Page 10 of Pretty Little Thief

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Unable to recover, I fall to the side, hanging onto the reins for dear life. If I drop my weapon, I could pull myself up easier, but I’ll be defenseless against them. I take the leather strap, wrapping it around my fist, and use all my might to pull my body upright. The moment I’m vertical, I see Grey making his way toward me from the opposite side of the forest.

My hands wrap tight around my sword as I try to anticipate his move.

Greyson doesn’t immediately attack. His wide gray eyes watch my every move, waiting for me to pivot in response. Instead of doing what he expects, I go on the offensive, pulling back on the straps to slow Koa. As soon as Grey passes me, I cut behind him, heading through the forest and out of their line of sight.

Koa is the fastest horse in all of IronHaven. She makes it easy for me to outrun the others. To my surprise, when I glance over my shoulder, there isn’t a guard in sight. The sound of their horses’ feet beating against the ground hits my ears as they search for me.

With reins in hand, I pull Koa to a halt and slide off the side of my saddle. A nearby cove draws my attention, and I slap the horse on her rear to send her ahead before slipping quietly out of sight into my hiding place. Closing my eyes, I take a deep breath to calm my nerves and steady my hand.




With all my might, I swing my sparring sword as I step out from behind the tree that was concealing my whereabouts. My weapon strikes Greyson square in the chest. The force from the impact sends him flying from his stead. His chest plate protects him from any real damage, but his pride takes the brunt of the hit as he immediately sits up and pushes tuffs of dark brown hair from his eyes with fury. The natural golden highlights sparkle back at me as I’m filled with pride.

“That would be cheating, Your Grace,” Grey chokes out, trying to catch his breath.

“You call it cheating, I say it’s strategic thinking on my part,” I reply with a smile, tapping a finger against the side of my head. Greyson frowns while pushing to his feet and dusting himself off just as Tristan and Dominic find their way to us.

“You let the princess put you on your ass, Grey? Maybe we should be spending more time training you than the princess,” Dominic’s voice is filled with disgust. Clearly upset that one of the royal guards could be taken down by little ol’ me. Greyson huffs loudly, stomping off to collect his horse.

“Quick thinking, little bird. I’m proud of you,” Tristan says with pride, smiling down at me. I turn away so he can’t see the blush rising to my cheeks. His words shouldn’t matter, but for some odd reason, they do. More than I’ll ever admit out loud.

Tristan is closest in age to me, and from what I gather, his training was very different than the stiff and rigorous ways of most IronHaven knights. He’s leaner and more agile than the others, and he never misses a chance to outsmart an opponent by blindsiding them or leaping from trees like a wild animal. It’s no surprise my tactics put a smile on his face.

“That’s it for today, Princess. Let’s head back. I think Greyson could use the evening to let his pride heal, anyway,” Dominic jokes, nodding his head in the direction of the castle. “I’ll get you back to your room. Tristan, you’ll be on night duty after you’ve bathed.” He scrunches his nose. Tristan jabs him in the arm playfully.

We gather our belongings and make our way back to Windemere. I can’t help but take notice of each one of them as we walk through Blackwood Forest. My father handpicked these men to watch over me because of their loyalty, not only to him, but to the realm. The four of them would fight to the death to protect me.

I try to keep that in mind when they are driving me mad.

Greyson and Callum play fight as the other two laugh at their expense. A smile hits my lips as I watch them interact. They may irk my nerves most days, but I trust these men with my life and to prepare me for whatever fate has planned.

As hard as it is, I’ve accepted my destiny.




I walk toward the east wing of the castle, making my way to the princess’s chambers to relieve Greyson from his post and start my night duty. I’ve always been a night owl. Sleep deprivationhas a way of doing that. So when the guys and I were deciding who would take the night shifts, it was an easy choice. Instead of them bickering over it, I told them I’d take it. No one fought me on it, either. The guys love their sleep, hell, I do too, but it’s easier for me to sleep during the day than in the darkness of the night.

Deciding to take the long route, I pass the king’s chambers with a frown. I hate that I’m not by his side in battle. It was the only thing I ever asked for myself—and he denied me. My story is different from the others. I didn’t leave behind the burden of being a lord and an abundance of wealth, like Dominic. I wasn’t raised in IronHaven by a long line of knights, like Greyson. Never participated in a tournament of champions, winning a place in the royal guard, like Callum. No, I earned my place by sheer bravery, courage, and a little bit of stupidity, if I’m honest.

I smile as my memories pull me into a place of reminiscence.

We were wanderers, my family and I. Adventurous by nature, my father wanted to see everything the five kingdoms had to offer.

The beauty of Storm’s Vale did not disappoint. Oceans and rivers, mountains and valleys, the dry deserts, and the luscious green forests, we had seen it all.

Never in the same place longer than a few months, but we made friends everywhere we went. My father was born in Vanora, the kingdom west of IronHaven. He was a fierce warrior in his days, but when he met my mother, he decided to put down his sword, replacing it with my mother’s heart. She dreamed of seeing the five kingdoms, and her wish was his command. They left on a mission to explore the realm shortly after having me.

When I was old enough to bear the weight of a sword, my father taught me how to wield it. He protected us from any danger that may have crossed our paths. Then when I was oldenough, and he was comfortable with my training, we protected our family together.

My mother got sick as we were traveling through IronHaven to Morose. We stopped at the nearest village seeking refuge and needing a healer. The people gave us food and shelter, but they didn’t have a healer. The closest one was a four-day ride. My father looked at me with pain in his eyes, and I gave him a slight nod, knowing what had to be done. He didn’t want to say the words, he didn’t have to. I was only seventeen, but my mother was ill, and I would have done anything to see her well. My father couldn’t tear himself from her side, fearing the worst would happen with him gone.