Here's the story:
...suddenly there was a massive explosion farther to the east, toward the palace, followed by another, smaller blast.
The shock wave knocked Mike to his knees, hands going automatically to his ears, which ached from the concussion.
The crowd went berserk, screaming, pushing, running in all directions.
Instinctively, Mike reached for the blaster customarily at his hip. Damn, not this trip.
The neat column of the procession had fallen to chaos on the roadway. The horses bolted, one plowing through the crowd right behind Mike, knocking people over like straws. Caught in a knot of Mahjundans, forced away from his companions by the unruly mob, Mike’s attention was riveted on the black stallion, rearing and lashing out. The guard in green was nowhere to be seen.
Mike pushed against the packed, sweating bodies surrounding him, yelling above the din for people to get out of his way. His attention was focused on the beautiful girl who’d seemed such a reluctant horsewoman. The stallion was circling, bucking, gathering itself to bolt while she did her best to control the terrified animal. Lips compressed, eyes unaccountably closed, the woman he’d become fascinated by before the explosion was holding the reins tight. Mike ran across the green tile border and into the street, which offered easier going. Most people were trying to escape from the square altogether, putting as much distance as possible between themselves and the potential danger of another explosion. Sprinting to the horse, Mike made a wild grab at the reins.
Seeing her at closer range, he revised his estimate of her age upward by about ten years–not a girl in the late bloom of youth after all, but a stunning woman. “Hang on, lady, I’ll help you dismount. Once you’re safe, I can try to get him calmed down for you,” Mike said, pitching his voice at a level he hoped would cut through the incredible din in the square. “You’re doing fine, just don’t let go of the reins, ok?”
She opened her eyes, turning in his direction. “Oh, please—”
The stallion bucked harder, breaking the rider’s hold on the saddle. She slid off like a rag doll. Cursing, Mike let go of the horse, which promptly bolted. He managed to break the girl's fall, going to one knee as he caught her. To prevent her from being trampled by the crowd, which surged into the space the distressed horse had kept clear with its lashing hooves, Mike carried her in the direction the panick-stricken people were flowing. "Come on, we've got to get away from this mob!"
It was like swimming in a riptide. Going with the flow initially, Mike angled toward the far curb and got himself and his trembling companion across the roadway.
“I can walk,” she said, voice faint. Making no effort to leave the security of his arms, however, she had her eyes closed again.
Rather than waste time arguing, he carried her as he clambered over fallen people and maneuvered around debris until they fetched up in the doorway of a bakery. The sweet smell of fresh breads mingled incongruously with the stench of smoke from the bomb blast. With a muttered apology, Mike set the woman on her feet behind him, so he could defend them both if necessary.
Drawing his belt knife, which was the only weapon he’d been allowed to carry through the city gates, he felt better. Now prepared to deal with whatever might happen next, he crouched in the doorway, trying to keep the woman out of sight behind him as much as possible. Mike surveyed the plaza, identifying no immediate threats. No one paying us any attention right now, too much confusion and panic. He had no way of knowing if the empress had just been the target of an assassination attempt or whether the bombers had hoped some members of the royal household would be unlucky enough to be caught in the blast so close to the parade. If it was the latter case, his job was to keep the terrorists from stumbling over his companion. Time to reassure the woman I rescued.
Half-turning to check how she was doing, he said, “Sorry for the rough handling, miss. Someone apparently has it in for the royal family today.”
One hand was clenched around a small red purse tied to her belt. She was staring slightly over his shoulder with beautiful caramel-brown eyes, golden highlights sparkling in their depths. Reaching to touch his shoulder with her free hand, she let her manicured nails drift ever so slowly to his face.