The Heart of the Lost Star
Kamir is on the verge of losing everything. Knowing full well he can't meet the ultimatum his parents have issued, he instead finally puts in motion his plans to live completely independent of them. His plans are interrupted, however, by the unexpected return of his despised ex-husband—and thrown even further into upheaval when he ends up comforting the man he's secretly loved for years.
Jader may not know where he comes from, but he knows where he belongs and what he wants—until he helps rescue some stranded Bentan travelers, one of whom looks almost exactly like Jader, throwing his life and everything he thought he knew into tumult. Scared and overwhelmed, Jader flees—and lands unexpectedly in the arms of a man he's always seen, but never really noticed.
“Papa!” Chiri cried out, waving one arm enthusiastically.
Though Kamir still felt like crying as he left the bedroom, his mother’s letter weighing heavily on his mind, he smiled to be greeted so warmly. Rare was the morning his daughter didn’t happily greet him, and he dreaded the day she grew too old to be happy her father had entered the room. Chara, Chiri’s twin brother, didn’t react by more than glancing Kamir’s way, but that was typical of him, so much more quiet and contained than his sister.
Reaching the breakfast table, Kamir kissed the top of Chiri’s head, ruffled Chara’s hair, and took his seat.
Velinabustled over and set down a plate heaped with food and the teapot. “Good morning, my lord.”
“Good morning, Velina. Thank you. I hope the visit to your friend goes well. I appreciate you lingering long enough to watch over the children until I managed to drag myself out of bed.” Or rather, sat in his room trying not to cry over the letter from his parents. Though he’d been expecting it for some time, finally reading the words had come as a blow.
She smiled, sympathetic and understanding. “Always a pleasure, my lord. I’ll be back late tonight. I hope your day goes well.”
“Thank you……” She bustled out the door, and Kamir poured himself a cup of fragrant jasmine tea, sipping it leisurely for a few minutes before he felt awake enough to start on his breakfast. Velina always gave him too much, insisting he needed more meat on his bones, but Kamir seldom had a large appetite. The only exception had been when he was pregnant.
He picked away at the spiced potatoes for a few minutes, smiling and murmuring dutifully as Chiri talked so quickly she tripped over her words, then switched to the flatbread and chutney.
By the time he’d finished a second cup of tea and half his plate, Chiri was winding down and actually eating her food, and Chara was waking up properly. Poor boy had inherited his sire’s inability to function for the first couple of hours after waking, where Chiri had inherited Kamir’s ability to be wide-awake and ready to go almost immediately upon waking. In so many ways, it was obvious they were twins, but in many others…
Well, he hoped his children got along better than he ever had with his siblings. More importantly, he hoped they didn’t turn out like him and not realize a bad decision until too late. If not for Velina, who’d been a friend and support when he’d most needed it, Kamir might still be in that mess, and his children with him.
Sometimes, it felt like he was still in it, given how much he was forced to live beneath the weight of his parents. But he’d come a long away from where he’d been. He had a job. His own income. Happy children. A good home for them and all the food they could need was available. He wasn’t a failure anymore. Someday, maybe he’d believe that.
Pushing away the unhappy thoughts before they could further spoil his morning, Kamir glanced across the table at the clock on the bar against the wall. “Your tutor is going to be here soon, children. Run along and get dressed. Give me a kiss first.” They kissed his cheeks, Chiri hugging him as well, before dashing into their bedroom to get dressed.
The bickering over who got to wear what started mere seconds later, but Kamir ignored it. Better to let them work the problem out themselves than get in the middle of it.
Ten minutes later, just as he was finishing his third cup of tea and forcing down a last few bites of food, the door opened and Bremm, the tutor, stepped inside. He bowed to Kamir. “Good morning, my lord.”
“Good morning, Master Bremm. Would you care for breakfast? Tea?”
“No, but thank you, my lord. Anything particular on the schedule today?”
Kamir set down his teacup, wiped his mouth and folded the napkin on the table, and stood. “No, I leave them wholly in your capable hands. I will not be back until tonight, however. If you need to leave sooner than the closing bell, have Amaria summoned to tend them until I return.”
“Of course. I hope you have a good day.”
“Thank you. I hope the children behave. Do not hesitate to send for me if they prove unmanageable. I’ve left a note on the bar about the best places to send word.”
Bremm laughed. “I can say with complete sincerity, my lord, that yours are the most pleasant children under my care.”
“I’m flattered.” Before he could say more, Chiri and Chara came charging out, and he only barely got farewell hugs from them between all their demands on what to do with their lessons for that day.
Once they were settled in the schoolroom—really meant to be an office or sitting room, but Kamir already had his workshop and didn’t need an extra sitting room—he went into his bedroom to dress properly for the day.
The note from his parents had arrived right before he’d gone to bed. It still lay on his writing desk, smudged in spots from tears, wrinkled from when he’d gotten angry and crumpled it. He’d read at least a hundred other letters just like it, diatribes about his being a failure, letting the family down, how much it hurt them all to see what he’d done to himself, and them, with his choices and behavior, and if he’d only do what they said, everything would be so much better for all of them. Didn’t he care about anyone but himself?
Sometimes he wanted to ask them if they appreciated the way they always reprimanded him for his selfishness and insisted he think about them, them, them. But the pleasure in asking that question was not worth the pain that would result.