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Blurb

Politics abound and Jacoby, like his fellow soldiers, is no stranger to intrigue when it concerns war and the crown. Always on guard, he's shocked when a certain man prepositions him. Nothing this man does is without reason, and finding himself on the receiving end of the affections, Jacoby wonders what his new... lover wants in return.

Excerpt

"King Erlin wishes to speak to you, Bale."

Only Jacoby could see the suspicious glance Titus pinned on him. The mercenary turned, then strode away without a backward glance. The rest of Titus' men followed behind their leader, leaving Jacoby alone.

For a long moment, Jacoby didn't say anything, he stared at the monarch. Whatever could the man want with him? Curiosity held him in place, though he said nothing.

Erlin returned the steady regard before his gaze dropped to Jacoby's chest. He reached out, fingering the metal medallion Jacoby wore. "This is a very curious piece. A rather expensive trinket for one such as yourself, wouldn't you say?"

"I've had it for as long as I can remember, your Majesty." The king's interest made Jacoby suspicious, yet he showed no emotion. Though Jacoby wasn't sure if it was true or not, he'd been told it had belonged to his family. Hammon, the man who had raised him, had told Jacoby his parents had been murdered when Jacoby was two.

Without another word Erlin let go of the medallion, walked past Jacoby, and headed back into the castle. Taking the hint, Jacoby left the garden and walked back through the castle, accompanied by baleful stares.

When he reached the outside courtyard, he discovered everyone had left. They had also taken his horse. With several silent curses, Jacoby began the trek back to the mercenaries' camp. Either Titus thought Jacoby wouldn't return to them or the commander wanted to punish him.

No doubt Titus wondered why Erlin had singled out Jacoby, but he wasn't sure why the man had. Maybe Erlin recognized the symbols on the medallion. Even as the thought occurred to him, he dismissed the idea. It would be stupid to believe someone of Erlin's rank would know anything about Jacoby or his family. They had lived in a poor farming community.

The temperature had cooled and the walk wasn't as unpleasant as it would have been earlier in the day. It wouldn't have bothered Jacoby either way. He remained alert as he left the city proper behind and headed into the countryside. Though he passed several farms, it was quiet with dark approaching. Jacoby remained on the main road, ever alert to any potential danger.

He still had to deal with Titus. It had taken only one look from the mercenary to let Jacoby know he was in deep trouble. None of it was his fault, but he wasn't sure if the commander would believe it. He couldn't even explain why Erlin had wanted to talk to him since Erlin had done nothing but look at the medallion.

A betraying rustle of sound made Jacoby lower his hand to the hilt of his sword. To outward appearances nothing had changed but the slight position of his hand, internally was a different matter. His entire body prepared for swift action and his senses sharpened to determine the direction and distance of his potential enemy. The best hiding position would be a large outcrop of rocks to his left. A man alone would be thought to be easy pickings, and Jacoby knew it as he continued walking in an unhurried pace.

It didn't take long for the men in hiding to reveal themselves. Both were dressed from head to toe in rough, indistinctive garb. One, brown hair tied back, leaned against one of the trees. The other, sword already drawn, walked onto the road to block Jacoby's way. His hair was obscured by a tied scarf.

"Aren't you supposed to demand my money, then leave me alone if I hand it over?" Jacoby asked with a faint smile on his lips.

"Dead is fine with us. No witness. Ain't that right, Ev?"

His companion's lazy drawl answered him, "That's right, Iron."

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