Pawn, Book 3 of The Turner Chronicles by Mark Eller

Mark Eller
By Mark Eller March 7, 2013 15:57

Pawn, Book 3 of The Turner Chronicles by Mark Eller

Summary:

In Betrayed, Aaron Turner defied politicians, defeated child slavers, and saved an entire people from exploitation by Isabella, his adopted country. Now, ten years later, he and Isabella have parted ways. Aaron has moved across the ocean to Jutland, intending to run a men’s clothing store in the small city of Galesword.

Unfortunately, his lawyer and the One God have other plans. An emperor covets him. Heads of governments abhor him. Assassins and slavers and pirates want him dead. A lot to handle for a slightly built man with a Talent Stone and a growing dependency on wine, but Aaron is up to the challenge.

Until his Stone is lost, his daughter is kidnapped, and the emperor reveals his plans.

According to the author, this book contains descriptive writing about sexual acts between consenting adults.

The author has rated this book PG-13 (questionable content for children under 13).

Excerpt:

“Sir?”

Aaron turned his head to see the young man moving up beside him. His presence pressed into Aaron’s space.
“Yes?”

The man’s hand flicked out. Fingers headed for Aaron’s eyes. Aaron raised a blocking arm, jerked his head to the side, and threw out a fist of his own. He missed with everything. Fingers tweaked his nose.

Slow. Slow. He would have been badly hurt if the attack had been serious.

“She said you would have quit practicing.” The man’s voice was smooth, unhurried. “She said in some ways you are the most driven man she has ever met, but you have a tendency to be physically unmotivated and lazy.”

Aaron lowered his useless blocking arm. He felt foolish, but something had been gained. The fellow now had his full attention. “And who is this she?” he asked.

“Mistress Dovitch.”

Aaron shook his head. “Never heard of her.”

The man ran his fingers through his hair. Glancing at Amanda, he turned his gaze back to Aaron. “You would remember her as Kara Perkins. We spoke a couple times about you when I trained at one of her gyms. She told me I should come to N’Ark because you never could take proper care of yourself. I said maybe this was so, but you sure take care of a lot of other people. I told her it’s my job to watch over you.”

Aaron was flummoxed “Why would you want to do that? I don’t know you. I’ve never seen you before.”

“Yes sir, you have. You saw me when my family passed through Last Chance. You stood outside a store and threw candy into our wagon right after three women were hanged.”

“I’m not sure it qualifies as a debt.”

“No, sir, it doesn’t, but I also lived four years in a Turner House after my parents were killed. My sisters lived there too. If not for you, all of us would be dead. My Papa, he was killed by the nomad Freelorns just before the start of the first Clan War. I was a kid when he died, but he already taught us our family pays its debts. I am Harvest Patton, sir. I’ll train you, and I’ll be your bodyguard for five years. All I ask in exchange is you provide me with food and clothing and someplace to sleep.”

Sighing, Aaron cast a glance at Amanda. Her look said the resolution of this problem wasn’t up to him. He tried anyway.
“I remember the incident. Are you a Zorist?”

“I was raised as one,” the man admitted. “I’ve since converted over to the One God.”

Aaron nodded. Unfortunately for the adherents of the Lady and Her Lord, worship of the One God had gained an unexpected foothold in Isabella proper. Such an advance wasn’t surprising to Aaron since its most vocal advocate was a Talentless woman who could do miracles on command. Since Heralda was also not a stupid woman, a good many of those miracles had been granted to the rich and influential. On the other hand, the increase in the One God’s popularity surprised the newspapers because there was no formal church, and so far as Aaron knew, no one openly preached the faith except Heralda.

“I’ve had this out with Miss Bivins in the past,” Aaron explained. “Nothing ever happens to me so I don’t need a bodyguard.” Catching sight of Amanda’s raised eyebrow, he grinned. “Well, not for the last several years.”

“Really?” Amanda swung her feet from desktop to floor and leaned forward. “In the last seven years there have been three attempts on your life. Your pocket has been picked eleven times. An assault has been averted twice. Those incidents do not include those simple matters you were permitted to deal with yourself.” Opening a drawer, she pulled out a thick file and dropped it on her desk. “I’ve had at least four people covering you as often as possible. There are eighty people assigned to twenty separate teams. The teams are assigned to cover areas you frequently transfer into. The only time you are without protection inside Isabella is when you transfer someplace unexpected. Frankly, their lives would be easier if you took a bodyguard along with you on your little jaunts. It would certainly be easier on their nerves.”

“Three attempts?” Aaron searched his memory but was unable to come up with an incident.

“Three. All were eventually tracked to Becket and Sons International. Several of your businesses interfered with their interests. The Balandices might have influenced them, but I’ve never been able to completely determine if that is true. Doesn’t matter because I found lots of other dirt on them. Incidentally, you have Miss Homes and Miss Margrave to thank for the failure of those attempts.”

Aaron shook off the unfamiliar names as a chill ran through him. Amanda was efficient and generally not too mercenary, but she could be a cold-hearted bitch. “Tell me you didn’t have the Balandices or Beckets killed. Tell me you didn’t maim them or anything like that.”

She snorted. “Of course not. It isn’t efficient to work in such a manner. No, instead of killing them, I took them over. The ones who didn’t suicide now work for you, and they are very dedicated about it.” Her smile turned predatory. “They had better be. I have enough evidence to land every central member of both families in prison for four lifetimes. Aaron, accept Mister Patton’s offer. I don’t have all the contacts in Jutland I need to ensure you’re not at risk. I’ve had Mister Patton investigated, and he’s clean. He is also reported to have a strong work ethic, a sense of honor, and everyone our people interviewed says he is insistent about fulfilling his obligation to you. Most importantly, his oldest sister says she’ll disown him if he doesn’t repay the family’s debt.”

Patton watched Aaron. He looked like a puppy, Aaron thought. No, that wasn’t quite right. More like a half grown mastiff, too young to know the score but old enough to be dangerous. Patton might be young and untested, but something about him shouted trouble.
Harvest Patton felt he owed Aaron a debt. If there was one thing Aaron understood, it was the need to repay debts.

“Can you play the part of my personal secretary?”

Patton nodded. “Yes sir. I thought it would be a good cover so I trained for it specifically. I’ve spent the last four years preparing for this job so there isn‘t much I’m not qualified to do so long as it keeps me in your presence.”

The entire idea was ridiculous. If trouble appeared, Aaron could disappear with the shutting of his eyes. This meant Patton would be more of a handicap than an asset since Aaron’s instinctive reactions would be slowed by his need to take Patton along with him.
Then again, the kid had spent four years preparing for this. Many of those years had been thrown away. At his age, Patton should already have a wife or two, and he should be raising his own children. Patton had made a huge sacrifice to pay back an unknowing benefactor who never suspected Patton existed. His chances of fulfilling his vow had never been greater than slim, and yet he still carried through with his plan. That took determination.

Aaron sighed. “You start tomorrow. Miss Bivins will give you a key to my apartment.”

“Thank you!” Grabbing Aaron’s hand, Patton shook it with a firm grip. “I’ll wait outside until you’re finished.”

After Patton released his hand, Aaron checked his fingers to make sure they were unbroken. He waited until Patton closed the door. “Why does everyone have to prove they’re stronger than me?”

Amanda smiled. “Because you frighten them. For a slight man, you give off an unnatural aura of power.”

Aaron snorted. Amanda made a small gesture with one hand. “I know. You never believe these things about yourself. Aaron, you better give me your key so I can make a copy for Mister Patton. You did promise him one.”

“Give him yours,” Aaron said irritably. “You used it last night before putting me to bed. While we’re on the subject, I’m warning you. If you ever spike my drink again, I’ll do something drastic. This ‘get Aaron into bed’ game of yours is going too far when you drug my wine.” Which he realized was the cause of the unnatural hangover.

She frowned. “I won’t deny I want to tumble you at least once more. My biological clock will start hiccuping any year now. I want to have kids by you so I have to be aggressive. However, I did not spike your wine. The last time I did my belly remained flat, and you had almost no memory of the encounter. The next time you’ll be sober and totally aware. Also, I do not have your key. I decided a long time ago that your home in N’Ark is your sanctuary.”

“You weren’t there last night?” Aaron asked. Almost, he thought her a liar, but he did have a vague memory of somebody else.

She shook her head no.

“Your people were in my kitchen this morning.” Aaron pointed out.

“Maybe the door was unlocked. I’ll have a locksmith sent over to look at it. What I want to know is how somebody I did not give a pass to got by your guards?”

“I want to know why I haven’t seen any guards,” Aaron countered.

“If you saw them, they wouldn’t be doing their jobs. Anything else?”

“That’s it for now. I have some digging to do.”

“Then you had best let me get back to work.”

Copyright© Mark Eller. All rights reserved.

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Mark Eller
By Mark Eller March 7, 2013 15:57
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