Excerpt: Saving Liam

Chapter One

“My condolences for your loss, your majesty,” Leyton murmured. He bowed, not daring to look at the man he was speaking to. He wove a loose enthralling spell as he bowed, hoping he was as subtle as he aimed to be. He had to be imperceptible or someone—possibly even the new king himself—would notice something was wrong.

“Thank you,” the king said woodenly. Leyton chanced a look up as he straightened from his bow. King Mijah Kundashi was watching him, looking puzzled but nothing more. He’d remember Leyton later; that was all Leyton needed right now.

Bowing again, Leyton turned and let the next of the mourners approach the king. He headed toward the doors at the far end of the receiving hall, keeping his pace slow and sedate. He didn’t glance back until he reached the doors. The king was still watching him curiously, but he was distracted when the man before him spoke.

So it was working the way Leyton had planned—the king was drawn to him. Leyton only had to maintain his enthralling spell, get himself into the king’s proximity a few more times, and then the man would be hooked until Leyton set him free. It should be simple.

Stepping into the hallway, Leyton continued his slow, careful pace as he headed toward the room he’d been assigned upon his arrival here. Ostensibly, he was a rich merchant from Samaria. It was stupid to use his actual nation of origin and identity, but he wasn’t a master of subterfuge. Hiding behind a secret identity would have required him to use far more of his magic than he could without being found out. It didn’t matter, in any case; Leyton doubted anyone was going to let him walk away when he was done.

The room he’d been assigned was a long walk from the rooms used for public functions, such as the memorial ceremony Leyton had just left. The lesser guest rooms were on the opposite side of the palace, tucked far away from the royal gardens, all the official meeting rooms, and council offices. Leyton welcomed the walk and the chance to calm his nerves.

He could do it. He had to do it.

Leyton paused when he reached his room, hesitating outside the door. There was someone inside, and Leyton bit his lip because he knew that aura. What was he thinking? He wasn’t supposed to make contact with Leyton unless it was an emergency or Leyton was fucking things up, which he wasn’t.

Steeling himself, Leyton let himself inside, already frowning at the immaculately dressed man lounging in the chair of the room’s little breakfast table. Lord Baron Ormond Grenville, Ambassador to Adina and next in line to the Duchy of Dazhoba, provided he got certain provisions out of the new king of Adina. He was a handsome man, but the coldness in his striking green eyes dulled any attraction. His perfectly coiffed blond hair was fashionably shoulder-length, and he had a chiseled look to his face, as though his features had been carved from the finest marble.

Leyton would have loved dearly to break the bastard’s face for him, but he couldn’t do that, not yet. “You’re not supposed to be here,” Leyton said flatly. He crossed his arms, ignoring as best he could the smirk Grenville gave him.

“Relax,” Grenville drawled. “No one knows I’m here. Everyone’s so busy consoling their poor, grief-stricken new king to pay any mind to what I’m doing.” He paused significantly, but when Leyton didn’t say anything, prompted, “And how did that go for you?”

“Fine,” Leyton said. He didn’t elaborate or move, staying close to the door despite the little good it would do him. He wasn’t going anywhere, and Grenville knew it.

“I see,” Grenville said, sitting up from his indolent sprawl. “He’s hooked?”

“Yes,” Leyton said shortly.

“Good,” Grenville said, looking far too pleased. But keeping Grenville happy was good, even if Leyton hated every moment of it. “Wait a day or two before approaching him again. Keep it discreet. I don’t want him to realize anything is amiss.”

“I know how to do my part of it,” Leyton snapped, unable to keep his mouth shut. “Stay away until I do.”

Grenville laughed, his eyes flashing dangerously as he stood. He was a good hand-span taller than Leyton, but nearly everyone was. “Watch your tongue, little hakarin. You’d do well to remember who’s in control here. One word from me would put your brother in a lot of misery.”

Leyton flinched at the Weisin slur for incubi. How did Grenville know it and say it so well? He didn’t reply—there was nothing to say; Grenville was right, after all—and Grenville laughed, that insufferable smirk curving his lips again. Leyton really, really wanted to hit him. Curling his fingers into the sleeves of his jacket, he merely set his jaw and kept quiet. He wouldn’t get Liam hurt, not for something as stupid as hitting his handler.

“I’ll be in touch,” Grenville said, his tone pleasant and mild. “Do let me know if you need anything.”

“Of course,” Leyton said, the words falling flat. He wasn’t good at pretending everything was all right. Thankfully, the spells he cast would do most of his work for him. Grenville gave him one last smirk before walking out of the room.

Leyton didn’t relax until the door clicked shut behind Grenville. He sighed, sagging where he stood. Leyton stayed there a moment, before reaching up to pull free the ribbon that held back his hair. Then he loosed the buttons on his jacket, shrugged it off and dropped it across the back of the chair Grenville had so recently been sitting in. He removed his boots, but eschewed removing the rest of his clothes in favor of sitting down on the edge of the bed and falling back against the soft covers with another sigh.

It wasn’t fair, of course. Leyton stared dully at the ceiling above him. It should’ve been Liam here instead of him. Liam was better at making horrible circumstances turn around and work for them instead. Leyton was good at drudgery and following plans. He didn’t know what to do besides go along with what Grenville’s orders.

He could put the blame on Liam; it was Liam who had bedded the man who’d gotten them embroiled in this mess. Politics and incubi did not mix. If anyone figured out what Leyton was and what he was up to, he’d be put to death. But if he didn’t do it—if he didn’t seduce and influence a king—Liam would die. So Leyton had to do it, and he had to do it right, because even though it wasn’t fair, if Leyton fucked up, then both he and Liam would suffer for it.

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