Malcolm (Book 1, The Redemption Series)

By: S.J. West

PRologue





Andre Greco lifted his hand to knock on the study door, but hesitated because he knew the occupant inside the room would not welcome the sad tidings he had to report. With great reluctance, he rapped his knuckles against the dark stained wood and waited.

A minute passed. Then two. Then three. Finally, the answer Andre both dreaded and felt relief in hearing came.

“Come in, Andre.”

When he opened the door, Andre’s eyes were drawn to the lone figure of his leader and best friend standing in front of the far window in the room. Malcolm’s gaze was directed towards the broken world which lay outside his home. It was a world they had been left to guard but failed in many ways over the years.

Andre slowly closed the door behind him and stood unmoving, waiting for Malcolm to turn and acknowledge his presence.

As he waited, Andre observed his friend and noted the pained expression that was ever present on Malcolm’s face during the past few years. His friend’s shoulders were broad and held straight with a stubborn pride. Malcolm stoutly refused to show the depth of his pain, both physical and emotional, to those around him. Andre knew the news he brought this evening would add to the mountain of guilt Malcolm already held firmly on his shoulders.

“Is the child born?” Malcolm finally asked, breaking the quiet of the room but still not turning his gaze away from the city outside to face Andre.

“Yes,” Andre said, taking a slow, steadying breath before continuing. “But Amalie didn’t survive very long after giving birth. The pregnancy itself just placed too much of a strain on her body. She lacked the strength in the end to hold onto life.”

Andre watched as Malcolm slowly closed his eyes and hung his head, showing the weight of his sorrow. He waited patiently as his friend took a moment to come to terms with the death of someone they had both loved dearly.

“Did she suffer because of that thing?” Malcolm asked in a quiet, tense voice.

“Not in the end,” Andre replied. “She was able to hold the baby for a few minutes before she passed away. That, more than anything, seemed to help ease her pain.”

Malcolm sighed heavily.

“I should have seen what was happening.” Malcolm shook his head in dismay. “I should have protected Amalie better.”

Andre took a few steps closer to his friend.

“It wasn’t your fault, Malcolm. You couldn’t have stopped Amalie from following her heart. All of Caylin’s descendants have been strong-willed and hard headed. You did everything you could to warn her about what might happen.”

“But it wasn’t enough, Andre,” Malcolm said, guilt over Amalie’s death drenching each of his words.

The pain in Malcolm’s voice broke Andre’s heart, but he knew there wasn’t anything he could do or say to erase the blame Malcolm felt.

Finally, Malcolm turned to Andre to face him fully.

“Take that thing away from here before I do something to it I might regret later on, Andre,” Malcolm ordered. “Follow the plan we set into motion when we first learned of this damned pregnancy.”

“Don’t you want to see her before we leave?” Andre asked. “She’s still a descendant of Caylin and Aiden’s line.”

“She is an abomination, and I don’t want to have anything to do with her!” Malcolm roared, barely able to keep his temper in check. “Take her to Cirrus and raise her as your own like we planned. In a few generations, I’ll take back control of protecting Caylin’s heirs. Right now, I can’t even make myself look at that thing much less protect it.”

“I understand why you hate her, but…”

“No,” Malcolm said, cutting off Andre’s words before letting him finish. Andre noticed Malcolm absently begin to rub the side of his right thigh. “You don’t understand everything. I didn’t only fail Amalie by not protecting her. I failed Lilly too, and that haunts me more than anything else. I wasn’t able to keep the last promise I made to her. That is something that can never be fixed.”

“You did your best. Lilly would have understood.”

“And when I’m finally able to stand in front of her in Heaven, just how do you suggest I explain this monumental failure to her, Andre?”

Andre was silent, not having a good answer.

Malcolm turned back to face the outside world again.

“You should leave as soon as possible,” Malcolm told Andre. “Your titles have been bought and paid for. I’ve already contacted the emperor and arranged the marriage between that thing and his son. He’s expecting you to arrive in the capitol city tonight.”

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