The Prince's Mate
Copyright © 2017 by Hayden West
“Are you sure you want to go ahead and do this, Zach?”
The question came from the corner of the room and Zachary Adan glanced over his shoulder to his best friend in the world, Danny Neal.
With a shrug of his shoulders, he continued packing his bag. “Why wouldn’t I? I love snowboarding and this resort has been on my list of ‘to do’ items for a while now. Or rather, places to go. I have the chance to go and snowboard. I don’t know how you view that but for me it’s a win-win. All the way around. Plus, I get to knock Alaska off my list of places that I’ve visited.”
Danny shoved a hand through his dark hair. “Are you sure it’s safe?”
Zach sighed and zipped the bag closed. “I’m not going to be walking around there as if I were Lola and just strolled off the stage from a production of Kinky Boots. Hell, you wouldn’t even know I’m gay if I hadn’t sat you down and told you. I don’t have a sign that broadcasts it and I’m fairly certain they have gay people up in Alaska. I’ll be fine.”
Danny’s expression was nothing but concern. “I know, but I’m allowed to worry, right?”
He chucked his bag at Danny who caught it with a grunt. “Worry all you want. You’re family.”
It was true. He and Danny had grown up together on the playground and when his parents had passed, it had been Danny’s family who’d taken Zach in and raised him as one of their own. Given him a room and had included him in everything they’d done.
“Isn’t that my line for you?” Danny got up and shook his head. “You know this is going to really upset Gemma.”
“She’ll be fine, I’m nothing more than a crush.” He grabbed his jacket from the closet and shoved into it.
“She’s been so careful to make sure she doesn’t call you her blood brother. She is in love with you and finding this out is going to suck for her.”
“I’m her brother, always have been and I always will be. She’ll get over it and be fine. Knowing Gemma, she’ll find it cool that I’m gay. And want to show me off as her gay brother.”
Danny laughed. “That’s true. Are you telling Mom and Dad?”
“When I get back. Right now, I have to get someone to take me to the airport or I’m going to miss my flight.”
“I already loaded your snowboard, so we’re just waiting on you.”
“Let’s go then.”
He followed Danny out to the waiting jacked up Jeep and hopped into the passenger side as his brother tossed the bag in the backseat and claimed a position behind the wheel.
“Okay, since you want to go to Alaska instead of sunning yourself on a beach in Jamaica, fine.” Danny moved away from the house and got them on the road.
During the drive to the Bangor International Airport, they laughed and joked about past adventures. Once there, he got his snowboard checked in, and took his bag inside so he could get to his gate with a farewell wave to Danny.
He took his seat and looked up when a slender older woman stood there.
“Do you mind if we switch seats? I always prefer the window so I can stare out at the landscape.”
“No problem, ma’am,” he said standing and edging out so she could get over there.
“Thank you.” She sat and got buckled in as he did the same.
Silence fell as the rest of the people boarded. She pulled out a blanket from her bag and draped it over her legs then rested her head against the window.
He shook his head and pulled out the magazine before flipping through it. There was around a twenty-hour flight ahead of him.
Ski Resort, Alaska
Zach stood at the window of his room and stared out at the impressive view. The ride from the airport had been between forty-five minutes to an hour and it was along the stunning coastline.
Phone in hand he called Danny.
“How’s it looking up there in the cold?” Danny answered.
“Fucking beautiful. I can’t wait to get out and hit the slopes. I mean hell, I can take a helicopter or a cat to hit some of these waiting slopes. This place has a vertical drop of about twenty-five hundred feet.”
“You sound as excited as I do when I’m about to hit the beach.”
“You’re just a pussy when it comes to skiing which is shameful considering where we grew up.”
“That’s just it. I’ve had enough snow to last me a lifetime, I sure as hell ain’t trotting off to spend money on some ski resort vacation. That’s not a vacation. Naked bodies and bikinis are a vacation. Not snow and layers of clothing.”
“This is why I didn’t invite you along.”
Danny laughed. “Have fun.” He ended the call.
Zach tossed his phone to the chair near him and sighed as he propped a shoulder against the window. What to do first?
Decision made, he swiped his phone, ensuring to have his wallet, and began his way down to the Aurora Borealis Bar & Grill for a drink and something to eat. He strode in and found a place to sit in the tall bar chair, picking a side where no one else was. The television was on but he didn’t pay it any attention. Right now, he just needed to settle in.
“What can I get for you?”
Zach looked up and smiled at the woman standing there. “Moscow Mule, please.”
“Sure thing. Anything to eat while we’re at it?”
“Some fries would be great, please.”
“Coming right up.” A warm smile and she was off to make his order.
He glanced around and took in the few people in the area. There weren’t that many, although he figured that was because they were out skiing. He’d arrived too late in the day to get in a good run and just figured he’d wait until tomorrow.
“Here you go,” she said, putting down the mug before him with the lime wedge on the rim. “Fries are going to be up soon.”
“No problem, hon.” She walked away and returned a bit later with a wire basket of piping hot fries. “Here we go.”
As the mouthwatering smell hit his nose, he bit back a groan, suddenly reminded of how little he’d eaten on the plane. “These look fantastic, thank you.”
“No problem. Holler if you need anything else.” She walked off again, her pants hugging the firm curve of her ass.
Now, he was an ass man and if he were interested in women that way, she would definitely turn his head. Instead, he put his attention on the fries and began indulging. I’m definitely going to have to get in some exercise tomorrow or this is going to sit poorly on me.
Zach worried he would balloon up as he’d done in school, so he was fastidious about his exercising and eating right—for the most part, he did allow for indulgences occasionally. And this was one of those times.
He enjoyed his food and drink and had just finished when a man sat down beside him and waved for a drink of his own.
Slanting his gaze to the right, he did a quick appraisal of the newcomer. Tall, broad-shouldered, and bearded. A dark stocking cap sat on his head, hiding his hair. Their eyes locked and the man lifted his chin in silent greeting. Zach mimicked it and went back to minding his own business.
Even so, he couldn’t deny the thrill that skipped through him at that visual connection. He had something about him. Wild and untamed. Whatever it was, Zach’s body approved wholeheartedly.
“Hi, Chase,” the woman said when she reappeared, slipping a bottle of beer before him. “Thought you weren’t going to be back for a while.”
“Trip was cut short so I came home. Decided to stop off here for a bit and get some rest before it all starts again.”
Christ, that deep voice was a killer. Zach’s stomach knotted up and he desperately wanted to lean over and rub against this man like a cat and see if they would purr together. Maybe Danny was right and I shouldn’t have come here.
“Well, whatever reason you’re back, I’m glad to see you. It’s always so dull around here when you’re gone.”
His laughter wasn’t any easier on Zach’s cock that thickened and pushed desperately against the jeans confining it.
“Good to see you too, Lia. Just put it on my tab, will you?”
“Always.” She placed her blue gaze on Zach. “Need a refill or anything else, hon?”
No way he was about to leave right now, not with this man so close to him he could smell the hint of his soap. Another scent that played havoc on his senses. “Cheeseburger, please.”
“Sure thing. Coming right up.” She walked away to put in the order.
The man beside him angled a bit more in the chair. “You here on vacation? Definitely not a local, so maybe business related?”
Zach was seriously going to come in his pants from the voice alone. “I am on vacation, not anything business in there at all. And I’ve always wanted to come to Alaska.” He faced the man at his side and took in the broad shoulders well aware of how they tapered down into a lean waist.
“Well, it’s a great place. You a skier or snowboarder?”
“Snowboarder.” He angled a bit toward the man and held out his hand. “Name’s Zach.”
He reached out and shook Zach’s hand. Fire. That was the easiest way Zach could explain what he felt. Intense, hot fire that surrounded him instantly. As if he’d just been branded.
Zach liked it.