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But it hurt to be minimized.

Outside, she realized she forgot a coat, but it didn’t matter. Closing her eyes, she coasted off the estate, riding a surge of relief across the cold air.

Peyton’s mansion was not far away, and every bit as grand as the one she lived in, just of a different style. His family’s manse was a Tudor, with all kinds of cupolas and angles and fun rooms inside—not that she was all that familiar with the place.

As she approached the front door, it was opened by a butler who wore the same uniform as the head doggen at her house.

“Mistress, welcome. Master Peyton is up in his room. He requests that you wait in the library for his arrival.”

“But of course,” she said as she followed along into a huge room filled with leather-bound volumes, heavy, medieval furniture, and enormous brass chandeliers.

With all the tapestries and the oil paintings and the way footsteps echoed on the gray slate floor, it was like something out of Harry Potter, just sans the owls and the wizard wands.

How anyone felt at home in it was a mystery, but then, the glymera cared more about impressions than comfort. And it was impressive.

“Would you care for something to drink?” the butler asked her.

“No, thank you.”

“My pleasure.” The butler bowed low and backed out of the room. “He shan’t be long.”

Before she could even pick a spot to sit, her phone went off, and she answered it on the first ring with a frown. “Peyton? I’m downstairs. What? Ah … yeah, no, it’s fine. I don’t care.… Sure. Where …? Okay, right.”

Ending the call, Elise went across to a second set of oak doors and slipped out. Tracking the hallways through the back of the house, she found the pantry, got the bag of Doritos her cousin had asked for, and hurried up the staff stairs to the second floor. After ducking into a laundry room for a maid to pass, she jogged down—

Peyton was hanging out his door, one arm locked on the jamb, the other swinging free as he waved at her. “Hey, girl!”

He had no shirt on, satin PJ bottoms, and the mental functioning of a microwave oven.

Great. Just what she’d had in mind, damn it.

“Peyton,” she muttered as she came up to him. “How drunk are you?”

“Very. And stoned. And wait … I think I did some cocaine about two hours ago? But the buzz has mostly worn off.”

“Well, here is your sodium delivery system.” She handed the bag over and glared at him. “And I’m going home.”

“No, you’re not. We’re going to talk.”

“And how’s that going to happen. You’re slurring your speech so much, I’m pretty sure you’re speaking French. Or is it Italian?”

“I’m more likely to spill if I’m drunk.”

“What you’re drinking, you mean. As in out of your glass.”

“Come on, Elise. Gimme a break, will you. You think this is going to be easy for me?”

Shaking her head, she crossed her arms. But then cursed and stepped around him, entering his suite. “You shouldn’t need to be intoxicated to talk about things.”

“That and a bag of chips will get you lunch.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“I don’t know,” he muttered as he shut his door.

His room was the size of a football stadium, it seemed, with a sitting area kitted out with sofas and chairs like a living room, a TV with a screen as big as a movie theater’s, and a bed that, naturally, was king-size but round. The decor was done by Grey Goose—as in bottles of vodka. Which were empty—oh, no, wait, over there by the open bathroom, there were eight fresh, unopened ones.

And of course, you could do laps in his Jacuzzi, she thought as she looked into the marble expanse. Who knew those kinds of tubs came in Olympic-swimming-pool?

“Will you do me a favor and put a shirt on?” she said as she turned back to him.

Peyton had stretched out on his bed, and crossed his feet at the ankles, his hooded eyes the kind of thing that might have set a female’s pulse racing a little—if they didn’t know Axe.

Hadn’t been with Axe.

Weren’t going to be with Axe again soon.

Nothing compared to her tattooed male.

“Want to join me?” Peyton drawled, running his hand in a circle on the monogrammed duvet. His pillows were monogrammed, too, as was the great canopy of cloth that hung from a gold crown on the high ceiling.

But the grandeur made sense. He was the equivalent of a prince, the high-bred son of a Founding Family, the heir to great wealth, one of the race’s most eligible bachelors.

And he was also a looker, what with that blond hair and those blue eyes that were the stuff of fantasies.

“Are you telling me no?” he said. “I’m not used to no.”

“I believe that.”

There was a pause. “So did your bodyguard call you up and brag about what he did last night?”

“He did not—and I’m going to do you a favor right now and tell you to shut up about him. If you don’t have anything nice to say, then I don’t want to hear it.”

“He didn’t mention anything? I find that hard to believe.”

Elise frowned. She was not interested in playing hide-and-seek with a drunk for information, but if it was about Axe? “So what did he do?”

“He saved the life of a Brother.”

“What?”

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