Golden Collar 1
By Grace R. Duncan
What is freedom to you? How would you define it?
As a hayim—a wanderer—Teman values freedom over everything. He and his best friend, Jasim, are thieves for hire—until they’re caught. Given the choice between an inescapable lifetime dungeon sentence or palace pleasure slavery, they become slaves, but Teman vows to escape someday.
Crown Amir Bathasar doesn’t want the throne. When Teman saves his life, Bathasar requests the intriguing slave—a first, given his disdain for slavery. He quickly falls for Teman who returns the feelings, but their fledgling relationship is strained when Bathasar’s sadistic father Mukesh demands Teman. Bathasar cannot refuse and must sit and watch as Mukesh brutalizes Teman before the court. When the empress of a neighboring nation is outraged at Teman’s treatment, Mukesh gifts her Jasim and Teman’s hopes of escaping with his best friend vanish. With Jasim gone, Teman chooses to stay with Bathasar, despite the abuse he may suffer.
When they discover Mukesh’s plans to invade Jasim’s new country, it’s up to Bathasar to find a way to stop the destruction. If he succeeds—and ascends to the throne—he’ll have the power to let Teman go. And Teman will accept—his free spirit demands it. But perhaps love is a little stronger and Teman will find the wisdom to make the right choice.
Teman and Jasim were taken directly to the palace instead of a holding cell, and Teman wondered if perhaps there was something honorable about their supposed danger to the city that it needed to be addressed immediately. Through a side door and along silent late-night corridors, they were unnecessarily dragged into a large room. Neither of them, up until that point, had even struggled, despite being handled rather roughly and their wrists being bound with rope. They were both well aware of their precarious position, and neither wished to make it worse.
At one end of the long room was an ornate chair, raised on a dais, with several smaller chairs surrounding it, much less decorated than the first. The large chair was empty, but in the one immediately to its right sat an even more imposing man than the lieutenant. Teman recognized him from the few times he’d seen the malik out in public: this was their ruler’s Captain of the Guard and personal bodyguard.
Teman glanced to the side at his friend, but the usual carefree expression on Jasim’s face was conspicuously missing. The import of how much trouble they were in had finally sunk in. Teman turned his attention back to the captain.
“What is their crime?” the captain asked, wasting no time. He wore the traditional black silk of the guards. The sash that encircled his waist was purple, denoting his position in the palace. The only other thing that distinguished him from the others was the gold braid around his collar, indicating his rank.
Teman watched the lieutenant stand a little straighter. “Attempted murder,” he said with a sneer.
Teman managed to suppress his shout though it was close. He was sure his face gave away his outrage, but that turned to shock with the captain’s next words. “I doubt that.”
The lieutenant blinked and straightened indignantly. He opened his mouth to argue, but the captain simply held up a hand. “These two are many things, Hakeem. Street rats, fugitives, thieves… among others.” Teman’s jaw clenched to keep his argument contained. This man held their lives in his hands. If he agreed with the attempted murder charge, they could be killed. “But they have never murdered, and they aren’t capable of it.”
He wanted to get irritated at the man’s assumption. They had, in fact, killed, but the captain was right. It was never in cold blood, never premeditated. And even though he had to admit he wasn’t sure he could kill in cold blood, the confidence the captain displayed in their ability—or lack thereof—still rankled.
“Remove their weaponry,” the captain ordered, and the lieutenant and his guards started patting them down.
380 pages – 167,000 words
Cover Artist: Grace Duncan
Editor: Tricia Kristufek
Current Edition (second) – Independently published – April 1, 2022
Buy Link: http://amzn.to/3DttrD9
Also available through Kindle Unlimited