Keystone Chronicles

YA Steampunk Fantasy Series

Young Adult Fantasy Adventure

We have the entire series outlined and the synopsis for each one. Now we just need to update the website with all of the back-of-the-book blurbs. Each book is titled after the seven continents on the planet and then the planet…and the invading planet. There's a big saving the world at the end and everything the first eight books have chronicled comes to a head with the War God Bastion. These books are a cross-genre series, combining high fantasy (elves, dwarves, unicorns, centaurs, etc.) and steampunk (airships, gadgets, inventions and more). We've even created our own little race of people called Gnobbits. LOVE them!! In short, here's the titles of the books and the order in which they'll be released (below).

  • Book 1 – Havencrest: The Awakening
  • Book 2 – Drakoj: The Reckoning
  • Book 3 – Gemella: The Deception
  • Book 4 – Gemina: The Corruption
  • Book 5 – Terrus: The Abduction
  • Book 6 – Driada: The Revolt
  • Book 7 – Parhelia: The Uprising
  • Book 8 – Evanterra: The Unification
  • Book 9 – Emerus: The Invasion


This series was born out of the Fantasy romance I started writing, War of the Hearts, and takes place 3,000 years after those books. However, this won't have the hot sex I usually have for my adult novels, so my husband and I are using the pen name C.G. Henderson for this series. Yes, I'm a lucky woman in that my husband not only loves what I do as an author…he's part of the creative process. We've brainstormed and ironed out the entire series and I'm writing it. Here's a sample of the prologue and first chapter of Havencrest: The Awakening (below). You're welcome to leave comments.

Prologue

Zandar studied the casual slope of his daughter’s spine as she rested her palms against the marble balcony. The white folds of her gown swayed with her delicate curves, the ethereal fabric stirring about her legs as she peered over the rail at the globe of Evanterra. The curls of her golden hair shimmered around her bare shoulders. None of the blackened centuries she’d just put behind her showed in her demeanor. Was her unconcerned posture evidence of her indifference to her children’s plight…or her faith in them? “You do not have much time, Damia.”

She narrowed her eyes at him as he joined her at the rail. Cocking an eyebrow, she diverted her gaze back to the planet below. “It was not my choice to spend three millennia imprisoned.”

“Three millennia to them,” Zandar countered defensively. Not so much time had passed. She was, after all, a goddess…immortal. “You were a child when you birthed them. You are still a child and—”

“The time that passed for them is what matters!” She faced him with blazing eyes, fiery streaks rippling through her golden locks. “This is not about me. I could have prepared my children during those years. And you ignored them in my absence. I was ready to atone for my mistakes, but the Universal Council wanted to see me pay for my poor judgment by enduring their needless torture. Did they do it for the sake of my children, or the Council’s pride? I think the latter.” The flames cooled and she sighed, shaking her head. “I may not have yet reached my maturity, but I know enough. The seasons away have taught me much. I will utilize the time left to our advantage.” Damia bent forward, resting her elbows on the smooth stone ledge. “Don’t worry. I know what must be done.”

Zandar clenched his fists to will away the regret weighting his spirit. Her innocence was gone. The betrayal of Bastion blackened her name. The responsibility of birthing a planet so young had burdened her soul. Prison had poisoned her heart. She was forced to grow up sooner than Zandar wanted. Where did he go wrong?

He pivoted and sat on the ledge for a better view of her face, narrowing his gaze at her expression—Damia’s sea-blue eyes sparkled with flames as they darted over the terrain of her planet, the corners of her pink lips turned down. Zandar crossed his arms. “Bastion is coming and he will claim what he thinks belongs to him.”

“It matters not,” she whispered. Damia straightened and smiled. “I will not let Evanterra be enslaved by him. We will be ready.” She sauntered across her chamber.

“What will you do?”

She twirled and, as she did so, her attire melted into her battle dress—a gleaming bronze breastplate and sweeping shoulder guards adorned with decorative swirls, chainmail pants with bronze plates molded to her legs and overlapped her bronze-plated footwear. Her silken hair lay like a skein of spun gold down her chest, braided for battle. “If you must know, I will unlock the Keystones, starting with Nasir. My children will finally be rid of this…infestation.” Anger clouded her blue eyes, changing them to stormy grey. “Then we will see to whom Evanterra belongs.”


Chapter One

David’s hand trembled as he reached into the crevice for the largest faceted ruby he had ever seen, just inches away from his fingertips. The stone would easily fill the palm of his hand and glowed with its own internal radiance. The ground rumbled against his chest, sand and pebbles raining down upon his back and filling his mouth with dust. He ignored the warning of the unstable cave and forced his shoulder into the narrow opening. Have I come this far only to fail? The light from his headlamp reflected off the ruby, shattering into a splash of red particles on the craggy brinestone.

“David! We’ve got to go! We’ll be trapped!”

A familiar, aggravating buzz and grating vibration tempted the stone from his grasp. I’m going to lose it forever! Another gyrating rumble and a jagged stone crushed his shoulder. David howled in pain and growled as a crack in the earth opened and the ruby tumbled into darkness. All is lost without the stone!

 

Blinking against the bright light, David reached for his spectacles, in their usual spot on the nightstand next to his bed. He fumbled to slip the brass loops over his ears and let his vision adjust.

“Come on! We’ve got to go!” David’s younger brother Hagan shouted from the other side of the door.

“All right! All right! I’m up.” David rolled to his side and squinted at the alarm clock he had built from scratch. It took him four months to forge this masterpiece. Primarily brass and copper, the housing held a glowing display of numbers made from vacuum tubes, mounted onto a logic board and encased within a glass cylinder. He frowned at the hour. They’d be late if he didn’t hurry! He pressed the brass button to turn off the annoying buzz. After scrubbing his hair with rigid fingers, he rested his head in his hands. Today’s the day. Dread settled like a wet blanket over his spirit. Today is the day I hear the last words my father spoke to us.

David rushed through his morning routine, tripping over or pushing aside the various machine parts and inventions cluttering his room. He donned the only suit that would fit him. One of three suits he owned, used only for special occasions. The dark brown-and-black pinstripe, high-collared, confining outfit tugged and tightened around his chest, back and shoulders. In the three years since his seventeenth birthday, he had experienced an unexpected growth spurt that forced him to throw out most of his wardrobe. These suits would join the rest in the rubbish bin…especially after today.

He parted his hair down the center, as the formal style for his suit dictated, and his reddish-brown hair sprang up in protest. He huffed and tried again. Upon failing, he frowned, gave up and combed his hair in his usual style parted to the side. Grabbing his file case, he pivoted toward the door, but stopped to dance covetous eyes over the diagram papering most of his wall.

David traced his index finger along the edge of the ship’s bow, up the center mast to the crow’s nest, and around the cigar-shaped balloons and envelope of the dirigible. Eyeing the hull panels that would conceal the all-terrain wheels, the corners of his mouth turned up in appreciation. No vehicle like it existed—an air, water and landship of his own design. Not just with practical features like retractable guidance wings for stabilization and a smooth landing, but luxurious characteristics such as a red-velvet captain’s chair, featherbeds in the sleeping quarters and delicate brass accents along the lacquered dragonwood cabinets and trimming.

Three firm thumps on his door interrupted his thoughts and he frowned at the world outside the haven of his room. He swung the door open and, with a start, seized Hagan’s wrist, his fist coming at David’s chest as if he was about to pound on it.

“Oh! Sorry.” Hagan lowered his hand and shook his head. “You’re not supposed to wear your hair—”

David pushed past his brother. “I know. Tell that to my hair.”

Hagan nagged from behind, tromping down the stairs after his older brother. “I told you to put that cream on your head to—”

“Forget it, Bone Digger!” David snapped over his shoulder as he stomped onto the front step of their terraced house. He locked the door, and then scowled at the row of homes—identical to their own—stretching endlessly down the block.

“Come on,” Hagan said, nudging David forward. “We’re already late.”

David grunted and followed after his brother. Hagan stalked down the street on his long legs, obviously determined to reach the law offices of their solicitor. They had made this trek several times, but this trip was different. This was the last journey of the standard, two-month string of legal appointments necessary to settle the affairs of the dead. David had trouble matching Hagan’s pace. His legs seemed to wade through mud. A lump settled deep in his stomach. “Slow down,” he growled.

Hagan stopped, his mouth twisting with irritation, but he waited while David caught up with him. His frown melted and he nudged David’s side, ushering him along, his eyes filled with concern. “I know, Bro. It’s been a rough time since Pop’s accident. Just one more trip to hear his final statement.”

“I’m in no hurry.”

“Hardly anyone who died as suddenly as Pop ever has a final statement. Aren’t you the least bit curious about what he had to say?” Hagan’s voice dropped to a near whisper. “Don’t you think this final meeting might prove you aren’t the cause of his death?”

David blinked back the tears stabbing his eyes.

“I still think you’re wrong about the accident, and I’m anxious to see Pop prove that to you today.” Hagan slapped David’s back affectionately. “Come on, lad. Let’s pick up the pace.”

David failed to resist the corner of his mouth turning up in a half-smile. Their father had used that same phrase whenever he wanted them to hurry along. Nodding, he trotted after his brother. They scrambled down the steps into the substation and raced to catch the tube-train, the flashing lights indicating its doors were about to close.

“Mind the gap,” the scratchy female voice warned through crackling, overhead speakers. They stepped across the space between the platform and the four-person pod just as the doors were closing.

David sighed with relief at seeing the pod empty. A pair of coffee-brown leather seats faced another pair in the small, tubular traveling car. He placed his file case in the empty seat to his right and sat across from Hagan. The compartment sealed, the pressure equalized and the pod zoomed off through the circular glass tunnel, speeding toward their destination.

“Next stop: Bellan Valley City Central and Brevata Harbor,” the same scratchy female voice intoned.

Hagan propped his forehead against the curved glass, his eyes bright and optimistic as he searched the clouds above. David had to envy his brother’s spirit, Hagan’s enthusiasm for the future regardless of what life threw at them. Their mother had been murdered five years earlier, her killers still at large. Hagan had been twelve, old enough to remember her, know her, but he had quickly recovered from losing her. And now their father…killed when David’s lift malfunctioned at the dig site. His stomach churned with guilt. Perhaps his brother’s cheery façade was just a mask. Perhaps he hurt as much as David did and was just better at hiding it. He sighed and diverted his attention out the window. The sun peeked through the uncharacteristically fluffy-white clouds, forcing him to squint from the near-blinding light.

“Hey, the sun’s out,” Hagan said, smiling and squinting into the cheery sky. “Perfect day,” he seemed to say to the celestial body that rarely made an appearance.

Of all days. David sighed and balanced his chin in his palm. The sun comes out five percent of the year and it picks today of all days. He frowned at its mockery. Shaking his head, he regarded the grey scenery crawling by on the horizon. He lost himself in the graceful brown and brassy architecture of the city, the copper and brass designs whirling across the edges of the buildings, adorning the corners of bright green rooftops of oxidized copper. Did he dare to dream anymore, that he could be part of the gadgets running the inner workings of the city? Would his revolutionary transportation ideas go to waste? Had the death of his father marked the end of a career that had yet to begin? Even the recurring dream of the ruby, which began shortly after their father died two months ago, seemed to push him toward being an archaeologist—a destiny David loathed following. He rubbed his shoulder at the remembered pain.

“You had the dream again, didn’t you?”

David glanced at his brother’s sympathetic expression and nodded.

“Same one?”

He nodded again. “It’s always the same. And yet each time it intensifies.”

“How?”

“This time I could almost hear the snap of my bones as the cave crushed my shoulder. Somehow, the crack the ruby fell into was blacker than before. I feel as if everything is going to end if I don’t get to the stone.”

“Maybe we should go back to the counselor.”

David shook his head as the dark, olive-green treetops swished by. “No more therapy sessions. I’ll deal with it.” He rotated his shoulder, and then shrugged. “Maybe after we hear Pop’s final statement the dreams will stop.”

Hagan nodded, but his eyes were vacant…unbelieving. “Maybe.”

The tube slowed as it neared their stop. Snatching his file case, David dashed out of the pod after Hagan, pushing past the other travelers funneling out of the substation. Running up the stairs two at a time and stepping onto the street, they continued around the station to the towering City Hall just ahead. An impressive structure, jutting out over the water of the Brevata Lake, David usually marveled over how the architectural design flowed in harmony with the natural environment. Waterfalls spilled out of bricked tunnels at ground level, churning over turbines that fed electricity back into the pumps powering the water. With a little extra push from the perpetual motion canisters—PMCs—the aqua-mechanics practically powered themselves. Yes, David normally admired the engineering, but each time he approached this building as of late, the judgmental eyes of the looming statues made him want to crawl under a rock. Today was no different. The rows of former kings and queens of Havencrest Kingdom glared down at him from each side of the bridge leading to the main entrance. He hunched his shoulders and pressed forward, hanging his head to avoid their scrutiny.

The lobby swarmed with patrons, and the uniformity of their stances and appearances matched the stately columns of marble reaching to the ceiling—attractive, erect, stoic and cold. Most wore dark colors—blacks and browns—with splashes of this month’s favored color—bright green. David cursed under his breath and tried to avoid the disapproving eyes of the solicitors, barristers and patrons they passed.

“What’s wrong?” Hagan whispered out of the corner of this mouth. Only in the expansive, marble lobby of the courthouse, it sounded like he yelled.

“I forgot my kerchief.” David fumbled around in his pockets as they clipped through the never-ending lobby.

Hagan pulled a green kerchief from his pack. “Here.”

“Thank you,” David mouthed as he tucked the small order klonopin online india piece of cloth into his exterior breast pocket. By the time they reached the main lift passage, the few approving nods from the people they passed eventually eased into no one paying them a glance. They stepped into the next available car and the din of the crowded lobby dropped to a deafening silence as the brass cage doors closed behind them. David sighed and adjusted his stiff collar.

Once they reached the ninth floor, the doors clattered open. Eduoard Mayer stood waiting in the hall. As usual, his large, imposing and hefty figure was adorned in the latest fashion—a black, tailored suit with a green dress shirt, white collar and black bowtie. Shiny, black-and-white leather shoes gleamed from the hard work his uncle’s servant must have invested in their impeccable appearance. His severe blue eyes and straight, raven eyebrows brightened upon the arrival of his nephews.

“We weren’t expecting to see you here today, Uncle Eddie.” Hagan stepped out of the lift car and they stood before their uncle.

“Uncle Eduoard, if you please.” The side of Ed’s jaw clenched and then he smacked his lips and squinted as if he’d licked a lemon.

David looked askance at his brother, who seemed just as confused as David. He’s never had a problem with being called Uncle Eddie before.

Their uncle had been absent during the entire legal proceedings regarding their father’s affairs, only to show up now at the final statement. “Have you lost weight, Uncle Ed?”

“Yes, I have.” A poor imitation of a smile widened his mouth. “This is a very important day for my nephews and I wanted to be here for them…in case they needed me.”

David pushed aside his perplexities about Uncle Ed. “That’s very kind of you.” He stretched out his hand and a strange, cold sensation crept up his arm during their brief, but firm, handshake. He shuddered and stepped aside for Hagan to share the same greeting. An expression akin to shock crossed Hagan’s countenance.

Ed leaned closer and lowered his voice to a near-whisper. “I’m sure if you let our solicitor know of my intentions, he’ll allow me to accompany you for the final statement.”

Hagan and David nodded and, as they crossed the hall to head toward the session room, someone behind them cleared their throat. They turned to see their solicitor, Adam Justice. “Good morning, gentlemen,” he greeted and faced Eduoard. “My apologies, your lordship, but only your nephews are permitted in the final statement.”

“You may not have heard, but my nephews have offered their permission for my attendance.” Ed smiled and winked at David.

“I am sorry, your lordship,” Solicitor Justice repeated, shaking his head. “Though I have served you for many years in certain legal matters, in this I am employed by the deceased, Benjamin Arden, and must maintain his final wishes. This moment was specifically designated as private and only for his surviving sons, Hagan and David Arden.”

David turned to his uncle, who appeared unmoved by the exclusion. “I’m sorry, Uncle Ed.”

“It’s quite all right.” Eduoard stepped forward, glared into their solicitor’s face and whispered to Mr. Justice. The thin man’s spine stiffened and his brown eyes glazed and widened.

“I will make an exception in your case, Sir Duke.” Adam Justice stepped aside and swept his hand forward to bade them entrance into the session room.

“Thank you, Mr. Justice.” Ed bowed respectfully and led the way. David threw a sideways glance at his brother, whose face mirrored his same scrutiny and apprehension.

David grabbed Hagan’s arm. “Something’s not right,” he whispered.

Hagan nodded emphatically.

“Gentlemen,” their uncle boomed. “We await your presence.”

David and Hagan entered the room. Mr. Justice closed the door behind them, escorted the boys to the conference table—ensuring each of them sat in a specific leather-cushioned executive chair—and placed two neatly wrapped packages on the table, one before each of them. Both packages were roughly the same size, at a hand-and-a-half long and four fingers high. At the front of the room, Mr. Justice yanked down a white screen, and then flipped a switch on the wall. A panel slid open at the center of the conference table and a small projector emerged.

Uncle Eduoard stood at the back of the room, his arms folded and an impatient scowl on his face. David shivered and redirected his attention back to the solicitor. Mr. Justice faced the boys and clasped his hands. “Hagan, there is a button on your side of the projector. Since this is a private screening for the two of you, please wait until I have left the room and closed the door before depressing the button to begin the film.”

David cast another sideways glance at his brother, whose expression once again reflected his own apprehension and confusion. Mr. Justice spoke as if Ed had not entered the room.

Adam Justice stepped forward and regarded them with compassion-filled eyes. “It has been my great pleasure serving your father and his family all these years. I hope to continue to serve you gentlemen as well, but I would understand if you wish to eventually secure your own solicitor for whatever reasons. Success to you both.” With a nod and a smile, Adam Justice exited the room.

David glowered at their uncle.

“Don’t keep me waiting, boy,” he grumbled. “Turn the confounded thing on.”

David stood and addressed Eduoard. “This was designated as a private session,” he said, straightening to his full height. Hagan joined his side. Though Uncle Eduoard was a large man, such imposing statures ran in the family. Both boys matched their uncle’s stance, breadth and demeanor. “I’m requesting you leave the room,” David finished.

Eduoard displayed a glare that sent an icy chill creeping over David’s skin. “Perhaps you’d like to start the projector,” he said to Hagan.

Hagan’s spine stiffened and his eyes widened…just like Adam Justice. He turned to David. “I think I’d like to start the projector. Are you ready?”

David’s heart pounded in his chest. What in the name of Zandar is happening here?

Uncle Eduoard’s devilish grin unfurled and he raised a cocky eyebrow. “I think you’d like to sit down now, gentlemen.”

Unable to speak or understand what had transpired, David simply nodded. Both he and his brother sat in their assigned seats on opposite sides of the table.

Hagan pressed the aforementioned button. The lights dimmed. The projector clickety-clicked into action and their father came to life on the egg-shell-white screen.

Benjamin Arden stood before his desk in his study, his rump against the edge of the desktop, the heels of his hands braced on the wood surface at his sides. A warm and somewhat self-conscious smile turned up the corners of this mouth. David swallowed the lump forming in his throat and fought the tears welling in his eyes.

“My sons. Since your mother was taken away from us so suddenly five years ago, I thought it wise to create a final statement in case I was to meet my demise just as unexpectedly. Archaeology is more dangerous than being a psychologist, so I update this recording every six months to ensure you boys will have a final statement from me, and not be robbed of those last words of encouragement we missed from your mother.” Ben bowed his head and seemed to struggle for composure, clearing his throat repeatedly and nodding.

The temptation to squeeze his eyes shut against his grief was great for David, but he didn’t want to miss a single moment, and swiped the tears from under his spectacles instead.

Ben raised his head and smiled. “This is a little more difficult than I thought.” He turned his head slightly to his right—the left of the screen for David and Hagan—and David’s breath caught in his chest over how their father seemed to look directly at his brother. “Hagan, you may open the package before you.”

The brothers gawked at each other for an awe-struck moment before Hagan tore open the package. A small half-laugh, half-whimper burbled out of him and he pulled a well-worn, well-used excavation pick from the wrappings. David knew the pick, as well as the inscription on the metal.

You can never dig too deep to find the truth.

As if Ben was in the room, his next words were timed perfectly. “I’m sure you recognize it, Hagan. That’s your great-grandfather’s first pick. It’s the only item I have left from his original archaeology tools. Since you are the one who will carry on the Arden tradition of archaeology, I thought it only right you have one of the tools of your ancestry. Use it well and pass it down, Son.”

Ben turned his head in David’s direction. David marveled at how interactive this projection seemed. He would have to compliment Mr. Justice for carrying out their father’s wishes in such detail, making this moment so special and impressionable. “Go ahead, David. Open your package.”

David did as his father instructed. Nestled within the crumpled tissue paper was an artifact he’d not seen since he’d created it twelve years ago—a cylindrical puzzle box with a five-letter combination. Again, David fought to hold back the tears that demanded release.

“I know it’s been a very long time since you gave that to me. Your first invention speaks of your amazing gifts. Not many people can create a cryptex and you did at seven years old. Such a testament to all of your many wonderful, wonderful inventions.” Ben pushed off from the desk and stepped forward, moving closer. Seriousness settled into his green eyes as he regarded them. “I want you to listen very carefully, Son. Never give up on your dreams. I know you blame yourself for not taking on your mother’s name and her tradition as a psychologist. That is not your fault and it shouldn’t have been your burden to bear. But you and I both know you wouldn’t be happy listening to people complain about their problems.”

David chuckled through his tears, which spilled over his lashes and splashed onto the table. Hagan laughed too, and reached over with a comforting hand to pat his brother’s arm.

“This cryptex is a reminder that you need to continue pursuing your path toward being an inventor. As of this recording, I have not obtained my Master Achievement, which will, as you know, give you the privilege of choosing a new profession. But I’m so close, boys! I’m on the verge of a discovery. I can feel it! This is my last wish to you both. Pick—” He coughed. “Pick up where I left off.

“All the hard work the three of us have put into advancing you through this—the private studies in physics, science and engineering—should not go to waste.” Ben covered his mouth and coughed softly. “Don’t waste anything. Don’t let our efforts be in vain. Hagan is carrying on the family name of Arden. He loves archaeology as much as I do. His early graduation proves as much. As long as you two remember your mother, her memory lives on. Obtaining the M.A. is a big enough discover for you both, so Hagan, you’ll have your title, and David, you’ll have the privilege of choosing the path of an inventor and can start your new track of schooling.” Ben chuckled and crossed his arms. “With everything you already know, you’ll pass any test they throw at you. You’ll just need to take a year of safety courses to qualify. You’ll be an inventor by this time next year. I’m certain of it.”

For the first time since their father’s death, the excitement of David’s chosen destiny bubbled up inside his chest once more.

Ben looked to his sons. “I will never be able to express how much I love you both, or how proud I am of the men you have grown to be. Pursue your dreams.” Ben’s eyes grew intense, but his smile remained. “I have complete confidence you will know what to do next. The game’s afoot, lads, and your lives have just begun. Follow your hearts.”

The projector stopped abruptly, plunging the room into darkness. With a click, the lights gradually brightened. Hagan had his hand on the button that controlled the projector and both he and David gawked at each other, mouths open.

“How sweet.”

They started at soft, deep voice at the side of the room. Uncle Ed had his hand on the light switch.

How could I have forgotten he was here?

David swallowed to moisten his suddenly dry mouth. He shot Hagan a warning glare and his brother nodded. Searching his package for anything else their father might have included in the box or tissue paper as additional clues, David found nothing. He replaced the cryptex, closed the box and tucked it under his arm. Hagan did the same with his package and they both exited the session room, avoiding their uncle.

Uncle Ed stepped into the hallway and smiled.

“So…how did it go, boys?” Mr. Justice pushed up from the wooden bench in the hall.

“Very well, sir.” David cleared his throat and stood tall before Adam. “Thank you for asking. My father’s final statement was a wonderful closure. I want to express my sincerest thanks for making the experience so realistic by positioning everything just so. I can assure you, Mr. Justice, you will remain in our employ for many years to come.” David bowed ceremonially and Mr. Justice gasped at his honorable display.

The elderly man returned the gesture, bowing even lower, showing a higher degree of respect. “I am speechless, Mr. Arden.” After a few moments of silent appreciation, he swept his hand in an arc toward his office. “If you would follow me to my office, gentlemen. I have a few papers for you to sign and some final instructions. And don’t worry about the film. My assistant will box it and have it ready by the time we’re done.”

“Of course.” David encouraged Hagan to step after Mr. Justice and trailed after them.

“Uh, David.”

He faced Uncle Eduoard. “Yes, sir?”

“Might I have a word with you?”

“Hagan. Mr. Justice. I’ll join you in just a moment.”

Hagan threw a cautionary glance at David, who nodded. Once they were alone, David addressed his uncle. “What can I do for you, sir?”

“No need for the formality, my boy.” Eduoard smiled and sat on the wooden bench, totally relaxed, at ease, as if his demeanor was above reproach. “So, what discovery was your father on the verge of uncovering?”

David forced a smile. “I actually don’t know. Hagan and I have been hard at our studies and never had much of a chance to go with our father to his current dig site.”

“Ah.” Eduoard nodded. “He never shared such information with his sons? I thought you three were close.”

David narrowed his eyes, but refused to engage in an aggressive confrontation considering the strange influence his uncle seemed to have recently acquired…an unnerving control that caused David to shudder as he recalled their encounter in the session room. He chose his words carefully. “Pop didn’t like to share much while he was working on a dig. He was a bit superstitious, you might say, not wanting to jinx the project.”

Eduoard regarded David with frigid eyes. After a long, uncomfortable silence, his uncle stood and stepped forward, bringing himself almost nose-to-nose with David. “I’m sure you’d love to share—”

The rattle of the lift shattered the moment and David stepped back, blinking his suddenly watery eyes. The brass doors opened and a solicitor David recognized pushed open the inner cage to exit the car. “Well hello, Duke Mayer! Good to see you, my lordship!” Mr. Council bowed and then shook Ed’s hand vigorously. “Good to see you too, Mr. Arden. My condolences to you about your father.” He laid a comforting hand on David’s shoulder. “Sorry I can’t chat. I’m in a bit of a hurry. Success to you both!”

As Mr. Council marched down the hall with purpose, David’s mind swirled. He breathed deep to regain his composure. Being around his uncle was having an unusual effect on him.

“I know the circumstances of my brother-in-law’s death, David.”

David kept his back to Uncle Ed, avoiding eye contact. “Yes, sir. Your point?”

“You built the lift that killed your father.”

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