The Prince & His Royal Guard

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Chapter 13

13

Bullets hit the side of the Jeep, metal clawing its way into metal. It was so loud, Leon wanted to jump out of the jeep and run. Logan would not let him. A strong arm pushed him lower to the floor, holding him down in a crouch. Logan’s tone remained calm as he gave orders to Shirley and the rest of the team. The Jeep started moving again.

Leon assumed they were heading to the castle. It was only a minute away at top speed. The gunshots continued.

Logan’s arm tightened around Leon’s shoulders, his hold firm.

“Faster Shirley,” Logan’s voice filled Leon’s head. “Command, this is A-Team. We’re heading to agreed exfil point one, full support required. We have two left on the ground in hot pursuit with B-Team support. No injuries, hostiles unknown.”

The Jeep jerked hard, Leon held on to the front seat, his legs folded under him. He sat tucked in behind the driver’s seat protected by the door on his left and Logan on his right. It pained him to have Logan so exposed.

Leon wanted Logan protected too. His heart sped up at the thought of Logan shot. He wanted this to end. He wanted the person shooting at them caught. Anger bloomed, and he bit his bottom lip hard as he realized that he needed the power to do something about this awful situation.

“We’re on Grand Street, heading in at top speed,” Logan’s voice filtered back into his head. “Castle Arguro is not an option…wait, Shirley turn left here. Take Riod Street into the back entrance of the Anastasia Grand. Commander Stevens has a team in place, the top floor is secure.”

Leon started to raise his head so that he could see out but Logan wouldn’t let him.

“We’re almost there, Leon,” Logan soothed. “A few more minutes, and we’ll have you in a secure place.”

Leon tried to relax, but his muscles felt tense. He was sweating too much, and his ears were ringing.

“Shirley, you’ll take point,” Logan said. “Lockdown information from anyone at Castle Arguro, we have a breach there. There will be no access to the top floor without direct orders from above.”

Logan relaxed his hold on Leon when they drove into the underground parking lot at the Anastasia Grand Hotel. He kept Leon on the floor, not allowing him to raise his head. Shirley stopped the Jeep right at the elevator doors.

Logan opened the door to his right, and slid out first, allowing Leon to come out only when a team of men in black suits covered the Jeep. Leon allowed Logan to help him out and held on to Logan’s hand when they entered the elevator, just the two of them. The ride to the top floor went fast, and once they arrived, the elevator doors slid open. Leon stared at the officers walking the hallway leading to the penthouse.

“Lieutenant Commander,” one of them said giving Logan a smart salute. “The floor is empty, the penthouse is clear. We have access locked down as ordered.”

“Thank you,” Logan said, guiding Leon to the first double doors on the hall. He opened the door with a keycard Leon recognized from the opening day. “You’re safe here, Leon, for now.”

Leon walked into the huge suite in a state of disbelief. He sank into an armchair and for a full minute, sat staring at the closed blinds.

“Leon?”

Leon blinked when he felt Logan’s hand on his knee. Logan crouched studying him with a worried gaze.

“Are you alright? Did you get hurt?” Logan took his hands and checked his arms. “I pushed you down pretty hard. You didn’t knock your head or anything, did you?”

“No,” Leon shook his head. “I’m fine. No hurts.”

Logan nodded and squeezed his hands.

“Breathe, Leon.”

Leon held Logan’s blue gaze for a second, and then he took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. It came out shaky and his hands trembled.

“We made it out,” Logan soothed, reaching up to brush strands of hair out of Leon’s face. “You did so well listening to me, you didn’t panic once. I’m proud of you.”

Leon tried a smile, but he couldn’t muster the energy to give more than a slight curve.

“I need to make a few phone calls,” Logan said, keeping his tone gentle. “Before that, I’m going to confess something to you, Leon.”

Leon studied their clasped hands.

“You’re still in the Royal Navy. You’re on a mission,” Leon said, having realized that much. He should have known when Logan came to him. “I’m that mission.”

Logan squeezed Leon’s hand.

“I told you to ask me if you wanted to know, but you never did. Everything I’ve done is to keep you safe. You have to know that. I would use everything available to me to protect you.”

Leon studied Logan’s hand holding his. The fear he felt in the car, as gunshots rained on his car, lingered. Sinking deeper into him like molten lava taking root. He was aware that while he didn’t want to die, he had worried more for Logan. He didn’t want to imagine a world without Logan. It would be too hard. He never wanted to see Logan stand in front of him to save him from a bullet. Like seeing David poisoned instead of him, the thought sickened him.

Logan mattered to him, mattered so much…he swallowed.

“You saved me,” Leon said, after a minute. “I would not have survived alone tonight. We’ll figure out the rest.”

Logan leaned up to press a kiss on Leon’s forehead. Leon closed his eyes at the caress.

“Take a shower,” Logan said, touching Leon’s cheek with the back of his right hand. “Since the opening day, we’ve stocked this place with some of your clothes. It was our contingency plan. Shirley will bring your camera in a few. I need to check on John and Tom.”

Logan got up and Leon clung to his right arm.

“You’re not leaving, are you?” Leon asked, worried.

He didn’t want to be alone, not after…

“I’m staying here with you,” Logan promised, helping Leon up, and leading him to the bedroom. “I need to make phone calls, and set up a communications station here so that we can get more information.”

Leon nodded.

“Can I call Riku or Petr?”

“Not yet,” Logan said, shaking his head. “I’ll let you know when you can. Take a shower, Leon. It will help clear your head and help you rest.”

***

“The asset is on the run. We underestimated Leon’s detail. Their response on the open attack is too coordinated for a small security company. We’re almost burned.”

“Explain.”

“The teams after our asset are equipped with elite military grade weapons and full surveillance support. He is not good enough to evade them. They will catch him. We’ll need to eliminate him to get a clean break. The open attack was wrong so soon after the poisoning at the hotel. The Prince took measures to prevent attacks on his life though our asset might have succeeded tonight. We won’t know until morning.”

Constantin paced the length of his desk in his study. He had worked hard to make sure there would be no backlash, no connection to him. Hope bloomed at that last part of the other man’s report. His meticulous planning would have finally paid off.

His cousin seemed to have more luck than Midas. It wasn’t normal to survive that many attempts on a life.

“Okay, I’ll wait to see results tomorrow morning. As for the asset, he was useful when he shot at Leon at Castle Arguro, are you sure we can’t save him?”

“They are too close. If they identify him as the shooter at Arguro Forest as well, we won’t be far behind.”

“That’s too bad, close the books on him. If the asset failed tonight, then we’ll activate the asset Leon has been seeing. Offer Hansen the same terms as the others and make sure you secure his collateral before you call him. I want him resolved enough to go through with our plans.”

“I will get it done.”

“I’m expecting a state funeral and nothing less. Otherwise, you’ll have me to deal with. There is no option for failure,” Constantin said, shaking his head. “There is too much riding on the outcome. Do you understand?”

“I understand.”

Constantin ended the call and gripped his cellphone tight anger blazing through him. He could not even begin to figure out how his cousin had gotten so lucky each time.

Oh how he hated Leon Nicholas Raphael Maximillian, the prince born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Leon’s parents had loved him. They took the time to educate him, give him knowledge and attention. They might have lived at Castle Arguro but it might as well have been the Capital Palace. Most of all, Leon had their grandmother’s affection. He was her favorite grandson, though she never said it, anyone with eyes could see it.

Constantin dropped his phone on his desk. Full support meant the government was protecting Leon. It made things harder, but not impossible.

He should have known that Queen Amethea would look to Leon when it came to crowning the heir. He should have known it the second Leon’s parents died.

He needed Leon gone, only then would the world be his.

***

Gia came looking for her older brother hoping to talk to him about their father’s continued investigation. Her mother worried, and their father kept having angry outbursts with each investigation discovery. At this rate, he was going to break all the precious vases in their sunroom.

Gia had not expected to eavesdrop on her brother’s phone call. She had not expected the menace in his words right before that call ended.

‘I’m expecting a state funeral and nothing less.’

Had Constantin really said that? The hate in his voice made her shiver. So much so, she had to lean on the wall outside Constantin’s study. Her heart pounded fast in her chest, she worried her brother would hear it.

Her brother’s fix for their father’s current problems…it couldn’t be.

A state funeral…Gia gaped.

Could it mean that he wanted to hurt their grandmother?

Their father was going crazy with the possibility that he might have lost the throne. Her mother supported her father and seemed to have no opinion on the matter. Leon lived at Castle Arguro, not caring one whit about palace politics.

If their grandmother died, Isaak would take the right to the throne without contest. Which would make Constantin the crown heir with no contest.

Gia shook her head, wondering what she should do next. She had come to Constantin hoping to find a solution instead…

This was wrong.

Gia slipped out of her heels and bent down to pick them up. She didn’t want Constantin to know she had been at his door, or that she’d heard his hateful words. She walked down the hallway as fast as possible, and once she made the first turn to the exit, she started running.

Gosh, why couldn’t her family be normal?

It was bad enough that authorities were busy investigating her father for murder, now Constantin was planning one.

She ran hard, her vision blurring. When she stopped running to swipe her right arm over her eyes, she found herself standing at the doors that led into her grandmother’s private residence.

“Princess Gia,” Olivier greeted her, standing a few feet behind her. “What brings you here at this late hour?”

Gia turned to stare at him, her thoughts in chaos.

“Princess Gia?” Olivier prompted. “Your shoes—”

“I want to see grandmother,” Gia pleaded, tears filling her eyes again. “Please ask her not to refuse me. I need to talk to her.”

Olivier studied her for a moment then nodded and the guards opened the doors for her.

Gia followed Olivier into her grandmother’s residence. They climbed wide sweeping stairs to the second floor to the Queen’s private study, where she knew her grandmother preferred to meet the family.

Olivier turned in the opposite direction of that room, leading her to the left instead of to the right. He stopped at double doors and knocked once.

“Yes,” Amethea said.

Olivier opened the door and stepped back to allow Gia into the comfortable sitting room.

Amethea sat on the couch, her gaze on a screen opposite her with a tray with fresh coffee and snacks on the table in front of her. She was watching an old black and white movie. She turned away from the screen and frowned when she saw Gia.

“Gia,” Amethea said in surprise.

“I’ll leave you alone,” Olivier said, slipping out of the room and closing the door behind him.

Gia turned to Amethea, unable to hold back the tears flooding her eyes. They seemed to come faster at the sight of her grandmother.

Amethea stood with a sigh.

“Look at the mess of you,” Amethea said, crossing the distance between them.

She wrapped her arms around Gia.

Gia dropped her shoes on the floor and sunk into her grandmother’s comfort. The fear growing inside her burst out in a wild wave.

“Granny, your life’s in danger,” Gia cried. “Your life is really in danger. What are we going to do?”

***

“How is John?” Logan asked, watching Tom’s feed on the screen.

“John took a hit on his left arm. He’s getting the bullet removed,” Tom reported. “We’re keeping it under wraps in case you need to exploit that.”

“Current status,” Commander Steele asked.

“We’re in pursuit,” Tom said. “The secondary team is leaving nothing to chance. We should have the shooter in less than fifteen minutes. He’s very familiar with the area. We’re running to catch up.”

“Don’t lose him,” Logan said.

“Not a chance,” Tom said.

Logan ended the call allowing Tom to concentrate on the task. His gaze swept over the officials who had arrived at the hotel in full alert mode. Commander Steele and Commander Stevens stood next to him. They had brought a team of three, who analyzed information, as it came to them.

Logan was glad he had moved the communication setup to the room opposite Leon’s suite. He hated to imagine Leon losing privacy over the bastard raining bullets on him.

“I have a plan,” Logan said, facing both Commanders. “I’d like to utilize this opportunity. We can discover the culprit’s endgame and his accomplices at the same time.”

Commander Stevens nodded.

“Let’s hear it,” Commander Steele said.

“Allow the one behind this to think the shooter succeeded,” Logan said. “I imagine the culprit wants Prince Leon dead for a reason. Allow it to happen, and we uncover their endgame.”

“That’s risky,” Commander Steele said. “His Highness is important to Her Majesty. She won’t take kindly to declaring him dead.”

“We must do this because he’s important,” Logan said. “We’ve been chasing the culprit for weeks, it’s getting redundant. We need to take on a more aggressive approach. I have the operation mapped out and was going to call Commander Stevens this evening to get approval.”

Logan sent his plans to the main terminal from his phone and turned to Commander Steele.

“The attackers are getting too bold to wait, so we need to act fast. We can’t stop them without more information. This is the only way to obtain new intel. We need Her Majesty’s approval, of course, but once she gives it, we can have everything in place by morning.”

Commander Steele narrowed his gaze for a second and then nodded.

“Alright, I’ll give your OP a look. It’s been a long night for you, Lt. Commander Mason. Why don’t you head back to His Highness’s side, make sure he doesn’t leave unnoticed,” Commander Steele said, nodding to the door. “I’ll have Shirley keep you and your team updated.”

Logan nodded at Shirley who moved to take his place. He caught Commander Steven’s eye before he turned to leave, hoping they decided to take on his plan.

He never wanted to see Leon shaking with fear again.

Logan went through the open door to Leon’s suite door. He swiped his keycard and entered the quiet suite. He closed the door and made sure to lock it.

Glancing at his watch, he wasn’t surprised to discover that it was almost ten o’clock at night. Climbing the stairs, he decided to check on Leon, take a shower and then go to sleep.

He was just finished dressing after his shower when he heard a cry come from Leon’s bedroom.

***

Leon dreamed of standing in a cold morgue. The image was so clear it felt real. He shivered, staring at the two cold tables in the middle of the morgue. The white sheets he knew covered his parents. The faceless attendant pulled those sheets back and Leon stepped up to look, unable not to, always needing that confirmation.

The cold seemed to seep into his very bones, making him unable to walk. Every step felt stiff to him, his legs refusing to take a step forward. When he was close enough, expecting to see his dad’s face, a gasp lodged in his throat when he recognized his own face. His gray eyes clouded over in death, he suddenly couldn’t breathe.

Panic filled him and a strangled cry escaped. He brought his hand up to his throat trying to take in air. He couldn’t look away from the sight of his face in death…

“Leon.”

His name came in an echo.

“Wake up, baby.”

Leon pushed through the heavy fog of sleep, Logan’s voice coming clearer.

“You’re having a bad dream. Wake up.”

Leon shuddered, hoping Logan was right. He opened his eyes and gasped in relief at the sight of Logan in the bright bedroom. Logan helped him sit up and Leon burrowed into him grateful for Logan’s warmth. It seeped into him, bringing him back from that horror-filled dream to the present. He breathed in Logan’s clean scent of citrus and cypress. Leon wrapped his arms around Logan.

“I don’t want to die, Logan.”

“You won’t,” Logan promised, rubbing Leon’s back. “You have me with you. Nothing will happen to you.”

Leon closed his eyes and the image of his clouded eyes filled his head. He opened them and stared instead at Logan’s dark hair, smiling because it was growing.

“Please, stay with me,” Leon heard himself murmur, tired of being without Logan.

“Sure, why not,” Logan rubbed his right hand over Leon’s back. “Your bed looks more comfortable than the couch out there.”

Leon sighed again.

That was not what he had meant, but he would take it for now.

Logan let him go and climbed onto the bed so that he was on Leon’s left side. When they were lying down, and Logan pulled Leon into his arms, Leon wished he could have the comfort of Logan’s arms for the rest of his life.

***

It felt good to hold Leon again.

They had fallen asleep almost as soon as he got in bed. Leon cuddled in his arms as if they had never been apart. Logan glanced at the time on the clock on the bedside table. It was almost six o’clock in the morning.

Back at Castle Arguro, Leon would be awake and running around the track field by now.

Logan glanced down at Leon and smiled. Leon was deep asleep now. Logan could not fault him for that. He’d had a rough night. Brushing gentle fingers through Leon’s hair, he pressed a kiss on top of Leon’s head and tried to move away.

Leon’s arms tightened around him and he stopped, taking a closer look at Leon in the dim room.

“You’re awake,” Logan said with a little chuckle. “I’ve been thinking you’re asleep.”

“I didn’t want to move and wake you,” Leon said, pressing his face into Logan’s chest. “If I close my eyes long enough, it feels like we’re back in Seville. You slept next to me every night. I miss those days.”

Logan swallowed, reaching behind him to turn on the lamp on his bedside table. He sunk his fingers into Leon’s hair to tilt his head back so that he could look into Leon’s eyes.

“I miss those days too.”

Leon smiled and shifted even closer, tangling their legs.

“Will you be upset with me if I kiss you?” Logan asked, remembering his first try weeks ago. “I want to kiss you again, Leon. I think about it every minute.”

“I always want your kisses, Logan,” Leon said, reaching up to touch the dark shadow on Logan’s jaw. “I just don’t know how to be without them.”

Logan smiled and leaned in, taking Leon’s lips in a soft kiss, one that turned demanding when their lips touched. Logan took Leon’s lips in a hard kiss, sipping on soft lips, demanding entry into Leon’s hot mouth. A wave of satisfaction washed over him when Leon moaned, passion rising and Logan shifted over Leon pressing him into the bed, letting him take his weight for a second. Holding Leon down as he took all he could, all he had wanted for years. He felt on the edge, Leon’s hands on him bringing him closer.

Logan closed his eyes and held still, fighting for control when Leon dug fingers into his back. Not wanting to crush Leon with his weight, Logan wrapped his arms around Leon, holding him as he sat up fast with Leon on his lap.

Leon chuckled with exhilaration, wrapping his legs around Logan’s waist. He trailed kisses along Logan’s jaw to his neck. Logan hissed when Leon sunk his teeth into the sensitive curve at his neck and shoulder, and then sucked on it.

Logan slipped his hands under Leon’s t-shirt and ran them up the length of Leon’s back, grinning when Leon arched into him at the sensation, throwing his head back with a moan. Logan met passion filled gray eyes.

“You’re beautiful,” Logan murmured. “I’d be content with this if it was all I could get. Just to see you like this is enough.”

“Well, it’s not for me,” Leon caressed Logan’s chin, his fingers moving to trace over Logan’s lips. “I want more from you, so feel free to take more, Logan. Be selfish with me. I want you to be. I’ve always wanted that from you.”

Logan breathed in and out, his cock hard, feeling like a teenager with no sense of control. Leon got him here, each time, no matter what was between them. He read truth in Leon’s eyes, the offer for more was enticing, still insecurities crept in and he decided to give them to Leon.

“I’m afraid you might find my selfish needs suffocating,” he said, pressing his forehead into Leon’s chest, closing his eyes when Leon wrapped his arms around him. “I can’t share you, or bear the thought of you with another in the future. It would be too much.”

“My love,” Leon said, resting his chin on Logan’s head. “If you want it, I’ll be yours forever.”

Logan sighed.

“You can’t make that promise.”

“Yes, I can.” Leon said, no longer murmuring, his fingers tightening in Logan’s hair. “That’s the one thing grandmother can never interfere in, Logan. I lo—”

Leon broke off and took in a breath.

Logan lifted his head from Leon’s chest and met gray eyes filled with tears. Leon was biting his lower lip hard to stop himself from saying words that would tie them together. He looked afraid but sincere. It was humbling.

Leon looked away and cleared his throat.

“You started this, finish it,” Leon said, his voice rough. “Don’t leave me hanging.”

Logan gripped the edge of Leon’s t-shirt and pulled it up.

Their future was unclear, at least to him, but he could give Leon this much. He wanted it too, desperately. Taking Leon’s t-shirt off, he started a slow trail of kisses along Leon’s collarbone designed to drive them both into madness. It was the best kind of madness, the passion-filled kind that would leave them unable to think. Just touch, feel and drown in ecstasy. They clung to each other with remembered heat, growing need, and a profound sense of rediscovery.

***

Riku entered David’s hospital room carrying a basket filled with breakfast to feed four. Petr carried the second one with food for two and any extra visitors. Sadie got up from the couch where she sat wrapped with a blanket, watching David read a book.

“Morning!” Riku said in greeting.

“Riku,” David said, dropping the book on his lap. “Please tell Sadie that I’m well enough to get my laptop back, at the least, my phone.”

“Food first,” Riku said, placing the basket on the coffee table near the couch.

Petr followed suit and promptly sat on the couch, already on his phone, typical. Riku narrowed his gaze at Petr, but decided to ignore him. He and Petr were a work in progress right now.

Sadie moved the hospital table closer to David, setting it to the right height. Riku opened the basket and concentrated on setting up breakfast for his best friend. He liked Sadie, loved her temperament, how she made David smile. She touched him a lot, small caresses really, sweeping hair out of David’s eyes, or squeezing his shoulder, his arm, holding his hand. It was sweet, and reminded him of watching Logan and Leon when they were together.

Riku glanced at Petr who was now talking on his phone. He worried that he would never get that with Petr. They weren’t a sweet couple, but a highly dysfunctional one.

“Turn the television on.” David begged Sadie. “We can watch the news. It’s always about things that have already happened. Which won’t upset me.”

Sadie chuckled and reached for the remote control. She turned on the television, just as Riku settled in the chair nearest David’s bed.A cup of coffee in hand, and one of the delicious croissants from the café near David’s house, Riku smiled, content and concentrated on enjoying breakfast.

Anselm and Paul showed up thirty minutes later bringing with them more coffee, thanks to Petr. Riku watched them both kiss Sadie on the cheek and hug her. They settled on the couch with Petr, while Sadie perched on the bed next to David. Anselm and Paul teased David when she kissed David on his temple and spent more than a minute making sure his covers were over him.

Riku laughed at their ribbing, meeting Petr’s gaze over David’s bed. Petr lifted a brow at him, and he shrugged once again ignoring Petr’s pointed look. He was determined to keep distance between them.

‘Breaking News’

The words filled the television screen, typical of news outlets.

“One of these days, you two are going to meet someone and it will be worse than me and Sadie,” David was telling Anselm and Paul. “You’ll be mushier than we are now, and we’ll have a hell of a time reminding you how—”

’…reports are still unclear. There has been no official statement from the Capital Palace. His Highness, Prince Leon was coming home from a trip out of town. He is said to have encountered an armed assailant and was in critical condition before he succumbed to his injuries.

Riku reached for his phone dialing Leon’s number. He stood up, fear filling him when Leon did not answer on the second ring.

“Oh God,” Riku said, afraid, “How could we not know this? The story must be a hoax.”

Petr got up from the couch and came to stand next to him, wrapping an arm around his shoulders.

“Don’t worry,” Petr said, his tone enough to send the worst of the fear away. “You’re right. Leon would make sure we knew if something happened to him.”

“Not if he was in critical condition,” David said, already pushing his covers away. Sadie started to protest but David took her hand and shook his head. “This is more important. Leon is one of us and he’s in trouble. We can’t ignore it. We stand by each other, Sadie. Don’t fight me on this.”

Sadie nodded and got off the bed to head to the closet provided by the hospital. She got David’s shirt and trousers. While David dressed, Petr made calls, and Riku reached out to his own contacts.

“Guys,” Anselm turned up the volume, pointing to the screen.

Riku held Petr’s left arm tight.

They all watched Dax walk into Thelem Abbey where Leon's parents were laid to rest.

“Oh God,” Riku gasped. “This is…”

“Not happening,” Petr said, shaking him. “Leon is not dead, Riku. We’ll get to the bottom of this.”

***

At the top floor of the Anastasia Grand Hotel, Leon stood in the living room staring at news of his supposed death on the screen, anger rising.

“How could you do this?” Leon asked shaking like a branch caught in a storm. “How dare you make this decision? Call everyone working with you and tell them to stop running this monstrous story. I need to talk to Riku, Petr, Anselm, Paul, gosh, David who is in hospital….why would you do this?”

Leon breathed out and turned to glare at Logan waiting for an explanation. He couldn’t believe that while he and Logan were lost in each other, the Royal Navy had decided to declare him dead.

“You tricked me,” Leon accused.

“Oh, please, that is not true,” Logan said, pouring coffee into his mug.

Leon watched him sit calm at the dining table and felt his anger already dispersing.

It was illegal how Logan seemed to affect him. He could not even stay mad at the man.

“Come and eat, Leon, you’re going to need your strength to get through this. Don’t spoil what we did to each other this morning with misplaced anger.”

“Just tell me why,” Leon said, hands at his hips as he stared at the replay of a stressed Dax entering Thelem Abbey. “Does grandmother know?”

“I’m quite sure she gave the go ahead,” Logan said, buttering a slice of oat and rye bread with raspberry jam. “You like raspberry jam on yours, right?”

Leon paced in the living room, shaking his head.

“No, this is not right,” Leon said, remembering Riku’s plea. “At least call Petr, he’ll know to keep quiet.”

“Not a chance,” Logan said.

“Fine, then I’ll call him,” Leon said, heading upstairs to his bedroom.

He remembered leaving his cell phone on the bedside table. He had plugged it in last night. It was not on the bedside table. Staring at the empty surface, he cursed under his breath. Rushing downstairs, he stopped by Logan’s chair.

“Give me my phone, Logan.”

“I don’t have your phone.”

“Logan.”

“You might have dropped it in the Jeep last night,” Logan said, placing the slice he held on his plate. He glanced up at Leon.“Remember? Bullets raining on the side of the car with a serious determination to kill you, remember that?”

“How can I forget it?” Leon asked. “Now give me my phone.”

“No.” Logan slammed his palms on the table and pushed his chair back. He got up and faced Leon. “What is your opinion on this whole situation, because I haven’t heard it once since I came in? Are you okay with someone trying to kill you?”

“You know I’m not okay with it,” Leon said, hating that he had to look up to meet Logan’s gaze.

“Then, why aren’t you mad? Why don’t you want to catch the culprit?”

“I do, that’s why you’re next to me,” Leon stated.

He was afraid Logan would leave him the moment they caught the darned culprit but he didn’t admit that.

Logan stepped closer, closing the small gap between them.

“It still feels to me as though you’re indifferent to the situation. Your life is in danger, Leon. I want you to think of two things.”

“What two things?”

“One, yesterday, you left the castle using a passage no one knows exists in your suite. Your trip to the beach was private, Leon. Apart from my team, no one knew where you would be. How is it that they knew to wait for us at Sheep Hill Road?”

Leon stared up at Logan for a minute.

“Someone in your team could have—”

“Not possible,” Logan said. “We’re vetted to the point of pure transparency. John is nursing a gunshot wound, and Tom chased down the shooter until he found him. The person behind the shooter killed him before Tom could arrest him. It pissed Tom off so much; he’s gone after the second shooter. My team would not give you up, Leon.”

“Are you telling me someone at the castle is responsible?” Leon asked, the thought leaving him weak.

“Yes,” Logan said, leaving him with no doubt. “Two, your parents and the reasons they died. I, more than anyone, know the man who planted the bomb is not a religious extremist, Leon. He had nothing to do with terrorist agendas. Someone paid him too well for the job. It’s very possible that the attempts on you are tied to your parents’ deaths.”

Leon swallowed down the bile that rose up.

He had thought it before, had almost welcomed it, hoping the culprit would stop or get the job done right if he stayed still. He had hoped the culprit would see that Leon wanted nothing to do with the palace. Now, hearing the same suspicions from Logan made them real, tangible. Unavoidable.

“Leon.”

He closed his eyes, the memory of his parents smiling at him at his Oxford graduation filling his head. It was his last memory of Kleopas and Anastasia. His mother worrying about him going on a six-month trip, and Kleopas assuring her he would be fine. He still had that picture they took that day. His parents’ smiles embedded in his brain. It hurt to look at it, but it was the last time he saw them alive.

“Look at me,” Logan said, his tone hard.

Leon opened his eyes and met ice blue eyes.

“You’re not helpless. You’re not alone. You are so much stronger than you think. So, stop running,” Logan said, his tone pleading. “Face it. Face them because if you don’t, it won’t stop. I’m afraid they’ll go after your grandmother next.”

“You think this has to do with the throne,” Leon said.

“Don’t you?” Logan asked, studying him.

He did, had suspected it the moment Gia showed up at the castle begging him not to meet his grandmother.

“You might not like the outcome,” Leon said, thinking of his grandmother’s goal with him.

Logan probably suspected it too.

“We’ll worry about that at the end.”

Leon inhaled, taking in the scent of Logan.

“I still need to let Petr know—”

“Their honest reactions are important if we’re going to sell this play,” Logan cut him off. “I’ll let him yell at me when it’s over.”

“He holds long grudges,” Leon warned, “especially where Riku is involved.”

“I can take it,” Logan promised, kissing Leon’s cheek. “Now, come have breakfast with me. It’s going to be a long day, baby.”

Leon should have felt intimidated by the reality of someone in his family wanting him dead. Instead, a sense of adventure filled him. He felt as though he could face anything with Logan beside him. Reaching for the slice of oat and rye bread on Logan’s plate, he bit into the delicious bread feeling free for the first time in four years.

****

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