My (very) active WIP at the moment is The Best-Laid Plans, a continuation story for The Contingency Plan. I’ve been making steady progress on it this past week, and now that I’ve completely figured out how I’m going to handle the rest of the story, it should move along quickly.
I did allow myself to be distracted enough to mock up a cover, but the blurb is still pending. The image used in the teaser, above, is what I hope to be able to use in the cover. The image in the first book represented Prince Efren. This one represents Prince Marcelo.
Although I haven’t written the blurb, yet, I can tell you this: The Best-Laid Plans gives Princes Marcelo and Efren a bit of an…um…adventure to deal with on their journey to Zioneven. There’ll be political intrigue, death, and kidnapping involved. It’ll end with them finally reaching their destination, but you’ll have to wait for the third/final installment in the series to see how Marcelo fares in his new home.
Anyway, it turns out that Prince Marcelo is made of much sturdier stuff than readers of The Contingency Plan might have given him credit for.
The last excerpt I gave was from Prince Marcelo’s POV. Here’s one a little further along, told from Prince Efren’s POV (note…these excerpts have not yet been beta read or edited, so squint as needed):
EXCERPT - The Best-Laid Plans
“Sir!” A warm hand shook Efren’s shoulder. “Sir!”
Noises from all directions assaulted Efren’s muddled mind. Nausea churned in his belly, and a dread he couldn’t quite specify permeated every fiber of his aching body.
He cracked open his eyes and squinted into Jeremy Cook’s concerned face before throwing an arm across his eyes to block the sun.
“He’s awake,” Jeremy shouted. To whom, Efren wasn’t sure.
Something had happened. That much was obvious, but what had happened seemed wrapped in cobwebs, just out of reach. As if, maybe, Efren didn’t want to know. He pushed up onto his elbows.
“Hold on, sir.” Jeremy used the assertive tone that made him an effective assistant, but that he’d never before directed at Efren. “Did you hit your head when you fell? Do you feel injured anywhere?”
“I fell?” From what? A horse? That’s about how he felt. But no, surely he’d never drink enough spirits to feel compelled to go horseback riding naked. And he was indeed naked.
“It was knockout, sir.” Jeremy placed an insistent hand on Efren’s chest and cast a worried gaze at Efren’s belly. Apparently, he wouldn’t be satisfied until his questions had been fully answered.
“Knockout? Proye attacked us? What are our casualties?” There was something else needling at the back of his brain. Something he should know, and something he should ask, but his memory was still muddled.
“Yes sir, it was knockout,” Jeremy said. “Your thoughts should clear within a minute, but please, sir, can you tell me if you are injured?”
“No, I don’t think I’m injured.” Overall achy, but no sharp or acute pain anywhere. Efren stilled as the remaining fog blew out of his brain. He sat and looked around the camp. His people were up or in the process of being brought around from the knockout’s effects. But— “Where is Marcelo? Is he still out?”
Marcelo had been sleeping when Efren exited the tent. He remembered that, now. He hadn’t gotten far. In fact—he ran a hand up his back—yes, those were scrapes. They’d probably dragged him to pull him out of the entry.
Denis Byrd came around the side of the tent at the same time Stevyn, one of the guards, came out of it. Stevyn wordlessly handed Efren his trousers.
Efren stood and looked down as he pulled them on. A dried bloody handprint on his belly taunted him. He squared his shoulders and turned to Denis. “Is Marcelo alive?” Efren’s voice cracked. “Where is he?” Because obviously there was a reason no one had answered his question. If all was well, they would have jumped to reassure him.
Denis drew in a deep breath as if to work up the grit to say it. He cleared his throat. “He’s missing, sir.”
“Missing?” Efren pushed down the alarm rising in his chest. He wouldn’t be of any use to anybody if he panicked. “What do we know? Any reason to suspect he isn’t alive?” Other than the significance of that handprint?
“Actually, sir,” Denis replied. “I think there’s good reason to believe he is alive.”
Efren just stood and breathed for a few beats as relief warmed his chilled blood. “Good. Tell me what you’ve found.”
Denis nodded to Stevyn. “Did you find any additional clues inside the tent?”
“Yes, sir.” Stevyn stood straight and turned to Efren to give his answer. “The smaller nightshirt, Prince Marcelo’s, has a wide strip torn out at the hem.” He bounced his gaze to Denis then back to Efren. “I think he might have figured out what was going on and made himself a mask to breathe through.”
“Smart thinking.” Denis widened his eyes a bit as if taken aback by that. But Efren wasn’t surprised. He’d already figured that unknowledgeable and inexperienced didn’t equate to dimwitted in Marcelo’s case. And certainly not undetermined. Even so, the loose weave of that cotton material might have bought him a little time, but it wouldn’t have kept enough of the toxin out for long.
“Whose blood do you think I’m wearing here?” Efren asked. “Do you think Marcelo’s been injured?”
“I don’t think it’s Marcelo’s blood.” Denis inclined his head toward a spot on the ground, and Efren followed his gaze. There was a large area where a sizeable pool of blood had seeped into the earth. A gory tent stake lay in the middle of the mucky wet patch. “Although that’s likely his handprint.”
“You think he stabbed one of them with a tent stake?” Efren asked. It only made sense. The attackers would have used real weapons if they’d wanted to kill. Unless, they’d turned Marcelo’s makeshift weapon against him.
“I think so, sir,” Stevyn replied. “We noticed that two of your tent stakes had been pulled up. Markings on the ground in there…” He pointed to the tent… “indicate he stretched out and worked them out from inside the tent.”
“Two? Where’s the other one?”
“We haven’t found the second one,” Denis replied.
Efren nodded thoughtfully. “Good for you, Marcelo,” he murmured. “Good for you.”
A sheltered prince. A sudden death. An unexpected choice. How will Prince Marcelo react to discovering he’s The Contingency Plan?
For eighteen years, there has been peace between Sheburat and the kingdom of Zioneven. The untimely death of a princess throws the marriage arrangement—the final phase to complete the terms of the treaty—into disarray, and the contingency plan is put into motion. Now the Crown Prince of Zioneven gets to make his own choice from among the princess’s younger siblings.
As a rare royal son in the matriarchal sovereignty of Sheburat, Prince Marcelo grew up knowing he would never marry. Never. Royal sons did not marry. Period. Except, Prince Efren isn’t from Sheburat, and he has other plans.