For WTF Friday, I thought I’d share a scene from “Zikhin” Book One of the Tome Series featuring my favorite bandit, Scorpio. Enjoy!

“Your lovina, sir?”

The barmaid’s voice gave him a start as she set the heavy mug down in front of him.  Pocketing the trinket, he paid her well.  Having made a fair amount of gold in his bartering with the EarthFolk trader, he could afford to spread it around.

Taking his beer in hand, Scorpio started to make his way through the crowd to where the Paanthan guards had been sitting.  The single-eyed one had left his friend for the company of a young woman.  Not that he blamed him; she was an attractive sort.  The remaining Paantha was making ready to leave and considering the size of the throng, he was sure the table wouldn’t remain vacant for long.

The two men were navigating the mass in each other’s direction when the figure in front of Scorpio, so profoundly cloaked it was difficult to determine gender, unexpectedly stopped.  Before he could react, it spun around, threw its arms around his neck and pulled him into a kiss.  At first he was so surprised he stiffened and started to pull away.  Then he realized the lips locked against his and the form sensed through the thick cloak were distinctly feminine.  Who was he to turn down the kiss of a maiden?  He wrapped his arm around her waist, returning her kiss.
It was only when she leaned back from him and the deep hood of her cape fell back enough to reveal her face, that he saw who he was kissing.
She looked just as surprised.


“Your Majest-”  Riya clamped a hand over his mouth to silence him as she looked over her shoulder in a panic.

Scorpio followed her gaze to the guard, nearly to them.

“Please,” she whispered.  “Don’t draw his attention.”

For some reason it was more important to avoid him than it was the other guard and it took him a moment to ascertain why.  He wore black clothing like the other guard, though maybe a bit finer, and wore the same silver medallion.  The knives sheathed into his belt were well-made.  He never seemed to remove his leather gloves, but that could be for any reason.

Then it dawned on him.  The leather jerkin he wore under his jacket was tooled with the image of a peacock, the emblem of the Mayur clan.  He wasn’t the princess’s personal guard….he was her Keeper.  It all made sense.

Dodging her guard was one thing.  A guard wouldn’t dare question her.  A Keeper on the other hand would take charge.  He couldn’t force the princess to return to Mayur Castle, but he would shadow her like a second skin. Evidently, that was something she desperately wished to avoid.

With him only a few feet away and no means of a quick, surreptitious escape, Scorpio set his lovina on the bar behind him and grabbed Riya.  Startling her even more than she’d shocked him, he wrapped one arm around her waist, took her face in his free hand and kissed her full on the mouth.  He watched the Keeper carefully, subtly turning her back in time with his movements as he squeezed by.

“Excuse me.”

Feeling her tense in his hold at the sound of the Keeper’s voice so near, he broke his kiss.  “Hey, don’t mention it,” he called after the Paantha as he twisted Riya away from him, patting her butt and being as boisterous as possible.  “Now you get on home, missy!  Pretty thing like you shouldn’t be out so late!”

Yanking her hood back up over her head, the High Princess faced him squarely, looking shocked and thoroughly offended.  The realization that she’d probably never been treated so commonly before in her life had him smiling.  Before she could call for her guard, he gave her arm a gentle shove, motioning toward the taberna’s exit in the opposite direction.

“I said get on home!”  Then he added in a quieter voice.  “You better get going.  You never know if he’ll decide to come back for another lovina.”

Faltering over her response, Riya pushed her way through the crowd to the door, pausing only a second to glance back at him before shoving it open and disappearing into the night.  Once he was sure she was gone, Scorpio licked his lips nervously, falling back against the bar.  He could still taste her and the flavor sent a wave of excitement rushing through him. With a grin reflecting a complete lack of good sense on his face, he stared inanely at the door, his drink long forgotten.

She’d looked back.

~ Excerpt from “Zikhin” Book One of the Tome Series copyright AJ Culpepper 2011
~ Image courtesy of  Artist unknown.


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