Posted by on May 18, 2017 in Short Stories | 0 comments

(Below is the first chapter of a YA novel I am working on.)


Kat was livid. Her fool of a client wanted to storm the prison at Larendell to release what he called “political prisoners.” Ha. More like rebels. Not that the distinction mattered to Kat. She glared at Colonel Terrence James as he stood looking over a map of Avendon.

“The defenses are formidable, but not insurmountable,” Colonel James said pedantically to his men.

Kat rolled her eyes. What an idiot.

“If we move quickly enough, we can catch the soldiers off guard and get to the prison before they’re able to bring in reinforcements.”

She couldn’t take any more. “Attacking a prison in the middle of the Lorian family fortress?” Her tone dripped with sarcasm. “What a brilliant idea. Why didn’t I think of it?”

Lieutenant Corbett Barnes, second-in-command, cast an annoyed glance her way.

Colonel James ignored her entirely. “Here is the entrance to the prison.” James pointed at the map. “Our compatriots are being kept on the lower levels. We will have to fight our way down unless we are able to take one of the Lorian family members as a hostage.”

Kat yawned and stood, wrapping her cloak around herself as she prepared to leave the room.

“Where are you going?” Colonel James demanded.

“Anywhere other than here.” Kat’s blue eyes sparked with irritation. “This plan is daft. You’ll get people killed, and for what? In three weeks, Lord Ferris Lorian will visit Grassfield Prison. That puts him in our city. If you were smart, you’d try to catch him here, take him hostage, and trade him for the prisoners rather than trying to storm his stronghold.”

“So now you’re a military strategist?” Lieutenant Barnes scoffed. “And how would someone like you know anything about Lord Ferris’s travel schedule?”

Barnes’s disdain pricked at Kat’s ego, and she had to resist the urge to throw one of her knives at him.

She affected a condescending smile. “It’s my job to know such things.” Plus I make knowing Lord Ferris’s whereabouts at all times my personal mission.

“It’s your job to do what you’re hired to do, not express your opinion,” Barnes snapped back.

Kat’s spine stiffed with offense. She turned to Colonel James. “I’ll be returning your deposit. You’ll have to find someone else to do your wet work.”

Colonel James blinked in shock. “You can’t do that!”

“Of course I can,” Kat retorted. “Guild rules. If the mission isn’t possible to fulfill, then returning the client’s deposit is permissible. This . . .” She waved her hand at his map. “is a suicide mission. I’ll have no part of it. When you have a plan that doesn’t entail attacking Larendell, look me up. I’ll be happy to help.”

Kat stormed out, slamming the door behind her. Idiot! Alone in the hallway outside the meeting room, Kat’s self-righteous adrenaline drained away. Crap. I really needed the money.

Sighing, Kat stalked down the stairs, through the building’s vestibule, and out into the bright noonday sun. She blinked irritably at the sunny day filled with people busily leading their lives. The cheerful scene only served to darken her mood. Brightness made her paranoid—she did her best work in the dark of night—and it was at least four hours past her bedtime. Kat pulled the hood of her cloak down to hide her face and ducked into the nearest alley.


Lady Mirrenne Lorian entered the main office of the Mercenary Guild. Rastin Ritter, the Guild’s majordomo, met her at the door. The unpleasant, mantis-like man wrung his hands in consternation. “My lady, welcome. To what do we owe the pleasure of your visit?”

Mirrenne pulled off her cloak and handed it to a waiting servant. “I would speak with the Guildmaster.”

“The Guildmaster, my lady?” Rastin’s eyes shifted nervously. “Um. Well. He is sleeping, my lady. Had you sent a message ahead . . .”

“Had I sent a message ahead, the messenger would have known my business. As it is, I am not interested in making this visit public. I would speak with the Guildmaster . . . Now.”

Rastin bobbed his head on his long neck—making him look even more like a large insect—and started to sweat profusely. But he led Mirrenne into a nearby salon and asked her to wait.

Mirrenne looked around the small room. It was dim and musty, the curtains drawn tight against the afternoon sun. Three damask chairs were arrayed near the fireplace, one with its back to the window, one with its back to the only door. The third had a view of the entire room. Mirrenne watched the dust motes float in the air while she waited.

Finally, the Guildmaster himself glided into the room. If he was angry at having been awakened, he didn’t show it. Mirrenne had never met him, but she would have known it was he by the efficiency of his movements and the absolute confidence with which he carried himself. Not to mention his hard, calculating gaze.

The Guildmaster bowed deeply before her in a proper show of respect, although both his expression and his carriage conveyed that he considered himself at least her equal. Mirrenne found that amusing. He was not her equal in any way.

“My lady,” he said. “What brings someone of your status to my humble Guild? Surely Your Grace has no need of soldiers.”

Soldiers. As if that’s what you offer. Mirrenne smiled politely. “No. I have no need of soldiers. What I require is more . . . delicate.”

The Guildmaster’s gaze sharpened. “Do tell.” He sat in the seat with the view of the room and politely waved his hand at the others, silently inviting Mirrenne to take one.

Mirrenne chose the chair with its back to the door. The Guildmaster’s eyes took on a slightly condescending gleam. The chair was a dangerous choice for anyone else—these men were assassins after all—but not for Mirrenne. She was a Lorian.

Mirrenne calmly rearranged her skirts. “I want to hire someone to kill my brother.”


Kat slipped in the door of the Guild’s public-facing office, headed toward her quarters in the back. As she passed through the hallway, she noticed Rastin hovering near the door to the salon. She moved closer.

Two voices—a man’s and a woman’s—carried to her, but she couldn’t make out their words. Is that the Guildmaster? He should be asleep. She paused, curiosity momentarily overcoming prudence.

The door opened, and Kat jumped. She turned quickly and affected a nonchalant air as she started to move away. Rastin began studiously dusting a nearby table.

“Kat.” The Guildmaster’s velvet voice stopped her progress.

Kat’s stomach clenched. She was one of his favorites, but she had just walked out on a high-paying job as if doing so were her call to make. For all she knew, the Guildmaster was awake because Colonel James had complained. Yet another unhappy client would certainly bode ill for her future with the Guild.

Kat turned to the now-open door. “Yes, Guildmaster?”

“Come in here. I want you to meet someone.” He went back into the room without bothering to see if she would follow.

Kat entered the salon with some trepidation. A woman sat with her back to the door, apparently oblivious to Kat’s presence. Not smart. Kat’s mouth quirked with contempt. I could kill you as you sit.

The woman stood and turned to face Kat. Her eyes were amused, as if she found Kat entertaining. Kat was disconcerted. The woman should be intimidated, not smugly superior.

“My lady,” the Guildmaster said, “This is Kat Marshall. I believe she’s the perfect choice for this assignment.”

Kat took the woman in. She was beautiful and clearly rich, if her clothing were any indication, but that wasn’t what caught Kat’s attention. Rather, it was her mere . . . presence. So confident, so self-possessed, so . . . scary.

Kat wasn’t easily intimidated—she’d survived the streets since twelve and now at sixteen was the youngest assassin in the history of the Guild—but this woman, graceful and lethal as a panther, made Kat nervous.

The Guildmaster completed the introduction. “Kat, this is Lady Mirrenne Lorian.”

Kat’s pulse quickened. Lorian. Kat inclined her head politely. “My lady.”

The Guildmaster waved them into seats, sitting down himself. Kat selected the chair with the second-best view of the room. Lady Mirrenne watched her with a bemused expression and reseated herself with her back to the door.

“Lady Mirrenne would like to hire you to assassinate her brother, Lord Ferris,” the Guildmaster stated in a matter-of-fact tone. “I told her you would be up for the job, given your storied dislike for the man.”

“As the Guild requires,” Kat responded appropriately, although her blood was rushing so loudly, she was sure the others could hear it. Storied dislike, indeed. She hated Lord Ferris with all her heart for what he had done to her mother.

The Guildmaster gave a single nod of approval. “Of course, Kat is already on an assignment. Fortunately, this new work does not conflict. In fact, that assignment will provide her both an opportunity to be near Your Grace’s brother as well as giving her someone else to blame for his death.”

Kat’s face colored, and she cleared her throat. “Um . . . Guildmaster, I probably should tell you . . .” The Guildmaster’s black gaze pierced her through, and she almost lost her nerve. “Um. I . . . sort of . . . quit that assignment.”

Lady Mirrenne’s eyes joined the Guildmaster’s, and Kat fidgeted slightly in her seat.

“You what?” The Guildmaster’s tone was like a whip crack.

Kat screwed up her courage and met his eyes. “Well, Guildmaster, Colonel Ja—I mean, the client, wanted to storm Larendell itself. It was a suicide mission, and I told him so.” Kat glanced briefly at Lady Mirrenne before returning her gaze to the Guildmaster. “But Lord Ferris will be here in three weeks. I could take care of this then . . .” Kat winced at her own tone. God, I sound whiny.

The Guildmaster’s facial expression didn’t change, but his eyes hardened.

Lady Mirrenne leaned back in her chair. “Three weeks is too long.”

“Yes, my lady, it is,” the Guildmaster said smoothly. “And my darling Kat is young and often acts impulsively. The assignment in question is to free the Yaruban prisoners being held by your brother. This need would fit well within that.”

Kat’s mouth nearly dropped open. By telling a potential client Guild business, the Guildmaster had just violated the first rule of the Guild.

Lady Mirrenne drummed her fingers on her lap. “Freeing prisoners? Colonel James must be feeling cocky.” She met Kat’s eyes. “It can be done. I will show you where the holes in Ferris’s security lie.”

Heat flushed through Kat’s body. “With all due respect, my lady, why—”

“Ferris and I do not share the same goals.” Mirrenne smiled. “But then Terrence and I do not either. Dealing with both of them at once would amuse me.”

“It is settled then.” The Guildmaster stood. “Kat will apologize and ask Colonel James to take her back. She will proceed to implement his plan, during which she will assassinate Lord Ferris, leaving the Resistance to take the blame.”

“But, Guildmaster . . .” Kat jumped to her feet. “His plan is daft. I don’t—”

He stopped her with a single raised hand. “You ‘don’t’ nothing. You do. Exactly as I say.”

Kat cheeks burned with embarrassment at being addressed like a child in front of Lady Mirrenne. She lowered her eyes. “Yes, Guildmaster.”

The Guildmaster nodded once and extended his arm to Lady Mirrenne. She moved toward him, stopping first to place her hand on Kat’s cheek. “You will be perfect, Kat Marshall.”

A slight trill passed through Kat’s body at Lady Mirrenne’s touch, and she shivered.

Lady Mirrenne looped her arm through the Guildmaster’s and allowed him to escort her out of the room. The Guildmaster returned a moment later, his eyes hard. Kat swallowed nervously.

“Do not ever argue with me in front of a client.”

“I’m sorry, Guildmaster, it’s just—”

He slapped her, not so hard that it rocked her backward, but hard enough to sting. “In fact, don’t argue with me at all.”

Kat’s hand went to her cheek in shock. Although she had seen him physically discipline other Guild members, he had never struck her. Kat blinked several times. “Of course, Guildmaster. I apologize.”

“You will take care of repairing the relationship with Colonel James in the morning. In the meantime, you are dismissed.”

Kat walked out of the salon toward her bedroom, her head swimming. First things first, she needed to get some rest. After a good day’s sleep, she would track down Colonel James, eat crow, and beg him to take her back. Having to grovel stuck in her craw, but on balance, doing so would be well worth it. She had just been given license to kill the man who’d sired her.

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