For excerpt week, I’ve decided to share a final sneak peek at book #2 in The Five Kingdoms series before I release it early November – yay!
And here, for the first time anywhere, is the beautiful cover…
Here’s the blurb:
Nessa Haddo has been raised to seek what every well-bred young lady desires: a suitable husband. Unfortunately, as a younger twin in a land where superstition deems her cursed, that dream seems unattainable. When she sets her sights on the handsome foreign envoy sent to escort her sister to an arranged marriage, Nessa’s romantic fantasies entangle her in events beyond her darkest nightmares.
Compared to his last escapade, ex-spy Rustam Chalice’s commission sounds simple: wrangle an unwieldy bridal caravan across a mountain range populated by bandits, trolls, werecats and worse, try to cajole a traumatized princess out of her self-imposed isolation, and arrive on time for the politically sensitive wedding.
Meanwhile, Rustam’s former covert partner, Lady Risada, finally has what she needs, though not what – or who – she wants. Struggling to adjust to life outside the game, all her carefully honed assassin’s instincts are screaming warnings of foul play, yet she can find nothing obviously amiss.
And deep in the halls of a mountain clan, an old enemy plucks his victim’s strings with expert malice.
Now for the excerpt:
(To put this into context, Risada is heavily pregnant at the time of this incident. Oh, and it’s UK spelling.)
Small tapping sounds drew Risada’s attention back to the stairwell. About two thirds of the way up, the crouched figure was driving something into the wall. Without fully straightening, he moved across to the spindle opposite and wrapped something around it before tugging it taught.
“You promised no one would get hurt!” Bel protested. “If they trip over that they might break their necks!”
“That, my sweet Bel, is the idea.”
Risada’s maid took a step back, and although she faced away from the corner where her employer hid, her horrified comprehension radiated from her stiffened back all the way down to her shaking knees.
“And now, dear Bel, it’s time for your reward.”
Bel turned and fled, straight towards the entrance beside Risada’s hiding place. Risada caught the glint of steel in the assassin’s hand and barely stopping to think, thrust out a foot and tripped the running girl. A hefty dagger whistled through the space where Bel’s torso had been a moment before. Bel squealed and scrabbled along the ground, stumbling to her feet as she vanished around the corner.
Risada peeked around the shoulder of the statue shielding her, and her eyes met those of the man on the stair. He shrugged. “Oh well, this wasn’t how it was supposed to happen, but I suppose it will do as well.”
Lowering her estimation of her opponent’s professionalism for wasting time on speech, Risada slipped her small dagger from its concealed sheath beneath her breast, and assessed the situation. Screaming for help would do nothing. As Bel had stated earlier, the guards were all outside at this time of night, and the bedrooms were towards the back of the house, so too far away for anyone to hear. Bel had vanished, but whether she would raise the alarm was doubtful; she would probably think only of herself. Risada’s sole weapon was her small dagger, and she was hardly in peak physical shape for this sort of work.
On the other hand, as she watched the cocky son-of-a-whore swaggering down the staircase towards her, she realised she still possessed an element of surprise. He clearly had no idea she, like him, was a trained assassin.
“Please,” she added a small quaver to her entreaty. “You don’t have to do this.”
“Oh, but I do. My employer would be so put out with me if I didn’t tidy up after myself, and although it would have been neater if you’d just tripped the way you were meant to, at least now I don’t have to leave the outcome to chance. And with any fortune your husband will find my wire instead; that way I get both of you at once.”
The over-long speech was clearly designed to intimidate Risada into staying put while his long strides ate up the tiled floor space between them, and Risada obliged. She had the best cover she could, given the circumstances, and was also between the villain and the large dagger he’d thrown at Bel. Risada was under no illusion that would be his only weapon, but it was probably his favourite.
Keeping the hand clutching her own dagger hidden behind the stone figure, she allowed her eyes to widen, imitating fear. “We can pay you. Twice what your employer offered. Three times!”
The spy shook his head. “This isn’t about money; it’s about honour and revenge. You—”
Mid-sentence, he lunged. Anticipating the tactic, Risada’s reactions carried her around the statue and out of range of the stiletto that spiked the air where she’d stood.
Still not realising his mistake, her adversary wagged his head and tutted. “If you hold still, I’ll make it quick.” He slithered a foot smoothly in her direction, shifting his weight with such subtlety his movements were almost imperceptible. “I—”
Making the fatal error of repeating his pattern, Risada sidestepped his lunge with ease, despite her compromised balance. In fact, in the thrill of the moment, she barely noticed her cumbersome bulk, her muscles reacting with the smooth skill of years of training, adjusting her posture as though she simply stood on uneven ground.
Her erstwhile foe crashed to one knee before keeling over to slide down the front of the stone statue, leaving a gory trail in his wake. His fingers fumbled with the tiny jewelled hilt sticking out of his ribcage, the blade sheathed with precision between the fourth and fifth rib with its tip penetrating his heart. He had the good grace to laugh, tiny red flecks bubbling at the corners of his mouth. “Always knew over-confidence would get me in the end. Who would have thought you, of all people, would be a player? He coughed, scarlet spittle staining his skin. “Goddess, you’re fast enough to be Dart. But you can’t…”
A dawning look of comprehension crossed his face even as his eyes began to glaze.
Risada said nothing to confirm his guess; she didn’t need to.
Deborah Jay writes fast-paced fantasy adventures featuring quirky characters and multi-layered plots – just what she likes to read.
Living mostly on the UK South coast, she has already invested in her ultimate retirement plan – a farmhouse in the majestic, mystery-filled Scottish Highlands where she retreats to write when she can find time. Her taste for the good things in life is kept in check by the expense of keeping too many dressage horses, and her complete inability to cook.
Her debut novel, epic fantasy THE PRINCE’S MAN, first in a trilogy and winner of a UK Arts Board award, has featured consistently in the Amazon UK Top 100 Epic Fantasy books since publication.
She has also published the urban fantasy novel DESPRITE MEASURES and the short story SPRITE NIGHT, both in the CALEDONIAN SPRITE series, and a multi-author SFF anthology which features her SF story, PERFECT FIT.
She has non-fiction equestrian titles published under her professional name of Debby Lush.
Find the books here:
THE PRINCE’S MAN (Five Kingdoms book #1)
DESPRITE MEASURES (Caledonian Sprite #1)
SPRITE NIGHT (Caledonian Sprite #1.5)
THE WORLD AND THE STARS (SFF multi author anthology)