A whole month had passed since their wedding; since the day Quin had finally made Brayden his for all time. Quin sat upon his throne watching the people around him. Something wasn’t right. There was just something that seemed off, and he couldn’t quite put his finger on what it could possibly be. Even though everyone appeared to be acting the same as usual, he still had the sense something bad was heading their way.
The kingdom of Panthea was usually a very peaceful place to live. They even got on with all their neighbours. There was nothing he could think of which could upset the world in which they lived, yet, something was niggling in the back of his brain as if in a warning he needed to take precaution. Even greater was the sense he needed to look after his family—because when it came, and it would—his family were going to be targeted.
“What has that look on your face?” Ingrid said softly as she took a step closer to him. “I can hear you thinking from where I stand.”
“I just have a feeling something is coming. Something I’m not going to like.” A frown came and rested on Ingrid’s beautiful face, which in turn brought a frown to Quinlan. “Now what are you thinking about?”
“Is this a feeling, or a premonition? Because, if it is a premonition we’ll need to make plans. Your premonitions have never led us wrong before.”
“I don’t know what it is. I just have this feeling something is coming for Brayden and the boys.” Quinlan shook his head in frustration. “I really can’t see clearly what it is.”
Ingrid cracked her knuckles and appeared to be in thought. She grinned when Quinlan winced at the action. “Sorry, keep forgetting you’re a wuss, and can’t handle that.”
Quin glared at her. “I’m your king. Isn’t it about time you showed me some respect?” He had to fight the smile that was coming, because he knew full well Ingrid in fact respected him a hell of a lot more than she afforded other people.
“Not gonna happen, Quinlan. I know all your deep down secrets…and I’m not against using them for my advantage”
Luckily he knew she was only joking. “Don’t suppose you’ll be willing to forget those—hmmm?”
“Ha!” Ingrid blurted out then blushed in something akin to embarrassment or maybe exasperation. Quinlan wasn’t quite sure which one.
“Look, here come your heart now,” she gestured in Brayden’s direction as he entered the great hall.
Quinlan’s breath caught at the smile Brayden wore as he approached. His husband always did have the best smile. In quin’s opinion it was only rivalled by his sons.
“Good morning, my love, did you sleep well?” Quin held out an arm and pulled Brayden down onto his lap.
Since his return Brayden had thrived on a lot of affection, and Quin was willing to give him whatever he needed to feel whole. There were secrets in Brayden’s past which he wasn’t ready to share yet, and Quin was prepared to wait until he was.
Brayden leaned in and kissed Quin on the cheek. “I slept very well,” Bray answered as he wrapped his arms around Quin’s neck and held him tight. “Thank you for the present, it’s beautiful.”
Fear and caution warred within Quin as he tried to keep his voice calm. “Present? I haven’t given you a present.” He tightened his embrace when he felt his husband begin to tremble. “What did you get?”
Brayden pressed his face into Quin’s neck. Quin knew Bray was taking in his scent. Over the last month he discovered this was how Bray was able to calm himself.
“It was a flower. Actually, it’s the whole bush.” Bray sat up and looked Quin straight in his eyes before he continued speaking. “When I woke up this morning there was a potted plant sitting beside the window in our bedroom.” Confusion seemed to have filled his eyes. “I could swear it’s the Heart of Panthea, but I thought they died out generations ago. I went and looked it up in the library before coming here—just to make sure that’s what it really was.”
Quinlan looked at Ingrid and without saying anything she went and spoke to two of the guards. He knew she’d sent them to retrieve the plant in question, and bring it to them.
“Are you sure you didn’t give it to me?” Brayden’s voice quavered.
“No, my love. I’m positive the gift wasn’t from me.” Quin kissed Brayden’s temple. “Don’t worry, we’ll have it sorted out in no time.”
Brayden couldn’t seem to grasp what was happening. “Then who would give me a present if not you?”
“I don’t know, but we’re going to find out. You belong to me,” Quin hugged him possessively, “no one else can have you.”
Quinlan and Brayden sat up straighter as the gift in question was brought before them. Quinlan had to admit, as gifts went, it was truly beautiful. The heart shaped leaves were of the deepest green, and the flowers were of a red so dark it looked like they had been soaked in blood. This was the reason for the name the Heart of Panthea. What many people didn’t know, or maybe wouldn’t remember, is the Heart of Panthea was usually sent as a warning. To receive such a gift meant someone had put a price on your head.
Quinlan gazed at the man sitting panicked on his lap, who in their right mind would put a price on his husband’s head? Why would they? More to the point is how did they get into the castle undetected? The look on Ingrid’s face told Quin she also remembered the meaning of such a gift.
Ingrid shook her head slightly as if telling him not to say anything. Her gaze flickered to the still trembling Brayden then back in his direction. Quinlan dropped his own gaze to her hands and saw their sign for, ‘we’ll talk soon,’ followed closely by the sign, ‘I have a theory,’ this was something he couldn’t wait to hear, and he knew that whatever it was, it wasn’t going to be good.
Her theories were never good.