Title: Paradigm Shift
Author: Harper Kingsley
Gregor had yet to meet *the* Duadenora, but when Rutherford Hizel came into the room it was as though the very air began to hum. There was no confusing him for anyone but the man himself.
He held himself like a king.
Hizel was tall and thin with the papery skin of a man much older than his Sculpted face would suggest. Gregor didn't know his exact age, but Hizel had been in control of his Family for close to fifty years, and he had been an Enforcer for twenty years before that.
The man's hair was silvery, but retained the thickness of chemical stimulation. His nose was a bit unattractive–a hawklike beak–but his lips and the arch of his brow were the precursor to Park's own. Gregor couldn't see his eyes clearly from across the room, so he could only wonder if they were as steady and cool as his eldest son's, or if they were the the bright trusting wells of Zero.
This was the man that had chosen him to be the Third for the Duadenora. Before anyone else even knew that Gregor existed, this man had decided that he would be part of the Family. It was a somewhat daunting thought.
Gregor didn't know if he was supposed to rise to his feet and bow or something –his etiquette lessons hadn't quite gotten to that point– but everyone else was retaining their seats so he stayed where he was. Besides, he didn't trust himself to stand up without his legs collapsing.
He kind of hated that someone could make him this nervous.
Then Hizel was striding closer to him and he was able to see those eyes –and it was no wonder that he was nervous. He hadn't even noticed that Zero had come in on his father's heels. All Gregor could see were those eyes, one green and one blue, both blazing with the iron conviction of *the* Duadenora.
Hizel met his gaze for a long moment, then gave a single nod. And that was it. He took his seat at the head of the table and conversation sprung up around him and Gregor was left alone. The man didn't give him a single word.
Gregor wasn't quite sure whether he was insulted or relieved.
"Father approves of you," Park said in a low voice. He rested his hand against the back of Gregor's chair so he could lean close. There was the faint spicy scent of some cologne clinging to his skin.
"You don't say? After that effusive greeting?" Gregor unfolded his linen napkin and spread it across his lap with precise movements.
"You don't sound happy." There was a hint of amusement in Park's voice, though his expression was bland when Gregor glared at him. "For my father, that *was* effusive. He would have only said something here in front of everyone if he was displeased. Believe me, you should feel proud. He has given you his approval."
It was stupid. There was no reason for Gregor to feel uplifted or anything else, but he couldn't help himself. His whole life had been about fitting in and receiving the approval of the people around him.
Rutherford Hizel, the Duadenora, didn't even really know him, but approved of Gregor nonetheless.
And his damn hormones must be getting to him. How else could he explain why he wanted to grin like an idiot just because he'd passed some invisible test?
It wasn't like he was going to accept a contract with the Duadenora Family. He was just biding his time until he could have his freedom back.