So, I waffled back and forth over this particular excerpt. I wanted to include one of the many more humorous scenes in the novel, to contrast the more action oriented previous excerpt. However, isolating one such moment that would both make sense without the the rest of the novel as context, and also didn’t spoil any important climactic moments, was much harder than I thought it would be.
This scene was an obvious choice, as it happens, but has a single potential problem…. It was a very late addition. This means that it was inserted after the primary editing process, one of only three scenes in the entire book for which that is true, and as such is more likely to contain errors. It’s certainly been proofed as heavily as I could manage, but it hasn’t been gone over by the professional editing service that cleaned up the vast majority of the novel. So, if you spot and error, please don’t assume the whole book is that way! The excerpt comes from Chapter 6 – The Gate to Everywhere.
A thump was followed by Areina cursing in Linderi.
Henry leaned around his current console and stared at her lower half, the upper half being wedged thoroughly under the auxiliary shield power conduit. “I didn’t know you knew Linderi.”
Her response was muffled, but still clearly smug. “I don’t. But working with you has vastly increased my vocabulary of expletives. Bonus points, even the translators can’t figure out half of them.”
Henry was grinning now, and it came through clearly in his voice. “Yes, well, I’ve been a few places that the translators haven’t, now haven’t I?”
She didn’t respond immediately. Instead wiggling out from the tight space. When she finally worked her way out, covered in dirt and grease smudges, she finally retorted, “The way you tell it, you’ve been to all the interesting places. Of course, that also means you’ve got to be older than dirt.”
Henry groaned. “Oh come on! Don’t start that again.” He paused and his brow furrowed for a moment. “Though, perhaps I can use that as a good excuse for why I got cold cocked by a medic.”
Areina winced, sighed, and ran a hand through her hair, drawing loose strands of its shoulder length back into the messy ponytail they had escaped, seemingly unbothered by the streaks of lubricant and dust her fingers left behind. It only took a few moments for her to speak again, a little abrupt as she broke the silence. “I’m sorry about that.”
Henry raised an eyebrow. “About the cursing?”
She glared, though over the eyebrow or the comment Henry wasn’t sure.
“No, you twit. The nose!”
Henry waved the apology off. “You didn’t break it.”
“No. But I shouldn’t have led Jonas on like I did. When he broke your nose, I realized I shouldn’t have let it go so far.”
Henry sighed. “Areina, Jonas knew it wasn’t serious. It’s just that he’s young, and you’re beautiful, and with us stuck here, he let it get to him. He apologized later when he was fixing my nose.”
She grimaced. “I know, I overheard it. I followed to make sure nothing else happened.”
Henry rolled his eyes and picked his multi-tool up again, powering it on and returning to the careful splicing he had been working on. “Despite being blindsided by the supposedly mild-mannered prince charming, I can generally take care of myself. Not that I don’t appreciate the thought.”
Finally standing, giving a lithe stretch that resulted in audible joint popping, she smirked. “I never said I was worried about you. I was worried you might stuff him in one of his medical lockers with every icepack on the ship and some cheesy line about him needing to cool off.”
Henry stared for a moment, his lips twitching. When she gave him a completely innocent look, expression far too perfectly earnest to be real, he cracked, breaking out in full body laughter. He managed to depower his multi-tool between increasingly wheezing breaths, before he could hurt himself or the ship with it.
When he finally managed to bring his laughter under control, he saw a much happier-looking Areina. Rather than the somewhat forlorn expression she had been bearing, she now wore a radiant, if somewhat mischievous, smile. Still chuckling slightly, he tried, and failed, to give her a stern look. Shaking his head, he gave in and simply stated, “Alright, Imp. Less levity, more fixing things.”
As she moved to comply she suddenly paused. Throwing a smirk over her shoulder, she cocked her hips and said, “So…you think I’m beautiful, huh? Maybe Jonas was right about you! Hmm…and you’re always having me crawl into tight spaces. Staring at my ass and imagining what you’ll grab hold of if I get stuck, Mr. Harper?”
She leapt a half meter in the air, nearly hitting an overhead pipe, when a jolt from Henry’s multi-tool struck her on the ass.