Reeda works in the marketplace selling her mother’s scarves. Each one is a custom weave and no two are alike. When her friends at the marketplace need her, she comes running and takes care of business when peacekeepers are too far away.
Each intervention requires her to record her use of her assessment talent with the peacekeepers in order to make sure she isn’t misusing it. When a Citadel recruiter comes calling, she has to negotiate with Reeda’s formidable mother before she will be allowed to leave home.
A nine-foot member of the spider species, l’nal, raised Reeda. Mother has been attentive, protective and an excellent educator. She negotiates the best deal for Reeda and gets her into the Citadel with a tremendous salary and built-in vacations.
Bilro is a Guardian in training on Balen when he meets Reeda, and the moment he takes in the way she studies, he is charmed. When he finds her witty, he is smitten, and when the call summons him to his new post, he is gone.
What are the odds of them meeting again when Reeda goes looking for trouble?
Reeda finished wrapping the l’nal silk scarf for her client and handed the slim box to the young man who wanted to present it to his fiancée.
He was probably no older than she was, but Reeda could not remember ever looking that young.
He left the kiosk, and she perched on her stool, attentive and enjoying the wild push and pull of the marketplace.
The bright banners of silk waved in the morning sun, each strong enough to stop a projectile but light enough to feel like a breath of air against the skin.
Reeda was just reaching for her caf when her wrist alarm went off. She sighed, triggered the force shield around her kiosk and sprinted down toward the jewellery section of the market.
It was a five hundred-metre run, but with the crowds, she had to get creative with the route she took. Reeda nodded to some of the vendors, and she quickly moved behind their stalls, running through the stocking lane where the supply rail was. It was tricky to use the lane, because anyone could call for stock from storage at any time, but Reeda needed to take the risk.
She heard the approaching unit and dodged back into the market a moment before the large storage device whipped past the spot she had previously occupied.
She slowed her pace as she entered the small jewellery store. Everyone was tense with Liimar—the shop owner—fumbling with the lock on a case. A young Selna female was with a young Krigat male, and both of them were tense with a perverse excitement.
Reeda took in the situation, and she moved to see if the tension would break. “Liimar, are you ready for lunch?”
He looked at her with a tense smile. “No. I am afraid not. I don’t have anyone to watch the store for me. I need to get something for these customers.”
“Do you need some help?”
The Selna female looked at her without turning her body and snarled, “Listen, bitch, he doesn’t want to go to lunch with you.”
“I think he does. Get down, Liimar.”
Liimar dropped, and Reeda slipped around to face the couple, noting the nasty burn blaster that the male was carrying and the knife the young woman was holding.
Her vision changed, and she could see the path that his blast would take and where the girl would place the knife. Reeda lunged forward and struck the male’s shoulder, spinning him toward his companion a moment before he pulled the trigger. The girl stabbed him in the abdomen a moment before she ended up with a gaping hole in her chest.
The Krigat coughed in surprise and fell to his knees. The Selna had pierced his blood sack with her knife, and he was bleeding out.
Reeda sighed and put pressure on the wound. “Did you call the peacekeepers?”
Liimar got to his feet. “I did, but they are delayed, as always. They stabbed Malkor, hit him in the head and left him in the back.”
“Can you attend to him?”
“I will. Are you really trying to save his life?”
Reeda looked at his pale-yellow features with surprise. “Of course. How many dead bodies do you want in your shop today?”