CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: The Troll

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CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: The Troll

“When you said you knew how to shoot, did you, in fact, mean with a bow?” Eirnin crossed his arms across his chest and raised an eyebrow quizzically at Story. She let out a sigh, slung her bow over her shoulder and marched over to the tree trunk that had her still-quivering arrow buried in it. She ran her free hand along the surface of the bow, marveling at its smooth texture and exquisite construction. It was a composite bow, made out of horn and sinew on the back of a wooden core. Its construction gave her the pull and power of a longbow, without the bulk and size. It was the finest bow she’d ever used; the craftsmanship was perfect.

Too bad it didn’t help her any with her aim. Her arrow was two trees over from her intended target, a large oak that a blind squirrel could have hit with a nut.

“If I’d been surrounded by wood sprites, I’d be doing just fine, thank you very much.” She grasped the arrow and yanked. When it didn’t budge, she wrapped both of her hands around the shaft, braced her left foot against the trunk of the tree, and pulled hard. She overdid it; the arrow jerked out of the bark, and she fell down hard onto her backside.

Eirnin tried to hide a laugh with a cough, but the amused orange flickers in his eyes gave him away. “Aye, and if you’d had a wood sprite behind, you’d have squashed him. Interesting tactics you employ.” He held out a hand to help her up.

Ignoring his hand, she glared at him while she got to her feet. She dusted the dead leaves off her bottom and flounced back to her original shooting position.

“Well, if you’re so perfect at it, why don’t you come show me how it’s done?” She gave a toss of her hair and crossed her arms across her chest expectantly. She wasn’t really mad, and he knew it. Mostly, she was just embarrassed; she’d never really excelled at archery.

“Alright.” He stepped in front of her and raised his own bow, a slightly larger version of her own. “Proper archery techniques begin with a proper stance and end with a proper follow through.” He continued talking through the different steps of shooting and said something about how a proper mental checklist was really what would help her with her aim.

Story tried to focus on what he was saying, really she did, but watching the lean muscles of his back contract and move under his sleeveless tunic was too distracting. She followed the lines of his shoulders to the swirling tattoos on his arm that seemed designed to emphasize the musculature there. Her appraising gaze had just made it down to his hand, when he let go of the arrow. It flew true and hit the fist-sized knob on the tree they’d been targeting.

Story gulped in deep breath and felt her pulse quicken. Get a grip, girl! He’s just a guy! Yeah, just a guy who’d gone out of his way to keep her alive time and time again, despite her often sour attitude toward him. And there was the thing with the crying the other night… He wasn’t the sweetest guy she’d ever known, no, he was too sarcastic and teasing for that, but he had the truest heart. And a cute backside too.

She realized then that she was well on her way to falling in love with him—if she hadn’t already—and the thought terrified her.

“And that’s how you properly shoot a bow.” Eirnin turned around to look at her, a smug grin on his face. When he saw the frightened look on her face his eyes instantly clouded into swirls of yellow. “What’s wrong?”

She squeezed her eyes shut and ducked her head. Stop acting like an idiot! He’s just a boy, and you’re just a girl. It’s simple. Quit trying to make drama! She had to remind herself that her eyes didn’t change colors to betray her emotion; she then forced herself to open them and smiled weakly.

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