Leon glanced at Logan who sat next to him on their flight. He was asleep, covered with the blanket the flight attendant gave him. His head tilted back, his lips parted in sleep. Logan looked tired. Leon’s phone beeped and he swiped his thumb over the dark screen bringing it to life.
‘What did you have for dinner?’
’Why aren’t you answering?’
Leon stared at his mother’s questions on the family chat with a small smile.
’Sorry, Mom, I got distracted. Logan grilled steaks for dinner last night. It was good. He’s a great cook. You’d love his food.’
’Are you giving him issues? I can’t believe I have to trouble strangers to take care of my grown son. It’s really too much. Are you, Leon?’
Leon shook his head.
’You’re the one who believes I can’t take care of myself.’
’You are causing him trouble. I’ll have to make him dinner when you get back. Make sure you bring him home with you. I’ll need to shower him with my million thanks to make him forgive you.’
Leon sent her a laughing gif, and grinned when she sent one back to him.
‘I miss you, baby boy.’
‘I miss you too, Mom.’
’Tell David to call me too. I like hearing about his funny stories.’
’I will. What are you up to?’
’We met your dad’s business associates in Paris. We were going to visit a vineyard in Normandy, but your grandmother summoned us home. Now we’re flying back home to Aeras.’
His grandmother rarely summoned his parents into the palace. When she did, it was because of a serious issue. Otherwise, she visited them at home. His grandmother liked riding horses in the forest surrounding Castle Arguro.
’Not that we can tell, although I haven’t pressed your dad for info. We’ll tell you when we know more.’
Leon felt a slight tingle of warning go through him, but it disappeared as fast as it came. He assumed his grandmother had discovered he was away from home for six months without guard. She would be furious, but his parents would talk her out of her annoyance.
It could also be something else, like representing her at a charity ball, or a tour of the cities. Leon shrugged. Whatever it was, his dad would handle it. He always had.
‘I have to go, Mom.’
’Okay, dear. Do send me pictures of you and your friends. I want to brag to your grandmother when I see her.’
’I’ll send them.’
Leon uploaded pictures he chose last night that would not give away too much about his itinerary. There were pictures of him and his friends in a group at the suspension bridge, at Paul’s home in Ireland, and eating lunch in Prague.
They all looked happy: every one of them with a wide smile, including Logan, who always stood on the edge of the group. Leon’s gaze lingered over him for a minute, even as his mother sent him a message in response to the upload of pictures.
’Aww, my Leon looks so handsome. Granny is going to be so tickled by these pictures. I love you.’
’I love you too. Dad, you too. You should text more in this group.’
Leon waited a minute, and then grinned when Kleopas wrote.
I like reading your conversations with your mother. Don’t forget to bring Logan home as you’ve promised your mom.
Leon smiled and sent him thumbs up with a promise gif.
A tablet appeared over his phone, and he looked up to find David smiling at him.
“Read these, then sign.”
“What is it?”
Leon put away his phone and took the tablet.
It was a form sent by their guide for their hike to Trolltunga. Leon read it. He was going to write his name when Logan took the tablet from him.
“Hey, he’s not done with that,” David said.
“Your guide is not equipped to take on Leon,” Logan said, producing his identification documents from his pocket. He took pictures of the official documents with the tablet, and then signed the form himself. “Submit those documents to them and that should sort them out legally.”
“I was going to take responsibility,” Leon said.
“I know,” Logan soothed, as David took the tablet and disappeared, satisfied. “I’m only taking responsibility for the trouble your parents would rain down on the guide if something happened.”
“Nothing will happen.” Leon shifted, so that he sat facing Logan. “Why did you decide to enter the Aeras Royal Navy, Logan? I’ve been very curious.”
Logan’s brow rose, then he smiled.
“Nothing special about my decision,” Logan shrugged. “I joined the navy after high school at eighteen and worked my way up. After two years, I was able to qualify into the RN SPOC, and that’s where I’ve been the last four years. I’m currently working under Lt. Commander Stevens.”
“You want to end up in the Capital Palace,” Leon guessed, “running special ops for Granny.”
“For the country,” Logan said. “I like working to make Aeras strong enough to protect our culture and way of life without outside help.”
The Royal Navy Special Operations Command (RN SPOC) was not an easy program to enter. Logan would need to have a will of steel to get in and get through the impossible training. The nine-month training program qualified eight people out of fifty on their best round.
Leon had a lot of respect for officers who qualified. They had the ability to protect a monarch under the worst conditions possible, like government takeovers and kidnap and assassination attempts. He felt honored to have Logan guarding his life when Logan could be following his grandmother instead.
“You’re wasted on me,” Leon decided.
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“Your parents must be proud,” Leon said, wondering what they were like.
“My mom is always proud of anything I do,” Logan smiled at the thought of her.
“What about Dad?” Leon asked.
“Um…he passed away when I was young. A car accident,” Logan said. “He’s part of the reason I joined the Royal Navy. He was a lieutenant.”
“Oh,” Leon said. “I’m so sorry.”
“I was too young.” Logan shook his head. “Mom is the one who remembers him well enough.”
“Still, it couldn’t have been easy to grow up without him,” Leon said.
“We managed,” Logan said. “Still do. When Mom is missing him terribly, we go out to this piece of land off the coast where he wanted to live with us when he retired. She likes it there because he had even built her a nice house.”
“Your dad sounds like a romantic,” Leon said.
“A soppy one,” Logan said with a laugh. “Or so my Mom makes him sound.”
Leon nodded, thinking Logan’s mom sounded a lot like his own mother.
“So, Paul wanted you guys to visit his home in Ireland,” Logan said. “David wanted to drive to Germany from the UK, Riku wanted to visit the Suspension Bridge. I didn’t understand Prague, and now Norway.”
“Actually, David wanted Prague, he thinks the city beautiful, and spent most of his time walking obscure streets and entering rare item shops,” Leon said.
“So, David gets two,” Logan said. “Who wants the hike in Norway?”
“Me,” Leon said with a grin. “I actually want two too, Norway then our next stop in Sweden. Our guide has promised to show us the best spot at Trolltunga, and then we’ll chase the northern lights on a road trip, which I hear is a matter of patience and time.”
“Sounds like dangerous fun,” Logan said, wrinkling his nose. “Yours are the sexiest ideas; troublesome, but the most exciting ones.”
“Don’t take that back later on our ten-hour long hike to Trolltunga.”
“What’s next after Sweden?” Logan asked.
“Petr wants to visit Riku’s home in Bangkok. We’ll stay there for a month. I’d love to get pictures of the temples there, the culture too. Then, we’ll head to Seville, Spain for December.”
“Anselm’s home,” Logan guessed.
“He promised me a horse. His family breeds the best ones. The plan is to stay in Seville for Christmas, and head home for New Years. My family requires it of me.”
“Of course,” Logan said, already knowing New Year’s Day was the one day when the Queen insisted on having her entire family at the palace.
“You’ve been great,” Leon said, feeling the need to be grateful to Logan. “Thank you for not reporting the change of schedule. For going along, even when you thought it wasn’t right.”
“I like adventures,” Logan told him, his blue gaze heavy with meaning.
Leon stared for a second, his longing evident. Logan saw it clear as day. When Logan said nothing, Leon started to get up. Then Logan touched his arm, stopping him.
“I’m not your ideal—”
“You are,” Leon cut him off before he could continue. “I’m as ordinary as you, Logan. I hope you can cut through the paper work and see me.”
Logan sighed, conflicted.
“Think about it for a day or two,” Leon said, remembering Riku’s observation about Logan.
“What about Darius?” Logan asked, gritting his teeth as he asked the question.
“He was a distraction in Prague.”
“Don’t you care for him?”
“I—,” Leon broke off and shrugged. “He was passing by.”
“Will I be passing by too?” Logan asked, narrowing his gaze in question.
Leon bit his bottom lip.
“If that’s what you want,” he answered in a quiet shy tone.
“I don’t know what I want,” Logan said.
“Then…think about it and tell me,” Leon said, and got up needing to put distance between them.
Otherwise, he was liable to throw himself into Logan’s arms and hope for the best. One thing was sure though, he did not want a passing fling with this man. He was selfish enough to want Logan in his life forever, despite Logan’s obvious ambitions.
Leon walked up the spacious cabin and slipped into the empty seat next to Anselm.
Anselm was playing a video game. When he saw Leon, he handed over the second control and lifted a brow in challenge. Leon smiled and threw himself into the game, happy to escape his thoughts.
Hiking to Trolltunga was a lot of fun in the company of Leon’s friends. Their guide was an experienced hiker in the area, with three others in her team. Her name was Emilie and she was Anselm’s friend. Anselm had met her on a hiking trip in Spain. When she returned to Norway after that trip, she started offering her services to hikers visiting Norway.
She was easy with the group of young men, even as she kept them strict in terms of pacing and safety. They listened to her, even as they kept up an upbeat atmosphere on the way to the top. The scenery was enough to thaw out the worst of moods. They started mid-morning, with the intention of camping at the top for a sunrise view.
Logan was happy he made sure Leon had a heavy jacket in his pack because the night was cold at the higher altitude. They set up camp and ate a late dinner. Thanks to their ten-hour hike, sleep came fast when they were all tucked in their tents.
When the sunrise came, Logan realized why the hours spent hiking to the troll’s tongue were worth it.
The view at the top was stunning.
Leon took pictures of the spectacular view of green mountains, blue river water, the sheer drop from the rock formation called the troll’s tongue, and nature’s own paintings made with swipes of snow and clouds. Leon grinned like a wild man at their accomplishment, his cheeks flushed with exhilaration, as he took photo after photo. When he was spent, Leon then sat down to take it all in like a man finding religion.
The group drifted to silence too, as there were no sufficient words to describe the moment.
Logan walked up to Leon who sat on a rock at the top of the world. Joining him, Logan wrapped an arm around Leon’s shoulders and leaned into him.
“Let’s try it out,” Logan said, thinking he did not want to miss knowing the Leon who found pleasure in hiking to the highest point for a view of nature at its finest.
Leon looked at him for a minute, before he reached for his cell phone and brought it up to take a picture of them.
“Evidence to hold you accountable,” Leon said, when he was done. “I would kiss you here at the top of the world, Logan Mason.”
“Why don’t you?”
“It won’t feel like what I think it should since you just decided,” Leon said. “So, just sit with me.”
Logan smiled. He pulled Leon closer and contented himself with holding him.
October was a better month, Leon decided.
Leon trailed after Logan on an evening walk around the neighborhood they were staying in at Odda.
Norway was turning into a life-changing adventure because of Logan.
Leon felt like he was rediscovering a man who had stayed by his side for two months. He loved every minute of it. He wondered if they could extend their stay here, if only to keep the magical sense of discovery alive. He liked getting to know Logan. Liked spending hours with him, even though it was just on a walk, or hanging out by the pool, or watching Logan run like mad and do an insane number of burpees on his morning workouts.
Such small things made him happy.
“Are you cold?” Logan asked, stopping so that Leon could catch up.
Logan removed the light scarf he had on and wrapped it around Leon’s neck.
“I told you to wear yours. Next time listen to me.”
Such simple words and they sounded like romance to Leon’s speeding heart. Leon wondered if he had always been so easy. Had his heart always needed so little?
Logan cupped Leon’s cheeks.
“What?” Logan asked.
Leon smiled and shook his head.
“Nothing, let’s continue. Anselm, David and Paul brought in girls from the party last night. It’s noisy. It feels nice to escape the house.”
“You would have been part of it before,” Logan accused.
Leon chuckled not taking offense to that.
It turns out his short fling with Darius in Prague had really annoyed Logan. He liked to think it had helped Logan take a step toward him.
“I’m here with you now,” Leon said, slipping his hand into Logan’s and they continued their walk.