty indefinite to him.

“I want to do something more useful with my privilege instead of just posing for magazine covers and letting foreign heads of states grope me,” she’d griped when she’d first broken the news to him. He admired her conviction, truly, even if he wanted to beg her to stay. He’d go with her if he could, but that would definitely rouse Rhaegar’s suspicions, and carrying on an affair under his father’s nose for six years now had been tricky enough.

Daenerys didn’t let him go too far in his four-poster bed, snuggling against his side. “Poor baby,” she teased, leaning over him to touch her fingertips to his mouth. She tugged at his bottom lip, exaggerating his pout, and with a husky snarl, he nipped at her finger. “Do you hate the idea of me helping the downtrodden so much?”

He rolled his eyes. “Of course not. I just don’t want to think about that blowhard Khal Drogo hanging all over you. You know that wanker’s gonna stage a photo op with the Princess of Westeros every chance he gets.”

She wrinkled her nose. “I know. But, unfortunately, he has a lot of influence in that region, and I need his connections. At least, he’s not as much of a sleeze as Illyrio Mopatis is. I swear I can feel him mentally undressing me every time I have the misfortune of meeting with him.”

Under the covers, she casually hooked her leg over his, making him wince as her thigh grazed his still-sensitive cock. He crooked his hand under her knee and lifted her thigh high up to his stomach. Her cunt was still damp with her arousal and probably a bit of his cum.

“You know Father wants you to shack up with him,” he said, still pouting.

“With whom? Illyrio Mopatis?” she asked, appalled.

“No. Bloody Drogo.” Rhaegar talked about the khal constantly; his hints about the need for improved relations between the crown and the leaders and other men of consequence in Essos weren’t exactly subtle.

Before graduating, he and Daenerys could get away with not publicly dating anyone while carrying on in secret, as it was expected they should focus on their studies first and foremost. But now, as members of the royal family, the pressure to settle down would increase exponentially. Aegon was over a year into courting Arianne and was expected to propose any day now, while Rhaenys had been the first of Rhaegar’s children to marry a couple years ago, bringing another prestigious family into the fold with her wedding to Edric Dayne. Daenerys was only Rhaegar’s sister, but as king, and as the man who raised her after their father’s death, he wielded a substantial amount of influence on her decisions.

It was incredibly annoying—but even more annoying was just how badly Jon also wanted to please his father, for all the bloody good it seemed to do him.

To his point about Drogo, Daenerys scoffed. “And what about you? I half-expect to come back from Essos to find you engaged to Val Rayder.”

Val?” Jon choked on an unexpected snort of laughter. “Not a chance in any hell.”

“I’m serious,” she said, moving to straddle him. “That twit moons over you every time she’s around. It’s quite sickening just how obvious she is about wanting to marry into the royal family and pop out your curly, black-haired babies.”

“Fuck off,” he laughed, settling both his hands on her thighs. “I hardly know her. I’ve talked to her only a handful of times, if that.”

She wrinkled her nose, ignoring his protests. “Every time she’s here with that insufferable father of hers, she looks like she wants to corner you in an alcove and ravish you.”

A slow smirk spread across his face. “Jealous, are we?”

She huffed, and when she leaned over him, her silver hair slipped over her shoulders to hang in front of her breasts, her nipples still tight pink furls of arousal. “No.” She smiled slightly. “I’m just saying I can relate.”

Amused, he raised his eyebrows. “You want to corner me in an alcove and ravish me? Or you want to have my babies?”

He only meant to tease her, but she went still. Shit. For a moment, neither of them moved or spoke, just stared at each other. They’d never talked about anything like that before—for fuck’s sake, how could they? Rhaegar would never approve of his son shagging his baby sister, let alone knocking her up, especially not with his staunchly anti-intermarriage crusade.

Jon didn’t know what he and Daenerys were doing together, what the endgame was. He didn’t want to think that far ahead, not when any potential future likely meant them having to go their separate ways.

He broke their awkward standoff. “I didn’t mean that,” he said, a bit gruff. She remained quiet, and he wanted to kick himself for ruining a perfectly pleasant moment. “I was just fucking with you, Dany.”

“I know,” she said finally then gave him a small smile. “They’d be cute, though, wouldn’t they?”

His grip tightened on her hips. “What? You mean—if we had babies?” he stammered, astonished.

Her flush deepened, but her smile widened. “Yes. From what I remember, you were a pretty cute kid.”

Jon half-laughed, half-groaned, covering his eyes. “Fucking hell, Dany. Don’t joke about this.”

Laughing, she peeled his hand away from his face. “Why not?”

“Because—you’re gonna make me hard talking like that,” he answered honestly.

Her eyebrows shot up. “What, is this one of your kinks I didn’t know about?” she asked with another laugh.

“Apparently. Can we just stop talking about it now?” he begged, his face hot.

Intrigued, she reached between her legs to grip his cock, finding it already thickening. Her eyes widened. “Oh, wow,” she breathed. “You weren’t kidding. You really like that thought, don’t you?”

Like hell he was going to admit that. “It’s really more about the way you’re sitting on me than anything,” he argued.

With a grin, she angled his cock upward so she could stroke him better. His belly tightened as she worked him over with deft strokes—slow and precise to start until he was rock hard, then faster until the lubrication of his precum was slicking his shaft with noisy jerks of her wrist.

“I don’t know,” she mused, adjusting her hand to rub her fingers over his ball sack on each down stroke. “I’ve never seen you get this hard so quickly before.”

Fuck,” he grunted, arching into her hand. “I’m serious, Dany. I will push your face into this pillow and fuck you if you don’t. Stop. Talking.”

She let out a tinkling laugh. “Well. Now I’m definitely not going to stop.” Then she leaned down to kiss him, her tongue sweeping into his mouth.

Jon pushed her hand off his cock to angle his tip at her cunt and shoved into her, grabbing her hips to forcefully pull her down onto him. At the abrupt intrusion, she gasped but immediately began riding him, never missing a beat. His cum still filled her from their last fuck, but, judging from the silky slipperiness coating her pussy lips now, all their talk had gotten her wet, too.

“Oh, gods, Jon,” she moaned, sliding up and down his shaft as she splayed her hands on his chest. He took her tits in hand, roughly squeezing them as he brushed his thumbs over her nipples. Then he pinched them between his knuckles, pulling until she threw her head back with a cry.

Sitting up, he grabbed the back of her neck and pulled her in for a kiss to quiet her moans. With his other hand, he braced himself on the bed, leveraging himself so he could thrust up into her, bouncing her on his cock. She gave up and let him do the work, rutting and rubbing her clit against his pelvis as she squirmed in his lap.

“Gonna come,” she gasped against his mouth, her cunt squeezing tightly around him. Her thighs began to quake as she came, and he groaned into the kiss, feeling the pulsing contractions of her inner muscles around his swollen cock.

He rolled her down onto the bed then, pulling out of her to force her onto her stomach. When he shoved himself back inside her, she cried out but quickly bit down on the pillow, clutching it to her face as he fucked her from behind. He started on his knees, her arse lifted up into the air, hips slapping loudly against her cheeks, but before long he had her pinned to the bed, her legs locked shut between his thighs as he pounded into her, hard and fast. Her breaths were harsh, quick, frantic pants of pleasured moans muffled by the pillow. At this point, he knew he was being louder than she was, his grunts deep and guttural, but he didn’t care one bloody whit.

He wanted everyone to know that she was his, and he was hers. In that moment, he gladly would have fucked her on the bloody Iron Throne for the king and his whole fucking Small Council to see.

At that thought, he came with a gasp, a bit too suddenly. As he emptied himself inside her, Jon groaned, stroking shallowly into her tight cunt. Despite their talk, there were no concerns about her getting pregnant; she was on birth control and had been since she’d turned 16—even before the two of them had started fooling around—not for contraceptive purposes but to alleviate her menstrual symptoms. In any case, it certainly made sneaking around a lot easier, not having to stash condoms around their respective chambers or find creative ways to dispose of them so the nosy castle staff couldn’t stumble upon them while tidying up.

After a moment, Daenerys turned her face away from the pillow so she could breathe better, sucking down air. Jon lowered himself on top of her, though he braced most of his weight on his arms on either side of her. As they caught their breath, Jon pressed his mouth between her shoulder blades, gentle rubbing his beard and lips across her perspiration-damp skin. She sighed, sinking bonelessly into the mattress, and he kissed up to the nape of her neck, nuzzling through her hair. He lifted his hips, wetly slipping out of her to turn her over. She shifted onto her back and wrapped her arms around him, locking her legs around his waist to hold him close.

She was so damn clingy after sex. Not that he minded one bit.

Still breathing hard, he pressed his forehead against hers. “Told you you were loud.”

June 6, 2019

“We done here?” Jon asked. When Varys gave him the all-clear, Jon slumped down in his chair in relief. “Thank bloody fuck.” Then he jumped up, ducking the mic before the boom operator could move it, and made to leave the confessional room where he’d spent the last two hours filming his one-on-one interviews and talking heads. At the door, he had a thought and turned back to Varys. “Does Olenna need to see me?”

The producer gave him an innocent look. “No, I don’t think so. You’re free until the group date later.”

“Huh.” That was strange. Normally, Olenna couldn’t wait to yap his ear off after a rose ceremony, and given the fact that he’d cut her precious granddaughter just the night before, he expected to receive an entirely new arsehole by the end of the day, courtesy of one pissed off executive producer.

But he still hadn’t heard a peep from her, which had left him walking on eggshells all morning. It was oddly unsettling and left him wondering when she would strike—and just what form her revenge would take.

“Alright, then,” he said with a shrug and left the room they’d dubbed the “confessional.” Sandor, who’d been waiting outside, pushed off the wall to fall in step with him as he strolled down the hallway. They were in a different wing of the castle from where the women were housed, but he didn’t particularly want to run into any of them just yet, so he slipped out the nearest exit, emerging onto the grounds. Squinting against the sun, he held out a hand to his bodyguard, who obediently removed the sunglasses from his own face and turned them over.

“Thanks, mate,” Jon said cheerfully, donning the shades to shield his eyes. Then he stood there a moment, debating what he should do with his unexpected free time. Work out, maybe. But he was too keyed up for that, and he didn’t really want to return to his guesthouse, anyway. As his bodyguard, Sandor wasn’t much company, since he really only hung out with Jon because he was paid to. Maybe he could find Tyrion to talk to—but, no, he just remembered his communications secretary had left Highgarden for the day to deal with some work he’d been neglecting.

Bloody hell, he must be getting pretty desperate for company if he was entertaining the thought of seeking out Tyrion, of all people.

He wished he could call up Robb or his brother for a chat. Even that twat Theon might make for a good distraction. But without his bloody phone, he was useless.

Jon sighed. It was as good a time as any to explore Highgarden, he supposed. The estate was massive, and he knew he’d only seen a fraction of it. So far, he’d only been to the places Olenna had designated for filming. That, and the godsforsaken hedge maze that had tried to disappear him his first night filming.

Shoving his hands into his pants pockets, he began to walk, with Sandor at his side. Outside, there was a bit of freedom, at least. When he wasn’t needed for dates or interviews, cameras didn’t hound him the way they hounded the contestants, and there weren’t too many secret cameras hidden all over the grounds like there were inside the castle.

After a bit of a trek, it soon became apparent to Jon that there wasn’t much to Highgarden other than—well, gardens. He’d already seen some of them and carried on past those, until he eventually came upon a living sculpture garden that was full of large-scale topiaries, shaped and trimmed into a menagerie of animals such as elephants and giraffes. Interspersed between them were towering floral sculptures shaped into giant fantastical creatures.

He whistled in awe. “Seven hells,” he said under his breath as he walked beneath the towering sculptures. Sandor, of course, was nonplussed. Unbidden, a foggy memory surfaced, and he chuckled to himself.

“You know, this reminds me of that fundraiser in the Starry Sept, when I was tripping balls on Shade of the Evening. You remember that?” he said to his bodyguard. “When I walked into the Dawn Age exhibit and thought the Children of the Forest figures were real? Gods, I was high as a fucking kite.”

Sandor grunted in acknowledgement, and after a pause, he rasped, “Aye, I remember. I remembering finding you by a weirwood tree, stomping on the head of a figure you’d knocked over, screaming, ‘YOU’RE A FOOKING TREE YOU DON’T SCARE ME.’”

Abruptly, Jon stopped laughing. He’d forgotten that part—or had tried to, anyway. The crown had to set up a substantial endowment fund to the Starry Sept just to keep that particular incident under wraps.

Jon shot his bodyguard a scowl. “You know, I think I prefer it when you’re not talking.” Sandor just grunted again, expressionless, but even when he wasn’t smiling, Jon knew he was fucking smiling. “Seven hells, I’m tired of looking at your ugly mug all day,” he muttered.

He’d just made up his mind to head back to his guesthouse when he rounded a large basilisk sculpture and nearly ran right into Ygritte and Brienne. A cameraman hovered around them, and, seeing Jon, pulled back some to get him into the frame.

“Oh! Jon!” Ygritte grinned at him, as if she couldn’t believe her luck. “Fancy running into you here.”

“Your High—I mean, Jon,” Brienne stammered, blushing. She did some weird curtsy thing that had Ygritte snorting in amusement.

Normally, he would be annoyed at having to put on an act for the cameras in what should have been his downtime, but he found that he was surprisingly grateful for the distraction.

“Good to see you, ladies,” he said, hugging Ygritte and kissing both her cheeks, then he did the same to Brienne. Except at her height, she had to stoop down for him to reach. “And fortuitous, too. I was just telling my bodyguard how bored I was. As you can imagine, Sandor isn’t the best conversationalist.”

“I’m sure I have more stories for you, if you want to hear them,” Sandor interjected, and Jon narrowed his eyes at him in warning.

“No, thank you, mate. Just do the job you’re hired for,” he muttered. Sandor jerked his chin in acquiescence and took a few steps back, out of frame. Again, with the not-smiling smile. Cheeky twat.

Clearing his throat, Jon directed his attention back to the women. “Decided to get some fresh air, I take it?”

Ygritte huffed. “There’s so little to entertain us in the castle. No TVs, no phones. Way too much alcohol.”

“I kind of like it,” Brienne said then cringed. “Not the alcohol, I mean. Well, that’s not terrible either. But not having a TV or phone to fall back on, we’re forced to get creative to entertain ourselves.”

Jon smiled. “Aye, that’s true. I would have thought this normal for you, Ygritte?”

She rolled her eyes. “There you go again. Do you think the North is that primitive?”

Yes, he wanted to say but kept smiling. “No, but surely as a wilderness guide, you’re used to entertaining yourself.”

Ygritte scrunched her nose. “I usually go outdoors for my recreation, engage in physical activities. But here, entertainment consists of cat fights and mind games. I had to pry this one out of Cersei’s claws earlier,” she said, jutting a thumb at Brienne, who looked sheepish.

“Aye, that one’s definitely...crafty,” Jon agreed haltingly. It was the nicest compliment he could think of that was still suitable for cameras.

Ygritte snorted again. Loudly. “Ha! That’s a funny way to say devious. Is that really the kind of woman you like?” she asked bluntly, pinning him with a scrutinizing look.

He clenched his jaw, fighting a defensive scowl. Instead, he smiled through his teeth. “I don’t think I have one particular type. After all, neither of you are much like Cersei,” he said diplomatically, impressing himself. He liked to think even his father would be proud of that artful deflection, answering without really answering. It was the royal way, after all.

Even as she smiled, Ygritte rolled her eyes again, showing she didn’t quite buy his non-answer. But Brienne, eager to not rock the boat, said, “I admire Cersei’s courage. It can’t be easy being the oldest one here.”

Ygritte barked out a laugh, doubling over, and Jon regarded Brienne with mild surprise. “Oh, well done, Brienne. I didn’t know you had it in you.”

Her face purpled. “No, I didn’t mean—that wasn’t—I really do—it’s just that most of the women here are in their 20s—”

Straightening, Ygritte waved her off. “Oh, save it. You know that nasty woman has said worse about us all.”

Jon suspected as much, too. He was just about to suggest to the two that he accompany them on their stroll of this acid trip of a garden when a PA appeared.

“Olenna wants to go over the group date with you,” she informed him.

Well, about bloody time the woman deigned to speak to him. He found himself eager to get on with it just so he could finally stop looking over his shoulder.

Nodding to the PA, he looked to Ygritte and Brienne. “This was a pleasant chat, ladies. Perhaps I’ll see you two on the date later,” he said with a wink, making Ygritte smirk and Brienne blush.

Jon and Sandor followed the PA away from the garden across the grounds. He’d wandered far enough away from the main hub of the estate that it was a decent hike back to the control room. Inside, Olenna was talking in hushed tones with Littlefinger. When the other man spotted Jon, a smug, knowing smile flickered across his face.

Jon stiffened. That smarmy smirk always promised bad things for him.

“Just the man we were looking for,” Petyr said in greeting, and Olenna threw Jon an indifferent look over her shoulder.

“Ah. Good.” She turned back to her producer. “So, you’ll handle that?”

Petyr bowed his head, still smiling. “Consider it done.” Then, with a final look at Jon, he left the control room.

When Olenna finally turned to him, he tried to appear nonchalant, hands in his pockets, sunglasses still on. “What’s he handling? Something I should know about?” Bloody hell, had his voice actually jumped two octaves just then?

“No, darling, nothing to worry your pretty little head about. So, we should talk,” she said abruptly, though her attention was on a tablet in her hand.

Jon steeled himself. “Look, about last night—” he started. Olenna was tapping away on her tablet, not paying him any mind. As the silence dragged on, she finally looked up at him, blinking over the top rim of her readers.

“Yes? What about it?”

He blinked then narrowed his eyes at her. Just what kind of game was she playing here? “The rose ceremony.” Another blank look. Exasperated, he said, “Did you not bring me here to rake me over the coals about cutting Margaery?”

“Oh, that.” With a sniff, she waved off his concern. “Now, why would I do that? It’s your decision to make. Even when it’s a completely boneheaded decision.” She shrugged. “Obviously, you know what’s best for you.”

He gaped at her. “That’s it?” he demanded, flabbergasted. All day, he’d rehearsed this huge speech in his defense, about how cruel her handling of the Gilly and Samwell situation was, how she’d thrown him under the bus just for maximum drama—and she wasn’t even going to give him a chance to use it?

She lifted a shoulder indifferently. “Yes. No, wait.” She spun around to grab something from a table, and he eyed the plain, unsealed envelope she handed him.

“What’s this?” he asked skeptically.

“It’s your group date, darling. Why are you acting like it’s going to explode?” she asked as he carefully pulled out the card inside.

“Because, knowing you, it just might,” he muttered as he read what was written on the card. The missive was addressed to the contestants and signed from him, as if he’d written it himself, though he definitely hadn’t.

Brienne, Cersei, Daenerys and Alys—

“I guess I don’t get to choose my dates this time?” he asked out loud.

She shrugged. “It’s just more efficient if we do it.”

Annoyed, he kept reading.

Let’s go to town.


“‘Go to town’?” he repeated, first confused then instantly alarmed. “Gods, tell me that’s not a euphemism for something.”

“Yes. And no,” Olenna explained, plucking the card and envelope out of his hand and carefully tucking it back inside. “It just means you’re going to take the four of them on a date to Ashford. It’s a cute little market town nearby. You’ll shop, indulge their trivial materialistic urges—”

“With your money, I hope,” he interrupted, and she scoffed.

“Seven hells, are all you royal bastards this cheap? Yes, with the show’s money; we factor it into the budget, so you can unclench your arsehole now. Anyway, after the date challenge, you’ll have dinner with the winner, and then at the end of the night, you’ll cut one of the other three.”

He winced. “I’m supposed to just dump one of them miles away from the castle, and the rest of us, what—drive back here in a limo while toasting champagne?” he asked sarcastically, but she looked at him, pleased.

“So you have watched this show before.”

He rolled his eyes. “I don’t know why I’m surprised anymore. So, who am I cutting? I’m guessing I’m still not allowed to eliminate Cersei.”

With another shrug, Olenna turned her attention once again to her tablet. “I’ll leave that decision up to you. I’m sure you’ll do whatever’s best. As you always do.”

He knew what she was doing. The backhanded, passive-aggressive mental warfare. Val had been particularly good at that, too. She never wanted to come out and tell him what she was upset about; she wanted him to guess. He didn’t have the patience for it then, and he certainly didn’t have the patience for it now.

Forcing a toothy smile, he shoved his hands into his pockets. “That’s right. I’m the bachelor. It’s my choice to make. Glad we’re on the same page.”

“Mm. Yes.” Olenna swiped away on her tablet, not even bothering to look at him. “We need you ready for your date in half an hour. Think you can manage that?”

“I’m sure I can—” he began, voice dripping with scorn, but she interrupted him.

“Good. Lovely chat as always, Your Highness.” She turned away, effectively dismissing him. With a glower at her back, Jon pivoted and stomped out of the control room, Sandor following with his bloody annoying not-smiling smile.

Much like they had in Dorne, PAs flooded the Ashford city market ahead of time to secure photo releases. By the time Jon arrived, chauffeured by one of the show’s limos, the four contestants Olenna had chosen for the group date were already there. On the ride over, Varys had explained to him the setup: He would be waiting for the women in one of the clothing boutiques. Once they arrived, he would lead them through a costuming challenge, then he would take them on an excursion through town, and afterward they would visit a cidery to drink and chat before his dinner with the winner of the challenge. By the end of the night, he was to cut one of them.

Some of Daenerys’ security detail was back to help provide extra protection and crowd control while they explored the city market. As Jon was directed into the clothing boutique, he saw Jorah and Grey posted outside; Sandor stayed behind with them. Inside, the camera crew was already set up, PAs tending to last-minute details and shoving clothing racks to the perimeter of the shop so Jon and the women had ample room to film. The store’s aesthetic was not one Jon could immediately put his finger on—part trendy, part niche. He paused by a rack of dresses to finger the flimsy material. The dresses were cut in such a way to expose one tit. How the hell was anyone supposed to wear that around here?

Well, maybe in Dorne.

Varys called to him, waving him over to a lean, bald-headed man who was getting miked up by a PA. Jon already had a mic pac on under his shirt. “Jon, this is the shop owner, Xaro Xhoan Daxos.”

Jon leisurely sidled up to them, eyeballing the two bald men side by side. “Is this your relative?” he asked pleasantly.

“No.” Varys sniffed. “Do you think all bald men know each other?”

He shrugged. “Maybe you’re in the same Facebook group.” He shook Xaro’s hand and smiled to show he was joking. Mostly. In his head, he was thanking Ellaria for the extra attention she’d given his luscious curls that morning. “Nice to meet you, Xaro. Interesting shop you’ve got here.”

Xaro simpered, bowing slightly. “Thank you, Your Highness. I import a lot of my items from Essos. Qarth, especially. Have you ever been?”

“No, I’m afraid not. Most of my royal duties have kept me in Westeros. I’m sure Princess Daenerys has been, though. She’s spent the last six years in Essos.” Jon was quite proud of himself for not snarling as he said it.

“Oh, then she’s probably very familiar with the fashion there,” Xaro said excitedly. “Will she be coming? Anything she wants, we would be honored for her to wear. Free of charge, of course.”

Jon chuffed. “In that case, I don’t suppose you have any clothes for men, do you?”

“No—well, not in the strictest sense, I mean,” Xaro tittered. “In Qarth, men and women are quite fluid in their fashion sensibilities. Any of these items might look quite fetching on you, Your Highness.”

“I do look pretty good in a dress,” he mused thoughtfully, and Xaro gave him an appraising look.

“I bet you do,” he murmured appreciatively. Jon tried not to puff up too much. Men weren’t his thing, usually, but it was always flattering to know he had broad appeal.

Varys cleared his throat. “Sorry to interrupt, but the women will be here any minute. Do you both know what you’re supposed to do?”

Xaro nodded, and Jon adopted a serious face. “Pretend I’m one of the nice judges on ‘Westeros’ Next Top Model.’ I think I’ve got it.”

Varys cleared the set of PAs, and the camera crew and boom operators moved into place. Outside Jon heard a commotion, signaling the women had arrived, and a moment later, they entered the shop—Daenerys first, of course, because entering a room before a princess was a dire breach of protocol, even if she herself wouldn’t care. Her eyes locked with his, and she smiled at him, her teeth just barely catching on her bottom lip, and for a moment he almost forgot this was a group date, that it wasn’t just the two of them meeting for a clandestine tryst away from King’s Landing.

And then Cersei was behind her, quickly followed by Alys, with Brienne bringing up the rear, and Jon shook himself, quickly reminding himself where he was and that there were cameras on him.

With a smile, he greeted them. When Daenerys reached him, he hugged her, his hand low on her back, thumb grazing the skin between her top and the waistband of her jeans. He kissed her cheek, so close to the corner of her mouth, her fingers curled against his shoulders, before she pulled back to meet his eyes. She dimpled at him.


Cersei didn’t give him a chance to respond, huffing behind them. “What a touching family reunion. Can the rest of us have a turn now?”

Discreetly rolling her eyes, Daenerys stepped aside, and Jon chuckled as he hugged Cersei next. “Always a pleasure to see you, Cersei.”

“And yet you so rarely do,” she quipped, but he kept his smile in place.

“I’ll try to rectify that,” he promised, sure Olenna would hold him to it.

He hugged Alys and Brienne, who both seemed more nervous than the other two. Brienne was no surprise, but perhaps Alys was feeling a bit skittish since he’d cut her partner in crime just the day before.

Jon went through the formality of introducing Xaro to them; unsurprisingly, the shop owner seemed most keen on ingratiating himself with Daenerys, and Jon had to intervene before he could beg her for an Instagram follow.

“As prince, one of my royal duties is to attend a lot of extremely tedious state dinners and official functions.” He quirked a brief smile, ad libbing a bit, “Daenerys knows a thing or two about that herself.” She returned his droll smile, and the others laughed uncomfortably, except Cersei, who could barely contain her sneer. “But as such, I must dress to impress, and any partner of mine would have to as well. So today, the four of you are going to put together an outfit that’s both sophisticated and attractive. Perfect for the companion of a prince. The best dressed will get to have dinner with me tonight. Alone.”

Really, it was a bollocks challenge. He didn’t even dress himself for any of these royal occasions; they paid other, more stylish people to do that for them.

Cersei seemed to think so, too. She scoffed. “That’s not very fair. The princess here—” she said with mocking emphasis, “—already knows how to dress for your little fancy dinners. She has an advantage over the rest of us.”

Jon considered this, his eyes darting toward Varys who hovered beyond the cameras. He shook his head in response. “That’s true,” Jon admitted.

Daenerys’ mouth tightened, just slightly, but she shrugged. “I can sit this one out, if that would be more fair.”

At his side, Xaro made a sound of disappointment in the back of his throat, clearly having to bite his tongue. Suddenly, Jon was inspired.

“No, no, this is a group date, so you should get the chance to participate.” He grinned slyly. “To make it even, your challenge is to put together the most pedestrian outfit you can. The tackier, the better.”

Her mouth parted before swiftly closing, and she narrowed her eyes at him. Xaro squeaked in distress, giving a shrill laugh. “Oh, I don’t think you’ll find anything tacky here!”

He dismissed Xaro’s protests, eyes still fixed on her. “I’m sure our princess here is up for the challenge.”

She smiled graciously. “Of course, I am.”

“As you’re perusing the selection, feel free to ask my opinion,” he told them cheekily. “I’ve sat front row at my fair share of fashion shows, so I think I’ve got a pretty good eye for what looks good on a woman.”

Daenerys made a dubious sound. “Are we supposed to believe you were paying attention to the clothes?”

He ignored her dig, pretending to look at his watch. “Better get started. You’ve only got thirty minutes to put together an outfit.”

Alys gasped and immediately flew to a rack to begin riffling through the clothes. Brienne did the same, while Daenerys and Cersei were a little less hurried as they began their shopping. Jon strolled around the store, bouncing between each of the women and offering insipid commentary like, “That’s a wonderful piece” and “I like the red best” and “I’m not sure knee-length is appropriate for tea.”

Once they had a pile of clothes in their arms to try on, the women would rush to the changing rooms (makeshift stalls had to be constructed as Xaro’s shop only had two), flinging pieces through the stall curtains and asking for different sizes, or barging out to find something else entirely.

At one point, Jon mosied over to Daenerys, whose brow was puckered in concentration as she held up an understated black silk top for examination. He couldn’t help but laugh.

“That’s way too classy. You’re terrible at this,” he jested, earning a scowl in return. He grinned, bracing his elbow on top of the rack. “It’s a compliment, Dany. You couldn’t look cheap if you tried.”

“Yeah, well, we’ll see about that,” she huffed, determined, as she shoved the hanger back onto the rack.

“Here.” He shuffled through a few of the items until he found the dress he’d been looking at earlier, holding it up for her consideration. “What about this?”

Mystified, she stared at it. “Where does my left tit go, though?”

Well...he could think of a couple places. He only gave her an innocent look, and as if she could read his mind, she rolled her eyes. “Thank you, but I think I’m perfectly capable of dressing myself. No one’s going to accuse me of cheating.”

Damn. He shrugged, putting the dress back. “Suit yourself.”

“Exactly,” she retorted with a resolute look, randomly snatching another top off the rack and marching off to the changing room.

After about twenty minutes had ticked by, Jon realized Brienne was the only one who’d yet to make her way to a changing room. She seemed panicked, only a couple items of clothing in her hand.

“Do you need my help?” he asked. She gave him a wide-eyed look, a ruddiness to her cheeks.

“Err. Maybe. I’m just not sure…” she said absently, shoving aside hangers and eyeing the clothes uncertainly.

He looked at the items in her hand. “What’s wrong with the pieces you have?”

“I don’t know. I’m just not really...comfortable in dresses,” she said honestly. “I don’t know if any of this will look good on me.”

“So, don’t wear a dress.”

She looked at him doubtfully. “Isn’t that what princesses wear?”

He laughed. “Well, I guess you’ll have to ask Daenerys about that. But, personally, I think part of looking regal is being comfortable in your own skin. You can convey anything as long as you’re confident.” He shrugged. “If you’re not comfortable in a dress, pick something else.”

Unsure, she looked at him and back at the clothes. After a moment of indecision, she moved to another rack of clothes and grabbed a couple items from there before heading to the changing room.

In the last few minutes, the cameras focused on the women, so Jon spent his time leaning against the register, doodling on a receipt book. In a nearby stall, he could overhear Cersei muttering to herself. “This is ridiculous. If I wanted to play dress up, I could have just stayed home with my bloody kids.”

On cue, Varys waved to him frantically from off camera, and Jon cleared his throat, calling time. There was more than one muted screech of despair from the changing stalls. Now, Xaro would call on each woman and describe her outfits for the camera, and Jon would offer his opinion before choosing the winner. Really, Daenerys was right; he had absolutely no opinion on women’s fashion whatsoever and didn’t think he could offer much insight beyond “Looks good.” What kind of wanker would he be to tell a woman anything else, anyway?

Alys was first up for judgment. Jon pretended to give serious consideration to her outfit as Xaro narrated it in breathless detail.

“Oh, this is spectacular,” he gushed. “Alys is wearing a tweed skirt suit layered over a white blouse with a delicate Peter Pan collar. She’s accessorized with a belt made of zorse-skin, which was imported from Yi Ti, and her patent leather pumps with low heels give her some height without being too imposing. Perfect for a man of your stature, Your Highness.”

Jon shot Xaro a disgruntled look. That was payback for the bald comment, no doubt. “Brilliant. Well done, Alys. You look stately yet elegant, which is the perfect balance for lunch with the Pentoshi magister.”

Delighted, she beamed. “Thank you,” she said, and he tipped his head in a bow as she moved to stand next to him. Next, he drumrolled on the counter for Cersei, who emerged with less trepidation than Alys had. And with good reason, as she’d foregone any subtlety in her outfit of choice entirely.

Xaro gasped dramatically. “Oh, now this is fabulous! One of my favorite new pieces, we just got it in store. Cersei is wearing a gown from Grazdan mo Eraz’s collection, an off-the-shoulder piece made of red and gold brocade. It’s very bold. This aesthetic is quite the rage in Yunkai.”

Jon let out a low whistle of appreciation as Cersei executed a runway turn. She looked gorgeous, if a bit flashy. “It’s definitely a knockout. Not exactly appropriate for lunch, but perhaps better suited for a more...formal affair.”

Taking her place next to Alys, Cersei smirked at him, a dangerous glint in her green eyes. “If it’s an affair you’re interested in, darling, just say the word.”

He laughed, only sweating a little under his collar. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

Brienne was up next, though she definitely lacked Cersei’s verve. Xaro hummed thoughtfully. “This is an interesting choice. Brienne has opted for an emerald-colored jumpsuit with a cinched waist and cropped legs and has paired it with strappy leather mules.”

As Brienne did an awkward turn before them, Cersei snorted under her breath. “If Jon wanted to date a man, then why are we here?” she muttered to Alys, just loud enough for Brienne to hear, which Jon was sure was her intention.

Going still, Brienne turned bright red, and Jon hastily spoke up. “I think it’s brilliant. Simple yet chic, and I can tell you feel comfortable in it. As I said, the sexiest accessory for any woman is confidence.”

Still blushing, she smiled gratefully at him. “Thank you.” As she joined the others in line beside him, he winked at her. Cersei rolled her eyes.

Turning back to the task at hand, Jon tried to rein in his excitement. “Last but not least…”

Throwing aside the curtain, Daenerys stepped out of her changing room, and Jon choked on a startled laugh. “Seven hells,” he wheezed. She shot him a warning glare but tossed her hair over her shoulder, doing the expected walk and turn so Xaro could do his thing.

“Oh, well, this is—I’m not sure what’s so funny, exactly,” he said with an insulted sniff. “This is quite a lovely dress. The style is very popular in Meereen, actually.”

“Oh, it’s very lovely, indeed,” Jon agreed readily. “For a night out in Flea Bottom.”

In fact, Jon was sure that’s exactly where he’d seen the dress before. It was a black leather mini dress with a corset bodice, an eyelet lace-up side and a hemline that hit just below the crotch. It was very tawdry and undignified for a princess, and he knew Daenerys wouldn’t be caught dead in it otherwise.

She put her hands on her hips, and if the look wasn’t so very much not Daenerys, he might be a little hard right now. Actually, he was kind of hard, anyway.

“Don’t ever let it be said that Daenerys Targaryen does not rise to a challenge,” she said, her chin held high.

“Wait a minute,” Cersei interjected, her mouth pursed in a contemplative frown. “Alys, dear, isn’t that the dress you wore at the first rose ceremony?”

Caught off guard by the swipe, Alys sputtered, her face going pink with embarrassment, but Daenerys smiled placidly at the older woman. “Well, not all of us have the youth to pull off this kind of look, now do we?”

Cersei glowered at her, and Jon cleared his throat, desperate to get this travesty of a group date over with. “Anyway, you all look gorgeous, truly. All very distinctly different, too. I’d make you all winners if I could, but I think the person who deserves the private dinner the most is Brienne. For thinking outside the box.”

Her eyes widened in surprise. “Oh! Wow! Thank you.” Alys feigned happiness for her, hugging her, but Cersei didn’t bother to hide her disgust as she gave a sarcastic clap. Daenerys clapped as well, before offering Brienne a hug.

On a whim, Jon decided to throw them for another loop. In for a copper and all that. “And for being such a good sport, I’ve decided to give Daenerys some one-on-one time with me later as well. Before dinner, of course, don’t worry, Brienne.”

Daenerys arched a cynical eyebrow at him. “Well, how very gracious of you.”

He shrugged modestly. “Indeed. I’m quite known for my gallantry. And you haven’t even heard the best part yet.” He gave her an unsuspecting smile. “You all get to keep your outfits and wear them for the rest of the date!”

Despite her smile, he didn’t miss the way her eye twitched. The others' cheers were even less convincing, and he tried not to laugh, gesturing to the producer. “Varys, come cut this poor man a bloody check already, and let’s get on with it.”

After the mini fashion show, they spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the market and all the designer boutiques that lined the street. Having four beautiful women on his arm was usually a nice albeit ordinary day for him, except it felt like they were taking part in a costumed parade, with the range of conspicuous outfits they wore and the number of tourists who stopped to gawk at them. The latter was probably more about the spectacle of two members of the royal family being in their midst than anything else, but the security team kept the crowd at bay, advancing threateningly on anyone who dared veer too close to their little entourage.

Poor Daenerys, though. Once again, she was another frontpage news story in the making, especially in her dominatrix-esque attire. Feeling partly to blame, Jon tried to offer her Sandor’s suit jacket to cover up with, but she refused, holding her head high like she was taking part in any other royal function and not a BDSM fantasy (which was a thought he mentally cataloged for later).

For her sake, he was glad when Varys told them it was time to move on to the cocktails and dinner portion of the date. They took a limo to a nearby cidery aptly called Cider Hall, which thankfully had been cleared out by production for the day, so they didn’t have to deal with any more spectators.

As they settled on a couple of outdoor chaise lounge chairs under a pergola, a couple PAs disguised as staff brought them some pitchers of cider and pint glasses to drink out of. Jon gave a small toast, then they made idle chit chat, mostly about the charity calendar shoot from the other day, though Daenerys was more preoccupied with finding a prim way to cross her legs without flashing her crotch to the cameras. Jon hid a smile in his glass, knocking back the rest of his cider, which was way too bloody sweet for his palate, before he rose from the chaise.

“Ladies, if you’ll excuse me. I’d like to take Daenerys for that chat now,” he said, holding his hand out to her. As he helped her to her feet, he winked at Brienne, who smiled bashfully. “Don’t go anywhere without me, love.”

He and Daenerys walked away from the group toward the orchard, a camera and boom operator following them. It couldn’t be easy to navigate the soft grass in her spiky heels, but somehow she managed. Still, he kept her hand in his, maintaining pace with her careful steps.

“You know, this look is kind of growing on me,” he told her.

“Why am I not surprised,” she drawled, releasing his hand to tug down on her dress. “I’m sure I look like every single woman you’ve dated in the past year.”

“Well, that’s hardly fair,” he retorted lightly. “‘Dated’ is a bit too generous, really.” She cut him a sideways look then rolled her eyes. As they walked, Jon slipped his hands into his pants pockets. “So. I’ve been dying to ask.” After a deliberate pause, he inquired, “Are you wearing any underwear with that dress?”

She faltered only slightly. “Jon,” she chastised.

He made a face. “I mean, with that side lacing, I don’t see how you could be. Right?”

Closing her eyes as if pained, she shook her head. “You can’t ask a princess if she’s wearing underwear on national television.”

“I’m a prince. I can do whatever I bloody like,” he said with a shrug, and she groaned laughingly.

“Rhaegar is going to lose his mind when he sees this.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Thought you didn’t care what my father thought anymore.”

She met his eyes before turning her gaze ahead as they passed beneath a canopy of tree branches. Dusk was settling, and it was even darker in the shaded orchard. The cameraman had already turned on the light on his camera. “Not about certain things, no,” she said carefully. “But I do have a reputation to uphold. Especially when it comes to my organization.”

At the mention of her business, he went stiff. Instantly, his mood soured, and he clenched his jaw. “Is that why you’re here? To promote your organization?”

She looked up at him sharply. “Believe me, a dating show would be the last place I’d promote my work. I already told you why I’m here.”

“For me?” he said mockingly, and she frowned.


He rolled his eyes and came to a stop, turning toward her. She did the same. “You’ve had all this time, Dany. Why wait till this show to come back?”

Startled, she blinked. “You were with Val—”

“And you were with Drogo,” he reminded her harshly. “But Val and I broke up over a year ago. When did you leave Drogo? Or, I guess I should ask—who ended it in the first place?”

Daenerys folded her arms over her chest, and when she spoke, her voice was tight. “I did. A few months ago.”

“And, so, what—you heard I was going on a dating show and thought I’d make for a fun little rebound?” Before she could respond, he snapped his fingers as if just remembering. “Or was he the rebound? Exactly how long did you wait after going to Essos to hook up with him?”

Her mouth dropped open, but she quickly clamped it shut, her eyes darting toward the camera, just briefly. “Jon,” she said warily, a warning, and he ground his teeth together. Right. Bloody fucking cameras. He blew out a breath, raking a hand through his hair. He took a step forward then changed his mind, swinging back to her again.

“No, you know what, fuck the cameras, Dany,” he snapped. “I wanna know why you left.”

Her nostrils flared. “You know why. I had work I wanted to do in Essos—”

“So why didn’t you come back? You were supposed to come back, and then you just fucking ghosted me!” he exploded. “Do you know how shitty that felt? All I got was a fucking email, after weeks of radio silence from you! A fucking email, Dany! After everything!”

Her lips parted wordlessly, and she rubbed at her forehead. “I’m sorry,” she said finally. “I made a mistake.”

Jon shook his head adamantly. “That’s not good enough, Dany. That’s not an answer.” He licked his lips and forced out the question that had been lodged in his chest like a fucking rock he’d been unable to swallow for the past six damn years. “Were you already with Drogo when you left for Essos?”

She looked at him, aghast. “No, of course not! You knew I wasn’t with him.”

“What about when you sent that email? Were you with him then?” he needled.

“No. Seven hells, Jon, Drogo and I—it happened months later. It wasn’t—there was nothing nefarious going on. We were just spending a lot of time together.”

He curled his lip in disdain. “You can’t exactly blame me for wondering, can you?” He shook his head. “Six years. Six years, Dany, and I only saw you once. Once. And you think you get to just waltz back here, like everything’s fine, like the last six years didn’t happen? You owe me a better explanation than the one you gave me in that fucking email.”

Anxiously, she pulled on her earring. “At the time, I just...I didn’t think things would work between us. I just didn’t see a future,” she said hollowly.

“So, what changed?” he demanded angrily. “If they wouldn’t work then, why would they work now?” Even in the light of the camera, she looked pale. She didn’t answer, which only pissed him off more. “Why?”

She only shook her head, her eyes downcast. He knew she was shutting down. “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know? Fucking hell, Dany. You can’t just—” He saw the way her chin quivered, felt the presence of the cameraman at his back, and was suddenly brought back to himself. Frustrated, he growled, roughly jerking his hand through his hair. “Fuck. I need a minute,” he gritted out before stalking away from her. He walked fast and heard the cameraman scramble after him, yelling for backup to stay with Daenerys.

Jon didn’t go far into the orchard, just needing to put some distance between them so he could cool off. The last thing he wanted to do was make her cry on TV. As much as he wanted to bloody rage and fight and punch a fucking tree right then, he wouldn’t do that to her. Wouldn’t berate her before an audience.

The cameraman circled him, pulling in for a close up of his reaction, and Jon shielded his face, digging the heels of his palms into his eyes. It took everything in him not to deck the fucking guy. Already he felt the beginnings of a tension headache coming on. “Bloody hell,” he grumbled, dropping his head back on his shoulders and blowing out a slow breath, as if that was going to do any good.

Minutes passed before he felt Daenerys approach him from behind. “Jon,” she said quietly. With a cooler head, he lowered his hands and turned to face her. Now there were two cameras with them.

She didn’t meet his gaze, her eyes trained on his chest, and he saw resignation in her expression. Her arms were still wrapped around her waist, like she was hugging herself. “You’re right. It was selfish of me to come here. I shouldn’t have—I shouldn’t have come, especially not like this, not after everything.” She took a deep, shaky breath. “You should send me home.”

Stunned, he blinked at her. For some reason, her penitence, her self-persecution, made him angry all over again. He let out a harsh bark of frustration. “Are you serious right now? You don’t get to decide that for me, Dany. If I want you gone, you’ll be gone. But if you want to leave, then by all means, go. But you’re gonna have to walk out on your own. Something I already know you’re good at.”

Her violet eyes flew up to his. “I don’t want to leave, Jon.”

“Then why does it always bloody seem like you’re just waiting for me to cut you?”

“Because I am! Because you always do this, every time we talk!” Now she was frustrated, too. Well, good. Much better than the tears. “If you want me here, then you have to accept that I’m here because I want to be! And stop picking fights with me!”

He threw his hands up. “Fine!” he snapped. “As long as we’re clear that you’re here as long as I want you to be!”

Fine,” she retorted.

Good.” With a huff, he looked around them then gestured for her to go on ahead of him. “Let’s get the fuck out of this bloody orchard then.” They walked back hastily toward the others, not touching each other until Daenerys stumbled over a tree root. His hand shot out to steady her, then he found himself abruptly pulling her into his arms. As her arms went around him, he felt her let out a shuddering breath and buried his face in her hair, squeezing his eyes shut. Immediately, he felt contrite. “Shit. I’m sorry, Dany,” he murmured, inhaling deeply. Gods damn her, why did she always get him so twisted up inside?

She shook her head, keeping her face pressed to his chest. “I’m the one who’s sorry,” she said, her voice thin with tears.

He didn’t know how long they stayed like that, holding each other tightly, but it was long enough that Varys had to come intervene.

“Jon, we really need to get this dinner filmed,” he murmured with surprising gentleness.

With a sigh, Jon released Daenerys, who stepped back and hastily wiped at her watery eyes. “Alright, we’re coming.”

As they approached the pergola, the other women went quiet, watching them like hawks. Only Cersei lounged casually on the chaise, a near-empty pint of cider clutched in her hand. As Jon helped Dany back to her spot, she arched an eyebrow at them.

“Have a lovely little chat?” Cersei snarked, a nasty edge to her voice. She was clearly already more than a few pints of cider deep.

“The best,” Jon answered flatly. Daenerys remained quiet, reaching for her abandoned cider to gulp down eagerly. Gods, Jon would sell his own family out to the tabloids for a whiskey right then. Plastering a smile on his face, he turned to Brienne next, offering his hand. “Are you ready to eat?” Not that they would be doing any actual eating.

“Yes, absolutely.” She took his hand and scrambled to her feet.

“Try to behave while we’re gone,” he told the others dryly, making Cersei snort. Alys giggled, and Daenerys said nothing. Tucking her hand under his arm, Jon led Brienne to the cidery per Varys’ instructions.

In an intimate room inside the cidery, they were set up at a small table staged in front of cameras, much like his first one-on-one dinner with Daenerys. A single blue rose sat on the table, in anticipation of Jon awarding it to Brienne for having won the group date challenge, and food was already plated. Jon groaned inwardly. Another bloody delicious meal he wouldn’t be allowed to eat, at least not until they were done filming.

After pulling Brienne’s chair out for her, Jon took his seat next to her, trying not to knock knees with her in the cramped arrangement. He took the already poured glass of champagne and raised it to her in toast, waiting for her to do the same.

“Cheers to smoking the competition,” he said with a forced smile. He was still a bit rattled from his argument with Daenerys, and it wasn't easy pivoting from scorned lover to Prince Charming. But Brienne seemed none the wiser to his internal conflict. Flushing with pleasure, she laughed and tapped her glass to his before they both took a sip. “I really do love your outfit. It’s very fetching on you.”

“Thank you,” she said with a shy smile. “And thank you for choosing me. For this dinner. It’s really nice to get a chance to talk to you, just the two of us.”

He grimaced apologetically. “I’m sorry we haven’t had any alone time before now,” he replied. “Hopefully we can make up for lost time now.”

“Oh, no, I understand, really. There’s quite a lot of us, isn’t there?”

He smiled. “Aye, I’m afraid I might have bitten off more than I could chew with this.”

Brienne made a face. “Please don’t talk about eating right now. I’m so bloody hungry.” As she stared mournfully at her untouched filet mignon and mashed potatoes, Jon laughed, relaxing into his chair.

“It’s tantamount to torture, isn’t it?

Brienne snorted. “Almost as tortuous as going clothes shopping. I’ve always hated it. Finding clothes that fit me has always been a challenge.”

He chuckled. “Not a favorite pastime of mine either, I admit. So, what do you normally like to do in your free time?” he asked conversationally before grinning impishly. “Besides impersonating the king in drag.”

Laughing nervously, she shook her head and fidgeted with the silverware. “Well...I really like to fence, actually.”

He blinked. “Really? Are you any good?”

She smiled proudly. “Stormlands regional fencing champion four years running now.”

“Bloody hell,” he said, impressed, and cheersed her again with his champagne. “Good for you. You might could give me a run for my money, then.” Fencing was another one of his useless skills as a prince.

After sipping her champagne, Brienne continued, “I guess I’ve always preferred activities like that over more traditionally feminine pursuits.” She looked doubtful. “I suppose that wouldn’t make me a very good fit for a princess, would it?”

He shrugged and laughed. “Who cares? I’ve done everything expected of me, and yet, according to my father, I’m not a very good fit for a prince, either.”

Shaking her head, she went slightly pink. “Honestly, I think you’re everything a woman could want in a prince.”

He stifled a derisive snort. She clearly hadn’t been reading the tabloids. “I appreciate that, thank you.”

She hesitated then soldiered on bravely. “I think...I think that’s what I like about you most. You’re kind, and you don’t give a fig about traditions and conventions and—and—what other people think. When I’m around you, I feel like I can be myself.” Her blush deepened. “I think—I think I might be falling for you.”

At her declaration, he went cold all over. Shit. Shit shit shit shit. Bloody buggering shit.

This, this was exactly what he’d been afraid of. He’d thought, hoped, most of the women here understood this was all bollocks, a way for them to get their SAG card or secure a face-to-face with a record label exec or whatever the hell the next step was in their grand dreams of stardom.

He should have realized Brienne was different. Too...pure and earnest. It was why he genuinely liked her and wanted to get to know her better—as a friend. Now she’d gone and fallen in love with him when he had no intention of pursuing anything romantic with her. And it was his fault, completely. What had he expected, awarding her so many bloody blue roses and dates? Of course, she’d think he reciprocated her feelings.

Fucking hell. He was a bastard. And he had to end this before she fell in any deeper.

Grim-faced, he set his champagne flute down. “Brienne…” he started solemnly, and her face fell, the hope in her eyes flaming out completely. Yep. He was a complete and utter arsehole.

Taking a deep breath, he surged onward. “I think you’re a wonderful person, truly, and I am honored to have gotten to know you through this experience. But...I have to be honest in that I just...I can’t see a future between us. And it would be really...really unfair to lead you on, letting you think that I feel the same way, when I don’t think that I ever will.” He cringed, kicking himself for the bluntness of his words. “What I mean is, I just don’t think there is enough time for me to...get to that point.”

Tears shone in her eyes when he met her gaze. Her face crumpled, and he immediately sat forward to hug her, hoping to at least spare her the indignity of crying on camera. She let out a muffled sob on his shoulder but tried to choke it back. Helplessly, he found himself babbling, “Gods, I’m sorry, Brienne. I’m so sorry. I never wanted to hurt you.” He meant it, truly. Hopefully, a little pain now would spare her a lot of pain later.

Brienne cried on his shoulder for a few minutes, and he rubbed her back soothingly, giving her time to collect herself. Inwardly, he cursed himself, and Tyrion, for talking him into this bloody mess in the first place. Finding “love” on a TV show—what a fucking absurd idea, honestly.

Finally, as her tears subsided, Brienne made a move to pull away, and he let her, keeping his hand on her arm. “Are you OK?” he asked, knowing it was a stupid question.

But she nodded bravely. “I’ll be fine. Thank you for your honesty,” she croaked, red-faced and snot-nosed. He took his napkin and handed it to her, which she used to wipe her eyes and nose.

“Please. Don’t feel like you have to thank me for anything. If you wanted to punch me in the dick right now, I would completely understand.”

With a watery smile, she shook her head. “No. The last thing I need right now is to be arrested by the White Cloaks,” she joked weakly.

He scoffed. “The royal guards are a bunch of useless prigs, trust me.”

She let out a juddering breath. “I guess...I guess I should go, then.”

Nodding soberly, he stood. “Let me walk you out.” The blue rose remained abandoned on the table as he led her from the room, the cameras following. From out of frame, a PA directed them to a limo that waited nearby to shuttle the rejected suitor back to Highgarden.

Two more limos were parked nearby, one for him and one for the women who hadn’t been cut. Jon spotted Sandor waiting outside his limo, enviously smoking a cigarette, and shot daggers at him. Bloody arsehole had been holding out on him this whole time.

At her limo, Jon hugged Brienne one last time before opening the door for her. After she climbed inside, he kissed her cheek in farewell then shut the door before stepping back on the curb. Of course, cameras were there to catch the whole maudlin moment. He watched the limo slowly pull away, and once it had driven off, he sighed wearily. The throbbing behind his eyes had returned, and he dug his thumb and forefinger into his eye sockets in an attempt to ward off the tension headache that had been building since his argument with Daenerys.

Varys seemed to appear at his side out of thin air, scaring the shit out of him. “Seven hells!” Jon bleated. “No wonder Olenna calls you the Spider.”

“Sorry,” Varys murmured. “I’m sure that was very difficult for you.”

Jon gave him a droll look. “No, whatever gave you that idea?” He rubbed his forehead again. “Is this night over? Can I leave yet?”

“Almost. We need you to let the other women know what happened first.”

He groaned. “Fuck me.” Dragging his feet, he turned and headed back to the orchard where the women waited. When he finally reached them, they seemed confused by Brienne’s absence. Stopping before them, he cleared his throat.

“Brienne is on her way back to Highgarden, where she will be packing up her things and leaving. I had to make the difficult decision to send her home. I’m sure you’ll understand if I’m not quite up for any more company tonight. I hope you ladies have a good night. I’ll see you at the rose ceremony tomorrow.”

They stared at him, stunned into silence. He didn’t bother waiting for them to digest the news, just turned and stalked away, back to his limo. Behind him, they finally stirred, and Cersei’s sharp words drifted behind him.

“Frankly, it’s about time he got rid of her. Watching the two of them together was always a bit like watching a little boy run after his mum. It was embarrassing, really.”

Her remark was apparently the last straw for Daenerys, whose nerves were no doubt frayed by the night’s events. “Oh, shove it up your arse, Cersei,” she snapped, in a very inelegant manner unbefitting a princess. Jon would have turned back around just to watch the inevitable fight, if he wasn’t desperately fiending for a nicotine fix.

Instead, as the women’s voices rose in volume behind him, he picked up his pace, hoping he could reach Sandor before he finished his cigarette.

Bobby B Productions
“Westeros’ Most Eligible Bachelor”
Tape #095

Partial transcripts of
one-on-one interviews with contestants
[June 6, 2019; 9:12 p.m.]

Littlefinger: We’re so heartbroken to see you go, Brienne.

Brienne: [tearfully] I’m sad to go. But...Jon has to follow his heart, of course. I get it.

Littlefinger: And you think that’s what he’s doing? Following his heart, by keeping women like Cersei here?

Brienne: I guess...I guess he sees himself with someone more like her, yes.

Littlefinger: Why do you think he would cut you but keep Cersei?

Brienne: I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going through his head, honestly.

Littlefinger: Cersei’s been rather cruel to you and the others, hasn’t she? Do you think he realizes that?

Brienne: Maybe not. Maybe he doesn’t know what she’s really like.

Littlefinger: Or maybe he does know, and he just doesn’t care.

Brienne: No, I don’t think that’s true. Jon is...he’s been very nice to me.

Littlefinger: [humming thoughtfully] Has he, though? Cersei has said many nasty things about the other women in front of him. Has he ever done anything to censure her?

Brienne: [long pause] I guess he really hasn’t done anything, no.

Littlefinger: Why do you think that is?

Brienne: I don’t know. [sniffling] I guess he’s not really the man I thought he was. [wiping eyes] Maybe he’s as bad as they all say he is. [crying in earnest] And I’m just a bloody fool for falling for it, like always.

Varys: You don’t seem so surprised by Jon cutting Brienne.

Cersei: Please. I’m only surprised she lasted this long.

Varys: Why is that?

Cersei: Do I really need to say it? I think we all know she’s not the kind of woman Jon normally goes for.

Varys: And who does he normally go for?

Cersei: [smirking] Well, we’ve all seen the rags, haven’t we? But aside from the obvious, Jon clearly likes a woman who can kick his arse. And I don’t mean physically. Of course, he doesn’t want to date someone who actually looks like she could kick his arse. Can you imagine that beast of a woman in the royal family portrait? [shuddering] Blech.

Varys: You and Jon had quite an intense discussion tonight. What happened?

Daenerys: [blowing out a breath] It was just...a long overdue airing of grievances, I suppose.

Varys: About?

Daenerys: [pause] I left Westeros to do some work in Essos six years ago and was obviously a bit MIA for a while.

Varys: [chuckling] Forgive me, but there seemed to be a bit more to it than that...

Daenerys: [fidgeting with earring] I was just...[tense pause][redirecting] I understand why he’s angry with me. He didn’t expect me to be gone so long. I didn’t expect to be either. I just...

Varys: Why were you gone so long?

Daenerys: My advocacy work really picked up, and I didn’t want to just abandon it.

Varys: [murmuring sympathetically] Of course not. But you didn’t let him know that?

Daenerys: [shaking her head] I did. It was got complicated. [struggling][eyes watering] Things happened. I don’t know. I didn’t know how to deal—I didn’t know what—


Varys: Forgive me. What things? What happened?

Daenerys: [covering her face] [muffled] I don’t know. I don’t know. Maybe he’s right. I don’t know what’s different now. Nothing. I shouldn’t be here. I don’t, I don’t deserve to be here. [quiet sobbing]

A persistent knocking at the door of his guesthouse rudely dragged Jon from a much-needed sleep, which had been helped along by a generous helping of whiskey the night before. He groaned in agony, silently willing the intruder to go away, but the knocking began again.

“Bloody hell,” he grunted, finally throwing the covers back to sit up. He checked the time on the alarm clock and growled to himself. Only eight in the fucking morning. He stood and scratched his balls as he scrounged through the mess on his floor until he came up with a pair of sweatpants to throw on. The knocking came again, louder this time.

“Hold your fucking twat!” he yelled angrily. If it was Pod or one of the producers, he was going to punt their overeager arse into the hedge maze. After the rose ceremony last night, Olenna had promised him a chill morning, free of any obligations. What the hell could they want this bloody early?

It’d been two days since he sent Brienne packing, and last night he’d had to cut another woman, too. Admittedly, eliminating Meera hadn’t been quite as brutal, as he hadn’t gotten to know her the way he had Brienne, but having to look woman after woman in the face as he rejected them was starting to wear him thin. Usually, they just got the hint when Sandor escorted them from his hotel room without Jon having to deal with it.

As he stomped to the door, he could make out the silhouette of his visitor through the glass panel on the door but couldn’t tell who it was yet. Just as the knocking started up again, he flung the door open. “What the fuck—” The rest of his accusation died on his tongue.

The beautiful, familiar blonde who stood on his doorstep crooked a knowing smile at him. “Hi, Jon.”

He blinked, then blinked again, utterly gobsmacked.


Chapter Text

wmeb mb

Red Keep
September 26, 2015

Checking his reflection for what he was sure was the twentieth time in the last hour alone, Jon tugged at the collar of his black velvet doublet. “Bloody hell, this thing feels like it’s choking me.”

Not only did he feel uncomfortable, but he looked bloody ridiculous, too—from the ruby-studded three-headed dragon on the back of his jacket down to the silk stockings and knee-length braies. The traditional wear for royal weddings hadn’t been updated since the days of Aegon’s Conquest, apparently. Honestly, even as a prince, who’d want to fuck him in this getup?

He undid the top two pearl buttons at his throat and suddenly felt like he could breathe again. “Gods, that’s better.”

Aegon came up beside him, regarding him with mild amusement. “I’m the one getting married today. If anyone should be panicking, it’s me.”

As was tradition for the groom on his wedding day, Aegon was hiding out in one of the vestibules of the Great Sept, waiting for the cue to head into the sept-proper to finally be wed. Jon, as Best Man, would accompany him to the altar to stand at his side, the rings Aegon and Arianne would exchange after a tediously long ceremony safely tucked away in the pocket on his doublet.

Jon turned away from the mirror to pace. “I’m not panicking,” he sulked. He was totally panicking, but he was loath to admit why. “I just don’t know why I have to dress like a pompous arse for your wedding.”

Aegon shrugged, checking his own reflection in the large, antique mirror. “Tradition. Personally, I think it looks pretty sharp,” he said, smoothing down his white-blonde hair. Since it was his brother’s wedding day and all, Jon refrained from pointing out his attempts did nothing to hide his balding spot in the back.

Done admiring himself, Aegon crossed to the makeshift bar and poured some whiskey into a couple of crystal tumblers. (Alcohol was explicitly prohibited in the Great Sept, but, well, no one was going to deny the crown prince on his wedding day.) When his brother offered him one, Jon accepted it gratefully and knocked it back in one swig. Aegon made a face. “Please don’t get pissed before Arianne and I have even exchanged our vows. How’s it going to look if the Best Man has to puke during the ring exchange?”

“I’m fine.” Scowling, Jon took the opportunity to splash some more whiskey into his tumbler. “Father’s already given me the ‘Don’t embarrass the family’ lecture, so you can spare me. I just need something to take the edge off. Seven hells, this thing is going to be broadcast live to millions.”

“So?” Aegon sipped his whiskey, at a much more responsible pace. “Don’t you love the spotlight? What’s got your knickers in a twist, exactly? Is today making you think about tying the knot with Val?”

Jon nearly choked on his mouthful of whiskey. Thank the gods she wasn’t here to hear that. He coughed to clear his windpipe. “Mate, we’re nowhere near ready to walk down the aisle. For fuck’s sake, we’ve never even talked about marriage.”

His brother chuckled. “Really? You’ve been together for nearly two years now. I assure you, you might not be thinking about it, but she definitely is. Especially today. It’s only a matter of time before Father gives you the talk about doing your duty, as he likes to say.

Jon snorted into his tumbler. “Father can fuck right off, too,” he muttered, taking another generous swig.

The door opened then, and Val poked her head inside. Aegon chuffed. “Well, someone’s ears must be burning.” Jon cut his brother a murderous glare as his girlfriend darted inside, quickly shutting the door so none of the guests could catch a glimpse of the groom before the ceremony.

“What do you mean?” she asked with a suspicious smile as she sauntered up to Jon. “What were you two talking about?”

“Nothing, love,” Jon interjected hurriedly. “Just how beautiful you look today.” And she did, in her pale blue chiffon lace dress that hugged her breasts and waist before draping loosely to the ground. Her honey-blonde hair was pinned to one side, hanging over her shoulder in elegant waves.

She smiled prettily at him. “Thank you. You look pretty smart yourself,” she said, pecking his lips as he wrapped his arm around her. “You, too, Aegon.”

Jon snorted. “We look bloody insane.”

She shook her head, speaking to Aegon. “Just wait until you see Arianne. Your heart is going to stop.”

Aegon grinned, looking for all the world like a little boy on his name day. It was positively sickening. “Gods, I can’t wait. How much longer, do you know?”

“Soon, I think. Everyone’s ready,” Val said, taking the whiskey from Jon’s hand to sip. “Speaking of which, the princess has finally arrived.”

Jon stiffened, a hot flush igniting through his whole body at just that barest of mentions. “Daenerys?” he said faintly. He didn’t even notice when Val handed the glass back to him.

“Oh, good, about bloody time,” Aegon griped good-naturedly. “She cut it pretty damn close, didn’t she? Is the Khal with her?”

“I think so. I haven’t seen him yet, though,” Val said. “I was just walking out when she popped in to see Arianne.”

Aegon and Val continued discussing other wedding guests, but Jon didn’t hear the rest of their conversation, their chatter fading to just a distant buzz in his ears as his heart began to thrash wildly in his chest.

Daenerys was here. Of course, he’d known she would be—he’d been able to think of little else since the king had confirmed she would be flying back from Essos to attend Aegon’s wedding. He’d been dreading it, even as he’d obsessed over seeing her again.

Two years. That was how long it’d been since he’d seen her last, since she’d left him with nothing but a fucking “Dear Jon” email.

He’d fantasized about this day often, what he would say to her—if he’d say anything at all. She’d not responded to his emails or his texts or his calls, and a small, petty part of him wanted to ignore her just as she’d ignored him all this time. A bigger part of him, however, wanted to corner her somewhere and yell at her, demand a better reason for her dumping him than the half-arsed copout she’d given him of “I think it’s for the best that we end this now.”

But then she would know how badly she’d hurt him. She’d think he was still hurting—and he very much was not, not anymore. He’d moved on, just as she clearly had—right into Khal fucking Drogo’s bed.


Val’s voice pulled him from his dark thoughts. He grunted absently, glancing down at her, and she frowned. “You alright? You’re squeezing me kind of hard.”

Blinking, he relaxed his grip on her side, realizing he’d tried to curl his fingers into a fist. “Aye, sorry, I’m fine.” He flashed her a wan smile in reassurance, and she returned it, oblivious to his inner turmoil.

He had moved on, dammit, with a gorgeous, devoted woman who was absolutely mad about him, the Others take Daenerys and her blowhard Khal.

“He’s just worried about disappointing daddy,” Aegon said mockingly, flashing a smirk when Jon scowled.

His nerves already rankled, Jon was in no mood for his brother’s ribbing. “I’m just worried about how you’re going to handle being upstaged by your much better-looking brother on your own wedding day,” he shot back.

“Sometimes I wonder how you manage to share a bed with both Jon and his ego,” Aegon remarked to Val, who laughed.

Jon smiled cruelly. “Been thinking about me in bed, have you, brother?”

Aegon glared at him, but before they could come to blows, the door opened again. Jon’s eyes darted toward it—and he nearly lost his grip on the tumbler in his hand, his mouth dropping open despite himself.

Daenerys was suddenly there, peeking into the room. When she spotted Aegon, a wide smile began to spread across her face, but it immediately faltered the second her gaze slid to Jon. It was only a split second, so fast he nearly missed it, but then she was smiling wider, forcing her gaze back to Aegon. “Egg!” she cried with more excitement than the moment warranted, striding toward him in her impossibly high stilettos, the skirt of her pale-mint, floor-length dress flowing around her legs, the slit giving a tempting peek of toned calf and thigh.

Aegon laughed, opening his arms for her. “Dany! I’m so happy you came!” he said as he hugged her tightly.

Jon couldn’t breathe, his unblinking eyes stinging as he witnessed their reunion. With her silver-blonde hair pulled back in soft, intricate braids, her skin kissed golden by the Essosi sun, Daenerys was every bit as beautiful as she’d been two years ago—no, even more so. The tabloid pictures never could do her beauty justice.

He had prepared himself for this moment for months, swore to himself that he would play it cool and indifferent—and instead he was gawping at her like a bloody pubescent boy.

Gods, he felt fucking sick.

Daenerys pulled away from the embrace, and her smile looked more genuine than it had a moment ago. “Of course, I came. I wouldn’t miss my own nephew’s wedding!”

“Is that so?” The words were out of his mouth before he could stop himself. It didn’t even sound like his voice, so gravelly and rough, dripping with bitterness. At his unexpected comment, her head swiveled in his direction, her eyes going wide. She seemed as surprised as he was that he was even talking to her.

For some reason, that realization enraged him even more, and he lashed out again without much thought. “Well, I certainly hope you’ll be able to fit your other nephew’s nuptials into your very busy schedule.”

Val went stiff against him, a sound of surprise catching in her throat. Daenerys stood frozen, too, her eyelashes beating against her cheeks as she blinked at him rapidly. Her face turned ashen, and Jon took a twisted sense of pleasure in finally wiping that insouciant smile from her face.

“Oh?” Daenerys breathed out. Her hands fluttered uselessly in the air before she brought one up to her throat, and her eyes flicked between him and Val. “Did I somehow miss the announcement for your—for your engagement?” she stumbled over the question, an uncharacteristic verbal slip in her usually well-manicured public persona that had him feeling momentarily victorious.

Tightening his arm around Val’s waist, Jon gave Daenerys a hard smile that was more teeth than was natural. “No, of course not,” he said easily, glancing down at his girlfriend, who looked as shocked as Daenerys—but decidedly more pleased, if the blush on her cheeks was any indication. In his periphery, he could see Aegon’s expression of utter bewilderment. “But I have a feeling it’s only a matter of time. Don’t you agree, love?”

Val’s laugh was high-pitched and strained. “Well—I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to it,” she demurred, her blush deepening. Jon smiled at her but quickly looked to Daenerys again, eager for her reaction. What he found was disappointing.

She only smiled, whatever vulnerability he’d glimpsed just a moment ago now gone. “Of course. I know a union between you two would make Rhaegar very happy,” she said diplomatically.

Her response cut deep. “Just as I’m sure you with Drogo pleases him greatly,” he retorted nastily. “Speaking of, where is that beloved Khal of yours? I know he wouldn’t miss such a prime networking opportunity as a royal wedding.”

It was a pointedly hostile question that had Aegon and Val shifting uncomfortably, suddenly aware of the tension in the room. Daenerys, however, didn’t rise to Jon’s bait. “Drogo has already taken his seat with the guests,” she said, turning back to Aegon. Effectively dismissing Jon. He ground his teeth together. “I just wanted to come see you before everything started and wish you and Arianne all the love and happiness in the world on this auspicious day.”

“You’re staying for the reception, aren’t you?” Aegon asked after he’d hugged her again.

“I’ll be there,” Daenerys agreed, then she turned back to Jon and Val, her smile polite and aloof. “Val, it was so nice to see you again. You as well, Jon. If you’ll excuse me, I should find Drogo before the ceremony starts.”

With that, she quickly left the room, Jon’s eyes hawkishly tracking her the entire way. When the door shut behind her, he fought the impulse to hurl his crystal tumbler across the room and watch it shatter against the door. Instead, he drained the last of his whiskey, grateful for the burn in his chest.

In the awkward silence that followed, Aegon huffed. “Family reunions,” he said wryly, shaking his head at Jon. “Try not to pick a fight on my wedding day, will you?”

Jon glowered. “What fight? I’m not picking a fight.” Aegon just shook his head again, and when Jon glanced at Val, she was regarding him oddly, too. Heat crept into his face. “What?” he barked, agitated.

Her eyebrows shot up in surprise, and she pressed her lips together. “Nothing,” she said tightly. “I just hope when you actually propose, you’ll not sound quite so put out about it.”

Aegon cleared his throat, clearly discomfited, and Jon flinched at the accusation. Immediately, he felt contrite over his behavior. Val was sweet and kind, and she loved him, just as he loved her. She didn’t deserve to be used like a cudgel in a spat with his aunt-slash-secret-ex-lover.

He forced a conciliatory smile. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to just blurt it out like that. It’s just—today, this wedding, got me thinking about our future. That’s all.”

At that, Val eased in his embrace and smiled shyly. “I get it,” she said softly, then she lifted her head to kiss him again. Smiling wider, she disentangled herself from his side. “I guess I should go take my seat as well. I’ll see you after the ceremony.”

Once she was gone, Aegon gave Jon a look that instantly had him on edge again. “Stop looking at me like that,” he growled.

“You’re a bloody mess, you know that?” was all his brother said just before the coordinator burst into the room to retrieve them for the start of the ceremony, mercifully saving Jon from himself.

June 8, 2019

Jon felt like he’d just been dick-punched by a ghost.


Said ghost smirked, clearly amused at having caught him flat-footed. “Missed me?”

Oh, no. Jon was not awake enough for this bullshit. “What the fuck are you doing here?” he demanded.

Arching an eyebrow, she planted a hand on her hip. “Well, that’s one way to greet the woman you’d once planned to marry.”

“I never—” He stopped abruptly, finally noticing Thoros the cameraman some feet away with a PA, capturing every moment of this made-for-television reunion. He stiffened with understanding, his bleary mind racing ahead of him as he finally pieced it together. Of course. This had Olenna’s hands all over it. Despite her reassurances, he bloody knew she’d find some way to get him back for cutting her beloved granddaughter.

In an attempt to wrangle in his temper, he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Forgive me, Val,” he said evenly. “You just surprised the hell out of me, and I’m still not quite awake.”

“Yes, you were never much of a morning person, were you?” she teased.

He forced a sheepish chuckle. “You’d certainly know better than most. It’s good to see you.”

When he stepped out to hug her, she embraced him readily. When he tried to release her, she held on, and he found himself standing there hugging her long after etiquette would have dictated for an awkward run-in with his ex who, up until this moment, he’d been pretty sure hated his guts. What the fuck was happening?

Finally, she pulled away, and Jon stepped back, scratching his bare chest self-consciously. “Do you want to come inside?” he asked. He’d really rather she didn’t, but he supposed he didn’t have much choice in the matter.

The PA made them wait outside while he rushed inside and hurriedly straightened up all Jon’s belongings and dirty clothes scattered across the floor (some even draped over book shelves and lamps from when he’d drunkenly flung them at some point). Then he gave them the go-ahead, immediately fading from frame.

Val followed Jon into his guest house, Thoros naturally trailing them to the couch. “What are you doing here?” he asked once they were seated. Other than trying to secure another book advance, he refrained from accusing.

Val tossed her honey-blonde hair over her shoulder, and he narrowed his eyes suspiciously. The hair toss had been her go-to flirting move when they’d first started dating. She’d done it so much on their first date, he’d worried she was going to pull a bloody muscle.

“I heard you were looking for a wife,” she said, and his heart nearly fell out of his arsehole. She smiled knowingly. “So I thought you could use my help.”

It took him a moment to understand. “Fuck off—you’re here to help me pick a wife?” he asked, simultaneously relieved and horrified.

“Well, as someone who dated you for four years, I think I have some unique insight into what kind of partner you’re looking for.”

Incredulous, he stared at her. “Are you serious?”

She laughed. “Why is that so hard to believe?”

“Val, you wrote a tell-all about me and our relationship,” he reminded her harshly.

She pouted. “Are you still mad about that?”

He scowled. “You called me, and I quote, ‘a perpetual man-child burdened by a father’s impossible standards he’ll never live up to and which have so stunted him, he’s unable to allow himself to be emotionally vulnerable with anyone.’”

Her eyebrows shot up as she let out a nervous laugh. “Well. I’m flattered. I didn’t know you’d even read my book. ” At his glower, she waved it off. “Anyway, that was a while ago.”

“The book only just came out—”

“I think you and I have both moved on since I wrote that,” she continued. “And clearly, you’ve changed, if you’re here looking for a wife.” She smiled at him. “All water under the bridge now.”

Grunting, he folded his arms over his chest. “And how do you think you’re going to help me, exactly?”

“I’m going to talk to the women to get a feel for who’s really here for you and who’s here for the wrong reasons.”

He snorted. “I’m still not convinced my ex is the best person to help me with my love life.”

Tossing her hair again, she shrugged. “Truthfully, I’m not sure I am either. But they asked me, and I thought it might be fun.”

Silently, he brooded: You thought free publicity, is more like it.

Val continued, more hesitant this time, “And...I thought it might be a good opportunity for us to deal with what happened between us and...really, finally put it behind us.”

That surprised him. “Really?”

Primly, she folded her hands in her lap. “I know there’s been some bad blood between us. Maybe I didn’t handle our break up in the best way possible.”

He snorted; that was a bloody understatement. When he realized she was staring at him expectantly, he sighed and scrubbed a hand down his beard.

“Aye, I suppose I didn’t either,” he conceded. At her pointed eyebrow raise, he winced. Aware of the cameras, he added grudgingly, “Nor prior to the breakup. I know I...made things pretty difficult for you at the end there.”

Her face softened, her lips pressing into a small smile. “Thank you. I appreciate you admitting that.”

He grunted again, and her smile widened. “Well. I know I’ve kind of dropped in on you unexpectedly, so I’ll give you time to fully wake up and realize what you’ve gotten yourself into.”

He huffed as they both stood. “Thanks.” He would definitely be having a pointed talk with Olenna in the very near future. Val stared at him for a moment longer, a fond smile playing at her lips. “What?” he asked, and she shook her head.

“You just seem different.” She laughed. “Maybe filming a reality TV show has helped shape you into a better person.”

Uncomfortable with the praise—backhanded as it was—Jon deflected with a scoff. “Well, I’d certainly be the first.”

She laughed again, tossing her hair. Seriously, what was she doing? “It is really nice to see you again, Jon. Oddly enough, I’ve missed you.”

He coughed into his fist. “Aye. It’s good to see you, too, Val. I’ve, ah, missed you, too.”

After he walked her to the door, she turned and hugged him again. “I’ll see you later, I suppose,” she said with a grin, then she left, following the pathway that led away from his guest house. Thoros stayed behind to capture Jon’s reaction. In a total moment of petulance, he tossed the camera a glare over his shoulder and flipped it off.

Thoros jerked away from the viewfinder with a wounded expression on his face. “Hey, man, what was that for? I’m just doing my job here,” he complained, finally slinking out the door.

“It’s for Olenna. And also you’re a bloody enabler,” Jon snapped. Just then, finally alerted by the commotion happening outside, Sandor emerged from his wing of the guest house. At his bodyguard’s confused look, Jon turned his glare on him. “And what the fuck do I even pay you for, if you can’t keep my bloody ex-girlfriend away from me?”

Sandor grunted. “The crown pays me,” he said with a shrug. Scowling, Jon pivoted into his guest house and slammed the door shut in both their faces.

Following the Val bombshell (and a quick shower and change of clothes), Jon had gone in search of Olenna, but she wasn’t in the control room where she normally was. One of the PAs told him she was in the castle with the producers preparing for the next segment, but as Jon had no idea where Val had gotten off to, and he wasn’t keen on running into her again just yet, he sulked back to his guest house. There, Pod waited for him, coffee in hand, to take him to wardrobe and makeup.

As Ellaria was rubbing some moisturizer into his T-zone, Olenna finally decided to show her face. In the mirror, he watched her swoop into the trailer, a rolled-up call sheet clenched in her fist. Surprisingly, Tyrion was with her, apparently having returned from King’s Landing. And, judging by the guilty look on his face, he’d been brought up to date on recent developments.

Gently shooing Ellaria’s hands away from his face, Jon spun around in the makeup chair to glower at Olenna. “You must be so proud of yourself,” he sneered, heedless of how ridiculous he looked with the alligator clips in his hair and the makeup bib tucked into his shirt collar.

She gave him an innocent look. “Darling, I’m a 70-year-old woman who’s the EP of the highest rated show on television. I am quite proud of myself, thank you.”

Jon ignored her. “I know I embarrassed you by dumping Margaery on TV, but did it really warrant dragging my ex onto the show just to put me in my place?” Ellaria began dabbing foundation across his forehead, and he swallowed an annoyed huff. It was very hard to be taken seriously when someone was putting him in makeup.

Olenna rolled her eyes, trying not to smile. “Please. I’m not as petty as all that.” Jon closed his eyes for a moment so Ellaria could sweep the sponge under his eyebrows. “If you watched the show, you’d know it’s common practice to bring the bachelor’s exes on, especially if an ex is already known to the audience.”

“So why not fill me in on your plan?” he demanded. “Instead of letting me be blindsided by a drive-by run-in with Val?”

At that, she let her smirk slip free. “Well, I’m still trying to make a TV show here, darling. There’s gotta be some surprises.”

Huffing, Jon turned his glare on Tyrion. “Did you know about this?”

Tyrion held up his hands. “Of course not.” He winced slightly. “However, it’s not that surprising. Your contract did stipulate that the show reserved the right to include anyone from your life, past or present, as they deemed pertinent to filming.”

“You said that probably just meant the royal family, not a woman who wrote a tell-all about how much of a knob I am!”

“Love, try not to move your head,” Ellaria warned him, and Jon clamped his lips shut, dutifully holding still as she stippled the foundation along the edge of his beard.

Tyrion sighed. “Look, what’s done is done. I think this could be a good thing, actually.”

Jon snorted. “Oh, really? And how do you figure that?”

“The public obviously doesn’t buy that things are copacetic between you and Val. This could be a way to reinforce the idea that there’s no hard feelings there, and the media can finally drop it.”

Jon gave him a sidelong look. “When has the media ever dropped anything?”

Tyrion conceded his point. “Sure, they’ll still talk about it, but at least this way you both will be seen on screen together being pleasant to each other. She’ll help you find your next partner, in a sense giving her blessing, and finally putting your relationship with her to rest.” Tyrion smiled like the bloody sap he was. “It’s a lovely sentiment, really.”

Jon wasn’t buying it. Val wasn’t completely self-serving, and of course she had her good qualities—he understood that he was largely the reason their relationship had crashed and burned the way it had—but the idea that she would voluntarily assist him in proposing to another woman was fucking laughable. Jon couldn’t even see himself returning the favor; not that he wanted to marry Val, but he’d be damned if he helped her get laid. No sane human being would do that for an ex. She and Olenna were up to something, he would bet on it.

“So how is she going to be helping me, exactly?” he asked, turning his skeptical look on Olenna.

Sitting down in an empty makeup chair beside him, Olenna handed him the call sheet and crossed one leg over the other. “You’re going to introduce her to the remaining suitors. Don’t worry, we'll tell you exactly what to say,” she said, cutting him off when she saw the alarmed look on his face. Ellaria turned away to rummage through her supplies, and Jon used the opportunity to flip through the pages in his hands.

Olenna continued, “You’ll go on a group date with four of them while Val talks with the other four. Then once that group date is done, you’ll go on a date with the other four, and Val will talk to the rest of them. She’ll give you her opinions about each woman, and her preferred choice for you will be your next one-on-one. You two will hug, have a little heart-to-heart, wish each other well, yada yada. Trust me, the audience will eat it up.” She sniffed, picking at a piece of lint on her suit pants. “It’s all very standard.”

At the thought of Val talking to the other women, specifically Daenerys, Jon felt queasy. She had never warmed to Daenerys, at least not while they’d been dating. He’d always assumed her wariness had been rooted in jealousy—because Daenerys was a princess, popular with the masses, and because Jon had talked an awful lot about her, even when she’d been with Drogo. Especially because she’d been with Drogo. He’d been jealous, too, always seeking out news about her, reading stories in the magazines and online, asking for updates from the rest of his family, all the while making snide comments and disparaging quips about her thinking she was “too good for the lot of them.”

He’d thought himself so clever in disguising his morbid, desperate curiosity with feigned disdain for Daenerys and her rejection of court life in favor of activism abroad, but in hindsight he could see just how pathetically obvious he’d really been.

And if he were truly being honest with himself, his anger with Val probably had a lot to do with just how well she’d had him pegged. Her analysis of him in her book hit far too close to home.

“So, what do you think?” Olenna prodded.

Jon looked up from the call sheet, arching his eyebrow. “Oh, now it matters what I think?”

“Don’t pout. It’s not becoming of a prince,” she quipped, glancing at her watch. “I just want to know how much more I’m going to have to twist your arm so we can stay on schedule today.”

Jon started to pout then immediately caught himself. Damn the old bag. “Doesn’t seem like I have much of a choice. But I’m warning you, with Val, it’s not going to be as simple or as straightforward as you seem to think,” he warned, but Olenna just smiled.

“That’s precisely what I’m hoping for, darling.”

The remaining eight women were seated on the large sectional couch in the solar, waiting for him. Likewise, cameras awaited him, ready to film the moment he introduced his ex-girlfriend to the women he was currently seeing (yes, plural, as fucked as that was). Oberyn stood before them, doing his scripted set-up for this segment, and at his cue, Jon strode into the solar to prompted cheers, a practiced smile in place. Taking his spot beside Oberyn, he faced the suitors.

“Hello, ladies,” he greeted. They echoed him, big smiles on their faces. Only Daenerys’ expression was more subdued than the others. She was snuggled on the couch between Missandei and Yara, the former’s head resting on her shoulder. There was an exhaustion in her eyes, too; it’d been there since the last rose ceremony. Filming was obviously taking a toll on her. But when they made eye contact, her smile widened into something more genuine.

He fought a grimace. Bloody hell, he hated that he was about to wipe it from her face entirely.

Jon took a deep breath and forged on. “I hope you all had a good night’s sleep. I think you’re going to need it today.” He affected a sheepish chuckle when the women exchanged intrigued glances. “As Oberyn told you, I have a bit of a surprise in store for you all.” And no one had been more surprised than him. Clearing his throat, he looked off to the right, where Val waited, just out of sight, and lifted his hand out. “I’d like you all to meet someone very dear to me.”

There was a collective intake of breath when Val entered the room, striding toward him with a toothy smile. Clearly, she’d been to hair and makeup, as well: her honey-blonde hair bounced around her shoulders in professionally styled waves, her blouse and jeans from only that morning abandoned in favor of a summery cut-out dress that bared her long legs and her trim waist. It should be surprising to exactly no one that she’d dabbled in modeling prior to snagging herself a prince.

When she took his outstretched hand, he pulled her into a hug and kissed each cheek. Then he faced the women, whose faces were perfect masks of horror. Honestly, it was quite comical.

“Ladies, I’d like you to meet Val Rayder, my former paramour.” Apparently, “ex-girlfriend” sounded too harsh, Olenna had explained while Jon had been memorizing the scripted introduction. (Sadly, his blithe suggestion of “soul-sucking vampiress” had been equally scorned.)

Val grinned. “Hi, ladies.” Her hand still clutched Jon’s hand, despite his attempts to discreetly extract it.

Her greeting broke the women’s joint stupor. “What the fuck?” Cersei blurted out, which went over about as well as a bomb detonating. Everyone erupted in cries of shock and disbelief, wondering what Val was doing there. In the midst of the chaos, Jon found himself looking directly at Daenerys. She didn’t join in the outrage, only stared at Val, her face frozen and paler than it’d been a moment ago.

Val just laughed, tossing her hair over her shoulder and gesturing for them to quiet down. “Don’t worry,” she assured them. “This isn’t what you think.” Finally dropping his hand, she placed her hand on Jon’s shoulder. “I promise I’m here to help you.”

She looked up at him expectantly, cueing him up to explain. “As I’m sure you’re all aware, Val and I used to date,” he began wryly.

“We all know she dumped your arse,” Yara called out loudly, making a few of the other women snicker nervously. When he pinned her with slitted eyes, she blew him a kiss.

“Aye, if you’ve ever picked up a tabloid, you probably know all the sordid details of our relationship.”

Val interjected, “Or if you’ve read my book, ‘Wildling, Out: My Tumultuous Love Affair With the Royal Family’s Spare Heir.’”

Jon cut her a sidelong look, smiling so he wouldn’t snap his teeth at her. “It does make for some captivating reading material while on the loo, I give you that,” he remarked, earning an uncomfortable laugh from the women. Val winked at him.

“Anyway, despite the rumors, Val and I remain pretty close,” he lied right through his professionally whitened teeth. “She and I were together for four years—only one of which I’ve tried to blot out with drink ever since.” He smiled, and she rolled her eyes at his ad-lib. Olenna would probably have that line cut in post, anyway.

“Always such a charmer,” Val quipped drolly.

“No one knows me quite the way Val does,” he continued, and he couldn’t help glancing at Daenerys when he said it. He didn’t miss the way she flinched, albeit almost imperceptibly. “In some ways, she knows me better than I know myself. Which is why I think she will be the best person to help me select the woman I plan to spend the rest of my life with.” The women grumbled under their breaths, clearly displeased with this twist.

“She will spend some time talking to each of you, getting to know you and, if she’s feeling charitable, passing along some advice on what it takes to date a prince. She will tell me who she thinks is the best fit to be my wife, and that woman will join me for a one-on-one date. Of course, the woman I pick at the end of this journey will be completely up to me, but I will seriously consider the things Val tells me, so I advise you to be on your best behavior,” he said with a grin.

“Of course, I’m not opposed to a little trash talk,” Val added innocently.

“Need new material for your next tell-all already?” Jon retorted, and she smiled coyly at him.

“Believe me, I have enough for a whole series.”

He clapped his hands together, eager to get this shitshow over and done with. “Anyway, the good news is that while half of you are talking to Val, the other half will be on a group date with me. You’ll all have to spend some time in the hot seat with her, but I promise I’ll try to make it worth your while.”

At that, Oberyn stepped forward to explain the logistics of the date. First up with him were Cersei, Missandei, Alys and Melisandre, while the remaining four—Daenerys, Ygritte, Yara and Alayaya—would stay behind with Val.

Jon gestured for the first women to join him, offering his arms to Cersei and Alys who nearly shoved Val out of the way just to reach him. “Good luck,” he told the other four, catching Daenerys’ eye before escorting his dates off for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres.

The rooftop terrace that spanned a good portion of the keep’s left wing had already been staged for filming earlier that morning. Finger foods had been laid out in anticipation of the dates, plated on a low table underneath a large pergola where they were directed to lounge. The second they stepped out onto the terrace, PAs handed them each a mimosa. Shaking his head, Jon shot the PA a censuring look. Apologetically, the PA snatched the mimosa out of his hand and found another serving tray where a whiskey on the rocks set, handing that to Jon instead.

“That’s better,” Jon praised, downing half of it in one swig. A little social lubricant was necessary, even this early in the day; it was going to be difficult pretending everything was normal for the cameras, while downstairs his ex was grilling his dates. Well, truthfully, he was only worried about what Val and Daenerys would say to each other; he didn’t really give a damn about the rest.

“This is gorgeous,” Alys gushed as she surveyed the terrace, from the infinity pool to the landscaping. “Oh, is that a hibiscus tree?”

“Who cares? Where’s the food?” Missandei demanded, pushing past them and making a beeline for the pergola.

Chuckling, Jon followed after her. “A woman after my own heart.” As she swept a few cheese cubes and stuffed mushrooms onto a plate, Jon plopped down on one of the couches. “Do they not feed you ladies when I’m not around?”

She cut him a look, popping a mushroom between her lips. “Only in alcohol,” she said with a mouthful, clearly not caring what he thought. No wonder Daenerys liked her.

The other women posted up on the couches around him, but they were a lot more timid about diving into the buffet with him around. He reached forward and grabbed a salmon crostini, shoving it into his mouth. “Eat, please,” he urged them after he’d swallowed.

Gratefully, Alys followed Missandei’s lead and filled up a plate of her own, but Cersei just sniffed. “Some of us no longer have the metabolism to stuff our faces like a bunch of cows,” she remarked snidely before sipping her mimosa.

Missandei snorted. “You sure have the liver of one, though,” she retorted as she speared a toothpick through a few more cheese cubes, adding them to her plate. Jon nearly choked on his second crostini. He swallowed hard before he could spew it everywhere, coughing into his hand.

Cersei glared at Missandei, and he swiftly intervened before it could devolve into a food fight. “Melisandre, you don’t want anything to eat? I’ve noticed you haven’t even touched your mimosa.”

She stared at him, mildly amused. “No. The Lord of Light’s grace is enough to sustain me.”

“Hoo, boy,” he muttered into his whiskey and finished the rest of it. He held up his empty glass for a refill, and a PA swooped in to take it. “Another—no ice this time.”

Once the PA had put another whiskey in his hand, Cersei stood up from the couch, holding out her hand to him. “Can I steal you for a minute?” she asked, and, confused, Jon took her hand, standing up with her.

“Sure. Ladies, we’ll be back. Please enjoy the food,” he told the others before he followed Cersei away from the group. Of course, a cameraman followed them. She steered him to a more secluded corner of the terrace where they sat down on a loveseat positioned around a gas fire pit. It had already been turned on, probably by the producers hoping for just a moment like this.

As they got comfortable side by side, Jon twisted his upper body to face her, draping his arm over the back of the couch behind her. “What’s up?”

Cersei smirked. “Nothing, I just wanted to have you to myself for a little bit. I find the other women so incredibly tedious.”

Jon had a hunch the feeling was mutual. “I know I’m a prince and everything, but I promise my ego isn’t so big that I can’t handle you making a friend or two while you’re here,” he said with a smile.

She scoffed. “I’m not here to make friends. I’m here for you.” She all but purred the last sentence, reaching out to run her fingers through the hair at his temple. Bad move. In this humidity, Satin had to apply a lot of product to fight the frizz in his curls.

“What about outside of this show? Surely you have friends back home,” he said, trying not to wince when her fingers tangled in his stiff curls. Cersei rolled her eyes and yanked her hand out of his hair.

“I’m a grown woman with three children, Jon. Life isn’t a beauty pageant. I’m not concerned with making sure people like me.” Swigging her mimosa, she shrugged. “My brother is my best friend, and that’s all I really need.”

Jon snorted. “Tyrion?”

She twisted her face in the nastiest expression he’d ever seen. “Gods, no. Tyrion’s a spiteful little man. I mean my twin brother, Jaime.”

“Right.” Tyrion had spoken of his older brother at some point. No surprise, he was also Tyrion’s favorite sibling.

“He and I are alike in so many ways, and not just in looks,” Cersei said. Of course, the only other person she would like would be her spitting image. “We were very close growing up. We still are. Anyone who wants to be with me would have to get his blessing.”

Jon shifted uncomfortably. He knew he didn’t have the healthiest relationship with his own family, but her co-dependency with her brother was starting to sound a little concerning. “And your children’s, I imagine.”

She blinked at him, her face blank. “What about them?”

“I imagine you’d want any man you date to get on with your children, too,” he elaborated.

“Oh, right. Of course.” She waved her hand dismissively and sipped her mimosa again. “Anyway. That’s partly why it didn’t work with my ex-husband. He and Jaime never really got along.”

Jon stifled a groan. Not that wanker ex-husband again. “Aye, it’s important that whomever you date get along with your family,” he agreed politely, and she smirked at him.

“What about your ex? Did she get along with your family?”

“Val?” Jon scoffed into his whiskey. “More than I did, truthfully.”

Her contemptuous smirk shifted into something more silky and seductive. “You don’t want to talk about her, do you? That’s alright. Neither do I. Why don’t I help take your mind off her?”

He raised his eyebrows as she leaned into him, his eyes dropping to her mouth when she pursed her lips. Then she was kissing him, her tongue sweeping into his mouth. For a moment, it was hard to forget the camera looming over them, but it really didn’t take long to get into it. He had to hand it to her; Cersei knew what she was doing. As her tongue massaged his, tasting like oranges, she rubbed his bicep, her long nails scratching through his shirt when she dragged it up to his shoulder. Fluidly setting his drink aside, he reached his arm across her lap to grasp her hip and pull her into him.

It was a long kiss, one that had him seeing Cersei in a whole new light. Don’t get him wrong—she was still absolutely a horrid human being, but at least she had one redeeming quality.

Before she could straddle his lap, Jon pulled away, gently breaking the kiss to quirk a smile at her. “Well. I think that certainly did the trick,” he said with a husky laugh.

She smiled arrogantly before whispering in his ear, “There’s more where that came from. Keep me around for overnights, and you’ll find out.”

Well. She wasn’t subtle at all, was she? Jon cleared his throat, trying to think of a tactful way to change the subject. Mercifully, Alys approached them then, a determined look on her face. “Sorry to interrupt, but can I steal you for a minute, Jon?” she asked boldly, ignoring the glare Cersei shot her.

Jon smiled and stood. “Of course,” he agreed, saying his goodbye to Cersei and grabbing his drink before leading Alys to another corner of the terrace for some privacy.

After a couple hours of chitchat (in which the remaining women, egged on by the producers, also took him aside to shoot their shot with him), the PAs returned to retrieve them for their talk with Val. Jon bid them farewell and wished them good luck—only half-joking. A moment later, the other four women were brought up to the terrace for their date with him. He tried to act casual as they approached him under the pergola, lounging on the couch like he wasn’t positively vibrating to find out what they’d discussed with Val. He got up to greet them each with a kiss on the cheek, starting with Alayaya. Daenerys was the last in the receiving line; when Jon tried to catch her gaze, she ducked it and quickly sat down on the couch farthest from him, putting some distance between them.

That definitely wasn’t a good sign. “How did it go?” he asked the group at large.

Yara groaned, popping her feet up on the corner of the table. “Your ex is one tough bitch,” she complained then grinned. “I like her.”

“No wonder,” Ygritte interjected as she sat down beside Yara. She smiled at Jon, blue eyes dancing. “She’s a Free Folk through and through. Tough bitch is in our DNA. They used to call our female ancestors spearwives, you know. They were warriors, just like the men.”

Alayaya made a sound of disgust. “Not this again. Didn’t we hear enough of this downstairs?” She rolled her eyes. “We get it: You’re a strong, independent woman.”

Yara cackled as Ygritte shot Alayaya a pissy look. Jon chuckled, too. “Val was—is—very proud of her heritage,” he said. “The Free Folk are a noble people. I learned a lot from them while we were dating.” It had been crucial in securing agreements between the crown and the indigenous groups in the North.

“You clearly have a type, Jon Snow,” Ygritte said, smirking at him.

“I suppose you’re right,” he said with a placid smile, ignoring the loathed moniker. He glanced at Daenerys again, but her eyes were distant as she fidgeted with her earring. “So. What did you all discuss? Only good things, I hope.” He grinned cheekily to downplay how desperate he sounded.

Winking, Yara pretended to zip her lips. “Sorry, love. What happens with the ex-girlfriend stays with the ex-girlfriend.”

“You know, she’s not as bad as I thought she would be,” Ygritte mused. “Not like the media made her out to be.”

That just meant Tyrion hadn’t done his job well enough. “You never can trust the tabloids,” he agreed, and, in a desperate bid to get Daenerys talking, added drolly, “Right, Dany?”

Her eyes flickered past him. “Right,” she agreed absently. Bloody hell, what the hell happened downstairs?

Irked by her reticence, Jon set his drink aside and stood abruptly. “Ladies, could you excuse us for a moment? I’d like to speak to Daenerys alone.” She stirred in surprise, finally looking at him fully for the first time since she’d walked out on the terrace. The others’ expressions soured slightly, but they politely excused them as Jon took Daenerys’ hand and helped her up, leading her away from the pergola. He steered her toward the fire pit but didn’t bother sitting, pulling her around to face him.

“OK, what the fuck happened?” he demanded, not even caring about the cameras that had followed them.

She untangled her hand from his, tucking her hair behind her ear. “Nothing,” she hedged.

“Cut the shit, Dany,” he said, exasperated. “You’re acting bloody odd. What did Val say to you?”

She shook her head. “I just...I’ve never really spoken to her before now.” Wrapping her arms around her stomach, she pinned him with an accusatory look. “Did you tell her something? About—before?” she asked, catching herself in front of the cameras.

He stiffened. “No,” he said coldly. “Why would I have?”

With an exhale, Daenerys looked away. “It just seems like she really doesn’t like me.”

“What did she say?” he pressed.

She shook her head. “Nothing, really,” she repeated, but he could tell she wasn’t being truthful. Before he could pry further, she said, “I don’t know. It was just a lot of...snide comments that seemed really pointed. At me. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything to her, not personally, anyway, but it just felt personal.”

Fuck. He sighed, raking a hand through his hair. “Well. It’s probably my fault," he admitted. "I talked about you a lot when she and I were together.” At her bewildered look, he turned sheepish. “All the media attention on you and Drogo kinda drove me mental. I probably didn’t handle it very well.”

She didn’t say anything for a moment then sighed. “Honestly, I understand where she’s coming from. After you two broke up and she wrote that book, I told myself that's why I didn’t like her, but...I never liked her. She always mooned all over you, way before everything, and I hated that Rhaegar was always pushing a relationship between you two.”

“I know,” Jon replied solemnly. A wounded look clouded her eyes.

“When you started dating her, I felt—” She stopped herself.

“You felt what?”

Her lips thinned. “I felt betrayed. Like you’d picked her because you knew how much it would hurt me.”

His first reaction was one of defensiveness. How the hell did she think he felt about Drogo? But he knew he’d started dating Val before she’d ever stepped out with Drogo, at least publicly. She’d sworn she hadn't taken up with Drogo until months after she’d ended things with him, and he had no real reason to not take her word for it.

He made himself take a deep breath, quashing the impulse to lash out. “You’re right,” he admitted, surprising her. “I came to care about Val, of course—but the reason I agreed to go on a date with her in the first place was because I thought it would hurt you. It was a dickheaded thing to do.”

Her chin dropped. “I get it,” she said quietly. “I know I hurt you, too.”

He decided not to push her for more; instead, he brushed his fingertips across her cheek, tucking her hair behind her ear as it had slipped free again, then he took her face in his hands to tip it up to his. It didn’t feel right to kiss her right then, not after snogging the other women earlier, so he pressed a kiss to her forehead and hugged her against his chest. She buried her face against his neck, wrapping her arms around him. As he rubbed her back, he nuzzled his nose in her hair, inhaling deeply.

He could have stayed there forever, truthfully, but the other women’s voices grew louder; he knew they were getting restless, waiting for them to return. With one more kiss to her forehead, Jon regretfully let her go and walked with her back to the pergola, their hands intertwined between them.

When Val opened her bedroom suite door, she was dressed in a loose blouse and linen joggers, a decidedly more casual look than earlier—and still undoubtedly chosen by wardrobe. In addition to his jeans and grey Henley shirt, Jon had donned his own “reading” glasses for the purposes of looking serious and studious for this particular segment.

“Hey.” He kissed her cheek, and she smiled, waving him and the cameraman inside. Another camera was already set up inside her suite, positioned out of the way to capture this segment from a different angle. As Littlefinger had instructed him earlier, Jon sat down on the couch, and she joined him, curling her feet under her. Arranged on the coffee table were framed photos of the remaining eight women, rose petals and tea light candles interspersed between them.

Val grabbed two glasses of white wine from the coffee table and handed him one. “Thought you might like a drink while we talked,” she said, and he managed not to roll his eyes. She knew he hated white wine. He sipped it, anyway.

“My favorite. You remembered,” he said drolly, and she grinned before sipping her own. He set his glass aside. Surely, that was enough small talk. “So, how was your chat with the women?”

“Very enlightening,” she replied cryptically, tapping her finger on the side of her wine glass. “I must say I’m surprised by some of your choices so far. Others, not so much.”

He smiled. “I’m just trying to keep an open mind about the process. I didn’t want to only date the kind of women I’m used to dating.”

“You mean the dim-witted models and status-hungry social-climbers?” she asked, her eyebrow arching pointedly, and he feigned a pout.

“Now, don’t be so hard on yourself, Val.”

She scowled then rolled her eyes. “Very cute, Jon. You know, I can’t really say I’ve missed that brilliant wit of yours.”

“Don’t take it to heart, love. We both know you’re anything but dim-witted,” he said, smiling to soften his joke. Then he gestured to the photos, impatient to get on with it. The sooner his ex left, the better. “Tell me your thoughts. Who did you like? Who do you have reservations about?”

She shifted on the couch to lean over the coffee table. “There’s a couple I can eliminate right off the bat.” She gestured to Alys’ and Alayaya’s photos. “Nice girls, but ultimately rather forgettable. Honestly, I can’t recall a single thing of interest about either now.”

Jon flipped their frames facedown on the coffee table. “OK. What about the others?”

Val touched Melisandre’s photo, wrinkling her nose. “Melisandre is a weird one. Other than her weird obsession with the Lord of Light, I couldn’t tell you a thing about her otherwise, but...I suppose that air of mystique can be rather compelling. However, I’m not really sure if she’s here to date you or recruit you to her cult.”

With a snort, Jon flipped Melisandre’s photo facedown with the other two. “I’ve been here for weeks, and I’m still not sure either.”

Next was Yara’s photo. Val turned pensive. “I like her, but she really doesn’t seem like your type at all. She’s more like...someone you would bro out with, not someone you’d date.”

Jon bristled. “Bro out? I don’t bro out.”

She scoffed. “Please! Once you get around Robb and Theon, you’re a total bro.”

Sulking, he conceded, “She’s Theon’s sister.”

Eyes widening, Val laughed. “Really? Well, that explains a lot. Unless you want Theon as a brother-in-law…?” At that threat, Jon turned Yara’s frame down on the table. Val smiled smugly. “That’s what I thought.” She picked up Cersei’s photo next.

“What?” he said defensively when she fixed him with a look.

“I mean, really, Jon?” She snorted. “Don’t get me wrong—I get the appeal, kind of. She’s a total bitch, which is right up your alley.”

“Again, you’re really setting yourself up here,” Jon said wryly, but she ignored him.

“She has three children.”


Val made a face. “Are you ready to be a father?”

Affronted, he glared at her, snatching the photo from her to place it back on the coffee table. “What does that mean? You don’t think I’d be a good father?”

Another knowing look. “Jon, are you even ready to be a husband?”

“I’m here, aren’t I?” he deflected, and she just shook her head, putting Cersei’s frame facedown. Fine, maybe he had no real intention of going through with this made-for-TV romance and staged engagement—or at least, he hadn’t when he’d first agreed to it. But he’d always wanted to be a father one day. Cersei’s children weren’t any more of a deal breaker for him than Melisandre’s batshit religious zealotry was.

“Anyway,” Val continued, gentling her voice. She turned her attention to the remaining suitors’ photos. “I like Missandei. She’s sweet, funny. Very smart. Maybe too smart for you.”

“Please, tell me how you really feel about me, Val,” he deadpanned, still smarting from her previous commentary.

She smiled. “Missandei’s great, but I think Ygritte is my favorite.”

“How very surprising,” he muttered.

“She’s fun. Witty. Opinionated. And she definitely won’t put up with your bullshit. She’ll call you on it when you deserve it. I think you need a woman like that.” She shrugged and sipped her wine. “She’s my pick for your one-on-one.”

Jon frowned, glancing at the remaining photos. She’d made one very glaring omission. “And what about Daenerys? You didn’t mention her at all.”

Val’s expression darkened, just slightly. “Jon. She’s your aunt.”

His head jerked back. “Aye, I’m aware. So?” He chuckled. “She’s still a suitor. And—well, we’re Targaryens,” he said with a dismissive shrug. “It’s not that weird.”

Val shook her head, bringing her glass to her mouth again. He waited, and after she’d taken a sip, she lifted her shoulder in a shrug, not quite meeting his gaze. “I guess I just didn’t like her. Sorry.”

He stared at her. Maybe it shouldn’t be that surprising, given everything. Daenerys had said the same thing earlier, after all, and he’d suspected as much himself. But it was just something else to actually hear Val admit it. Daenerys was a princess. She was a people-pleaser by royal design. But more than that—she was just a likable person. So Val’s dislike was about something else entirely, he knew. “Did she do or say something to you to make you not like her?” he asked carefully.

Val scowled at him. “No, Jon. She didn’t do or say anything. She’s a perfectly pleasant person. That’s the problem.”

Perplexed, he chuffed. “Seriously? That’s not a reason to dislike someone. Do you think maybe you’re just jealous of her?” It was the wrong thing to say; he knew it as soon as the words left his mouth.

Val glowered at him, her grey-blue eyes glinting dangerously. “Of course, I am!” she exploded, and he winced. “Seven hells, Jon! You were obsessed with her! You talked about her constantly! At first, I thought, they’re just close, he’s hurt she went to Essos and left him behind. Fine, whatever, it’s normal.” She glared at him. “It wasn’t normal, Jon! I felt like I was playing second fiddle to her the whole time we were together! Even when you were badmouthing her, it was wrapped up in this weird, creepy resentment! Like—like you were talking about an ex or something!”

Jon clenched his jaw, all too aware of the cameras capturing every moment of her tirade. Olenna was going to eat this up, which was probably the most galling aspect of it all. “Val,” he said through his teeth. “I’d really rather not talk about this right now—”

“Others take you, Jon, I don’t give a bloody fig what you want!” she yelled. “You never wanted to talk about it, even when we were together. You made me feel crazy for even asking!” Her voice wavered, and she stopped to take a breath. Speaking more evenly, she demanded, “I think you owe me the truth.”

His face burned hot. “The truth about what?”

She wasn’t buying his attempt to play dumb. “Don’t do that. Don’t insult my intelligence.”

He didn’t say anything for a moment, struggling with himself, with the pressing desire to finally unburden himself—and her—and also desperately not wanting to do so with an audience. But it was inevitable, wasn’t it? It was impossible to pretend like there wasn’t a past there, between him and Daenerys, not when he was blurting out his own grievances to her every other day. Did it truly matter, keeping it a secret any longer? If they were dating now, what did it matter if they dated in the past? His father was going to be angry either way.

Dropping his head into his hands, Jon pushed his fingers under his glasses to rub at his tired eyes. He didn’t know how long he sat like that, just trying to shore up his courage. Finally, with a world-weary sigh, he lifted his head and repositioned his glasses back into place.

“You’re right,” he said quietly. He could tell he’d surprised her with his admission. The cameramen and boom ops seemed to move in closer just for this moment. He tried to brace himself for the fallout that would follow his confession. “Daenerys and I...had a...thing. Before you and I ever started dating, and never when we were together, I swear to you that. Dany and I didn’t even speak while she was in Essos. Other than Aegon’s wedding, I didn’t see her once. This show is the first time I’ve seen her since she left.”

Val shook her head in disbelief. “For how long?” When he didn’t understand her question, she clarified, “How long were you two together?”

He grimaced. “Ah. Six years, I guess? Something like that.”

She blanched. “Six years?” she gasped. “You dated her for six years?”

Embarrassed, Jon desperately tried to downplay it. “Give or take. Probably not even that long. Truthfully, I don’t know if you can really call it dating. It wasn’t a conventional sort of relationship. Often, we would go a while without even—well, you know.” Clearing his throat, he cracked his knuckles nervously. “Anyway, the king wouldn’t have approved, and we both wanted to hide it from him, the press, everyone. It wasn’t supposed to be anything that serious; we always knew there was an expiration date on what we were doing.” He shrugged—as if he hadn’t fallen in love with Daenerys, as if he hadn’t thought about marrying her and having children with her, the king be damned. “And it turned out the expiration date was when she left for Essos for the second time.”

Val was quiet as she absorbed his words, her eyes glimmering with unshed tears. “You and I started dating soon after that. Three months after, by my count.” With another grimace, Jon confirmed that with a curt nod. Daenerys hadn’t been wrong when she’d accused him of dating Val out of spite.

Val let out a shaky breath, sinking into the couch. “You and I never stood a chance then,” she said mournfully. “She was always the third person in our relationship. I could never compete with that.”

“I’m sorry,” he murmured. “It was all me. Why it didn’t work in the end. I know that. I just wasn’t ready.”

A tear slipped down her cheek. “Did you ever even love me?”

He flinched as if struck then reached for her hand. “I did. Of course, I loved you, Val.” He turned his body toward her fully. “Maybe the ways things didn’t start in an ideal way, and I know they didn’t end in an ideal way, either, but...the in-between was good. I did come to love you.”

Sniffling, she bit down on her lip and looked down at their hands as they sat in silence. Squeezing his fingers, she flipped her palm up and pressed it to his. “What about now?” she asked softly.

He blinked. “What do you mean?” he asked dumbly.

She lifted her teary eyes, boldly meeting his gaze. “Do you still love me now?”

He froze, eyes wide and unblinking as he stared at her. He felt like a deer in headlights. “Val…”

Nervously, she added, “Because...I still love you.”

For a moment, he couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything but stare at her. How? he wanted to demand. You dumped me. You aired all our dirty laundry to the media and called me a self-obsessed arsehole!

Except...he thought he got it—the way she had acted after their breakup was exactly how he’d acted after Daenerys had left him, wasn’t it? Lashing out while pretending to be completely unaffected.

His chest felt tight and painful; realizing he was holding his breath, he let it out in a heavy gust. He could already feel a flop sweat coming on. Fuck, he was panicking. He floundered for a non-cunty response. “I—I mean...I’m sure some part of me still does—we were together for four years...” He trailed off, uncertain how to proceed. Her face was so open; he wasn’t sure he had the heart to crush her. Again.

Val took a steadying breath. “Maybe...maybe this could be a chance for us to start over. With a clean slate.”

“What?” he asked, dumbfounded.

“You’re right that it never could have worked out before, if you were always lying about your feelings for another woman. You were angry and resentful, which made me angry and resentful. I know I did some things that I’m not proud of either.” Her face flushed. “But...maybe things would be different now.”

He stared at her. “Are you saying—you want to date me again?”

She peered up at him hopefully. “We were good together, Jon. Despite all the bullshit. You said it yourself.”

His mouth opened and closed. “I mean—sure—” But there had been a lot of bullshit.

“So without the bullshit now, we could be better,” she said, as if it were truly all that simple. Her face had taken on more determination. “We make sense together, Jon.”

He gaped at her. This couldn’t be happening. This was unreal. This was insane. This was...right out of a reality TV show. He narrowed his eyes suspiciously. Of course. That had to be it. “Did Olenna put you up to this?”

She blinked at him. “What? No, Jon. I’m baring my soul to you because it’s my choice, and I’m asking you to give me—give us—a second chance.”

Bollocks. He’d really been hoping this was another one of Olenna’s orchestrated, kick-him-in-the-balls machinations. “Fucking hell,” he muttered, running his hand through his hair. He took his abandoned glass of wine and drained it all before responding. “I don’t—I’m not even sure it works that way,” he stammered, latching onto an easy excuse. “These women have been here for weeks—I can’t just bring you on halfway through—”

“Of course, you can. You can do whatever you want. You’re the bachelor.”

He dug his thumb and finger into his eyes again and sighed. “I don’t know, Val. It just seems unfair, not only to the women who are here, but to the ones who have already been sent home…”

She squeezed his hand to get his attention, and he looked at her. “Unfair is not exploring all the options available to you, don’t you think? If there’s a chance that you still love me, or can see yourself spending the rest of your life with me, don’t you owe it to yourself to try? Don’t you owe it to me?”

He faltered, his eyes searching her face. When she put it that way...hell, maybe she was right. He’d never really given her a fair shot, had he? She wasn’t wrong that Daenerys had always been a spectre in their relationship. And...well, being with Val would be so much simpler, wouldn’t it? With his family, especially. No lingering fears or worries about disappointing them, no real risk of having his heart utterly destroyed again…

As he’d mulled it over, her face had moved closer to his. When he inhaled, he caught a whiff of her perfume—so enticing in its familiarity.

“Maybe,” he murmured doubtfully, closing his eyes when she lifted her lips to his, sealing their mouths together. How easy it would be to lose himself in her kiss. The physical aspect of their relationship had never been a problem; she was soft all over and surprisingly eager to please him, always had been. He’d never felt like he had to work at it with her, at least not in the bedroom—not when he’d put in all those years perfecting everything with Daenerys.

Confused, he started to pull away, but Val followed him, kissing him more urgently. He gave in, cupping her face as he sucked at her tongue and her lips. Her hand went into his hair, and she moaned, opening her mouth to let him take what he wanted. And he did—how could he refuse, when she offered it so willingly?

Eventually, the hunger ebbed, and they gradually drifted apart, both breathing hard. She pressed her forehead against his. “Well?”

Unfortunately, his brain had ceded to his cock, and his thoughts wore even more muddled than they had been a moment ago. “I need to think about it,” he finally said, his voice ragged. “Is that alright?”

Swallowing thickly, she nodded and sat back. “Of course.” She looked happier, though, her eyes bright, cheeks flushed; the anguish that had haunted her before was now gone.

Clearing his throat, Jon stood, hoping like hell his half-chub wasn’t noticeable on camera. He squeezed her hand before letting it go to adjust his glasses that their tongue-sucking had knocked askew. “I’ll see you tomorrow. OK?”

Val got up to walk him to the door, the cameraman following. There, he hugged and kissed her again, and with one more soft goodbye, she shut her door. Dazed, Jon lingered a moment, scrubbing both hands down his face.

“What the fuck,” he muttered to himself. Then he shoved his hands in his pockets and turned away from the door to slink off down the hallway, the camera capturing his tormented walk the whole way out of the castle.

No doubt it made for riveting TV.

After that fraught and emotionally taxing conversation, Jon made his way back to his guest house to sleep. Tomorrow would be his one-on-one date with Ygritte, he supposed, since she had been Val’s choice. Unless he decided to bring Val onto the show—then he didn’t know what would happen. The other women would no doubt lose their shit if he did—if he even wanted to, which he was no closer to figuring out, despite having tossed and turned for hours.

In the end, he and Val had been a mess together, and their breakup, even messier. But was she right? Had it been doomed from the start because he’d never really given her a chance? Because he was so hung up on Daenerys? Did he owe it to her now to give her a fair shot? They had a history, as did he and Daenerys. Which was probably why they wouldn’t work, truthfully. If he and Val couldn’t make it work when he and Daenerys were broken up, how would they possibly work when he and Daenerys were together?

Were they together? Did this actually count as being together, when there were seven other women splitting his time and attention?

“Fucking hell,” Jon groaned and flopped onto his other side, punching his pillow a few times to fluff it up before laying his head back down. He still couldn’t get comfortable. To hell with it. With a sigh, he sat up.

The guest house was dark. Sandor was asleep next door. There were no cameras monitoring him right now. They were all over the main castle, documenting every waking and sleeping moment of the suitors, but Jon could walk around the grounds without being bothered for the most part, unless he had a segment to film or the women were around.

After putting on some sweats and a t-shirt, Jon slipped out of his guest house, hoping a walk would clear his head. Even at night, there was enough light from the floodlights that surrounded the castle (in case of impromptu nighttime shooting) to see where he was going.

As he walked, he realized he was heading toward the control room. He knew there was always someone in there, monitoring the cameras and editing footage. When he stepped inside, he was rather surprised to not see Olenna anywhere, though he supposed she had to sleep occasionally, too. In a crypt somewhere, or upside down in the rafters, probably.

The nighttime crew went wide-eyed at his surprise visit, some even dropping into awkward bows and curtsies. “Your Highness!” someone squeaked out, and Jon waved them off.

“You don’t need to bother with formalities.” Suddenly, he knew what he was here for. “I want to see some footage. Who can help me with that?” Everyone pointed to a bank of computer monitors where a couple of editors sat. Jon strode to the editing bay. “What’s your name?” he asked the first editor he reached.

“Uh. Lommy?” He sounded uncertain.

“Lommy, I’d like to see the footage from earlier today, when Val was talking to the suitors. Specifically, when she was talking to Daenerys. Can you show me that?”

Lommy turned pale. “I don’t think—I mean, I’m not sure—Olenna’s never said if we’re allowed to do that or not—”

Jon gave him a threatening smile. “Are you refusing a direct order from your prince, Lommy?”

Blushing, Lommy stammered, “Of course not, Your Highness! Let me just…” Swiveling to his computer screen, he began frantically clicking on some folders and scrolling through dozens of files. Finally, he clicked on one of them. The footage was raw and unedited, and he had to fast forward through a lot of it, scrubbing halfway through the video before Jon finally spotted Daenerys. “Stop. Right there.”

Lommy hit play, and Jon leaned in close to watch. Val was seated in the large solar with Daenerys, Ygritte, Yara and Alayaya. Jon had him fast forward a few more times before he was satisfied. Dutifully, Lommy took off his headphones and passed them over.

Jon hastily put them on to listen to the conversation.

“—happened with the Khal?” Val was asking. The question seemed to take Daenerys off guard, but she recovered quickly.

“Well, we broke up. Obviously,” she said with a quiet laugh.

Val pursed her lips thoughtfully. “Hm. I liked him. At Aegon’s wedding, he seemed nice.”

Daenerys’ smile turned strained, and she shrugged. “Looks can be deceiving, I suppose.” Jon frowned, wondering what that meant, but Val kept talking before he had any time to parse through it.

“Pity. So, who broke up with whom?” Val asked curiously.

Daenerys’ face shuttered. “Is my past relationship really relevant right now?”

Val wrinkled her nose. “Of course, it is. I’m here to help Jon make an informed decision about who he’s going to spend his life with. And if you’re not over your ex, he deserves to know that, don’t you think?”

Jon could tell Daenerys was struggling to maintain an impassive expression. “Of course I’m over Drogo. I have been for a while. I wouldn’t be here otherwise. I would never do that to Jon.”

“Wouldn’t you?” Val retorted, and Daenerys stared at her in disbelief.

“Excuse me?”

But Val only shrugged. “I’m just asking. I don’t really know anything about you.”

“No, you don’t,” Daenerys said coldly. Val pinched her mouth together.

“I’m just looking out for Jon.”

“Are you?” Daenerys asked, her voice sharper now. “Is that what you were doing when you wrote an exposé on him?”

Val’s face reddened, and the other women glanced at each other, their expressions varying between uncomfortable and amused.

“Maybe we should talk about something else,” Alayaya offered desperately, but Yara cut her off.

“No way, I wanna see how this plays out.”

Val ignored them, still glaring daggers at Daenerys. “What happened between Jon and me is between us. It’s none of your business.”

Daenerys laughed slightly. “Jon is my family. And when you write a book about my family, it becomes my business.”

“As if I’m the only one to write a book about the royal family,” Val said with a roll of her eyes. “Frankly, I did Jon a favor. My book helped take the focus off his dick pics, at least.”

“Yes, how convenient,” Daenerys snapped. The hairs on the back of Jon’s neck stood suddenly, a creeping dread settling over him.

Val flushed red again. “Look, Jon and I made a lot of mistakes. But he was messed up long before I came into the picture. I tried my best to make things work when we were together, but whatever happened to him before we started dating made that impossible.” At that, Daenerys averted her eyes, and Val shook her head. “Despite everything, I just want him to be happy.”

No one spoke for a moment until Ygritte let out a loud snort. “Well. The royal family is even more screwed up than I thought.”

Everyone laughed, grateful for the break in the tension; even Daenerys managed a tight smile, then they moved on to other things, the focus shifting to Val and Ygritte.

“Do you want to keep going?” Lommy asked, and Jon shook his head, his eyes distant.

“No,” he said faintly, taking off the headphones to hand them back. “Thanks, mate.”

With that, he turned and left. Something Val had said still echoed in his head, the insinuation not sitting right with him. Instead of retreating to his guest house, he headed for the castle, walking at a clipped pace. By the time he reached the main castle, his heart was racing, chest heaving with labored breaths. Inside, he cut through the receiving hall to the grand staircase, taking the stairs two-at-a-time. A rogue camera guy caught sight of him just as he reached the second floor.

“Whoa!” the cameraman startled then radioed to another of his comrades. Soon, the two were chasing after him, catching up just as he reached Val’s suite

At her door, he pounded relentlessly until she finally answered, her face scrubbed clean of makeup, her hair pulled up in a bun. She’d thrown on a robe, as if his knocking had dragged her out of bed. No doubt he had, since it was well into the early morning hours now. She looked shocked at the sight of him. “Jon? What’s wrong?”

He shouldered past her, trying to slam the door on the cameramen, but one of them caught it with his foot, wedging it open to film them through the crack, despite Jon’s hand on the door. At the moment, he really didn’t give a fuck if they filmed this or not.

“Did you leak the pics?” he demanded without preamble. She blinked up at him, her mouth dropping open.

What? Jon, what is this—”

“Don’t play dumb with me, Val,” he barked. “You know bloody well what pics I’m talking about. I’ve asked you before and you said you hadn’t. But you were the only one who fucking had them. How else could they have gotten out?”

Her mouth opened and closed, her face going pale. “Jon…”

“Tell me the godsdamn truth, Val. Don’t you owe me that?” he bit out, throwing her words back in her face.

Her eyes watered, darting toward the cameras. “Can we talk about this later—”

“Answer me!”

She jumped as his voice boomed through her room. “It’s not that simple—”

“Yes or no, Val,” he growled, and she closed her eyes, tears slipping free. Finally, she crumbled, her voice barely a whisper.

“Yes.” At his sharp inhale, her eyes flew open. “But I didn’t mean to! I swear I didn’t, Jon!”

“How do you not mean to leak someone’s private photos?” he demanded, incredulous.

Her lips trembled. “I didn’t send them to the media! I only showed Dalla, I swear!”

He reared back. “Your sister?”

“I know it was stupid! I was angry at you and feeling mean, so I sent her the pics for a laugh! I didn’t know she was going to sell them to the media!”

Stunned, he gaped at her. “Why would your sister do that to me?”

“She was just being a protective older sister, I guess,” she explained, hastily wiping at her face. “She wanted to get back at you for hurting me. I didn’t have any part in that, I swear. You have to believe me, Jon. ”

“You knew,” he said slowly, and her eyes widened.

“No, I didn’t!”

He talked over her. “After the fact, you knew it was her, and you lied to me. You denied all culpability.”

“Jon, I’m sorry,” she cried. “I didn’t want Dalla to get into trouble. Your family was threatening to destroy the person who leaked them!”

“No shit, Val!” he roared. “Do you know how humiliated I was? How violated I felt? Between those pictures and your fucking book?”

Sobbing, she covered her face. “Jon, please. It was an honest mistake! Just a stupid decision that spiraled out of control!”

He was shaking, and he dropped his hand from the door. The cameraman pushed the door open wider, getting an unfettered view of everything. Jon was too livid to care anymore.

“You lied to me,” he accused, and she looked up at him wildly.

“I was protecting my family! Can’t you understand that?” He shook his head vehemently, and her face twisted in disbelief. “You lied to me, too! About Daenerys!”

He sneered. “That’s completely different.”

She glared at him. “How? Was it not to protect you and your family, too?” He clamped his mouth shut, and she reached for him. “Jon, we both fucked up. See? But it’s all out in the open now, isn’t it? We can move on now.”

Unmoved, he shook her hands off him. “You’re right. We both lied to each other.” For a second, she looked relieved, the tiniest spark of hope flaring in her eyes. Until his next words extinguished it for good. “And I think it’s beyond time we move on. Far away from each other. I want you to leave.”


Goodbye, Val,” he said, his voice chilled.

With that, he shouldered past the cameramen and stormed away, ignoring Val’s pleas that chased him down the hall.


Prince Jon’s ex reveals on ‘Bachelor’: ‘I leaked your dick pics’

‘We couldn’t believe what we were seeing!’ Show insiders shocked by confession

The moment Prince Jon Targaryen was announced as the newest Bachelor, the upcoming season of “Westeros’ Most Eligible Bachelor” was already destined to be the most-watched season ever—but now it’s shaping up to be the most explosive one, too!

Ever since intrepid paps spoiled the news of Princess Daenerys as a contender for her own nephew’s heart (CHECK OUT THE PRINCESS’ STEAMY TOPLESS PHOTOS HERE!), the show’s producers have gone to extreme measures to keep this season’s twists and turns under lock and key. However, we can confirm the princess isn’t the only blast from Prince Jon’s past: Our inside source tells us that model-turned-memoirist Val Rayder shows up to reconcile with her erstwhile lover, throwing the whole castle into chaos!

But that’s not even the biggest surprise in store for Prince Jon. According to our source, Val finally ‘fesses up to being the culprit behind the dick pic scandal that rocked the royal family earlier this year! (READ: “Dong Snow? Prince Jon caught with his pants down!”) “Viewers will be talking about the confrontation between the prince and his ex for weeks to come!” our source says. “Even the people behind the cameras couldn’t believe what we were seeing!”

Can Prince Jon forgive this betrayal? And what will the crown—having once promised “fire and blood” to the offender—do now that they know the source of this leak? Guess we’ll have to watch to find out!

And as if that isn’t reason enough to tune in—our source swears this bombshell won’t be the last shocking turn of events on what certainly promises to be the most talked about season in the show’s history!

“Westeros’ Most Eligible Bachelor” is set to premiere Monday, August 5 with a chock-full three-hour premiere, kicking off at 8pm WST.

Chapter Text

wmeb mb

For once, Jon was in a good mood, truly a rare occurrence these days. (Which was sad, when he considered the fact that there were, at this very moment, eight women vying for his affection, currently making him the most sought-after bachelor in the kingdom—suck on that, Arthur Dayne, Westeros Weekly’s Sexiest Man Alive.)

As he pounded away at the treadmill, he sang along to the song blaring through his ear buds. “‘You know this dick ain't free. I got girls that I shoulda made pay for it, got girls I shoulda made wait for it.’” He was probably horribly off-key, but, anyway, the beat was so loud he couldn’t much hear himself, so it didn’t matter. Hopefully, Sandor couldn’t hear him next door either. Jon would sooner swear a vow of celibacy than ever admit to liking a P-Payne song.

The man might be an insufferable, strung-out twat, but damn if his latest album HOUSE OF PAYNE wasn’t catchy as hell.

Sweat dripped into his eyes, and Jon snatched the towel off the monitor to wipe at his face. When he glanced at the time display, he was shocked to see two hours had lapsed. In that split second of realization, he faltered, nearly tripping over his own feet. Thankfully, he managed to grab the handles of the treadmill and quickly straddled the running belt before it could throw him into the wall behind him.

“Fucking hell,” he gasped, chest heaving as he gulped down air. He’d been running for two hours straight in an effort to burn off his excess energy after his confrontation with Val earlier; he must have gotten lost in his thoughts, fallen into a rhythm.

Now, he was soaked in sweat, his lungs burned, his muscles ached—and he felt fucking fantastic. Light and buoyant, like a bloody weight had been lifted off his shoulders.

Or maybe that was just the runner’s high. Either way.

Swigging from his water bottle, Jon tried to do the math. Two hours on the treadmill meant it had to be nearly six in the morning. Surely, that was plenty late enough, right? Or would that be plenty early? Sod it.

Ripping the earbuds out of his ears, Jon smacked his hand on the display to turn the treadmill off then hopped down to the floor. He didn’t bother with a shower or even a shirt; instead, he took advantage of his momentum and dipped out of the guesthouse, falling into a light jog as he set off for the main castle. Sandor would be furious at him for ditching his detail—twice in one night, at that—but the man was bloody useless here, anyway.

Besides, for the first time in a long time, Jon actually felt free—invincible, even—and he didn’t want to shatter that illusion by having to wait for his bloody babysitter to escort him to the castle.

Unfortunately, seeing as he’d already stormed into the keep only a few hours ago, the producers were ready for him this time. The cameras were on him the moment he entered the great hall, and PAs swarmed like bloody locusts, pleading with him to put on the mic pack they shoved in his face. He ignored them all, and as he ran up the stairs to the second floor, they whipped out their walkie-talkies to alert the producers.

“The dragon is in the keep again! Repeat: The dragon is in the keep!

Once he was on the second floor, Jon had to stop to get his bearings. He hadn’t been to any of the women’s bedrooms before, and he didn’t know quite where to go. “Which way?” he demanded of the closest cameraman, too scattered to use his words properly. The man was able to deduce what he was asking and jerked his head over his shoulder—in the opposite direction of Val’s suite, thank the gods. Jon had no idea whether she’d left yet like he’d ordered, and he had no interest in finding out. If he never saw her again, it would be too soon.

Jon followed the cameraman’s guidance, heading to a different wing of the keep entirely. Eventually, he turned a corner and came to a dead stop. Before him stretched a long hallway of rooms, each closed door looking the same as the next. “Which one is Daenerys in?” he asked the cameraman, still breathing hard from his run.

The cameraman shook his head. “Oh, come on, you must know.” The man only shrugged innocently, making Jon scowl. “Bloody wanker,” he muttered. To hell with it—he’d just knock on every door until he found her. He wasted no more time, banging on the first door he reached. “Dany?” he called loudly. “You in there?”

His hopes soared when a moment later the door cracked open, but it was only Alys. Bollocks. “Jon?” she said in surprise, opening the door wider. Behind her Ygritte was rubbing her bleary eyes, looking only half-awake.

“Sorry to wake you both,” he apologized and moved on to the next door, leaving Alys flustered and confused. He knocked urgently. “Dany?”

This time the door opened a little faster, revealing an amused Yara instead. “Yes, loverboy?” she asked, her arm braced on the doorjamb.

“Never mind,” he said and made for the next room.

Awoken by the disturbance, the other women were all beginning to emerge from their shared rooms, doors opening up and down the hall. “What the hell is going on?” Cersei demanded as Jon knocked loudly on the door next to her and Alayaya’s room. Puzzled, she and the others began to drift into the hallway to watch him. He didn’t care, pounding on doors and moving on to the next one before anyone even had a chance to answer, all the while calling out Daenerys’ name.


At the sound of his name, he whirled around. On the other side of the hall, Missandei stood in an open doorway, still dressed in her pajamas, her springy curls wrapped in a silk bonnet. Helpfully, she beckoned him to her room. Right. Daenerys had mentioned to him once that she and Missandei bunked together.

Blowing out a ragged breath of relief, he jogged over to her. “Thank you,” he told her sincerely, and she only shook her head in bemusement as she stepped out of his way.

Peering into the dim room, he spotted Daenerys walking toward the door, tying the belt on her silk robe. When she looked up at him, her face took on an expression of bewilderment.

“Dany,” he breathed out, drinking in the sight of her. Her eyes were soft and puffy, her cheeks creased from her pillowcase, her disheveled, silver-gold hair in need of a brush. Gods, he forgot how beautiful she looked when she’d just woken up in the mornings.

“Jon? What’s going on?” she asked, her voice still hoarse from sleep.

Instead of answering her, he took her by her shoulders and crowded her into their bedroom. She let out a small yelp of surprise when he spun her around, steering her toward the en suite bathroom. There, he ushered her inside and slammed the door shut before the cameras could follow them inside. He threw the lock just as the door knob rattled.

On the other side, the cameramen cried out in dismay. “Hey, come on, mate. You know you can’t be in there,” they called to him, banging on the door.

“Sorry, too much coffee. Gotta take a massive piss,” Jon called back. “I’ll just be a sec.” When he turned to Daenerys, she was watching him with wide eyes.

“What are you doing?” she asked, squealing when he began to feel her up, running his hands up her back, then around her ribs and under her breasts. “Jon! What the hell?”

“Just making sure you don’t have a mic on you,” he explained.

“I just woke up,” she said, exasperated. “Someone was causing a racket out in the hallway.”

Reluctantly, he pulled his hands away and rested them on her shoulders again. “I needed to talk to you without the bloody cameras in our faces, for once.”

She blinked up at him, more alert now. “What happened?” she asked, apprehension creeping into her voice.

“Nothing, nothing bad,” he promised, rubbing her shoulders, then he winced. “Well, maybe. It could be bad. That’s why I wanted to tell you, before anyone else could.” She waited as he took a deep breath, bracing himself. “They know. About us.”

Daenerys blinked. “Who knows?”

He gestured behind him to the door, where he could hear the cameramen and whoever else was on the other side scheming with each other, probably trying to figure out what to do now that their bachelor had locked himself in the bathroom with the princess. “Them. The show. Olenna, everyone. They know.” At her confusion, he admitted, “I told them. Or, rather, I told Val about us, and of course the cameras were there, which means the producers must know by now, and soon everyone else will, too.”

Her eyes went round. “What do you mean, you told Val?”

He released her shoulders to run his hands through his damp hair. “I told her about us, about how we were together, you know. Before. She asked me point-blank. I couldn’t lie. Or, rather, maybe I just didn’t want to lie anymore. Trying to pretend and act like nothing happened between us, it was getting tedious. I just didn’t see the point.” He peered at her with concern this time. “But—I know it wasn’t just my story to tell. If you’re upset that I did, I understand—”

“Upset?” She shook her head. “Jon. I’m here, aren’t I? I’m not trying to pretend anymore, either.”

He frowned. “But you haven’t told anyone about us. Have you?”

“Only because I thought that’s what you wanted,” she said. “I wasn’t trying to hide our past for my sake but for yours. I meant what I said when I told you I don’t care what Rhaegar thinks anymore, but I understand if you’re not quite at that point just yet.” She raised her eyebrows. “Are you ready for him to know? About everything?”

He rubbed his hands over his face, pressing his palms into his eyes. “Fuck. I don’t know. I don’t want to care. I tell myself I don’t. But I don’t know if it’s that easy.”

She touched his arm, gently rubbing his forearm. Gods love her, she didn’t even flinch at how sweaty he was. “I get it. He’s your father.”

“He was like a father to you, too,” he reminded her.

“And I’ve spent six years getting out from under his thumb.”

With a sigh, Jon dropped his hands. “Well, it doesn’t really matter if I’m ready or not because it’s out there now. He’ll know soon enough. All of it.” He laughed, suddenly feeling slightly delirious. “Might be worth it, though. The moment he learns his son was carrying on with his baby sister right under his nose for six years. Actually—I think I’d love to be there for that. I mean, he can’t throw his own son in the Black Cells, can he?”

She made a face. “Knowing Rhae, he might try.”

Jon let out another laughing breath as he slumped against the door. Now that he had allowed himself to slow down, his adrenaline was rapidly receding. Outside the bathroom, it had gone quiet. He wondered if the cameras were still there. Did they have boom mics pressed against it, trying to pick up what little audio they could?

“It’s strange,” he mused. “All this time, I was so worried about people finding out about us, and now that it’s out, I feel like—seven hells, why did we wait so bloody long? What was the big deal, anyway?”

At that, a peculiar look passed across her face, but before he could say anything else, she shook her head, and it was gone. “Were you working out?” she asked, changing the subject. She seemed to finally take in his current state. Her eyes flickered over his bare chest. “It’s only six in the morning, isn’t it?”

He shrugged. “Aye. I couldn’t sleep after my talk with Val.”

“How did she take it? When you told her about us?” Daenerys asked carefully.

“Not well.” She made a face in sympathy, and he gave a sharp shake of his head, his lip curling as he scoffed. “Don’t. She doesn’t deserve your pity. She’s the one who leaked my photos.”

Her violet eyes widened. They always looked so much more vibrant in the mornings. “Seriously? She admitted it?”

“Technically, her sister sold them to the media, but Val sent them to her and then lied to me about it.”

Daenerys swore under her breath, pounding her fist into her palm. “Oh, I bloody knew she was behind it!”

“Me too. But I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt.” He snorted. “What a stupid wanker I was. And she had the fucking nerve to ask for a second chance.” With a huff, he shook his head again. “Can’t believe I almost fell for her shite again.”

Daenerys’ eyebrows pulled together in a frown. “What does that mean?”

Jon let out a tired chuckle. “She wanted to give us, our relationship, another go. She asked to come on the show so she could date me again.”

She stared at him. “ agreed?”

“Almost,” he admitted. “But then I watched the footage of you two from earlier because you’d been so upset, and I wanted to see what happened for myself. Something she said bothered me, so I went to her room, and when I confronted her about the photos, she finally owned up to it.”

She was quiet for a long moment. “And if she hadn’t?”

He blinked. “What do you mean?”

Daenerys stepped back, putting some space between them. “If she hadn’t admitted to leaking the pics—if it wasn’t her who did it—would you have let her on the show?”

Jon gazed at her, unsure what to say. “I—maybe. I don’t know.” She turned away from him, and he frowned. “I’m confused. Are you upset?”

She refused to look at him, rubbing her forehead. “Of course, I’m upset, Jon. You just told me you were still thinking about getting back together with your ex.”

He shook his head, pushing off the door. “What? No, that’s not—no, Dany, that’s not what happened. She said she still loved me—”

Eyes widening, Daenerys swung around to face him. “She’s still in love with you?” she repeated, aghast. “And are you still in love with her?”

No,” he said emphatically. “Seven hells, Dany, no. Val and I had an honest conversation about you, about what happened between her and me and why we broke up. She asked for a fresh start, we kissed—” She winced, and he continued hurriedly, “But that’s it. She wanted another chance, and I told her I needed to think about it—”

Daenerys made a sound of disbelief, and he became frustrated. “Why is this bothering you so much? How would Val being on the show be any different than the other seven women already here?”

“Because—it just is, Jon,” she replied. “You loved her once, didn’t you? And if you’re still thinking about her, still thinking about being with her—” Her eyes welled with tears, and she stopped herself, shaking her head.

“I’m not, though,” he insisted. When she swiped at her cheeks, he moved closer, tugging on her arms to pull her into a hug. She relented, and he wrapped his arms around her, resting his chin on her head. “Dany. Listen to me. I haven’t secretly been pining for Val, I promise you. When she asked for another chance, I thought...hell, maybe I did owe it to her. Because of my feelings for you, I never really gave her a fair shot, not truly.” He lifted his shoulders. “But, honestly, it doesn’t matter anymore, because she is the one who leaked my pics, and I want nothing more to do with her. It was never going to work between us.”

For a while, they stood there in silence, simply clinging to each other as he rubbed her back. Finally, Daenerys let out a tremulous breath, pushing off his chest. “Sorry,” she said with a sniffle, keeping her gaze leveled below his chin. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. This is just...harder than I thought it would be. Seeing you with all these women. I thought, after all those years of watching you with Val, I would be immune to seeing you date someone else. But it just sucks.” She gave a watery laugh. “It really bloody sucks.”

Jon smiled ruefully. “Believe me, I get it.” Amused, he furrowed his brow and moved his hands to her waist. “Dany. Were you keeping tabs on me while you were in Essos?”

With a huff, she rolled her eyes. Still, a small smile teased the corners of her mouth. “You know I was.”

He chuckled, lowering his mouth to hers. “Did you like what you saw?” he teased, brushing his lips to hers when she lifted her chin.

Her eyelids drooped, and her lips parted. “Of course, I didn’t,” she whispered, her hands framing his face. “I wanted to throttle you so many times.”

He grinned, very briefly. “You can now. I might like it,” he murmured then finally slanted his mouth against hers. When his tongue touched hers, he groaned and dropped his hands to her arse, squeezing it through her robe. She whimpered into his mouth, and as their kiss grew more frenzied, his tongue hot in her mouth, his cock quickly thickened between them. Sliding his hands under her robe, he palmed her arse cheeks and gave them a firm squeeze with another appreciative groan. Apparently, she still only slept in a shirt and panties; at least, some things hadn’t changed. She rubbed herself against his erection, and he wriggled his fingers beneath her panties, stretching the material as he slipped them between her cheeks; he could feel the heat of her cunt. Gods, she was already wet for him.

“You know,” he panted against her mouth, eyes cracking open to survey their surroundings. “We’re in the one place they can’t film us. No cameras, no mics. We could just—you know…” He trailed off and nodded his head to the bathroom counter, wagging his eyebrows suggestively.

She went still in his arms, her own wrapped around his shoulders. “Are you asking to tup me in the bathroom?”

“Well, you’ve never had a problem with it before,” he said, a little defensively. Cheeks flushed, she huffed out a laugh against his mouth as her eyes darted uncertainly to the door over his shoulder. “I’ll be very quick,” he assured her, almost desperate in his immediate physical need for her.

She made a face. “What, did you somehow get worse at it since I went to Essos?”

He growled playfully and nipped at her bottom lip. “No, I like to think I’ve made some marginal improvements since then. Let me show you—”

Someone banged on the door then, startling them apart. “Jon, Olenna needs you in the control room.” It was Petyr’s voice. Jon groaned out loud. Of course. Fucking Littlefinger.

“Damn,” he sighed. “Guess we’ll have to take a raincheck on the quickie then.” He reached into his running shorts to adjust his erection, doing his best to flatten it under the waistband of his boxer-briefs

Daenerys laughed, the sound a bit strained as she retightened the belt on her robe. Suddenly, she sobered, her expression turning serious. “Jon, listen, I—while we’re here, maybe we should—”

Petyr banged again. “Now, Your Highness,” he snarked. “We have interviews scheduled all morning. With you included.”

Rolling his eyes, Jon kissed Daenerys once more before brushing another lingering kiss over her forehead. “We’ll talk later, I’m sure.”

She just nodded, lips pressed together, and he finally turned to unlock the door, flinging it open just as Petyr went to knock again. “Alright already, bloody hell,” he barked at the goateed bastard. Behind him, the cameras had multiplied. “Tell that old bat I’m coming. After I’ve had a shower.”

Petyr gave him a smarmy smile. “Just make it quick.”

Daenerys hung back in the bathroom as Jon followed the producer out of her and Missandei’s bedroom. Out in the hallway, more cameras filmed the other women, their arms folded over their chests as they watched him go with narrowed eyes. He swallowed, the elation he’d felt only moments ago evaporating in the face of their collective irritation. Fuck. He was definitely going to pay for this indiscretion later.

Still, he couldn’t, wouldn’t regret it. Forcing an easy smile, he nodded to them and continued on his way.

Jon took his time, showering, fixing his hair, choosing his outfit—not that any of it mattered since wardrobe and makeup would just change all of it for filming later. But really, he just wanted to make Olenna sweat it out a little while she waited for his arrival.

About an hour later, he finally made his appearance in the control room—with Sandor at his side. Olenna was talking to an editor when she spotted him, strolling in like he didn’t have a care in the world. “You wanted to see me?” he asked innocently.

She straightened, a steely look in her eyes. “Next time you plan to kick out one of my cast, I hope you’ll at least give me a heads up. Being woken up in the middle of the night to escort your blubbering ex-girlfriend off the premises is not generally how I like to start my day.”

“So you do sleep. I wasn’t sure.” He tried not to smile at her scowl; victory tasted so sweet. “Anyway, just imagine how dramatic it will look on TV,” he reminded her then shrugged. “You got the drama you wanted, didn’t you?.”

At that, she looked minimally pleased. “More than I bargained for, truly.”

Folding his arms over his chest, Jon narrowed his eyes at her. “Did you know Val was behind the photos this whole time?”

Olenna scoffed. “If I did, I would have planned for it better, believe me.”

Oddly enough, he did. She was never coy about her schemes, not after the fact, anyway. “You knew about me and Dany, though, didn’t you?” he asked lowly. He knew it was all out there now, but it was still weird to actually admit it to someone.

A smug smile tugged at her papery lips. “Of course, darling. Why do you think I flew all the way out to Essos to personally invite her onto the show? Honestly, I thought it would be a harder sell than it was. But the moment I told her you were going to be the bachelor, she all but jumped at the chance.”

Well, that was—admittedly, that was rather nice to hear. He let himself revel in that knowledge for a moment before giving himself a shake, trying to focus. “How?” he demanded, only slightly mollified by her story. “How did you know? We were always so careful. No one save for this bloke—” He jerked his thumb over his shoulder at Sandor. “Could have possibly known, and he won’t talk to anyone. Believe me, I’ve tried. It’s like talking to a wall. A big, ugly one.” Sandor glowered but said nothing. “See?”

Olenna waved him off. “No one is ever as careful as they think they are. And you should know better than most that there are no secrets.”

Huffing, Jon couldn’t help but pout. “So who told you about us?”

She laughed. “No one. Initially, anyway. I pieced it together myself, watching you two at Prince Aegon’s wedding.”

That was vexing. “What do you mean? We didn’t even interact that day. Not in front of the cameras, anyway.” He remembered watching her and Drogo obsessively throughout the reception, all while pretending not to, and after the ceremony had started, she'd gone out of her way to avoid him altogether.

She tapped her nose. “Exactly. I’ve been doing this job for two decades now. I wouldn’t be any good at my job if I couldn’t read people. The way you two avoided only each other? The body language between you two in the royal family portraits? Oi. Immediately, I could tell you two have gone heels up to the Seven.”

He pulled a face. “We what?”

Olenna rolled her eyes. “You know. Made the dragon with two backs. Battled beneath the God’s Eye. Forked on the Trident. Darling, you shtupped your auntie. How much clearer can I be?”

Jon’s face went hot. “Alright, I get it. Seven hells, just stop talking.” He glanced around the control room. Everyone was pretending not to listen and struggling to contain their laughter. He glared at them with all the princely disdain he could muster, and they scattered out of his line of sight. “So you’re saying you planned all of this on a hunch from four years ago?”

Olenna tutted. “Give me more credit than that. I’ve got eyes and ears all over this kingdom. Especially in King’s Landing. I had my Spider put out some feelers, looking for confirmation among his little birds. And boy, did he get it.” She shrugged at his look of alarm. “Sorry, darling, but in a place like the Red Keep, even the walls talk.”

Gritting his teeth, he narrowed his eyes. “Who talked? I want names.” So he knew whose head to put on a bloody spike when he returned.

“A good EP never reveals her sources,” she demurred. A PA came up to her with a tablet, and she took it from him, turning her focus to the screen. “Really, you should be thanking me.”

Jon’s eyebrows lifted incredulously. “Thanking you?”

Glancing up, she wiggled two of her fingers at him. “For orchestrating all this.” She smiled proudly. “And to think, you doubted the veracity of this show.”

Flushing, he scowled. “I think you’re getting ahead of yourself,” he grumbled. “There’s still eight women left.”

“Very true. And even if you’ve made up your mind already, we still have a month of filming left. So I need you to at least give the appearance of trying. You’ve got quite a mess to clean up, don’t you?”

He jerked his head back. “What mess?”

“You made one hell of a scene back there in the castle with Daenerys. The other women are going to demand answers about what that was all about.”

“So?” He huffed. “I don’t have to explain myself to them.”

Cutting him a chastening look, she tsked. “Yes, you do. You kept a secret from them. About a past relationship you had with one of the contestants on this very show. They deserve to know.”

Incredulous, he gaped at her, his mouth dropping open. “What—but—you—you brought her here! This was your bloody plan!” he sputtered.

“I didn’t make you keep your relationship a secret. You could have been upfront with everyone else this whole time.” She lifted her shoulder and turned back to her tablet. “Now you have to sit them all down and explain what happened. Let them decide if they want to forgive you and stay, or if they want to pack up and leave.”

Leave? What the fuck?” he asked indignantly, waving his arms around. “Why would they leave over something as silly as this? This is a bloody TV show! This isn’t even real, for fuck’s sake!”

She regarded him coldly. “Maybe not to you, but these women have been here for weeks now. I guarantee you it’s real for them.”

Heat filled his cheeks, and he let out an aggrieved breath, carding his hands through his hair. “Fucking hell.”

Olenna took pity on him. “Look, darling. It won’t be that bad. You’ll just sit them down and tell them what happened with Val, and then you’ll tell them about Daenerys. Some of them will probably be upset. They’ll yell at you a little, and you’ll take it because you’re a bloody prince and that’s what you lot do. Right?”

He scowled at her. “You set me up,” he said. She smiled.

“Of course I did. You said it yourself—it’s a bloody television show. Anyway, they’ll get over it. No woman’s going to forfeit her chance to date a real life prince. Once that’s done with, you’ll do your one-on-one date, and then tomorrow we’ll film the rose ceremony.”

Jon groaned. Right. The one-on-one with Ygritte. He pinched the bridge of his nose, feeling the beginnings of a stress headache coming on. Hell, and he’d been in such a good mood not even an hour ago.

He never should have let Littlefinger drag him out of that bathroom. He was so close to being inside Daenerys again, and instead he left her for this.

He heaved a sigh. “Fine. Let’s get this over with.”

Olenna smiled. “You’ve got to do your confessional now.”

He clenched his jaw and dropped his head back, forcing himself to breathe deeply through his nose. Just think about Dany, he told himself, her soft body under yours, ready and willing after all these bloody years. “How long till Fantasy Suites, exactly?” he asked through gritted teeth.

She gave him a knowing look. “Easy, darling. You’ve still got to get through hometowns first.”

Bobby B Productions
“Westeros’ Most Eligible Bachelor”
Tape #103

Partial transcripts of
one-on-one interviews with contestants
[June 9, 2019; 8:36 a.m.]

Littlefinger: It’s been quite an unusual morning, hasn’t it?

Ygritte: [huffing] Aye, I’ll say. Just what the hell is going on? What did Jon need Daenerys for?

Littlefinger: [chuckling] A family emergency, I think.

Ygritte: [eyes widening] Oh, gods, I didn’t even think—is there a problem or something? With the king?

Littlefinger: In a sense, I suppose...Rather, I imagine he will definitely have a problem soon…

Ygritte: What does that mean? Is someone sick? Tell me he’s not sick. Jon, I mean.

Littlefinger: No, no, it’s not as serious as all that.

Ygritte: Then what?

Littlefinger: Oh, I’m sure the prince will tell you himself soon. It’s probably best that you hear it from him.

Ygritte: Hear what? Just bloody tell me. And what does it have to do with Daenerys? [scowling] Is there something going on with them?

Littlefinger: [sighing] Look, I didn’t want to have to be the one to tell you. I really was hoping Jon would man up first, but...

Varys: And how do you feel about that news?

Cersei: [sneering] What do you think?

Varys: [murmuring sympathetically] I’m sure it’s not easy feeling like you’ve been lied to by the man you’re dating—

Cersei: I’m not mad at him, I’m mad at her! I knew that [expletive] couldn’t be trusted. I didn’t expect much better from him, either, truthfully. Men always think with their [expletive]. The king did the same thing, didn’t he? Taking up with another woman while he was already married.

Varys: Well—

Cersei: [talking over him] Like father, like son, I say. It’s just in his blood. [scoffing] Men just can’t help themselves. And the princess took advantage of his weakness. She’s manipulative and self-serving. Honestly, I bet she sees Jon as her ticket to the throne. She clearly wants to be queen, that’s all this is about.

Varys: [tittering] Well, that’s quite a roundabout way to the throne, isn’t it? Something would first have to happen to Prince Aegon and then his two sons before Prince Jon could be king.

Cersei: [shrugging] Accidents happen all the time, that’s all I’m saying.

Littlefinger: You don’t seem very surprised about Jon and Daenerys.

Missandei: I think it would be obvious to anyone they have a history. Jon and Dany grew up together. If she’s here now, well, [laughing] it kind of stands to reason something happened between them at some point, right?

Littlefinger: But she never told you?

Missandei: No, she never told me. Well, not in so many words. [snorting] But like I said, anyone paying attention could probably figure it out.

Littlefinger: And you’re not mad? You and the princess seem close. You don’t feel betrayed? By her or the prince?

Missandei: [pauses, thinking] Not really, no. I mean, if I’m going to feel betrayed about him carrying on with other women, then this is probably not the show for me, right?

Varys: So how are you feeling about all of this?

Alayaya: [prolonged sighing]


Alayaya: [still sighing]


Alayaya: [expletive]ing Targaryens.

Littlefinger: I guess the cat’s out of the bag, huh? [whispery chuckling]

Daenerys: I guess so.

Littlefinger: Six years. That’s a long time to be with someone. Longer than Jon’s relationship with Val. And longer than yours with Drogo. [smiling] I mean, considering how on and off you two were over the years. Sounds like you and Jon had quite the grand love affair.

Daenerys: [looking down, smiling] We did, I think.

Littlefinger: And then you left for six years. Broke his heart, from the sound of it.

Daenerys: [smile falling][shifting uncomfortably] I know I hurt him.

Littlefinger: But you think you deserve a second chance?

Daenerys: No, I don’t think I deserve anything from him. But I hope he’ll give me a second chance, yes.

Littlefinger: Considering what happened with Val, it doesn’t seem like Jon’s feeling very charitable right now.

Daenerys: [scowling] I’m not Val. I would never do to him what she did.

Littlefinger: So you haven’t lied to him?

Daenerys: I—no. No, I haven’t lied—

Littlefinger: You haven’t withheld important information from him?

Daenerys: [growing pale]

Littlefinger: Something that might affect his decision? Something that might change how he sees you?

Daenerys: I—I’m sorry, I’m not— [visibly upset] I feel kind of sick—

Littlefinger: Are you OK?

Daenerys: I don’t know. Can we stop? I just—sorry— [pulling off mic, getting up from chair]

Littlefinger: Daenerys—

Daenerys: [off screen] Excuse me. I just need a moment—

“You ready?” Petyr asked once the PA had stepped away from Jon’s chair after affixing his mic to his shirt. At the moment, they were hunkered down in the confessional room, where the producer would no doubt grill him about Val and Daenerys for the next few hours.

Truthfully, he wasn’t sure he was ready for this at all. “Sure, mate,” he lied, clearing his throat. “Hit me.”

Petyr gave him a knowing smile. “So much has happened, I hardly know where to start.”

Jon matched his smile with one of his own. “Let me help you then. It’s unfortunate what happened with Val, but I’m glad for the closure. We both hurt each other, whether intentionally or not, and I think this just proved that ending our relationship was the best thing for both of us. As to the photos specifically, I’m afraid it’s a legal matter, and I will not be commenting on it further. Any questions about them should be directed to my communications secretary.”

Blinking rapidly, Littlefinger let out a raspy chuckle. “Well. That certainly saves me time then, doesn’t it? I’ll just focus on the other, perhaps bigger, bombshell. So, you and Daenerys. That’s something, huh?”

“No need to play coy now, mate,” Jon said, still smiling. “You’ve been beating around the bush the whole damn time. Olenna’s already told me you lot knew.”

The producer chuckled again. “Six years is quite a long time. How did you two come together?”

After all this time, all the secrecy, it was strange being asked about his past relationship with Daenerys so directly, but he was determined to not show how rattled he was. He gave a nonchalant shrug. “We were teens who spent a lot of time together. It was only natural, I suppose.”

Petyr’s eyebrows ticked up. “I don’t know if natural is the word for it. Certainly not for the rest of us, anyway.”

Jon bristled slightly. “Then call it Targaryen Exceptionalism if it makes you feel better.”

“Ah, yes. The royal decree that made it acceptable for Targaryens to marry other Targaryens.” He furrowed his brow. “Which is something the king himself is against, is he not?”

Jon made himself take a deep breath to quell his rising temper. “Rhaegar might be all-powerful in a lot of ways, but not even he can control who we’re attracted to.”

Littlefinger nodded once, conceding his point. “Fair enough. So this all started when you were teens?”

“Aye. Things happened.”

“And kept happening.” Jon only smiled, and Petyr continued, “You carried on for six years under your father’s nose?”

“It’s a big castle,” Jon said with a shrug.

“Still, that’s quite a long time to carry on in secret,” the producer mused. “You two must have been in love, no?”

Jon went still, trying not to outwardly react. Love. They’d never said it to each other at the time, not those words: I love you. It would have made it too real, too scary, but Jon knew he had loved her, far more than just as his family. And he knew she had loved him, too—or he thought he’d known it, until she’d left, and then for the longest time he hadn’t known what to think anymore. Even now, he wasn’t sure.

He licked his lips, swallowed. “We were young,” was all he said. Like hell he was going to say it now to Littlefinger of all people, in any case.

“She must have felt very strongly for you at some point to be here now,” Petyr suggested.

Jon rubbed his hands on his thighs. His palms were starting to sweat. “You’d have to ask her.”

“And how do you feel about her?”

Seven buggering hells. This was harder than he thought it would be. His usual way of dealing with tough situations and inconvenient feelings by deflecting was running up against some still-raw feelings. “Obviously...I care for her, and I’m—I want to see where things could go between us,” he said carefully, haltingly.

“You think things would be different this time?” Littlefinger asked.

“They already are. Being with her, away from the Red Keep, away from my father. There’s less...pressure, I suppose,” Jon said. Less fear.

“Is that what went wrong the first time?” the producer pressed. “Too much interference from the royal family?”

“No,” Jon said. “No one ever knew. No one who mattered, at least.”

Littlefinger frowned, but there was something deceptive in his expression. “So what happened then?”

“Daenerys left for Essos.”

“But she’s left before hasn’t she?” Petyr pointed out. “What was different about this time?”

“You’d have to ask her,” Jon bit out.

“She never told you why she left?”

The man’s incredulity felt like performance, and it put Jon on edge. He let out a ragged breath. “If there’s some other reason than ‘I just don’t think it will work,’ then, again, you’ll have to ask her,” he said flatly.

Petyr affected a thoughtful expression. “Do you ever worry that she’s hiding something from you?” he asked, a little too innocently.

The back of his neck prickled with alarm, and Jon narrowed his eyes. “What do you know?” he demanded, but Littlefinger shook his head.

“It was only a question. It seems strange that she broke things off with you, rather inexplicably from the sound of it, only for her to show up six years later wanting to give things another go.” Petyr’s beady little eyes turned shrewd. “Something must have happened when she was in Essos, don’t you think?”

Jon stared at him, his thoughts beginning to spiral away from him, but he tried to shut them down. This always happened. Once he got started on that line of thought, he found himself overcome with suspicions, doubting himself, doubting her—and he had no doubt it was exactly what the producers wanted. He’d told Daenerys he would stop second-guessing her motivations for being here, but while he could accept that she was here for him, that she wanted him, it still left the question of why she’d ever left in the first place. He needed to know, needed to hear from her own mouth what had really happened—because he knew there was more to it, more than she’d said in her email, Littlefinger was right about that. Jon wasn’t sure he’d get an answer, though, not here anyway, not until they were far away from this show and all the cameras. He would just have to wait until this was over, he supposed, and then they could finally sit down and have it all out.

“It doesn’t matter,” he finally said, though he felt less sure than he sounded. “She’ll tell me when she’s ready. I trust her.”

Littlefinger didn’t say anything right away. After a moment, he smiled. His eyes were hard. “I admire your faith. For your sake, I hope it’s not misplaced.”

His confessional with Littlefinger had dragged on for hours, which had effectively killed his good mood. That wanker had a knack for drumming up all of Jon’s self-loathing and insecurities, which were already in ample supply and in absolutely no need of nurturing from anyone else.

So, when Tyrion came barging into wardrobe later, Jon was not thrilled to see him. And for once, it had nothing to do with the fact that he’d been caught with his pants down—literally.

“I should bloody well fire you,” Jon snapped over his shoulder before the other man could even open his mouth. He yanked his pants up over his arse, shoving his junk into the crotch. The jeans were tight, just how he liked him, which meant underwear was a no-go.

Struggling to catch his breath, Tyrion held up his hands. “I fucked up, I know—”

“How the hell could you not know Val was the leaker?” Jon demanded, thoughtlessly jerking up the zipper of his fly. Instant regret: the skin of his dick caught in the zipper. A small squawk of pain hissed through his teeth. “Fuck me,” he grunted, quickly unzipping before he could black out.

“I know—well, technically, it wasn’t her, but her sister—anyway, that’s not important,” Tyrion said, catching Jon’s murderous look. “The point is, Westeros Weekly refused to out their source. We could only lean on them so hard before it became a legal battle.”

This time, Jon carefully tucked his dick and balls aside before he zipped, extra slowly. Once he had his jeans successfully buttoned, he blew out a breath. “So? Take them to court, who fucking cares?”

Tyrion winced. “The king was worried about the optics of the crown suing a news outlet.”

“It’s not a news outlet, it’s a bloody tabloid!”

“Nevertheless, this stuff is like blood in the water for our critics. Anytime the crown goes after the press, the opposition party goes nuts. Crying about free speech and all that. It’s a fine line to walk. His Grace was hoping to resolve this under the radar, preferably without filing a lawsuit.”

Jon scowled, taking the button-down shirt the stylist handed him and slipping his arms into the sleeves. “Of course, he was. After all, it’s only his bloody backup son’s privacy being invaded, nothing to lose sleep over.”

Tyrion made a sound of objection. “Well, I think that’s a little unkind. I know he was worried about drawing any more negative attention to you, considering the year you’ve had—”

“Sure, so throw me on a TV show, that will definitely shut down media attention.”

“At least, this media attention is positive—” Jon shot him a look as he buttoned up his shirt, and Tyrion revised his comment, “Mostly positive. You’re already becoming a more sympathetic character to the public, and the show hasn’t even aired yet!”

Jon huffed. “Aye? And how sympathetic do you think I’m going to look when I go out there to tell these women I’ve been lying to them?”

Tyrion shrugged. “In the end, it’s still a love story.” His expression shifted suddenly, and now he was the one who looked piqued. “Speaking of—you and the princess were carrying on for six years? I mean, you told me you two fooled around a little, but I thought you were just talking about teenage hormones. Six years? My marriage didn’t even last that long! And no one knew until now? How is that possible?”

“Ask Olenna.” Jon held his arms out in front of him so the stylist could roll up his sleeves. There was a method to it that Jon could never quite master on his own. Peevishly, he added, “Apparently, I need to hire her to be my comms sec since my current one is falling down on the job.”

Tyrion went red. “Forgive me for not prying into your personal life. Also, as your communications secretary, allow me to offer you a word of advice: While you’re here, if you want to have a private conversation in the bathroom, make sure you at least turn the sink on first. The cameras picked up everything you and Daenerys were, er, discussing.”

Jon’s face paled. “Oh, fuck me. All of it?” At the other man’s confirmation, Jon flushed. “Bloody hell, is there no bloody privacy in this fucking castle anywhere?”

“No, that’s what it means to be on a reality show,” Tyrion deadpanned, and Jon grimaced. Perhaps it wasn’t such a bad thing he and Daenerys had been interrupted when they were, after all. While he might be ready to come clean to his father and the world about their relationship, caught fucking his aunt on a hot mic was probably a bridge too far. As it was, the crown was probably still dealing with the scandal of the skinny dipping photos.

As Jon brooded silently, Tyrion switched gears. “What do you want me to do? About Val and her sister? Your father doesn’t know yet, but I’m going to have to give him a heads up soon. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before this news is out there, and we’ll need to have a statement prepared.” His face softened. “Do you want the crown to pursue legal action against Val’s sister?”

Skeptical, Jon raised his eyebrows. “You think my father would actually do that?”

Tyrion shrugged. “It’s definitely a precarious situation, given who her father is. But I would say it’s certainly a possibility now. Whatever you think of the king, I don’t imagine he would let something like this slide.”

Jon mulled it over, thanking the stylist once she had finished with his sleeves. He’d been angry with Val, and with Dalla by extension—he still was, frankly. Val had violated his trust, his privacy. It hurt to know she’d been so reckless with something he’d shared with her in a moment of intimacy. And while he understood he’d hurt her, it didn’t excuse her actions, even if she hadn’t meant for the photos to get out.

But more than that, he was tired. He was just ready to put it—and Val—behind him, once and for all. The thought of dragging this out in the courts exhausted him.

“No,” he finally said. “I don’t want anything more to do with her. Let this be the last of it.”

Tyrion looked surprised. “Really?”

“Really,” Jon said with finality, picking one of the belts the stylist held out for him. “I have no ill will toward her or her family. They’re nothing to me at this point.” Shrugging, he turned to face Tyrion as the stylist threaded the belt through the loops on his jeans. “However, if my father wants to use this as a bargaining chip in future negotiations with Mance, I won’t stop him.”

Tyrion made a sound of amusement. “Well. Now you’re thinking like a king would.” In response, Jon flashed him a droll smirk.

Just then, a PA knocked on the trailer door, and the stylist scurried over to open it. “We’ve gotta get to the keep for filming now,” the PA informed him.

Jon sighed wearily, looking to Tyrion. “A king who’s about to get his arse handed to him by seven different women.”

Once again, the producers had gathered the women in the solar, which seemed to be the place for breaking bad news to them. Except, unlike with the Val segment, the women were all clearly expecting the bad news this time, judging by the way they were all glaring daggers at him.

Bloody hell, and he hadn’t even opened his mouth yet.

Oberyn clasped a hand on Jon’s shoulder, the host’s expression deadly serious. “I believe Jon has something he would like to tell you ladies,” he announced for the cameras’ sake. “I’ll leave you to it.” With that, he shook Jon’s hand—like he was seeing him off to war, for fuck’s sake—before walking off set.

Facing the firing squad, Jon clasped his hands behind him, mostly to fight the impulse to tug at his collar. Gods, was it hot in the keep or what?

As they had been the previous day, the women were all seated on the couch, their arms folded over their chests in a defensive stance as they stared at him expectantly. Jon couldn’t help but notice the way Daenerys was slightly separated from the rest, though whether it was by the women’s doing or the producers’, he wasn’t sure. She looked troubled, her eyes haunted.

He cleared his throat. “Ladies. I want to apologize for this morning. That was, ah, quite rude of me to disturb you all in that manner, and I’m afraid I wasn’t quite myself after a night of no sleep.” He affected a sheepish face, but it elicited no sympathy. They continued to stare at him, stone-faced. He straightened his face, coughing a little. “Anyway, I’m sure you’ve all heard the rumors by now, but you deserve to hear it from me directly.”

He took a deep breath. “First, I feel like I should explain why Val is not here. Originally, she was supposed to return and reveal her pick for my one-on-one date. But while she supposedly came here to help me find a partner, she eventually revealed to me that she wished to be in the running as well.”

Finally, that got a reaction. The women stirred in surprise, shooting each other disgruntled looks. So, that was something they hadn’t been warned about in advance, at least.

Jon continued, “I just want you to know that I initially did tell her I would think about it—” Their unease grew, on the verge of careening into outrage, and he held his hand up to quiet them. “Ultimately, I told her it was not a good idea and that I was not interested in dating her again. So I sent her home.”

“Oh, good,” Cersei drawled derisively. “It’s nice to know we only have to compete against one of your exes.”

Heat filled his face as his eyes darted to Daenerys, who, to her credit, didn’t outwardly react beyond a thinning of her lips. She simply kept her eyes on him, her chin held high. He swallowed and directed his attention back to the other women. They looked like they wanted to toss him from the rooftop terrace. “As to that point—yes. Daenerys and I used to have an intimate relationship. Years ago.”

The women began muttering again, shifting restlessly on the sofas. “I’m very sorry I didn’t tell you sooner,” Jon said with practiced solemnity; he’d made sure to rehearse this apology in the mirror when he was getting his makeup and hair done. “You all deserved to know what you were getting into. I honestly had no idea Daenerys was going to be on the show, I want you to know that. Still, I should have been up front sooner about our past, and I apologize if you feel like I’ve misled you.”

“Of course, we feel misled,” Alys interjected suddenly. “You two have a history! How are we supposed to compete with that?”

Cersei sneered. “And we all know you Targaryens stick together in the end.” The others angrily chorused their agreement. Daenerys blushed lightly, this time averting her gaze when Jon glanced her way.

Fucking hell. He took another steadying breath, struggling to remain diplomatic and not just walk off set. It was one thing to have to beg forgiveness from one woman, but from seven women at once? Honestly, how did his male ancestors do this?

“I understand your concerns,” he said over their objections. “I want to assure you that I’m giving you all the same consideration, and I haven’t made any decision about who I plan to pick. That said, if this changes anything for any of you, if you don’t think you want to stay, I would completely understand. Still, I hope none of you leave. And I hope you’ll give me a chance to prove that I mean what I say.”

They went quiet, still glaring at him. “I think it’s only fair that I give you all time to think over it and then you can let me know what you decide.” He licked his lips before shifting gears. “However, I would like to invite the winner of the one-on-one date to spend the day with me, if she feels up to it. Ygritte?” He looked to her expectantly.

Surprise flickered across her face, but she quickly schooled her expression, her blue eyes stormy, mouth set in an unhappy frown. “Would you perhaps be interested in joining me for dinner?” he asked tentatively.

It was weird to even have to ask, if he was being honest, and for a moment he really thought she was going to refuse. Eventually, she jerked her head in agreement, and he found himself stifling a sigh of relief. Thank fuck for small mercies, he supposed. On top of everything else that had already gone wrong, getting rejected on TV would have been one more humiliation than he could handle today.

He flashed her a genuine smile. “Thank you, Ygritte. I look forward to spending some more time with you.” He focused on the others, who were either scowling or pouting. Even Daenerys looked discouraged. It pained him. Clearly, with his actions this morning, he’d not only fucked himself; he’d also put her in a bad spot with the other women.

But there was nothing he could do about it at the moment, nothing that wouldn’t make it worse for her.

Oberyn returned then, as solemn as ever. “Jon, I think it’s best if we leave the women to think about what you’ve told them. Ygritte, if you’re ready, you can join him for your date now.”

He gestured for the two of them to exit the solar. Grudgingly, Ygritte stood from the couch, and Jon held out his hand to her. She slipped her fingers through his, and together they left for their date.

It was a long, awkward walk, neither speaking as PAs directed them across the castle to an indoor-outdoor room for an alfresco dinner on the patio. A small table was already set with food and wine—of course—and in the middle was a single blue rose, which he was to present to her as her “pass” for the rose ceremony. Off to the side on the patio was a hot tub. Jon already knew Olenna wanted the date to end there. After dinner, he was meant to ask her to join him, at which point they would change into their swimsuits. Two glasses and a bottle of champagne had been arranged for the occasion—but judging by her frosty demeanor, at this point Jon was sure Ygritte was more likely to drown him than toast him.

At the table, Jon pulled out her chair for her. “After you,” he said, and she sat down without a word, jerking her chair out of his hands as she scooted closer to the table. He made a face. Oh, yes, she definitely wanted him dead.

Biting back a sigh, he sat down in his seat beside her. “Thank you for joining me,” he started, but the words died on his tongue as he watched her unceremoniously shovel a forkful of pasta into her mouth. She chewed, swallowed, then did it again, not even acknowledging him. Jon let out an uncomfortable chuckle, glancing at the camera. “You know, we’re not actually supposed to eat until after the date,” he told her in a conspiratorial whisper. “We’re supposed to be talking.”

Ygritte snorted, her mouth full. Swallowing, she swigged her glass of red. “What does it matter? This is all a sham, anyway, isn’t it? Might as well get a good meal out of this bloody date.” With a shrug, she ate another hearty bite of pasta.

Ah. This time, Jon didn’t hold back his sigh. “You’re upset,” he noted needlessly, and she rolled her eyes. “Do you want to talk about this?”

She shrugged again. “That’s really not necessary. I understand what’s happening here.”

He nodded slowly. “Alright. So explain it to me as you understand it so I can make sure I understand it, too.”

Her nostrils flared in anger, and she cut him a chilling look. “Don’t do that. The dumb act isn’t an attractive look for you, Your Highness.

He pressed his lips together, taking a moment to sort through his thoughts. In the silence that followed, she resumed eating. “Ygritte, I just want you to talk to me,” he finally said. “I want to fix this, if you’ll let me.”

Her air of nonchalance dissipated, and Ygritte set her fork down, sitting back in her chair. Her face was tight with anger, but under it, he saw hurt. “You can’t fix this,” she said quietly. “I’m just an idiot, for coming here and thinking—”

She stopped abruptly, looking away. Frowning, he shifted his chair around in an attempt to face her fully. “You’re not an idiot. Why do you think that?”

Her blue eyes darted to his, flashing like a storm. “I thought you might actually be into me, that’s why.”

He reached across the table to take her hand. “Ygritte—I am into you. Why do you think you’re on this date with me?”

Exasperated, she looked at him again. “Because your ex-girlfriend picked me to be.”

Bollocks. She had him there. “Aye, that’s true, wouldn’t have been an option for her to pick in the first place if I didn’t like you.”

Her expression wavered, just slightly, but then she shook her head. “I just don’t know what the point of all this is—of being here—if you’ve already made up your mind.”

“I haven’t made up my mind,” he said defensively, and she huffed.

“Maybe not, but it’s like Alys said. If you’ve already got a history with Daenerys, how can the rest of us even compete with that?” She pinned him with an accusatory look. “What’s the point in the rest of us putting ourselves out there if you’re just going to pick her in the end? Why am I trying so hard when you’re not?”

He opened and closed his mouth, searching for a rebuttal and finding none. The problem was—she was right. He wasn’t trying, not with her, not with any of them, really; this was a sham, and he’d come on here with no intentions of taking any of it seriously.

Of course, that was before he’d known Daenerys was a contestant. Now he wasn’t sure what he planned to do.

Ygritte probably had a right to be upset. He’d just assumed, perhaps unfairly, that she and the others understood how this game was played. But that hadn’t been true of Brienne; it stood to reason it wasn’t true of all of them. Ygritte was honest—sometimes to a fault. She was completely lacking in artifice; truthfully, it was what he’d found so appealing about her in the first place. He shouldn’t be surprised that she was here because she was actually, genuinely interested in him. Just as some of the other women might be, too.

Most of them seemed to be trying. Maybe he owed it to them to also try. But most of all, maybe he owed it to himself. For so long, there’d been this sense of unfinished business between him and Daenerys, an inability to truly move on—so much so, he was only now seeing just how much it had interfered with his last relationship.

Maybe this was the time, the perfect opportunity, to open himself up to the very real possibility of a genuine connection with someone other than Daenerys.

Jon took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. “You’re right,” he said, and she blinked in surprise, clearly not expecting his admission. “I haven’t made up my mind, but I can’t...act like I’ve been a hundred percent open with you. Or with anyone here. I haven’t been completely truthful, but I also haven’t been completely willing to let you or anyone else in. Maybe...maybe because I’m scared,” he said, embarrassed—and he was surprised to realize how true that rang.

He was quiet for a moment as he mulled it over, and she gave him the time and space to do that. Eventually, he found the words to explain. “Being who I am—it’s hard to know who will actually like me for who I am and not just because I’m a prince.” He smiled humorlessly. “I know, that makes me sound like a bloody cliché. But it’s true. And even then...I’ve always been afraid that I’m still not good enough. That someone will get close to me, get to know the truth of me underneath all this rubbish—and still leave.”

Like Daenerys had. Like Val had. Because who he was hadn’t been enough for either of them, not really, not then, had it? And who he was now wasn’t really him either; it was a defense, against them leaving.

But—if he was really being honest with himself—the problem had existed long before either of them had left him. Ultimately, it was his father he’d never been good enough for. It was his father’s rejection that he feared, that kept him hidden under a protective shell of indolence and scorn. Because in the end, pushing people away was easier than waiting for them to leave him instead.

A gentle squeeze on his hand startled him out of his dark thoughts, and when he looked up, Ygritte gave him a small smile. “Well, at least you can be sure I don’t like you because you’re a prince. Truthfully, I like you in spite of it.”

He let out a soft, relieved laugh then shook his head. “I’m sorry, truly. For making you doubt my intentions.” When she met his gaze, there was an uncertainty there, and he tightened his fingers around hers in reassurance. “Maybe we can start over. Well, not completely over, seeing as we’re kind of on a time crunch here.” This time she laughed, and he smiled wider.

“What I mean is—I want to try. Really try. And I want you to know that I’m giving you—and everyone else who’s still here—a fair shot. Maybe you’re not all starting at the same place, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be you at the end with me.”

After a beat, she nodded, holding his gaze. “Alright,” she said, and he smiled again, taking the blue rose out of the slender vase to present it to her.

“So you’ll accept this rose? And give me another shot to prove myself to you?”

Smiling, Ygritte rolled her eyes. “Oh, come on. You know you’re the one with all the power here, not me.”

He shook his head. “Honestly, I’ve never felt so powerless in my life,” he said with a strained laugh.

Deliberating for only a moment longer, Ygritte took the rose from him, and he felt his shoulders drop in relief. “Aye, I’ll accept this rose.” She shot him a playfully threatening look. “But I swear, if you break my heart, I will skin you alive.”

He chuckled, only a little nervous. “I believe it.” A PA out of frame waved frantically to get his attention and gestured to the hot tub, encouraging them to begin making moves in that direction. He kissed Ygritte’s forehead and pulled back. “Would you like to join me in the hot tub?” he asked.

“Jon Snow, did you give me this rose just so you can get me half-naked?” she teased, and he grinned.

“I never said my intentions were pure.”

After the PAs came in to replace the plates with empty ones to make it look like they’d eaten, Jon helped Ygritte up from the table. At that point they were led to separate bathrooms where their respective bathing suits were already laid out. As he put on his swim trunks, Jon realized he was actually excited about the next part of their date. Relaxing in a hot tub with a beautiful woman—honestly, what was there to hate?

Emerging from the bathroom, he had to wait a few more minutes for Ygritte to finish up. When she finally appeared, a PA escorting her down the hallway to him, he couldn’t help but admire her. Of course, he’d seen her in a bathing suit at the Dornish beach, he supposed, but at the time he’d been surrounded by more tits and arses than he’d reasonably known what to do with. But now she had his full attention, in her navy striped string bikini, her wild red curls pinned up on the top of her head in a purposefully messy bun. The look was simple but effective, and Jon let his eyes sweep over her in naked appreciation. She did the same to him, her grin dimpling her cheek.

At the hot tub, the cameras were already in position, boom mics held over it out of frame since their mic packs had been removed with the wardrobe change. Jon climbed into the hot tub first, then turned around to hold her hand and make sure she didn’t slip as she stepped in beside him.

They settled against the side, the bubbling water coming up to their chests. Gods, it felt nice, the jets pounding against his back soothing his overworked muscles. It was only just hitting him how sore he was from his manic workout session in the early morning hours.

As instructed earlier by one of the PAs, Jon reached over the side of the hot tub and grabbed the champagne. Giving it a twist, he held onto the cork so it wouldn’t take out anyone’s eye, and Ygritte gave a muffled squeal at the loud pop it made. With a chuckle, he poured first her a glass and then himself one, dropping the bottle back in the bucket of ice.

Holding his glass out to her, Jon made a toast. “Here’s to being open to love,” he said, pulling a face as soon as he said it. Gods, could he sound any more like a wanker?

But Ygritte smiled at him, tapping her glass to his. “Cheers.” They drank together, their gazes locked, but she spluttered on the champagne almost immediately.

Alarmed, he reached for her. “You alright?”

She waved him off, coughing and wiping the back of her hand across her face, which had turned bright red. “Aye, I’m fine. The bubbles just went up my nose,” she said with a sheepish laugh. With a grin, he swiped his thumb across the wet tip of her nose where she’d missed some foam then took her glass from her, setting it on the little table with the bottle.

“Let’s put that away before you hurt yourself,” he joked. Turning back, he shifted closer to her on the seat they shared, their thighs pressed together. Then he brought his hand up to her face, sweeping his thumb across her cheekbone. Her eyes dilated slightly, lips parting as she sucked in a breath. He glanced between her eyes and her lips as he leaned into her. “I can think of another way to celebrate.”

With that, he kissed her, sealing their mouths together. Her hands came up to his shoulders, then she was moving in the water, lifting herself into his lap. As they kissed, he grabbed her waist to help her, and once she was straddling him, her arse nestled against his crotch, he slid his hands down to her hips and then to her thighs.

Soon, he forgot all about the cameras and the show and just let himself enjoy the moment for what it was.