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The Cartel (The Apprentice, #1; The Twelve Systems Chronicles, #1)
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Romance > A young woman in trouble, a powerful man with a hidden agenda, a society where only the ruthless triumph

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E.G. Manetti (thornraven) The Cartel, Volume 1: The Apprentice. Contains adult content.

Welcome to the Twelve Systems, a technologically advanced society ruled by a small number of elite, the warriors. The first book in the Twelve Systems Chronicles, The Cartel, begins the tale of one of the most compelling couples to enter fiction in some time.

Lilian is twenty-four, well-educated, disgraced, destitute and desperate. Raised to wealth and power, her expectations of a bright future were destroyed when her father was executed for foul crimes. Her family name is erased, their cartouche melted, their property forfeit. Determined to survive and protect what remains of her family, Lilian becomes the apprentice of a powerful warrior. For three years, he will train her for a position in the Cartels. In return, Lilian will yield him absolute control of her mind and body.

Lucius Mercio is the preeminent warrior of his Cartouche, and the Cartel it dominates; the Serengeti Group. Ruthless, clever and ambitious, Lucius' wealth, influence, and power are exceeded by few within the Twelve Systems. It is not sufficient. Lucius intends to take his Cartel to unimaginable heights with the aid of Lilian's brilliance. He faces only one obstacle. Lucius must keep Lilian alive.

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E.G. Manetti (thornraven) The Cartel, Volume 1: The ApprenticeThis novel contains adult content.


The chamber appears empty. Lilian has an overall impression of luxury as she scans the space for its occupant, her mid-section tight with anxiety. Lilian registers a massive black enamel desk with an impressive techno array and a large scarlet leather chair. Her gaze finds the long scarlet leather couch facing a wall-sized reviewer and the remainder of the sumptuous furnishings fade into the ether.

A hitherto hidden door recesses and a man walks through. His arresting, aquiline features have a dark olive cast. They sit on a tall, powerful form which moves with the confident grace of someone well familiar with the training facilities. Lucius Mercio is a tall man. Somehow Lilian had not realized he would be so tall. With her low heels, she might graze his chin. Without shoes she will barely reach his shoulders. Dark, deep-set eyes under heavy lids travel slowly over Lilian, measuring and assessing.

“You are Lilian.” The statement is made in cool, clipped tones as the long frame folds into a chair by the chrome and crystal conference table. He leans back with elbows resting on the chair arms, the long fingers steepled. Legs spread.

“Yes, milord,” The ancient courtesy comes to Lilian’s lips more easily than she expected.

There is silence as His Preeminence examines her from beneath hooded lids. The strong features are impassive, intimidating. It is too disturbing to look at his face. Look over his head at the Five Warriors print on the far wall.

Lucius examines his apprentice seeking and finding changes. The tightly contained woman before him stands ramrod stiff and stares straight ahead. The strain of the past six sevendays is apparent in the tightness of her countenance and the shadows under her eyes. Her features are more cleanly defined. Her athletic form is willowy. Lilian has dropped weight, at least half a stone.

Gone is the fleeting, quiet smile from the visuals. Also gone are the soft waves of hair, replaced by the severely bound tail of her warrior queue. The tailored black suit is of indifferent quality. The small, gold ear posts present the same austerity as all else about her. Long, elegantly muscled legs are revealed by her suit skirt.

Forcing aside his fascination with Lilian’s legs, Lucius slowly evaluates the young woman, confirming his design. Lilian has lost her cartouche, her father, her honor and her status as a warrior. She is all but destitute. Lilian is not guilty of Remus Gariten’s crimes, only of carrying the foul criminal’s blood. It is an offense she can redeem with a three year trial by ordeal. She will not regain what she has lost. Lilian will never again be a warrior. She will retain her life and the right of every inhabitant of the Twelve Systems to forge advancement in commerce through skill, determination, hard work and ruthlessness.

This is not the arrangement Lucius initially anticipated, it will serve. Lucius has what he wants, and that is what matters. “Have you doubt of your father’s guilt? Hold you any fanciful notion of cleansing the Gariten name and regaining warrior status?”

Stunned by the question, and its implications, Lilian drops her gaze to milord wondering if she has handed herself over to the deranged. What a ludicrous notion. No, do not voice that.

“No milord. Remus Gariten was guilty of every transgression of which he was convicted.” And a great deal more.

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