Summer’s first thought, that this might not be so bad, was immediately overwhelmed by the rush of indignation. “You’re the Emperor!?”
“I have a car waiting,” he answered.
The thing that struck her most about the man, besides his good looks, was the sense of calm control he exuded. He took her arm and the next thing she knew they were out in the hallway, and then in the elevator.
“I’m sorry this took so long,” he told her. “I get the impression that the people in your government tend to make things more complicated than they need to be. I find it’s best to accommodate them as much as possible, though. We didn’t come here to upset people. We came for pizza, actually, and liked it so much we decided to stay. I mean, if we’d known that your planet delivers we would have stayed home. You’re staring at me.” He brushed a hand up and down his front. “Have I reverted to my giant insectoid form? How inconvenient.”
Summer couldn’t help but smile. In fact, she almost giggled. He looked more like a movie star than a bug, and she almost said so. Then she recalled that she was more or less his prisoner and refrained from complimenting him. What did one say to the ruler of the world, ‘Stop being cute, you’re making me nervous’?
“Am I? I don’t mean to.”
Summer didn’t know if she’d spoken aloud, or if he’d just read her mind. She preferred to think that she’d unthinkingly blurted out the words rather than the alternative. It made more sense. It was more ‘normal’ -- though her definition of what was normal was rapidly evolving as she tried to cope with everything that had happened to her in the last few hours.
“Actually, I shouldn’t joke about my appearance,” he added. “You Earth humans are having a lot of trouble accepting that we Kariins are the same as you. I blame it on H. G. Wells, myself. I believe he started this evil alien invasion nonsense.”
Three men were waiting for them when the elevator reached the first floor; Cardon, Dalmer and Ricci.
“Friends of yours?” His Supremacy asked as his hand slipped down her arm. It felt like a caress. His fingers slipped through hers. They walked out of the elevator hand in hand.
Summer was almost too aware of the contact between them. So much so that she nearly didn’t notice that Dalmer looked amused, Ricci surprised, and Cardon protective at seeing her holding hands with the Kariin Emperor. Oh, the expressions were subtle, hardly there, really. These men were used to presenting poker faces to the world, but Summer caught their reactions, or thought she did. How could she trust her ‘normal’ powers of observation with all those sparks shooting through her from the spot where her and the emperor’s hands touched? She forced herself to focus, and nodded toward the men.
“I’m used to them,” she replied to His Supremacy’s question.
Did these men even know who she was holding hands with? His Supremacy was notoriously camera-shy. More than camera-shy, the Kariins frequently used some sort of shielding to keep their faces out of the media. Seeing her own escorts made her wonder where her companion’s security people were. Emperors didn’t just go wandering the streets alone back where he came from, did they? Maybe they did. Maybe they were used to ordering women out of mail order catalogs as well.
The thought brought back much of her original indignation. She was definitely going to have to have a firm talk with this -- alleged -- man. For the sake of your country, you can’t give him a piece of your mind, she reminded herself. At least not until she’d found out some useful information about the Kariin Empire. Besides, at the moment, she didn’t feel she had that much mind to spare.
The three men stood their ground when the Emperor tried to move her past them. His Supremacy flicked his gaze across them, a gaze that held only the slightest hint of impatience. “Yes? Can I help you?”
His tone was neutral, but there was so much authority in his manner that Summer thought it was a wonder that the trio didn’t bow, or back away. She did notice Ricci flinch, and a flicker of nervousness in Dalmer’s eyes.
Cardon said, “Our assignment is to escort the young lady.”
There was a moment of tension, then His Supremacy smiled. “I see. Chaperones. Come along then, we have a plane to catch.” He then hurried Summer out of the building. Her escort fell in behind, but once they reached the street, the Emperor said to them, “I hope you have your own car,” and handed her into a long gray limo that pulled up to the curb as if by magic.
It wasn’t until she was seated beside him in the spacious interior of the car that alarm flashed through her. “Airplane, Your Supremacy?”
He turned from looking out the back window. “Your friends do have a car. That’s nice. Please call me Ru.”
“Why? We aren’t friends.”
The words came out before she could stop them. She knew that this hostile reaction was all wrong. It was her patriotic duty to at least be polite to this man. In fact, she supposed what she should do was plaster herself to his side and look worshipfully into his amazing eyes while he did whatever he wanted with her. Instead, she found that she’d edged over to the furthest corner of the car seat, and that the fear of what the future held for her was nearly overwhelming.
He remained calm, patient, and on the other side of the limo. “I’m being forward, aren’t I? You’ll find that I’m an emphatic, rather take-charge sort of person. It goes with my job. I also don’t have much time for a personal life, so I have to seize every moment of it I can.”
Summer considered his words while the limousine glided swiftly through heavy traffic as though it were the only car on the road. She looked at the Emperor again. “You’re trying to make me sympathetic towards you, aren’t you?”
His eyes twinkled with amusement. “I’m shameless. Is it working?” Before she could respond, he went on, “I’m very curious about the subject of names. I’ve found that most people on this world have at least two names, which is very like how we do it. Then there are those who are simply Madonna or Sting or Fabio or Iman...or Summer. Is it because you’re all so famous that everyone in the world automatically knows who you are?”
Summer couldn’t help but laugh at that, though there was no amusement in it. “I think the world knows who those names represent, but the names are just media images, fictions.” She wanted to add that the world had no idea who Susan Summer Simms was, but thought that sounded just a bit on the arrogant side. “The images are carefully cultivated,” she added.
“So I should call you Summer?”
She nodded. She certainly wasn’t ready to introduce herself by her real name. After all, he’d ordered her image. As she’d said, the image was carefully cultivated. It was armor as well as media hype. The shell that was Summer was aloof and cool and cagey and capable. She’d been called an Ice Princess, and Greed Queen, and quite a few other unkind things she didn’t really mind reading, in the tabloids. Those stories were about Summer, not her. And Summer could take care of herself, even if Susan Simms was scared to death. Summer could take on an emperor. Or so she hoped.
“Summer will do.”
“Then at least call me Rawn. It’s not as unwieldy as the title, even if it’s not as intimate as my first name.”
“Rawn’s your last name? Rawn Ruan?”
“Yes. Like Major Kira Nerys. Nerys is Major Kira’s first name.” She must have looked shocked as well as puzzled, because he added, as though it mattered, “You did watch Star Trek: Deep Space Nine didn’t you?”
“It was my favorite show. I was never home when it was on, so I taped it to catch up later and still haven’t finished the series. And now I’m trying to catch up on Stargate SG-1 as well.”
He grinned. “I’ve got all the DVDs of that one.”
She peered closely at him, and asked, rather tentatively, “You sure you’re not from Deep Space Nine instead of just watching it?”
“I’m sure. And what is a Supermodel?” he went on. She noticed that he’d edged closer to her as they talked. “Do you have special powers? Leap tall buildings in a single bound? That sort of thing?”
She thought he was joking despite the sincerity of his tone and the curiosity in his expression. Thought. It was hard to tell. The car glided to a halt before she could answer. She’d gotten so involved in talking to His Supre--Rawn, that she’d stopped paying attention to where they were going. The high-pitched roar of jet engines drowned out her thoughts, and caused her to take a startled look around. They were at an airport. Actually, they weren’t so much at an airport as they were parked on a runway. Her vision was filled with the sight of a very long, large airplane on the nearby tarmac as the chauffeur opened the passenger door.
“That’s a 777,” she said as she got out of the limo.
“Yes,” Rawn answered as he joined her. “You said you had to catch an airplane. Where to?” he added. He held his hand out to her. “London or Paris? Bangkok? Rio? Your choice.”
She’d been to Paris recently, so after a stunned moment’s hesitation, she chose London. What she should have done, she thought, but not until after they were in the air, was put her foot down and demand to go home. But then, that wouldn’t be serving her country. Besides, she didn’t think of it until it was too late.
They were the only passengers. Except for Cardon, Dalmer and Ricci, but Rawn politely asked them to sit in the back of the plane so he and Summer could have a bit more privacy. But for the full complement of flight attendants, Summer was alone with the Kariin Emperor.
In some ways she didn’t mind. In others she was terrified. She thought that the thing that terrified her the most was that she didn’t mind. Which made no sense.
“Why are you doing this?” she asked after she declined the glass of champagne an attendant offered her.
“Doing what?” Rawn asked, and took a sip of the glass he’d accepted.
“Taking me to London.”
“You said you wanted to go. I assumed you had errands to run.”
“Shopping. That sort of thing?”
Summer sighed, and couldn’t help but tell the truth. “I was trying to run away from you.”
He looked briefly surprised. “Oh.” Then he gave her a full wattage, dimples and all smile. “But that was before you knew me.”
She couldn’t help but respond to that smile, and his complete insouciance. It warmed her in unfamiliar ways. Or maybe the sudden giddiness came from traveling so fast. Or maybe she’d inhaled some of his champagne bubbles. For whatever reason, she found that she was warm all over, and enjoying herself.
She laughed. “Okay,” she said. “I give up. Let’s call this a date. You paid for the plane tickets. How about I buy you dinner?”
Again, there was that flicker of surprise before the smile. A more subdued smile this time, but just as effective. “It’s a date,” he agreed.
Friday, October 13, 2006
No Princess Need Apply - Excerpt 3
Posted by Susan Sizemore at 12:43 PM
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He's so damn cute, Sizemore! I don't blame poor Summer for being confused. Conquering aliens are not supposed to be Baldwin alikes who watch SF on DVD!ReplyDelete
Kaufenberg at work
I rather adore the guy myself. And if aliens are going to conquer the world, I'd rather they be cute ones.ReplyDelete