Quinlan stood at the edge of the camp. He’d insisted on taking his turn at guard duty. They hadn’t brought a lot of people with them on this mission. As Quinlan hadn’t wanted to let the enemy know they were coming, or how many was in his group. If he’d done things the proper way a full battalion would have taken them forever to get mobilised. Calder, the Pard of the Panthean sentinels wasn’t happy about his decisions, but Quin didn’t care one bit. As it was he had listened to Talon and just taken a few. From his inner circle and some of them weren’t even guards or sentinels. The truth was Quin just wanted his husband back.
The fact wasn’t wide known that Brayden was missing and quite a few times he had had to pretend that Brayden was just indisposed in that moment, or resting due to the child. Truly, it amazed him how the citizens of Panthea had taken it so well when they found out exactly what Brayden and Javier were. Some of the older citizens who remembered the tales of old were damn near ecstatic about the reintroduction of the shifters into their society saying it was an honoured privilege to welcome and protect them. The amounts of gifts that had been showered upon them both proved just how much they were loved, and all their attention had made Brayden feel like less of a freak. But one of those same citizens had done the unthinkable and betrayed their king by kidnapping the King’s Consort. If Quinlan ever found out who that person was, they would rue the day they had ever been born.
How dare they put their hands on Brayden?
How dare they take from Quinlan, their king?
Taking a moment he remembered back to the strange message that had been left in the throne room. Three words: Ormand has them. The question was—who was them? Who else besides Brayden was taken? Doing a search no one had turned up missing. Maybe they’d been trying to tell them Ormand had raided and stolen members form other communities in the known world, but for what purposes?
Quinlan stilled as he heard a noise behind him, he waited as Lord Dalziel approached him. No matter what the others though Quinlan still didn’t trust that he was telling them the truth. There was something else going on inside the man, and Quin had every intention of finding out exactly what he was hiding.
“You still think I’m a part of the group who took my son?” Fane Dalziel stated.
Quinlan heard the sadness in his words but he held his tongue.
“I can see I have much to prove to you before you see that I’m telling the truth.”
“Only one man can verify if you are being honest, and that man is dead. So forgive me if I’m having a hard time swallowing your tale.” Quinlan turned away and scanned the darkness looking for anything that might be out of place. He had a niggling in the back of his brain that something was going to happen. Something that was going to change the way Panthea was ruled.
“I can help you if you let me. When I mated with Thayer, I was gifted certain powers, I’m sure you yourself have felt you are changing... better senses... your getting stronger. Even your intuition will become clearer. These are part of mating with an ancient one.”
“What are you talking about?” The truth was Quinlan had suspected for a while now that he was changing. The further into the pregnancy Brayden got the stronger the sense prevailed.
“Thayer explained it to me like this: being mated to one of the ancient ones, we needed to change just enough to balance them out. We were the string tethering them to all that exists. He told me how most times if one dies so does the other, but in our case I guess that wasn’t true.” Fane shook his head. “The funny thing is, at night when all is quiet, I can almost believe Thayer’s still alive—it’s like I can still feel his heart beating inside my chest.”
Cold dread raced over Quinlan at these words. As he listened he realised that is exactly as he felt. He could feel the double heartbeat inside him. It was the one thing keeping him sane. Knowing Brayden was still out there somewhere waiting for him to come and get him, was tearing at his soul. If Fane Dalziel could also feel the double heartbeat, what did that mean? Did it mean that King Thayer was still alive? Or did it mean he wouldn’t ever know if Brayden was dead unless he saw the body with his own two eyes? He didn’t want to believe it was the latter because that would mean he would soon be mourning his heart, as well as the loss of his child. For safety reasons his other children had been sent to stay with Ingrid’s family well away from Panthea. None but he and Ingrid knew this detail.
“What do you think it means?” Quinlan asked, all the while dreading what the answer might be.
When Fane answered his voice was filled with emotion. “I don’t know, but I can tell you this. Since Brayden has been taken, the feeling of Thayer keeps getting stronger. I think maybe Thayer’s spirit sees I didn’t do a good job looking after our sons. I didn’t protect them like I’d promised. I think maybe Thayer is telling me my life is now destined to join his. Maybe I’m not meant long for this world anymore.” A sad smile crept over his lips, “And honestly I can’t wait to be reunited with my Thayer. I’ve lived alone in this world and mourned my husband for too long.”
Quinlan reached out and placed his hand on Fane’s shoulder and squeezed it gently. “Maybe this is your reward for keeping Bray safe until he could be returned to me.”
“I should have prepared him for what was to come. I was too afraid he wouldn’t believe me, and then I acted like a crazy man while trying to keep him safe. I honestly didn’t want him going through what I did. If you never mated then his cat would never manifest. He wouldn’t have to fear losing you like I lost Thayer.”
“You denied your son what he needed most. You denied him love—my love.” When Fane went to interrupt Quinlan silenced him. “I know you must have loved him in your own way, but you denied him me. I have always owned his heart as he has mine.”
“I’m sorry. I thought I was doing the right thing.”
“Yet you let Ormand run free. Allowing him to gather whatever followers he has. You should’ve been preparing us all for what was to come. Instead you hid Brayden away from the world, and now we have no clue as to where to find my husband. This information we’ve been given might not even be correct. But I can assure you of one thing.” Quinlan turned his cold gaze on Fane. “When I find Ormand and his associates, they’ll pay. If any harm has come to my husband and child I will destroy them all.”
Fane nodded. “And I’ll be standing at your side helping you kill them all.”