Music: Just Like Fire (Nightcore). Awesome thanks to Bloodinroses275 for suggesting it.

Chapter dedicated to ItalyFrance. Thanks, my friend, for reading and Voting! ps...I love your user ID.

Chapter 61 – Retribution – Alaric's POV

I had never been so eager for one of these cursed Alliance Meetings to end, than I was right now. But once again this evening, I was thrust on a rollercoaster ride. It began when Marku asked Echo, "Are you on track to pay back the $1M you owe me in six months?"

Oh fuck! Now, I understood why Marku had been so willing for Raine to assume ownership of Echo's country - it put her in debt to him!  If he couldn't obtain her one way, he would try another.

This couldn't possibly be happening!

And I already knew Echo's answer, because he had told us the night before. He wasn't going to be able to pay it back!

Fuck, fuck, fuck!

Echo fidgeted and began, "Yes, um, we'd like to renegotiate the terms. We have some additional resources being added and technology and..."

Marku's lips curled in dark anticipation.

Suddenly, Raine interrupted, "Wait. Echo, what was the money for?"

He looked at her in surprise and explained, "Our primary source of income is diamond and precious stone mining, which we then contract with another source to create our jewelry collections. It provides more than 70% of our people's employment and our country's livelihood. Marku loaned us $600K for equipment, so that we could increase production, with the demand that we repay $1M after twelve months. We are halfway through that time. The loan will become due in six more months."

Raine listened attentively and asked, "Have you increased production?"

Echo's expression was tight as he replied, "To an extent. However, the last few auctions were less than we had hoped for."

Raine continued to ask questions, and read through the financial reports. Marku waited on her patiently. I think he was entertained. After several minutes of research, Raine look at Marku and spoke formally, "I would like to make a counter offer."

Marku waived his hand in the air and replied, "By all means, go right ahead."

"If we are able to repay $500K/half of the debt, in three months/half of the time, then you agree to absolve the remaining $500K," she requested.

He laughed, "Why would I agree to an amount less than I loaned?"

Her expression tightened as she replied carefully, "You strike me as a man who isn't afraid to take a risk, particularly when there is potential for more reward. If you agree to reduce the debt to $500K, provided it is paid in three months, verses six; then I would be open to considering a reasonable counter offer based on the stipulation of it not being accomplished."

His eyes lit up. He purred, "All right, you are asking me to consider reducing it in half for accomplishing it in half of the time. I propose if you do not meet this goal, then the amount doubles to $2M on the original due date six months from now."

Echo gasped loudly and Raine narrowed her eyes, clearly unhappy with Marku's response. I expected her to outright reject it for the laughable offer that it was. I was astounded when she remained silent. After several long minutes of contemplation, she demanded, "I want the pet as well."

Marku's eyebrows shot up at her unexpected response, and then he asked suggestively, "Did you like what you saw?"

Raine's only reply was, "$2M is a lot of money."

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