The Prince & His Royal Guard

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Chapter 18

18

The next morning, Paul, David and Anselm sat in the informal dining room at Castle Arguro having breakfast.Dax came in and out; making sure the side table had enough food for breakfast.The television tuned to the morning news, while David and Anselm worked on their laptops.

Petr had yet to make an appearance.Paul assumed he was tired.Riku had left early in the morning, only telling Paul that he would call later.He had looked pensive.Paul had not pushed for more information.

A press briefing at the palace led by Olivier started, prompting Paul to add the volume.

’…Prince Isaak has been arrested for conspiring to murder his younger brother, Prince Kleopas and his sister in-law, Princess Anastasia.The authorities have comprehensive evidence to support the charges, and His Highness shall therefore face the full force of the law.

A round of questions started from the men and women of the press, but Olivier ignored them, waiting to complete his prepared statement.He continued when the room went silent.

“Prince Constantin is arrested for plotting to bring harm to His Highness, Prince Leon.His actions were thwarted through dedicated effort by investigators.The authorities have taken over inquiries and shall lead the way forward on these cases.The Capital Palace assures all people of Aeras, and the world, that justice shall be served.We shall cooperate with law enforcement to ensure a fast resolution.No one is above the law.There will be no interference from any member of the royal family.”

“The floor is now open for questions,” Olivier said, closing the folder he was holding, he faced the press.

“A few days ago, Prince Leon was announced dead.Is this false information and why has he not appeared at this press briefing?”

“His Highness, Prince Leon is recuperating after this ordeal.The Capital Palace shall inform you when we have made preparations for his press briefing.”

“How badly was His Highness injured?”

“His Highness, Prince Leon is recovering,” Olivier answered.

“Will Palace Officials stop the investigation into Lady Dora’s death?”

“The palace shall cooperate with law enforcement authorities in all investigations,” Olivier said.

“When will Her Majesty make a statement on the future of the royal family?”

“The Capital Palace will communicate the next press briefing and answer your questions then,” Olivier said, starting to leave.

Paul muted the television and winked at Anselm who was busy eating a bowl of cereal.

“Looks like Leon has his work cut out for him,” Paul noted.

“He better enjoy today,” David said with a small yawn, pushing his laptop to the side, he picked up his coffee cup.“I can’t believe he left us here alone.”

“They needed time together,” Anselm said.“Logan is probably enjoying the last few hours of obscurity.After this…”

Paul mimed an explosion.

“They’ll make an interesting royal couple,” Paul decided, picking up his phone to answer a message from his farm manager.

Petr came running into the dining room looking disheveled.He was in his pajama pants and nothing else.He looked caught in a web of panic, his gaze searching the room.

“Have you guys seen Riku?” Petr asked.

“This morning,” Paul said, with a nod.“He left the castle and said he would be back later.”

“Did he have his bags?” Petr asked.

“Just his phone,” Paul said with a frown.

“You don’t think he’s left, do you?” David asked, turning to look at Petr who was running fingers through his hair.

Petr sighed and came to the dining table sliding into an empty chair.

“We had a goodnight.I thought we talked—”

“Are you sure there was speech involved?” Anselm asked.

Petr gave him a short censuring glance, making them all laugh.

“Come on,” Petr said, his voice tinged with annoyance.“I thought we reached an understanding last night.I wake up this morning to find the bed empty.I can only wonder—

“He’ll be back,” Paul soothed.“Riku is not going to fly out while Leon is dealing with all these and David is just out of hospital.Give him some credit.”

“Easy for you to say,” Petr sighed.“You have no idea what it’s been like this last year.I’m afraid he’ll leave me.”

“Petr,” David shifted in his chair so that he could pat Petr’s shoulder.“He didn’t leave you when you were hanging with Genevieve.You’ve put him through so much.Give him time.”

“I’ve changed,” Petr said.“I don’t look at anyone who hits on me.I have managers running all my clubs.He’s turned me into a monk for weeks on end.I don’t know what else to say to make him believe me.I love him.”

“If you love him as you say,” Anselm said.“You’ll give him the time and space he needs.Hounding him like this will keep you two apart longer.”

Petr ran fingers through his hair and rested his forehead on the table.Paul met David’s gaze, then Anselm.He got up from his seat and moved where Petr sat and patted his shoulder.

“Come on Petr, let’s spend the day at Leon’s stable today,” Paul suggested, knowing they needed to distract Petr.

“I’m barely dressed,” Petr complained.

“That will take you a few minutes,” Anselm said. “Come on, I’ll race you.I’ll even let you win.”

“You’re an ass,” Petr said, lifting his head to look at Anselm.“I’ll win on my own steam.I don’t need a head start from you.”

“Whatever you say, old man,” Anselm laughed when Petr chucked a saltshaker at him.“Riku will come back.I’m sure he’ll stop by that bakery he likes and bring you more baked goods.You’re going to need the exercise, Petr.”

Petr gave a long sigh and sat staring at the table for a full minute before he got up.

“What’s for breakfast?” he asked, moving to the side table.“By the way, I get to ride Leon’s Starburst.”

“Hell no,” Anselm said.“Starburst is for Leon.Choose another horse.”

“You’re so protective,” Petr complained.“Why can’t I ride Starburst?”

“You’re not Leon,” Anselm pointed out getting up to return his bowl to the side table.

“What do I get if I win?” Petr asked.

“A chocolate cake,” Anselm teased, making Petr push him away.“What do you want?”

“A horse,” Petr bargained…

Paul chuckled and returned to his seat, picking up his phone to finish his message.He glanced at the television and turned the volume up when he saw a picture of Leon in his full royal regalia on the screen.The newscaster was saying,

’…His Highness, Prince Leon Maximillian could be our next king. Sources confirm that the Capital Palace Officials are consulting with members of parliament on the succession law. There has been no official announcement, yet, but we are following this developing story. Stay tuned on ANN News…’

***

Logan smiled at the needy groan that came from Leon.He sucked harder on the sensitive skin on the curve of Leon’s neck.Gentle fingers sunk in his hair and bunched it tight, holding him in place.

“You’re teasing me,” Leon complained, when he didn’t do more than rain kisses on Leon’s neck, down to his collarbone.“Should I beg you?”

“I like it when you beg,” Logan teased, sliding his hands under Leon’s t-shirt.His fingers traced warm skin, and then he tickled Leon, grinning when Leon broke into uncontrollable laughs and tried to escape him.

“Stop,” Leon said, between laughs, he wiggled on the bed in the most delicious of ways, trying to escape Logan’s fingers.Leon reached for a pillow hoping to use it in his defense.Logan dodged it and had managed to kiss capture Leon’s lips in a kiss when the doorbell rang.

They both groaned in protest.Logan lingered on their kiss, hoping his visitor would go away.When the doorbell persisted, he broke their kiss with a sigh.Meeting Leon’s gaze, he took in a deep breath.

“Don’t move,” he whispered.

“I’ll be right here,” Leon said, reaching up to run a gentle finger over Logan’s bottom lip.“Hurry back.”

Logan practically jumped out of bed, adjusting his t-shirt, eager to send their unwanted visitor away.He wanted Leon all to himself today.He rushed out of his bedroom and went to the front door at top speed.Opening the door, he almost cried in protest when Riku walked in holding bags from a bakery without invitation.

“I brought croissants,” Riku said, looking around the living room, and heading straight for the open plan kitchen when he saw it.“I’ll make coffee.Don’t look at me like that.I just need to talk to Leon.”

“Can’t it wait?”

Riku paused on his trek to the kitchen to look at him.

“You’ve had him to yourself all night.Who knows when he’ll have these many hours to burn? I’m taking advantage.”

“You suck,” Logan felt compelled to point out as he closed the door a bit too loud.

“I’ll make you coffee, and eggs, and bacon.You used to like bacon,” Riku said, dumping the bags he carried on the kitchen table.“Come on, Logan.”

Logan sighed and then because he saw the dark shadows under Riku’s eyes, he headed back to his bedroom.Leon was sitting up on their bed yoga style.He was still in the pajama pants he borrowed from Logan, no t-shirt.

“Riku’s here,” Logan said, joining him on the bed.“He brought breakfast.”

Leon beckoned him closer, until they were inches apart.

Leon brushed his lips on Logan’s parted ones, Logan leaned in and deepened their kiss, holding Leon still, so that he could take as much as he wanted.He sighed when Leon broke their kiss, and cupped his face.

“How did he look to you?” Leon asked.

“Like he needs to talk,” Logan murmured.

Leon pressed a chaste kiss on Logan’s cheek.

“Then let’s go see him,” Leon said, brushing fingers through Logan’s hair.“We have all day together after.”

“There is still some place I want to take you,” Logan said, getting up to get a t-shirt for Leon from his closet.

“I’m all yours,” Leon said, taking the white t-shirt Logan brought him and pulling it on.Logan made sure Leon wore his huge navy hoodie and grinned when Leon had to roll the sleeves back.

“You’re enjoying this,” Leon said, following Logan out of the bedroom.

“I love you in my clothes,” Logan decided, wishing he could keep Leon here in this apartment for good.“Wear them often.”

“You took your time,” Riku said, when they entered the kitchen.

He had found the frying pan and was busy making scrambled eggs and bacon. Leon hugged him from the back, and Riku rested against Leon with full trust.Leon held Riku steady as he turned bacon.

“You brought breakfast,” Leon teased, tagging on Riku’s left ear and his fingers holding the silver earring there.“Where is Petr?”

“At Castle Arguro,” Riku said, his tone too low.He straightened away from Leon and concentrated on serving the eggs and bacon in the pan onto three plates.

Leon took a piece of bacon from one of the plates and leaned on the counter next to Riku, chewing on it.

“Something happen?” Leon asked.

“Why would something happen?” Riku asked, adding more bacon into the frying pan.He returned it to the fire, and concentrated a bit too hard on cooking the bacon.

Leon met Logan’s gaze, and lifted his brow in question.Logan shrugged his shoulders.He got a mug of coffee and settled at the kitchen table watching Leon and Riku.

“You’re here making breakfast for me and Logan, instead of Petr,” Leon continued.“Of course something’s happened.”

“Leon,” Riku turned to face Leon holding a spatula.Leon stole a piece of bacon from a second plate and got a smack on his shoulder for it.Logan grinned and sipped his coffee.“You and me still have to hash out the fact that I cried my eyes out for two days because of you.”

“You didn’t say anything yesterday when Petr was being an ass about it,” Leon pointed out.

“How could I?” Riku scoffed and turned off the fire, dividing the rest of the bacon among the three plates.He took the pan to the sink and placed the spatula beside it.“If I dared talk you would have ended up living without us.I can’t even begin to think about us not being friends.How could you suggest that?”

Leon sighed and watched Riku head to the fridge, where he found a bottle of orange juice.Logan got up and went to find three glasses before Riku started a search.

“I love you guys,” Leon stated.“I also can’t live without Logan, Riku.I love him too.”

“I figured that a while back,” Riku said, bringing the orange juice to the kitchen table.He smiled at Logan, and uncapped the bottle.“He never talked about you after you left.Not once, not to me, not to David, not even in conversation by mistake.”

“Should I be happy about that?” Logan asked, glancing at Leon who was now eating bacon from the third plate on the counter.Logan took the plates away and brought them to the kitchen table.Leon followed him and sat in the chair next to his, already reaching for bacon from Logan’s plate.

“Yes.” Riku moved the plate of croissants to the middle of the kitchen table, and a plate of sliced apples as well.“If he’s not talking about it, he’s worrying about it.If he’s worrying about it, he cares too much.You, Logan, are someone he worried about constantly.”

Leon focused on eating slices of apples and Logan kissed his left temple.

“So, Logan, the same way he supports my insane obsession with Petr, I support his with you.I have to say yours has been more interesting to watch.You even dared plot a funeral together.”

Logan chuckled and took the bottle of orange juice from Riku.

“Sit down, Riku,” Logan urged.“I’ll let you plot something against me next time.What’s bugging you today?”

Riku sat and watched Leon eat apples.He moved the plate away and exchanged it with the eggs and bacon.

“Should I leave Petr?” Riku asked, making Leon choke on his apples.

Logan handed Leon a napkin and pressed a glass of juice into his right hand when Leon managed to swallow down his food.He made sure Leon took a few sips before he turned to Riku.

“Seriously?” Logan asked.

“It’s a legitimate question,” Riku said, folding his hands against his chest.He shook his head, and then closed his eyes.“I don’t think clearly where he’s concerned.One touch from him and I lose my mind.I need you to be objective.”

Leon placed his glass of juice on the table.“Riku.”

“I’m asking for an honest opinion,” Riku stated, opening his eyes to look at Leon.“This is life, Leon.I—”

“Do you love him?” Leon asked.

“I do, but when has that changed anything for us?I loved him when he was trying to make nice with Genevieve.I loved him when he disappeared on me for months dealing with his pipelines.I’ve loved him through it all.Now—,” Riku sighed.“I want him to choose me.”

“Hasn’t he?” Leon asked.“He follows you around like a lost puppy.He leaves all his obligations and goes to Bangkok to stay with you, Riku.You know what it takes to do that, right?”

“I know,” Riku said with a sigh.“I know because I’ve done it for you, and David. I would do it again for you.”

“Riku.”

“I just don’t want to give it all up, throw my lot in with Petr, and then down the line he finds a new Genevieve,” Riku said, tears filling his eyes when he looked at Leon.“What would I do then?”

“Oh, Riku,” Leon got up and pulled Riku into his arms.“Petr would not do that.”

“He’s done it before,” Riku pointed out, burying his face into Leon’s stomach.“I won’t make it if he does, Leon.Not this time, it will hurt too much.If I’m all in, and he’s not, I won’t make it, Leon.”

“Okay,” Leon met Logan’s gaze, worry in his eyes.“Okay, Riku.You don’t have to make a decision right now.”

“He keeps pushing for one,” Riku said.“I can’t say no to him because every time he touches me I lose my mind.I forget what I’m worrying about and want to believe everything he says.Last night, I’m quite sure I gave in, and it scares me, Leon.It scares me.”

Leon let go of Riku and crouched beside him, looking into his eyes.

“What do you need, Riku?I’ll make sure you get it.”

Riku wiped his eyes and shook his head.He took Leon’s hand, and spent a few minutes folding the sleeves of Logan’s hoody back.

“Time to think clearly,” Riku murmured.“He doesn’t give it to me, Leon.He keeps coming at me, calling me, I don’t have time to think clearly.”

“Okay,” Leon said, squeezing Riku’s hand.“You and Petr are my friends and I love you both.But, I can’t tell you whether to leave Petr or stay with him, Riku.Your heart will make that decision.Your happiness is what matters.Do what makes you happy.What I can do is find a place for you to stay and let you think without interruption, which rules out any place I own for sure.Petr has access.”

“I have a place,” Logan suggested.

“Where?” Leon asked, looking at him with interest.

“I was going to take you there later today.We can go together,” Logan suggested.“Riku is welcome to stay as long as he needs.”

“What about Petr?” Riku asked, squeezing Leon’s hand.

“I’ll talk to him about it,” Leon said.“I won’t let him freak out looking for you.”

Riku sighed and nodded.

“Leon.I—,”

Riku broke off and stared at their clasped hands.

“I won’t disappear again,” Leon promised.“I’ll take care of my health and try to keep my enemies at a minimum.There’s Logan now too.All you need to do is ask him if you need anything, you know that, right?”

Riku looked up and met Logan’s gaze, his full of uncertainty.Logan then realized that Riku needed Leon more than he dared express.He had wronged Riku, and left him vulnerable by taking Leon away even for the few days.

“Riku, asking Leon is asking me too,” Logan confirmed.“You have me too.”

Riku gave him a shy smile and got a pinch on his cheek from Leon.

“Why are you being shy with him?” Leon teased, getting up to return to his chair.“Gosh I’m hungry.”

Riku’s smile widened and he pushed the plate of eggs and bacon closer to Leon.He handed Leon a fork and watched as Leon ate.

Logan sipped his coffee excited by the idea of discovering this new side to Leon’s friends.He had not seen it on their trip.They had kept it contained; he could never have imagined Riku could be so vulnerable.That Leon played such an important role to him.This must have been what David meant by taking a step closer.

“Where is this place you want to take us to?” Leon asked, breaking into his thoughts.

“An island full of stars,” Logan said.

“I want to see it,” Riku said, taking up his glass of juice.

“We’ll need groceries,” Logan said, getting up to find his phone.“It will be easier if I shop alone.”

Leon grabbed his right wrist, stopping his progress.

Logan met Leon’s gaze and paused when he saw the silent request.

“Let’s go together,” Leon said.

Logan took in a deep breath and let it out slow.Riku drank the last of his juice, also waiting for Logan’s answer.A minute passed, then Leon started to let go of his hand and Logan grabbed on to it.

“Sure, why not,” Logan said.“Let’s go after breakfast.”

Logan archived Leon’s pleased smile, locking it away deep inside.

***

Heart skipping as if he was eloping with Logan, Leon sorted through avocados, placing his chosen loot in a basket.They were in the open farmer’s market a few blocks away from the docks.They had finished with the supermarket items and needed vegetables and fruits.Logan suggested the farmer’s market, saying his mother had loved to shop here for fresh produce.Riku was to meet them at the docks, as he’d gone to collect his clothes from David’s house.

“What did your mom like to eat?” Leon found himself asking Logan.

“She loved berries of any kind,” Logan said, taking the basket of avocados when Leon was done and handing them to the vendor.She weighed them, bagged them and Logan paid.

“Raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries, she made sure her kitchen had them at all times.I grew up on berry pies, tarts and smoothies,” Logan grinned.“I once told her she’ll start growing them in her stomach.”

Leon laughed and couldn’t help stopping at a stand with gorgeous red raspberries.

“Should we try making smoothies?” Leon asked, picking up a sealed punnet filled with raspberries.He checked to make sure there were no bruised fruits and smiled when he found none.“This one looks good.”

“We’ll need more than one,” Logan said, moving to help him choose from the selection offered.

“How about these?” the lady in charge of the stand said, placing a large bowl filled with fresh raspberries.“I can pack them up for you.I also have blueberries and black berries.Would you like to see them, Your Highness?”

Leon sucked in air, adjusting the dark cap he wore.He had hoped it would obscure his face a bit, but keen eyes were hard to fool.He glanced at Logan, worried.

“I’m not so hot for blackberries,” Logan said, taking over the selection, looking over the new offering.“These definitely look better.We can take two pounds.”

“That’s a lot of raspberries,” Leon said, falling in love with Logan all over again.

His boyfriend did not attempt to run when more vendors turned to them with interest, not even when they took discrete photos of them.

“I think we should get three pounds,” Logan said, tasting one of the berries.“We have Riku to think about.He’ll be staying more days, won’t he?”

“Okay,” Leon said, with a smile, turning to the lady in charge.“We’ll take three pounds of the raspberries and the blueberries.”

“Each?” she asked.

“Yes,” Leon said, moving closer to Logan.

Logan held out a raspberry and Leon held his hand steady so that he could take it into his mouth.Soft murmurs started around them, and he leaned up and brushed his lips on Logan’s cheek.Logan took the fruits from the vendor after paying.Leon put them in their eco-shopping bag, and smiled when Logan took his hand holding it tight as they walked down the aisles checking on vegetables.

His phone rang when Logan was busy negotiating down prices on broccoli.Leon answered without checking the caller ID.

“You couldn’t wait until I made a formal announcement?” Amethea asked.

“I haven’t done anything, Granny,” Leon said. “We’re only buying veggies.”

“You sound pleased with yourself.Did you tell him to make this step, or did he make it on his own?”

“He made it on his own,” Leon said, smiling when Logan held up three healthy looking broccoli heads.“Are you calling to complain?”

“I’m calling to complain because I wasn’t invited on this trip to the farmer’s market.I’m partial to raspberries too, Leon.”

Leon laughed.

“Social media is going to be the end of me.Did they get the prices too?”

“Yes.” Amethea chuckled. “Do I get one of those pounds?”

“Send Olivier over to buy some,” Leon said.“They are very delicious.”

“Dax has found a press manager for Logan.The Marshal’s office is finding a secretary for him too. They’ll handle the rest.Thank you for boosting sales on raspberries, Leon,” Amethea said.“Be careful.”

“We are, Granny.”

When they left the farmer’s market, they found a black security van waiting behind Logan’s pickup truck.Logan acknowledged the occupants in the van with a nod, as he stored away their shopping.

The van followed them to the docks where Logan led the way to a boat named Gabby.

Riku was already on board.Logan gave the coordinates to the security team, so that they could follow them when their boat arrived.

When they were far out in the ocean, Logan turned to Leon.

“Happy?” Logan asked, as he stood at the helm.

“Very,” Leon said, wrapping an arm around Logan’s waist and leaned into him.“You were very cool at the farmer’s market.No regrets?”

“None, as long as we are together,” Logan said, pulling Leon closer so that he could hold the wheel.“Now, when was the last time you steered a boat?”

“I don’t remember,” Leon said honestly.

Logan stood rock steady behind him as Leon placed his hands on the steer wheel.Logan held his hands as they steered the boat over the ocean waters.They moved fast.It was an exhilarating ride.

Most of all, Leon was glad to have Logan standing solid behind him.It felt as though they could face anything like this.

***

Three hours later, Logan watched Leon place a large bouquet of white carnations on Gabriella Mason’s grave.Leon spent a few minutes arranging the flowers, and then straightened up to stand beside Logan.Logan took Leon’s hand and held it tight.

“Hi, Mom.”

Logan smiled because he was aware that Leon was nervous.

“I’m back from the mainland.I’m sorry it’s been a while.I figure you would forgive me because I brought someone to meet you today.Someone you’ve always wanted to meet.”

Logan looked at Leon.

“My boyfriend,” Logan said.

“Just your boyfriend?” Leon asked, squeezing his hand.

“Not just my boyfriend,” Logan corrected with a small smile.“Mom, this is Leon Maximillian, my fiancé.”

Leon turned to the white gravestone with the ocean as a backdrop.Logan had chosen the highest point of the island, a twenty-minute walk from the beach house where they left Riku.A peach tree provided shade a few feet away, with a sturdy swing seat hanging underneath it.It was a perfect spot to watch the ocean below.Gabriella would have loved it.

“It’s very nice to meet you, Mrs. Mason.”

“Call her Gabby,” Logan urged.“She would have wanted that.”

Leon nodded.

“Gabby.I promise to love your son.I promise to take care of him, and be a companion to him for the rest of my days.”

“Gosh, you’re making me blush,” Logan said with a grin.

“Thank you for bringing me,” Leon said, reaching to touch the gravestone with reverence.“I’m sorry I was late to meet her.”

“We have each other,” Logan said, resting his arm over Leon’s shoulders.

“You just called me your fiancé,” Leon said, leaning into him.

“I did,” Logan said.

Leon bunched his t-shirt.

“I know I’m a simple soul, but shouldn’t you have given me a ring or something?You know, claiming I belong to you or something romantic like that?”

“Are you asking for a proposal?”

“I’m saying I want one.”

“Can’t you just know I want to live with you all my life?” Logan asked.

“I also want to live with you too.I still want a formal proposal.”

“Leon.”

“Logan,” Leon said, looking at him.

“Are we arguing?”

“Is this what arguing looks like to you?” Leon asked, moving away from Logan to check out the peach tree.

“I would call it bickering,” Riku said, coming up the hill to where they were standing.“I’m afraid I’ll get a toothache if I keep watching, all that sweetness dripping off you two.”

“Riku, tell him I need a formal proposal for a title like fiancé,” Leon said.“Otherwise, how will I walk around calling myself his fiancé with no proof?Can you believe him?”

Riku stopped beside Logan, his gaze on the grave where Leon had placed the white carnations.

“Proposals go both ways, my dear prince,” Riku said, going around Logan to the blooming peach tree.He cut a branch with pink flowers and carried it back to the grave.“I’d love to see what a proposal from a prince looks like.”

Leon leaned on the tree watching Riku place the peach flowers he held on Gabriella’s grave.

“I’ll help them plan a grand wedding when it’s time,” Riku said, touching Gabriella’s headstone.“Meanwhile, you’ll have to listen to them bicker like this.”

Logan chuckled, thinking his mother would have loved Riku’s charm.His gaze returned to Leon who was watching the ocean below, hugging the peach tree.He looked happier today, relaxed and carefree.His favorite Leon was back in full swing.

’Mom, I know you approve of him.” Logan smiled. “I’ll take him to watch the stars tonight.’

They headed down to the beach house after, and made lunch.After lunch, Riku excused himself to unpack his suitcase in the bedroom Logan gave him.

Leon and Logan went down to the beach to enjoy a quiet afternoon.Leon was standing on the edge of the water when Logan lifted him up and ran deeper into the water.

“Don’t you dare, Logan Mason,” Leon begged, clinging to Logan’s t-shirt.“Don’t!”

Logan dropped him into the water and chuckled when Leon came up spitting mad, and wiping his face.

“You’re so going in too,” Leon said, and then grabbed Logan’s t-shirt and jerked him down into the water.

Fair play, Logan mused as he pulled Leon into his arms and kissed him.

They made out in the water, swimming deeper allowing themselves to sink into their passion.There was no one to stop them, so they lost themselves in each other.When they were tired of the water, Logan led Leon back to the beach.Taking one of the towels he took from the house, Logan wrapped it around Leon’s shoulders and used an edge to help Leon wipe water from his eyes.

“What do you think of this place?” Logan asked.“Do you like it?”

“It’s a treasure,” Leon said, reaching up to wipe water from Logan’s face with his towel.“It makes me want to hide here forever.”

“Well, when it all becomes too much, we can escape here,” Logan suggested.“We can watch the stars at night and forget all the pressures that come with our lives.”

“You would do that for me?” Leon asked, pushing back dark hair from Logan’s forehead.

“I would,” Logan said, “For you, for us, for our future together.”

“I’ll protect it,” Leon said, slipping his arms around Logan and holding him tight.“I’ll also protect us, Logan.”

They spent their night on the beach together, enjoying the star-filled night, wrapped in a blanket and in each other’s arms.

When morning came, so did the boat to head back to the mainland.

Leon hugged Riku hard, and promised to call him daily, while Logan left Riku his satellite phone for added communication. Leon hoped Riku would make a decision that made him happy.

As happy as I am with Logan, he thought, when Logan took his hand and held it tight when they got on the boat.

***

Dax met their boat at the docks.He insisted on Leon changing into a suit the moment they docked.

“Where to?” Leon asked, as he buttoned his shirt, his gaze on Logan who was also changing into a suit brought by Dax.

“Leon is headed to the police station first,” Dax said, reading his list.“Logan is headed to meet the Queen officially.You can thank your visit to the market for that.”

Leon grinned and tucked in his shirt.He held out his arms for Dax to fit his cufflinks.

“How is the press taking us?” Leon asked, adjusting his sleeves when Dax finished with his cufflinks.

“It’s a work in progress,” Dax said honestly, helping Leon wear his suit jacket.

Logan shrugged into his navy blue suit jacket and buttoned it.Leon stared at him.He wondered what Dax would do if he turned the boat back to Logan’s island.He felt like he needed a month locked away with Logan, just them alone.

Then he remembered that Riku was there and sighed.

“Prince Leon,” Dax’s raised voice broke through his thoughts.

Leon met amused blue eyes and he blushed dragging his gaze back to Dax.

“What, Dax?”

“I asked if you are you up to facing the prosecutor.There are procedures that need your presence, we can’t avoid them,” Dax said, with a frown.

“Why can’t Logan go with me?”

“Because you’ll have several lawyers with you, and Logan is not in the family yet,” Dax answered, glancing at his phone.“We’re on a schedule.We need to get going.”

Leon buttoned his suit jacket.He closed the distance between him and Logan.

“Call me,” Leon said, placing his hands on Logan’s shoulders.He leaned up and kissed Logan’s lips.“I’ll miss you.”

Logan pulled him into his arms and held him.

“I’ll call,” Logan promised.

“Will you go back to your apartment?” Leon asked, wondering when he would get free enough to return to Logan’s apartment.He was rather fond of the place.

“Your Highness,” Dax interrupted, making Leon wince when Logan tightened his arms around him for a minute, then let go so that they both faced Dax.“It’s been suggested that Logan move into Castle Arguro.”

“Suggested by whom?” Logan asked.

Leon did not miss Logan’s narrowed gaze.

“Me,” Dax said, his tone mild.“The suggestion comes from a good place, Logan.Press vans have been parked outside your apartment since yesterday.We, Olivier and I, do not think it will stop soon.At least at Castle Arguro there will be no surprises.”

“Are you telling us to move in together?” Leon asked, grinning so hard he could have lit up the sky in place of the sun.

“I said it has been suggested,” Dax said, wiping away Leon’s grin.“However, the suggestion was vetoed and instead I asked David Corentin for assistance.Logan, will you mind staying with Master David for a while?”

“That’s—”

Leon started to protest, but Logan wrapped an arm around his shoulders.

“It’s a good plan.I don’t mind it,” Logan cut him off squeezing Leon.

“But Logan,” Leon said.

“We’re just starting this journey,” Logan murmured into his ear.“I’m willing to make the necessary adjustments.So that we to get to the end together.”

Leon closed his eyes, suddenly thinking he didn’t deserve Logan.Logan brushed his lips on Leon’s left temple.

“I love you,” Logan murmured.

“I love you too.”

***

Leon couldn’t stop thinking about Logan meeting his grandmother alone, even as he sat silent in a room with a team of lawyers facing Capital City’s Prosecutor-General.The Royal Navy Investigators had compiled evidence against Constantin and Isaak in several detailed omnibuses.Leon’s presence was just a formality. He was standing in as a victim of the crimes and as part of the palace’s promise to cooperate with the Ministry of Justice.

With Constantin and Isaak in custody, the prosecutor was now working on bringing the case to trial as quickly as possible.

Leon let his lawyers handle everything, answering questions only when necessary.When the questions ended, they all got up and Leon held his hand out to the Prosecutor-General.

“Thank you for your time, Your Highness,” the Prosecutor said, his expression one of business first.

Leon liked his attitude.

“I trust you’ll handle this matter with all the attention its due,” Leon said.

“We shall, Your Highness.”

Leon nodded, and held on to the Prosecutor’s hand.

“May I ask for one thing?”

He didn’t miss the panic on the lawyer heading his team.

“Nothing big,” Leon assured them all.“I would like to meet Prince Isaak for a few minutes.I hope this does not inconvenience you.”

Leon let go of the prosecutor’s hand when his lawyer stepped up to negotiate on the duration of time he would be allowed to talk to Isaak.When they left the little conference room, it was to head to the detention center where Isaak was being held until trial.

Leon reached into his pocket and found the coin David had given him so long ago.He clutched it tight when they led him into the sterile visiting room and asked him to sit on a chair at the only table in the middle of the room.He had never seen the inside of a prison.He had never thought to reach here, but it seemed his uncle had different plans.

Leon scoffed, as he studied the coin in his hand, bitterness brewing in his heart.

A door opened ahead of him and two police officers led Isaac in to the room.His uncle was dressed in a green shirt and dark slacks.He still wore monogrammed black loafers.He had gotten no time to shave, so his beard was thick, black with dusting of gray.Leon remembered that his dad’s beard had also started to gray at the end.

Kleopas had once teased his wife that he would grow it out to look like a wise man.

Leon wished he could have gotten to see that.The bitterness grew deeper at this lost chance.

“Leon.” Isaak greeted him as he was pushed into the seat across Leon and his hands cuffed to the hook on the table.“You must be here to gloat.”

Leon watched the two police officers move to stand right outside the door, though they did not want to leave.It was obvious that any conversation he had with his uncle from now on would remain a public concern.

Leon swallowed hard and met his uncle’s gaze.

“Uncle Isaak,” Leon started, and then stopped.

He thought about his grandmother, and her growing sadness, how she stared at him remembering his father.Her grief should have mattered to Isaak, yet the man had caused it.

“You want to ask why,” Isaak said, studying Leon.He scoffed and looked around the sterile room before he returned his gaze back to Leon.“You wouldn’t understand my reasoning if you tried.”

“Make me,” Leon insisted, wanting to know why he had deserved to lose his parents.“Make me understand, Uncle.”

“You grew up in an open world,” Isaak said, a tinge of envy in his voice.“Your dad, my brother, was the perfect son: the happier one.He married the woman he loved and brought up a carefree and independent son.I hated him for it.”

“He was your brother,” Leon pointed out, wondering why Isaak refused to understand the meaning of that.

Family was sacred.They were to protect not harm.

“Dad never tried, not once, to take what’s yours.I grew up knowing to support your family: Constantin, Gia and Aunt Erika.”

“You talk like him too,” Isaak scoffed.“Father like son, son like father, my mother must be delighted.”

Leon closed his eyes, biting his lip hard to keep from screaming at his uncle.Silence stretched, until Isaak let out a sigh and broke it.

“The Queen loved Kleo more,” Isaak said.“She didn’t mean to show it, and tried very hard to compensate for it, but it wasn’t that hard to figure out.You see, she always had to hide my faults, which were many.I played harder, hurt others, and took advantage more readily than Kleo.She had her hands full hiding my misdeeds.Kleo was the good son, the perfect son.As time went, I learnt how to hide my misdeeds better.”

“What kind of misdeeds?” Leon asked, opening his eyes to see Isaak lost in his memories.

“Silly ones like driving too fast and crashing my car, messy ones like going too far with a pretty girl at a club, and so on…it was small at first,” Isaak shrugged.“It pained the Queen, but she tried her best to compensate those who came forward.When she got tired of it, and threatened not to help, I took over the compensation process and made sure she never heard of it again.”

Leon worried that the number of victims Isaak had wronged was too long to compensate.He could never have imagined what his grandmother was dealing with.His Uncle Isaak was the dark mark in the family.

“What about Aunt Dora?” Leon asked, needing to know.

“She was a mistake,” Isaak said, his voice raw with pain.“I loved her, but she started my downfall.”

“I don’t understand,” Leon said.

Isaak scoffed.

“You wouldn’t,” Isaak studied him.“I’ve heard you’ve only loved one man and no one else.”

Leon started to protest, but there was no point denying it.

Isaak had watched him too long, knew too much about him for Leon to deny the truth.

“There is no fault in that,” Leon said.

“It’s sweet,” Isaak said, leaning his elbows on the table.“Like your father with his dear Ana.They were disgustingly in love, watching them annoyed me.”

“Didn’t you love Aunt Dora the same?”

“I did, at first,” Isaak said, sitting back in his chair with a thoughtful nod.“It was flitting but I did love her.Then she got pregnant before we married, before the darned parliament gave permission for us to marry.I had to move heaven and earth to get grandmother to accept our marriage.I worked for grandmother’s approval to get permission for us.Then after we married, Dora gave birth to Constantin too soon after our wedding.The dates didn’t match and I grew too suspicious so I had a trusted doctor run tests.”

Leon’s gaze widened, suspicion growing.The bitterness in his belly churned and twisted.

“I’d finally done something your grandmother was proud of,” Isaak continued lost in thought, shaking his head.“She was so happy to have a grandchild in the palace.She adored Dora, loved playing with Constantin.Hell, I loved Constantin.Yet, the results proved that he was not my son.It was devastating.”

“How could that be possible?” Leon asked.“There is no way you could hide something so—”

“Don’t be naïve, Leon.You can afford anything with money and power,” Isaak cut in, his voice tinged with anger and bitterness.“My mother was finally proud of me, why would I upset the palace with such news.Dora was my wife, and she had given birth to a son in the palace.”

Isaak scoffed.

“It was a fucking mess, so I fixed it.The Queen couldn’t know about it.So, I got rid of everyone who knew the truth about Constantin, including Dora.”

“You could have just gotten another child with Aunt Dora,” Leon said.

“Why?” Isaak asked, his gaze churning with disgust.“Who knows who Dora cheated on me with?She dared lie to me and get me to marry her, give her a title and prestige.She used me, so I used her.”

Isaak broke off with an ugly laugh.

“What happened to her was reasonable.I don’t regret it, not one bit.Besides, I found myself a perfect wife after that.Erika has been the perfect partner.Her only fault is that she’s been unable to give me a son.Gia is pretty and all, but she’s no son.”

“She’s your daughter,” Leon reminded him.“She’s your child too.”

“Constantin is my child,” Isaak corrected with pride.“I molded him the same way your father molded you.Constantin does everything I tell him to, he knows how to get things done.Gia is Erika’s daughter.She’s too full of dreams.”

“You’re a sick man. Then, I’ll protect Gia from now on,” Leon said, not sure what he had expected coming here. “You and Constantin can console each other in prison.”

Leon got up to leave.He shouldn’t have asked to speak to Isaak.This conversation was only filling him with disgust.

“Kleo came to me the night before he died,” Isaak said, making Leon stop.“He was cordial, nice as ever.He came to reason with me to do the right thing.He asked me to turn myself in over Dora’s case and save Constantin and Gia from public uproar.He wanted to give the throne to Constantin, if not Constantin, then Gia.”

“Why didn’t you agree?” Leon asked, turning to face his uncle, the bitterness rising until he was glowing with rage.“Why the hell didn’t you accept my father’s offer?”

“I hated your father’s arrogance.He thought he knew everything and it irked me.I never wanted to see his face looking at me with pity again.Therefore, I took him out of this world.I’m sorry your mother was with him.She was never my target.”

Leon slammed his fists on the table with a frustrated shout meeting Isaak’s amused gaze.Biting back the bile rising inside him, Leon straightened to his full height and adjusted his suit jacket.

“You made the wrong choice.You should have taken my father’s deal,” Leon said, gritting out the words.“I’ll make you pay for what you’ve done.Wring it out of you until you can’t stand it.Then, I’ll make sure justice is served for each of your victims, Prince Uncle, for as long as I live.You’ll never see daylight again.”

Leon turned away his blood raging with anger.The moment he stepped out into the corridor, he found the nearest wall and leaned on it breathing hard.All that was clear to him was that his parents had died at the hands of a mad man.

How senseless.

Leon wiped a hand down his face caught between wanting to cry and laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.

“Leon,” Dax’s soft voice cut through the thickest part of the dark cloud, drawing him back to the present.“It’s over now.”

Leon stared at Dax.

“He feels nothing,” Leon said, his eyes filled tears.“He feels nothing, yet all I can think is that Mom and Dad died for nothing.I—”

Dax stepped up and pulled him into his arms.

Leon closed his eyes and leaned on Dax.He took in a deep breath, then another.The worst of the rage dissipated and he sighed.

Dax let go of him and he straightened up, taking the handkerchief Dax held out to wipe his face.

“Ask the lawyers to discover what else Isaak has hidden from the crown.I’m afraid once the trial starts, the skeletons that will crawl out of his closet will frighten the kingdom.Alert PR to manage it all,” Leon said, thinking of Isaak’s little confession.“Don’t hide anything you discover.It’s the only way to keep it clean.”

“Understood,” Dax said, smiling wide.

“What?”

“You are born for this,” Dax said, glowing with pride.

“What’s next?” Leon asked.

“Now, we head to the palace,” Dax said.“You’re to hold a press conference together with the Queen.”

Leon nodded and pushed of the wall.

“Let’s do this,” Leon said to Dax.

He had people to take care of, starting with his grandmother.She must have suffered raising a son like Isaak all alone.

Not anymore, he decided.She had him now.

***

It felt surreal to have Queen Amethea’s right hand resting on the crook of his left arm as they walked down winding stairs at the Capital Palace.She was dressed in a neat blue skirt suit, her gray hair held back in a neat chignon.She was ready to face her kingdom and show strength even while she faced a terrible blow.Isaak and Constantin’s trial was in preparation and their crimes were shocking the world. Her family decimated in one night.

“Don’t be nervous,” Amethea said, she encouraged, surprising him.“There have been worse blows than this one.”

Logan knew she spoke of Leon’s parents.He remembered she had not dared speak much in public until six months after Kleopas and Anastasia’s funeral.At least, she was smiling easier today.He imagined the announcement she was about to make was making her giddy.After all, her intention to name a successor had waited five long years.

“Have you seen Leon?” Amethea asked, when they reached the ground floor.

“Not yet,” Logan said, leading her to the formal conference hall Olivier had indicated earlier.“Olivier said he was talking to officials from the Marshal’s Court.”

“Ah, yes, they would need his time.Logan, I’m so glad you decided to be here with us.We’re both going to need your strength in the coming weeks.Olivier says Isaak and Constantin are to stand trial.Leon will need to attend the court proceedings. I know the press will be hell to deal with for him. It will be good for him to have someone to lean on.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll get through it together,” Logan told her.

“Gia is still in hospital,” Amethea said.“I visit her as often as I can, but it’s hard on her mother.”

“Can we move her to the palace sanatorium?” Logan asked.“It will reduce stress on you and Princess Erika. You won’t have to deal with press to visit her.”

“Why didn’t I think of that?” Amethea squeezed his arm.“Let’s talk to Olivier, and see if he can make it happen. He will definitely find a way.”

They found Olivier first, and got him started on moving Princess Gia to the medical center attached to the palace.Olivier promised to consult with the doctors taking care of Princess Gia before the move and after.

By the time they finished with that, Leon arrived at the palace looking dashing in his navy suit.Dax had added a pin with the royal insignia on his lapel. He looked every bit the prince he was.

“Granny,” Leon said, when he reached them.He kissed her cheeks and turned to Logan.

Logan expected a subtle smile and a touch, maybe.

Leon surprised him when he leaned up and kissed him full on the lips.Logan took Leon’s hand, and held on, fighting a blush when they caught the attention of the palace staff and all attending the press conference.Leon’s kiss was natural, a profound statement.Logan felt claimed.It tickled him.

“How was it meeting the prosecutor?” Amethea asked, looking at Leon.“Was it exhausting?”

Leon shrugged. Logan saw how tense he was and knew something more had happened at Capital City Hall.

“The lawyers went on for hours.The press was unrelenting when I got out.”Leon rubbed his left temple.“I don’t know how we’ll keep attending court for this.I wish there was a way to expedite the whole thing.”

“Can’t,” Logan said, with regret.“Isaak and Constantin deserve due process.”

“So, the prosecutor says,” Leon said, leaning on Logan slightly.

“We’ll make it,” Amethea said, squeezing Leon’s arm, and then patting Logan’s shoulder.“Together.”

To be honest, Logan thought, taking in Leon’s smile at his grandmother’s words, this was the first time he truly believed he was getting to keep Leon for good.

Amethea had greeted him with cordial grace when he first entered the palace this morning.She received him, accompanied by Princess Erika and three palace officials.They asked him questions about his family, he answered as best as he could.The introductions went well, and after that, Amethea took him along to have brunch with visitors from a veteran organization she supported.He had accompanied her through her day until now.

“Olivier tells me the palace has mentioned your relationship on its website,” Amethea said.“We want to see the public’s response and handle the rest as we go.Logan, Leon?”

“Yes, Granny,” Leon said, holding Logan’s hand, as she gave them an expectant glance.

“I love weddings.I hope you let us plan one soon.It will be such fun after all the dreary happenings in this palace.It takes some time to plan one for a crown prince, so confirm your engagement for me, please,” Amethea teased.

Leon laughed and Logan wrapped his arm around Leon’s waist.

“Before that though,” Amethea turned somber after a few minutes.“Dear Leon today is the day I set you apart.Are you ready?”

Logan felt Leon tense and held him tighter, holding him steady.Leon took in a deep breath, his shoulders relaxing.

“I’m ready,” Leon said, giving Logan a thankful glance.

Amethea nodded to Olivier and Dax who were hovering on the outskirts.

“Alright, looks like it’s time.”

***

Petr turned up the volume on the television, the sound pulling David, Anselm and Paul into the huge sunroom.The local networks were focusing on the palace press conference about to start.Petr placed the remote on the coffee table and returned to staring at his phone.

It was taking all he had not to call Riku, or write him a message.A very hard thing when that was what worked for him, for them, when they were apart.Riku’s decision to keep distance between them was making him go crazy with worry.It was taking all their friends efforts to keep him from heading straight to Logan’s island.

“Petr,” Anselm cut into his thoughts.

“What?”

“I need your help,” Anselm said, coming to sit next to him on the couch.“My dad has a shipment stuck in Germany.We’re wondering if you can help get it to Spain.”

“What are you shipping?” Petr asked, still preoccupied with his phone.

“Machine parts for our animal feed factory,” Anselm said, touching Petr’s left arm to gain his attention.“The factory is behind on orders.The parts have been stuck in between warehouses.Our usual contact seems to be having trouble, so I need help.Is it possible to get the parts on the move in the next hour?”

Petr sighed and found his contact list.

“Do you have the product details?” Petr asked Anselm.

“Already sent them to your phone,” Anselm said, giving him a quick smile.

“The costs are on you, Leandro.”

“I’ll even throw in that horse you wanted,” Anselm promised.

Petr nodded and dialed his business manager’s number.He got up and walked to the terrace doors to make the call.

Anselm glanced at David and made a face when Petr stepped out onto the terrace beyond.

“This will cost me five percent more than originally intended,” Anselm complained to David and Paul.

“Five percent is worth it.It’s better to give him something to do,” David said, perching on a stool, his gaze on the television.“Riku needs time.”

“Take one for the team,” Paul urged, flopping on the couch beside Anselm.He rested his head on Anselm’s lap and shifted to look at David.“Are you inviting Sadie over?”

“Later, when Leon and Logan make it back from the palace,” David said.“Logan will be staying with us. Leon and Sadie had a meltdown when I was admitted to hospital. It will be good for us to patch the relationship up.”

Anselm sighed and sunk fingers into Paul’s wild hair.Paul leaned into the touch as they watched Queen Amethea walk into a large conference room followed by Leon and Logan.

Leon sat next to the Queen, Logan beside Leon.There was no one else at the front table save for Dax and Olivier who stood behind them.The sound of cameras flashing filled the room, and then the royal public relations officer took the podium.She did a brief introduction to the press, and then invited Queen Amethea to make her statement.

Silence filled the conference room as everyone gave Queen Amethea attention.When she spoke, it was with assured authority.

“These past few days have seen our Kingdom of Aeras show the world that the law is the same for everyone within our borders.The Royal Family of Aeras has faced a major setback and just like everyone else, we are doing the best we can to cope and manage with the devastating events of the past few nights.”

“I want to apologize to you, the people of Aeras, for the gross misconduct of both Isaak and his son, Constantin.As a grandmother, I would ask Prince Leon for his forgiveness, as he has faced betrayal and unimaginable loss at the hands of two people he calls family.”

“As Queen, it is important to ensure and safeguard the sovereignty of our nation.The Royal Family of Aeras is one of the symbols of our nation.We represent the people, share in our great joys, sympathize in our grievances and celebrate our kingdom’s pride.It is our duty to honor and defend the Kingdom of Aeras and when we fail, there must be consequences.In that respect, as of this day, Isaak and Constantin are hereby stripped of all titles awarded by the Kingdom of Aeras.They shall accept responsibility for their actions, as demanded by the laws of the Kingdom of Aeras without exception. In the same way I must fulfill mine to the Kingdom of Aeras.”

“Five years ago, I made my intentions known to name my successor.At the time, I could not have foreseen the journey I have since led.The lessons that I’ve learned about human nature have been unforgettable.I now assure you all that I have reached my final decision after careful consideration and extensive talks with the Government of Aeras.I have always viewed my position as Queen of Aeras as a privilege, an extraordinary chance to dedicate life to the service of our kingdom.I hope to give you a crown prince to serve you with diligence.With that thought, I charge Leon, my grandson, with this great task of serving the Kingdom of Aeras into the bright future as Crown Prince of Aeras.”

“I, Queen Amethea, now ask you, the people, to give Crown Prince Leon full support as he undertakes the task given to him.I take this opportunity to thank you for your continued trust in my family, and promise to continue to serve our great Kingdom of Aeras with unconditional dedication.”

Amethea finished her speech and turned to Leon who stood and shook her hand.She hugged him and then they both turned and faced the cameras.A red notification in bold type appeared at the bottom of the screen, reading ’Prince Leon is the Crown Prince of Aeras’.

“It’s official,” David murmured.

“You and Logan will have it the hardest,” Paul said, getting comfortable and tangling Anselm’s fingers in his hair when he moved his head to look at David.“All sorts of people will want to get close to you now.”

“I’ve taken steps to make sure that doesn’t happen,” David said with a sigh.“Logan though—”

“He has us,” Anselm said, letting his fingers sift through Paul’s hair.“When will they make an announcement on their relationship?”

“Do they even need one?” Petr asked, joining them, pointing to the screen where Logan and Leon stood side by side having their pictures taken.

The bold type on the screen had changed to, ’HRH Prince Leon and his boyfriend, Logan Mason at the palace press conference’.

“I guess not,” Anselm grinned.“How is my shipment?”

“Working on it,” Petr said.“I have a guy getting you through red tape.They’ll have it on the move in an hour and a half.”

“That’s good news,” Anselm said.“What’s for dinner guys?Should we have a party to celebrate?”

“I’ll plan it,” Petr said, already on his phone again, eager to sink his mind into mundane tasks.

Watching him, Anselm was sure that love could tame even the wildest of beasts.

***

The party was in full swing at Castle Arguro.Logan met so many people wanting to know more about him, and his family and his ancestors, that he could barely remember anyone’s name.He slipped out of the first floor ballroom and escaped outside into the back flower gardens.Leon had once told him they were his mother’s favorite spot.Logan could see why, the garden was quiet and muted the sounds of the ongoing party.Garden lights scattered in the bushes made sure it wasn’t too dark.In the middle of it, hidden among the colorful bushes was a bench, turned green with time.

Logan paused when he recognized Leon sitting on the bench, staring at the ground, in deep thought.

Logan walked to the bench and sat next to Leon.

“A penny for your thoughts,” he said, his heart skipping when Leon turned to him with a small smile.“Why are you sitting in the garden alone?”

“I wasn’t alone.Petr brought me here to talk about Riku,” Leon said, nodding in the direction of the front door.“He’s gone upstairs to sleep.I never thought he’d look so broken by the idea of Riku leaving him.He’s always looked so strong.”

Logan shifted closer to Leon, until Leon could rest against him.

“Is it any different from us?” Logan asked.“It wasn’t easy for us to get here either, Leon.”

“I remember what being apart felt like and pray they don’t have to endure it.They’re both my friends,” Leon murmured, rubbing his cheek against Logan’s shirt.“I want the best for them.”

“They’ll work it out,” Logan soothed, rubbing Leon’s arm.“What had you so tense when you came to the palace earlier?”

“I asked to meet Uncle Isaak,” Leon said after a while.

“And?”

“Mm…”

Leon shifted, getting more comfortable, so Logan held him tighter curious about what Isaak and Leon had discussed.

“I’ll just say that I’m related to a lunatic who is not remorseful about killing his own brother.”Leon gave another sigh.“I threatened to keep him in jail for the rest of his life, and not let him see the light of day.”

“I’d have told him I’d skin him alive,” Logan said.

Leon clutched Logan’s right hand.

“You’re a man after my heart, Logan Mason.”

“I own that already,” Logan boasted a bit.

“And, you always will,” Leon said, with a satisfied smile.

They sat in the garden talking about their day, and Amethea’s announcement.The party continued inside the castle.Soon, David and Sadie wandered into the garden and joined them, choosing to sit on the grass.Sadie stumbled through an awkward apology, which Leon pushed aside and teased her until she was laughing with him.

Just like that, Leon made friends with David’s Sadie.

It took almost two weeks for Riku to return from Logan’s Island.In that time, Petr stayed with Leon at Castle Arguro, with Logan staying over at David’s house.Leon’s schedule turned into a time sucking beast, so when Riku said he was ready for pickup on a Friday afternoon, Leon asked Logan to do it.

That day, he came home to find Riku sitting in the front passenger seat of Logan’s pickup truck.Petr held the door handle trying to get it open while Logan sat in the driver’s seat talking to Riku.

“Petr?” Leon asked, getting out of his car, Dax right beside him.“What’s going on?”

“Don’t get involved too,” Petr warned.“Tell your boyfriend to unlock the doors right now.”

“I think I want to ask why you’re trying to force the passenger door open,” Leon said, removing his suit jacket and handing it to Dax.

He folded back the sleeves of his shirt and walked around to Logan’s side.He smiled when Logan rolled down his window and leaned in to kiss his boyfriend’s cheek.

“Baby, why is there a standoff in the front drive?” Leon asked, leaning on the door, staring at Logan like they hadn’t seen each other early this morning at David’s house.

“You look tired,” Logan said, brushing his thumb under Leon’s eyes.“Did you have lunch?”

“Not yet,” Leon shook his head, waving hello at Riku who spared him a glance before he returned to glaring at Petr.“Riku, what’s going on?”

“I told him if he doesn’t stop acting up, I’ll get Logan to drive me back to the docks.He lost his mind and tried to force me out of the car.”

Leon shook his head, and hit the master lock button on Logan’s side unlocking all the doors.He grinned when Petr opened Riku’s door and pulled Riku out, practically lifting him out and pressing him against the side of Logan’s car.Riku struggled for a minute, and then the two of them were kissing.

Logan chuckled and turned to study Leon.

“What do you feel like eating?” Logan asked Leon.“We can ask Andrew in the kitchen, and eat together.”

“Really?” Leon grinned, opening the driver’s door, excited at the prospect of late lunch with Logan.

“Prince Leon,” Dax said, coming around the back of the pickup truck.“We still have a meeting—”

Logan jumped out of the car, and took Leon’s right hand, running with him around the castle to the kitchen backdoor.Leon waved at Dax, and let Logan lead him to lunch.

***

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