Talos Claims His Virgin

By: Michelle Smart


 TALOS KALLIAKIS DIPPED his head and rubbed the nape of his neck. The consultant’s words had cut through to his marrow.

 Looking back up to stare at his two brothers, he read the sorrow on their faces.

 Astraeus Kalliakis—the King of Agon, their grandfather—was dying.

 Helios, the eldest of the three brothers and heir to the throne, folded his arms and took a visible deep breath before breaking the silence. ‘We need to bring the Jubilee celebrations forward.’

 The whole of Agon was gearing up to celebrate Astraeus’s fifty years on the throne. Everything was planned for the end of summer, six months away. The consultant oncologist had said in no uncertain terms he wouldn’t last that long.

 Talos cleared his throat before speaking. His vocal cords had never felt so raw. ‘I suggest we concentrate on the Jubilee Gala and cancel the rest of the celebrations—they’re all superfluous. Let’s make the gala a true celebration of his life.’

 ‘Agreed,’ said Theseus, the middle brother, nodding. ‘We should set the date for April—three months from now. It will be a push, but between us and the courtiers we can do it and do it well.’

 Any later and there was every possibility their grandfather would not be there for it. Two months of intense chemotherapy would buy him time and shrink the tumours riddling his organs. But they would not cure him. It was too late for that.

Two months later

 Talos Kalliakis headed through the back of the theatre that housed the Orchestre National de Paris, noting the faded, peeling wallpaper, the threadbare carpet that had to be older than his thirty-three years, the water-stained ceiling... No wonder the building was on the verge of being condemned. Of all the orchestral homes he’d visited in the past two months, the facilities here were by far the worst.

 But he wasn’t here for the facilities. He’d come here on a whim, when he’d been left disappointed by the violinists from all of France’s other major orchestras, as he’d been left underwhelmed by those from the major orchestras of Greece, Italy, Spain and England.

 Time was running out.

 What he had assumed would be a simple task had turned into a marathon of endurance.

 All he wanted to find was that one special musician, someone who could stroke a bow over the bridge of their violin and make his heart soar the way his grandmother had when she’d been alive. He would never claim to have a musical ear, but he was certain that when he heard it he would know.

 The chosen violinist would be rewarded with the honour of playing his grandmother’s final composition, accompanied by his or her own orchestra, at his grandfather’s Jubilee Gala.

 At that moment approximately a dozen Orchestre National de Paris violinists were lining up, ready to audition for him.

 He just wanted it to be over.

 The weak, impatient part of himself told him to settle on anyone. Everyone who had auditioned for him thus far had been professional, note-perfect, the sounds coming from their wooden instruments a delight to anyone’s ear. But they hadn’t been a delight to his heart, and for once in his life he knew he had to select the right person based on his heart, not his head.

 For his grandfather’s Jubilee Gala he wouldn’t—couldn’t—accept anything or anyone but the best. His grandfather deserved no less. His grandmother’s memory deserved no less.

 Flanked by the orchestra directors, an assistant and his own translator, they turned single file down a particularly narrow corridor. It was like being in an indoor, dank version of the glorious maze in the Agon palace gardens.

 The violinists were lined up backstage; the rest of the musicians sat in the auditorium. He would already be seated at the front of the auditorium himself if roadworks hadn’t forced his driver to detour to the back of the theatre rather than drop him at the front.

 His mind filled with the dozen other things he needed to be getting on with that he’d had to let slip these past two months. A qualified lawyer, he oversaw all sales, mergers and buyouts with regard to the business empire he’d forged with his two brothers. He didn’t always use his legal skills to get his own way.

 Theseus, the middle Kalliakis brother, had identified an internet start-up seeking investment. If projections were correct, they would quadruple their investment in less than two months. Talos, though, had suspicions about the owners...

 His thoughts about unscrupulous techies were cut away when a faint sound drifted out of a door to his left.

 He paused, raising a hand in a request for silence.

 His ears strained and he rested his head against the door.

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