Ansley rode hard. She leaned into Caide, holding tight to the reins and squeezing the saddle with her thighs. She wasn’t worried about losing Ali. Her wolf would keep up; she always did.
Night had fallen hours before, and she would ride four more before she reached the center of Greenwald. She’d entered the Province some time ago, but this ride was long and arduous.
Ansley had left Terraquist right after supper, and the hearty rabbit stew sat in her stomach like a brick.
Ali, stay close, love, she thought-sent to her bondmate, sucking in a breath as the hood to her Senior Rider cape slipped off her head. She yanked it back into place, covering her ears against the rushing wind.
Her bondmate’s only answer was a mental grunt, but it was reassuring.
The wolf’s black coat was hard to see in the dark, but Ansley could sense her at the horse’s side through the magic that joined them.
They moved down the road, encountering no one; Ansley stuck to the main thoroughfare, her sword sheathed at her waist and the message she carried safe in her belt-pouch.
At least we’re making good time.
There had been no time to prepare for this overnight run assignment. Fatigue was encroaching. Her back throbbed; her legs were heavy, despite the stirrups taking most of the weight.
Her captain, Sir Artair Moray, had summoned her after evening meal. When she’d arrived, the king was present, as well.
She’d been charged with orders to deliver a message to the neighboring Province of Greenwald.
It was urgent, King Nathal had said. No, it wouldn’t hold until dawn.
Captain Moray had already ordered her white gelding readied to be awaiting her in the courtyard.
Ansley wouldn’t question her superior or her king. She’d hidden her surprise.
Worry had seized her gut, but King Nathal had promised nothing was amiss. He commanded her to take her time at her destination, giving leave to visit with both Lady Cera, the Duchess of Greenwald, and her other good friend, Lady Aimil Dagget, who also resided at the dukedom stronghold, Castle Aldern. Both ladies, newly married, were former Senior King’s Riders, like Ansley.
Cera was carrying a child due any day now, so the king had encouraged her to stay for the birth.
Time away from her duties as one of the king’s messengers was unusual and welcome. Ansley would enjoy herself. Take her time coming home.
Even her father, Captain to the king’s personal guard, had encouraged her. He’d met her in the courtyard and given her a long hug goodbye. She’d scratched their cat, Xander, behind the ear, ignoring the hiss he directed at her bondmate.
Caide had carried her well into Greenwald now; they were perhaps an hour from the gates that surrounded Greenwald Main.
Ali came to an abrupt halt in the middle of the road.
“Ali!” Her shout did nothing to move her wolf.
Ansley yanked Caide’s reins, and he stopped short, throwing his head back and whinnying, but it kept him from mowing down her bondmate.
Her steed’s muscles rippled, and she squeezed her thighs to keep her seat, whispering to calm him.
Ali. Ansley’s wolf didn’t respond to her mental scold.
The large she-wolf’s posture was tight.
Sighing, Ansley threw her leg over Caide and slid down his side. Her feet throbbed with the jarring impact of the ground. She patted the horse’s sweaty neck and apologized.
Caide snorted and shook his head, as if he was blaming Ali.
Ansley bit back a smile. Her constant companions only tolerated each other.
When she stepped beside her wolf, she ran her hand down the length of Ali’s back. Her bond’s ears were perked, head tilted to one side.
“What do you hear?”
Her bondmate didn’t acknowledge Ansley’s voice.
With a curse, Ansley pulled her sword and looked around. Ali’s gaze was locked toward the woods that lined the road, but Ansley’s human eyes couldn’t penetrate the darkness.
She buried her hand in the thick, black fur at the back of Ali’s neck, muttering a spellword one of the king’s mages had taught her, when they’d bonded. Instantly, her own sight sharpened as she shared Ali’s eyes. Colors were off a little, but her eyes had never seen clearer. Where she could only see shadow on her own, Ali’s eye allowed her to take in shape, make out so many more things in the night.
The wolf blinked, as she absorbed the feeling of Ansley’s mind slipping into hers, but she didn’t fight her.
They were bonded, and Ali was used to Ansley’s presence in her mind. The spell temporarily deepened their connection.
Ansley didn’t have much magic, so she couldn’t maintain the link for long. Using spells, even simple ones, exhausted her.
A low growl sounded in the wolf’s throat, and Ansley tightened her grip. Soft, thick fur grazed her palm and pushed through her fingers.
But Ansley spotted what Ali had.
There was a dark lump lying in the underbrush about six feet from the road.
It moved. Then moaned.
Ali startled, but Ansley stopped her from jolting forward with a quick mental command.
She released her hold and the spell, lifting her sword. Sweat broke out on her forehead and her heart thundered, as she edged forward. A too-cool breeze for the fall evening made a tremor shoot down her spine.
Her bondmate darted in front of her. Ali would let Ansley check out the mystery, but the wolf would always act without order to protect.
“Blessed Spirit,” she whispered, hitting a knee. The tip of her sword scraped into the dirt making a small high pitched sound Ansley ignored.
Ali lifted her head, catching the poor creature’s scent, then whined and pawed the ground. Her wolf lost her defensive posture and inched closer. If Ansley could smell the blood—and she did—no doubt Ali did, too.
Ansley sheathed her sword and pulled off her riding gloves, tucking them into her belt.
“Help.” The word slipped from damaged lips.
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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