"Good morning, Ray."
Finding Azura in his study, sitting at his desk and reading his plans for Noir's next acquisition wasn't the kind of surprise Ray enjoyed. He slipped quickly into his charming aristocrat mode, but he knew Azura could see every weakness in the façade.
"You've sent the pet out to play? Then my timing is excellent."
"As if it wouldn't be. You don't leave anything to chance."
"That's not quite true." Azura set the plans down and smiled up at Ray, a sly curve of the lips that once made Ray giddy and now made his wary. "Overplanning takes the excitement away, don't you agree?" He lifted the plans again and slowly and deliberately tore a strip off of the notes and diagrams. He pocketed the strip and returned the rest of the document to the desk.
"Taking up jewel thievery? I thought such petty entertainments were beneath you."
"Keep your games, Ray. There is only one set of jewels I have any interest in."
"Florian is mine." Ray leaned forward, both hands flat on the desk. He met Azura's gaze fully; facing as a challenger, not as the person he once called a friend. "Do not interfere with what is mine and I will not oppose you."
"And if I try my hand at your little hobby? You take what you want, why shouldn't I?"
"Because I told you that he's mine. I don't care if you claim the rest of the world – just leave what belongs to me."
"Does that extend to your cousin, Michel? Your devoted Detective Sugar? What about the child, Noel?"
"Don't waste time asking questions when you already know the answers."
"In case you've forgotten, your pet injured me. I'm due compensation."
"You had your pound of flesh and more. But you underestimated him and you paid the price." Ray's tone was cold, every word as sharp as ice. "It must gall you, knowing that he's stronger than you."
"One word from me and he'll be dead before you can speak his name. Did you forget that, Ray?"
"I've forgotten nothing. It's you who's forgotten what friendship means. You're a king with an army and not a single soul you can trust."
"Do you count yourself among that disloyal lot?"
"Do you still plan to threaten what's mine?"
"If I said no, would you believe me?"
"I would until you gave me reason not to." There was truth in those words and they both knew it. For a moment, there was a feeling between them that they'd both thought was lost forever.
"Keep your pet on a short leash. The agreement ends if he tries to bite."
"Stay away from him and it won't be a problem."
"I suppose you are correct." There was an almost wistful tone in Azura's voice. He rose from the chair smoothly, movements sure and graceful. He studied Ray for another moment, then turned to leave through the patio doors. He slowed once, hesitating as if hoping Ray would call him back.
Ray remained silent, watching Azura leave.