Ilse Zhalina is the daughter of one of Melnek's more prominent merchants. She has lived most of her life surrounded by the trappings of wealth and privilege. Many would consider hers a happy lot. But there are dark secrets, especially in the best of families. Ilse has learned that for a young woman of her beauty and social station, to be passive and silent is the way to survive. When Ilse finally meets the older man she is to marry, she realizes that he is far crueller and more deadly than her father could ever be. Ilse chooses to run. This choice will change her life forever. And it will lead her to Raul Kosenmark, master of one of the land's most notorious pleasure houses...and who is, as Ilse discovers, a puppet master of a different sort altogether. Ilse discovers a world where every pleasure has a price and there are levels of magic and intrigue she once thought unimaginable. She also finds the other half of her heart.