Natanael gazed up at her with a fierce male pride that punched Thane in the gut. He was a Guerrero through and through.
When his little mouth geared up for the next zealous outpouring, he stalled—his attention seemingly snagged on Thane.
His insides turned over and he wondered if this was what it felt like to be nervous.
Natanael gaped at him with steady unblinking eyes, scrutinising the scar on his chin as if he couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing. Then he looked up at Luciana, and then back to Thane, his tiny mind processing.
It was utterly fascinating, Thane decided. And—for want of a better word—nerve-racking. Dios, he felt ill.
Then, as if Natanael had finally accepted Thane was real, he exclaimed, ‘Wow! He looks like me. But a whole lot bigger. Do you fly?’
‘Si…actually, I do. I am a pilot and I have my own fighter jet.’
‘I knew it,’ said Natanael, unequivocally awed. ‘You’re one of the New Warriors. Did you just come down from InterGalactica?’
Thane blinked. ‘Is this in Europe?’
‘No, silly. It’s in outer space.’ With a smile and a nod he gave Thane a knowing look. Then he tried for a wink that scrunched up his entire face as he whispered, conspirator-like, ‘You know it is.’
Luciana lightly cleared her throat. ‘He’s into…er…superheroes. Like Batman and Ironman…that kind of thing. And one of them looks uncannily like you. And him too.’
Thane supposed he could live with that. Although what would happen when Natanael asked him to actually fly? He was far too small to go in his military jet.
He hunkered down until they were at eye level and commanded himself to relax, to think of something to say.
‘Actually, I am a warrior of a kind. I’m the Prince of Galancia and I live here, and I was hoping you would come and live with me too.’
It occurred to him that they’d have to have the ‘I’m your daddy’ conversation—but, frankly, that petrified him. Plus, he wasn’t keen on Garcia being within hearing distance for that. Right now all he wanted was for his son to agree to stay.
Natanael huddled into Luciana, a spark of panic blanching his beautiful face, and Thane realised a second too late his mistake.
He cursed inwardly. Of course he would panic. The love he could feel between them was palpable. ‘Yes. Of course. Absolutely. Mamá too.’
Luciana nodded and achieved the perfect smile—though to Thane it verged on brittle, and made him ache even more.
Natanael peered around him, unconvinced. His nose was scrunched, as if he wasn’t overly impressed with the tree-lined driveway or the kaleidoscope of manicured blooms flourishing in the borders. Granted, the mansion looked like a one-storey cottage from the top of the cliff. The towering five-floor vista from the beach was far more dramatic and arresting. Though perhaps not for a child.
Thane scratched his jaw. Stumped. Then intuitively he glanced at Luciana. Who, in turn, mouthed a word at him.
He frowned, striving to catch her meaning. What the hell was she saying? ‘Dog?’ he asked.
‘Dog?’ Natanael said, perking up. ‘You have a dog? Really?’
Ah. This, Thane realised, was of great importance. ‘Si. Lots of dogs. And horses too.’
‘You have horses?’ Dark eyes, the precise shade of Thane’s own, grew huge and glittery with excitement.
He didn’t seem afraid, so hesitantly Thane reached out and touched the soft caramel skin of his cheek. The astonishing surge of connection rocked him to the core. Phenomenal. His little boy was the most miraculous thing he’d ever touched. Just like his mother, Thane thought, with a wrenching tug on his guts.
‘Many, many horses. You can have your very own. But they don’t live here… Yet,’ he added hastily, thinking he could easily build a stable for a few. Dozen.
Natanael jumped up and down on the spot. ‘I can have my own horse, Mamá! Can we go and see the dogs? Right now? Can we? Can we?’
Relief poured down Thane’s spine. Victory. This was good. He could kiss Luciana for that dog hint. Though he quickly squashed the impulse.
‘I think so. Thane, are they downstairs?’
As if she’d experienced the same kind of bone-melting sense of appeasement he just had, she made a clumsy effort at rising to her feet and Thane bolted forward, curled his fingers around her tight waist and lifted her upright.