Makara sighed. No, of course not. Such words would have no meaning to the cold, calculating barbarian, and would only serve to make Makara look even more the fool. "You could have simply sent word you would no longer want my services. You need not have delivered the message in person."
Afron chuckled. "Is that what I said?" He carried his breeches over to the chair in the corner, plucked something from one of the pockets, and returned to the bed. He held out a small metal box. "Or did I say something else?"
Makara wrinkled his brow, confused. "You very clearly just said you didn't want to visit me again."
"Did I?" Afron shook the box. "Take it."
Makara raised an eyebrow at the ornamental thing, and shook his head. "Keep it. I don't want any more of your coin. In fact, your session is over. Please leave." He threw back his head and jutted his chin forward in the best imitation of defiance he could muster, biting his tongue to keep the tears at bay. He would not cry in front of Afron. Not now.
Afron's laughter started slowly -- a subtle, soft sound that at first sent little tremors up his arms and into his shoulders -- but soon he had given into it fully, clutched one arm tight around his middle as the apparent hilarity of the situation doubled him over.
Steely cold hatred wrapped an iron grip around Makara's heart as he glared down at the sheets beneath him. Sheets he had purchased -- at no small price -- to impress Afron. Everything he'd done -- everything he'd lived for -- for the past three years had been all for Afron. All for naught. He stood and snatched up the top sheet, wrapped it hastily around his body and marched to the door. Makara flung the door open and pointed to the hallway. "Get out."
Well, at least that got Afron's attention. Though the barbarian appeared in no hurry to comply, he had stopped laughing and stood looking at Makara with narrow eyes. Afron smirked, sighed, and shook his head. "No."
"I'll call the guards," Makara warned. The last thing he wanted was to make a scene, especially with someone of Afron's weighty influence, but he wouldn't be treated this way.
"I'll kill them." And his menacing tone suggested he should be believed.
Makara threw up his hands. "What do you want from me? I send you away, time and time again. I tell you we're done, yet you keep coming back to my door."
"And you keep opening it," Afron pointed out.
Frowning, Makara shook his head and glanced out the door down the hall. He couldn't deny Afron's logic. If he'd truly wanted Afron to stay away, he could've easily arranged that. Yet he hadn't.
"Three years' span between us, Makara," Afron murmured. "I would wager you know me better than most. Perhaps best of all."
And in all that time you have never once used my name. "Perhaps." What in the name of the gods was Afron getting at? Did he think Makara was a threat to him, perhaps? A loose end he needed to tie up? "I would never use my knowledge against you, surely you know that."
Afron scoffed. "If you even could. Men don't live the life I lead without protection."
Afron held up the metal box again, gestured to the bed. "Come. Open your gift."
Gift? Afron had never given him a gift. Makara eyed the box with suspicion, but sighed and closed the door. He walked with measured, slow steps to the bed and took the box, stayed on his feet as he opened it, though the moment he lifted the lid, he wished he had sat down. A wide golden band, set with a dazzling array of large, colorful, sparkling jewels greeted him. "This... this had to have cost a fortune."
"Of course it did."
Makara shut the box and handed it back to Afron. "No." He shook his head. "I can't accept this. You don't owe me anything."
To be continued...