Red, White &Royal Blue By Casey McQuiston , Chapter 6

Henry can’t avoid him forever. There’s one part of the post-royal wedding arrangement left to fulfill: Henry’s presence at a state dinner at the end of January. England has a relatively new prime minister, and Ellen wants to meet him. Henry’s coming too, staying in the Residence as a courtesy. Alex smooths out the lapels on his tux and hovers close to June and Nora as the guests roll in, waiting at the north entrance near the photo line. He’s aware that he’s rocking anxiously on his heels but can’t seem to stop. Nora smirks but says nothing. She’s keeping it quiet. He’s still not ready to tell June. Telling his sister is irreversible, and he can’t do that until he’s figured out what exactly this is. Henry enters stage right. His suit is black, smooth, elegant. Perfect. Alex wants to rip it off. His face is reserved, then downright ashen when he sees Alex in the entrance hall. His footsteps stutter, as if he’s thinking of making a run for it. Alex is not above a flying tackle. Instead, he keeps walking up the steps, and— “All right, photos,” Zahra hisses over Alex’s shoulder. “Oh,” Henry says, like an idiot. Alex hates how much he likes the way that one stupid vowel curls in his accent. He’s not even into British accents. He’s into Henry’s British accent. “Hey,” Alex says under his breath. Fake smile, handshake, cameras flashing. “Cool to see you’re not dead or anything.” “Er,” Henry says, adding to the list of vowel sounds he has to show for himself. It is, unfortunately, also sexy. After all these weeks, the bar is low. “We need to talk,” Alex says, but Zahra is physically shoving them into a friendly formation, and there are more photos until Alex is being shepherded off with the girls to the State Dining Room while Henry is hauled into photo ops with the prime minister. The entertainment for the night is a British indie rocker who looks like a root vegetable and is popular with people in Alex’s demographic for reasons he can’t even begin to understand. Henry is seated with the prime minister, and Alex sits and chews his food like it’s personally wronged him and watches Henry from across the room, seething. Every so often, Henry will
look up, catch Alex’s eye, go pink around the ears, and return to his rice pilaf as if it’s the most fascinating dish on the planet. How dare Henry come into Alex’s house looking like the goddamn James Bond offspring that he is, drink red wine with the prime minister, and act like he didn’t slip Alex the tongue and ghost him for a month. “Nora,” he says, leaning over to her while June is off chatting with an actress from Doctor Who. The night is starting to wind down, and Alex is over it. “Can you get Henry away from his table?” She slants a look at him. “Is this a diabolical scheme of seduction?” she asks. “If so, yes.” “Sure, yes, that,” he says, and he gets up and heads for the back wall of the room, where the Secret Service is stationed. “Amy,” he hisses, grabbing her by the wrist. She makes a quick, aborted movement, clearly fighting a hardwired takedown reflex. “I need your help.” “Where’s the threat?” she says immediately. “No, no, Jesus.” Alex swallows. “Not like that. I need to get Prince Henry alone.” She blinks. “I don’t follow.” “I need to talk to him in private.” “I can accompany you outside if you need to speak with him, but I’ll have to get it approved with his security first.” “No,” Alex says. He scrubs a hand across his face, glancing back over his shoulder to confirm Henry’s where he left him, being aggressively talked at by Nora. “I need him alone.” The slightest of expressions crosses over Amy’s face. “The best I can do is the Red Room. You take him any farther and it’s a no-go.” He looks over his shoulder again at the tall doors across the State Dining Room. The Red Room is empty on the other side, awaiting the after-dinner cocktails. “How long can I have?” he says. “Five min—” “I can make that work.” He turns on his heel and stalks over to the ornamental display of chocolates, where Nora has apparently lured Henry with the promise of profiteroles. He plants himself between them. “Hi,” he says. Nora smiles. Henry’s mouth drops open. “Sorry to interrupt. Important, um. International. Relations. Stuff.” And he seizes Henry
by the elbow and yanks him bodily away. “Do you mind?” Henry has the nerve to say. “Shut your face,” Alex says, briskly leading him away from the tables, where people are too busy mingling and listening to the music to notice Alex frog-marching an heir to the throne out of the dining room. They reach the doors, and Amy is there. She hesitates, hand on the knob. “You’re not going to kill him, are you?” she says. “Probably not,” Alex tells her. She opens the door just enough to let them through, and Alex hauls Henry into the Red Room with him. “What on God’s earth are you doing?” Henry demands. “Shut up, shut all the way up, oh my God,” Alex hisses, and if he weren’t already hell-bent on destroying Henry’s infuriating idiot face with his mouth right now, he would consider doing it with his fist. He’s focused on the burst of adrenaline carrying his feet over the antique rug, Henry’s tie wrapped around his fist, the flash in Henry’s eyes. He reaches the nearest wall, shoves Henry against it, and crushes their mouths together. Henry’s too shocked to respond, mouth falling open slackly in a way that’s more surprise than invitation, and for a horrified moment Alex thinks he calculated all wrong, but then Henry’s kissing him back, and it’s everything. It feels as good as—better than—he remembered, and he can’t recall why they haven’t been doing this the whole time, why they’ve been running belligerent circles around each other for so long without doing anything about it. “Wait,” Henry says, breaking off. He pulls back to look at Alex, wildeyed, mouth a vivid red, and Alex could fucking scream if he weren’t worried dignitaries in the next room might hear him. “Should we—” “What?” “I mean, er, should we, I dunno, slow down?” Henry says, cringing so hard at himself that one eye closes. “Go for dinner first, or—” Alex is actually going to kill him. “We just had dinner.” “Right. I meant—I just thought—” “Stop thinking.” “Yes. Gladly.” In one frantic motion, Alex knocks the candelabra off the table next to them and pushes Henry onto it so he’s sitting with his back against—Alex
looks up and almost breaks into deranged laughter—a portrait of Alexander Hamilton. Henry’s legs fall open readily and Alex crowds up between them, wrenching Henry’s head back into another searing kiss. They’re really moving now, wrecking each other’s suits, Henry’s lip caught between Alex’s teeth, the portrait’s frame rattling against the wall when Henry’s head drops back and bangs into it. Alex is at his throat, and he’s somewhere between angry and giddy, caught up in the space between years of sworn hate and something else he’s begun to suspect has always been there. It’s white-hot, and he feels crazy with it, lit up from the inside. Henry gives as good as he gets, hooking one knee around the back of Alex’s thigh for leverage, delicate royal sensibilities nowhere in the cut of his teeth. Alex has been learning for a while Henry isn’t what he thought, but it’s something else to feel it this close up, the quiet burn in him, the pent-up person under the perfect veneer who tries and pushes and wants. He drops a hand onto Henry’s thigh, feeling the electrical pulse there, the smooth fabric over hard muscle. He pushes up, up, and Henry’s hand slams down over his, digging his nails in. “Time’s up!” comes Amy’s voice through a crack in the doors. They freeze, Alex falling back onto his heels. They can both hear it now, the sounds of bodies moving too close for comfort, wrapping up the night. Henry’s hips give one tiny push up into him, involuntary, surprised, and Alex swears. “I’m going to die,” Henry says helplessly. “I’m going to kill you,” Alex tells him. “Yes, you are,” Henry agrees. Alex takes an unsteady step backward. “People are gonna be coming in here soon,” Alex says, reaching down and trying not to fall on his face as he scoops up the candelabra and shoves it back onto the table. Henry is standing now, looking wobbly, his shirt untucked and his hair a mess. Alex reaches up in a panic and starts patting it back into place. “Fuck, you look—fuck.” Henry fumbles with his shirt tail, eyes wide, and starts humming “God Save the Queen” under his breath. “What are you doing?” “Christ, I’m trying to make it”—he gestures inelegantly at the front of his pants—“go away.” Alex very pointedly does not look down.
“Okay, so,” Alex says. “Yeah. So here’s what we’re gonna do. You are gonna go be, like, five hundred feet away from me for the rest of the night, or else I am going to do something that I will deeply regret in front of a lot of very important people.” “All right…” “And then,” Alex says, and he grabs Henry’s tie again, close to the knot, and draws his mouth up to a breath away from Henry’s. He hears Henry swallow. He wants to follow the sound down his throat. “And then you are going to come to the East Bedroom on the second floor at eleven o’clock tonight, and I am going to do very bad things to you, and if you fucking ghost me again, I’m going to get you put on a fucking no-fly list. Got it?” Henry bites down on a sound that tries to escape his mouth, and rasps, “Perfectly.”
Alex is. Well, Alex is probably losing his mind. It’s 10:48. He’s pacing. He threw his jacket and tie over the back of the chair as soon as he returned to his room, and he’s got the first two buttons of his dress shirt undone. His hands are twisted up in his hair. This is fine. It’s fine. It’s definitely a terrible idea. But it’s fine. He’s not sure if he should take anything else off. He’s unsure of the dress code for inviting your sworn-enemy-turned-fake-best-friend to your room to have sex with you, especially when that room is in the White House, and especially when that person is a guy, and especially when that guy is a prince of England. The room is dimly lit—a single lamp, in the corner by the couch, washing the deep blues of the walls neutral. He’s moved all his campaign files from the bed to the desk and straightened out the bedspread. He looks at the ancient fireplace, the carved details of the mantel almost as old as the country itself, and it may not be Kensington Palace, but it looks all right. God, if any ghosts of Founding Fathers are hanging around the White House tonight, they must really be suffering. He’s trying not to think too hard about what comes next. He may not have experience in practical application, but he’s done research. He has diagrams. He can do this. He really, really wants to do this. That much he’s sure about.
He closes his eyes, grounds himself with his fingertips on the cool surface of his desk, the feathery little edges of papers there. His mind flashes to Henry, the smooth lines of his suit, the way his breath brushed Alex’s cheek when he kissed him. His stomach does some embarrassing acrobatics he plans to never tell anyone about, ever. Henry, the prince. Henry, the boy in the garden. Henry, the boy in his bed. He doesn’t, he reminds himself, even have feelings for the guy. Really. There’s a knock on the door. Alex checks his phone: 10:54. He opens the door. Alex stands there and exhales slowly, eyes on Henry. He’s not sure he’s ever let himself just look. Henry is tall and gorgeous, half royalty, half movie star, red wine lingering on his lips. He’s left his jacket and tie behind, and the sleeves of his shirt are pushed up to his elbows. He looks nervous around the corners of his eyes, but he smiles at Alex with one side of his pink mouth and says, “Sorry I’m early.” Alex bites his lip. “Find your way here okay?” “There was a very helpful Secret Service agent,” Henry says. “I think her name was Amy?” Alex smiles fully now. “Get in here.” Henry’s grin takes over his entire face, not his photograph grin, but one that is crinkly and unguarded and infectious. He hooks his fingertips behind Alex’s elbow, and Alex follows his lead, bare feet nudging between Henry’s dress shoes. Henry’s breath ghosts over Alex’s lips, their noses brushing, and when he finally connects, he’s smiling into it. Henry shuts and locks the door behind them, sliding one hand up the nape of Alex’s neck, cradling it. There’s something different about the way he’s kissing now—it’s measured, deliberate. Soft. Alex isn’t sure why, or what to do with it. He settles for pulling Henry in by the sway of his waist, pressing their bodies flush. He kisses back, but lets himself be kissed however Henry wants to kiss him, which right now is exactly how he would have expected Prince Charming to kiss in the first place: sweet and deep and like they’re standing at sunrise in the fucking moors. He can practically feel the wind in his hair. It’s ridiculous. Henry breaks off and says, “How do you want to do this?”
And Alex remembers, suddenly, this is not a sunrise-in-the-moors type of situation. He grabs Henry by his loosened collar, pushes a little, and says, “Get on the couch.” Henry’s breath hitches and he complies. Alex moves to stand over him, looking down at that soft pink mouth. He feels himself standing at a very tall, very dangerous precipice, with no intention of backing away. Henry looks up at him, expectant, hungry. “You’ve been dodging me for weeks,” Alex says, widening his stance so his knees bracket Henry’s. He leans down and braces one hand against the back of the couch, the other grazing over the vulnerable dip of Henry’s throat. “You went out with a girl.” “I’m gay,” Henry tells him flatly. One of his broad palms flattens over Alex’s hip, and Alex inhales sharply, either at the touch or at hearing Henry finally say it out loud. “Not something wise to pursue as a member of the royal family. And I wasn’t sure you weren’t going to murder me for kissing you.” “Then why’d you do it?” Alex asks him. He leans into Henry’s neck, dragging his lips over the sensitive skin just behind his ear. He thinks Henry might be holding his breath. “Because I—I hoped you wouldn’t. Murder me. I had … suspicions you might want me too,” Henry says. He hisses a little when Alex bites down lightly on the side of his neck. “Or I thought, until I saw you with Nora, and then I was … jealous … and I was drunk and an idiot who got sick of waiting for the answer to present itself.” “You were jealous,” Alex says. “You want me.” Henry moves abruptly, heaving Alex off balance with both hands and down into his lap, eyes blazing, and he says in a low and deadly voice Alex has never heard from him before, “Yes, you preening arse, I’ve wanted you long enough that I won’t have you tease me for another fucking second.” Turns out being on the receiving end of Henry’s royal authority is an extreme fucking turn-on. He thinks, as he’s hauled into a bruising kiss, that he’ll never forgive himself for it. So, like, fuck the moors. Henry gets a grip on Alex’s hips and pulls him close, so Alex is properly straddling his lap, and he kisses hard now, more like he had in the Red Room, with teeth. It shouldn’t work so perfectly—it makes absolutely no sense—but it does. There’s something about the two of them, the way they
ignite at different temperatures, Alex’s frenetic energy and Henry’s aching sureness. He grinds down into Henry’s lap, grunting as he’s met with Henry already half-hard under him, and Henry’s curse in response is buried in Alex’s mouth. The kisses turn messy, then, urgent and graceless, and Alex gets lost in the drag and slide and press of Henry’s lips, the sweet liquor of it. He pushes his hands into Henry’s hair, and it’s as soft as he always imagined when he would trace the photo of Henry in June’s magazine, lush and thick under his fingers. Henry melts at the touch, wraps his arms around Alex’s waist and holds him there. Alex isn’t going anywhere. He kisses Henry until it feels like he can’t breathe, until it feels like he’s going to forget both of their names and titles, until they’re only two people tangled up in a dark room making a brilliant, epic, unstoppable mistake. He manages to get the next two buttons on his shirt undone before Henry grabs it by the tails and pulls it off over his head and makes quick work of his own. Alex tries not to be in awe of the simple agility of his hands, tries not to think about classical piano or how swift and smooth years of polo have trained Henry to be. “Hang on,” Henry says, and Alex is already groaning in protest, but Henry pulls back and rests his fingertips on Alex’s lips to shush him. “I want —” His voice starts and stops, and he’s looking like he’s resolving not to cringe at himself again. He gathers himself, stroking a finger up to Alex’s cheek before jutting his chin out defiantly. “I want you on the bed.” Alex goes fully silent and still, looking into Henry’s eyes and the question there: Are you going to stop this now that it’s real? “Well, come on, Your Highness,” Alex says, shifting his weight to give Henry a last tease before he stands. “You’re a dick,” Henry says, but he follows, smiling. Alex climbs onto the bed, sliding back to prop himself up on his elbows by the pillows, watching as Henry kicks off his shoes and regains his bearings. He looks transformed in the lamplight, like a god of debauchery, painted gold with his hair all mussed up and his eyes heavy-lidded. Alex lets himself stare; the whipcord muscle under his skin, lean and long and lithe. The spot right at the dip of his waist below his ribs looks impossibly soft, and Alex might die if he can’t fit his hand into that little curve in the next five seconds.
In an instant of sudden, vivid clarity, he can’t believe he ever thought he was straight. “Quit stalling,” Alex says, pointedly interrupting the moment. “Bossy,” Henry says, and he complies. Henry’s body settles over him with a warm, steady weight, one of his thighs sliding between Alex’s legs and his hands bracing on the pillows, and Alex feels the points of contact like a static shock at his shoulders, his hips, the center of his chest. One of Henry’s hands slides up his stomach and stops, having encountered the old silver key on the chain resting over his sternum. “What’s this?” Alex huffs impatiently. “The key to my mom’s house in Texas,” he says, winding a hand back into Henry’s hair. “I started wearing it when I moved here. I guess I thought it would remind me of where I came from or something —did I or did I not tell you to quit stalling?” Henry looks up into his eyes, speechless, and Alex tugs him down into another all-consuming kiss, and Henry bears down on him fully, pressing him into the bed. Alex’s other hand finds that dip of Henry’s waist, and he swallows a sound at how devastating it feels under his palm. He’s never been kissed like this, as if the feeling could swallow him up whole, Henry’s body grinding down and covering every inch of his. He moves his mouth from Henry’s to the side of his neck, the spot below his ear, kisses and kisses it, and bares his teeth. Alex knows it’ll probably leave a mark, which is against rule number one of clandestine hookups for political offspring—and probably royals too. He doesn’t care. He feels Henry find the waistband of his pants, the button, the zipper, the elastic of his underwear, and then everything goes very hazy, very quickly. He opens his eyes to see Henry bringing his hand demurely up to his elegant royal mouth to spit on it. “Oh my fucking God,” Alex says, and Henry grins crookedly as he gets back to work. “Fuck.” His body is moving, his mouth spilling words. “I can’t believe—God, you are the most insufferable goddamn bastard on the face of the planet, do you know that—fuck—you’re infuriating, you’re the worst— you’re—” “Do you ever stop talking?” Henry says. “Such a mouth on you.” And when Alex looks again, he finds Henry watching him raptly, eyes bright and smiling. He keeps eye contact and his rhythm at the same time, and Alex was
wrong before, Henry’s going to be the one to kill him, not the other way around. “Wait,” Alex says, clenching his fist in the bedspread, and Henry immediately stills. “I mean, yes, obviously, oh my God, but, like, if you keep doing that I’m gonna”—Alex’s breath catches—“it’s, that’s just—that’s not allowed before I get to see you naked.” Henry tilts his head and smirks. “All right.” Alex flips them over, kicking off his pants until only his underwear is left slung low on his hips, and he climbs up the length of Henry’s body, watching his face grow anxious, eager. “Hi,” he says, when he reaches Henry’s eye level. “Hello,” Henry says back. “I’m gonna take your pants off now,” Alex tells him. “Yes, good, carry on.” Alex does, and one of Henry’s hands slides down, leveraging one of Alex’s thighs up so their bodies meet again right at the hard crux between them, and they both groan. Alex thinks, dizzily, that it’s been nearly five years of foreplay, and enough is enough. He moves his lips down to Henry’s chest, and he feels under his mouth the beat Henry’s heart skips at the realization of what Alex intends. His own heartbeat is probably falling out of rhythm too. He’s in so far over his head, but that’s good—that’s pretty much his comfort zone. He kisses Henry’s solar plexus, his stomach, the stretch of skin above his waistband. “I’ve, uh,” Alex begins. “I’ve never actually done this before.” “Alex,” Henry says, reaching down to stroke at Alex’s hair, “you don’t have to, I’m—” “No, I want to,” Alex says, tugging at Henry’s waistband. “I just need you to tell me if it’s awful.” Henry is speechless again, looking as if he can’t believe his fucking luck. “Okay. Of course.” Alex pictures Henry barefoot in a Kensington Palace kitchen and the little sliver of vulnerability he got to see so early on, and he thrills at Henry now, in his bed, spread out and naked and wanting. This can’t be really happening after everything, but miraculously, it is. If he’s going by the way Henry’s body responds, by the way Henry’s hand sweeps up into his hair and clutches a fistful of curls, he guesses he does okay for a first try. He looks up the length of Henry’s body and is met with
burning eye contact, a red lip caught between white teeth. Henry drops his head back on the pillow and groans something that sounds like “fucking eyelashes.” He’s maybe a little bit in awe of how Henry arches up off the mattress, at hearing his sweet, posh voice reciting a litany of profanities to the ceiling. Alex is living for it, watching Henry come undone, letting him be whatever he needs to be while alone with Alex behind a locked door. He’s surprised to find himself hauled up to Henry’s mouth and kissed hungrily. He’s been with girls who didn’t like to be kissed afterward and girls who didn’t mind it, but Henry revels in it, based on the deep and comprehensive way he’s kissing him. It occurs to him to make a comment about narcissism, but instead— “Not awful?” Alex says between kisses, resting his head on the pillow next to Henry’s to catch his breath. “Definitely adequate,” Henry answers, grinning, and he scoops Alex up against his chest greedily as if he’s trying to touch all of him at once. Henry’s hands are huge on his back, his jaw sharp and rough with a long day’s stubble, his shoulders broad enough to eclipse Alex when he rolls them over and pins Alex to the mattress. None of it feels anything like anything he’s felt before, but it’s just as good, maybe better. Henry’s kissing him aggressively once more, confident in a way that’s rare from Henry. Messy earnestness and rough focus, not a dutiful prince but any other twenty-something boy enjoying himself doing something he likes, something he’s good at. And he is good at it. Alex makes a mental note to figure out which shadowy gay noble taught Henry all this and send the man a fruit basket. Henry returns the favor happily, hungrily, and Alex doesn’t know or care what sounds or words come out of his mouth. He thinks one of them is “sweetheart” and another is “motherfucker.” Henry is one talented bastard, a man of many hidden gifts, Alex muses half-hysterically. A true prodigy. God Save the Queen. When he’s done, he presses a sticky kiss in the crease of Alex’s leg where he’d slung it over his shoulder, managing to come off polite, and Alex wants to drag Henry up by the hair, but his body is boneless and wrecked. He’s blissed out, dead. Ascended to the next plane, merely a pair of eyes floating through a dopamine haze. The mattress shifts, and Henry moves up to the pillows, nuzzling his face into the hollow of Alex’s throat. Alex makes a vague noise of approval, and
his arms fumble around Henry’s waist, but he’s helpless to do much else. He’s sure he used to know quite a lot of words, in more than one language, in fact, but he can’t seem to recall any of them. “Hmm,” Henry hums, the tip of his nose catching on Alex’s. “If I had known this was all it took to shut you up, I’d have done it ages ago.” With a feat of Herculean strength, he summons up two whole words: “Fuck you.” Distantly, through a slowly clearing fog, through a messy kiss, Alex can’t help marveling at the knowledge that he’s crossed some kind of Rubicon, here in this room that’s almost as old as the country it’s in, like Washington crossing the Delaware. He laughs into Henry’s mouth, instantly caught up in his own dramatic mental portrait of the two them painted in oils, young icons of their nations, naked and shining wet in the lamplight. He wishes Henry could see it, wonders if he’d find the image as funny. Henry rolls over onto his back. Alex’s body wants to follow and tuck into his side, but he stays where he is, watching from a few safe inches away. He can see a muscle in Henry’s jaw flexing. “Hey,” he says. He pokes Henry in the arm. “Don’t freak out.” “I’m not freaking out,” he says, enunciating the words. Alex wriggles an inch closer in the sheets. “It was fun,” Alex says. “I had fun. You had fun, right?” “Definitely,” he says, in a tone that sends a lazy spark up Alex’s spine. “Okay, cool. So, we can do this again, anytime you want,” Alex says, dragging the back of his knuckles down Henry’s shoulder. “And you know this doesn’t, like, change anything between us, right? We’re still … whatever we were before, just, you know. With blowjobs.” Henry covers his eyes with one hand. “Right.” “So,” Alex says, changing tracks by stretching languidly, “I guess I should tell you, I’m bisexual.” “Good to know,” Henry says. His eyes flicker down to Alex’s hip, where it’s bared above the sheet, and he says as much to himself as to Alex, “I am very, very gay.” Alex watches his small smile, the way it wrinkles the corners of his eyes, and very deliberately does not kiss it. Part of his brain keeps getting stuck on how strange, and strangely wonderful, it is to see Henry like this, open and bare in every way. Henry leans across the pillow to Alex and presses a soft kiss to his mouth, and Alex
feels fingertips brush over his jaw. The touch is so gentle he has to once again remind himself not to care too much. “Hey,” Alex tells him, sliding his mouth closer to Henry’s ear, “you’re welcome to stay as long as you want, but I should warn you it’s probably in both of our best interests if you go back to your room before morning. Unless you want the PPOs to lock the Residence down and come requisition you from my boudoir.” “Ah,” Henry says. He pulls away from Alex and rolls back over, looking up to the ceiling again like a man seeking penance from a wrathful god. “You’re right.” “You can stay for another round, if you want to,” Alex offers. Henry coughs, scrubs a hand through his hair. “I rather think I’d—I’d better get back to my room.” Alex watches him fish his boxers from the foot of the bed and start pulling them back on, sitting up and shaking out his shoulders. It’s for the best this way, he tells himself; nobody will get any wrong ideas about what exactly this arrangement is. They’re not going to spoon all night or wake up in each other’s arms or eat breakfast together. Mutually satisfying sexual experiences do not a relationship make. Even if he did want that, there are a million reasons why this will never, ever be possible. Alex follows him to the door, watching him turn to hover there awkwardly. “Well, er…” Henry attempts, looking down at his feet. Alex rolls his eyes. “For fuck’s sake, man, you just had my dick in your mouth, you can kiss me good-night.” Henry looks back up at him, his mouth open and incredulous, and he throws his head back and laughs, and it’s only him, the nerdy, neurotic, sweet, insomniac rich guy who constantly sends Alex photos of his dog, and something slots into place. He leans down and kisses him fiercely, and then he’s grinning and gone.
“You’re doing what?” It’s sooner than either of them expected—only two weeks since the state dinner, two weeks of wanting Henry back under him as soon as possible and saying everything short of that in their texts. June keeps looking at him like she’s going to throw his phone in the Potomac.
“An invitation-only charity polo match this weekend,” Henry says over the phone. “It’s in…” He pauses, probably referring back to whatever itinerary Shaan has given him. “Greenwich, Connecticut? It’s $10,000 a seat, but I can have you added to the list.” Alex almost fumbles his coffee all over the south entryway. Amy glares at him. “Jesus fuck. That is obscene, what are you raising money for, monocles for babies?” He covers the mouthpiece of the phone with his hand. “Where’s Zahra? I need to clear my schedule for this weekend.” He uncovers the phone. “Look, I guess I’ll try to make it, but I’m really busy right now.”
“I’m sorry, Zahra said you’re bailing on the fund-raiser this weekend because you’re going to a polo match in Connecticut?” June asks from his bedroom doorway that night, almost startling another cup of coffee out of his hands. “Listen,” Alex tells her, “I’m trying to keep up a geopolitical public relations ruse here.” “Dude, people are writing fan fiction about y’all—” “Yeah, Nora sent me that.” “—I think you can give it a rest.” “The crown wants me to be there!” he lies quickly. She seems unconvinced and leaves him with a parting look he’d probably be concerned about if he cared more about things that aren’t Henry’s mouth right now. Which is how he ends up in his J. Crew best on a Saturday at the Greenwich Polo Club, wondering what the hell he’s gotten himself into. The woman in front of him is wearing a hat with an entire taxidermied pigeon on it. High school lacrosse did not prepare him for this kind of sporting event. Henry on horseback is nothing new. Henry in full polo gear—the helmet, the polo sleeves capped right at the bulge of his biceps, the snug white pants tucked into tall leather boots, the intricately buckled leather knee padding, the leather gloves—is familiar. He has seen it before. Categorically, it should be boring. It should not provoke anything visceral, carnal, or bodice-ripping in nature in him at all. But Henry urging his horse across the field with the power of his thighs, his ass bouncing hard in the saddle, the way the muscles in his arms stretch and flex when he swings, looking the way he does and wearing the things he’s wearing—it’s a lot.
He’s sweating. It’s February in Connecticut, and Alex is sweating under his coat. Worst of all, Henry is good. Alex doesn’t pretend to care about the rules of the game, but his primary turn-on has always been competence. It’s too easy to look at Henry’s boots digging into the stirrups for leverage and conjure up a memory of bare calves underneath, bare feet planted just as firmly on the mattress. Henry’s thighs open the same way, but with Alex between them. Sweat dripping down Henry’s brow onto his throat. Just, uh … well, just like that. He wants—God, after all this time ignoring it, he wants it again, now, right now. The match ends after a circle-of-hell amount of time, and Alex feels like he’ll pass out or scream if he doesn’t get his hands on Henry soon, like the only thought possible in the universe is Henry’s body and Henry’s flushed face and every other molecule in existence is just an inconvenience. “I don’t like that look,” Amy says when they reach the bottom of the stands, peering into his eyes. “You look … sweaty.” “I’m gonna go, uh,” Alex says. “Say hi to Henry.” Amy’s mouth settles into a grim line. “Please don’t elaborate.” “Yeah, I know,” Alex says. “Plausible deniability.” “I don’t know what you could possibly mean.” “Sure.” He rakes a hand through his hair. “Yep.” “Enjoy your summit with the English delegation,” she tells him flatly, and Alex sends up a vague prayer of thanks for staff NDAs. He legs it toward the stables, limbs already buzzing with the steady knowledge of Henry’s body getting incrementally closer to his. Long, lean legs, grass stains on pristine, tight pants, why does this sport have to be so completely repulsive while Henry looks so damn good doing it— “Oh shit—” He barely stops himself from running headfirst into Henry in the flesh, who has rounded the corner of the stables. “Oh, hello.” They stand there staring at each other, fifteen days removed from Henry swearing at the ceiling of Alex’s bedroom and unsure how to proceed. Henry is still in his full polo regalia, gloves and all, and Alex can’t decide if he is pleased or wants to brain him with a polo stick. Polo bat? Polo club? Polo … mallet? This sport is a travesty.
Henry breaks the silence by adding, “I was coming to find you, actually.” “Yeah, hi, here I am.” “Here you are.” Alex glances over his shoulder. “There’s, uh. Cameras. Three o’clock.” “Right,” Henry says, straightening his shoulders. His hair is messy and slightly damp, color still high in his cheeks from exertion. He’s going to look like goddamn Apollo in the photos when they go to press. Alex smiles, knowing they’ll sell. “Hey, isn’t there, uh, a thing?” Alex says. “You needed to. Uh. Show me?” Henry looks at him, glances at the dozens of millionaires and socialites milling around, and back at him. “Now?” “It was a four-and-a-half-hour car ride up here, and I have to go back to DC in an hour, so I don’t know when else you’re expecting to show it to me.” Henry takes a beat, his eyes flickering to the cameras again before he switches on a stage smile and a laugh, cuffing Alex on the shoulder. “Ah, yes. Right. This way.” He turns on his boot heel and leads the way around the back of the stables, veering right into a doorway, and Alex follows. It’s a small, windowless room attached to the stables, fragrant with leather polish and stained wood from floor to ceiling, the walls lined with heavy saddles, riding crops, bridles, and reins. “What in the rich-white-people-sex-dungeon hell?” Alex wonders aloud as Henry crosses behind him. He whips a thick leather strap off a hook on the wall, and Alex almost blacks out. “What?” Henry says offhandedly, bypassing him to bind the doors shut. He turns around, sweet-faced and unbelievable. “It’s called a tack room.” Alex drops his coat and takes three swift steps toward him. “I don’t actually care,” he says, and grabs Henry by the stupid collar of his stupid polo and kisses his stupid mouth. It’s a good kiss, solid and hot, and Alex can’t decide where to put his hands because he wants to put them everywhere at once. “Ugh,” he groans in exasperation, shoving Henry backward by the shoulders and making a disgusted show of looking him up and down. “You look ridiculous.” “Should I—” He steps back and puts a foot up on a nearby bench, moving to undo his kneepads.
“What? No, of course not, keep them on,” Alex says. Henry freezes, standing there all artistically posed with his thighs apart and one knee up, the fabric straining. “Oh my God, what are you doing? I can’t even look at you.” Henry frowns. “No, Jesus, I just meant—I’m so mad at you.” Henry gingerly puts his boot back on the floor. Alex wants to die. “Just, come here. Fuck.” “I’m quite confused.” “Me fucking too,” Alex says, profoundly suffering for something he must have done in a previous life. “Listen, I don’t know why, but this whole thing”—he gestures at Henry’s entire physical presence—“is … really doing it for me, so, I just need to.” Without any further ceremony, he drops to his knees and starts undoing Henry’s belt, tugging at the fastenings of his pants. “Oh, God,” Henry says. “Yeah,” Alex agrees, and he gets Henry’s boxers down. “Oh, God,” Henry repeats, this time with feeling. It’s all still so new to Alex, but it’s not difficult to follow through on what’s been playing out in elaborate detail in his head for the past hour. When he looks up, Henry’s face is flushed and transfixed, his lips parted. It almost hurts to look at him—the athlete’s focus, all the dressings of aristocracy laid wide open for him. He’s watching Alex, eyes blown dark and hazy, and Alex is watching him right back, every nerve in both bodies narrowed down to a single point. It’s fast and dirty and Henry is swearing up a storm, which is still disarmingly sexy, but this time it’s punctuated by the occasional word of praise, and somehow that’s even hotter. Alex isn’t prepared for the way “that’s good” sounds in Henry’s rounded Buckingham vowels, or for how luxury leather feels when it strokes approvingly down his cheek, a gloved thumb brushing the corner of his mouth. As soon as Henry’s finished, he’s got Alex on the bench and is putting his kneepads to use. “I’m still fucking mad at you,” Alex says, destroyed, slumped forward with his forehead resting on Henry’s shoulder. “Of course you are,” Henry says vaguely. Alex completely undermines his point by pulling Henry into a deep and lingering kiss, and another, and they kiss for an amount of time he decides not to count or think about. They sneak out quietly, and Henry touches Alex’s shoulder at the gate near where his SUV waits, presses his palm into the wool of his coat and the
knot of muscle. “I don’t suppose you’ll be anywhere near Kensington anytime soon?” “That shithole?” he says with a wink. “Not if I can help it.” “Oi,” Henry says. He’s grinning now. “That’s disrespect of the crown, that is. Insubordination. I’ve thrown men in the dungeons for less.” Alex turns, walking backward toward the car, hands in the air. “Hey, don’t threaten me with a good time.”

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