The except below is from an upcoming tale entitled IN DEATH'S SHADOW, and Princess Maia Silvercloak is stuck in a snow-bound cave with her unwilling escort, Master Assassin Quinn Tarlen. They don't like each other very much because Quinn thinks she got his brother killed.
A sharp screech tore her into consciousness and Maia turned her gaze to Quinn, her heart galloping.
“What?” Maia blinked.
“I wasn’t giggling.”
Quinn sent her a dry look. “Who is Yarenoke?”
Maia gritted her teeth but tried to look innocent. “Who?”
“Yarenoke. You kept saying you had Yarenoke’s tail.”
“Oh.” Her face heated. “Yarenoke was my imaginary dragon.”
An odd sound filtered through the crackle of the flames and she stared. Did he just chuckle?
“Are you all right, Quinn?”
“Go to sleep, Princess. You’ll need it for tomorrow.” And the ice in his voice returned with her insistence on using his familiar name.
“Why? What do you think will happen tomorrow?”
Quinn nodded toward the door. “We’ll have to dig out again.”
“Bugger.” Her shoulders slumped. “I wish it would stop snowing.”
Hi nodded, his motions pausing for a moment. “I expect a break in the storm tomorrow.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Why do you expect that?”
He tapped his nose. “The air smells different.”
He dropped his gaze back to his hands and said nothing. Maia sighed. They really made the perfect match. She’d been locked away and couldn’t talk for decades, and he made a habit of not speaking. Holy Goddess, I’m going to go crazy.
“What are we going to do tomorrow?”
Quinn resumed the cadence of his knife across the whetstone, but he raised his hooded head. “It depends on when the snow lets up.”
“And when it does?”
“We will continue our journey.”
She gritted her teeth at his staccato answer. Extracting information from him resembled visiting the dentist. “Thanks, I hadn’t figured that out for myself.”
“Ask a thoughtless question…”
She almost picked up a pebble from the cave floor and chucked it at his head. The idea had merit and she tightened her fist to keep from grabbing anything.
“Are you growling, Princess?”
“Do you have any idea where we’re going?”
“Do you?” Quinn paused in his motions, the silence looming loud. “I’m following you, after all. You’re the one who senses the dryad’s artifact, correct?”
“Yes…except it’s muted here. The weather is very distracting, and being locked in a cave doesn’t help.” Especially with the angry, but sexy man with her.
Maia groaned. There had to be a better way to travel than with this unrelenting animosity between them. “Can’t you just give me a chance to prove I’m not who you think I am?”
“Not even a little one? Just one chance to show you I didn’t try get your brother killed? None of us intended to stay with the dryads.” She stopped when she thought of Inge. “Well, most of us.”
“It’s not typical.” She shook her head. “That’s the problem. Some of my sisters were flighty, but not all of them. And not me. The night the druid stole the artifact might have happened a long time ago, but I still remember something being off about it.” She frowned as she searched her memories.
“I’m sure the revels kept you plenty distracted. Perhaps you shouldn’t have imbibed so much.” Quinn’s tone held both contempt and disgust.
“Shove off, you sanctimonious prick. I didn’t drink anything other than water that night.” She raised her chin and stared him down, meeting his blazing green gaze. “And where were you when your brother searched for his fortune at the hands of my family? Talk about typical. A man figures the easy way through life is to purchase a wife, right? Since women are merely a commodity to be traded between men.” She pointed at Quinn, her fury heating her chest. “If you think I’m so rotten, Quinn, why didn’t you tell him to find a woman on his own? Why didn’t you do anything to stop your brother’s execution? I was stuck here. It’s not like I could have changed things.”
“You could have come home.” He didn’t shout, but the venom in his voice chilled her more than the blizzard outside.
“Don’t you think I would have if I could have?”
“I don’t know, princess. Your family’s motivations baffle me.”
“That makes two of us. I didn’t drug your brother and I didn’t intend to stay gone. But if I’d been there, I would’ve stopped the execution of my sibling.”
“Like you did for your oldest sister?”
Maia reeled back as if she’d taken a physical blow. She had to hand it to him, his aim was true. Hurt and sorrow mixed until it boiled into cold disgust and she turned her face away.
“Just let me sleep and ignore any giggling. I don’t mean to disturb you with any remembered happiness.” She hunkered down in her coat and closed her eyes, willing sleep to overtake the hurt still burning.