Birds. The birdsong had pulled Alex out of his morning dreams so inconsequential that their meaning and mood was gone before an instant. A breeze that carried the birdsong in tickled his arms and face and ruffled his hair. He stretched his limbs under the thin silk sheet. The air was warm and comfortable, he didn’t need the sheet, but it felt lovely against his skin.
A soft huff, and Alex realized he wasn’t alone, as he so often was when he woke. Avery. The lightness of his mood left and his heart was full and heavy. Again.
“I know you’re awake.” Avery’s hand ghosted over Alex’s arm. “How about you say good morning properly instead of pretending to be asleep?”
Alex opened his eyes. Avery’s wheat colored hair pointed in all directions. A soft smile turned up his lips and eyes, and he looked like the Avery that Alex always wanted to Avery to be—content, carefree, innocent. Alex had to close his eyes again.
At that, Avery gave Alex’s arm a shove. “Dillon said good morning in a highly proper and enthusiastic manner. I can be content with his most enjoyable and effective method of greeting, but I would like to have yours as well.”
“Oh, fine,” Alex groused. He couldn’t hide the smile that crept out despite the heaviness in his heart. Alex propped himself up on his elbows, leaned over, and kissed Avery’s arm. It was all he could reach.
“You’re one lazy prince this morning, aren’t you?”
Alex shrugged and let his head fall into Avery’s bare thigh. Avery’s fingers combed through his hair. They breathed together in the calm morning air. Alex ran his fingers in circles around Avery’s knees. He had only been back a week.
After a two years of investing his heart entirely into his two most skilled “assistants” and closest friends, Alex was convinced he was a dolt. He should retire them. At least Avery had persuaded Dillon to become Alex’s personal body guard, so Alex no longer had to say goodbye to both Avery and Dillon. But Alex wasn’t complete without Avery. And Avery… Avery didn’t seem to desire retirement.
“Watersmeet is miserable this time of year,” Avery said, in that distracted way of his the meant his thoughts were far away.
“All the reason for you to tell your boss to go to hell and quit.”
“He might hang me for treason.”
“I assure you, he would not.”
Avery leaned down and kissed Alex’s temple. When he spoke, Avery’s voice was soft and close to Alex’s ear. “I’ll return before the moon is full again.”
Alex closed his eyes, blocking Avery’s radiant yellow hair out of his peripheral vision. The moon was full just last night. His heart thumped hard and sad. Would this be the trip Avery didn’t return from? Sometimes Alex was convinced Avery would leave his life, leave the country, start over somewhere else. Sometimes—this time— Alex was convinced Avery’s head would be returned to him in a box.
“Stop that. I’ll be back before you realize the time has past.”
Alex sighed and sat up. “Be careful. If you need help—“
“I will send for Dillon.”
“I refuse to say goodbye.” Alex flopped over to his part of the bed, laying down again, and looked out the window.
The mattress moved and Avery curled around him, wrapping him in arms and legs. “Fine.” Avery’s hand glided down Alex’s chest lazily. “But how about a proper good morning?”