Anqet waited for the procession to pass. She had asked for directions to the Street of the Scarab. If she was correct, this alley would lead directly to her goal. She followed the dusty, shaded path between windowless buildings, anxious to reach the house of Lady Gasantra before dark. She hadn't eaten since leaving her barber companion and his family earlier in the afternoon, and her stomach rumbled noisily. She hoped Tamit would remember her. They hadn't seen each other for several years.
The alley twisted back and forth several times, but Anqet at last saw the intersection with the Street of the Scarab. Intent upon reaching the end of her journey, she ran into the road, into the path of an oncoming chariot.
There was a shout, then the screams of outraged horses as the driver of the chariot hauled his animals back. Anqet ducked to the ground beneath pawing hooves. Swerving, the vehicle skidded and tipped. The horses reared and stamped, showering stones and dust over Anqet.
From behind the bronze-plated chariot came a stream of oaths. Someone pounced on Anqet from the vehicle, hauling her to her feet by her hair, and shaking her roughly.
"You little gutter-frog! I ought to whip you for dashing about like a demented antelope. You could have caused one of my horses to break a leg."
Anqet's head rattled on her shoulders. Surprised, she bore with this treatment for a few moments before stamping on a sandaled foot. There was a yelp. The shaking stopped, but now two strong hands gripped her wrists. Silence reigned while her attacker recovered from his pain, then a new string of obscenities rained upon her. The retort she thought up never passed her lips, for when she raised her eyes to those of the charioteer, she forgot her words.
Eyes of deep green, the color of the leaves of a water lily. Eyes weren't supposed to be green. Eyes were brown, or black, and they didn't blaze with the molten fury of the Lake of Fire in the Book of the Dead.
Anqet stared into those pools of malachite until, at a call behind her, they shipped to look over her head.
"Count Seth! My lord, are you injured?"
"No, Dega. See to the horses while I deal with this, this..."
Anqet stared up at the count while he spoke to his servant. He was unlike any man she had ever seen. Tall, slender, with lean, catlike muscles, he had wide shoulders that were in perfect proportion to his flat torso and long legs. He wore a short soldier's kilt belted around his hips. A bronze corselet stretched tight across his wide chest; leather bands protected his wrists and accentuated elegant, long-fingered hands that gripped Anqet in a numbing hold. Anqet gazed back at Count Seth and noted the strange auburn tint of the silky hair that fell almost to his shoulders. He was beautiful. Exotic and beautiful, and wildly furious.
Count Seth snarled at her. "You're fortunate my team wasn't hurt or I'd take their cost out on your hide."
Anqet's temper flared. She forgot that she was supposed to be a humble commoner. Her chin came up, her voice raised in command.
"Release me at once."
Shock made Count Seth obey the order. No woman spoke to him thus. For the first time, he really looked at the girl before him. She faced him squarely and met his gaze, not with the humility or appreciation he was used to, but with the anger of an equal.
Bareka! What an uncommonly beautiful commoner. Where in the Two Lands had she gotten those fragile features? Her face was enchanting. High-arched brows curved over enormous black eyes that glittered with highlights of brown and inspected him as if he were a stray dog.
Seth let his eyes rest for a moment on her lips. To watch them move made him want to lick them. He appraised the fullness of her breasts and the length of her legs. To his chagrin, he felt a wave of desire pulse through his veins and settle demandingly in his groin.
Curse the girl. She had stirred him past control. Well, he was never one to neglect an opportunity. What else could be expected of a barbarian half-breed?
Seth moved with the swiftness of an attacking lion, pulling the girl to him. She fit perfectly against his body. Her soft flesh made him want to thrust his hips against her, right in the middle of the street. He cursed as she squirmed against him in a futile effort to escape and further tortured his barely leashed senses.
Seth uttered a light, mocking laugh. "Compose yourself, my sweet. Surely you won't mind repaying me for my inconvenience."From the Paperback edition.
Excerpted from Heart of the Falcon by Suzanne Robinson. . Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.