Dressed in his service khakis, Logan followed Commander Stevens into a private meeting room at the Aeras Naval Base. A comfortable room set up for private conversation with four leather armchairs and a single door, no windows and the vents secured.
Logan waited for his Commander to sit before he followed suit, taking the chair next to his boss.
“Sir?” Logan started to ask.
“I’m sorry to cut your leave short, Logan,” Stevens said, his voice laced with tension. “Orders came in from Commander Steele. He wants to meet. That’s the extent of the request.”
“Understood,” Logan nodded, settling in for the wait.
The door opened ten minutes later and Commander Stevens shot to his feet.
Logan followed suit, lifting his hand in salute when he recognized the gray-haired woman who walked in first. Commander Steele closed the door on the men following them.
“Is the room secure?” she asked.
“The room is secure, Your Majesty,” Stevens said.
“Good.” Queen Amethea glanced at Logan before she moved to sit in the armchair opposite Commander Stevens. “Do sit gentlemen.”
Logan sat last being the lowest ranked in the room. Adrenaline coursed through his veins. The last time he had seen Her Majesty, Queen Amethea, this close was at the funeral when she was hugging Leon. He only saw her in ceremonies that required her presence, always from a distance and way out of reach.
He could never forget that she was the Kingdom’s beloved monarch and grandmother to a man he dared love.
“We apologize for the late night meeting, Lieutenant-Commander Logan Mason,” Queen Amethea said, her gaze on him.
Logan stood, half-shocked that she knew his name and his rank.
“I’m at your service, Your Majesty,” Logan said.
“Be at ease, Lt. Commander,” Queen Amethea waved him down, glancing at Commander Steele who sat in the chair beside hers. “We have a long conversation ahead. Commander Stevens tells us that your team is the best in the business.”
Logan sat straight, glancing at Stevens for a second before he answered.
“My team works hard,” Logan answered. “They all returned from a hard mission and are taking time off.”
“Yes, that mission was very successful. Your efforts brought the man who murdered my beloved son and his wife to justice. I wanted to thank you in person, Lt. Commander, for your hard work,” Queen Amethea said with a small nod. “Then, seek your help.”
Logan met her steely gaze. He wished he could confess that he had done it for Leon. To ease the pain he had watched Leon suffer at the loss of his parents. He wondered what Queen Amethea would say to that. She held his gaze for a full minute and then nodded in approval when he held hers without looking away.
“I am at your service, Your Majesty,” Logan responded to her statement, meaning it.
“I’ll get straight to the point,” Queen Amethea said, rolling her shoulders as she looked to Commander Stevens. “My grandson’s life is in danger.”
Fear gripped Logan’s lungs, thinking of Leon in an instant, even knowing that the Queen had two grandsons.
It could be the grandson from the heir apparent: Prince Constantin.
Everyone called Prince Constantin the volatile beast.
Constantin was the poster child of all vices. Gambling was his favorite past time. Lady luck seemed to have long abandoned him after birth. Prince Constantin never won any of his bets, and the running joke was that tax payers worked to repay his debts. Every sane citizen worried for when he would take over the throne.
Logan imagined Constantin would be the one who got himself in trouble. After all, Leon was living a quiet life, and he had his friends. Logan had talked to Petr last night and David earlier in the day. They would have both told him if there was a problem.
“Leon is in trouble,” Queen Amethea said.
Logan’s heart dropped and he focused his full attention on the Queen.
“He lives a quiet life at Castle Arguro,” Queen Amethea continued, worry clear in her eyes. “He has stayed out of court politics, and refuses to engage in matters that touch on legislation. His choices, while noble, have placed him in a dangerous position of easy access.”
“Two weeks ago, his attendant approached us with security concerns,” Queen Amethea said. “Leon’s yacht blew to pieces right before he boarded it for a short trip along the Ionian Coast. The authorities did their investigations and ruled the explosion an accident. Investigators said that an electric shot in the galley caused a fire that led to the explosion. The chef was caught in the blast, no one could ask him.”
Queen Amethea broke off and stared at her gloved hands resting on her lap. It upset her to talk of Leon in trouble. She clenched her hands and Logan realized she was approaching them as a parent might and not as the Kingdom’s ruler. He glanced at Commander Steele, noting his judgment was right.
“A week later, the tires on Leon’s favorite sports car burst into pieces on the steep curve on Sheep Hill road on his way home to Castle Arguro. The skills he learned in an intensive driving class his parents put him through saved him. The authorities called it wear and tear on the tires, but that is impossible. Castle Arguro’s staff does proper maintenance of all Leon’s vehicles like clockwork.”
“Does Your Majesty have any suspects?” Logan asked, clenching his own hands on his lap to keep from running out to go find Leon.
How was Leon dealing with such a big problem?
Why had he not shared it with Petr or even David? Surely, one of them would have called him if they knew.
“No,” Queen Amethea said, though her guarded gaze told Logan a different story.
She had suspicions. She was not comfortable naming them here.
Logan looked to Commander Steele, his gaze narrowed when he saw Commander Steele shift his gaze to the floor. They knew who might be responsible for this.
The fear gripping Logan’s heart grew deeper.
“It pains me to confess that I’m frustrated with Leon’s need to keep the troubles in his life from me,” Queen Amethea said. “We’re lucky that the palace trained his attendant. When there is trouble, Dax keeps me updated. Dax has been useful these past weeks.”
Queen Amethea stared at her hands for a moment, and then continued.
“Dax is responsible for following up on these incidents with the authorities. He can only go so far once Leon accepts the investigators ruling and the cases are closed. Dax reached out to me out of duty and worry. If Leon discovers Dax has told me the truth, Dax will no longer have a place at Castle Arguro.”
“Why?” Logan asked, needing confirmation of what Petr and David had told him about Leon.
Commander Stevens gave him a censuring glance, but Logan was beyond caring about protocol.
“Leon believes his parents died because of the crown,” Queen Amethea said. “He has vowed never to have any dealings with the palace. For four years, he has kept true to his word, living on his own, depending on himself. After the news this afternoon, I say enough is enough.”
“What news?” Commander Stevens asked, before Logan could.
“Dax called to report gunshots fired in the forest surrounding Castle Arguro. Leon loves riding and took out his stallion for a mid-morning ride. The Arguro Forest has paths perfect for horse riding,” Queen Amethea said, her voice heavy with memories. “Leon escaped the attempt on his life with a bullet scrape on his right arm. He can no longer ignore this danger, Commander Stevens, neither can the palace.”
“Castle Arguro might not be the palace, but it is still a fortress,” Logan pointed out, knowing how much Leon loved riding. How cruel for someone to try to spoil that for him. “The culprit has to have authorized access onto the grounds.”
“Your thinking is the same as Dax,” Queen Amethea said, her gaze full of approval. “However, your current challenge is not in working to capture the culprit. The challenge lies in convincing Leon to take assistance from me.”
“How can we help, Your Majesty?” Commander Stevens asked.
“Prince Leon must be protected. He will not take help from the palace. The crown is turning to you for assistance. We are asking what we can do to help him.”
Logan leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees, angry with Leon.
How could Leon isolate himself from anyone who could help him this way? Had the loss of his parents changed him so much? Had Logan leaving done this to Leon?
Three attempts on a prince’s life meant someone had a growing need to see Leon dead. It could be political, a business deal gone wrong or a personal vendetta. Either way, royal blood was not easy to spill. A culprit unafraid of messing with highborn blood made this dangerous.
Just like with Lamar and the bomb he exploded killing Leon’s parents.
“This Dax,” Logan said, already committed. “Can he get our team into Castle Arguro without trouble?”
Queen Amethea narrowed her gaze at him, and then she reached for her phone and dialed a number. She set the call to hands free and placed the phone on the small table between them. Dax answered after two rings.
“Your Majesty,” a hushed voice said.
“Dax, we wish to consult with you,” Queen Amethea said.
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
Queen Amethea glanced at Logan, giving him a nod.
“Dax, my name is Lieutenant Commander Mason. I would like to ask you a few questions. Is that alright?”
“Of course,” Dax said, his voice getting clearer.
Logan glanced at Commander Stevens before he continued.
“What happened after the attempt on Prince Leon’s life today?” Logan asked, needing to know what Leon was thinking. He must be worried not to have confided to David, or even Petr. “Did Prince Leon ask you to secure the castle?”
“Yes, though His Highness was explicit about not involving the palace. I’m worried there will be more attempts on his life. I reached out to Her Majesty for assistance. Prince Leon’s life is more precious than he thinks. I don’t want to invite a security firm into the castle that does not understand our position.”
“How soon does Prince Leon want the new security firm in place?” Logan asked.
“I placed the time limit,” Dax confessed. “You see, His Highness has agreed to attend the opening ceremony at the Anastasia Grand Hotel tomorrow. I’m hoping he can take them with him. Our site staff is no longer qualified to offer the kind of protection he needs.”
“Thank you, Dax,” Logan said, giving Commander Stevens a knowing look. “Oh, one more thing, how well does Prince Leon take your recommendations?”
“I’m not sure His Highness takes too well to my recommendations. However, he does accept any options unrelated to the palace without a fight.”
Logan thanked Dax and watched Queen Amethea end the call. She slid her phone into her coat and glanced at him expectantly. He smiled, happy to meet another person who loved Leon as much as he did.
“We’re in luck, Your Majesty,” Commander Stevens said with a smile. “Lt. Commander Mason has a business setup that allows us to take on this mission. His team can take on the job as a private outfit under the guise of a company named Monarch Security. They have the clearances to run security for Castle Arguro. The security firm has been around for just over three years, which should come in handy if Prince Leon gets curious and asks for the firm’s history. Once cleared to work at Castle Arguro, Lt. Commander Mason and his team will have direct contact with Prince Leon.”
“When we get in,” Logan said, all of a sudden grateful for Petr, that he promised himself to buy Petr a gift to be decided later. “We’ll be able to assess the situation and keep Her Majesty updated on progress via command.”
“May I ask for a guarantee that my grandson will not come to harm?” Queen Amethea asked, her gaze pleading. “Losing his parents was hard enough. I cannot lose him.”
“I promise to do my job to the best of my ability, Your Majesty,” Logan said, knowing never to give outright guarantees, although he wanted to.
He didn’t think it would be appropriate to pledge his life for Leon’s in front of his bosses. None of them knew about his relationship with Leon.
“You’ve protected Leon before,” Commander Steele pointed out. “Seeing you could get the team kicked out.”
Logan nodded, noting Queen Amethea’s surprised look at this information.
“Yes, I was responsible for Prince Leon’s safety for the six months he spent away from home,” Logan said, meeting Queen Amethea’s gaze. “I made friends with his companions, David and Petr. They’ve assisted in the running of Monarch Security. They’ll vouch that I’m running the security firm in a private capacity.”
Logan prayed that Leon would accept his presence without fuss.
Queen Amethea studied him for a moment in complete silence, and then she stood up.
Logan stood too, followed by Commanders Stevens and Steele.
“We charge you with ensuring Prince Leon’s safety. Obtain his safety by any means necessary. to arrest any individual attempting to bring harm to Prince Leon Maximilian, and prosecute the perpetrator under the full extent of law. Do you accept this order, Lieutenant Commander Mason?”
“I do, Your Majesty,” Logan said.
Queen Amethea held out her hand to Logan and he took it quickly, careful not to squeeze too hard. She handed him an old silver key, and Logan froze when her delicate gloved hands wrapped around his wrist. He looked up to meet keen green eyes that seemed to look deep inside him.
“If Leon trusts you, you’ll know what door that key opens soon enough. Do you understand the importance of this mission?” Queen Amethea asked.
“Her Majesty is entrusting her grandson into my care.”
Queen Amethea squeezed his wrist.
“No one outside your unit or your command, Stevens, can know about this order,” Queen Amethea warned. “Not the royal family or the men and women in their service. Not even Dax who is responsible for Prince Leon. Do you understand?”
Logan suppressed his frown.
There was more to this order. Something the Queen was keeping very close.
“Understood, Your Majesty,” Logan said, echoed by Commander Stevens.
Queen Amethea let go of Logan’s wrist.
“This meeting never happened,” she said.
Queen Amethea left the room as fast as she had appeared leaving Logan staring at the silver key on his palm. The only proof that he had, this night, received a direct command from Her Majesty, the Queen of Aeras, Amethea Maximillian.
The burden of her order settled on his shoulders like a ton of bricks.
Wednesday morning, Leon woke with the birds. He loved the early morning. Crisp air cleared his head as nothing else could. Castle Arguro grounds were beautiful in the sunrise. Leon ran along a cobbled path behind the castle that would take him around the front gardens, and then he kept running reaching behind the castle again, and entering a track field he used for exercise routines.
Earphones in his ears, music loud with the hood of his jacket over his head, Leon kept up an easy pace, enjoying his morning run. He passed the great oak growing in the driveway, his thoughts on the event at the hotel later. He needed to meet with the hotel’s management before the ceremony. So, most of his time would be spent at the hotel today.
Leon hoped Gia would forget her promise to attend. Her kind of security would bog down the event and add too many logistics for his staff. Plus, he didn’t like his extended family meddling in the hotel’s business. It made it harder to keep things separate.
When Leon made it to the track field, he pushed thoughts of Gia aside and concentrated on finishing his morning workout. An hour later, he entered the castle in high spirits and ran up the stairs to his bedroom to get ready for his day.
Dax set up breakfast in a small dining room Leon loved with a view of the back gardens. Dax placed the folder with Monarch Security details on the table and patted it with a hopeful sigh.
Leon entered the dining room ten minutes later looking handsome in white trousers and shirt, his tailored summer blazer a marine blue.
Dax gave him a critical glance and nodded in approval. He had chosen the clothes for the morning hours. The marine blue brought out Leon’s gray eyes perfectly. He made a note to talk to Leon’s tailor about adding more marine blue in to his wardrobe.
Leon sat at the round table, and arranged his napkin on his lap. Picking up the folder Dax left for him, Leon lifted a brow in question.
“You asked for security,” Dax said, standing his ground.
Dax knew it was important that Leon accept Monarch Security into his service. The Queen was counting on him.
“It took some doing but I found an elite company, well known in your circles,” Dax said. “I convinced them to send over their most elite team for your needs.”
“The name is ambitious,” Leon said.
He opened the folder to read the information Dax had compiled. A knot coiled in his chest when he read the first name on the list of security officers assigned to his detail.
Lieutenant Commander Logan Mason.
Leon’s heart stuttered and he let the folder drop on the table.
What was this? After four years of silence, he appears.
What was Leon to make of this?
“Are you sure they are not military?” Leon asked, aware that anyone working in the military would have connections to the palace.
Logan would not have given up on his military career to start a business. Leon stared at the rank before Logan’s name. His rank had risen in their time apart.
Leon could not help being proud of Logan for that, but—
“Are they the only people available?” Leon asked, before Dax could answer his question. “Find someone else.”
He closed the folder and pushed it aside.
“Your Highness,” Dax said, panic almost taking over. “Monarch Security is good enough to take care of Master David on his trips abroad. He uses them to secure Miss Sadie when she goes to visit construction sites in the East Side.”
Leon narrowed his gaze at Dax.
“David uses them?” Leon frowned, wondering why he did not know that Logan and David were keeping in touch. “Who else has used Monarch Security?”
“Their client list includes Riku Touma, Paul O’Hara and Petr Mikhailov,” Dax said, taking in Leon’s reaction. He had not expected this visceral response. He wondered what would cause it. “I understand they have a team currently deployed in Spain taking care of Master Anselm—”
Leon closed his eyes, his heart pounding a rapid rhythm.So, Logan had decided to go into private security and Leon’s friends had supported him in quiet silence.
Why had they not bothered to tell him?
David too, Leon let out a soft breath and opened his eyes to find Dax watch ing him.
“They are the best,” Dax said, his gaze pleading. “Their military background serves them. They’ll know what to do for you, Your Highness. Please don’t ask me to take the second best company.”
“What’s their clearance level?” Leon asked, needing to know what Petr had done with Logan.
“Grade 8,” Dax said.
Grade 8 meant secret and high-risk clearance, Leon thought, realizing Petr had worked to draw Logan into their circle.
At Grade 8, Logan could walk into the Aeras Parliament without anyone stopping him or asking him questions. He had higher clearance than Leon.
Leon scoffed and reached for his phone. He dialed Petr’s number, and wasn’t surprised when Petr answered on the first ring.
“Morning,” Petr greeted. “You’ve received my gift.”
“He wanted a military career,” Leon pointed out. “Why did you pull him into the private sector?”
“Priorities change,” Petr said. “It seems you’re holding out on us, Leon. You’ve not told us you’re in a situation that requires Monarch Security. I was surprised when I heard that Dax requested an elite team.”
“Why did you hear about it?” Leon asked.
“Oh, Logan insisted that management should notify me of high priority requests like yours, in case we need to turn them down. Yours was a swift acceptance, Leon, Logan handled it himself. So, what’s going on?”
“Nothing,” Leon said, unwilling to talk about the assassination attempts on his life. “I’m upgrading Castle Arguro’s security. I want to protect the family jewels. You know how it is.”
“Whatever you say, Leon, I dig eccentric. You take him on, Leon. It’s good to support local businesses. If it doesn’t work out, well, then it wasn’t mean to be. Now, I have to go ambush Riku, he’s working too much again and leaving no time for me.”
Leon bit his bottom lip hard, and then shrugged.
“You’re too nosy,” Leon said.
Petr ended the call and Leon sat back staring at the Monarch Security folder.
Leon sighed, as it was clear he did not have very many choices when it came to his safety, short of calling his grandmother. His head filled with the memory of a gunshot sailing at him.
Well, at least he was sure Logan had the training to keep him safe.
“Are they here?” Leon asked.
Leon picked up his coffee and sipped it slow. He placed his cup on the table, his gaze on the plate before him. He tried to have meals with David around, but these past weeks had proved too busy because of the hotel. David was splitting his time between Sadie and the hotel.
Anticipation filled him, as he looked to Dax.
“Invite the Lieutenant Commander and his team to breakfast,” Leon murmured, trying to keep his tone unaffected. “If he’s going to be spending time with me, might as well break him in.”
“Be on your best behavior,” Dax prompted, his gaze narrowed making Leon smile at him. “These people will be keeping your life safe.”
Leon waved his hand to indicate the chairs around the dining table.
“Then, I hope the kitchen made enough for breakfast.”
Dax handed Leon a tablet with the day’s itinerary, then left to get the security team.
Alone, Leon placed the tablet on top of the Monarch Security folder and sat back. Every cell in his body vibrated with excitement at the thought of seeing Logan again.
Four years was a lot of time.
Would it have reduced Logan’s charm?
Or his impact on Leon’s heart?
They were different people now. Surely, it wouldn’t hurt as much to see Logan again. He wondered if Logan had kept his hair long, or had gone and shaved it off again into that awful military crop he liked.
Did Logan have a boyfriend? Did he have a husband?
Leon pressed his hand to his chest because his heart felt like it was coming out of his chest. He reached for his mug of coffee to distract himself. The door opened and Dax led in two men and a woman, all wearing neat black suits. Leon placed his mug on the table again in case he dropped it and sat back in his seat. He folded his hands on his lap to keep from exploding.
Leon could not tell who looked more nervous, him or the team that faced him with apprehensive glances. Disappointment bloomed when he didn’t see Logan.
Dax closed the door and moved to introduce them.
“Prince Leon,” Dax said. “I introduce the team from the Monarch Security firm. They will be responsible for Your Highness’s safety, as of today.”
Leon sat back watching the three nod their heads in his direction.
“Your Highness,” they chorused.
Leon pasted on a smile for them.
“Thank you for meeting me for breakfast. Dax says he worked hard to obtain your services. I’m thankful you could make it this morning.”
“The honor is ours, Your Highness,” the only woman in the team said.
Leon adjusted his plate on the table, curious as to where their boss was. He didn’t ask though, not wanting to appear eager.
“Please have a seat,” Leon started to say, just as the door opened and Leon’s breath caught at the sight of Logan Mason walking back into his life after four years.
It took everything to stay seated, not to react to seeing Logan so vital after all their time apart.
Like fine wine, the years had only added to Logan Mason. His dark hair cut short, his jaw dusted with dark stubble. Along the way, he had filled out even more; his suit fit him to perfection, his white shirt open at the collar, he wore no tie.
He looked taller, more formidable, just more.
Oh, how I’ve missed him.
Leon dragged his gaze away from Logan to the tablet on the table. He was afraid if he met Logan’s gaze he might blurt out everything in his heart.
“Your Highness, this is Lt. Commander Mason,” Dax introduced him. “He was once your royal guard, four years or so ago. He is now running Monarch Security.”
Leon squeezed his hands tight and tried to keep his tone casual, afraid to meet Logan’s gaze.
“Lt. Commander Mason, I keep a very informal house. Will you find it offensive if I insist on calling you by your name?” Leon asked, not about to start calling Logan, Lieutenant Commander. It was a fucking mouthful.
“Not at all,” Logan said, his low voice enough to make Leon’s heart weep. He had missed Logan’s voice too. “May I ask that the same concession is provided for my team?”
“Certainly,” Leon said, keeping his gaze on Dax. “I insist you call me Leon. As time passes, you’ll see that only Dax insists on calling me Prince Leon or Your Highness. What do you say to that?”
Logan cleared his throat and Leon glanced at him, unable to resist it any longer, only to find Logan looking at his teammates. Leon stole the precious few minutes to take Logan in, and then moved his gaze to the rest when Logan turned to him.
“We don’t mind it, Sir,” Logan said.
“Then, I’ll rely on you to do the introductions, Logan,” Leon said, a headache starting at the sound of Logan calling him Sir. “I have the folder on your team, but a personal introduction is much better, I think.”
“Yes, Sir,” Logan said. “Please meet my team: John Roberts, Shirley Steele and Tom Rogers.”
“Welcome to Castle Arguro,” Leon said, and indicated the chairs around his table. “Please, have a seat and let’s have breakfast.”
Logan sat in the chair closest to Leon, his team having taken the safe distance away from the handsome man sitting on one end of the round table. He had forgotten what it was like to be so close to Leon.
The years had only added to Leon’s sophistication. His sharp features refined and polished, his gray eyes warm, and that smile on his lips was still unforgettable.
Mostly, Logan remembered kissing those lips, remembered how soft they felt against his.
Logan watched Leon apply raspberry jam on a slice of oat and rye bread. He remembered doing the task for Leon, and smiling when Leon took a bite of the slice while he still held it. They had both laughed, and kissed.
Leon caught his stare and smiled knowingly, looking away fast, as he took a bite of the slice.
Did Leon remember? Logan wondered.
He remembered Leon had eaten most of his meals off Logan’s plate.
Did those habits still exist?
“Dax gets the bread baked daily. I have to admit I’m a tad addicted to the taste of it,” Leon said, his tone amused as he ate the slice he held. “Do you not like the food, Logan? You haven’t touched anything. If you don’t like it, we can get the chef to make something to your liking.”
Logan dragged his gaze away from Leon and his sexy lips.
“No,” Logan started, and shook his head feeling like an idiot. “I mean the food looks good. No need to get the chef cooking again.”
“He wouldn’t mind,” Leon said, reaching for his glass of orange juice. “Andrew is often disappointed by the lack of challenge working in my kitchen. He will be glad now that there are more people to feed. He can test out his culinary skills on you.”
Dax chuckled behind Leon.
Logan narrowed his gaze when Leon winked at Dax, his gaze full of mirth.
Leon’s smile was enough to bring all the memories of their time together to the forefront. The memory of Leon on a horse with no saddle, laughing as the rain fell on him filled Logan’s head.
Logan sucked in air and looked away from Leon. That particular memory of Leon had stayed with him for years, both comforting and torturing him. He missed that Leon’s easy trust.
Logan focused his attention on the food laid out on the table instead. He did not miss the curious gazes from his team. He ignored their knowing looks and served scrambled eggs, sausages and a slice of the oat and rye bread Leon loved.
Breakfast was the right move on Leon’s part. It put the rest of the team at ease.
Leon broke the ice with them. Engaging each team member, asking simple polite questions designed to get to know them. When breakfast ended, Dax had a woman from the kitchen remove the dishes.
Logan held on to his glass of orange juice. He loved the taste of the fresh drink. Leon’s chef was good at his craft.
Dax then started a security briefing.
Leon kept a staff of fourteen in the castle.
The team consisted of Dax, whose main role was Castle Arguro’s manager. He managed the castle and all its needs with the help of three heads. There was Andrew the chef, Marc the stable master and Franco, the garage mechanic. Each one ran a team of their own that did not exceed three, with the exception of Franco who only had one assistant at the garage, Pierre.
“That’s a small number for a castle this huge,” John said.
“We manage,” Dax said, pride in his voice. “Prince Leon lives alone, so we are not overwhelmed with duties. That may change in the future.”
“What happens when the castle has an occasion?” Shirley asked.
“Dax sources extra help as needed,” Leon answered. “I prefer it that way as I don’t want too many people underfoot.”
“Understood,” Shirley said.
“What about visitors?” Tom asked, looking to Dax.
“All visitors need an appointment,” Dax said. “I make all appointments and manage His Highness’s schedule, both business and personal.”
“With the exception of David, my business manager,” Leon said, tapping a finger on the dining table. “And…Princess Gia, you can’t stop her if she wants to come in anyway.”
Logan glanced at Tom so that he could note down both names. David was harmless. Logan was more concerned about Princess Gia. Her entourage would need vetting.
“Dax will provide you with all the information you need on Castle Arguro’s current security systems, maps and everything else you might need. He will also set up your accommodations and meals. Your job is to discover anything unusual and let Dax know,” Leon said, his tone dismissive.
It seemed as if Leon did not see the attempts on his life as alarming.
“I run a busy schedule, working with individuals not expecting to deal with tight security when we meet,” Leon continued. “I ask you to be courteous and don’t suffocate them in security protocols. If you manage that, then we’ll get along fine.”
Logan met his team’s questioning gazes, stopping them from voicing any protests. He gave Leon a nod in acknowledgement.
“Understood, Sir,” Logan said, deciding they would deal with the logistics as the job progressed.
Protecting a prince was not as easy as Leon made it sound. At the least, they were inside now. He could ask Commander Stevens for support, as they needed.
Leon turned to Dax.
“Dax, if you’ll show our guests out for a moment,” Leon said, his tone quiet. “I need to talk to Logan alone.”
“Of course,” Dax said, already heading to the door.
Logan’s team got up from their chairs and left the dining room each one glancing at Logan as they left.
When the room was clear, Dax closed the door behind him, leaving Logan and Leon alone.
They sat in silence for a full minute before Leon found the courage to speak.
Staring at his tablet, his finger tracing the edges of its cover, Leon bit his lip for a moment, then spoke.
“How have you been?”
Logan shifted in his seat to look at him.
“Fine. I’m doing well,” Logan said.
Leon wished he could say the same for himself. It wouldn’t do to say that he was…just existing.
“Is Monarch Security your business?” Leon asked, curious about why Logan had decided to enter the private sector.
Logan had not shown any indication of making that change when they were together.
Now, after all the silence, Leon wanted answers.
“Yes, it’s my business.” There was pride in Logan’s voice. “It’s come up with the help of a few people.”
Leon thought about Riku, David, Petr, Paul and even Anselm. The friends he called his had helped his ex-boyfriend and not told him. Had Logan asked them not to tell him? Either way, it seemed as though Logan had wanted to keep the silence between them intact. If that was the case, then Leon was the one breaking it now.
“I’m glad you’re doing well,” Leon said, standing up. He picked up his tablet and the Monarch Security folder. “I hope this job won’t be too hard for your team. It should only last long enough to catch the culprit.”
Logan stood too, pushing his chair back.
“Aren’t you going to ask?”
“Ask what?” Leon met Logan’s blue gaze then, his heart skipping a beat at the intensity there.
“Whether I’m still with the Royal Navy,” Logan said in a low tone.
“Would you tell me the truth?” Leon asked, afraid of the answer.
Leon wished he had the strength to ask. He did not want to ask and get an answer that would have him kicking Logan out of the castle. That would be too hard.
Despite wishing he could forget Logan, seeing him again made Leon want to cling to him for a while, if only from a distance.
It was so good seeing him so close.
“I trust Dax. He knows what I need now. I’m sure he would not have made a mistake choosing your company.”
“I’m not in a position to be choosy,” Leon cut Logan off. “Please do your job and I’ll try to make it easy on both of us. Thank you for looking out for me once again, Logan.”
Leon walked around Logan fast, heading for the door, old pain surfacing to the top. He reminded his foolish heart that he only needed Logan’s services. He needed to remember that Logan valued his career. Logan would pour in his best for his business or his career, and nothing would come between them.
Not even a Prince in trouble, Leon thought.
Leon opened the dining room door.
“Now that we have all that sorted,” Leon said, keeping his voice neutral. “I’m late for a meeting in town. We should get going.”
Logan swallowed down the last of his orange juice in one gulp, wishing it were something stronger.
Leon had changed.
The happy, amusing prince was gone, replaced by a closed off man.
His Leon was gone, he sighed, fighting the urge to run after Leon and pull him into his arms for a tight hug.
“Boss,” Shirley broke into his tumultuous thought, and he sucked in much needed air. “Prince Leon is headed out.”
“Call him Leon,” Logan said, his tone gruff. “He is serious about dropping the title.”
“Sure,” Shirley grinned. “I really like him. This will be an easy assignment, Boss.”
Logan grunted and moved away from the table, adjusting his suit jacket. He followed Shirley out of the dining room, headed to the castle’s front doors.
They would have to come later to discover their sleeping quarters and figure out the castle’s layout.
Outside, the weather was sunny.
Leon stood at the top of the steps his gaze on the armored black Bentley Mulsanne waiting below, behind it, a black Mercedes for his security team.
Logan motioned John to the Bentley where Pierre sat in the driver’s seat. After a heated exchange between John and Pierre, John took over the driver’s seat and Pierre hurried away to the castle garage.
“Pierre will be upset by the replacement,” Leon noted as he walked down the steps to the car. “He values his role as my driver very much.”
“John’s training behind the wheel will make sure your armored car fulfills its purpose. I’ll find Pierre a more suitable job,” Logan said, opening the back passenger door for Leon. “Sir.”
Leon paused to study him.
Logan wondered what Leon saw as he held a military stance, looking straight ahead. Leon released him from the intense scrutiny when he slid into the backseat without saying more.
Logan closed the door with care, making sure it was secure. He joined John in the front passenger seat, buckling his seat belt, and nodding to John.
“Wait,” Leon said, when John started the car ready to go.
Logan started to ask why, but then Dax came running down the stairs carrying a briefcase. He went around the car and slid into the backseat with Leon.
“Pierre, let’s go,” Dax said, as he settled the briefcase he held on the floor. When he looked up and saw John, he gaped. “Where is Pierre?”
“He’s going to apparently be busy with something else,” Leon said.
“What?” Dax asked, leaning forward to look at John. “This is called upsetting the ship, Prince Leon. Pierre will not be happy for weeks after this.”
Leon chuckled, but said no more.
Logan was grateful for that.
Leon needed to trust him to do his job.
Logan then narrowed his gaze at Dax. Dax met it with his own glare. He and Dax needed to have a serious talk. On their drive out of the castle, Leon held out his tablet to Logan.
“My schedule,” Leon said, and then settled back in his seat for the ride into town.
Logan read Leon’s schedule, surprised to see how busy Leon lived. There was no free time. The first chunk of Leon’s day would be spent meeting officials from the Ministry of Tourism. After that, they would head to the Anastasia Grand Hotel. There were more meetings and then the opening ceremony in the afternoon. When the opening ceremony ended, Leon was to join David for a dinner party with the staff to thank them for their hard work. Leon would not be free to return home until after nine in the evening.
Logan stole a glance at Leon through the rearview mirror. He remembered a conversation they had in Bangkok about schedules. Leon had worried he would have no time when he came back home. Glancing at the schedule he held, it looked as though that worry had come true.
Logan wondered what else had changed in his absence.