Bateo Gunner is dead.
The treacherous bastard met his fate in a Celedon prison cell by a stroke of a very long and delicate blade. The lethal strike appears to have come from an Ashlin tiger sword, and suspicions fall to the only other person of that warrior class in the royal residence.
Stationed on the royal planet of Celedon, Ashlin Warrior Nadja Kelswan is charged with acting as liaison between her country of Vanden and the Celedon tsia. Also, to get answers from Bateo Gunner on the conspiracy that turned Jovita Rees into a weapon and now infects a good portion of the Celedon Empire. Nadja’s most important duty came from the tsia himself, to act as Prince Rohan’s personal bodyguard. It is a task she takes seriously, even as the conspiracy around them thickens.
Duty prohibits her from acting on the intense feelings she has for the tsia’s heir. Seeing his sorrow and loss over Jovita to another man, touches Nadja deeply. But the prince keeps an active sex life going with the palace whores, and Nadja fears their approaches to sexual relationships will forever clash. It is in the middle of one such intimate transaction that Nadja must save the prince from an insidious laser-guided weapon sent from within the palace walls to kill him.
Prince Rohan of Celedon has had his heart broken twice: once by the faked death of his lover, Jovita, then by her desertion to another man. Loving only one woman since childhood, it surprises him when a raven-haired Ashlin warrior haunts his dreams. She’s strong and lithe and formal. Her stagnant hazel eyes are so different than the twirling depths of a Celedon’s. Her training as an Ashlin has also made her extremely wise beyond her years. He finds solace in her counsel. By rights he should hate Ashlin Nadja for her interference in his reunion with Jovita, but he can’t seem to help himself from falling under the warrior’s spell.
Any man takes his life into his own hands to attempt a seduction with so lethal a weapon as an Ashlin warrior. Now, with everyone in the palace a suspect to murder, it is Nadja who suggests they share quarters so she can better protect him. It is the chance Rohan has been waiting for since her arrival on Celedon.
The list of crimes against Celedon continues to grow: parts are missing from shipments to outposts, security vids are tampered with and the body of Bateo Gunner is missing from the morgue. The more questions they ask the more the questions come. Amidst all the chaos a new planet sends an overture of friendship to the tsia. It is an ill-timed and suspicious request as far as Nadja is concerned.
Nadja’s suspicions are realized when Rohan is taken ill and his body infested with a newer more sinister nanite. One that replicates faster and has the power to compel the host to do whatever the programmer wishes. Torn between duty to her sword and her love for Rohan, Nadja takes up the mantle of protector to rid the palace of the conspirators once and fall all. Even if it means giving her very life to save those she’s sworn to protect.