Born of DefianceBy: Sherrilyn Kenyon
“Yes. It’s positively palatial.”
Especially in Eris. No one had homes that big, as a rule. Except royalty.
Or a mighty War Hauk.
“And he doesn’t live there full time?”
“No. He’s an officer in the armada. They require him to live in the barracks. He has a strict curfew and if he misses too many, they’ll strip his rank.”
“And what rank does he hold?” Deputy commander?
That only confused her more. While majors made fairly good pay, they didn’t make enough to afford a twenty-room condo by her school.
He must be royal-blooded. That was the only logical explanation.
“Has he a wife?”
Herun shook his head. “Nor is he pledged to any female. We screened him thoroughly.”
Her head spun at the news. “What’s wrong with him, then?”
“He has no paternal lineage, whatsoever. He’s the bastard son of an Outcast. No one on his father’s side would even adopt him.”
Ouch. No wonder Talyn was willing to pay so much for a companion. There was no other legal way for him to have an Andarion female as part of his life. And to pair himself with an alien female would lower his caste even more.
Which, given how low it already was, would be quite a feat.
It wouldn’t matter how high his rank or how pure his mother’s bloodline. No family would contract their daughter to a male without some paternal lineage. Especially not one whose father was such an Outcast that no one else in his entire family would adopt his son to protect him.
Just what crime had his father committed for his shame to taint his son so thoroughly?
A bastard herself, she knew exactly how harshly Andarions treated children like them. But at least she knew her father’s lineage and he allowed her to count it, even though her parents had never married. While being a half-Vest limited what choices and careers she had open to her, it was nowhere near as bad as being a solid lack-Vest.
Not to mention, she was female and that automatically put her in a better caste than his, since maternal lineages were the higher valued in Andarion society.
Her heart aching for him, she lifted her cowl and returned to her small cell that had been her home since she’d begun her companion training.
She glanced around the small, spartan room.
While her mother hadn’t been thrilled with her choice to do this, she’d understood that it was the only way Felicia could go to her expensive university without crawling to her father for the money.
Or marrying into a family with a matriarch who’d treat her and her mother like sub-sentient creatures – because Felicia was bastard-born.
Her mother had kindly offered to take out loans for her. But Felicia had refused. Her mother’s health had been ailing these last few years, and she didn’t want to stress her mother any more. Nor force her mother into the indignity of being scrutinized by a loaner or marriage broker. Her mother had suffered enough indignities in her life.
Indignities Felicia hadn’t fully comprehended until her own training had given her a whole new respect for what her mother had been put through because of her father.
Her mother must have been out of her mind as a young Andarion.
Felicia still cringed every time she remembered the humiliating inspection and certification process her agency had insisted on before they’d even list her profile on their site. It’d been a solid year before they’d offered her up for “adoption.”
As bad as her training had been, it was nothing compared to the rude, insufferable males she’d interviewed with, who’d wanted a young companion they could parade around like some show dog on a leash.
Worse, her time to pick a patron had been running out. Had Talyn waited one more day to call for a meeting, she’d have been forced to accept Lord Arux’s offer. She cringed at the mere thought. He’d refused 80 percent of her requests and had been completely unreasonable and offensively rude.
Grateful it hadn’t come to that, she swept her gaze around her meager belongings. Two days? It wouldn’t take her two hours to pack her things.
But in two days, everything about her life would change.
She shivered as that reality went through her. The only thing of value she owned was her virginity. Once it was gone, so was any negotiating power she currently had.
Closing her eyes, she prayed that she’d made the right decision. If Talyn was lying to her, she would be no better off than her mother had been.
Yes, she had a six-month probation period with him. But once they slept together, she’d be downgraded to a used whore.
And since he had no paternal bloodline or social standing, she wouldn’t even be able to use that as a way of upping her value.
She would be ruined in the eyes of their society.
God, what have I done?
“So… did you turn him down or agree to adoption?”
Felicia turned at the sound of Glycie’s voice in her doorway. Tall, well stacked, and gorgeous, Glycie always made her feel like an ugly slug in comparison. They’d gone through several classes together, and had both been listed for adoption on the same day. While Felicia had had a few interviews since being listed, Glycie had a staggering amount of males to choose from. So many that the agency had given her extra time to pick the richest one, with the best offer.