To win, all you have to do is leave me a comment and my daughter will pick one out of a hat. Or, well, a cup or something. Details, details, sigh. Also, if you'd go over to the Amazon page and hit the like button under the title, I'd be most appreciative. Post a review? Undying gratitude. It has none. :/
And yeah, the excerpt is copyright protected and all that, so please don't go copying it all over the Net without linking back to me. Plus all rights reserved, only one entry per player, only one prize awarded, etc.
So here's your excerpt to start us off. You have until the end of Friday the 9th to leave a comment and WIN.
For the first time, Alaric allowed himself to dwell on what Haydn had told him. His people. Soldiers, all loyal warriors dedicated to the rebellion. Dedicated to him. He’d be Prince Aric again…or more properly, King Aric. But he found he couldn’t style himself with that title, much less with his real name. No. Until they had a place of their own, until his people were safe, Alaric was content to let his father remain king, if in memory only.
Where are they? Haydn had given him no clue. Alaric only knew them to be somewhere inhospitable and dangerous, somewhere the Coalition had no interest in looking. He drifted, imagining windswept plains or icy moon outposts…
“You slept,” Katriel said, drawing him from his dreams.
She sat across the hold from him, legs sprawled out, one hand curled around a cup on the table. Sweat made her skin glisten and darkened the roots of her braid. Her dark eyes drank in the faint light like obsidian.
She indicated the other cup. “Come have a drink. You must be thirsty.”
Alaric undid his straps and crossed the hold to take a seat next to her. The cup held wine, sweet and heady. He paused and stared at it after his sip.
“Something Haydn said you’d like.” She shrugged. “I can get you something else if you want.”
“No. It’s fine.” Better than fine. It was a vintage he recognized, born of fruit on his own family lands. Royal vintage, fit for celebrating newly-crowned kings. Or a newly found Lost Prince. He’d not tasted it in years, not since his sister had been born.
He lifted the cup to his lips to hide his flinch. His sister, the adorable, capricious princess. At home he’d often found her annoying. Now her loss simply added to the weight of constant grief.
“How come you no longer fight for the Coalition?” he asked.
A smile tugged at Katriel’s wide mouth. “You’re a direct one.”
“It’s a fair question,” he said. “You left for some reason, and sold yourself to Haydn. Not something anyone would do lightly, I imagine. You must have had a good reason to leave the war.”
Her gaze traveled over him, and he wondered what she thought of him, with his planet’s highborn coloring of tanned skin, blond hair shorn tight to his scalp for convenience, of his worn travel tunic and long coat, and his creased holster. And the heliotrope eyes, the hallmark of his Royal House, the mark of Godsblood. Hiding them behind glasses seemed too obvious aboard ship.
Katriel’s raking gaze caused a thrill in his belly and groin, too. Alaric’s cheeks heated and he hoped his tanned skin covered his embarrassment.
She lit a smoke. “And what do you know of war?”
He sobered. “I know enough. I live in a Coalition galaxy, do I not?”
“I don’t know where you live.”
Neither do I. “You’re taking me home now, as near to one as I have. But you still must answer my question.” He tried for a smile, but it hit the wall of her black eyes and faded.
“Answers for answers, then?” she asked.
“There was a game like that on my homeworld,” Alaric said. “Answer mine first and then I owe you one.”
For all their light sparring, darkness shrouded her expression as she spoke. “All right. I left because I’d had enough killing and death. I got too…good at it.”
“You sound like you worried more about your enemy than your comrades.”
She stared into the middle distance. “Innocents, we killed over Calixte. And other places.” She shook her head, her exhale a jagged stream of smoke. “Now your turn. Why is Haydn giving me our journey one leg at a time?”
The beeping saved him. She sighed and pushed up from the table, shook her smoke at him. “Speak of the old man himself. But don’t worry. I won’t forget it’s your turn in our little game. We’ll have more time to get to know each other after the jump.”
He forced a smile as she strode the few steps to the cockpit and ducked inside. She moved like a huntress, exuding animalistic sensuality paired with confident strength. He swallowed the dregs of his wine and strapped in for the jump, unable to fight the distinct feeling he’d just become her prey.