Where duty and passion collide.
Ruthless, devious, and ambitious, Lucius Mercio has elevated the Serengeti Group to the third wealthiest cartel in the Twelve Systems, cementing his place among the twelve most powerful members of the ruling warrior class. With Lucius’ rise, his enemies increase in both number and subtlety. Few will dare to attack Lucius directly, instead they will move in secret, targeting the most vulnerable aspects of his empire including his disgraced and reviled apprentice, Lilian.
As Lilian begins the third and final year of her trial by ordeal, she is more determined than ever to survive and repay Lucius’ protection and trust with loyalty and diligence. Expecting only the meager assignments reserved for apprentices, Lilian was stunned to receive the conservatorship of a valuable Vistrite Crevasse—an honor reserved for proven and trusted warriors. When a lethal disaster strikes Desperation Mine and Refinery and imperils Lilian’s conservatorship, hidden adversaries seize the opportunity to plot the downfall of Serengeti.
Honor endures. Lilian fingers the smooth enamel of the conservator’s seal. This disaster is her responsibility. In some distant corner of her mind, she knows it will cost her a year in her bond proof. A day gone, proving her bond was all but a mathematical certainty. In a few bells, it has returned to the grim race to build a tally before her trial completes. It is naught compared to the dead, the injured, the damage to the refinery, and her failure of milord’s trust.
The reviewer goes dark and milord beckons. Squaring her shoulders, she moves to stand before milord, willing her hands at her sides and fingers from the seal milord is about to demand she surrender. Honor acts as duty commands.
Milord frowns. “What do you suspect?”
“Suspect? I—” Adelaide aid me. Focus, lackwit. Pushing past her fear and shame, she manages to reply, “There is a wrongness.”
“A wrongness?” Milord’s eyes sharpen. “Did you have an insight?”
“An insight?” Milord is one of the few who knows of her ability to enter an advanced analytical state. A place where she can discern otherwise invisible patterns. It is a powerful gift, and an erratic one. “No, milord. Not exactly. It was more a flicker. I cannot really explain it.”
His eyes hood and his fingers steeple. “An anomaly. Something not there that should be there or something there that should not be.”
Milord’s words, the familiar gesture, break her free of her self-recrimination. There is something. She cannot quite see it. “With milord’s permission?” She gestures to her slate, abandoned on the sofa when milord arrived.
At his nod, she reaches for the device with trembling fingers. Milord’s hand encircles her free wrist and gives a tug. “Sit.”
Startled, Lilian examines milord’s face, seeking some hint of his purpose. Milord does not act as if he is about to strip her of conservatorship or worse. Milord is not pleased, but there is naught of his terrifying rage. As she watches, his eyes narrow. She is keeping him waiting. Focus.
Desire jolts through Lucius as his lips explore Lilian’s silken, citrusy skin. One kiss. One kiss and then duty. Her lips are soft, her mouth redolent with the green tea she favors. Mastery of passion. He sets Lilian from him. “Correct your disarray and join me at the reviewer. We have little time and there is much you should know.”
Volume 1 of the Twelve Systems Chronicles is Free!
Raised to wealth and power, Lilian’s bright future was destroyed when her father was executed for foul crimes. Her family name is erased, their cartouche melted, their property forfeit. Determined to survive and protect what remains of her family, Lilian becomes the apprentice of a powerful warrior. For three years, he will train her for a position in the Cartels. In return, Lilian will yield him absolute control of her mind and body.
Lucius Mercio is the preeminent warrior of his Cartouche, and the Cartel it dominates; the Serengeti Group. Ruthless, clever and ambitious, Lucius’ wealth, influence, and power are exceeded by few within the Twelve Systems. It is not sufficient. Lucius intends to take his Cartel to unimaginable heights with the aid of Lilian’s brilliance. He faces only one obstacle. Lucius must keep Lilian alive.