Saving Verakko: Chapter 25

They pulled away from each other and tried their best to smooth their rumpled clothes and calm their breathing before leaving the service lift, but Verakko couldn’t force the evidence of his arousal to abate.

This night had gone better than he could’ve ever hoped. Lily had kissed him. She’d gazed at him with tenderness in her eyes instead of the cold hurt she’d been sporting for the last few days.

All they had to do now was make it a few steps to his temporary home, which he’d be selling and exchanging for whatever Lily preferred as soon as she consented to be his. Checking to see that the hallway was clear, he tugged her out and down the hall.

The faint scent of her arousal through her underwear toyed with his senses, and he had to fight the urge to simply throw her over his shoulder and leap the remaining distance to his home.

A sharp trill sounded from his pocket, tugging at his thoughts, but he ignored it. Whoever it was could call back.

Pressing his palm to the scanner on his door, he waited for it to open, then whirled Lily through the doorway. As soon as the door closed, he advanced. She smiled deviously at him and backed away. Icy veins of antivenom traveled along the roof of his mouth and filled his fangs in preparation.

The trilling continued, and Lily frowned. “Shouldn’t you get that?”

“Fuck no.” He leapt toward her, landing inches away.

She laughed and rested her fists on his chest. “They keep calling. You should at least see who it is.” She bit her lip. “Once I get you up there,” she said, nodding toward the ceiling, “you won’t be leaving for a while. Better check it now.”

Lily slid her hand down his back, making him shiver, then reached into his pocket, producing his communicator.

His eyes flashed down to the screen, meaning only to assure her it was of no importance, but then he looked again. He grunted in frustration and took the device. “It’s a formal summons from my mother. She requests I go to her right now.”

“Why?” Her expression grew worried.

He shrugged, not wanting his own sudden anxiety to affect her mood. “This is usually how she summons me. Could be anything.” He pressed a soft kiss to her upturned mouth and gathered the strength to step away. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

There was still a note of concern in her eyes, but she smiled shyly and nodded. “I’ll be waiting.”

Verakko backed away from her, releasing a miserable groan at her seductive tone. Before he decided to ignore the Queen’s request altogether, he turned and stomped out the door.

The whole ride to the palace, Verakko tried to predict what his mother might need from him. The female from hours before kept popping into his mind. Had she reported him? He shook his head at the idea. If she had any evidence against him, guards would’ve escorted him to the palace. He wouldn’t have been summoned.

It was more likely that his mother wanted a report on his progress with Lily. Perhaps to properly plan her speech. The back of his neck prickled as he realized Lily hadn’t given him a definitive answer one way or another.

He reached the palace and jogged up the steps at lightning speed, coming to a halt in the entryway. As he waited to be announced and led in, dread settled like a weight in his stomach. One of the guards shot him a sour look, and he returned it tenfold.

“Follow me.”

Verakko followed one of the armed guards through the sprawling foyer and froze.

“I said follow me,” the guard demanded from near an archway.

That was the way to the trial room.

His legs tensed to run while his mind raced to find another escape. He’d never make it anywhere if he ran. Definitely wouldn’t make it back to Lily.

He forced his feet to move, following the guard, and heaved out a deep sigh of relief when the guard continued through the large trial room and into a private office situated near the rear. The office was large but devoid of windows, making the sparsely furnished room feel smaller than it was.

His mother stood on the far side of the room, hands clasped behind her back, staring at a large screen mounted to the wall. Laws and contracts and communications were all organized on the screen, ready to be reviewed.

“Verakko.” Ziritha walked into the room, closing the door behind her. Once they were alone, the look of pity on the female’s face had his insides turning to liquid. Something was wrong.

“What’s happened?” he barked a little more harshly than he should’ve, fear and anxiety getting the better of him.

“Baeo and her son have reported you,” his mother intoned, facing him with a tight expression.

All of the air seemed to leave his body. Blood rushing in his ears, he thought about Lily, in his home and waiting.

“Her son apparently met Lily at the spa today and was interested enough in her to ask his mother to inquire about negotiating a contract, but when she came to speak with Lily, she saw you touching inappropriately in the hallway of your building and she scented you on the female as she passed by.”

Verakko threw his hands up, his shock morphing into fury. “That isn’t a breach of contract! How did she even know where Lily was staying?”

Ziri peered between them with drawn brows and sympathetic eyes. “He said he couldn’t find her registered guardian listed anywhere, so he looked up the name of the person paying for her services and figured you’d been assigned.”

“That’s not enough evidence,” he hissed, balling his fists so as not to punch anything.

“No, it’s not. But it’s enough for a trial, and you won’t be able to lie. Can you truthfully claim you haven’t breached your contract with that female?” His mother gave him a hard look, already knowing the answer to her question.

Think! How to get out of this? If he was brought to court and claimed innocence, he’d be subjected to an examiner’s sway, forced to allow it to permeate his mind and answer all questions honestly. He might reveal everything down to his marks. If he pled guilty and admitted to a breach in his contract, he’d be questioned and sentenced, but not swayed.

He shouldn’t have left Lily. He should’ve seen this coming. Why hadn’t he taken her and run? A thought occurred to him, and he narrowed his eyes at the females before him. “Why did you ask me to come here? It’s normally guards who retrieve citizens for questioning. Did you want to make me feel at ease so I wouldn’t fight back?” His words grew progressively louder and more hostile as the realization that he may not see Lily for years settled in.

“Control yourself!” his mother boomed over him, a brief flicker of anger flitting over her features before powerful control reigned once more. “I asked you here to give us the opportunity to speak before the council arrives.” Another flash of anger lit her eyes. “I told you to stay out of sight. To treat her like you would any other female who wasn’t your betrothed. You didn’t.” Her voice grew quiet. “And now there’s nothing I can do to help you.”

He needed to reveal his marks; it was the only way. Show them Lily was his mate, and this would all be over. The contract would be void. She would be his.

“I won’t be trapped.” Lily’s words played through his mind. The pain on her face and the tears in her eyes when she’d said it cut him like a knife even now. He couldn’t do that to her again. Not for this. It wasn’t as if it’d be forever. He’d serve his time and return to her. She was his mate, after all. He didn’t need to be eligible for a marriage to be with her. When he did finally reveal his marks, whenever that day came, it would be because she was ready and because she knew without a shadow of a doubt that they belonged together.

A sharp buzz sounded at the door.

“I’ll have my guards retrieve Lily while you plead your case. She’ll be given the opportunity to speak on your behalf.”

“No!” he blurted. “She’ll be frightened. They don’t even speak her language. And…” He needed to find a way to warn her not to make a claim of innocence. Warn her she’d be swayed to tell the truth and she wouldn’t legally be allowed to brush off the sway.

“I’ll get her,” Ziri said, stepping forward and finally speaking. Her voice was croaky, almost as if tight with restrained emotion. She gazed at the Queen. “She knows me.”

The Queen studied Ziri for a moment before nodding.

When Ziri had fled from the room, Verakko and his mother stood staring at each other. She opened her mouth to speak, but shut it again.

Another knock echoed around the room.

She took a step toward him, her brows creasing in something that resembled concern. “Can you give me any reason…” She swallowed and let out a long exhale. “Any at all, that would keep me from sending you away?”

Verakko studied his mother. Her features were tight, her mouth thinned. But her eyes glimmered with sadness. Was he finally seeing what his father had always said was there under the surface? Was she allowing him to see vulnerability? His chest constricted.

“I appreciate what you’ve done for me already, Mother. I won’t reveal that you gave me time with her. But there’s nothing I can say.” Verakko saw a muscles tick in her jaw at his words, and he couldn’t help but smile. “It’s alright. I’ll be fine. You’ll see.”

She stared at him for a moment longer before straightening and donning a mask of indifference. Head held high, she crossed to the door and stepped into the trial room, where her council was already waiting.

In an ornamental chair placed along the side of the long room sat the smug female from the hall, along with an uncomfortable-looking male.


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