by Patrick Bran
Love, Trickery, Murder. All are abundant in the Jewel City. Ben is a schemer and a pickpocket. He knows the city well...and he is torn. Does he betray the woman he loves? Does he have a choice? Will he follow his heart, firmly in the grasp of the beautiful Athena, or give in to the unsavory life he knows?
Athena reached for Ben’s hand before he could draw it away. His knuckles were scraped and bleeding. She shot an angry glance at Nikolas and pulled Ben to a stool by the bar. “You sit down. I’ll get something for it.”
“Why are you looking at me like that?” Niki said. “You assume it’s my fault?”
“Of course I do.”
“Well, I told you, Ben got me out of a little scrape. What did you think?”
“Oh, please...” Athena began, but Ben stopped her with a quiet word.
“It’s true. It wasn’t your brother. That man wouldn’t have let it go.”
Athena studied his face. It was a pleasant face under the weathered creases and the soft swelling of his eye. She read sincerity in his look and it made her smile. She wanted to be cross. She abhorred violence and it was all too common. But hadn’t this man stuck up for her little brother? No doubt he was a victim of Niki’s charms.
Athena shook her head but couldn’t help a smile. Ben was smiling too. He began to look more at ease.
“I have a salve in the back. Wait here and I’ll get it.”
She felt his gaze follow her as she passed through the doorway. She was used to the attention. She was also used to the beer-sodden whistles that usually came with it. But Ben was nice. He seemed sweet...like her father. Yes, a sweet man. She could tell.
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