Excerpt: An Exception

Riot scowled over the ad board, feeling frustrated and out of place. He was supposed to be working in the Territories or playing with the children in the back courtyard. But no. He’d made the strategically and financially unsound decision not to suck Lord Gravington’s cock and so was reduced to scouring the ad board for work.

He stepped out of the way of a cluster of rude, loud, obnoxious young people. Really. Once children passed the age where they were cute they needed to be locked up until they could act like moderately civilized adults.

Adjusting the folds of his collar, he waited until they had wandered away again and resumed his own vain search. He just needed a job that would pay good money and, preferably, get him out of town for a short while. Long enough for rumors to stop circulating, damn Gravington anyway.

He stared at the ads, miserable and frustrated. As if anyone who needed a high-grade mage was going to leave a notice on one of the city ad boards. It chafed that he was going to have to find non-magic work, but he’d sealed his own fate when he’d refused to play the whore. Never mind it was Gravington who was in the wrong. No, that was entirely too reasonable and logical for anyone to accept.

Tamping down on his bitterness because it would get him nowhere, Riot swallowed his pride and began to look for more mundane work. But the ads only proved discouraging; each one was worse than the one before it. Riot had never felt his age so acutely. He was forty two years old—he should have been established, settled and secure in his place.

He had been all of those things. Until the new city lord had arrived, young and vain and stupid. Had decided that he would rather fill his new castle, his new toy, with friends and toadies. Had arrogantly believed that someone like Riot would do anything to keep his position because where else did a settled mage of his years have to go?

Riot heaved a sigh and abandoned the ad board, headed back to his room at the Mute Rooster.

His room a tiny, dusty thing in the attic of the cheap inn, he sat at a scuffed, rickety table and stared out the window.

The last time he had been in such a room he had been fresh from the academy and new to the city, bright and hopeful and eager. And absolutely certain that he would find the fighter he was meant to be bond with, be with forever.

The jewels set in his wrists and forehead were dull gray; it had been so long since he’d used his magic. He had never found a fighter who wanted to bond with him, but he’d found a life that made him happy enough. Until three days ago he’d been absolutely certain he would die still happily serving the castle of Montior City.

Clearly, age did not necessarily equal wisdom. He was plenty old enough to know that nothing was ever certain.