For all those waiting patiently for January 16 — a peek at the opening chapter.
VALOR – PREVIEW
Sevenday 109, Day 6
I am the sum of my ancestors. Gold gown swirling around her ankles, Lilian weaves through the opulent chambers of milord’s club, Order’s Pinnacle. Every Serengeti seigneur and high-ranking associate in the Third System has flocked to the reception, eager to enjoy the first of the series of events celebrating Serengeti’s confirmation as third among the cartels. This is not the first occasion she has attended milord at such an event, but familiarity does not lessen her anxiety. Although she is present as milord’s conservator, she is also his apprentice and Remus Gariten’s tainted offspring. Among so many high-ranking strangers, there is no means to predict who might take offense at her presence.
I am the foundation of my family. None will dare an open insult for fear milord will take it as a challenge. Sly insult and intrigues intended to put her on the wrong side of the apprentice protocol are another matter. She will not have milord embarrassed at a celebration of his commerce triumphs. Discovering Nickolas and Fletcher at the far side of the chamber, she turns toward the protégés. They will accept her company and have proven adept at steering her away from those who would offer insult.
As Lilian joins them, Fletcher waves over a servitor with a tray of wine glasses. Across the chamber, milord is engaged with Seigneurs Marco and Trevelyan. Before she can accept a glass, the tall figure of Mr. Stefan emerges from the crowd.
Honor is my blade and shield. The militiaman’s face is set in fierce lines, but it is his presence that causes her heart to freeze.
Mr. Stefan bends low to her ear. “Your slate sounds an alarm.”
Honor knows not fear. Her slate is within milord’s penthouse on the other side of the tower. Few events could justify such an alarm, and most of those with the authority to send such an alert are at the reception. Raising her eyes to milord’s dark ones, she catches a flash of concern. With a barely perceptible inclination of his head, milord releases her.
Honor endures. Masking her mounting anxiety with a serene expression, she murmurs excuses to Nickolas and Fletcher as Mr. Stefan moves away into the crowd.
Honor acts as duty commands. The thronged stairs are almost impassable; Mr. Stefan’s head disappears near the bottom. Clenching her jaw against frustration, Lilian inches her way to the lower level. Craning her neck, she spies Mr. Stefan standing by the risers, holding a carriage for her. After Fenrir kidnapped her, milord assigned the militiaman as her driver and bodyguard. Tall and broad shouldered, the fierce young man uses an intimidating scowl to prevent many of higher rank from claiming the riser.
I will not fail. Clearing the stairs, she abandons decorum, flying across the foyer and springing into the carriage. Fingering the scarlet conservator’s seal at her waist, she struggles to maintain her demeanor, unwilling to reveal aught to whoever may be waiting at the club entry level. The corridor is empty. She flings herself toward the private riser to milord’s penthouse. In moments, she is within, the frantic slate alarm echoing throughout the expansive chambers. Kicking free of the high heels milord selected to accompany her gown, she races to milord’s bedchamber.
I will not fall. Snatching up her slate, Lilian silences the alarm as she opens the alert.
Five Warriors save me. It is beyond ill. Desperation Refinery is burning.
Haven’t started the Twelve Systems Chronicles? The Cartel: The Apprentice, Volume 1 is free.