Chapter One: part one

Eloran stared at his horse’s hoof and cursed himself silently for not bringing tools to replace the lost horseshoe. He sighed heavily, ignoring the scent that threatened to calm him. There was too much to think about.

Taren, where his brother lived, was more than ten miles away. He could not expect his steed to carry him that far with one missing shoe over cobblestone roads. He sighed and continued to stare at the hoof, willing the shoe to reappear.

“Good afternoon.” A gentle voice spoke from behind him.

Eloran quickly straightened and turned toward the voice. There was a light gray horse a few feet away. The rider wore a gray cloak that matched the steed well. Her hood was up, hiding the color of her hair, but making her stunning blue eyes shine. He smiled and licked his lips, a sly glint in his eyes. She was rather beautiful.

“Hello.”

“Are you in need of assistance?”

He smiled wider. He liked her voice. It was soft, pleasant and promised kindness. “I am. My horse lost a shoe, and Taren is miles away. Do you happen to have a kit with you?”

She gave him a quizzical look. “I don’t usually carry one with me. Do you?”

“I…usually travel with more people. Someone always has a kit and extra shoes, in case of emergencies.” When the odd look did not leave her face, he gave an embarrassed smile. “Our blacksmith makes extra when we go on a long trip.”

She smiled and tried to keep the recognition off her face. “Ah. I see.” She looked him up and down then seemed to come to a decision. “There is a town closer than Taren.”

“There is?” He looked confused and happy at the same time.

“Yes, Gateway. Have you heard of it?”

An interested smile came to his full lips, bringing light to his hazel eyes. “I didn’t know we were close to Gateway. I’ve heard of it, but have never had the pleasure.”

She gave him a lovely smile. “Come with me. I’ll take you.”

He nodded, spellbound by her eyes.

She giggled when he did not move but continued to stare up at her. “You don’t have much on your horse, but you can move the saddlebags to my horse, then you can sit behind me. We’ll go slow, to allow your horse the time it needs.”

Eloran nodded. Of course he should move his things. He moved his light bag to her horse, as she moved her cloak to allow him access. He caught a glimpse of her light blue dress and closed his eyes to his thoughts. He shook his head to clear it and continued moving his saddlebag. Once it was moved, he grabbed the reins and frowned. Her hand appeared in front of him and he looked up.

“Give me the reins. Then you can mount behind me.”

A sly smile appeared on his face at the word mount. She was a beautiful woman, perhaps if he played his cards right, he would be in her bed tonight. He frowned as he handed her the reins.

“What is your name?”

She smiled. “Anan.” As he was traveling by himself and did not have any obvious indications of his title, she decided to pretend she didn’t know who he was. “And you are?”

“Eloran.”

He said it with confidence, and she wondered if he did or did not want her to know who he was. Though it was a common enough name, most knew the king’s youngest son carried the name. She smiled. “Beautiful name.”

The complement pleased him and made him stand taller. “Thank you.”

Anan smiled again and indicated the spot behind her. “Come Eloran. We should leave. It won’t take too long to travel to Gateway, but we need to go slow.”

He nodded and mounted on the back of her horse. He immediately slipped one arm around her waist and took his horse’s reins with the other. She allowed him to settle into a comfortable spot, then leaned against him. He sighed and tightened his arm around her. Anan did not comment, but signaled to her horse to walk.

Eloran sighed again and this time, allowed the scent of the forest, and of her hair, to brighten his mood. The forest smelled of pine and lilacs. Her hair smelled of roses. His arm tightened around her waist again and brought her a touch closer. Anan gave a small chuckled and leaned even further against him. She kept the horses moving, indicting to Eloran that they were not stopping, despite his desires.

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