Isellta took Jay’s hand and placed it on the inner side of his knee. He covered the guard’s hand with his own hand and guided it upwards. “I trust Maelin. She hasn’t given me any reason not to trust her.”
Jay curled his hand into a fist and rubbed his knuckles against Isellta’s skin. “But you would never let Mae do this, huh?”
“No. It would be too uncomfortable.”
Jay looked up at him.
“But you don’t make me uncomfortable, my Jay.”
Isellta guided his hand higher.
“Would you let Robin do this?”
My Robin touching me like this…
“I think I would like that.” Isellta tilted his head. “Do you think he would like it too?”
Jay smiled affectionately. “I’m sure he would.”
“How would that work? Am I supposed to ask him to do it? Or will he want to do it without me asking him?”
Jay laughed, which puzzled Isellta.
He seems to be embarrassed. Why? Did I say something wrong?
“That would be a conversation between you and him, not you and me. But remember, Isellta. This is your body. You have a right to reject any person’s touch, even mine, if it makes you uneasy. If Robin touches you and you don’t enjoy it, you can tell him to stop. You do not have to endure it. Do you understand me?”
Their hands reached the half-way point.
“Jay? I don’t think Her Majesty will listen to me if I tell her to stop. I don’t think she will care.”
Jay’s mouth tightened in an angry line.
Oh. Oh, I’ve done it. I’ve gone and said the wrong thing. Now, he’s angry at me because I was stupid enough to say the wrong thing.
“I’m—I’m sorry, Jay.”
“Nothing to be sorry about, kid.” Jay looked at him with a serious and intent expression. “I will never let you go back to Preyuna. I will not have her hurt you again and again. I hate it. I hate seeing you hurt. I hate seeing you cry. You are precious to me.”
He says it so easily. He doesn’t try to hide it.
“I love you, kid.”
Da, why couldn’t you have told me at least once? I guess I always knew that I mattered to you. You made it clear without words.
But I wish you had told me at least one time.
One time would have been enough. I wouldn’t have asked for more.
“Until Robin gets his tailside over here, I will keep you safe. I will protect you. And, I swear I will do a better job than what I’ve done so far.”
Isellta uncovered Jay’s hand and lightly touched his fingertips to Jay’s lips. “Don’t. Don’t hurt yourself like that. You have been everything I could ask for in a friend and a protector. I can only hope that one day I’ll be to someone else what you are to me.”
Jay didn’t even know how to respond to Isellta’s heartfelt words.
I’ve failed him.
I nearly lost him because I wasn’t there to protect him.
Isellta put his hand on top of Jay’s hand and resumed its guidance up his leg.
But he doesn’t see any of it as my fault. If I’m guessing right, he blames himself. He shouldn’t.
And he’ll tell me I shouldn’t.
He laughed, surprising Isellta. “Oh, we are a couple of self-doubting neurotics, aren’t we?”