Prince Arthur needs to get married. He’s the only heir, he’s twenty-five years old, and his mother keeps sending eligible princes and princesses his direction. Arthur’s not opposed to the idea, but so far every suitor’s been awful, and he’d like to at least like a prospective future spouse. But on one dark and stormy night, a mysterious young man in need of rescue just might be the answer Arthur’s looking for ...
Alan never intended to join the ranks of Prince Arthur’s suitors. After all, Alan might technically be a prince himself, but he doesn’t use the title and he works for a living. But when a carriage accident leaves him stranded in the rain at the castle door, Alan can’t help falling for Arthur’s kind heart and lonely eyes. It's just too bad he’s not an acceptable match ...
Arthur stopped by the library and collected two novels, first; and then he went back upstairs and found Alan’s door and swallowed hard and knocked, lightly in case Alan was sleeping.
Alan was not sleeping. And opened the door for him, right there on the other side.
All of Arthur’s words vanished in a flood of warring apprehension and relief. “You’re up! I mean -- should you be -- I mean, you’re feeling well enough to -- you asked to see me, I’m here, how are you?”
Alan’s mouth twitched as if trying not to laugh. He was as beautiful as ever, sunshine hair and rainy-ocean eyes and a few stray bandages; he was wearing a thick quilted sea-blue robe over borrowed at-home clothing, not dressed for company but up and about, not in bed. He’d pushed up his sleeves again, baring strong forearms with a hint of gold.
He was a magnet, and Arthur couldn’t look away.
Alan said, “Better, and also very confused about at least three things, and I thought you might be able to help?” in a tone that suggested that he wasn’t entirely sure the answer would be yes.
“Yes,” Arthur blurted out. “I mean. Um. What things? You said you wanted to see me? Can I come in?”
“Yes.” Alan held the door open for him. “You’ll see the first one. You can’t miss it.”
They certainly couldn’t miss it. No one could’ve: the feather mattresses billowed upward, a heap of luxury that nearly dwarfed even the tall posts of the bed. They supported whole mountain ranges of pillows, and goosedown and swansdown, and finely woven linen, and heaps of pink and blue embroidered coverlets with designs of tulips and flying fish and in one case what looked like a highly detailed map of the whole city-state of Starskeep, complete with river-locks and canals. The whole extravagance required a short flight of steps, conveniently pushed next to the bed-tower.
Arthur felt his mouth drop open. He had no words.
“Yes, exactly.” Alan wandered over. Poked the topmost feathery foothill suspiciously. Watched it bounce back up. “So, after, oh, maybe half an hour of your physician hovering over me, and finally deciding I was well enough to get up, your mother asked to meet with me in her office. And when she was done with that, I came back here, and ...”
“And an entire textiles workshop had exploded in your bedroom?”
“Please make this make sense.”
“I’m not sure I can.” Arthur, entranced, followed him over to the bed, if it still deserved the name. He set the novels on the nightstand along the way. “How many mattresses is that?”
“I lost count,” Alan said, “at six. They sort of sink into each other.”
“Well, feathers ... they would ...” He prodded a pillow. He was also avoiding directly looking at Alan, because if he did he’d think about Alan and featherbeds, and sinking into things, and that was not at all the sort of direction his thoughts should be going. “I’m not sure it’s architecturally sound.”
“I’m starting to be afraid your mother wants to drown me in feathers and then call it an accident.”