Poison Study Page 98

“Nice work,” the Commander said. “You helped me rediscover my true self, killing off my demons.” He took my hand and pressed it to his lips.

The wintry scene melted, and I found myself back on the bed, looking into the Commander’s powerful eyes.

That night, Valek and I briefed the Commander on all that had happened since the Generals’ brandy meeting. Valek had Brazell interrogated, and discovered that Brazell and Mogkan had been planning a coup for the past ten years.

“Brazell told me that Mogkan showed up at his manor with a group of children,” Valek said. “He was looking for a place to hide and he struck a deal with Brazell to help Brazell become the next Commander. Once Mogkan achieved enough power to reach your mind from MD-5, they started feeding you Criollo, Sir.”

“What about the factory?” the Commander asked.

“We have halted production,” Valek said.

“Good. Salvage what equipment you can, then burn the factory and any Criollo to the ground.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Anything else?”

“One more interesting item. Brazell said that once he and Mogkan had control of Ixia, they planned to take over Sitia.”

The next day the Commander held court with Valek standing at his right side. Brazell was brought before him to face charges. As expected, Brazell was stripped of his rank and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in the Commander’s dungeon.

Permitted a few last words, Brazell shouted, “You fools. Your Commander’s a deceiver. You’ve been lied to for years! The Commander’s really a woman dressed as a man!”

Silence blanketed the room, but the Commander’s neutral expression never faltered. Soon laughter echoed off the stone walls. Brazell was hauled away amid cheers and jeers. Who would believe the ravings of a madman? Obviously, no one.

I thought about their jeers. They laughed not because the idea of a woman in power was so ridiculous, but because Commander Ambrose had a powerful presence. His frank and abrupt dealings were so honest and forthright that the thought of him deceiving anyone was laughable. And due to his beliefs and convictions about himself, even though I knew the truth, I could not think of him in any other way.

Later in the day, I went to visit the orphanage. I found May in the dormitory. This time, happy memories followed me as I walked through the rooms used by the orphans. When she saw me, May bounced off the bed and wrapped herself around me.

“Yelena, I thought I would never see you again,” she gushed.

I squeezed her tight. When she pulled back, I smiled to see her crooked skirt and messy ponytail. As I braided her hair, May chattered about what had happened since I had left. Her excitement faded when she talked about Carra. And it was then that I could see how much she had grown.

When I finished her hair, she said, “We’re going with you to Sitia!” May spun in a circle, unable to remain still. She waved toward a suitcase on the floor.


“That lady from the south told us that she would take us home. To find our families!”

A brief pang clenched my heart. Family had a different meaning to me. Valek, Ari and Janco felt like my family, and even Maren seemed like a grumpy older sister.

“That’s wonderful,” I said to May, trying to match her enthusiasm.

May stopped her dance for a moment. “There are so few of us left,” she said in a sedate voice.

“Valek will make sure Carra and the others are taken good care of.”

“Valek! He’s so handsome.” May laughed, and was so delightful I couldn’t resist hugging her again.

Janco, on the other hand, greeted me with a gloomy face when I stopped to say goodbye. Irys, anxious to head south, wanted to be on the road in the morning.

Ari had taken over my role of nurse, and was sitting next to Janco.

“Whatever happened to ‘Sieges weathered, fight together, friends forever’?” I asked him, quoting his message on my switchblade.

Janco’s eyes lit up. “You little fox. Figured it out already, have you?”

I smirked.

“As soon as Janco’s better, we’re coming south,” Ari said.

“And what would you do there?” I asked.

“Work on our tans,” Janco said, smiling. “I could use a vacation.”

“Protect you,” Ari said.

“I don’t need protection in the south,” I said. “And I seem to remember that not long ago, I bested two of my instructors.”

“She’s cocky already.” Janco sighed. “We can’t go with her now, she’ll be swaggering and boasting and generally obnoxious. It’s bad enough I have to deal with that from Ari, I could never handle two.”

“Besides,” I said, “you’ll be bored.”

Ari grumped and crossed his massive arms, looking sour. “First sign of trouble, you send us a message and we’ll be there. You got that?” Ari asked.

“Yes, sir,” I said. “Don’t worry about me, Ari. I’ll be fine. And, I’ll be back.”

“You’d better,” Janco said. “I want a rematch.”

But I had spoken too soon about returning. Valek, Irys and I had discussed my future, but the Commander seemed to have other plans. Commander Ambrose called for a formal meeting that evening. With just Valek, Ari and Irys in attendance in Brazell’s old office, the Commander agreed to honor the trade treaty, even though it had been enacted under Mogkan’s influence. Then he told me my fate.

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies