It had been a week since Brayden had disappeared. Quinlan couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t eat, and most of all he couldn’t think straight without his husband by his side. In fact he couldn’t think at all. Everyone and everything irritated him—everyone that is, except his own children. Quinlan had taken to letting them sleep in his bed at night. He needed the comfort of their closeness just as much as they needed his.
Quinlan leant against the window ledge as he stared out over Panthea. He was trying to work out in his own mind how all of this was worth it if he didn’t have Brayden by his side. His heart ached for the missing peace to be returned to him. There was only one thing left to do. If no one could find Brayden he would just have to do it himself. First he would take up an ancient act—he’d send a message to the gods for guidance on his journey to find his husband. One long ago when kings were in need of guidance they’d use the pool in the meditation room to send messages, questions, and requests to the gods in hopes of getting a response. The longer Quinlan thought about it, the more he thought it was the right thing to do. With his mind made up he turned and faced the occupants of the room.
“Brayden is somewhere out there waiting for me to come and rescue him.” He stared at each of them in turn. From Talon with his battle worn face, to Javier standing right next to him, his hand strayed to Talon’s arm as if seeking is own comfort. Cleric Saskia and Mylo were standing off to the side with sadness all over their faces. Yet, it was the fierce look on Ingrid’s face that gave him the most heart.
“So that’s what I’m going to do. Someone took something of mine… without my permission, and I want it back. If one hair has been harmed on his head I’ll end whoever have laid their hands on him. I’ll show no mercy for the people involved in the taking of Brayden. They lost the right to mercy the moment they took the Kings Consort—my husband.”
“So what’s the plan?” Talon asked.
Ingrid snarled, “We hunt the bastards down, and I say we start with Lord Dalziel and his prick of a son.”
Quinlan’s eyes bugged out, he hadn’t even thought that Brayden's family could be involved. Not that he believed Fane Dalziel was truly involved there was something about the guy that didn’t seem the harmful type. There was more to his story and Quinlan was determined to find out what was going on.
“Bring them in.”
How stupid could have been not to think of the family who had held Brayden prisoner for half his life? Especially since Ormand had given Brayden the ‘Heart of Panthea’. If either man had a part in Brayden's disappearance they would pay.
Quinlan sat on his throne as Fane Dalziel was led into the room by two well armed guards. He momentarily wondered why Lord Dalziel looked so melancholy. He waited as Lord Dalziel sunk to his knees before him.
“Where is my husband?”
Lord Dalziel stared up at him in a somewhat confused expression. Overwhelming sadness seemed to emanate from every pore of the older man. Something was definitely wrong here.
“Where is my husband?” Quinlan repeated menacingly.
Tears formed in Lord Dalziel’s eyes, as he whispered. “I do not know.”
Quinlan glared at Lord Dalziel for a moment before turning his attention to the guards. “Where is Ormand?”
Both guards knelt before their king. “Ormand was nowhere on Lord Dalziel’s estate. We still have sentinels out searching for him throughout the city—he will be found.”
Quinlan returned his attention to Lord Dalziel. “Where is your son? He can’t hide from me forever?”
“Ormand is not my son.” Lord Dalziel dropped his eyes. “I’m not his father, he’s my nephew.”
“What?” Quinlan sat up straighter as he waited for Lord Dalziel to continue. Now the truth was coming out.
“I lost my life partner many years ago. Ormand is his wife’s child.”
Quinlan’s mind raced with the possibilities of had just been said. Ormand looked too much like him to not be a blood relative and Lord Dalziel had already said he was the man’s uncle.
“Then that would mean...” his sentence trailed off as Javier and Talon entered the room. Lord Dalziel seemed oblivious to their approach.
“I only have one son left, and I want to find him as much as you do.” Tears fell from his eyes. “I promised Thayer if anything happened to him, I would care for our sons... and now I’ve lost them all.”
“King Thayer was my father.” Javier tilted his head and stared at Lord Dalziel. “How can you be my father?” His voice seemed to hold more curiosity then anger.
Lord Dalziel cried out when he finally registered Javier was alive. “My son.” He reached out but dropped his hand before making contact. Hanging his head he sobbed into his hands.
“Lord Dalziel... Fane...” Quinlan called to the grieving man. “I need you to explain this to us.”
Javier walked over and knelt beside Lord Dalziel and gently patted his arm. “Talk to us.”
Lord Dalziel’s shoulder’s shook. “Thayer is... was my mate. My sister, his wife betrayed him. I thought I’d lost everything that day. When I found Brayden among the carnage. I took him home and kept him safe, just like I promise Thayer I would do.”
“Why only Brayden?” Javier’s voice dropped to a whisper. “If you’re my father too, then why did you not want me as well?”
Tear stained eyes turned to Javier. “You weren’t there, I searched, but I couldn’t find you or Thayer anywhere. The guards thought wild animals had taken your bodies.” Fane looked beseechingly at his son. “I searched for you for days.”
“I believe you,” Javier wrapped his arm around his father’s shoulders.
Quinlan watched on as he shook his head in disbelief. “I can’t believe what you’re telling us is true. Because I remember all that shyte Ormand spouted the day I named Brayden as my consort. If you love your sons like you say then why did you let him call our union an abomination?”
“Ormand knows Brayden is my child. If I did anything against his wishes, he threatened to harm you both.” Lord Dalziel rubbed a hand over his tired eyes. “Ormand has too much of his mother in him. He was the reason I kept Brayden secluded. The few times they were together Ormand found ways to hurt him.” Lord Dalziel turned to the King. “I love my son... the both of them, just as I loved their father.”
Quinlan nodded. “Then we find what has been taken from us. We find it, and we bring him home.”
“Yes!” Both Fane and Javier shouted in unison.
“So the hunt begins.”