A whole month had passed since their wedding; since the day he had finally made Brayden his for all time. Quinlan sat on his throne and watched the people around him. Something wasn’t right; it was off and he just couldn’t put his finger on it. Everyone seemed to act the same around him as usual, but he had the sense that something bad was heading their way.
The Kingdom of Panthea was usually a very peaceful place to live. They got on with all their neighbours; there was nothing that he could think of that should upset the world in which they lived, yet, something was niggling in the back of his brain as if in warning that he needed to take precaution... that he needed to look after his family; because when it came, that was what was going to be targeted.
“What has that look on your face?” Ingrid said softly as she took a step closer to her king. “I can hear you thinking from where I stand.”
“I just have a feeling that something is coming. Something that I am not going to like.”
A frown came and rested on Ingrid’s beautiful face, which in turn brought a frown to Quinlan. “Now what are you thinking about?”
“Is this a feeling, or a premonition? Because, if it is a premonition; then we need to make plans. You premonitions have never been wrong before.”
“I don’t know what it is. I just have this feeling that something is coming for Brayden and the boys.” Quinlan shook his head in frustration. “I just can’t see clearly what it is.”
Ingrid cracked her knuckles in thought, then grinned when she seen Quinlan wince. “Sorry, keep forgetting you are a wuss, and can’t handle that.”
Quinlan glared at her. “I am your king; isn’t it about time you showed me some respect?” He had to fight the smile that was coming.
“Not gonna happen, Quinlan; I know all your deep down secrets.”
“Don’t suppose you will be willing to forget those... Hmmm?”
“Ha!” Ingrid blurted out then blushed in embarrassment or exasperation; Quinlan wasn’t quite sure which one.
“Look, here come your heart now,” she gestured in Brayden’s direction.
Quinlan’s breath caught at the smile that Brayden wore as he approached.
“Good morning my love, did you sleep well?” Quinlan held out an arm and pulled Brayden down onto his lap. Since his return Brayden had needed a lot of affection, and Quinlan was willing to give him whatever he needed to feel whole. There were secrets in Brayden’s past that he wasn’t ready to share yet and Quinlan had to wait until he was.
Brayden leaned in and kissed Quinlan on the cheek. “I slept very well,” he wrapped his arms around Quinlan’s neck and held him tight. “Thank you for the present, it is beautiful.”
Fear and caution warred within Quinlan as he tried to keep his voice calm. “Present? I haven’t given you a present.” His arms tightened around Brayden as he felt his husband begin to tremble. “What did you get?”
Brayden pressed his face into Quinlan’s neck. Quinlan knew that he was taking in his scent over the last month; he discovered this was how Brayden calmed himself.
“It was a flower; actually it was the whole bush.” He sat up and looked at Quinlan. “When I woke up this morning there was a potted plant sitting beside the window.” Confusion filled his eyes, “it was the Heart of Panthea. I thought they died out generations ago. I had to go and look it up in the library; just to make sure that is what it really was.”
Quinlan looked at Ingrid and she went and spoke to two of the guards and sent them to retrieve the plant in question.
“Are you sure you didn’t give it to me?” Brayden’s voice quavered.
“No my love; I am sure that the gift was not from me.” Quinlan kissed Brayden’s temple. “Don’t worry we will have it sorted out in no time.”
“Who would give me a present if not you?”
“I don’t know; but we are going to find out. You belong to me.” Quinlan hugged him possessively, “no one else can have you.”
Quinlan and Brayden sat up straighter as the gift in question was brought before them. Quinlan had to admit as gifts went it was truly beautiful; the heart shaped leaves were of the deepest green, and the flowers were of a red so dark that it looked like blood. This was the reason for the name the Heart of Panthea. What many people didn’t know or wouldn’t remember is that the Heart of Panthea was usually sent as a warning. If you received such a gift you knew that someone had put a price on your head.
Quinlan gazed at Brayden who in their right mind would put a price on his husbands head? More to the point is why would they? The look on Ingrid’s face told Quinlan that she also remembered the meaning of such a gift.
Ingrid shook her head slightly as if telling him not to say anything; her gaze flickered to the still trembling Brayden then back in his direction. Quinlan dropped his own gaze to her hand and saw their sign for, ‘we’ll talk soon,’ followed closely by the sign, ‘I have a theory,’ this was something he couldn’t wait to hear; and he knew that whatever it was, it wasn’t going to be good.