Thanks so much for letting me share, Pippa. I’ve picked a teaser from about the midpoint of The King’s Mistress that shows what A’yen is struggling with throughout the novel.
***The familiarity of his map and Guild programs did little to calm A’yen. For the first time in his life, he’d failed at something. Something with far-reaching consequences, of course. At least down here in the basement, everyone left him alone. Ro was with Na’var at the Dreen home, working on his TK. Bren and Fae were unpacking.
Thudding on the stairs behind him made him turn. Dad came in, closed the door, and sat on the couch. “Na’var filled me in on the basics yesterday.”
“I blew it, Dad. Totally blew it. They hate me.”
Dad patted the empty space beside him. “I expected them to hate you. You challenge every preconceived notion they have about what we’re like on the outside.”
“Did Na’var tell you what Salem did?” A’yen dropped into the empty spot, sideways, left arm on the back of the couch. He was shirtless and wearing shorts, his preferred mode when at home. The after-effects of the mind-hopper screwing with him lingered with increased tightness in the ink and less pressure needed to start the burning.
“Yes. I had hoped he wouldn’t stoop quite that low. You did the right thing asking Varune for help.”
“I shouldn’t have had to. I should have seen it coming, should have stopped it.” He made a fist and punched the couch.
Dad covered his balled hand and pressed down to make him relax. “You did everything you could.”
“But I let you down. I have nothing to show for it. Half the regents believe the Association paid Fae to pretend she’s found Lok’ma and that we manufactured everything we showed them. There are no new alliances, no new commitments, no changes in anything.”
Dad shook his head and sighed. “I didn’t send you out there to do any of that. I sent you out there to make Salem show his hand. I wanted the names of every single regent opposed to reunification. Thanks to you, I have them. What about the cabinet?”
“They don’t like me either. I didn’t know it was possible to hear that much bullshit.”
Dad chuckled for a moment then sobered. “They’ve lost all concept of the outside world. I’ve had Na’var keeping track of possible candidates out here for cabinet positions. There are also structures on the farms we can pull people from.”
“How do you do all this without going crazy?”
“I never said it hasn’t driven me crazy.”
A’yen leaned against the soft cushions. “Fae asked me once if I believed expectations could kill a person. I said yes, but I didn’t know what I was talking about. Most of the people I met don’t accept me as I am. They made no attempt to understand me.” Unable to look at Dad another second, he stared at the floor. “I’m not a pawn. I just want to be me. I don’t know how to be me and help you pull us together.”
Freedom has a cost. Can A’yen pay it without losing his soul?
Liberation of the enslaved Lokmane begins with the king. A’yen and Fae agree to visit the Hidden, a group of escaped Lokmane, to protect his identity while the Shadows make their move with emancipation acts. But he's not prepared for the prejudice rampant in the Hidden, or their lack of patience for him. And his new linked bodyguard is unstable to the point A'yen fears for the young man's sanity.
Upon returning to Titan, A'yen is kidnapped and taken to the largest breeding farm in the galaxy. This time he'll be himself even if it kills him. His resolve to unite his people grows as he wonders if he'll live long enough to do it.
With A'yen kidnapped, Fae returns to the Lokmane homeworld seeking the final pieces of what happened two thousand years ago when they were conquered and enslaved. Getting as far away from her father as possible is the only way to keep her from disappearing too.
Separated by light years, A'yen and Fae have to stand alone and fight for their right to live in freedom. No matter the cost.
Rachel Leigh Smith writes romance for the hero lover. She lives in central Louisiana with her family and a half-crazed calico. When not writing, which isn't often, she's hanging with her family, doing counted cross-stitch, or yakking about life, the universe, and everything with her besties. There may also be Netflix binging...
She's a member of the Science Fiction Romance Brigade and Romance Writers of America. She blogs sporadically at www.rachelleighsmith.com, hangs out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RachelLeighSmithAuthor, and can sometimes be found at http://twitter.com/rachelleighgeek. You can sign up for her newsletter here.