by Isabo Kelly
The idea for THE PROMISE OF KIERNA’RHOAN came to me in a dream. It’s the only story—to date—I’ve written from a dream. The dream turned into the opening scene of the book. Of course there was editing, but I’ve put the version that made it into the book below. It’s pretty damned close to the original dream. The only difference was… Well, I’ll tell you after you read the book, if you want to know. :)
THE PROMISE OF KIERNA’RHOAN
Copyright © 2009 by Isabo Kelly
Print ISBN: 978-1-60504-420-0
Digital ISBN: 978-1-60504-243-5
She faced forward, watching through the front windshield of the van as a half-dozen fully armed soldiers led her four friends a short distance away. She tried to relax against the seat, tried to ignore the inconvenient tear in the imitation leather that poked her in the back. This could take hours if Ennoren saw fit to detain them.
The sound of the passenger door opening startled her. She turned to see the Guard settle himself onto the floorboard, shifting so that he wasn’t visible above the dash. Kira cocked her head to one side, raising her eyebrows, and the man flashed the most charming smile she’d ever seen. The grin was just a touch guilty and would have made him seem like a mischievous boy if it hadn’t stretched the scar and deepened the wrinkles around his eyes.
He plucked a pack of cigarettes from a pocket inside his uniform jacket and showed them to her.
“Not allowed to smoke on duty.” He tapped one cigarette free, stuck it in his mouth, then returned the rest to his pocket and pulled out a small lighter. Before he lit up, he extended a hand. “David.”
“Kira.” She shook his hand, quick and firm, and pulled back before she had time to notice how nice his grip felt.
He lit the cigarette, took a long drag, then offered the end to her. She stared at the thing for a moment before helping herself to a puff. Through the cloud of tobacco-scented smoke she exhaled, she studied him. “You been with the Guard long?” she asked, handing the cigarette back.
“Twelve years now.” He took another drag, never taking his gaze from her face.
“You’re one of Ennoren’s.” She wasn’t asking. She knew the signet on his uniform too well.
He nodded, his dark eyes still locked to hers. “For about three years.”
She half-smiled, chuckled and shook her head. “Too bad, really.” She turned to see how her friends were doing.
All four seemed to be holding up under the scrutiny of the men questioning them. Vettine’s shoulders were straight, her posture unwavering. Grainne’s stance was relaxed and cocky as she tossed her waist-length red hair over one shoulder. Breeanne had her arms crossed over her chest, her legs braced slightly apart. Her pale skin was flushed, but her expression controlled. And Jo, with her stylishly braided black hair brushing her shoulders in the breeze, had her hands on her hips, a slight smile on her full mouth and a sexy glint in her violet eyes. Kira couldn’t help smiling. Her second would flirt with the Devil himself if she were standing at the gates of Hell.
“Why too bad?”
The husky voice brought her attention back to the man sitting on the floorboard of her van. He offered her the cigarette again, and she took a long drag before answering. “I would have liked to get to know you. Under better circumstances. I think I could have liked you,” she answered without guile, a slight, sad smile tugging at her mouth.
She shrugged. “You’re one of Ennoren’s men.” She faced forward again because there was really no need for further explanation.
“You’re jumping to conclusions. Judging me based on the commander I work under. You don’t know me.”
Kira snorted and met his gaze. “It doesn’t matter whether I know you or not. You work for Ennoren.”
A movement to her left caught her attention, and she turned away from David’s narrowed eyes. She reached down for the cigarette without taking her eyes off the man walking toward the van. When she’d taken another drag, she said, “Your boss is on his way over. Better let me finish this.”
David slid out of the van, unhooked a thin, foot-long cylindrical device from his belt and began running it over the interior of the van without another word. Her gaze flicked to the device, then back to the approaching commander. The steady beep of the detector echoed in Kira’s pulse as she watched Ennoren step up to her open window.
He was tall and thin, with a face Kira had once found interesting, if not attractive. All lines and angles, sharp nose, hard mouth, heavy-lidded blue eyes; his face was imposing, commanding and often intimidating. But Kira had long since stopped being intimidated by Ennoren.
He looked at the cigarette in her hand, then into her eyes. “I thought you didn’t smoke.”
She set the cigarette against her lips, inhaled deeply and blew smoke in his face. “I don’t.”
He waved the smoke away, a sneer forming in place of a smile. For a long moment he studied her, his gaze running over her faded, ripped jeans and cotton flannel shirt. Then he turned to study her van, pointedly staring at the cracked dash, battered steering wheel and worn imitation leather upholstery. “New van?”
“I didn’t think you’d be into this late twentieth-century Earth fad.” He frowned. “But then, you always were a fashionable socialite, weren’t you? And since you have the money to afford this mock-up of an Earth car…” He let the sentence trail off as he held her gaze. “You’re looking good, Kira.”
She returned his stare, taking another pull on the cigarette so she didn’t have to answer.
When she remained silent, Ennoren shifted his attention to David. “Find anything, Officer Cario?”
David snapped to attention. “No, sir. Appears clean.”
“Well,” Ennoren said, turning a contemptuous glare on Kira, “appearances can lie.”
“Was that a dig, Eain?” Kira kept her tone mild, even as she used his first name in front of another Guard—something she did only to annoy him. His mother had been a poet and fond of alliteration. Ennoren went out of his way to keep his full name, Eain Edward Evander Ennoren, from his subordinates.
He covered his indignation well, but the slight narrowing of his eyes and the flare of his nostrils gave him away. “Take from it what you will.” He paused, studying her again.
When he spoke, his voice was low. “The ring will collapse out from under you, Kira. It won’t be long now. Do you know what will happen to you when you’re found guilty of treason and conspiracy to commit treason against the planetary government?”
“They’ll throw me into a hole?”
“They’ll throw you into space without a suit,” he hissed. Dropping his voice again, he leaned into the car, putting his face only inches from hers. “End this now, Kira. End it. Tell me where they hide. I’ll make sure you get off with a light sentence.” A slight smile curled his lips. “I might even arrange to serve as your paroler. Just like old times, eh?”
Kira turned her head to take one final puff off the cigarette, giving herself time to gain control over both her revulsion and her anger, before confronting his leer. “There’s a reason those times are old, Eain. I wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble of divorcing you if I’d wanted to end up right back under your thumb. Besides—” she half-smiled, half-snarled at him, “—how would I know where they hide?”
She watched with satisfaction as his leer transformed into a lip-trembling scowl. Flicking the cigarette past his shoulder, she turned back to David. He was standing at attention, a silent, emotionless witness to the scene. “Forgive my ex. He seems to think I’m some sort of underground anti-government terrorist leader.”
David raised an eyebrow. “Are you?”
She smiled. Then she laughed.
The side door to the van opened and her friends climbed up to the padded bench along the side of the van. Kira kept her gaze on David, enjoying the twinkle of amusement in his eyes that didn’t filter into any other part of his expression. When the side door slammed into place, she leaned across the passenger seat and pulled that door shut.
"It really is too bad we didn’t meet under different circumstances, officer,” she said when David leaned into the open window.
His crooked grin made his scar jump. His knowing stare set her pulse dancing. She chuckled and moved back behind the wheel. Without another glance at her ex-husband, she put the van into gear and returned to the line of traffic hurrying away from the blockade.####
BIO: Isabo Kelly is the pseudonym of RWA/NYC’s Treasurer Katrina Tipton. “Isabo” has been writing romance for over ten years -- fantasy, paranormal, science fiction, and erotica. Her erotic science fiction romance, SIREN SINGING, is a winner of the Prism Award for best erotic romance. Look for the re-release of her very first science fiction, THE PROMISE OF KIERNA’ RHOAN, on October 1st. Isabo writes for Ellora’s Cave, Cerridwen Press, Crescent Moon Press and Samhain Publishing. Visit her at www.isabokelly.com.