Happy 2017 guys,
I finished the first draft of The Zodiac Heir Part 9 and excited to share the result. If you have any questions or comments about the story so far, I'd love to hear from you. You can find all my contact details here.
The Zodiac Heir Chapter 4 (Part 9)
She waited for the impact. When it came it was all wrong.
A huge body ploughed into her knocking the breath from her lungs as the bolt whizzed past, piercing the wood of her bedroom door and shattering a cup in her kitchen cabinet.
Sarah fought the momentum that kept her tumbling backwards through the room, but found she was no match for the bigger size and heavier weight of the living cannonball that had smashed into her and was now gripping her wrists as he slammed her spread-eagled against the wall.
Her stomach lurched. Sarah shrieked. And still she was falling.
Before she could make sense of what was happening, her body spun midair guided by strong hands. She heard a dull thump and landed on a rock-hard chest.
“Ouch.” The single word was forced from her as she fought to get her bearings.
No sound penetrated the utter darkness, nothing but the shallow puffs of air from the near motionless body beneath her.
“Are you alright?” Hesitantly she patted one muscular shoulder. “I think he’s gone.”
Long fingers snagged her wrist, making her jump in alarm. The living shackle tightened.
“He was never here. This way.” She was pulled to her feet in one single motion.
“Hold on. What do you mean, he was never here? I saw him. He shot at me.” She frowned at the echo throwing back her voice. “This room sounds empty.”
He didn’t slow down. “Probably is.”
Sarah dug her feet into the ground. “But—”
The sharp command snapped her mouth shut.
A thud sounded to her right. In front of her, her stalker turned saviour cursed under his breath.
“I can hear you, Your Royal Highness.”
Sarah shrank back. She hadn’t gotten a good look at all the men at the bar, but she’d recognise that heavy accent anywhere. “I thought you were friends,” she hissed.
The hand still locked around her arm tightened in warning. “Good. Keep it right there.”
Good? Your Royal Highness? Friends acting like mortal enemies. What sort of nutters had she attracted exactly?
A snort from the man with the crossbow. “You know my bolts penetrate flesh even easier than they penetrate wood. The metal would go right through you and into her. Your hearts don’t align. I could kill her and keep you in good enough shape to deliver her eulogy.”
“And what a moving eulogy it would be.” The words were sarcastic, but Sarah could feel the suppressed fury of the man shielding her. “Shame you wouldn’t be there to hear it, seeing as you would be dead by the King’s decree for putting a hole in my liver. But don’t worry, I’ll put a bullet in you first.”
A chuckle. “Jud, you forget I know you can’t see a thing in the dark.”
“I don’t have to.”
Light flared. A match? What was wrong with a torch?
A shot rang through the empty room hitting the bare stone wall.
Stunned, Sarah looked around. This wasn’t her bedroom. Or her kitchen. The layout was similar, but she did not own a cast-iron stove. She did, however, own a bed.
The match went out and darkness swallowed them once again.
“Move.” A shove that only an ox would call gentle had her stumbling towards the stairs to the first floor and out the front door. Without breaking stride “His Royal Highness”—Jud—dragged her along.
Cobblestones paved the street that was lit by lanterns. Horses neighed at a corner. A man in nineteenth century garb bowed his head in greeting before opening the door to a run-down carriage.
Next stop mental institution.
Some of her apprehension must have shown on her face, because Jud stopped to look at her.
“Apologies. My father would have known if I’d taken the royal carriage.”
A very reasonable explanation…if carriages were still in fashion. Sarah, shook her head. She had to be unconscious. A concussion was the only explanation for this strange dream.
Next to her Jud held out his hand, palm up. “I must urge you, milady, the Scorpion won’t be far behind.”
Sarah placed her hand in his. There wasn't much else she could do. Wherever Jud was taking her couldn’t be much worse than staring down the wrong end of a crossbow.
Best case scenario, it was her subconscious taking her for a ride.
His fingers wrapped around hers as soon as their skin touched and she instantly regretted her decision. This certainly didn’t feel like a dream.
She looked up at him, trying to find the answer in his unsettling gaze.
A fleeting smile curled the corners of his mouth as he ushered her in.
“You look as if you can’t decide whether you like me or not.” He steadied her, as the carriage started rolling with a bone-jarring jolt, his grip lingering a moment longer than strictly necessary. “I consider myself flattered you’re starting to trust me, all the same.”
Realising he was right, Sarah extracted herself from his proprietary hold and stumbled to the old wooden bench facing the front of the coach. She was grateful when he decided against crowding her and sank onto the opposite bench with more grace than the bouncing carriage should allow.
In the pale glow of the interior’s only lantern swinging precariously with every step of the galloping horse, she studied the man who had crashed her carefully constructed life in the space of a single evening.
He was almost too handsome to be real with his strong nose and full lips. His eyes were expressive and kind. God help her, the odd pull she had felt towards him from the first moment their eyes met seemed to grow stronger by the second.
His hands were big with long, lean fingers. His entire appearance was one of privilege rather than desperation. Considering how fine a specimen of man he was, it was almost inevitable she felt attracted to him. Considering his behaviour, it was entirely unreasonable her better judgment didn't override her intuition by now.
His protectiveness recommended him, his tendency for breaking and entering, and abduction certainly did not.
Her eyes travelled back to his face, and she realised he was watching her with a focus that made her all too aware she had been staring at him. When she started to drop her gaze he stopped her.
“Please, don’t. I enjoy the way your eyes travel my body.” Again with that stilted English phrasing that seemed to come and go. His voice rolled over her. Smooth. Cultivated. “In fact, I hope it is not only your eyes that long to touch me.”
Her gaze snapped back to his, but no sound escaped her mouth. He had managed to render her speechless.
“I am moving too fast.” His lips quirked in a self-deprecating smile. “At a time like this, when you have countless questions on your mind it must seem to you I am abominably forward.”
He chuckled. “We are well matched, you and I. You will come to love me, I hope. In time.”
Sarah narrowed her eyes. “How much time, are we talking exactly?”
He grabbed her hand, holding tight when she would have pulled back to escape the disconcerting feelings his touch invoked. He bestowed another of his heart-stopping smiles on her.
“A lifetime, my love. You are my queen.”