This short is still before Sword's Call in my timeline (about three years) but I have jumped characters, and I had alot of fun doing so.
The star of this short is the heroine of the 2nd book in the series, called Love's Call. I love her. :)
After you read this, can you guess who the hero of the book is? ;)
Enjoy! Your comments and interest are awesome, please don't stop them. Check back on Monday for F.
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 authorThe ground was harder than it looked. Ansley winced and scrambled to her feet, resisting the urge to rub her sore rump—just barely. She glared at her giggling friends. She retrieved her standard issue King’s Rider bow and wiped off the mud on the grip.“That wasn’t so bad, Ans.”“Not bad at all.”Three wolves sat or lay not far away, one pure white, the other a mottled reddish gray and the last a little black wolf cub. She whimpered but Ansley thought-sent to her a quick mental command to stay put. The last thing she needed was her young bond underfoot. They would both end up muddy and she’d have to give Ali a bath.“Oh hush, and that goes for all three of you.” She made eye contact with Ali and received a wag of her tail as Cera giggled while Aimil covered her mouth to hide hers.“Do you want to try again?” Cera asked as Ansley made her way to them.“Let’s see. I am the only one I know who can land on her arse in the mud when trying to shoot an arrow. Oh, yes, let’s try again.”“Ansley…you did…fine.” Cera answered, her laugh barely disguised amongst her words.Ansley made a sound of disgust and Ali whined. Again she told her to stay where she was. When she looked at her friends, taking in their hunter green Rider cloaks, she smiled. They were all Senior Riders now, and it was a good feeling. Though her cloak was probably covered in mud.“How did I even pass my Rider Tests?” she mused, her eyes sweeping the archery field.“Because you were meant to be a Senior Rider. We all have different skills to our credit, Ansley.” Cera’s gray eyes were wide and sincere to illustrate her statement and Aimil was nodding, her long dark plait swaying with the movement.Cera knocked an arrow, raised her bow, pulled the bowstring taut and released it without effort. It sailed right into the center of the target, no doubt exactly where she’d aimed. Ansley lost her nerve. The bow and arrow was definitely not her weapon of choice.“Blessed Spirit, I love this bow,” her friend whispered, caressing her weapon. The smile she flashed faded when she met Ansley’s gaze.“I’m sorry, Cera. I’m not trying to take any joy from you. I know this is just about your favorite thing.” Ansley cringed. Perhaps it had been a bad idea to ask for help with archery from the two best archers among the Senior Riders, best friends or not.“You’re better at sword fighting than I am,” Aimil put in, nodding in earnest.Ansley gave a small smile. That had a lot to do with size. She had a good ten inches on her tiny friend, who stood at about five feet tall, and her father was the captain of the king’s personal guard. She’d practically been born with a sword in her hand, but she wasn’t about to point that out.The sound of pounding hooves caught their attention. Collectively, they glanced down the road that eventually lead to open fighting yard where the Riders trained with swords, spears and hand to hand combat.“Knights,” Cera said as the small group neared, the sun glinting off their armor.“What are knights doing on our grounds?” Ansley asked. Her friends shrugged as she called Ali to her side. The cub was only about four months old and still leery around horses.She didn’t pick her up, but Ali settled at her side, close enough to touch. Cera smiled at the young wolf.The group slowed and Ansley recognized the lead horse right away, because the mare was buckskin in color. Heat crept up her neck, settling in her cheeks. Sir Leargan Tegran was leading the small group of knights. She wanted to scoot behind Cera but didn’t have enough time.“Afternoon, my ladies,” Sir Tegran said as the six knights came to a stop by the fence that bordered the archery grounds. He gave a polite nod, sticking his helm on the pommel of his saddle. A few of the other men also removed their headgear and nodded or murmured greetings.“Afternoon, sirs.” Aimil said, giving a slight bow. Cera echoed the sentiment while Ansley ordered herself not to stare at the dark haired lead knight. His handsome chiseled face was clean shaven as always, and shoulder length black hair pulled back by a leather strap. His dark eyes focused on her friend.“Where does the afternoon lead you?” Cera was asking as Ansley concentrated on becoming invisible. What would have happened if the knights had come by when she was on her rear end in the mud? She would have died if Sir Tegran had seen that. She swallowed hard.She forced her eyes away from him, sweeping her gaze over the other knights. All rather young, Ansley recognized each one, though she only knew Dallon by name. He sat behind Sir Tegran and to the right, next to a large blonde knight that reminded her of the king. He was huge, even sitting on his bay stallion.Dallon caught her eye and winked. Ansley flashed him a smile. He was a bit of a ladies’ man, but with his light brown hair, brown eyes and handsome face, it really wasn’t a surprise.“Captain Moray invited us to spar with some Senior Riders,” Sir Tegran was telling Cera. Ansley’s cheeks were hot. He hadn’t even looked at her, but that didn’t matter. He was so handsome. Her heart skipped a beat.“You should come watch,” another dark haired knight with a twinkle in his blue eyes suggested. He waggled an eyebrow and Aimil giggled. Cera smiled and crossed her arms over her chest.“I am sure they have better things to do than watch you get knocked over, Alasdair,” Dallon answered. Ansley bit her lip to keep from giggling and Sir Tegran coughed, but it sounded more like a laugh.The banter went on, the knights quipping at each other.“Good day, my ladies,” Sir Tegran said, bowing from his saddle. Ansley averted her eyes as he flashed a smile at all three of them and his eyes swept over her face. Her cheeks blazed and her stomach flipped. Ali nudged her leg with a whimper and she swept her bond up into her arms, using the opportunity to bury her face in the cub’s ebony fur.Cera and Aimil muttered goodbyes and the knights soon disappeared down the road to the fighting yard.Ansley peaked over Ali’s head when they were gone. Her friends exchanged a glance she didn’t miss.“Why is your face so red?” Cera asked. Ansley bit back a groan.“What are you talking about?” she returned. She bent to put Ali back on her paws and retrieved the bow she’d been using. “Are we going to shoot some arrows or what?” Her words were rushed and her face still burned.Cera and Aimil looked at each other again but said nothing. Then Cera nodded and raised her bow.“Sure. Come on, what are you waiting for?”Ansley sighed and gave a curt nod. She ignored the fact that Cera’s smile looked much too knowing.