Home > Age of Deception (The Firebird Chronicles #2)

Age of Deception (The Firebird Chronicles #2)
Author: T.A. White


Being struck speechless was a new experience for Kira, but then the man sitting across from her had a disturbing way of surprising her.

Graydon rested his chin on his hand and raised his eyebrows at her in silent invitation.

He couldn't have said what she thought she’d heard.

"Would you like to repeat that?" Because it had sounded an awful lot like he'd said he was keeping her—which was absurd.

A fact he had to know.

Graydon smirked, a cocky twist of the lips that made her want to reach across the table and punch him. "Is your hearing bad?"

The man known as the Emperor's Face was built like a mountain. Authority was stamped on every feature; arrogance along with it. The synth armor he wore seemed to eat the light, appearing a black so deep she was surprised she couldn't see her reflection in it. He was tall and broad-shouldered, with clearly delineated muscles even his armor couldn't hide.

His features warned of the stubborn personality inside even as they invited you to sit and stare a while. He was handsome, almost brutally so. He knew it, too. Dark hair framed intense, stormy gray eyes and a face chiseled from granite. Thin lips that looked indescribably soft.

Yes, handsome if not for the fact smug superiority oozed from his pores.

Kira’s eyes narrowed.

Was this revenge? Some type of retaliation for hurt pride?

He'd asked her to stay, and she'd refused for reasons she couldn't reveal to him. Her mission was dangerous, requiring focus and sacrifice. Graydon was a temptation she couldn't afford.

She wouldn't have thought it of him. He was too self-assured for such petty things.

No, this was something else.

"Not at all," Kira said icily. "I just wanted to see if you’re really as stupid as you're acting."

Graydon's smile flashed again, an amused lion impressed by his prey's struggles.

She ignored him in favor of examining the rest of those taking part in this farce. Liara, the Overlord of House Luatha, sat to the right of Graydon, her eyes bruised and her features exhausted. The battle for the planet had taken its toll on Kira's cousin.

Liara seemed resigned to events, her careful mask providing no hint to what she thought of the current situation.

Kira dismissed Liara almost in the same instant. Her cousin might hold a measure of familial loyalty to Kira, but she wouldn't risk the safety of her people for one she'd known for a handful of days.

She also dismissed Shandry, the healer who’d tended to Kira during her brief stay in Shandry’s healing room. The healer lacked any true power to influence current events.

Her attention shifted to the true threats. Silas and Quillon. Until now, they were unknowns. Maybe a little too interested in Kira, but ultimately unimportant. Except they'd proven they were capable of much more than she'd assumed.

She'd played right into House Roake's hands. Hadn't seen the ambush until she was already caught in it.

Kira sucked in a deep breath. Patience. Control. She needed to keep it.


The drone who was Kira's best friend hovered over her shoulder, his round spherical body no bigger than her head.

"They have a case," he said after a drawn-out moment where he considered.

Kira fought the urge to curse. Of course, they did. She had no doubt she would be here if they hadn't thought out every possible outcome from this conversation.

She was in the midst of a battle she’d had no idea was even taking place. They were three steps ahead while she was still struggling to see the game board.

The two men regarded her patiently. The color of their synth armor was a blue so deep and dark it reminded Kira of midnight. Its design was simpler than that of Liara's bodyguards, more in line with Graydon's people. It was serviceable, meant for battle rather than to impress.

House Roake. Her father's people. A man she had never met and hadn't given much thought to while struggling to survive the hell of her childhood.

Until recently, Kira had thought she was the product of experiments to create a super-soldier. Someone whose DNA had been tinkered with before birth to create a killing weapon, meant to be aimed at the enemy and fired.

Turned out she was wrong. Instead, she was apparently a member of an alien race called the Tuann. Technologically advanced with social customs more suited to the feudal societies of old Earth, they had odd notions of how long-lost members of their race should be treated. Few of their people strayed from the accepted molds, which made Kira something of an anomaly.

"Let's all stay calm," Jace cautioned. The words might have been said to the room, but they were meant for Kira. Her former commander knew about her temper. "I'm sure there’s an easy solution to this."

"Yeah, Kira is once again humanity's bargaining chip for their continued survival," Jin said.

Jace slid him a quelling look. "It's not going to come to that."

But it would. Humanity was between a rock and a hard place with their old enemy the Tsavitee back on the galactic stage. They'd barely come out the winner during their last war with the alien race known as the scourge. There was no guarantee they'd triumph again—especially with Kira not quite up to her old standards.

The price for losing would be annihilation.

Neither humanity nor the Consortium would risk that, not with the Tuann offering ships and people to operate those ships.

The walls threatened to close in on Kira. Not a good feeling for someone who'd just transformed back from a monstrous creature that had ripped dozens of Tsavitee apart.

"Calm," Jace said, meeting Kira's gaze, his expression saying trust me.

Kira consciously relaxed, forcing panic and helplessness away. For someone used to controlling every aspect of her life—for soldiers, losing control usually resulted in death—it wasn't easy having that independence threatened. Jace had earned her trust. She’d give him a shot at this.

When he faced the Tuann again, Jace was poised, his bearing that of the rear admiral he’d become. "This news is unexpected. I'm sure you understand if we need a little time to process."

Silas's smile was conciliatory. "Of course. We want to make this transition as easy for the child of our House as possible."

"You could always let her go," Jin muttered.

"Jin," Jace warned.

Jin grumbled but didn't say anything else.

Silas acknowledged Jin before turning to Kira. "I'm afraid that is the one thing we cannot do. Your father was a special person for our people. His daughter will be welcomed with open arms. Please let us get to know you as you get to know us. That's all we're asking."

Kira stared at him with narrowed eyes.

He seemed earnest. Caring even.

"Why do you care?" Kira asked.

Silas's smile was peaceful and tranquil. "Because you're one of us and shouldn't face this world alone."

Raider snorted. "Good luck with that."

Kira had a long history of going it alone—as evidenced by her heading off to live in a ship by herself rather than face the remnants of her old team.

"We are aware accommodations need to be made for your circumstances," Silas continued. "We're willing to arrange what you need to be comfortable with this."

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