Chapter 1

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September, 1212


Evelyn could read the intent in her sister's eyes.

What are you up to? She wondered.

Theadora was older, but not always wiser. And judging from the expression on her face, it was clear she was about to do something foolish.

They had just set out for a quiet afternoon ride, with Evelyn riding her gentle brown mare. Daisy was a calm, intelligent animal that was trustworthy. But Thea's horse was not so familiar. The white stallion had recently been given to her as a gift, and she'd not been permitted to ride him alone...until today, when she'd begged their father repeatedly to be allowed. He'd finally given in, but with the condition that Evelyn accompany her and report any improper behavior.

It should have been enough of a deterrent. And while within site of the manor, all was as it should have been. But once out in the fields, out of the line of vision, a strange curl of a smile came to Thea's lips. Evelyn eyed her with suspicion.

"What is that look? What wild thought is in your mind?"

Thea reached down to stroke her horse's neck. "I wonder how fast my new pet can run?"

Evelyn shook her head, concern flooding her expression.

"Do not attempt to learn," she said.

Thea shrugged, her look careless. "Why not?"

"Because Papa warned you to ride with slow pace and cautious mind. He would be furious to learn of your disobedience."

Thea sighed, shaking her head. Her smile was free of concern.

"Dearest Evie, you are but fourteen..."

Evelyn interuppted, her reply indignant. "I am fifteen in only three weeks."

"You are still a child," said Thea. "I am seventeen. Parental concerns do not weigh so heavily on me."

"No, Thea. Do not do it. Especially with an animal untested."

"Then I shall see to the testing. Such a fine animal must stretch his legs."

"Thea, no..."

Before Evelyn could say more, Thea gave her horse the heel, and the beast took off in flight. Evelyn watched in horror as her sister became a blur of flying black hair and blue velvet. She gave her own horse the command, hurrying after her, terrified of what might happen. Thea was an experienced rider, but she'd always been forbidden to take a horse on a full gallop. A swift canter was all that had ever been permitted.

But Thea was going faster than Evelyn had ever been witness to...and her horror increased tenfold when she saw the gated stone wall in the horse's path. She watched with bated breath as the animal took flight and sailed over the obstacle...only to lose his rider as he made contact with the earth. There was a scream as Thea was thrown off, and she rolled as she hit the ground. She lay still and silent. Evelyn cried out, jumping from her horse to run to her sister's side.

"Thea! Speak to me!" She rolled her over...and was shocked to discover that her sister's eyes were open, though they strained with the effort of regaining her senses. There was a gash above her right eye, but no other signs of damage. And suddenly she started to giggle.

"Oh Evie, did you see how fast we moved? It was as if we were in flight!"

Evelyn's expression flashed from concern to fury in an instant. A good slap was what she wanted to give her, and it was a difficult impulse to hold back. Instead she lashed her with words.

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