Once a month the Science Fiction Romance Brigade authors showcase snippets from new work, WIPs, cover reveals or other fun things. The link is here for all the participants.
I’m sharing an excerpt from my SFR Galaxy Award Winning novel Mission to Mahjundar.
Princess Shalira is blind as the result of a botched assassination attempt on her when she was a child. Mike is the Sectors Special Forces operator she loves and this is an ambush by an unknown enemy on the two of them and their companions. (Book blurb below the excerpt.)
Shalira felt the reins suddenly go slack in Mike’s hands and her horse slowed, ambling to the left to nibble at something. “Michael?” Reaching one hand to where he ought to be, she found nothing.
In the next moment, a sharp pain arced through her arm and she recoiled, nearly slipping from the saddle, feeling as if she’d been bitten by an insect. A second sting as something lodged in her thigh. She yanked the projectile from her clinging skirts, which had blunted most of the impact. It felt like a heavy oblong wooden bead, feathered, with a sharp metal tip.
Throwing the dart to the ground, fear growing, she rose in her stirrups, listening intently, craning in all directions as she softly called his name. “Michael, what’s happening? Saium?”
As the mare continued to move lazily from one browsing spot to the next, she heard strange men shouting in some unfamiliar dialect, voices rough with anger or excitement, but no sound from her own companions.
Panic swept over her like a cascade of ice water. Clenching her fists, she pressed them to her mouth in horror as memories of the terrible incident in childhood flooded through her mind. Unable for a moment to distinguish between the awful memories and the present, she slipped from the saddle, intent on hiding herself. Keeping hold on the stirrup as she landed, to prevent the horse from wandering off as much as to steady herself, she shook her head, trying to dispel the flashback. I’m not a child any more, my brother’s been dead for fifteen years, Vreely’s dead, this isn’t happening.
A warm, burning sensation spread through her body from the two places where she’d been “stung”. Dizzy, she clung to the reassuring bulk of her mare, fingers clenched on the edges of the saddle blanket. The horse swung its head for a moment to sniff at her before making a huffing sound and resuming its grazing.
I need to see, I need my eyes. She prayed desperately, but vision refused to come. I should get back on the horse, attempt to flee. But without someone to guide her, she wouldn’t get far.
The sounds of assault were dying down, and a moment later Shalira sensed four or five people surrounding her. She heard their soft footsteps on the grassy woodland floor as they approached, smelled their sweat and some kind of paint. The newcomers stopped a few feet away from her.
Shaking with terror, fighting the memories of her childhood, Shalira called for Michael again, to no avail.
“Your men can’t help you, pretty one,” said a guttural voice directly in front of her.
Shalira recognized the dialect, a common trade talk used in the marketplaces all over Mahjundar. “Who are you?”
“You’ll know us soon enough,” said the man, an unpleasant glee underlying his words. At the same moment, two others grabbed her arms. Weakened from whatever drug had been on the tip of the darts, she struggled against their hold, trying to twist and kick her way free. “I demand you release me!”
Someone grabbed at the Windhunter collar, jerking the chain in an attempt to yank the jewelry from her neck.
“Don’t touch her, you greedy fools!” yelled another warrior, much older from the timbre of the voice. “Can’t you see she’s blind? And wears the symbol of the Lady as well as the necklace you’re trying to steal? You’d better heed her demands, and release her.”
Apparently the newcomer had authority to back up his commands. The two men imprisoning her released their grip, and she staggered against her horse, then slowly fell, knees giving way from terror and the drugs.
An attempted assassination left Princess Shalira blind as a child and, now that she’s of marriageable age, her prospects are not good because of her disability. She’s resigned herself to an arranged marriage rather than face life under the thumb of her cold stepmother. But then she meets Mike Varone, a Sectors Special Forces officer sent to Mahjundar by the intergalactic government to retrieve a ship lost in her planet’s mountains. After Mike saves Shalira from another assassination attempt, she arranges for him to escort her across the planet to her future husband. She’s already falling hard for the deadly offworlder and knows she should deny herself the temptation he represents, but taking Mike along to protect her is the only way she’ll live long enough to escape her ruthless stepmother.
Mike, for his part, resists his growing attraction to the princess; he has a mission on this planet and rescuing the vulnerable but brave princess isn’t it. No matter how much he wishes it could be.
But what should have been an easy trek through Mahjundar’s peaceful lands swiftly turns into an ambush with danger around every turn. Shalira’s marriage begins to seem less like an arranged union and more like yet another planned assassination. The more they work together to survive, the harder it becomes to stop themselves from falling in love. Caught in a race against time, can they escape the hostile forces hunting them and make it off the planet?
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