Sean took a few steps into the woods, allowing his eyes to adjust. The shadowed figure of the mounted animal became discernible. It whinnied and backed further into the darkness.
“Hold!” Sean said. He struggled not to let his anger be heard. “Ye’ve bested me. Steal the horse but I’m for the coast. I need my things.”
“’Tis not stealing it if it’s mine.”
Not a woman’s voice. A young lad then.
“I paid for the use of it, son.”
“I’m not yer son.” The voice broke, confirming Sean’s suspicions.
“Nae. Ye’re not but I have quite a walk ahead of me. May I at least collect my belongings?”
A loud thud accompanied the bag that dropped at his feet. Sean stared at the sack. Arrogant little shite. The few items he’d collected to bring home were no doubt in pieces now. Anger simmered. He glanced toward the rider.
“My thanks. And will ye toss the weapons at me as well?”
“They’re mine now… the price for the use of my horse.”
Sean forced himself to appear calm. “I told ye I paid for the use.”
“But it wasn’t paid to me.”
Sean moved in closer but with every step, the rider retreated. If he could get his hands on him, Sean would teach him a lesson he wouldn’t soon be forgetting. By his size, the boy looked to be about ten.
“But I did pay for its use. An honest agreement between men. I had nae way of knowing it had been stolen. I had plans to return it.” Despite the blood racing through him at being outsmarted by some unknown, he shifted his tactics. He used his ever-so-amicable tone of voice but would not be letting the horse—or rider—get away. “When was the horse stolen from ye?”
The lad didn’t respond at first but the beast shifted, indicating uneasiness. “It was taken without my permission.”
Sean gave a small smile, moving closer as he spoke. “That’s what I said.”
“Nae ye asked when it was stolen from me.”
“Is there a difference?”
The lad tipped his head back as if looking heavenward in exasperation. Taking his eyes off Sean proved to be his mistake. With three long strides Sean closed in, yanked at the reins, and ripped them from the rider’s loose grip. Stepping clear, he waited while the courser jerked against the rope now held firmly in his grip. The rider, struggling to keep his seat, tossed about with the rough motion.
Definitely a young lad. Not even a curse uttered from the unexpected change of events.
Sean smiled and stepped in to put his arm around the horse’s snout to settle it down. He spoke in a quiet, calming voice. “Easy now, Roana.”
“Roana! What kind of name is that?” The lad threw his leg over the far side of its body in preparation for his escape.
The courser was not very tall. Sean wondered why he didn’t just jump off.
“The one I gave it! A handsome beast deserves a handsome name.”
He grabbed at the lad’s skinny arm, hauling him across the saddle, flat on his belly, facing him.
Sean offered a contented smile. “Did ye have somewhere to go?”
Blurb: Outcast and alone, Thomasina MacDonell is hell bent on finding her brother, the only person who can thwart their father's latest scheme to offer her as payment for his gambling debts. Disguised as a lad, she defiantly sets off on foot to locate him—never expecting to find a handsome, Irish warrior riding her beloved horse. The warrior's offer of help and unsolicited advice on how to be manlier sparks an intimate desire to reveal her more feminine side.
Rejected by the love of his life, Sean O'Cisoghe wants simply to return home and heal his broken heart. When a young "lad" steals the horse out from under him, he discerns the spirited woman may be in way over her head against her ruthless father. Finding her brother while keeping her would-be betrothed at bay, Sean must confront the fact that Thomasina has stolen his heart. Will Norman soldiers out for his blood and shifting clan alliances cut short their growing passion?