In honor of the upcoming release of “Reps and Royals,” I’d like to share some of my favorite passages from the first several chapters. Don’t forget to get your copy, only available on Kindle, starting July 10, 2016.
The Princess frowned at him. “Why are you so gloomy today? Your probationary period ends tonight. You can resume courting me tomorrow.”
“I’m aware of that,” Elras shrugged. “But it might be a day too late.”
Before Juzeera could process what he said, Aphod appeared from the nearby balcony. “How is the Birth Week girl?” He pulled her in for an affectionate embrace.
She let him kiss her before replying, “It’s been like a dream.”
Aphod shifted nervously, adjusting the temple-less spectacles on the bridge of his crooked nose. “Technically, if it were a dream, you likely won’t remember anything when you wake up tomorrow.” He cleared his throat and continued, “I’d love to hear more about that, My Princess. Perhaps we could speak privately on the balcony?”
Juzeera wished her other suitors a good night. She couldn’t help notice the cold stares they gave Aphod as he led her away from the group. “Why are they mad at you?”
Aphod smoothed his pale yellow hair and laughed. “You’ll find out soon.”
Tybrik was about to begin tracking a three-toed animal when a light shone in his face. A man’s voice asked, “How ya doing, sir?”
Shielding his eyes, he replied in the planet’s vernacular, “Good week.”
The man changed the settling on his lamp and the brightness faded. Between the two of them, it almost looked as though it was day. Tybrik studied the man, who wore red and brown from head to foot. He knew he had seen that uniform before, but he couldn’t place it.
“I see you’ve caught something.” The man gestured at the cat-chicken with a frown. “I thought everyone knew that poaching is illegal this close to Golden Glacier Falls.” He seemed friendly enough, and yet there was a sternness to his voice. “Why don’t you let it go?”
Trying to appear cooperative, Tybrik holstered his firearm. “Sure. Sorry about that. It’s just that I’ve been lost out here for a couple days and haven’t had anything to eat.” He set the cat-chicken down and pulled his bag off his shoulders. If he had taken more than basic self-defense class like Haelon had recommended, he might have been more confident in taking out the tall, muscular stranger. As it was, his options were looking rather limited.
“Don’t be broken. Please don’t be broken.”
There was a hiss followed by a clang. A hunk of twisted thrusters flew past her view screen.
“And there go my landing stabilizers.” Haelon ended the descent sequence with a sigh.
What made her maddest wasn’t the fact that her ship was useless, nor that she was without food or water. She hated that the SCG Committee put her little half-brother in charge of her. Haelon had worked tirelessly for four years, traveling to newly colonized planets and establishing a connection with the Guild and original After-Earth colonies. Haelon fueled that anger, which helped her keep hold of her last strand of consciousness.
Sure, her previous mission had ended with less than civil relations. But it wasn’t completely her fault. If the “Grand Warlock” of Egthandor didn’t want to be shot in the foot, then he shouldn’t have requested her to be his “Vampire Mistress.”
But Tybrik was straight out of his training. He hadn’t even been on a real mission yet. With him, it was all, “Follow the rules and everything will turn out alright.” Well Haelon’s experiences taught her that the Handbook’s guidelines didn’t always have the answers. Sometimes a Guild Rep had to depend on their instincts and respond accordingly.
Still, her intuition occasionally failed her. Like the situation she was currently in. Haelon was running out of options.
At the corner of her closet, she lifted a floor tile. Fleetship Castle was full of secret passage ways that connected nearly every room. Most of her childhood had been spent running from her tutors and exploring the different tunnels. She could have popped out anywhere within The Castle’s perimeter. That was both a blessing and a curse. It gave her much freedom, but if she ran into the wrong person on her way out of the passages, all the sneaking around was for naught.
The boats seemed like the best course of action. She could sneak into a canoe and head south to The Wetlands. It would be a nice vacation from everyone that wanted her attention during her Birth Week. A nice relaxing journey floating down the river seemed like the best present she could give herself.
And then she remembered that she had promised herself a different present. The shooting star appeared in her mind. A boat would still help her get to Golden Glacier Falls, but The Wetlands would need to wait for another day.
A rustling in a bush across the clearing caught his attention. Putting a hand on his knife hilt, Tybrik eyed the foliage. While searching for food, he had encountered several strange beasts—some of which were several times his own size. He was confident that he could take down a few smaller creatures. But if something large attacked him, he was sure to be eaten.
But it was not a beast of any size. Out strode of a woman, fiery hair spilling out the bottom of her helmet. She aimed a pistol at his head.
“Oh, great. They found me. Now what am I gonna do?” Haelon knew she should be more upset than she was, but the thought of getting food made her look forward to possibly being captured.
Under better circumstances, she would have been able to fight a crew of five or six in order to commandeer the other ship. However, Haelon was sure that she couldn’t take on more than two or three in her current state. Since the odds of the planet only sending a handful of people were fairly low, she hatched a plan.
Quickly, she took her chair and smashed part of the panel. Her fingers flew over the wires exposed from the cracked screens. She ripped apart her messaging systems and the circuits that regulated the landing controls.
“That outta do it.”
Haelon pulled strands of her dark hair from the messy bun, making her seem more distressed than she was. With a cooking knife, she tore her jacket into tatters. As she made her way to the docking bay, she practiced making her “relieved-but-still-scared-out-of-her-mind” face. Taking in a few ragged breaths, she hit the airlock button.
Something caught her foot and she tumbled to the leafy ground. Juzeera looked behind her to see the man lying on his stomach, clutching her ankle. She grabbed a handful of dirt and threw it at his face. As he let go, she scrambled to her feet.
Growling with frustration, Juzeera climbed a tree. It wasn’t the smartest idea she had ever had, but it was the best she could do under the circumstances.
“Gonna fly away from me?” the man snickered, wiping dirt from his eyes. His short dark hair had twigs and leaves in it from their struggle, but he didn’t seem to care. “Sure! That might work.”
Juzeera needed time to think. Her lungs ached and her feet were throbbing. She wished that she had never wanted the shooting star.
“What did you mean by ‘beaus’?” the spaceman asked. Did Tybrik fall into some strange polygamist cult? “You have multiple boyfriends?”
“Someday I will be The Queen.” Juzeera straightened, taking a more commanding persona. Her appearance was a mess from running the forest, but she still had a regality to her. “I need to find a husband to be The King. Now I can’t just single out one man and hope that he’s my soul mate. I have to try all of them out at once, so I have multiple suitors. I’d hate to offend my second, third, fourth, and so on choices in case the others don’t work out. Make sense?”
Tybrik thought a moment before replying, “Strangely, yes.”
“The young women hate that I get to hog most of the men to myself,” The Princess explained, “which means I rarely get female company. However, many of my suitors have grown tired of waiting and have moved on to dating and marrying the socialite ladies.”
“So I have to pretend to be pursuing you—romantically?”
Juzeera giggled, causing her to lose all the dignity she had worn a moment ago. “Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that part of your cover ID.”
Haelon covertly wiped at the muck on her eyes with her finger tips. Some little witch servant had applied way too much make-up, saying it made her look “pretty.” She was a Representative of the Space Colonization Guild, not some doll to paint for people to ogle at. The dress was girly, too. Pink and yellow ruffles covered her muscular arms, with the same colored silks wrapped around her torso to accentuate her curves.
“I feel ridiculous,” she muttered under her breath.
Men stared as Haelon followed The King up a series of stairs throughout Fleetship Castle. Women watched her too, but their glares were less of admiration than of jealousy. With all the attention she was attracting, she was never going to complete her mission.
“There you are!” A massive figure in black lace swept through the room.
Juzeera gasped as Mehkin tackled her. She pushed a clump of pale braids from her mouth and embraced her dearest companion. “Yeah, I’ve been learning about other cultures. Representative Haelon tells me that one her planet, a woman cannot visit a lavatory by herself. What do you think of that, Mehkin?”
“It’s stupid,” she replied, returning to her monotone voice to reinforce her views on the matter. She shrugged her wide, thick shoulders. “What other pathetic, out-dated traditions do your people practice? Do you sacrifice your first-born child, or perhaps you still use coal as an energy source?” Mehkin moved between The Princess and the Representative. “Come on, Juzeera. The appetizers are almost done and I want to get a table with you.”
Juzeera played with one of Mehkin’s braids and put on a flirty smile. “I’ll be right there, Meh-Meh. Haelon and I were in the middle of a conversation.”
Mehkin glared down at the spacewoman, towering almost a foot above her. “Are you going to be The Princess’s new best friend? Well, you’ll have to fight me for that title. I won’t give it up easily. But I’ll warn you that I fight dirty.” She tossed her head, her braids whipping the Representative in the face.
“Wait. Is she serious?” Haelon asked, rubbing her cheek. “I’m not going to brawl with her. Don’t get me wrong—I’d win. I just don’t care to be your best friend.”