The Spymaster of the Empress lives in a world of political intrigue. All the secrets of the empire are his to keep, but Alitus Vivaldi curries favor with no one, except Empress Destoiya. As a Better, an enhanced human, his addictive pheromones mean he can touch no one. He keeps his affair with Wulf secret, because Wulf belongs to another, a powerful man allied with the Empress. When the man asks her to investigate whether Wulf is having an affair, Wulf’s relationship with Alitus could be exposed. Complicating matters, the Empress reveals her immortality. Alitus must prove his loyalty to her by passing a test that will throw him straight into Wulf’s arms, right in front of the Empress and Wulf’s lover. Hiding what they are to each other has taken discipline and denial. Now, it will take a miracle.
This scene takes place in an apartment the two men use for trysts.
Alitus heard the door of the apartment open, and went to greet Wulf. The man let himself in, and locked the door. Before he could turn, Alitus grabbed him, spun Wulf around and dragged him up close. He murmured love words in his ear and then kissed him.
“Whew! I thought something was wrong.” Wulf pushed himself away enough to meet Alitus’s gaze. “When you said it was urgent, I worried.”
“They haven’t told you?”
“Told me what? Who? Something’s wrong. Do they know about us?”
“No. Nothing like that.” Alitus gripped Wulf’s hands. “Come inside. Come in. Sit down.” He led Wulf to a settee, and perched beside him. “I’m going to become Empress Destoiya’s Chosen.”
Wulf went pale. “Chosen? Alitus… You know what she is?”
“Goes with being her Chosen, doesn’t it? And I know about Saint-Cyr and you being his Chosen. They’re Sempervians. Immortals.”
Wulf cursed, and then repeated the word several times.
Alitus couldn’t help but grin. “Stop saying that.”
He repeated it, but then clapped a hand over his mouth. “Sorry. How did you find out about her?”
“I’ve suspected Destoiya of not being human for years.” Alitus reached up and brushed back Wulf’s hair. “Her spymaster sees details no one else can. A few months ago I uncovered a cache of forbidden lore pointing to the existence of immortals, and followed one piece of evidence to another. It wasn’t hard to see the truth once I had the details.”
“You have no idea how bad this is. Both of us being Chosen, I mean.”
“Actually, I do. It means they’ll never let us be together.” Alitus had access to more files than anyone among the Chosen. He had scoured everything he could get his hands on once Destoiya had obtained his promise to serve.
Each Chosen served his or her own Sempervian, and was encouraged to interact with the others to accomplish overall goals. But on a personal level, Chosen could not become lovers. Some did, but only with approval of their Sempervians, and anyone who wanted to marry outside the Chosen had to recruit the lover or leave forever.
His and Wulf’s affair already risked their lives. They served powerful people who shared nothing. Once Alitus had been inducted as a Chosen, his and Wulf’s affair would be even more dangerous. Chosen who broke the command were tried by the Chosen Council, and the penalty was death.
“What are we going to do? ‘Litus, I can’t survive without you.”
“Oh, that’s not the half of it.” Alitus proceeded to explain the test Pietas and Destoiya had demanded to prove loyalty. He had to show he could overcome his fear of sex with a person of his own gender. Little did they know he’d overcome that fear long ago — with Wulf.
“That makes me sick.” Wulf clenched a fist against his stomach. “They have no right to do that to you. No right!”
Alitus smiled. “You’re sweet to think so, but that’s still not the worst of it.”
Wulf’s handsome face screwed up in distaste. “There’s more?”
“She wants to record it so she can prove to Pietas that I’m loyal. She wants me to have sex with someone she can trust, so she asked–”
“No.” Wulf shot to his feet, a hand up for silence. “Do not tell me she chose Luc.”
“Oh but she did.” Alitus stood beside him. “Fortunately, he’s convinced her that wasn’t wise. He’s talked her into putting me with you.”
Wulf looked relieved, but then his face fell. “How are we going to have sex, knowing they can see and hear everything we do, and act like we aren’t already in love?”
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When the Empress asks her trusted spymaster, Alitus, to discover if a friend’s lover is having an affair, the truth could alter age-old alliances and rock the empire to its core. Passion. Submission. Loyalty. A Chosen bares his heart forever.
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