Excerpt from Rebellious Secrets:
In one motion, Maira drew the sword from her back and held it steady with two hands, letting the tip of the blade lead her way to the stable.
“Who goes there?” she called out, ready to fight if need be.
As she approached, a man stepped out into the clearing holding out a sword aimed toward her as well. He was tall and wore a cloak over a dark green tunic and brown breeches. His hood was up and his face remained hidden in shadow.
“Put down the sword before you’re hurt,” directed the man in a low voice.
“Who are you?” she asked curiously and cautiously. “And what are you doing here?” She gripped the hilt of her sword tighter.
Her eyes settled on a burlap bag flung over the man’s shoulder. Sticking out of the top of the bag she noticed what looked like the iron poker from the hearth from Imanie’s cottage.
“I’m just passing through, so there’s no need for alarm,” he told her. “Now turn around and get on your horse and forget you ever saw me.”
“Forget I ever saw you?” she asked, wondering if this man thought she was a fool. “Nay, I will do naught of the sort. You’re stealing!” she spat. “You are a thief, and I am not about to turn away and let you leave here with things that don’t belong to you.”
“And what are you going to do about it?” he asked with a chuckle. “Fight me with that mighty sword? I’m surprised you can even hold the bloody thing.”
“Then you’ll be surprised by this as well.” Maira lunged forward, swiping her sword at the man.
Startled, he stepped back quickly. The tip of his sword lowered in the process. From his sudden motion, the bag fell from his shoulder. Imanie’s possessions spilled out over the ground. “Your blade ripped my tunic,” the man said in shock. His hand fingered the cloth over his chest.
“Put down your sword and get on your horse and ride away,” she repeated his warning back to him. “Do it, or the next move I make will be my blade ripping through your flesh instead.”
“Egads, what’s the matter with you, wench?” growled the man. “Don’t you know I could kill you right where you stand before you even have a chance to strike again?”
“We’ll see about that!” She shot forward and her sword clashed with his. When he moved, the hood fell from his head, enabling her to see his handsome face. He had sun-kissed golden skin. That told her he lived in the elements, or spent a goodly amount of time outdoors. And by the simple clothes he wore that blended in with the earth, she realized he must be a peasant. However, his fighting skills were as strong as those of a nobleman. Plus, he owned a sword. This made her very confused.
“I highly doubt a common thief could best me where my fighting skills are concerned,” she told him. “I have learned from the best.” She lunged forward and he parried.
“I must admit, I’ve never seen the likes of this,” said the man. “Tell me, how does a wench know how to handle a weapon? Or for that matter, how does such a little thing like you even hold up a heavy sword at all?” His sudden interest in her felt good. She liked to be noticed for her strengths instead of scoffed at because of them. Especially from a man.
“Not that I need to tell you anything, but my sword is lightweight and is made especially for a lady,” she bragged, continuing to spar with the man, “And I’m not a wench! I am Lady Maira Douglas,” she answered proudly. “My father is the legendary Rowen the Restless. I’m sure you’ve heard of him.”
“The pirate?” The man’s brows arched. “Ah, that is why you can fight like a cutthroat.”