Shock rushed through Brayden like an avalanche at the announcement Quinlan had made to the people gathered. Was the man off his head? Bray didn’t even have time to react as Quin gripped him by the back of the neck and slammed their mouths together. He was sealing both their fates until the wedding ceremony could be performed. Tonight’s ascension banquet was .sure going to be something to behold.
“What have you done, you crazy fool?” Bray whispered against Quin’s lips. His hands fisted in the man’s tunic unable to let go—more so, he was scared to let go—he was afraid of losing Quinlan all over again.
Quinlan leant back enough to grin. “Just reclaiming what was always mine. You should never have been taken from me. Your uncle had no right taking you away from your home and the people who loved you.”
Quinlan and Brayden broke apart as a hush fell over the crowd. Turning Brayden grabbed a hold of Quinlan’s hand as his cousin and uncle stepped onto the balcony and walked towards them. Hatred and disgust filled Ormand’s eyes as they stopped in front of them. There was something altogether present in his uncle’s gaze. Bray wasn’t sure if it was pride, relief, or fear.
Brayden braced himself, he saw his cousin’s fists were clenched so tight this knuckles were white. Stepping in front of Quinlan, Bray braced himself for the blow he knew was coming. He’d been on the receiving end of those punches too many times before. Even a blind man would be able to tell just how angry his cousin truly was. The man had to be pissed beyond belief at the realisation his plan had fallen apart. Even more so knowing Brayden was now out from under his thumb. The sad part was he was leaving his uncle behind to deal with the fall out of Ormand’s wrath. Brayden groaned when Quinlan placed a hand against the small of his back in comfort.
“Lord Dalziel,” Quinlan bowed in the direction of Brayden’s uncle while ignoring Ormand altogether. There weren’t enough words to justly explain how much Quin hated Ormand the man had been a thorn in his side for as long as he could remember. The man was constantly trying to gather forces to overthrow the throne. Didn’t Ormand realise most people in the realm thought he was a joke? “To what do I owe the pleasure of your company, my lord?”
“This marriage will be but a sham,” Ormand spat in anger before his father could even talk. “As our king you are meant to produce an heir. How will you do that being married to my cousin?” Ormand turned and addressed the crowd and Quin couldn’t help but notice how Lord Dalziel took a step away from his son—something wasn’t right there. They listened on as Ormand addressed the people gathered below. “I call for the vote of ‘challenge’ before this abomination of a marriage can be allowed to be formalised.” Ormand appeared a mixture of shocked and angry when Quinlan started laughing.
This crap needed to end and it needed to end now before all hell broke loose. Quinlan turned toward the castle doors and motioned to the young man who stood there to step forward. “Lord Dalziel, Ormand, I’m sure you recognise Cleric Saskia?”
There was something in Lord Dalziel’s eyes that didn’t ring true with what Ormand was saying. Quin would need to think on it. Because if the man was going to cop the brunt of his son’s anger there was no way in good conscience Quin could abandon the man. He also noted how Bray had inched closer to his uncle as if trying to offer comfort and support.
Ormand on the other hand looked annoyed and maybe a tad confused as Quinlan continued. “Cleric Saskia, can you please explain to Ormand why that particular law is no longer required for my ruling.”
“As you wish, Highness,” Cleric Saskia nodded. “King Rothwell knowing his son’s heart lay not with the young maidens, decreed a law stating Prince Quinlan had to pick a woman to be surrogate for his future children. The surrogate, Lady Arella was chosen and has since given birth to two beautiful boys. Killian and Larkin Macallister have been recorded in our records as the next in line for the throne after the rule of their father.” All close enough to see noted how Cleric Saskia moved back out of Ormand’s way as soon as he had finished speaking.
“So, you see, Ormand. There’s absolutely no cause for the vote of challenge,” Quinlan smiled. “I think my sons are going to love their new father as much as I have always done.”
“I still say the vote of challenge is a just call. A kingdom cannot be ruled by the abomination that you are suggesting.” Ormand yelled furiously. Quinlan saw the spittle fly from his mouth as he ranted.
“ENOUGH!” Quinlan threw his arms in the air and roared. “You have no right telling me who I can and cannot love. There is no law stating I must have a woman at my side to rule our people. The law is written—I must choose the one person who will make me a stronger ruler.” Quinlan looked out over the crowd watching in rapt attention to what was taking place.
“I have chosen Brayden Caldwell. There are no, ifs, ands, or buts. You do not get to have a say about who I’ve chosen. No one here does.” Quinlan shook his head sadly, “You may not agree with my choice, but it is my choice. Cleric Saskia has by now already recorded for our histories my choice in co-ruler.” Quinlan placed his hands on the balustrade and leaned forward.
“As such, you will all treat Brayden with the respect due his new position. If I find that anyone—and I truly mean anyone—has disrespected my chosen consort in any way, they’ll be brought before me for judgement.”
Stepping back from the edge he said to Ormand. “If that is all you wanted, I have no further use for you. You may leave our presence.” Quin made to turn away and stopped. “Oh, and before I forget, Lord Dalziel I will have need of you to attend our marriage ceremony tonight. As you well know a family member must formally present my consort to my bed chamber. I’d prefer it if you took respite in a castle guest room until the needed hour arrives for my marriage to be finalised—just so nothing untoward stops you from making it back to the castle on time.” He wouldn’t put it past Ormand to lock his father away.
“This is not over.” Ormand hissed in his direction. His father only bowed in acknowledgement of what had been asked.
“Then you would be mistaken.” Quinlan took a hold of Brayden’s hand and walked into the castle leaving behind their unwanted guest standing on the now vacated balcony.