Cera laughed as she circled Ansley, her sword high. “What do you mean, it’s not fair?”
“It’s magic.” Ansley gripped the hilt of her weapon tighter. The sword was familiar in her hands. Felt good.
Her father had told her many a time she’d been born with a sword in her hands, her weapon of choice. She’d always been the best of the female Riders.
Too bad the duchess had almost equal skills.
“I’m starting to regret Tristan healing you completely,” she muttered.
Cera laughed again and rushed her, but Ansley twisted her body away and avoided contact.
Men clapped, and someone whistled.
Ansley tried to pretend most of the guard and a good-sized group of men-at-arms didn’t line the fence of the fighting yard.
Why did I agree to spar?
The duchess had declared she needed some air. She’d left little Fallon with her lady’s maid, Neomi, and challenged Ansley to a duel. Cera had guilted her, stating—whining about—how long she’d been cooped up in the castle.
When she’d reminded Ansley of beating her in a match at Spring Training a few turns back—in front of new Rider recruits no less—Ansley couldn’t say no.
No one beat her with a sword.
Much like Cera’s skills with the bow.
Now she regretted her pride, even though the male eyes were filled with admiration. She didn’t like being the center of attention. Never had.
The clash of metal on metal jolted her, and Ansley locked her arms so Cera wouldn’t knock her over.
“Concentrate, Ans. Or are you rusty?”
Ansley growled and pushed the duchess off, stalking and circling her.
Ali echoed her growl from the tree line, and she hushed her mentally. Her bond knew Cera wouldn’t hurt her, had seen them spar and train more times than she could count. She was just being antsy because Ansley was distracted, not focused on the fight.
“I’m not rusty; you are.” She pushed Cera away from her, thrusting her sword.
Her friend widened her stance and met her strike, hitting Ansley’s sword away from her body. “All right, you got me there. That could have been a cut.”
“One point for Ansley, love. C’mon, you can do better than that!” Jorrin shouted.
Cera growled. “I’ll get her.”
“Don’t let her talk to you like that, Ansley,” Leargan shouted.
When Ansley swung her body back around, she noticed Jorrin and Leargan bumping shoulders and grinning. Like they were vying to get closer as they cheered her and Cera on.
Her heart flipped and she chided herself to concentrate. Ansley flashed a feral grin. “Dare you.” She dashed forward.
Cera raised her magic sword and the glow around the weapon brightened, as magic surged forward. It bled out, surrounding her body too, like an aura.
“That is cheating.”
The duchess flashed a grin, saying nothing.
Ansley didn’t let the magic stop her, though she had to squint against the radiance. She crashed her sword into the duchess’s and Cera stumbled back. She made two long slices in front of her friend’s torso. If they’d been fighting for their lives, Ansley’s strikes would’ve killed.
Her instinct was to stop the duchess from toppling over, but she didn’t. A sparring match was a sparring match, after all.
Cera tumbled to the ground and winced as her rear end hit. Dirt puffed into the air around her breech-clad legs.
Men gasped then clapped. Some chuckled, but when she glanced over her shoulder, all Ansley could see was rapt attention.
Leargan beamed and hit Jorrin’s shoulder. When his eyes found hers, he pumped his fist.
Grinning, Ansley turned back to Cera and tapped the crown of her head with the tip of her weapon. “That’s what you get for cheating, my lady. Dead dead dead.”
Mock-glaring, her friend couldn’t quite hold back her grin. “Yeah, yeah, I guess so. But you never said no magic.”
Ansley shook her head and sheathed her sword, then offered her hand to the duchess. “I thought it was inferred.”
Cera grinned as Ansley helped her gain her feet. “Sorry.”
Rolling her eyes, she couldn’t bite back another grin. “You’re so sincere.”
The duchess bowed and sheathed her magic sword. Then she thrust out her hand. “Thank you for the sparring match. I defer to your greatness with the sword.”
Ansley ignored Cera’s teasing tone and grabbed her hand, beaming. “That just made it worth it. Thanks.”
Jorrin whistled long and slow from the fence. “We’d better call Gamel to write that on parchment. Cera used the word defer and greatness in the same sentence.”
Ansley giggled when the duchess glared at her husband.
Leargan threw his arm around Ansley’s shoulders when they reached the men and a tremor slid down her spine. The heat of his side against hers seeped through her jerkin.
Them entwined in her bed and that morning flashed into her mind, and she swallowed hard as her body warmed.
“That was great fun, love.” Jorrin pressed a kiss to Cera’s cheek and she grinned.
“I agree. Ansley and I need to spar more often.”
“You only want to so you can learn to beat me, Ceralda Aldern.” Ansley giggled.
“Not,” Cera said, but she was grinning from ear to ear.
“You were fantastic, love,” Leargan whispered into Ansley’s ear.
She shivered as his warm breath tickled. “Thank you. I bet I could defeat you, too.” Ansley doubted it, though. He was stronger, larger, and fantastic with a sword.
Leargan arched a dark eyebrow, but the carefree grin he wore made her heart stutter.
Jorrin whistled. “You going to let her challenge you like that, Captain?”
“Oh, I’ll get her later.” Leargan winked.
Jorrin and Cera laughed.
Ansley’s limbs warmed and her cheeks seared.
Blessed Spirit, I hope so.
Book one in the Fantasy Romance series, The King's Riders!
For generations, the Ryhans, ruling family of the Province of Greenwald, have been keepers of a sword rumored to possess enough magic to defeat kings. Lord Varthan, a former archduke and betrayer of the king, covets the sword and invades Greenwald.
Lady Ceralda Ryhan, daughter of the murdered duke, gains the sword and flees, trusting only her white wolf, Trikser-magically bonded to her. Cera needs nothing more to aid in her fight.
Jorrin Aldern, half elfin and half human, left his home in the mountains of Aramour to find his human father who disappeared twenty turns before, but finds Cera with Varthan and his shades on her tail instead.
His dual heritage and empathic magic will tempt Cera in ways she never thought she'd desire. But can he convince her trust and love can pave the path to redemption-or will the epic battle end in tragedy, and evil conquer them all?
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Leargan Tegran, Captain of Greenwald’s personal guard, is an honorable knight. When his king commands him to wed Senior King’s Rider Ansley Fraser, he intends to follow orders; even as he knows nothing of the girl. Not to mention her blasted wolf bondmate, Ali, who barely lets him near her.
Ansley has been in love with Leargan for turns, but marrying him out of duty doesn’t sit well with her. She’ll fight the match tooth and nail—no matter how much she craves to be in his arms and in his bed.
The sudden appearance of Avril, a mysterious girl on the run, creates suspicions of powerful magic and evil lurking on the horizon. Dangers lead to a fight Leargan’s not prepared for.
With the Province threatened, will duty interfere with Leargan’s orders or entwine him and Ansley regardless of their desires?
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Genre – Fantasy Romance
Rating – R
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