I’ve decided to change up these weekly snippets and go through my backlist, sharing the first meeting between the two main characters in each book. I’m going roughly in the order of first publication. It’s always fun for me to revisit the books and I hope it will be for you too! Or if you’ve never happened to read a certain book, maybe I can entice you into giving it a try.
MISSION TO MAHJUNDAR was my third early-published scifi romance, full of plot (more than long enough to have been a duology)…
The Female Main Character is a blind princess on an alien planet, being sent to her arranged marriage with a savage warlord. The Male Main Character is a Sectors Special Forces officer, on the planet for his own mission, who’s forced to escort the FMC to her marriage before he can get approval for his assignment to proceed. Of course romance follows!
There’s been an explosion and a riot in the crowded main sqaure of the city while Princess Shalira was in a procession there. Mike was waiting for the parade to pass before he could continue on his way and now he rushes in to help her.
Seeing her at closer range, he revised his estimate of her age upward by about ten years–not a girl in the late bloom of youth after all, but a stunning woman. “Hang on, lady, I’ll help you dismount. Once you’re safe, I can try to get him calmed down for you,” Mike said, pitching his voice at a level he hoped would cut through the incredible din in the square. “You’re doing fine, just don’t let go of the reins, ok?”
She opened her eyes, turning in his direction. “Oh, please—”
The stallion bucked harder, breaking the rider’s hold on the saddle. She slid off like a rag doll. Cursing, Mike let go of the horse, which promptly bolted. He managed to break the girl’s fall, going to one knee as he caught her. To prevent her from being trampled by the crowd, which surged into the space the distressed horse had kept clear with its lashing hooves, Mike carried her in the direction the panic-stricken people were flowing. “Come on, we’ve got to get away from this mob!”
It was like swimming in a riptide. Going with the flow initially, Mike angled toward the far curb and got himself and his trembling companion across the roadway.
“I can walk,” she said, voice faint. Making no effort to leave the security of his arms, however, she had her eyes closed again.
Rather than waste time arguing, he carried her as he clambered over fallen people and maneuvered around debris until they fetched up in the doorway of a bakery. The sweet smell of fresh breads mingled incongruously with the stench of smoke from the bomb blast. With a muttered apology, Mike set the woman on her feet behind him, so he could defend them both if necessary.
Drawing his belt knife, which was the only weapon he’d been allowed to carry through the city gates, he felt better. Now prepared to deal with whatever might happen next, he crouched in the doorway, trying to keep the woman out of sight behind him as much as possible. Mike surveyed the plaza, identifying no immediate threats. No one paying us any attention right now, too much confusion and panic. He had no way of knowing if the empress had just been the target of an assassination attempt or whether the bombers had hoped some members of the royal household would be unlucky enough to be caught in the blast so close to the parade. If it was the latter case, his job was to keep the terrorists from stumbling over his companion. Time to reassure the woman I rescued.
Half-turning to check how she was doing, he said, “Sorry for the rough handling, miss. Someone apparently has it in for the royal family today.”
One hand was clenched around a small red purse tied to her belt. She was staring slightly over his shoulder with beautiful caramel-brown eyes, golden highlights sparkling in their depths. Reaching to touch his shoulder with her free hand, she let her manicured nails drift ever so slowly to his face.
She’s blind? He allowed her to run her hand over his features for a moment.
Finishing her rudimentary scan, the woman patted her hair and cleared her throat. “Your voice is unknown to me, sir, but thank you for your help. What of my guardsman? I’m anxious about his safety.”
You should be worrying about your own skin, lady. “I didn’t see him after the explosion. He probably got dragged away by the crowd. There were a lot of people in the market, and they became a mob with one thing on their minds—escape. I had a hard time working my way to you and the horse.” Mike took a deep breath of her perfume, floral with a woodsy undertone, while he reconnoitered the square again with practiced efficiency. “The excitement will subside in a few minutes, after which I’d be honored to escort you to the palace.”
“Most kind.” She stood patiently, one hand at her throat, toying with the turquoise and green necklace she wore. ”I wish we knew what had become of my guard.”
This one was partially inspired by The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye and the poignant situation of a man escorting the woman he loves to her arranged marriage. I was also inspired by a dear friend I had in college who was blind.
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?
MISSION TO MAHJUNDAR is part of the SECTORS SF ROMANCE SERIES. Each story in this series takes place in the same world of space soldiers and the competent ladies who love them. You can read the books in this series back to back, or as individual, stand-alone books.