Malia dreams of a life less ordinary but when her planet is visited by the Bayne, Destroyer of Worlds, she surrenders herself to him in order to give her people time to collect the tribute that the Overlord demands. Despite Bayne being as much machine as man and having a violent temper, he rescues her from the unwanted attentions of his second-in-command and gives Malia a glimpse at the battered heart lying beneath the steel and scars.
As they start their relationship over, Malia discovers a man very different to the reputation that precedes him and probes deeper. However, her investigation uncovers a dark truth: a truth that someone wants to remain hidden no matter what the cost.
Malia looked around. None of the soldiers paid her the slightest attention. Feeling distinctly foolish, she put down the device and wiped her hands on the skirt of her dress. She chewed at her lip, having no idea as to what they were doing. In moments, they had achieved more than she had in months. Her stomach sank. How could she have ever believed herself to be a technician? She truly was the foolish child her uncle often claimed she was.
Silence fell like a blanket as everyone stopped what they were doing. All their attention focused on the wide opening between the doors. In the center stood a man, physically unremarkable, but he exuded an aura of power that rose gooseflesh on Malia’s arms.
She shivered and he looked at her. His uniform was black and edged in white, his dark hair loose around his sharply angled face. A neatly trimmed beard framed lips thinned in a taut line. On his left hip hung a scabbard, the handle of his sword banded red and black.
He stepped into the room and every soldier snapped to attention. One moved forward, a silver gray rectangle in his hands. “My lord Bayne.”
There was more, but Malia didn’t hear it over the rushing of blood in her ears. Bayne? This man was Bayne? She stared, unable to tear her gaze from his unassuming face. He appeared to be no more than thirty; much younger than she’d imagined him. Much younger than anyone with the epitaph ‘Destroyer of Worlds’ had any right to look. Why was he here?
Lord Bayne looked at her. Stared. She realized she’d spoken that question aloud.
“I am here as Overlord of Sytharion, the system to which this world belongs. I am here because this world owes its Lord tribute.”
Cold knifed down Malia’s spine. It had been years since they’d last paid tribute—so many that she barely remembered the event, as she barely remembered her mother’s face. How much would Terranis owe him now? More than they had spare, that was certain, and Lord Bayne only had one way of dealing with worlds that defied him.
He destroyed them.