So, I was browsing through my blog (procrastinating) and I noticed I didn't have excerpts from my first two books. Which is not cool. I decided to remedy that.
This one is from Kingdom Come, my second book and a stand-alone. The link at the end will take you to my website where I put my snazzy new links for Amazon, Smashwords, and everywhere else.
The Fallen Spark
“Words are only painted fire; a look is the fire itself.”
- Mark Twain
She hurried down the hallway, stumbling occasionally in the unfamiliar heels, while she tried to keep up with Agent Jackson. He seemed to be trying to break a land speed record.
The immaculate setting, something she had only seen in pictures and video, played a large part in distracting her from the curious stares and disapproving glances of the people she passed.
The new pantsuit, certainly not her idea, chafed skin that had not seen anything more demanding than jeans and t-shirts in twenty-five years of life.
She staggered to a halt, as the impassive agent stopped outside the doorway and stood at attention. He quickly took in her appearance.
She looked down at herself. Her shirt had come partially untucked, the toe of her right shoe was scuffed, and she could feel pieces of her neat chignon falling.
She quickly raised her hands to fiddle with the pens, attempting to get her hair back into something resembling the original bun. From the agent's gaze, she could tell she had failed.
He did not comment, but the flat line of his mouth became flatter. Suddenly, she noticed the two guards standing on either side of the door, so unobtrusive they were almost invisible.
Both eyed her carefully, as if trying to see if she was a threat. After about five seconds, they clearly decided she was either lost or below their notice. She was fine with that.
When she looked back at Agent Jackson, he was tapping at the tablet in his hands. He completely ignored her presence until he finished what he was doing, looking up to pin her with a hard look.
“He’s ready for you.”
Her stomach clenched, but she gave him a quick nod. She glanced at the nearby desk to see the woman openly staring at her, as if she were some kind of strange creature not often seen in the area.
She supposed she was. Her fingers twisted into the fabric of her dress pants, as another twinge of being completely out of her element hit her.
If the agent noticed her fidgeting, he said nothing. His sharp gray eyes gave her another quick once over, before he turned to give one of the guards a nod.
In a moment that was almost too surreal, Agent Jackson jerked his head towards the doorway. She knew a silent order when she saw one. She hurried towards the door, trying not to shuffle.
She hovered in the doorway, feeling every eye on her, and fought the urge to turn back. Taking a deep breath, she raised her head and stepped into the Oval Office.
It was exactly like every picture she had ever seen, every movie she had ever watched. Her eyes wandered over the familiar furnishings, taking in her nation's history and feeling infinitely small.
Someone cleared their throat off to her right and she jerked her head around to look. Pure and simple mortification brought a blush to her cheeks, as she realized none other than the President of United States was watching her with a look between amusement and impatience.
She froze, eyes wide. The appearance of a tablet at her elbow caused her to jerk violently. She quickly took it, holding it against her chest with both hands, more for comfort than necessity.
She glanced over her shoulder to see Agent Jackson walking from the room, pulling the door closed behind him with a note of finality.
She forced a small smile and walked further into the room. It was not until she stood at the end of the sofa, facing the President, that she noticed the silent figure sitting opposite him. She only caught a glimpse of the side of his face before the President began to speak, drawing all of her attention.
“Miss Ashley, thank you for joining us. We were just about to begin.” He gave the man across from him a polite nod. “Prince Edric, this is my administrative assistant, Abigail Ashley.”
She turned her head to look at the man and stared. She was sure her eyes were far too wide, but she could not seem to look away or blink. She was vaguely aware of the President’s voice speaking from off to her right, but it seemed vague and muffled.
Pitch black hair fell forward over the Prince’s forehead and curled against the collar of a perfectly cut black suit. His strong jaw was visibly clenched, as if he were grinding his teeth, and what appeared to be an extremely kissable mouth was pressed into a flat line.
After her eyes wandered to broad shoulders, a small movement from him made her gaze rise to his face again.
He was staring at her intensely and she almost gasped at the color of his eyes. The same aquamarine of the Caribbean Sea, their beauty took her breath away.
Their eyes met for less than a second before he looked away, leaving her to try to make sense of the wealth of emotions she had glimpsed in his gaze. She mentally shook herself.
Prince Edric was by far the most handsome man she had ever seen. As soon as her mind formed the thought, she jerked her head back to look at the President.
He continued to speak as if he had not noticed her lapse in attention, most of his words aimed at the other man. For his part, the Prince simply nodded silently, staring at the President.
"Okay, let's get started. Prince Edric, is there anything you need before we get started? Refreshments?"
"No. Thank you."
Abby fought the urge to shiver. His voice sounded as good as he looked. Deep, with an odd cadence that made his speech almost melodic.
She licked her lips and gripped the tablet tighter. She told herself not to look in his direction, but her eyes wandered that way, landing on his hands where they lay on his thighs.
Kicking herself, she could not help but admire his wide palms and long fingers. Which brought her attention to his muscular legs, clearly outlined by the fabric of his pants. She jerked her eyes away, just before the President turned his head to look at her.
"Miss Ashley, would you please be seated?" He gestured to the end of the sofa he sat on.
She hurried over to sit down, praying she did not trip in the new heels. As she placed the tablet in her lap, her thumbs left wet marks on the edge of the screen. She willed her hands not to shake. She had to take notes, surely she could handle that.
“Are you ready, Miss Ashley?”
She sent the President what she hoped was a bright smile. “Yes, sir. Please continue.” Before she could congratulate herself on sounding eloquent, she felt the Prince’s eyes on her. “I’ll just, um, take notes?” She mentally cringed, and squeaked out a quick, “Sir.”
He stared at her for a moment, before he turned his head to look at the Prince. “Prince Edric, shall we begin with introductions?”
Abby stared hard at the on-screen keyboard to keep from looking up at him. His put-upon tone did not match the accommodating words. The President seemed to have decided to ignore the inconsistency.
“Do you mind getting us started?” the President asked in a friendly tone.
She could not decide if he was being honest or if he was trying to draw the uncommunicative Prince out of his shell. She mentally shrugged, catching the Prince’s nod from beneath her eyelashes.
She braced herself for his voice before he began to speak, watching him raise his chin and fasten an openly challenging gaze on the President.
“I am Ambassador of the Ghadrik, High Prince of the Ghadrikan kingdom, and Champion of Her Majesty, the Queen.”
Abby felt her eyebrows climbing her forehead and it was all she could do not to look at him and see what expression went along with the haughty tone.
She continued to tap on the screen, even after she had finished typing his words. It gave her hands something to do and kept her eyes from straying.
The President cleared his throat and began to speak. “Though I was not born to royalty,” he paused to let his tone sink in, “I am President of the United States, a great nation built on democracy.”
Abby internally winced at the implied insult. She chanced a quick glance at the Prince. His eyes had narrowed dangerously.
“How nice for you.”
She did not have to be an actual political secretary to know the ‘meet and greet’ was not going well. She gave up all pretense of writing and looked back and forth between the two men glaring at each other.
“Um, sir?” Both of them turned their heads to look at her and she bit back an undignified squeak. “Could we take a short break? I forgot to bring my voice recorder.” She gave the President what she hoped was an apologetic smile. “It’s still in Agent Jackson’s suit jacket.”
It took him less than a second to understand what she was saying. He gave her a small smile. “Of course, Miss Ashley.” He looked back at the Prince. “Do you mind if we take a short break?”
Abby turned her head in time to see the Prince watching her. He looked away.
“That is satisfactory.”
She walked out of the Oval Office like the room was on fire, leaving the tablet on the couch where she had been sitting and fleeing the tense atmosphere. She hurried down the hallway, barely aware of the eyes watching her.
As she speed walked toward the office Agent Jackson had been using earlier in the day, she forcibly kept her mind from thinking of the Prince. It was remarkably difficult.
She swung around the corner outside the office and careened into another agent. Her weak grasp on her balance failed her and her arms pinwheeled as she fell off her heels and tumbled to the office floor with a solid thud.
“Miss Ashley,” Agent Jackson’s voice drawled from somewhere above her.
She winced at what was bound to be a bruise, but climbed to her feet. “I need the voice recorder,” she explained.
“Is the meeting going well?” Jackson asked as he pulled the plastic USB device from his pocket. He held it out to her, but did not let go when she reached for it.
She looked up to meet his cold gaze. “Not exactly.”
He raised one thick eyebrow. “Why is that?”
She opened her mouth, and then quickly closed it when he frowned at her. Swallowing hard, she said, “The Ambassador doesn’t seem to be in a very good mood.”
When his lips pressed into a flat line, she jerked her eyes away to look at anything but him.
“Not in a good mood?”
He released the voice recorder so suddenly, she almost stumbled. “Then, put him in a good mood.”
“Okay.” At his deepening frown, she added, “I’ll do what I can.”
“You do that, Miss Ashley.” He managed to make it sound like a threat. “Break’s over.”
She bobbed her head in a quick nod and walked out of the office. Out of his oppressive presence, the ache in her hip returned.
She imagined the area was already turning black and blue, as she sped down the hallway at a fast limp. She paused outside the door of the Oval Office to gather herself and force her spine straight.
Put the Ambassador in a good mood. Easier said than done. She grasped the handle and pulled the door open, forcing a smile to her face.
The two men looked up at her when she entered, but she noticed the Prince did not meet her eyes. His gaze moved over her carefully, as if taking in every bit of her appearance.
When she took her first limping step, he frowned. She tried not to think about it too hard, turning her gaze to the President.
“I’m sorry I took so long.”
“No need to be sorry,” he assured her. He watched her take a few more steps before he rose from the couch. “Are you alright, Miss Ashley?”
She nodded quickly. “Just a little tumble. Nothing to worry about.”
“You fell? Are you injured?” His eyes flicked to the Prince, who had moved to the edge of the sofa.
She could feel her cheeks growing warm. She shook her head, hobbling faster to cut him off before he could draw more attention to her situation.
“I’m completely fine, sir. Nothing worse than a bruise. Thank you, though.” She dropped onto the couch and winced.
“Are you sure?”
Her eyes flicked from the President to the Prince and back. “Perfectly. Thank you, sir.” She gave him a small smile and picked up the tablet. “I’m ready when you are.”
He gave her an unreadable look and glanced back at the Prince, who had not stopped staring at her since she came in. “Let me know if you need to stop.”
She nodded dutifully, but let out a relieved sigh when he turned his attention to the Prince. She brought up the keyboard and waited.
“What do you think of our country, Prince Edric?” the President asked.
She typed the question and paused, waiting for the Prince to answer. She looked up at him when several seconds passed. His eyes were fastened on her, scanning her face. She dropped her head to hide her surprise.
“It has merit.”
A small, nonsensical part of her fluttered at the warm tone of his voice. She quickly shoved it down.
“Have you had a chance to see much of it?”
“As of today, I have seen this building and a small portion of the grounds.”
“Ah. A fan of architecture?”
“No, your architecture pales in comparison to what I am accustomed to.”
Abby mentally cringed. She glanced at the President from the corner of her eye to see if he would rise to the bait. Though he stiffened, he did not comment.
“Then what is it that has impressed you, Prince Edric?”
She watched him from beneath her eyelashes, as his bright gaze almost met hers before he turned to regard the President.
“You have a very large military, Mr. President.” He smiled. “Why is that?”
The President was visibly thrown by the non sequitor. “Excuse me?”
“Second in the world, if North Korea is to be believed. Behind Russia, is it?”
She knew her mouth was hanging open, but she was too busy looking back and forth between the two men to bother with it. She was no politician, but it sounded like a threat to her.
From the President’s gobsmacked expression, she assumed he had not missed it. When the Prince sat forward on the couch, her gaze snapped to him.
She studied him while he was occupied with the President. His posture had taken on a watchful, mildly amused air that made her think the President had no idea who he was dealing with. She heard Agent Jackson’s words in her mind. A demand to fix this, to keep things on track.
Licking her lips nervously, she said, “Prince Edric?”
His gaze immediately settled on her, disregarding the leader of her country in a way that could be nothing but insulting to the man. “Yes, Miss Ashley?”
She could not suppress the shiver when he said her name in a tone completely unlike the baiting tone he had used with the President.
“Would you-?” she broke off and cleared her throat.
He settled back on the couch and watched her, allowing her to take her time.
Her gaze flicked to the President and he was watching her with narrowed eyes. She searched her mind for something to say. Anything to get the attention off her and the conversation on a pleasant topic. She tossed out the first thing that entered her mind.
“Would you explain what you meant earlier? About being champion. What does that mean?”
She managed to get the questions out without stuttering.
As she was mentally patting herself on the back, the Prince smiled, flashing a row of bright white, perfectly straight teeth. It was unfair.
When she realized her mouth was hanging open, she snapped it shut and looked away. She was vaguely aware of the President looking back and forth between them, but was more focused on her burning face. It was so ridiculous.
She was a grown woman and she was blushing like a teenager. As the Prince began to speak, she forced herself to look at his face. She told herself she was not affected.
“To be the Queen’s Champion is a great honor. It is comparable to a general, if Earth had one military and one general.” His eyes still did not meet hers, fastened somewhere just above her head.
“And the Queen, that’s your mother?” She glanced at the President to make sure it was alright to continue speaking. He gave her a small nod.
“Is she going to come here, too?”
“She does not care for humans,” he answered as he looked at the President.
“Oh. Any particular reason?” she quipped, before she caught herself.
He gave her what looked like a fond smile. “Several.”
The President cleared his throat and the smile vanished. The Prince slowly moved his gaze to look at him. “I think this meeting is over.”