Alice has walked through halls of power at the sides of some of the most powerful men and women in the Nyal Imperium. Her position as a Companion puts her in places she never imagined, including a world that is being evacuated so it can give itself a facelift.
Her client wills her a house, fortune and title on his home world, which means that the moment he passes away, she is in deep.
Going to the Oefric for judgement, Alice finds her accounts frozen pending further investigation, and she has to run for her life as her husband’s family puts a hit out on her.
Kadenz wanted to retire, but when the judge sends Alice to him as housekeeper, he is fascinated by her grace, her poise and her ability to stab him in the ass with a fork.
“We have landed outside your home, Ambassador.”
He chuckled and the light flickered, indicating the opening of the tube. “Ambassador no more. Now I am merely Hecor Horilian. Call me Hecor, Alice.”
She waited until she heard his footfalls on the deck plates before she got up from the pilot’s station. He always felt vulnerable at having to hide in the soft embrace of the sealed gel beds, so she left him alone until he was up and moving around.
Alice picked up their luggage and set it next to the exterior hatch. She would come back to the shuttle and bring it in in the night. The ambassador hated folks to see her carrying his things, but he didn’t trust anyone else with them.
She opened the hatch, and he offered his arm. She let her hand rest lightly on his forearm and stepped out into the crowd that had gathered to welcome him home.
The bird people of the Kalian colony were happy to greet him and welcome him for his last days.
“This is ridiculous.” Alice paced back and forth next to Hecor’s bed.
“It is done.”
She blinked away tears. “I don’t want it to be done.”
He patted the side of his bed. “Come and sit. You make me nervous when you clomp around.”
Alice settled on his bed, and he reached out to take her hand. She held his delicate digits gingerly. He looked nearly human but incredibly long and lean. He weighed less than a quarter of her own form but was a foot taller. His cheeks had hollowed since they arrived and his hair whitened. He was beginning to look every day of his four hundred years.
“I have wed you, Alice. In Dyango records, you and I are soul mates, bonded mates. I have made no mention of consummation, nor shall you. You will inherit a good stipend and this house. I hope that you will stay on Dyango. It is a good world and you need a home, Alice.”
He released her hand and stroked her cheek lightly.
His grandson Corion chose that moment to arrive.
Hecor looked to Corion. “You have taken your time.”
Alice blinked at the harsh tone.
“I was told that you had wed your Companion, and I wanted to see for myself.” Corion looked at Alice with distaste.
Hecor stroked her cheek again. “You are seeing it. Alice has been much more than my Companion, and if I could do one thing, it would be to make an honest woman out of her.”
She smiled and blinked away tears. “I am always honest, Hecor.”
“I know, but you need the protection that my name will give you, and so I have given it. It was the least I could do for your faultless assistance.”
Corion spluttered. “You made her a duchess because she worked as your assistant?”
Alice frowned at Hecor, “Duchess?”
He shrugged weakly. “It went with the house. Besides, Alice Pinkerton Horilian, Duchess of Kalian, has a nice sound to it. You know how I love sounds.”
She teared up again and took the hint, humming softly to him in a Nyal lullaby.
He nodded off, and Corion looked like he wanted to continue the fight.
Alice rose to her feet, tucked Hecor’s hand under the covers and she left the room.
Corion followed her, seething.
The moment they were out in the hall with the door closed behind them, he grabbed her arm. “What do you think you are doing?”
“I am tending to my friend as he dies.”
“You manipulated him into marrying you.”
She scowled. “I did not. He told me about it today. When did he do it by the way?”
Corion blinked, “Last week. I just got the news today.”
“Well then, he will be gone soon and you can press to have the agreement dissolved. I will return to the stars and you can squat here like a toad.”
She jerked her arm free of his grip and returned to Hecor’s side. She would remain on Dyango as long as he needed her. There was no home for her here.