Polaris Rising is the debut novel of Jessie Mahilik, a rip-roaring, romantic sci-fi adventure starring a rebellious princess with attitude to spare.
Today, we’re pleased to share a brief excerpt with you, courtesy of Harper Voyager. Check it out below the back cover summary, and pick up a copy today!
A space princess on the run and a notorious outlaw soldier become unlikely allies in this imaginative, sexy space opera adventure—the first in an exciting science fiction trilogy.
In the far distant future, the universe is officially ruled by the Royal Consortium, but the High Councillors, the heads of the three High Houses, wield the true power. As the fifth of six children, Ada von Hasenberg has no authority; her only value to her High House is as a pawn in a political marriage. When her father arranges for her to wed a noble from House Rockhurst, a man she neither wants nor loves, Ada seizes control of her own destiny. The spirited princess flees before the betrothal ceremony and disappears among the stars.
Ada eluded her father’s forces for two years, but now her luck has run out. To ensure she cannot escape again, the fiery princess is thrown into a prison cell with Marcus Loch. Known as the Devil of Fornax Zero, Loch is rumored to have killed his entire chain of command during the Fornax Rebellion, and the Consortium wants his head.
When the ship returning them to Earth is attacked by a battle cruiser from rival House Rockhurst, Ada realizes that if her jilted fiancé captures her, she’ll become a political prisoner and a liability to her House. Her only hope is to strike a deal with the dangerous fugitive: a fortune if he helps her escape.
But when you make a deal with an irresistibly attractive Devil, you may lose more than you bargained for . . .
We wound through shabbier and shabbier neighborhoods until the plastech buildings were more boards and mud than plastech.
We circled the same block twice before Loch stopped behind the middle house on the block. He checked his com. “This is it,” he said. The house was dark, as were the two beside it. Either luck was with us or the occupants knew better than to let light escape.
I peered into the twilight while Loch opened the door. Nothing moved, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched.
“I think we should abort,” I whispered as soon as we were inside. Loch was a dark shape against the deeper darkness of the room.
“Why?” he asked.
“Just a feeling.”
To his credit, Loch didn’t scoff. “Five minutes?” he asked.
I nodded reluctantly. If someone was watching us, I doubted five minutes would make a ton of difference. But for us it could mean the difference between finding guns or going home empty-handed.
We moved quickly through the house. I set my com flashlight to the lowest setting and turned it on. It was hard to tell if the house had already been ransacked or if the people living here were just slobs.
Once we checked the house for occupants, Loch and I split up. I searched one bedroom while he searched the other. I found two well-used blaster pistols in the top of the closet, as well as a small cache of energy cells. No holsters, though, so I shoved one gun in my pocket and left the other out for Loch.
I was shoving energy cells into my other pockets when Loch entered the room. “Trouble,” he said. “You were right.”
I handed him the gun and ammo. “How bad?”
“Rockhurst’s men, at least a squad of six. We’ll have to split their attention. You should take your hood down.”
“They’ll never leave me alone if they know who I am.” I pulled out the pistol and loaded it. I had a feeling I was going to need it before the night was over. I tucked it back in my pocket. It wasn’t the safest way to carry it, but a better option didn’t present itself, so I went with what I had.
“But they also won’t shoot you in the back,” Loch said. It was hard to argue with that logic. “We’ll make it seem like you escaped from me. If they capture you, I’ll come for you,” he said. “You still owe me. Don’t do anything stupid.”
“You should’ve taken the money and run,” I said. “I tried to warn you.”
“Why? This is the most fun I’ve had in years,” Loch said. His eyes gleamed in the dark and I almost believed him. “We both go left then split at the next corner. You go right. You’re not going to be able to lose them in the crowd. Run hard and fast.”
“Be careful,” I said. “Your bounty doesn’t specify that they need to keep you alive.”
“But they will,” Loch said arrogantly. “Rockhurst won’t be able to resist parading me in front of the Consortium before he kills me. Ready?”
I wasn’t, not even close, but giving Richard time to move more men over here was not going to improve matters, so I nodded.
“Look like you’re fighting me without actually slowing us down,” Loch said. “Remember: left then right. Run like hell.”
“I got it. I’ll meet you back at the house or nearby.” I left my hood down and followed Loch when he grabbed my wrist and pulled me through the door.
Two men were in the alley across the street. One on the roof. Probably more I couldn’t spot. Two pistol blasts slammed into the side of our building close enough to heat the air before I heard my name shouted. The blasts stopped.
The men across the street moved to intercept, but Loch was already sprinting. I tugged on my arm and did my best to appear terrified. It wasn’t too difficult.
At the corner I realized that if I split from him, Loch would lose his human shield. I tried to follow him, but he hissed “Right!” at me and then darted left before the soldiers knew we were separating.
I swiped my left hand across the cuff around my right wrist, first inside to outside, then the opposite. I held my hand over the cuff for two seconds. It buzzed once.
My lungs burned and the cold air stabbed at my throat. The cuff pulsed and a wall to my left danced with a shower of electric sparks. These men hadn’t forgotten their stun pistols. And the cuff could only repel two more shots.
At the next corner, I pulled the gun from my pocket and spun. The man behind me was nearly a block away. I aimed and fired in one motion. The energy bolt went clean through his thigh. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting to hit, but he went down, so good enough.
I ducked behind the corner just before the second man could hit me with a stun pulse. I had to put distance between us then go to ground. I didn’t know how many men Richard had on-planet, but it couldn’t be enough to sweep an entire section of city or even the oblivious mercs living here would know something was up.
I kept my turns erratic so they couldn’t radio ahead for men to intercept me. These soldiers weren’t encumbered with heavy armor and they were in excellent physical shape. Outrunning them proved difficult.
Picking them off one at a time worked, but every time I stopped to aim at one, the others surged closer and I risked getting stunned. Since I’d surprised the first, I’d had a much more difficult time with the other three. I wounded one enough that he dropped back, but the final two were persistent as hell.
I hoped Loch was having better results.
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