This short takes place about 6 years (turns in my world) before Sword's Call. Cera is the heroine of my first book, and she is very very close to my heart. Please enjoy! Comments are encouraged!
All rights reserved; copyright © C. A. Szarek. The text within may not be reproduced in whole or in part or distributed in any form whatsoever OR SOLD without first obtaining permission from the author.Cera stared. She just couldn’t tear her eyes away as her father’s best horse trainer worked the feisty young stallion. Her stallion.The young white wolf at her side whined, but her eyes remained locked onto the horse. The day she’d witnessed his birth just over a turn ago, she’d named him Ash. His shiny coat was as black as night, but before he’d been properly cleansed his coloring had been marred, making him appear the exact hue of cooling embers.Her bond, Trikser, by her side also about a turn now, pawed her breech-clad leg. Cera sighed.“What is it? I’m not ignoring you. Honestly.” His amber gaze held innocence as their eyes locked and she couldn’t help the smile that formed. She buried her hand in the soft fur between his ears, giving him a scratch. He groaned. “You’re getting so big, Trik,” she mused as he scooted closer to her. Soon he was against her leg, leaning hard and Cera laughed. “Okay, okay.”She widened her stance so he wouldn’t knock her over. Trik was jealous of Ash. What would her bond think when she was astride the magnificent animal? Cera couldn’t wait for that moment.“Cera? What are you doing down here? You should be studying.” The censure in her father’s tone caused heat to creep up her neck.Lord Falor Ryhan’s wide stride brought him to her side in seconds. She fidgeted, but didn’t look away as the duke gave her a once over, his hazel eyes dancing. Her breath exited on a whoosh. Her father wasn’t actually angry with her for sneaking off.“I just wanted to see him, Father. I couldn’t wait.”He smiled and threw his arm around her shoulders. Trikser yipped as they were separated and Cera leaned into her tall father, smiling back at him.Oh hush, you. She thought-sent to her bond, and he reseated himself on her other side.“I’m sure your mother didn’t see you before you left. She wouldn’t let you out of the castle in breeches.” There was amusement in his tone at the age old argument, but Cera still blushed.“But I did complete my studies before I left, Father.”“Glad to hear it, but that will not protect you from your mother’s wrath. You’d better go back in through the servants’ entrance.” Her father squeezed her against his side and flashed her a conspiratorial grin that took turns off his handsome bearded face. Cera giggled.Ash’s whinny snapped her attention back to her mount. He was challenging the trainer, hoofing the dirt in the training circle. Cera leaned into the fence, staring. He was going to charge. More like a bull than a horse.“Malcolm, watch yourself, lad.” The duke’s order was a boom that had Cera clutching the fence with white knuckles.Malcolm didn’t budge, holding his ground well. Ash’s nostrils flared. His powerful chest heaved, his muscles catching the sun is they rippled down his legs and across his back.“He’s the finest stallion my stables have ever birthed,” her father whispered, awe in his tone.“Thank you for giving him to me.”Trikser growled low in his throat. Ash’s head swung around, his dark gaze locking with the wolf’s amber one. Cera stiffened.“Whoa, Ash.” Malcolm’s tone was calm as Cera’s gaze settled on him. But just as he made a go for the stallion’s bridle, Ash jerked away.“Trikser,” she admonished, but the horse was already galloping across the training circle.“Cera, move back,” her father ordered. He reached for her, but she scooted toward her bond, moving him back before it was too late.The stallion was powerful enough to jump the fence. He could trample her wolf.A strong hand landed on her arm and she was yanked back as her father shielded her with his body. “Cera, go. Now.”Trikser, stop. Stay right there. Cera thought-sent, ignoring her father’s command. She slid around him with a glance at her wolf. He was glowering, but obedient, sitting not far from the training circle.She climbed a few rungs up the fence and leaned over, arm extended and palm up. “Ash, come to me.” Her rapid heartbeat belied her calm tone.The stallion halted, his chest muscles rippling as dirt settled and his ears twitched. He wasn’t close enough to touch, yet, but he looked at her.“Ash, my beautiful boy, come to me.”Her smile bloomed as he took one step, then two. Her fingers connected with the softness of his nose, pushing the small touch into a full caress as he came against the fence.Ash snorted as her father stepped next to her, rearing his head up.“Shhh, boy. It’s fine. I’m here,” Cera soothed, running her hand up his wide forehead.She made eye contact with her father.“Father, I…” His brows were drawn tight, his mouth a hard line.Ash nudged her hand for another caress. “He likes you.” She grinned at her father’s amazed tone. His face relaxed and his chest heaved with a sigh.“I’m sorry, my lord. He’s willful, this one,” Malcolm called.“It’s all right, but you should stay where you are. She’s got him calm.”“You’re for me, Ash. All for me,” Cera murmured, resting her forehead against the stallion’s much wider one.Her father’s chuckle made her glance at him. When their gazes met, he shook his head.“You never cease to amaze me, lass.”“Is that a bad thing, Father?”“Sometimes.”“This time?”“No, lass. Not this time.” Cera flashed an impish grin and her father laughed again.She caressed her horse, looking into his brown eyes for a moment. He nickered and she offered him a carrot she’d stowed in her pocket. As he munched, she motioned for Trikser to come to her side. Her bond wasted no time, plastering himself to her leg.One hand on her horse, the other on her wolf, Cera smiled.