Chapter 16 - Rides and lectures

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Phyllis had just started another snuggle session with her deliciously feathery pillow when the door of her and Pimpernella's room shook with a knock that almost made it burst from its hinges. She raised a dazed head to discover Nellies had scooted back against the wall in shock, huddling her blankets against her chest.

"Yes?" Phyllis croaked, her voice still hoarse with sleep.

"Didn't you say you wanted to go for a morning ride?" the voice on the other side of the door huffed, and Phyllis threw an incredulous look underneath the wooden shutters of their window. Sure enough, a faint trace of light framed the horizon but that barely made it morning! Cursing inwardly about every single person she befriended having to be a morning person, she struggled into last night's riding outfit. They fabric was a bit crumpled but that didn't matter. Winning Cornelis over to aid with their project was nothing she would manage with her looks. She'd have a better chance doing Philip up for that, but he wasn't half the actor Marcus could sometimes be, so that was a thought quickly discarded. The idea of having to charm anyone with something other than knowledge was probably the only thing that could get Philip up a tree.

She cracked the door open, waving Pimpernella good night with not a little bit of envy. Her pillow looked delicious too.

"The cliffs?" she asked Cornelis. He simply nodded. She had been vaguely surprised he had never visited them before, having resided at Mesmer for several months as he had. It wasn't that far a ride, and if he hadn't been well enough to manage it Bonny would never have let him go.

She was even more surprised he would invite her to come along now. Cornelis hardly seemed to either need or want a chaperone. A clear cue he wanted something from her as well, if he was prepared to overlook the bad company she held so dear.

A few minutes later, they were racing the wind, and all thoughts were pushed away by the promise of glorious waves to gallop through.

"There is a beach a few miles further on," she yelled over the thundering hooves. "Hard to race when we actually go up the cliffs." Goliath instinctively slowed down as she felt her rider look back, and Storm pushed past them on the narrow forest path, her behind grazing Phyllis's leg.

Cornelis grinned back at her "Sure you want to give that a try?" he boomed back, and Storm didn't falter, only increasing the distance between them. But Phyllis knew exactly where the road would widen again, and she'd be damned if she'd let herself be outridden by a giant. It was a long ride, Storm would tire....he was going down.

....

Except he didn't go down.

Half an hour later, they raced towards the waves, and though she and Goliath had overtaken Storm and Cornelis at one point, he and Storm had just pushed them off the road again a bit later. She gave Goliath full reign now and they hit the water roughly at the same time, inevitably ending their pace in a shower of salty water that soaked them as they rode on.

She maneuvered Goliath until they rode alongside one another.

"Tie?" she offered.

"If you say so," Cornelis replied, his eyes focused on the lengthy cliffs that rose up around them, like massive walls that shaded the beach and made it feel smaller than it really was.

"To be fair, I know these paths rather well," Phyllis said. "Never had anyone tie me on them, not even those who know them by heart. Not after the first year at least."

Cornelis rolled his eyes. "Let me guess. Your boyfriend taught you how to ride."

Phyllis shook her head. "Goliath didn't really like him."

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