(To read the teaser of The Runaway Courtesan, scroll down to the end)
Yesterday, a couple of friends and I went to Wildwood Manor Ranch to go horseback riding. While we were waiting for our horses to be led over to us, I found myself entranced by this one stallion in the open range, galloping around in circles. The way his mane whipped about in the cold air, the way he let out this wild, haunting neigh that echoed in the icy air, made him look like an untamed beast. Laughingly, I turned to my friends and said: “I hope our horses won’t be like that!”
I had only to wait and see. Soon, the instructor led out three saddled horses one by one. Liz went first to mount because she’s taken riding classes before; she got a chestnut horse. Then it was Ruth, who also got to mount a beautiful chestnut. And then, the instructor led out a black horse, named Ebony. I felt all fluttery inside as this was the first time ever riding a horse—and horseback riding had been on my bucket list for the past eight years (why? I wrote about men riding away on black stallions yet never knew how it actually felt). I slipped my left boot into the stirrup and swung myself onto the saddle. It was easier than I thought. Maybe this was because I had practiced the movement so often in my mind. What followed was not so easy, however. I couldn’t get the hang of steering the horse in the right direction. When I wanted to go left, I’d tug on the rein, directing Ebony right; and if I wanted to go right, I ended up steering him left. I sort of got used to it later on though. Another issue I had was getting Ebony speed up (which wasn’t my fault by the way) which I’ll elaborate more on as I write.
Anyway, we rode into the forest, in a line, following behind the instructor. My heart leapt into my throat the moment I saw my surrounding. Tall, bare trees enclosed our riding trail, with their brittle branches arced over us. The hard ground was layered in white. Soft curls of snow drifted down from the pale sky. In the near distance, camouflaged against the brown streaks of trees, was a deer, staring at us. I could have let out a wistful sigh just then had I not been freezing cold. The place was just magical. I felt as if I had been thrown into a fairytale.
After a few minutes we rode out into the open field, an ocean of white. By then my feet were numb, the cold biting into them. But this pain was quickly forgotten when the instructor asked if we were ready to speed it up with a trot. I wanted to yell out YES because my horse was so slow. The group broke into a trot, going further and further away, while my horse stubbornly preferred to walk. I continued to dig my heels into Ebony’s side, clicking my tongue for him to move faster. But he wouldn’t listen. It was only when the instructor whistled at him that he quickened his pace. His stubbornness persisted throughout the ride. Only after a bout of side-nudging and tongue-clicking and whistling would he trot. But once or twice he actually rode along with the others.
I loved it when Ebony rode fast (well, a trot is nothing compared to a gallop, but it was fast enough for me!). I could actually feel his hooves clashing against the ground as he ran. It was a bit uncomfortable, being bounced up and down on the saddle, but totally worth it. In a matter of seconds I would be on the other side of the field. I found myself daydreaming about getting Ebony to gallop away with me, but, in my imagination, I either ended up 1) being tossed off, or 2) being unable to get him to gallop, seeing as he is even too lazy to trot at times.
Here is a Teaser # 2 of THE RUNAWAY COURTESAN (chapter twenty-six). I chose this specific scene because…well…there is a horse in it, and today’s post is about horse riding.
Her thoughts stilled, in a trance by the rhythmic crashing of the waves. She couldn’t recall how long she stood there for, or for how long she wandered the coast afterwards, but she began to worry that she had stayed out too long. It would be difficult to travel by night. So she pursued her way towards the main road.
From the distance, Amanda heard the tramp of hooves, the sound growing louder by the second. She turned to look back. Past her disarray of curls, she saw a horseman with his black greatcoat billowing behind him. Her brows knotted seeing that she was directly in his path. She turned and walked in a different direction, but at that very moment, the horseman tugged at the reins to follow suit. It was then that panic gripped her.
She was being followed.
Amanda quickened the pace of her steps. She hiked up her skirt to keep herself from tripping. The wet grass spattered against her bare ankle. Her blood turned cold when the beast charged ahead of her, and then came to a prancing halt, its legs flaring in the air, blocking Amanda’s path. The animal let out a wild neigh that echoed eerily across the vast greenery, before steadying itself on all four hooves. Amanda remained immobile, like a deer in the face of peril. The man steered the horse as he rode slowly around her. She turned, never taking her eyes away from him, winding up for the moment to dash away again. But when he took off his hat, the shadow lifted, revealing the stern features of the Viscount’s.
She let out an uneasy laugh, her hand fluttering over her pounding heart. “Is it your intention to frighten the living breath out of everyone with that scowl of yours, my lord?” When she finally mustered enough courage to look straight at him, something like concern weighed his brows—perhaps he noticed her red-rimmed eyes, bloated by spent tears. He leaned forward. In an unexpectedly soft voice, he said:
“Take my hand and mount.”
“No,” came her immediate response. “But thank you.”
At once his expression chilled. “Then stay out and freeze in the rain.”
She looked up at the sky and it was then that she became aware of the little droplets of cold wetness already falling. Perhaps she would postpone running away to another day. Perhaps on their ride back to the manor she would be able to reconcile with him. She reluctantly stretched her hand out to him. A long silence followed. She remained with her hand held midair, the Viscount staring down at it.
“On second thoughts,” he murmured, “enjoy your walk, madam.”
The harness clinked against the creature’s side. His Lordship spurred the chestnut around. With the swish of horsetail, air brushed by her dejected hand, which she soon dropped to her side. She watched him ride off, leaving her at least half a mile away from Burlescombe Park. She waited. He would return for her.
But he didn’t.
Agent Update: So, five days ago, I received my second partial request! I sent it to the agent in New York just today. I sort of took my time, as she wrote to me that she would be out of office until the new years. That was good for me. I needed some time to go around printing the material out, then travelling downtown to buy U.S. postage, and then looking through the partial to make sure everything was perfect.