For our last excerpt week, I’m posting the first-ever excerpt from Across a Star-Swept Sea, my upcoming (fall 2013) futuristic YA spy caper (inspired by The Scarlet Pimpernel). In the scene below, my heroine Persis pretends to be a spoiled, airheaded aristocrat to help hide the fact that she’s secretly a super-spy, a plan that’s complicated when she gets an unexpected houseguest…
Shoving herself to her feet once more, she reengaged the screen and pulled the lever on her bath. A rush of hot mineral water flowed into the high-backed basin, and Persis tugged off her shift and slipped into the slightly sulfur-scented water. She didn’t even bother with perfumes. The obsidian wall above the bath was polished to a high sheen, and she checked out her reflection. Bloodshot, baggy eyes, but that was probably the sickness, not any lingering effects of the genetemps itself.
“By the way,” came Justen’s voice from the other side, “your friend gave me a message for you. The one with the blue hair?” His tone dripped with disdain. “She said she took your packages straight to your tailor.”
More good news. Persis slumped in her bath, allowing a small smirk at the thought of the league’s medic, Noemi, being called a tailor. Noemi would hate that. But she would know what to do for the children. Persis leaned her head back as the heat soaked into her aching muscles. “Thank you.”
Thank you, Justen Helo. Persis covered her face with her hands and groaned. Her whole life, she’d imagined what it would be like to meet a member of that famous family, perhaps when she went with Isla to one of Queen Gala’s parties. But it had never happened. Instead, this was what happened: Justen Helo had saved her life, and she’d thrown up on his shoes. So much for the elegant, charming Lady Persis Blake.
There was silence for several minutes on the other side of the screen, long enough for Persis to contemplate falling asleep again. But Justen couldn’t leave well enough alone. “Lady Blake? Do you plan to be very long in there?”
“Am I keeping you from an appointment, Citizen Helo?” She knew the Scintillans servants would have seen to all Justen’s needs, not only because he was Persis’s guest but because of his famous name. Regs would do anything for a descendant of the Helos. Justen was no doubt considered a model citizen back home.
And that’ s why letting him wander around out there unattended might not be the best idea. With a groan, Persis pulled herself up to a sitting position in the warm, soothing water. She’d soak her bones later. For now, she needed to deal with the Galatean revolutionary standing in her bedroom.
She dialed in the instructions to her bath, which promptly responded with a flow of frangipani-scented water. Rinsed and perfumed, she emerged, dried off, and garbed herself in an ocean blue kimono that covered her from neck to foot. Properly armed, she exited the bathroom only to be greeted by an empty space. She looked around in confusion, and spotted Justen outside in the garden, near a table set with breakfast for two. He was kneeling on the vibrant, manicured lawn, while Slipstream balanced on his hind legs, his long neck stretched up as he begged for the bit of manguava cake Justen dangled over the sea mink’s glossy black nose.
“He’ll balance treats on his nose if you want,” she said from the steps, squinting as the full sunlight hit her face.
Justen tried it and sat back on his heels, impressed. “Very well-trained pet you have.”
“That’s what my father paid the gengineers for.” Persis turned her attention to the sea mink. “Slippy, end!” Slipstream flipped the cake off his snout and caught it in midair as Persis stepped off the stairs and onto the soft, loamy earth of the lawn. “Ever seen a sea mink before?”
“We don’t use gengineering for personal pets in Galatea,” Justen said, rising to his feet. “just for stock animals, guard beasts, stuff like that.”
Stuff like mini-orcas to feed your enemies to. But she wouldn’t dwell on that now. Not when Justen had been so kind as to save her life. Not when she had so much shallow socialite to convince him of.
“Slipstream is an excellent guard beast,” she replied as the animal scurried to her side. “I’ve never had my yacht stolen even once.” A servant had set out a breakfast she wasn’t quite prepared to tackle until the tsunami in her gut died down. Instead, she poured herself a cup of jasmine tea and sank into the cushioned chair. “So, Citizen Helo, have you been enjoying my estate?”
“Justen is fine, Lady Blake.”
She smiled at him over the cup. “So is Persis. After all, we’re good friends now that you’ve spent the night at my place.”
His gaze flickered away from her then, and Persis’s smile grew wider. She’d have answers from him yet. He might be handsome and famous and smart, but she was Persis Blake.
“So, what brings you to Albion . . . Justen?”
“Just a vacation.” He shrugged, but he still wasn’t quite meeting her eyes. “You visited my country for fun.”
“I can’t imagine your wanting to leave Galatea when things are going so well for you back home.” Persis crossed her legs, allowing the silk of her robe to part to her knees as Justen did his best to ignore the sight and busy himself with the teapot. The Galatean was hiding something.
Justen poured himself his own cup of tea, then took a long draft. After a moment, he looked at Persis again. “No, not really. No true patriot of my homeland would relish the violence happening now. I am a regular, I am a Helo, but I do not condone what is being done to Galatean aristos.”
His words hit hard. Persis swallowed and fought the urge to pull her robe closed. Maybe he wasn’t hiding so much as seriously disturbed by the horrors in Galatea. “I’m happy to hear that,” she managed.
“I wouldn’t feel comfortable accepting the hospitality of any aristo without explaining my objections to my government’s tactics.”
Persis longed to ask him why, then, if he was a Helo, he didn’t use his influence to stop them? Why was he not fighting to help his countrymen, the way his grandmother had when she’d invented the cure? Persis was fighting. What was wrong with the rest of the world?
But that wasn’t the sort of thing Persis Blake asked anyone anymore. Not the Persis Blake who’d spent the better part of the year convincing everyone that she was empty-headed and ornamental and absolutely indispensable to the glittering court of Princess Isla. Those sorts of questions were reserved solely for the Wild Poppy these days, and the Wild Poppy was out of commission—at least until Persis recovered from Tero’s mistake.
Intrigued? Across A Star-Swept Sea won’t be out until next fall, but it’s the companion novel to my current release, For Darkness Shows the Stars, which was named a top YA of 2012 by both Amazon and The Atlantic Wire.