Soooo, I’ve finally released the second book in my So’ladiun Series. I know, I know, some of you are saying, “What the you-know-what? Took you long enough.” Well, truth is that I had bit of this, that, and the other life throws at ya from time to time and couldn’t get the book ready. But it is here now, and I’m actually kind of partial to this installation in the series. It has a little bit of everything, and even if you’re not a fan of fantasy, I think you will enjoy the mystery and just pure fun of riding along on an adventure that will take you away from the “yuckiness” that seems to be flooding the real world at the moment. And just to give you a little bit of a taste of my madness, I have decided to let you guys read the first chapter. I hope you enjoy!
“Marissa, wait,” Clay shouted, trying to catch up to the fiery redhead weaving through the crowd of pedestrians choking the boardwalk of Jarit’s Cove. Frustrated, he squeezed through a narrow opening between two of the town’s elders which earned him dual looks of annoyance.
“My apologies, ladies,” he said, reaching up to tip his hat as he passed, forgetting that Marissa had swiped it from his head in her fit of anger. He tugged on the mist-dampened locks of hair plastered to his forehead instead.
“Marissa got you on a chase again, Clay?” one of the ladies asked.
“Yes, Madam Valiance,” he said over his shoulder, hearing the expected giggles from the women. Marissa’s temper was no secret to anyone within fifty leagues of the town. “Marissa!” he called out again.
The object of his pursuit glanced over her shoulder with a wicked smile. “You better take back what you said, Clay, or the hat gets it,” she said, raising her voice so he could hear her over the noise of the crowd around them. She held up a floppy-brimmed hat. It was his favorite hat, and she knew it.
“Marissa, stop this nonsense . . . .”
Marissa studied him for a moment, then stepped off the boardwalk and into the street without concern for the riders and wagons trying to make their way through thick, slippery mud that rain for an entire week had created. She stopped next to a puddle and dangled his hat threateningly close to its murky surface.
“You wouldn’t dare,” he said.
“Wouldn’t I?” she asked, and he had no doubt she would soak it thoroughly without remorse if he didn’t do something fast.
“Please, my beautiful darling,” he pleaded, knowing flattery traveled a long mile when trying to squash her anger. “I was only teasing about Freda. You know I love you.” He held out a hand for her. “Get out of the street before you get trampled.”
“I don’t believe you, Clay. Saying breasts the size of Freda’s could keep a man’s face warm on a cold night isn’t exactly the words a man betrothed to someone else should say, do you think?” she growled as she stepped backwards to put distance between them. Her boots sank ankle deep into the soft mud.
He bit back a laugh, trying with a gargantuan effort to keep his face serious. He hadn’t known she was behind him when he, Kole, and Anri were discussing the nicer parts of Freda’s female anatomy. “I promise I was not serious. You are the love of my life. I only want your breasts to keep my face warm at night,” he said, earning some heartfelt laughs from those listening nearby.
Marissa’s face flushed blood red, and he wished on the grave of his departed mother that he could have said something a little less crass. Marissa was never going to forgive him.
Several horses trotted by dangerously close to her, their riders not caring in the least if she was in their way or not. Growling under his breath in frustration, Clay stepped off the boardwalk and tried to grab her arm. “Please, let’s discuss this elsewhere, my love.”
She jerked back out of his reach. “Don’t call me your love,” she snarled, and turned to dash across the street unheeding of the conditions of the earth under her feet.
And that was her first mistake of the morning.
Reminding Clay of a scene in a humorous skit he had once seen by a traveling actor’s troupe, Marissa slipped and slid in the mud and lost her balance. She then veered headlong into the flank of a large ginger horse standing nearby, bounced backwards and landed on her butt with a splat in the soggy street. An unladylike oath of frustration spewed from her mouth as she pounded her fists into the mud, adding additional splatters of muck onto her ruined clothes.
His hat didn’t stand a chance. She pummeled it into a sodden, muddy lump, then tried to stand, but her hands and feet slipped out from under her once again. She landed on her back, limbs sprawled wide in the mire.
“Son of a mangy dog with worms,” she yelled in frustration at the dreary sky above as a ripple of laughter swept up and down the street from those who had witnessed her comical fiasco.
“Well, I certainly didn’t expect that,” the rider of the ginger horse said with a small laugh.
Clay flashed a quick look of apology at the rider who seemed no bigger than a child on her horse as he hurried to Marissa’s side. “Marissa, are you all right?” he asked, trying to stifle a grin and knew he wasn’t succeeding.
“Do I look all right?” she spat. She rolled over on her side and held up mud soaked hands. “Help me up, you oaf!”
A small laugh from above drew Marissa’s attention and Clay winced, knowing that the muddy spitfire was about to explode . . . which was her second mistake of the morning.
“Do you find this funny?” Marissa demanded, glaring at the rider.
“I’ve seen pigs wallow in the mud less than you, my dear,” said a second rider, a captain of the King’s Army who sat atop a mahogany bay that was not happy with being still. Agitated, the horse slung his head and pawed at the soft muck, creating deep ruts in the mud.
“Are you calling me a pig?” Marissa sputtered.
“Well, . . . ,” said the captain, but was interrupted by the first rider.
“Captain, enough. My lady, he meant no disrespect . . . ,” she started to say, but Marissa was inflamed and launched into telling both riders just what she thought of strangers coming into her town and insulting her, and then proceeded to be very specific where they could stick their opinions and observations.
Clay studied the soldier as he listened helplessly to Marissa accuse the two riders of running her over on purpose, wondering what brought the captain to Jarit’s Cove. Soldiers were a rare sight in the small fishing village unless it was one of their own returning home. He shifted his gaze back to the first rider who, despite her small stature, seemed to be in charge and scrutinized her closely. His eyes went wide when he saw the pin of a golden eagle on her cloak. This was no ordinary citizen. She was an official in the military or the government—he didn’t know which, and Marissa had no idea she was slinging insult after insult at someone who could possibly throw her in jail on a whim.
“Marissa,” he said, trying to interrupt her but with no luck. He sent a quick prayer to Solisius, the God of Light, that the two riders were forgiving people because the love of his life was on a downhill roll with her tirade, and he knew that it could only end in disaster. He tried again. “Marissa!”
She whirled on him ready to fight, but at the expense of his own welfare, he trudged forward.
“I think we should let these good people go about their business. It was just an accident,” he said, not daring to point out it was her own fault since she had collided into the woman’s horse. He watched Marissa’s face flush red for the second time in just a matter of minutes and knew that she would consider his actions as some sort of heinous betrayal of her welfare and would no doubt blister his ears with what she thought of him all the way back to her parent’s inn. With a deep regret that the wildflowers she loved were gone for the season and he couldn’t appease her with a large bouquet, he reached for her hand to force her away if necessary before any permanent damage could be done. But the strong-willed fighter in her would have nothing of it and painfully slapped his hand away.
“Marissa, is it?” the female rider asked. She tugged the hood from her head, revealing shoulder length, wispy brown hair that spiraled from the damp air.
Marissa glared back at the rider. “Yes, that’s my name, Miss.” She spread her arms wide. “Look what you have done. My clothes are ruined.”
“Marissa, it was an accident,” Clay sighed in resigned exasperation as he massaged the sting out of his hand from where she slapped him.
“Shut up, Clay!” Marissa spat at him, confirming that reasoning with her was a lost cause.
“I would be more than happy to pay for their cleaning or perhaps something new would be in order,” the woman said with a friendly smile, creating dimples on both sides of her pale face. To Clay’s relief she didn’t appear to be offended. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Elhrin Caddoch, and the shady-looking soldier with me is Captain Kyne Pittwold. Please accept my apologies for causing your fall.”
Clay released an inaudible sigh of relief when he saw that Marissa finally realized that this woman was no ordinary citizen, and her fire fizzled out as if it were doused by the fine mist that drifted down from the dark blanket of clouds overhead.
“No, no, I am sorry. Clay is right, it was just an accident,” Marissa stammered as her gaze located the eagle’s pin on the woman’s cloak. “Uh, maybe . . . .”
“We should be going,” Clay finished her sentence, finally succeeding to grasp Marissa by the arm. He tugged her back towards the boardwalk.
“Wait,” Elhrin called. “Marissa, I would like to talk with you.”
“Really, Miss,” Clay said nervously, figuring they should make a hasty retreat, “we need to go.”
The lady cocked her head to one side and nodded slightly. “If you must, but you forgot your hat.”
She pointed at the miserable object lying half buried in the mud and waved her hand. The hat swept up into the air seeming of its own accord, popped back into a somewhat normal shape, and flew over Marissa’s head to land with a sodden thump on top of Clay’s head. Cold mud oozed down the side of his face.
The slim soldier whooped with laughter as Marissa stared in shock at the hat slumping miserably over Clay’s eyes and ears. She then turned in amazement to the woman on the horse.
“Now would you like to talk to me?” Elhrin asked, grinning wide.
Marissa slowly nodded her head. “I most definitely would,” she said softly.