“I suppose you think this is funny!” Marguerite barked as she and Roxton galloped from one end of the clearing
to the other. A good horsewoman, Marguerite had been urged to sit behind Lord Roxton on the stallion as he gleefully jump-started
the animal into action.
He knew the attractive woman behind him was being jostled about unnecessarily but the wild movement caused her to hold
onto him, for fear of falling, her shapely curves pressing into his back. Roxton, feeling only marginal accountability, did
not mind that a bit.
The stallion came to them five days previously. When Roxton first saw it in the glade, its powerful front hooves lifted
and fighting air, he thought of Grendal, who belonged to the realm of young King Siggard. When they moved closer he saw his
mistake. No, not Grendal but still a fine figure of a mount.
No one could surmise where it had come from. The stallion was not branded but seemed strangely tame. He was an independent
animal but had taken to them easily. He showed himself when he wanted company and allowed the explorers to ride him when he
was in the mood. When he wasn’t he’d either eat grass and listen to his new friends speak or run away, finding
his own type of fun and adventure.
Roxton slowed the beast to a trot and felt, somewhat regretfully, Miss Krux loosen her hold from around his waist. “Now
Marguerite, you were the one who said our new friend here could not be trusted with more than one rider on his back. It was
up to me to prove your theory wrong.”
The animal slowed to a walk then stopped at Roxton’s command.
With a gentlemanly hand, Roxton helped Marguerite off the back of the horse then chuckled at the inelegant force of her
two-footed landing. He watched as she adjusted her hat, which had fallen somewhat askew, and forced himself not to speak when
she shot him a look of annoyance.
“Perhaps Alistair did well this time but I wonder how he would react under pressure.” Marguerite
“Alistair?” Roxton questioned, amused.
“One name is as good as another.” Marguerite snapped defensively, as if she had been caught with her guard
down. “It’s better than ‘that horse’. Besides, I just happen to like the name.”
“Naming our new companion, Marguerite? Some may come to believe that you are turning a wee bit soft.”
“Oh please …” Marguerite dismissed softly then affectionately reached forward to pat the animal’s
Roxton smiled gently as she demurred. He often fought his attraction for Marguerite, knowing they would both probably live
to regret the consequences of anything that might come between them. However, there were moments, little instances like
this, that went straight to his heart. Sometimes he just longed to know what it was she was thinking and, even more interesting, what
secrets she might be hiding. “Marguerite, I …”
A rustle in a nearby gathering of trees did not immediately alert the two humans but Alistair whinnied low and stepped
back in fear.
“Whoa!” Roxton urged, pulling back on the reigns.
“Why is he so suddenly skittish?” Marguerite wondered aloud and looked about them.
A broken twig answered her. As did a low but familiar whistling.
“The natives are restless.” she whispered.
“Up, Marguerite.” Roxton thrust out a hand, motioning furiously. He knew danger when it presented itself.
Understanding, Marguerite stuck her foot into the makeshift stirrup then launched herself behind Roxton, once again onto
Alistair’s sturdy back.
The stallion bolted the minute Roxton kicked and for good reason. Two small but deadly masses of natives - cannibals or
head hunters - came at the couple from the right and left of the glade. They were on foot but very quick and agile.
“A total of twelve. Six on either side!” Marguerite shouted, looking over her shoulder as the horse galloped.
A couple of spears had been thrown but missed their target clean. Marguerite was surprised but pleased with the natives’
ineptitude. “We’re leaving them in the dust!” she announced.
“Only twelve?” Roxton shouted back, “I wonder where the others are?”
“Others?” Marguerite exclaimed.
His and her eyes widened when they got their answer. Six meters in front of them, lining either side of the path, were
the rest of the natives, holding long spears and blow tubes containing small needles with dangerous poisons. They were poised
but did not respond. Instead, they allowed the couple to ride passed them, only staring.
“It’s like they’re leading us somewhere!” Marguerite volunteered.