Lily’s Leap – Excerpts
I’m delighted today to share a few short excerpts from Tea Cooper’s historical romance, Lily’s Leap. Enjoy!
Tom’s head jerked back and he stared wide-eyed as time skewed and the massive black stallion lifted onto its hind legs and reared in front of him. Raising his arms he covered his head. A cold sweat broke out on his face and he ducked below the flailing forelegs. Cradled beneath the steaming belly of the stallion, he glimpsed the blue sky between the muscled hindquarters and the silhouette of its mighty testicles. The bulging veins on its haunches throbbed and pulsated to the rhythm of his shallow gasps, and the overpowering musty smell of horse sweat enveloped him.
The roar of blood in his ears deafened him, and as suddenly as it had begun, the shadow lifted and the stallion retreated, step by practiced step. Tom struggled to his feet, his legs rubbery from shock. A moist rush of air from the beast’s cavernous nostril swept his cheek.
Miss Dungarven stared down at him, her shoulders straight and her proud haughty face striking in the harsh sunlight. ‘I assure you I am quite capable of riding without a lead rope.’
Tom forced a tight-lipped smile and let his breathing settle before he spoke, praying his voice wouldn’t crack. ‘I have no doubt, madam, after that display. It’s for that very reason I’ve attached the lead rope. I have no intention of losing you.’
With her eyes squeezed shut she sucked in a great gulp of air and clenched her teeth together. Nero lifted into the air, his muscles tight beneath her. He flew over the chiselled blocks and down the slope. Gripping the saddle she dragged the reins almost vertical as they plunged down. Tufts of wiry grass and small rocks littered the route. Nero’s hooves crashed across the uneven surface. Gasping a quick breath, she prayed for the terrain to level off.
Lily’s lungs contracted like bellows and what little air remained whistled out through her pursed lips. Nero stumbled and she tensed. Then shuddered as he regained his balance. Her heart leapt to her throat and her wrists twisted as she wrenched on the reins to slow him. He quivered to a halt.
Silver spots danced in front of her eyes and she gulped in a breath to feed her starving lungs. Nero’s muscled body trembled and quaked beneath her and white froth flecked his muzzle.
‘Your horses are loose on the other side of the lagoon.’ Tom couldn’t resist a grin when Lily jumped at the sound of his voice and he sat up, marvelling at the glorious picture she made. The smooth trunk of the river gum picked out the copper highlights in her hair and the patterned shadows cast by the overhanging branches accentuated the slim yet powerful outline of her perfect body.
Her recovery from the shock of his voice was quick. ‘They won’t go anywhere without me. Watch,’ she said, her eyes narrowing as she looked into the sun.
He observed her as she strolled to the water’s edge. Her hair danced in the breeze and she raised a hand to shield her eyes. His breath snagged in his throat. It was as if the rays of the sun had been trapped between her burnished curls. She licked her soft lips and placed two fingers between them and blew. Her whistle echoed across the lagoon and the stallion’s ears cocked. He raised his head and stared at her before trotting amicably across the shallow creek followed by every other horse carrying the ED brand.
‘Witch!’ Tom muttered into the air and closed his eyes again.