Jaime is the fourth son of the Prince of the Heighlands. Always an outsider in his family, Jaime seems unable to ever please his father, no matter how he tries. He longs to be a fighter, a hunter, anything other than the role his father has mapped out for him: future steward to his oldest brother.
But Jaime’s set path in life is overturned when the consequences of an indiscretion on his part prove to be the final straw for his father. Infuriated, Prince Halden sends Jaime away from the Heighlands, the only home Jaime has ever known, to serve at the court of the powerful and despised king of Leilani. Alone in a much more sophisticated society than he is used to, Jaime must maneuver to find his way ... and struggle to understand his feelings about the handsome King Alder of Leilani, to whom he has sworn fealty.
Alder has much on his mind. Fighting a war he can’t end and can’t afford to lose, his widowed state is of far less import. Nonetheless, his Councilors are demanding he choose a Companion -- a man to please his bed -- as is expected of a widowed Leilani king with heirs. It is a choice he is in no hurry to make. The war and losses on the battlefield are of far greater concern, and the arrival of a disgraced prince from the least loyal part of his kingdom is a minor and unwanted distraction.
Until Jaime walks into his court. For the first time in his life, Alder feels a genuine surge of lust for a man. But it’s a hopeless attraction. No Heighlander would admit to wanting another man, ever.
Jaime wants to fight in the war. Alder wants to make love to him. Can they both possibly get what they want?
I am sending my fourth son, Jaime, to Camasta. I hope that you will find him a place in your Court. He has skills with weapons and in the hunt and you may find something useful for him to do.
Alder looked at the sheet in his hand and shook his head. It said nothing more than he’d remembered. Perhaps if Prince Halden could write he would have been more forthcoming than when speaking aloud for someone else to write down his words. Or perhaps the scribe had altered the message for some reason. Reading and writing were not easy skills to acquire, but Alder never regretted the effort. Not having to rely on another person to create a letter, an order, even, or especially, a love note, was worth it. No matter that he’d resented his father’s order at first, he appreciated it now. He and Jolas were among the few literate members of the Court -- and those who were not could hardly sneer at the servant’s skill, not if the King valued it.
“Your luncheon is served, my lord,” came the voice of his manservant Trimet.
“Thanks.” Alder moved from his office to the dining room in his suite and sat down at the table. The meal was much simpler than what the kitchen would produce if he had guests, but one of his favourites, chicken cooked with wine and herbs. As he ate, he continued to ponder the possibilities of his new courtier. Given the frank hostility of the Heighlanders to the Leilani King, he could only assume that this prince Jaime was a problem. The question, therefore, was what kind. Argumentative and a duellist? The mention of ability with weapons suggested that. A seducer of other men’s wives? He wouldn’t be a rapist, the Heighlands had no more tolerance for that than did the Leilani. And he couldn’t be a man-lover. The Leilani were comfortable with that, given how important the tradition of the King’s Companion was, but no Heighlander would ever admit to being attracted to another man. If he were too hot-headed or simply a drunkard Alder wouldn’t keep him around at Court. He could settle in the city as just another country bred man, although the Gods alone knew what he could offer in trade. He certainly wouldn’t have been brought up to have any useful skills.
After he finished his meal, Trimet helped him change into more formal attire, for the public Court. His guard followed him down the stairs and into the Great Hall. It was a large chamber, beautifully decorated and lit. There were groups of chairs arranged in clusters on each side, and a wide centre aisle that petitioners would walk down toward him. Alder entered from behind the dais on which sat his ornate gilded chair, giving him a chance to look over the room before he sat down. Everyone there either bowed or knelt, depending on their status, and waited until he was seated. Alder didn’t know everyone in the chamber, his regular courtiers yes, but there were several people admitted to petition for the King’s justice today. There was obviously no Heighlander there yet, he wouldn’t be able to miss that. He dealt with a few simple issues, and one more complex, that one being a request for compensation for land lost to the Fierene army in the last campaign. Loss of land equalled loss of taxes, and although he only ever showed complete confidence in public, privately Alder was more than worried about the future of his nation.
A stir at the door indicated a late arrival, and Alder could see Jolas speaking to the sentry at the door.
“His Highness, Jaime, fourth son to Halden, prince of the Heighlands,” was the formal announcement, and everyone turned in some surprise to see the newcomer.
Alder looked down the crowded hall and saw the young man walk in. Young, yes, but clearly a full adult. He was a little below mid-height and stocky, thick with muscle and dressed in the traditional garb of a Heighlander. He had deep red hair, clear skin paler than Alder’s own, and a face that bordered on stern. Alder swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry. He wanted to thrust his hands into that mane of auburn, pull that hard body against his own, and tip those full red lips up to meet his mouth. He caught his breath in shock. He’d never felt much attraction to other men, despite his Council’s pressure to choose a Companion. And now he was as aroused as he’d ever been -- and in response to a Heighlander. Worse, not just any random man but a prince -- of all the men at court the least likely to want to come to his bed. Alder took a deep breath and tried to control his breathing. He would be damned before showing his length in court; the mere thought of the reaction of the prince and his own nobles should they see his arousal was enough to chill his blood and soften his dick. The prince walked slowly through the court and approached the throne.