The Lion's Heir

By: Lilly Pink

As he cut down toward the bridge and headed up the backroad, he noticed dust in the air. No doubt from Alan’s motorcycle. The older man was notorious on it. Sure enough, there was a shiny Triumph bike parked beside Cameron’s truck. Kyle burned into the driveway and winced when he heard gravel and dirt ping on the under-chassis of the Miata. Just because Cameron owns a giant truck and doesn’t care if he gets a scratch, it doesn’t mean other people aren’t inconvenienced by his bad driveway, he thought.

“Hey, what’s going on?” Kyle shouted up as Alan appeared on the balcony and tossed him down a beer. He snatched it out of the air, and he saw Cameron come out as well. “You’ve got to let me pay to have this driveway paved, man.”

“Alan’s tight lipped as ever. I think we’ll have to beat it out of him if we want to get any answer,” was Cameron’s wry response.

“Like you could,” Alan quipped when they were all inside. “The truth is that I’ve come from Council business. A bore, as you can imagine. But they said something this time which made my ears prick up. You know, of course, that Cedarhaven is more or less a refuge of shifters—we stay out of the major politics. But you also are probably aware of power fluctuations and struggles within the Clans.”

It wasn’t a secret—Kyle was more than aware of them, especially because of his unique position: taking on responsibilities with the business from his father, as well as trying to secretly run some of his own ventures. Like it or not, the wars that are fought these days are usually financial ones, not physical ones, he reflected.

“So?” Cameron shrugged.

“So, the Council has laid an edict. On all three of us. They’re looking for a way to avert war. And their plan, like it or not, involves arranged marriages. It’s been a tradition of theirs for centuries… and it ensures peace among the clans.”

That was true enough. “Even my father’s marriage was planned,” Kyle cut in. “It’s kind of the official stance of the noble houses. Hell, I’m probably slated for an arranged marriage myself some day. Who knows who my father has in mind? You’re lucky though, at least so far as in the both of you will have the freedom to choose.”

Kyle had never really thought about romance in such terms. It would have been hard to call him a playboy, since no one in Cedarhaven was really impressed with money, or with his unique wiles and charms. As a result, he had led a rather boring and chaste life up until then. Alan talking about arranged marriages suddenly brought the issue back to the front of his mind, and he worried at the insinuation.

“Not anymore,” Alan said. “Unfortunately, the edict has been signed to Cedarhaven. They feel this place is as safe as any in case a struggle does break out. Three guesses who the three eligible bachelors are they’ve chosen?”

“What the fuck are you saying?” Cameron said.

Kyle felt a cold sweat hit the back of his neck. The Council decided this?

“Son of a bitch. That’s not fair to you guys,” Kyle countered.

Cameron seemed aghast and left to hunker down over the balcony, his beer still grasped in his hand. Kyle straightened his tie, smoothed his slacks again, and met Alan’s gaze. “There you have it,” Alan quipped, his slim impeccable beard brimming. His eyes were sympathetic, but the fact of the matter was that he was just as embroiled in this as they were.

“Any idea… who the lucky ladies are?” Kyle asked.

Alan smirked and drew an envelope from his coat and tossed one to him and another to Cameron. “Not a lot… but most of the information about them is in there. You have a day to become experts, because after that we’re picking them up at the airport.”

The oldest of them raised his beer again, and it was a sort of ironic and sad salute to their bachelorhood. It still felt unreal. Yes, Kyle had always suspected that this might happen sooner or later, it was just a matter of when. But now that it had happened, it still felt abstract, not quite real. At least I have the benefit of having been preparing for this my whole life, he thought, suddenly feeling sympathy for Cameron and Alan both.

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