“Why can’t politicians keep their hands and dicks out of the cookie jar?” Jonah grumbled.
Sidious snickered as he opened his office door and stepped inside. “A question I’ve asked myself a dozen times or more.”
Lord Jonah Marcone stepped into his Uncle Sidious’s office on Daego and drew in a deep breath of air. He’d always loved this space. Entering into it never failed to put him at ease with the large windows overlooking the lake behind it and the fireplace with an actual wood burning fire flickering inside it.
His Aunt Mikayla had decorated the house based on her home world of Earth, which is also where Jonah’s mother was from. His mother, however, preferred the modern look of their home on Tillarus, but she loved the peace and tranquility of the moon Daego, which is why he’d spent a good chunk of his childhood here. He and his twin sister, Jacqueline were even born here. Right in this very house.
This house was the family center. It’s where they came to relax, to celebrate a birthday or big event. Mikayla even had an addition built so they had plenty of room for even more family, which seemed to be growing every time Jonah turned around.
His aunt and uncle had shown that family isn’t just who you’re born to. It’s who you pick up along the way, which was proven when they made Devlin and his sister, Rhianna part of the family. Although they don’t have the same name or even the same blood, Devlin and his family, as well as his sister Rhia and her family are just as much a Marcone and welcome here as the main family members.
There was constantly someone coming and going, but Sidious and Mikayla both loved it. If they wanted time to themselves, they would go somewhere else and leave the monstrocity of a house for the family to enjoy. It’s what it had been built for.
Unfortunately, Jonah wasn’t here for relaxation.
“Does the Senator have any idea who’s blackmailing him or why?” Jonah asked as he took the seat across from his uncle’s desk.
“The why is the legislation that Christian and Alex have been working on,” Sidious replied.
“The bill that will limit the powers of the Regent?” Jonah asked.
Sidious sat back in the chair and ran a hand through his shoulder length platinum hair. “That would be the one. It would seem someone, my guess is the Regent, doesn’t want a cap on his powers, so he’s blackmailing senators to gain their support to squash it.”
“Are we sure it’s the Regent and not the corporate elite that stand behind him?” Jonah asked.
“You assume it’s the corporate elite that control the Regent, when it actuality, it’s the Regent who pulls the strings. He tells them what he wants for his support of whatever bill they want passed that might further their business.”
Jonah snorted. “I thought the Regent was suppose to watch out for the average person, to do what’s best for the people, not the corporate elite.”
Sidious’s lip curled. “In a perfect world. Unfortunately, this position appears to corrupt men.” His uncle studied him. “What we need is someone who is incorruptible.”
Jonah grinned. “What you need is a miracle.”
“Are you saying if you had the position, you could be corrupted?”
“I’ve grown up in politics my entire life. I’ve been groomed to take over as ruler of Tillarus once my father retires. I’ve had the luxury of seeing first hand how a good ruler takes care of his people. I’ve also seen good men ruined by greed. I hate the whole nature of politics. I say what I mean and mean what I say, just like dad. I don’t pander. I don’t believe in political spin. I do believe that I would always put the people first, but there’s not enough money in the galaxy for me to take on that job.”
Sidious smiled. “Can’t say as I blame you.” His uncle’s smile died and worry clouded his gray eyes. “The corruption is getting out of hand. Christian was hoping this new bill would limit the Regent’s power, putting more of it in the hands of the Senate, taking it away from just one man and putting it in the hands of the majority.”
“That’s a problem in and of itself,” Jonah replied. “Not that the power lies with the majority, but just getting the majority to agree on a course of action. I’ve heard Jonah complain for months now about bipartisanship being dead and how it’s nearly impossible to get anyone to agree on anything. It’s become a do-nothing government. Even if you expose the Regent, what then? Who’s to say the next Regent won’t be just as bad?”
Sidious sighed and tapped the top of his desk. “So you’re suggesting we leave him be? Let him continue on, using executive orders to further his power and agenda?”
Jonah rubbed his hand over the top of his head in frustration. “No. That wouldn’t work either.” Jonah stood and began to pace around the room. “The problem is the position. It’s too corruptible, too many favors exchanging hands. Even a good man could be overwhelmed by it all, swayed.”
“I agree. When your father and I finally took the dictator down and reinstated the Senate, the Regent was primarily only supposed to be a figurehead. All the power was in the hands of the Senators. Over the years, the power has slowly shifted to now it mostly resides with the Regent. It needs to go back to the way it was.”
“Which is what Chris’s bill is supposed to do,” Jonah said as he leaned on the back of the chair. With a sigh, he continued. “So basically, I need to find the proof that the Regent is behind it.”
“Any ideas where to start?” Sidious asked.
“Follow the money,” Jonah replied as he pushed back off the chair and stood straight. “Where did the Senator send it?”
“He hasn’t yet.”
Jonah grinned. “Perfect. All I have to do now is get with Aspen and have her tag it, then we can see where it goes.”
“Your Uncle Taron will kick your ass for getting his daughter Aspen involved in this.”
“She’s a freakin’ hacker. A damn good one. If anyone can tag that currency transfer it’s her. She tags it, we track it and then hopefully, I can link wherever its going to the Regent, proving he was behind it.”
“The link may be the hardest part. The Regent is a smart man. I’m sure its not going to be obvious.”
Jonah grinned. “But isn’t that why you came to me?”
Sidious laughed just as a beep came over his computer screen. He hit one of the keys on the keyboard and smiled at the screen. “Hey, Jack.”
“Hi, Uncle Sidious.”
Sidious’s brow creased into a frown as Jonah’s chest tightened with concern. He suddenly had an uneasy feeling and knew instinctively it had something to do with his twin sister, who Sidious was talking to on the computer.
“You okay, sweetheart?” Sidious asked. “You look tired.”
Jonah walked around to stand beside his uncle, just out of her line of vision, and studied his twin sister. She did look tired.
“I’m fine,” she said, faking a smile.
“Don’t listen to her, Sidious.” Jacqueline’s husband Haydrien appeared in the screen behind her. “She’s not been sleeping.”
“It’s nothing,” she said, waving her hand in dismissal. “My brother isn’t by chance there with you, is he? I called his ship, but he didn’t answer.”
“He’s here.” Sidiosu turned in his chair to look at him. He nodded his head to the screen and stood so Jonah could have the chair. “I’ll go get some coffee and let you two talk.”
Jonah nodded and sat down. If something had upset her, she would tell him and if she was tracking him down, something must have upset het. “Is Haydrien being an ass again?” Jonah asked, teasing his brother-in-law.
Haydrien bent forward slightly and stuck his middle finger up, making Jonah chuckle. “That’s not very kingly of you brother-in-law. You’ve been hanging around our cousin Shane too much, I think.”
Haydrien smiled as he dropped his hand and gave Jonah’s sister a pat on the shoulder. “She’s been a little upset, Jonah. See if you can calm her down.”
Jonah nodded as Haydrien turned and walked from the room, leaving he and his sister alone. “What’s going on, Jack?” he asked with concern.
“Do you remember when we were teenagers and I had that string of really bad nightmares right before you crashed your speeder and broke your legs?”
Jonah cringed at the memory. That had been one hell of a painful crash and recovery. Despite all their medical advancements, breaks like that took a while to heal. “Unfortunately, yes. Why?”
“I’m having nightmares again, but much worse. I wake up shaking and screaming. I can hardly breath. Jonah, I feel as though something awful is going to happen.”
“Jack,” Jonah tried to reason. “I know because we’re twins we have this weird mental connection, but you’re not psychic. Those nightmares were just a coincidence. Nothing more.”
She shook her head, dismissing what he said. “If you’re getting ready to do something for Uncle Sidious, please don’t.”
“I have a really bad feeling, Jonah. Promise me you won’t do this.”
Jonah sighed. “I’m just going to meet Aspen. She’s going to do some hacking for me. That’s all.”
She stared at him, a look of helpless worry in her eyes. Jonah wanted desperately to make her feel better, but he didn’t know how. He couldn’t lie to her. She would know, just like he would know if she lied. He could tell this really concerned her. He could feel it in his gut, her tension, her fear. Now that he’d picked up on it, the sensations would continue to nag at him until she felt better. Despite their physical distance.”
“Jack, I promise. I have no intentions of going up against anyone.”
She shook her head just as Haydrien walked back into the room. “It’s not that. It’s something else. Something I can’t see, but its…its awful…painful. The pain is…”
She swallowed and Jonah frowned. He wanted to reach through the screen and hug her, but he couldn’t.
“I’ll be okay, sis. I promise.”
A single tear slipped from the corner of her eye and she gave him a nod of understanding before moving and allowing Haydrien to sit down. Haydrien touched her arm softly. “The cook needs to see you in the kitchen, love.”
She nodded silently and with her arms around her middle, hugging herself, she walked from the room, Haydrien watching her go. He turned back to the screen with a frown. “I don’t know what’s going on, Jonah, but she’s freaking the hell out. She wakes up screaming, crying, she can’t get back to sleep. Last night she didn’t even want to go to sleep at all. Has she done this before?”
“Once, but not that bad. It was right before I crashed my speeder. I had always thought it was just a coincidence. We can feel things about each other, but she’s not psychic, so I don’t know what the hell this is.”
“She’s not here and can’t hear us, so are you about to do something dangerous?”
Jonah shook his head. “Not from my view point. It’s strictly just a fact finding mission.”
Haydrien snorted. “Who are you looking for facts on, Jonah?”
Jonah sighed, but didn’t answer.
Haydrien shook his head. “My guess is what makes this dangerous is not what you’re doing, but who you’re looking into.”
“Maybe,” Jonah replied, although silently agreeing with his brother-in-law.
“If you need help let me know,” Haydrien said firmly. “I may not be pirating anymore, but I still have connections, friends in low places.”
Jonah grinned at that last one. “I’ll keep that in mind. It won’t do any good for me to lie to her and tell her I won’t do it. She’ll know. Keep her calm, if you can. Try to get her busy doing something to keep her mind off it.”
“Are you kidding? Your sister can run circles around me. She’s already got so much going on, I can barely keep up with her. The people here love her, though. She’s always there for them.”
Jonah smiled. “She had a good teacher. She’s just like our mom.”
Haydrien smiled as well. “Krista is a good woman. I’ll do what I can with Jack, but…”
Jonah gave a nod. “She’ll worry no matter what. I’ll talk to you later, Haydrien.”
He hit the keyboard, closing down the communication. Were her nightmares something to be concerned about? He gave his head a shake. No. He refused to go down that path. They were just a coincidence, nothing more.
* * * *
“Asa? What are you doing here?”
Asa froze in her tracks and took a deep breath before turning to smile at her little sister Andrea. “I was looking for you,” she lied.
Andrea Morlick wasn’t an idiot. Asa had hoped to avoid her sister on this trip, since she had an uncanny ability to tell when Asa was upset. You’d think after all these years Asa would be better at hiding that, but she could never hide it from Andrea.
Shrewd hazel eyes so much like her own stared hard at her. Andrea looked so much older than her twenty-four years. She’d come so far in her life and career in such a short amount of time. Some of it had been hard work, but a lot of luck had landed her as the personal assistant to the Senate Regent Varn.
“If you were really looking for me you could’ve had me paged,” Andrea said with a frown. “What were you doing in Regent Varn’s office?”
Asa sighed and decided to somewhat tell the truth. “He… he hired me for a job.”
Andrea’s eyes narrowed. “What kind of job, Asa?”
Asa’s face heated, and she licked her lips as discomfort made her whole body tighten. Asa had done a lot of illegal things in her past to make sure her baby sister had all the best that life could offer. After their parent’s death in a transport explosion, Andrea had become Asa’s responsibility. The money their parents had didn’t last, so Asa had to make a living somehow.
She’d kept most of it hidden from Andrea. She’d moved them to Earth, gotten her sister in all the best schools, and it was two years into college that Andrea began to question just how Asa could afford it all.
She’d promised Andrea she would quit and she had. Until today.
Asa shook her head, silently begging her sister to understand and hopefully not ask too many questions. “It’s not what you think. It’s sort of a government job. The Regent just needs something retrieved for him. That’s all.”
“And why would he need you to retrieve it?” she asked with suspicion as she stepped closer so she could lower her voice. “Look, I’m not stupid. I know there’s a lot goes on behind the closed doors here, but I don’t want you involved in any of that, Asa. You promised me you would keep yourself out of trouble.”
Asa put her hands on her hips and frowned in aggravation. “You know, maybe you should question what your boss needs retrieved as opposed to who he asked to retrieve it.”
Drawing a deep breath and letting it out slowly, Asa counted to ten in her head. “I’m sorry, Andrea,” she said, hoping to put an end to this conversation. “It’s nothing illegal, I’m just familiar with its whereabouts. You know. The seedier side of the galaxy.”
Andrea glanced around before she spoke again. “You don’t have to do this stuff anymore. You took care of me all those years ago, let me take care of you.”
Asa shook her head. “This isn’t about money,” she murmured softly.
“Then what?” Andrea asked.
“Just trust me,” Asa pleaded. “Don’t ask him about this, just pretend you know nothing about it.”
“Andrea please. Promise me you’ll stay out of this, let me do what he asked me to do.”
Andrea scowled at her older sister, making guilt eat away at Asa’s insides. It would’ve been so much better if they hadn’t run into one another.
“I have to do this. I don’t have a choice.”
“Oh, like that makes me feel loads better,” Andrea snarled.
“Damn it, Andrea. You weren’t supposed to see me!”
With that she turned to leave.
“Asa,” Andrea called as she began to chase after her.
Asa turned and walked backward as she spoke. “I love you, Andy. Remember that. Always remember that. And please, just do what I asked.”
She stepped into the elevator and quickly hit the button to shut the door, effectively cutting her sister off. Closing her eyes, Asa forced back the tears that threatened to spill over. She’d thought she could put her past to rest, that she could move on, but that wasn’t the case. She’d earned a reputation, one the Regent made clear he planned to utilize.
If she refused, he would kill her sister.
Her mission. Find Lord Jonah Marcone, steal back what Jonah had stolen from him, and return it to Regent Varn.