Loyalty's Betrayal

By: Mari Carr & Lila Dubois

Acknowledgments





Special thanks to Lexi Blake for allowing us to “crossover” briefly between with her Masters and Mercenaries world. This was done so with her permission. She rocks!





Prologue





There was something wrong.

He knew it the moment he walked in the front door. The house was too still, too quiet. Typically, the smell of dinner was the first thing he noticed upon arriving home, but today the only scent he could detect was the tanginess of the pomegranate blossoms in the bouquet of fresh flowers his mother always kept on a side table in the foyer.

The silence was unnerving and unfamiliar. He was an only child, something his parents seemed to overcompensate for by constantly filling their large house with noise—be it from the radio, the television, laughter, or conversation—and constant activity. They were a family in perpetual motion. It had been that way for as long as he could remember.

He had stayed after school for fútbol practice, having made starting midfielder on the team during his final year of Educación Secundaria Obligatoria, a fairly substantial feat in a city like Seville, where everyone ate, drank and dreamed fútbol.

His father hadn’t been surprised by his success on the field. After all, Papa had declared him a born runner, swearing his first steps hadn’t been made walking, but rather in a mad forty-meter dash.

He was going to continue his education next year in Bachillerato, before following in his parents’ footsteps and heading to university. Like him, they’d been born and raised in Seville, leaving only to attend university and medical school in Barcelona, then returning home to accept residencies at the local hospital. Both of his parents were renowned surgeons, esteemed in their fields. His mother was a neurosurgeon, Papa’s specialty vascular surgery, and their aspirations for him were the same, both of them certain he would follow in their footsteps to pursue a career in medicine.

The three of them had spent a great deal of time discussing which discipline he would pursue, perusing the medical journals, discussing the pros and cons of each. His parents were peaceful, loving people. To them, a life well lived meant saving lives through medical care, not through force or politics or financial gain.

They lived close enough to his school that he walked each day, enjoying those few minutes of solitude. He was an alert, astute boy, constantly taking in the world around him. He’d grown more quiet with each passing year and had begun to master the art of blending in. His father was boisterous, lively, typically the life of every party they attended, so Papa wasn’t sure what to do with a brooding son. Lately, he’d begun resenting his father’s comments about him needing to speak up, to share what was on his mind, so in a typical act of teen rebelliousness, he’d gone even quieter, simply to annoy Papa.

Glancing around the front foyer, he spotted his mother’s purse, overturned on the floor. It looked as if she’d missed the table when setting it down, and it had fallen, the contents scattering on the hardwood. A tube of lipstick, pack of tissues, two pens, several credit cards. He catalogued the items in his mind, noting the details. Mama often made a game of his ability to see everything at a glance. Whenever they were driving somewhere, she’d tell him to close his eyes, then ask him to describe something that lay ahead of them—a billboard, a building, a person walking on the sidewalk. She’d ask random questions and he always knew every exacting detail perfectly.

He thought it strange that Mama had left her purse lying there that way. She took tidiness to new heights, something he thought indicative of a slightly obsessive-compulsive nature.

“Mama?” he called out, his voice echoing slightly, thanks to the tall ceiling in the foyer. The door on the right, which led to the formal dining room, was usually open, but he noticed it was closed. In fact, all the first-floor doors were closed. He pondered if he’d ever seen them so.

He called for his mother again. No response.

He briefly considered heading straight upstairs to drop off his school bag and grab a quick shower, but there was something about the silence that told him all of this was wrong. Terribly wrong.

He opened the dining room door.

It took him a moment to understand what he was seeing.

The room was awash in red, the splatters covering the off-white walls in a style reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock painting.

He was the sixteen-year-old son of two surgeons. He’d seen pictures of bodies, cut open on the operating tables, in his parents’ medical journals and textbooks. Blood didn’t scare him. It was as necessary to life as water and air. The walls held his attention for far longer than they should have. Perhaps because he wasn’t emotionally able to turn his gaze toward the table.

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