Prologue ~

He rolled to his left and sat half up on his elbow, and looked as usual to the horizon. A million miles away it seemed the blue of the ocean faded right into the blue of the sky and he was in paradise, he knew. Beside him, slowly adding more color to her already deep tan his bride lay dozing in the bright Bottle sun.

Every day was like the one before.

Every day was bright with an early morning breeze that took the heat off ones body and made it wisp away.

Every day it was a clear blue sky in the morning, then by late afternoon, there were always some clouds and the heat was somewhat mellowed out as the occasional cloud went over.

Being the owners of this resort, he knew, meant that all he had to do was to clear his throat, and their casita AI would immediately call a steward who’d trot out to the edge of the pool to take a drink order. Or a snack order. Or just about anything he could ask for, he knew.

He’d asked Helena once, if he could order the steward to kill the cook—and immediately he’d turned white and had choked back his grief. Having lost a friend like the Duke just a month ago and the Master Adept as well, he realized that his attempt at humor was not something that he countenanced at all. Helena had cuddled him and smiled at him and calmed him and they’d gone back to tanning in the sun.

On Bottle, all he had to do was to recuperate. His chest still showed the scars of the gunshot wound and the robo-doc surgery that had saved his life. As brand new scars often do not tan so well, his chest did look odd, he knew. But that was to be expected, his physiotherapist that came to see him still every other day told him as he did the exercises that were supposed to help.

He thought that they did help a bit, as he leaned on his left elbow and stretched a little to test the newly grown sternum and it’s musculature. No pain anymore, which was good. Maybe it was time to have physio say only once a week, he wondered.

He lay back down and closing his eyes, he wondered for the millionth time today, what Gia was doing. She was still being held on Neres in the same jail as he’d been kept in a few years back. She had no rights as far as a citizen of the RIM Confederacy, as she was obviously guilty of killing two people—the Issian Master Adept and the Duke d’Avigdor—both his friends. He wondered what she thought she was doing when she’d come to his wedding to kill him. He wondered why she couldn’t accept that he had not killed their sister Nora—not even by accident as the Branton Tribunal had found him innocent.

He wondered too, what he was going to do with her. The Baroness had told him when he and his bride had left for their somewhat delayed honeymoon on Bottle, that she would hold Gia till he returned and he would decide her fate.

He rubbed his chest and felt the still rough scar edges and he wondered too…