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(Court of Paravel #1) Devrim’s Discipline
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I was imprisoned for twenty-seven years for the crime of defending my King. Now I’m a free man, and I rule the Court of Paravel once more. The lords and ladies, the debutantes, the great and the good of Paravel all answer to me.
And yet, social upstart Wraye Rugova is ruining my life.
Lady Wraye is attempting to use my daughter Aubrey as a springboard into the upper echelons of the court. When I find her in my house trying on Aubrey’s clothes, no amount of pleading will move my ironclad heart. Decades may have passed, but I remember how to punish a disobedient young lady.
She’s deceived everyone with ease, but now she’ll face the hardest ordeal of all. Devrim’s discipline.
This is going to sting.
Author’s note: This book contains a Daddy Dom relationship with a thirty-two-year age-gap.
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Ivera, the Democratic People’s Republic of Paravel, Western Europe
Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.
It’s the sound that heralds the beginning of every new day.
I wait, sitting in my jumpsuit, atop my narrow, steel-framed bed in a tiny concrete cell. I can’t call out. Can’t react.
Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.
There are twenty-three cells between mine and the door to the wing, and Prison Guard Wesson’s heavy baton clangs against the bars of every single one.
“Good morning, Archduke.” Prison Guard Wesson grins, baring a mouthful of narrow, yellow teeth. “Has the butler brought your tea? Has he ironed your newspaper and presented mineral water to your dog?”
I stare straight ahead at the sliver of pale blue sky through a high window, beyond his hulking shoulder.
Wesson glances up and down the row of cells. He takes the heavy keyring from his hip and tosses it up and down. He approaches the cell next to mine, unlocks it, and drags a whimpering man out into the concrete corridor.
A manic expression lights Wesson’s eyes as he raises his baton high over his head. At his feet is Ensign Vanderburgh. I was his commanding officer in the King’s Guard when he was a young man of eighteen. Vanderburgh is forty-five now. I’m fifty-three. The last of the King’s Guard will soon grow arthritic and broken. I feel centuries old already.
The baton falls with a heavy thunk, and Vanderburgh gives a cry of pain. He dares to raise an arm to protect himself, and Wesson starts screaming at the prisoner and ruthlessly strikes him across the face. Blood spurts from Vanderburgh’s nose.
Our eyes meet, and I stare at him bleakly. My hands clench on the steel frame bed.
Over Vanderburgh’s grunts of pain, I hear a disturbance. Men yelling. Probably a riot in gen-pop, the main part of the prison that houses the murderers, rapists and thieves. The lucky ones who’ll see the light of day again.
The shouting coalesces into the same thing, over and over. I watch a ruby red droplet of Vanderburgh’s blood slide down the wall, trying to make the words out.
Long Live King Anson.
A name from long, long ago. So long ago, I’d almost forgotten it. Anson, the King’s son, and the only member of the royal family who survived the Midsummer Riots. He was a boy of eight when Paravel fell. By now, he’d be a man of thirty-five.
Has our dear dictator has died? I hear Chairman Varga is decrepit and paranoid these days.
Wesson pauses, his baton held high. Gen-pop will all be beaten and starved for weeks for this display of contempt. They must be insane.
My gaze meets Vanderburgh’s. His arms are still raised to protect his head, but his ear is cocked toward the sound.
The chanting gets louder and louder. Through the sliver of window, I see prisoners climbing up onto the prison roof and pumping their fists in the air. Their words become clearer. “Long Live King Anson!”
They wouldn’t dare riot like this, unless the People’s Republic really has fallen. If the monarchy has been restored, then this nightmare is over. We can all go home. I think of my daughter, across the border in France, whom I’ve never met.
Wesson’s face turns gray with shock. The People’s Republic is his whole world. Without them, he’s nothing.
“You’re so fucked,” I tell Wesson, grinning like a maniac.
His eyes bulge. He reaches for his keys, intending to open my cell and kill me, I suppose. Vanderburgh lunges for Wesson’s baton, pulls it out of his grasp and cracks it over the guard’s skull.
Wesson crumples and hits the ground with a thud.
Vanderburgh takes the keys from Wesson’s limp fingers and unlocks my cell. He hands the keys to me and stands at attention.
“Your orders, sir.”
I stare at his wiry frame. The orange jumpsuit with a number sewn over his heart. One of my men, saluting me.
I stand slowly, and I can almost feel the weight of the scarlet uniform and gold braid, across my shoulders once more. “Thank you, Ensign Vanderburgh.”
Ensign. My lips curl into another smile, one of affection this time. “I think it’s time you were promoted. We’ll see to that very soon.”
Vanderburgh grins back. “And today, sir?”
I look up and down the corridor at the men pressed against the bars, straining to see what’s happening. Straining to be free.
“Release all the political prisoners into the yard. There is to be no rioting. No violence. Barricade the guards in the kitchens, and then find out if this news is true.”
Hope glows in Vanderburgh’s eyes, such as I haven’t seen for twenty-seven years. “And if it is true?”
“Then shout it from the fucking rooftops. Long Live King Anson!” I cry, loud enough for all to hear.
All around me, my men take up the chant.
Wesson has awoken and is cowering on the floor, pale and shivering, at the sight of us standing over him. I reach down for the bloodied baton and raise it. Wesson whimpers. I raise it higher, but instead of smashing it over his head, I point into my tiny concrete cell. Wesson scrambles inside. He turns around, just in time to see the door close with a clang.