Ingrid had left the guarding of the king and his consort to the warriors that were in attendance in the throne room. She quickly made her way through the halls until she came upon the one person she sought. “Javier, might I have a word with you?” Ingrid watched the young man place his book upon the table before he turned sightless eyes in her direction.
“Yes, Mistress Ingrid,” Javier said with a smile he always wore. His hand reaching out toward where he knew she would be standing. How he was so precise was an amazement to her.
Ingrid knew she was going to have to confide in Brayden and Quinlan that another of the Caldwell line was still alive. Ingrid’s own family had kept Javier a secret from the rest of the world for the past ten years. But if the seer was right, then not only could Brayden hold the shifting gene, maybe Javier did too. Or maybe, it was Javier who was born with the shifter gene and not Brayden at all. Quinlan was going to be pissed when he found out.
“Are you taking me to meet my brother now; I’ve been waiting a long time to be with him again.”
“Yes you have, little one.” Ingrid walked over and clasped his hand. “Come, we must prepare you for meeting with Brayden.”
“Do I look okay?” Javier ran his hands over the front of his shirt straightening out the wrinkles. “Do I match?”
“You look beautiful, my prince. Your brother will love you no matter what.” Ingrid was rewarded with a beautiful smile. It saddened Ingrid how for a young man who couldn’t see, Javier had the most stunning eyes Ingrid had ever seen. They were such a vibrant shade of blue. Made all the more striking because they were framed in dark lashes. They were also the spitting image of his brothers.
“Will he still want me knowing that I cannot see?” Uncertainty seemed to fill Javier’s words.
“You’re his blood kin, of course Brayden will want you. You will learn that for Brayden family is everything.”
“Then why hasn’t he sought me out before now? It has been ten years, Ingrid. Ten years, where he forgot about me completely. I lost our parents too that day. How could he just walk away and leave me? Am I so repulsive he no longer wishes to associate with me? Does he blame me for our parent’s deaths?”
Ingrid sighed heavily, “There were reasons why he couldn’t come to you, my prince. But you need to hear it from your brother.”
“I just...” he fidgeted nervously. “What if he thinks I’m broken now because I can’t see?”
“He won’t.” Ingrid smoothed a hand down over Javier’s back in comfort. “I promise Brayden will be excited to see you.”
“What if he doesn’t remember me? We were only children back then. I must have changed so much.”
Ingrid pulled Javier into her arms and hugged him gently. “I have no doubt your brother will know exactly who you are. You’re almost his mirror image.”
“Oh.” Javier’s lips formed a perfect ‘O’ in surprise.
“Come now, as you said you’ve waited long enough to be kept from Brayden any longer.”
“Will Quinlan be there?” Javier asked as he placed his hand in the crook of Ingrid’s arm.
“Yes. You remember he’s the king now. He and your brother have taken their vows this month past. I so wanted you to be in attendance, but father thought it unwise to reveal you existence. He never wanders far from Brayden’s side these days. They have been parted for too long.”
“Do you think one day I might find someone? Someone who will love me unconditionally.”
Ingrid patted his hand as they walked. “Of course I do. Some young lady will catch your heart soon enough.”
“Man,” Javier corrected with a blush, “I would like to wed a man. I think.”
“You’re not sure?” Ingrid asked, this was the first she had heard of Javier’s preferences.
Javier’s blush deepened. “I think men smell better. There’s one who comes to my rooms and he smells so wonderful. He never speaks to me. He just sits there and holds my hand.”
Ingrid frowned and wondered just who was visiting the prince without permission. Who even knew Javier was here at the castle? “He doesn’t speak?”
Javier shook his head. “The first time I met him was out in the garden. Alexis had taken me out for a walk. The boys ran off playing. When she followed them he came and took my hand and led me to a bench. He just listened while I talked.” Javier smiled, “Every day since he has come to my rooms just to sit with me. Not always for a long time. He has never missed a day though.”
“Has he come today?”
“No, but he will. I’m sure of it.”
“Javier, this worries me. This man who comes to you and doesn’t talk. I think we need to find out who he is.”
“Do not be afraid,” Javier chuckled, “I know he’d never hurt me.”
“How do you know?” Ingrid asked.
“I just do.”
Brayden stared open mouthed at the person who walked into the room at Ingrid’s side. It took all of a moment for recognition to fall into place before he launched himself across the room.
“Javier! Javier! How are you here?” Tears streamed down Brayden’s face as he pulled his brother into his arms. He felt an instant bond, something he didn’t even know he’d been missing until this very moment.
Javier froze; unsure of what to do with the sobbing man in his arms. “It’s okay, brother, we’re together now.”
“How are you here alive? I thought…” his words trailed off as he hugged his brother tighter.
“My family has taken care of Javier for a very long time.” Ingrid answered for Javier. It also appeared to be the only explanation she was going to give.
“I’m blind.” Javier added. Brayden stood still as his brother’s hands came up to map the contours of his face. “I’ve missed you Bray.”
“I’ve missed you too.” Brayden cried hoarsely into his brother’s shoulder
“Where have you been? Why didn’t you come for me?” Javier demanded.
“Uncle Fane had me. I wasn’t allowed out of his estate. I would have found a way to be with you if I knew you were still alive.”
“You don’t think I’m broken. That I’m of no use because I’m blind?” Javier asked. His voice trembled.
“Never!” Brayden said in outrage. “You are of my blood. I will always want you at my side.”
Javier turned as a gasp sounded nearby. Taking a deep breath, he smiled, and turned. Somewhere in this room was his silent friend.