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.“What else?”His eyes shot to her.“How much do you need?”“No, Ty,” Ericca said, picking up a porcelain figurine to examine.“Nothing like that.I just wanted to give you a heads up.”“If you’re referring to this Prov – Confed battle overhead, I have men already on it.”“That.in part.But do you know where the Prov fleet is going?”“Not really.”She turned to face him.“Well, let me tell you.” But right then her mind tripped, and nearly went blank.Being near the man, hearing his voice, touching him and being touched by him made it nearly impossible for her to stay focused.Nearly.But she jerked her thoughts back to reality.“I’m listening.”“They’re on their way to make you tons of money.An inside word will make the right man rich beyond measure.In your case, just a tad richer than you already are.”“Seriously?”“Picture this.A rebel fleet twenty-two ships strong takes on a Confed taskforce twice that size.They mix it up a bit.Inject that Prove flotilla who just passed by here.Once they reach their destination a lot of ships are going to clash, all at a known time and place.What is that worth to you?”“Depends on who winds up on top in the end.”“What if I were to say it would be you?”“I’m interested.Keep talking.”She took a step nearer to lean in close to the pirate king.“It doesn’t matter who wins this.It doesn’t matter who comes out on top.In the end they’ll all have beaten each other senseless.Cannons.Shield emitters.Scanners and communications arrays.Countless torpedoes, rockets, not to mention slaves.A smart man with enough ships showing up at the right time could clean up handily.”“Why are you telling me this?”“I want back in.I want a ship of my own.”“Our own,” corrected Archer from the doorway.He had just stepped back in, in time to hear only the tail end of the conversation.“Our own,” Ericca restated.“We want something small, fast, but big enough to carry Viper.Maybe a crewman or two which I’ll provide, myself.Small payment for what we’re about to give you.”“Tawn,” Tyson said softly, “you could have had all that for the asking.Certainly you knew that?”She sighed.“Sure.All I have to do is marry you.”He knit his brow.“Would that have been so bad?”“To be your wife? No.But to be a queen.”“I asked you to marry me.But that was never to make you my queen.You would be my consort.”Her breath caught in her throat, and she felt her face swiftly grow hot.“Consort?” Only he was capable of doing this to her.She looked at Archer.“Can you give us another moment, little brother?”“Sure.No problem.” Archer turned away and stepped out.“Ty,” Ericca said turning back to him, “you can have any woman you want.Why me?”He shrugged.“Do you want to know the real reason? Or shall I concoct a lie?”She chuckled nervously.“I’m almost afraid to ask.”“Of all the people I know there are only a handful I trust with my life, and none of them as much as I do you.If we were to marry I know I wouldn’t end up with a knife in my back; not by your hand anyway.”Ericca’s heart hadn’t slowed.From the first day they met he had this effect on her.There was no denying it.And that’s what scared her most.Unlike his father, King Saundler Blackhart, and despite his chosen vocation, Tyson was kind, gentle, and caring to everyone.Saundler, his father, though, was by far the most vicious man she knew.No one before or since even came close.He had once said that when it came to pirates it was important to couple fear with discipline.The few ambitious men who had tried to overthrow him discovered that fact the hard way.Each and every one of them wound up impaled on a pike outside the wall and raised high as a warning to anyone with similar ideas.“Your consort?” Ericca said, studying his dark brown, nearly black eyes.“Not your queen?”He smiled.“As my consort you’d want for nothing.Isn’t that enough?”Without saying it, he was saying it.She was good enough to frolic with, someone to satisfy his manly needs, but in his eyes Ericca wasn’t Queen material.“Consort?” she said again, feeling the word roll off her tongue.It tasted bitter.“Your every desire would be tended to.You’d have your own honor-guard, and full run of the estate.”“And the village? Will I be able to see my old friends?”“You’re not a prisoner, honey.But the Rusty Dragon is still a rough place.You’ll need your guard with you if you go down there to see Lilia.”“I needed the work.They needed their tables bussed.And at fourteen there was little else I could do.As an employer she wasn’t half bad.”He chuckled.“Employer? Is that what you think she was?”“What? Yes, of course.”“Ericca, she was your owner.I bought you from her for five crowns.Nine for the pair of you.I thought you knew.”This came as a complete shock to Ericca.When Lilia had taken her in, she thought the madam had taken pity on her and Archer.When Tyson and Scuppers came into the restaurant just as two men were about to rape her, she thought it was just happenstance.When Tyson took her and her brother into his home, she saw that as just another kindness.Now she understood.Tyson was there to make a purchase, his timing nothing more than chance.Back then she didn’t want to believe in God, not with the load of crap dumped on her, but seeing all that, even then, in the back of her mind she saw all of this as His handiwork.To discover that to Lilia, she and Archer were nothing more than a means to make more money, a product for sale; that bit.Lilia was so sweet to her, and kind to Archer, Ericca thought she had found a home—brothel notwithstanding—and that she had made a friend.Now, all she wanted to do was run away all over again.Ericca had believed that even as young as she was, she was shrewd and tough.To find out she was that naïve changed everything.She thought she knew better than Jordon Kori.Maybe she knew nothing about nothing after all.“I thought Lilia had found Archer and me a home, and that’s why you came for us.To think that your exchange with her was nothing more than a sale.that hurts.”“Look, that whorehouse was no place for a couple of kids.You had to know from the onset that men there would want to play grab and tickle.So, in a sense, you were rescued, weren’t you? I remember seeing you fighting off those men.You were like a wildcat,” he said recalling that first day.“They might have had their way, eventually.But you certainly seemed determined to make them pay highly for doing so.That one man’s face.” He chuckled.“Murder.”“Like that, did you?”“Synched the sale, actually.”She sighed.“This is a lot to take in, Ty.Can I have time to think about it?”“Sure.Take all the time you need.”“So how’s your father?” Startling herself, she reared back.In Tyson’s company her mind had drawn a blank, defaulting to small talk.“That was stupid.For a moment I forgot.”“He died a day after you left.”“Yes, I heard.Heart-attack, right?”“Poisoned,” he said flatly.“There was no investigation.Everyone felt he was a brute who deserved what he got.”“That’s cold.”He shrugged.“Perhaps.”“Do you know who did it?”He cocked his head quizzically.“Everyone thought you did it.You certainly had motive, the opportunity, and the means.”“I didn’t do it.He scared me, so I ran.But I didn’t kill him.”“I didn’t think you did [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]