Excerpt from Defiance:
Hot, dry air ran through the private chamber on the outer perimeter of the house. From above, large fans whirred, sending a pleasant, whispering ambiance that contrasted with the meeting taking place below.
Devri sat in a hard-backed wooden chair four feet away from Harrison McConnell. A table sat at her elbow, heaped with untouched breads and desserts and a flagon of wine.
They had been staring mutely at each other for a full five minutes. Occasionally, Harrison’s eyes would flick to the wine, a clear sign he was expecting her to offer him some. The smell of his expensive, spiced scent offended her nostrils. So did his expensive gold and white ceremonial tunic and red sandals. In fact, everything about Harrison—from his bright blue eyes to his tinged pink cheeks to his dull-colored brown hair—offended Devri.
She had worn the ugliest dress she had, a loose-fitting brown thing that hung off her like a blanket. It left everything about her figure up to the imagination—except for her height. Devri liked it and had never wanted to hide it even if she could. So now she looked like a tall, brown blanket with a sour face and tightly braided hair. Maybe if she looked awful, Harrison would back out of the arrangement.
More minutes ticked away as she tried to intimidate Harrison with her haughtiest glare. He stared back, blissfully impervious to her glaring. At the moment, his casual demeanor irritated her more than anything else about him.
If Devri been alone, she would have allowed the dull, rhythmic white noise of the fans to put her to sleep. She’d dreamed about that sleek bronze ship all night. About flying it toward the stars she could only look at now through the solarium ceilings. And even these had been obscured with so much sand in the last two weeks that the automated cleaning cycles couldn’t keep up. So Devri stared at the constellations through purple crusts of glass, and sighed, and hated her life. She felt like a trapped animal, cornered and frightened.
Harrison cleared his throat.
Devri sighed. It was up to her to speak. She had said nothing to him since he’d been escorted here. Be gracious, her father said. Happy, her father said. But she couldn’t do it. The effort alone was more than she could summon even if she hadn’t been running on limited sleep.
Now, staring at Harrison as if he were something out of a nightmare, another headache growing from his spicy scent, it was all Devri could do not to throttle him.
Finally, he broke custom and spoke first. “Devri—”
She held up her hand to cut him off. “Ladyship is fine. So is mistress.”
Harrison leaned forward and smiled.
“You’re not a Lady yet, nor ever my mistress since I’m the same rank as you.” He reached over and poured himself a glass of wine, then sat back. “Anyway, thought you didn’t believe in all that class nonsense.”
“And I thought you did.”
“Oh I do. It gets me into a lot of places.” He held his glass up with a nod, and then drank, draining the wine in one go. “That’s good, as good as my own—you should have some. Loosen up, Devri. No need to be nervous.”
Devri sputtered to life, all traces of weariness vanishing in a swirl of anger. “Nervous! And don’t you offer me my own wine, Harrison McConnell.”
Want to find out more? In this prequel to the Star Streaker series, find out what a paper bag and canned fish have to do with Devri’s new name. Be there when she sees the Star Streaker for the first time. Discover a world of old customs, new beginnings, and defiance.