Thorn and Kenneth begin their lives after college, and Thorn has his work cut out for him when he goes to meet Kenneth’s parents. The Victeni are nobility and have no problem putting Thorn in his place—or worse, simply ignoring him.
But Thorn quickly learns that winning over Kenneth’s parents is the least of his worries. Kenneth has been selected to become an Enforcer, and with Thorn as his lifemate, Thorn has as well. To become Enforcers, they have to pass a test, and their examiners are not always straightforward about what they need to pass. Thorn is uncertain about his chances, and even less certain about whether or not he wants to be an Enforcer at all. He loves Kenneth and wants to stay with him, but as the test goes on he becomes worried if being an Enforcer will really let him help his people, or if he will just be seen as a traitor.
Thorn shoveled the last bite of fudge cake into his mouth with effort. As soon as he had swallowed, Lord Victeni stood up.
“Thorn,” he said. Thorn locked eyes with Kenneth and then stood up, too.
“Get your most important belongings and bring them with you,” he announced. “If you are not my son’s lifemate, you will have to leave. Immediately. The rest will be shipped.”
“Father, how dare you!” Kenneth stood up, eyes blazing. “You will not treat him this way!” Lightning arced down his arms, the silverware on the table melting into a puddle. Thorn took a quick breath. He had never seen Kenneth this angry before, and he was glad it was not directed at him.
Lord Victeni took it in stride. “Liliana, take him upstairs so that he may get his things. Kenneth, you will come with me.” He acted as if Kenneth hadn’t said or done anything. Thorn stood frozen, his blood turned to ice.
He trusted in Kenneth. He had to trust Kenneth.
He hated that he had to do that. He may be talentless, but he wasn’t helpless!
“This way, my lord,” Liliana said, appearing at his side. “I will lead you back to your rooms.”
Kenneth met his gaze, and grabbed his hand—his metal hand. “It will be fine, Thorn. I love you. We’ll show him.”
The ice melted. “I know we will,” Thorn said, squeezing Kenneth’s hand in his. “I love you, too.”
“Come now, my lord,” Liliana said. “You must pick your best belongings.”
Thorn let the serving girl lead him out of the hall, looking over his shoulder as Kenneth took off his mantle, striding toward his father. Then the door shut behind him, and he focused on memorizing the path to his room. This might be the last time he walked it.
No. Don’t think that way.
His mind raced as Liliana led him down the hall and up the curving stairs, the path illuminated by a candle the girl held. He almost didn’t want to pack anything, to show Kenneth that he trusted him. Once he got to the room, he stood, staring at his belongings. Kenneth was his lifemate. He didn’t need to pack.
“The Lord will be very angry if you do not bring your best belongings,” Liliana spoke. Something in her tone made Thorn turn.
“What do you mean…”
She had left, the door shutting behind her.
Something was going on. Possibly something bad.
Screw his best belongings. Thorn grabbed his pistol and loaded it quickly, heart suddenly pounding. He tightened the bolts on his artificial arm, increasing the grip strength. Rifling through his suitcase, he pulled out two explosive cartridges. The compressed steam inside would rival a mage’s fireball, and if he got far enough away the explosion would go off and not trip the wards to the person who threw it.
Let’s see what Lord Victeni thought of that.
Thorn stepped outside into the hall. Liliana stood with a candle, and she frowned at him.
“Sorry, my lord,” she said and blew out the candle. The hall was plunged into darkness.
Then it glowed again as a real fireball rolled toward him.