The window to Nate’s left shattered.
Shit. Nate hit the ground, landing flat on his stomach. A white polo ball rolled across the wood floor and onto the rug, coming to a stop inches in front of Nate’s face. What the…? He picked up the ball, got to his feet, and crossed to the broken window.
“Hello there.” A young man with wide shoulders and a friendly smile waved from atop a sorrel horse. “Sorry about that. I didn’t hit you, did I?”
Nate shook his head. “No, you didn’t hit me.” He held up the ball. “Would you like this back?”
“Yes, please. Are you the visiting lord?” the horseman asked.
Nate tossed the ball out. “Yes, I’m Deverell. Nice to make your acquaintance…?” He raised his brows in question.
“Prince Colton. Nice to meet you, Deverell.”
“Your Royal Highness.” Nate bowed.
Colton tipped his head and heeled his mount off toward the ball.
Colton? The second-to-youngest prince. Judging from the looks of him and the similarity to the other two gentlemen, they were probably siblings. Good galaxy, the royal family was a handful. He was starting to get a suspicion as to why Jeffers was shut down.
As he stepped away from the window, a rustling sound made Nate stop midstride. Leaves rained down, and a grunt came from above. “Bloody black hole and imploding stars,” a soft masculine voice hissed.
Way up in the tree closest to the window, a boy balanced precariously on a thin tree limb, reaching toward a flat computer screen of some sort that had snagged on an adjacent branch. At his unbalanced angle, a fall seemed imminent. Likely a shout to be careful would bring the teen plummeting to the ground, so Nate raced to a set of french doors on his left. Just as he reached the base of the tree, a loud snap sounded.
“Whoa.” The boy wobbled and fell against the limb holding the computer, shaking the device loose. “Dust!” The flat-screen clipped one bough and plummeted through the branches, knocking down more leaves.
Nate caught it before it hit the ground.
The young man gasped, his gaze meeting Nate’s. The boy—no, that wasn’t right; he was young, yes, but not a lad—was absolutely gorgeous, with mesmerizing big eyes. He had a small frame, which had at first deceived Nate into thinking him a child, and a mass of ebony curls.
Catching his bottom lip between his teeth, the young man furrowed his brow. “Uh, thanks. I, uh—whoa.” His booted feet slid off the tree, leaving him dangling from his hands ten feet in the air.
Nate set the computer screen down and held his arms out. “I’ve got you. Drop.”
“Okay. Please don’t miss.” The man let go with a reluctant whimper, and his negligible weight landed in Nate’s outstretched arms.
Nate bent his knees slightly to keep from jarring the young man and stared at the handsome face. His gut clenched, and his heart pounded against his rib cage. Up close the man’s eyes were the color of molten steel. He had flawless ivory skin and full lips. He was slim and not very tall, but he had broad shoulders that spoke of nice muscles under the well-tailored clothes. What Nate wouldn’t give to see this slim body completely bare of clothing. Damn, he was losing it. He was here on a mission, not to get involved, and besides, this was most likely his hosts’ offspring. Closing his eyes, Nate concentrated on getting his pulse back to normal.
Unfortunately he opened his eyes in time to see a pink tongue dart out to wet the beguiling lips, and his body completely ignored his brain’s warning. Nate’s cock began to harden, straining against the placket of his trousers.
The man’s gaze roamed over Nate’s face, and long elegant fingers came up to trace Nate’s beard. “Who are you?” he asked in a seductive whisper.
The caress tickled, sending heat pulsing through Nate. He could not remember ever being so entranced. They were so close, almost close enough to—
The man jerked, nearly spilling himself out of Nate’s arms.
Bloody hell! Nate had leaned forward. What the devil was he thinking? Obviously he wasn’t thinking. Nate set the young man on his feet with an apology on his lips, but the man started straightening his waistcoat. He brushed off his trousers, drawing attention to the bulge there.
Good, he wasn’t unaffected, just surprised. Not, of course, that it mattered. Nate wasn’t interested. Yeah, right. He bowed. “Nathaniel Hawkins, Earl of Deverell.”
The young man’s gray eyes widened, then lowered. He hastily tried to hide his obvious erection by clasping his hands in front of him. After searching the ground, he picked up the screen, held it in front of his groin, then met Nate’s gaze. He inhaled sharply, then blinked and shook his head as if to clear it. “Thank you for rescuing me. I, uh, got my screen caught on the way up.”
“What in stars happened to the window? Aiden?” a voice asked from behind them.
Aiden. The name fit him. Nate swiveled around to find an older version of the young man, standing at the window. He cleared his throat, about to answer, when he was interrupted.
“I didn’t do it, Cony. I was trying to get a different perspective on the garden.” Aiden frowned and darted his gaze to Nate, then gave a barely perceptible shake of his head. “Thank you again.”
“I….” Nate stood there flabbergasted as Aiden bounded off toward the back of the castle. How odd. Apparently, the imp didn’t want Nate to mention his fall from the tree. Or did he not want Nate to mention who broke the window?
Nate dragged his attention from Aiden’s retreating backside and turned toward the window. “Your Majesty, King-Consort Raleigh?”
Raleigh smiled. “Yes, please come inside. You wouldn’t happen to know what happened to the window, would you?”