Lucius opens his eyes and stares at the red mountains. In his frantic transit across the galaxy to rescue Lilian he gave no thought to what would come after. Even if she did not return his love, he could not lose her. Her value to Serengeti and Bright Star is incalculable. That she loves him fills him with joy but also fear.
Shifting his gaze to the woman slumbering by his side, his heart shudders. She lives, but not without damage. Her feet are confined by healing structures. There is a six-inch curl of white along her left side at the waist from a dagger strike. Does the author of that wound live, Lucius will ensure it is not for long. None will threaten her, not even his kinsman.
Rolling to his back, Lucius evaluates his options. Unless he informs Jurian, none need know that Lilian has penetrated Blooded Dagger’s ancients’ secret. Except for Lucius and the Five Warriors. The solution is simple enough, he must blood oath Lilian. She has proven her loyalty to Lucius, cartouche, cartel, and the order of the Twelve Systems beyond all reasonable measure. Somewhere in the archives, there is a precedent. He will find it.
Rising to an elbow, he considers kissing her awake. Instead, he inventories the minor damage. A small, white seal at her forehead is as the medic found it. A slender red line on her left bicep has lost its scab and will leave no mark. Numerous bruises and a few abrasions scatter across the creamy surface of her skin. It is the severest damage Lucius has viewed since the Inversion Melee.
The notion would disturb Lucius more were he not certain that three days without a shower and the mite infestation troubled his protégé a great deal more than the blade score. Easing from the bed, he leaves her to wake when she will
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