It all comes down to this. The truth about what started the war between the Imarian and Craegin is coming out, along with the fact that there is one true royal left. One man to rule them all.
Markus Rothschild wants to live a simple, quiet life but when faced with the truth of what’s happening in his world, he knows he has no choice but to take his rightful place.
Paisley Ralston is a woman who loves teaching small children. She’s never even held a weapon, let alone fired one. Playing bodyguard to the royal heir is the last thing she expected to do. But when Markus’s security team is sabotaged, she may be his only hope.
Paisley didn’t realize that meeting Markus meant finding her mate. Hidden in a special bunker, Paisley and Markus will test their limits and prepare for what’s coming. Together they will come out stronger, bonded, and ready to face both galaxies.
She looked at her mother and frowned. She couldn’t have heard the woman correctly. Paisley wasn’t a militant; she wasn’t a protector. For the love of all the saints, she was a teacher for young children.
The marshal looked at Paisley with a frown, then sighed. “Because you are about the one and only person that I will trust to be around him right now, and since you know where the safe house is I will leave you to take him. It’s too dangerous right now for him to remain on his ship with Fintan.”
“Wait, you mean, The General?” There was awe in Paisley’s voice and she knew it but she had seen what the man had gone through for his mate. He was the only reason that Paisley believed in love once more. It was the reason why, with her mother’s help, she’d broken the arranged marriage and begun to live for herself and not for what she should do.
“He’ll be arriving soon with several guards. You are all going to the bunker. The guards will take the outer shelter, and you and Markus will take the inner sanctuary.”
The inner sanctuary was a place that none could enter if they weren’t of the Ralston family. It literally took living blood and a tie to the blood and heartbeat of a Ralston to keep the air actually on in that sanctuary. It would be either a haven or a tomb depending on if people knew it or not.
“And what about you, Mother? You’ve kept a low profile while they sorted out the issues that were evidently in your offices.”
“This is very true and it’s past time for me to get back to what it is that I do. Besides, this way I know that you will be safe as will Markus.”
“You could always go into the shelter with him instead of me,” Paisley pointed out.
“No, because they would use you to get to me. You are my one weakness, Paisley.”
Paisley moved and gave her mother a hug. “There are not many that know of me, Mother. You’d probably be safe, you know, and so would I.”
“No, there is too much to be done.”
“No buts, Paisley. This is an order. You are to keep him safe.”
Paisley bowed her head and nodded. “As you say. Just remember I don’t know how to fight.”
“You don’t, but he does.” Her mother gave her another hug, then pushed her toward where the family bunker was. It was something that no one and nothing could get into. Even if the world exploded, the bunker would eject into space and hook up with a waiting ship that would become their own private spaceship. It had been designed with the ultimate of protections in mind. Her great-grandfather had designed it and it had kept her mother safe when this war began to truly heat up as it had in the last several months.
“I trust you,” Paisley told her mother. She took a deep breath and smiled. “I’ll go pack.”
“Your things are already in the bunker. I had my assistant go to your home and empty your closets and drawers, and I personally put everything into the bunker. It’s fully stocked with food for the two of you for as long as you might need to be in there as well as the machines to recreate foods if you wanted or needed it. I doubt that much time will be needed, but just in case.”
“A career military man,” Paisley mused. “And how does he feel about having to hide?” she asked with a knowing grin. She knew the type.
“About like what you think he’s feeling,” the marshal stated with a laugh. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Fin had to tranquilize him to bring him in. Now, go.”
And just like that Paisley was summarily assigned a duty that she had no business taking care of. She wasn’t a fighter and never had been. She was soft, short, and more than a little pudgy. Paisley was not anything that anyone really would ever look a second time at.
“No, not happening.”
His commanding officer gave him a look that would have made Markus squirm when he’d first stepped on board the cruiser. Now it only had him digging his heels in further. “You know that it is not even an option, Markus. For your safety, and for the future of both our races, we need to make sure you remain alive until the general public is made aware of everything.”
He hated when Fintan Daykin made complete sense. The man already thought too highly of his logic for his own good.
Yes, Markus was important, but to his thinking, he was no more important than any other Craegin. Or Imarian, if he wanted to get technical. He was, after all, a byproduct from both races, although the Imarian in his blood was definitely diluted.
Growling under his breath about his stubborn commander, Markus shoved a hand through his short, dark mahogany hair and paced around the office. Fintan held his tongue for once, a blessing and a curse all at the same time.
Markus wouldn’t be in this situation where he was being ordered by not only Fintan but by the marshal of the Craegin people to go into hiding for his safety if not for a wedding most Craegin and Imarian people did not know occurred.
If not for the fact the entire crew aboard the cruiser he was currently on would also be in danger, he wouldn’t even consider leaving. But he could not willingly and knowingly put others in danger because he was stubborn. Yes, he was stubborn, but he was not stupid. And while it grated severely on his nerves to admit it, Fintan and the marshal were correct. Not only were there factions on the Craegin home world who wanted him dead and buried where no one could dig him up, but there was the entire ruling body of Imara to take into account. They likely had spies in place on his home world and moon outposts, hoping to get a shot at him.
Markus stopped near the vid monitor in Fintan’s office, which showed the view from space of the outpost planet they were currently orbiting. Most folks down there didn’t have a clue about the ticking time bomb floating in space above their heads. The wars that were held in the ships in space sometimes pelted down upon the heads of those on the planets below, something they tried hard not to allow happen. Never had he hated knowing about his heritage more than he did right then.
“It’s not my call, and it’s definitely not yours. You will have a watcher, but I’ve been assured by the marshal that this individual will follow your orders to the letter unless they are a direct threat to your own life. I cannot, nor would I, change that.” Fintan pushed up from his chair to come stand by his side. “I know that your heritage weighs heavily on you. I wish I could carry the burden with you, my friend. But I will do whatever is necessary to keep you alive. Once the general public of Craegin and Imara know about you, and your lineage, then you can step from the shadows and into the light.”
Snorting at his words, Markus shot a look over his shoulder to the other man. “That was rather poetic, Fin. Love has changed you more than even I realized. Although I don’t know if this new streak you are showing is for the better.”
Amusement coursed through him for a moment. He knew Fintan was doing it on purpose, and that made Markus appreciate the man’s friendship all the more. But the knowledge that he, Markus Rothschild, was the only living heir to the crowns of both Craegin and Imara… The reason he was the only living heir was tragic, according to many. His parents had both been killed while on a tramp headed for a fundraiser event on a Craegin moon base. They and nine others including the pilots died instantly. Markus had not been with them like he normally would have, because he’d come down with a cold and had been too ill to travel.
It was only one of many questions that haunted him since he had been told he was descended from royalty. The royalty, if he wanted to get technical. Shaking his head mentally to get back on topic, he turned partially to look at Fintan without straining. “Basically, you are telling me I’m stuck with the marshal’s chosen watcher.”
Fin nodded. “Whoever it is will probably be nothing more than a large, silent shadow that lurks in the background while you try to keep from going insane with boredom.”
Right, there was that issue, too. “What exactly am I supposed to do during this unwanted hiatus from my career path? I don’t mind the idea of a couple days of downtime to relax and rest, but being stuck somewhere indefinitely is less appealing.”
“I’m sure we can find something for you to do. You might even be able to finish all those reports I know you have been ignoring.”
Markus plastered on his best innocent face and blinked at his commanding officer. “Reports? Whatever do you mean, General? I always do my reports promptly.”
Fintan’s eyebrows climbed up his forehead at that bold-faced lie. “Right. Do them all up. Wherever you are going will likely have the capability of secure transmissions, so you can send them all back here and I will sign off on them before submitting them. Sadie can make sure there are no electronic tags on any of those files that could potentially lead back to your location.”
Sadie, Colonel Bracken Kauller’s wife and family friend to the Daykins, was a genius with anything electronic. Her doctorate in AI and destroyer programming spoke for itself, but her skills were known across the quadrants even if people did not know her name. “I will make sure all the reports are completed. I make no promises on when I will get them done, though. It will depend on wherever you and the marshal are planning to stash me and this watcher you are saddling me with. My first priority will be security since that is why I am leaving the safety of a Craegin destroyer.”
“You cannot guilt me, Markus. I do this not only for your own good but for the good of two races. All of the Craegins and Imarians need you.”
“What is it?”
“Be expedient handling all this. Be careful, but do not dally. I am not now nor have I ever been one to sit idly by while my friends take the risks pointed toward me.” Markus had always preferred to face whatever came at him head-on, which made having to step aside and allow others to handle things grate on his nerves.
“I’ll do all I can to make sure we all come out of this alive and in a better position. Now go pack your bag and get your reports. The tramp will be here soon to take you to the cargo vessel that will shuttle you to your destination. I know it will not be the most comfortable ride, but no one would ever expect it.”
A few more words were exchanged before Markus left Fintan to his own duties. Heading to his quarters, he mulled everything he knew over in his head yet again. Before he ever got near the symbolic throne he was to take, he was going to drive himself crazy. And that did not even take into account whatever nightmare of a watcher he was being saddled with. He was definitely not looking forward to meeting whoever it might be.
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