Here’s an ‘unedited’ sneak peek at my Young Adult Fantasy novel…no title has been chosen as of yet!
Christina Arrawood’s death-like grip on her bags loosened as the ship began to set sail. Expecting at any moment for one of the men to see through her disguise of a baggy white tunic tucked into breeches two sizes too big, Christina kept a wary eye behind one shoulder until the deck of the ship swayed. With a yelp, she reached out for the wall of the ship but missed. Her back slammed into something solid, stealing her of breath.
Her hands immediately seized cloth. A strong heartbeat thumped under one palm. A warm breath tickled the nape of her neck. Confused, not used to anything touching her neck due to having long hair in the past, Christina reminded herself of her sister lopping it all off.
Christina wanted to cry when the sunrise’s orange and pink blossom colors danced along the blade as her sister took one swipe. Gone. It was all gone.
The young woman shook off the horrid thought, remembering why she did all this.
The man’s stomach tensed under each palm and her breath caught. Her fingers loosened until the ship swayed to the right and she somehow managed to twist and wrap her arms around his shoulders to be pulled into a tight embrace.
When her legs adjust to the swaying of the ship, a dance, only then did she glance up. She noticed his tan skin, evidence of assault from the sun. Then his piercing blue eyes glared down at her and his whole body went tense. She inhaled sharply.
As her eyes took inventory of the young man’s cream yellow locks and large nose towering over a set of firm lips, her eyes lingered. They pressed tightly in a firm line on a smooth shaven chin.
Feeling his breath on her face and inhaling his smoky odor, she almost forgot about her strapped down breasts crushed against his firm chest. Heat rapidly traveled from his shoulders and chest to her center core. Her heart skipped a beat as she licked her lips, drawing those mesmerizing blue eyes to them.
In seconds they darkened, making her take deeper breaths while her breasts pushed against the straps that bound them. They ached for freedom.
Christina has met several men who sought her attention in the kingdom of Cirus, especially down in the market square where vendors would wink at her or whistle for her attention. She would ignore them and carry on with her duties. After finishing school at the age of sixteen like all her other friends, she never once kissed a man. A year has passed and not one has desired to pay her mother a visit in hopes of offering courtship.
She decided to stop waiting for a man to claim her and to work as an apprentice to one of the kingdom’s popular doctors, Dr. Lockwood. Even now as inexperienced as she, dressed as a boy on board a ship of men, her body reacted on its own accord to the opposite sex.
With a gulp to moisten her throat, she tried to force anything besides unintelligent syllables passed her lips.
The man broke the heated moment by grasping her wrists so tight she bit her lip to stop a screech, and shoved her. He brought her hands so quick to her chest, it stole her of breath as she stepped back until her legs collided with her luggage. Down she went. Feeling her bottom throb and her chest bruised from the assault, she lifted her head and blinked.
He’s…gone. Infuriated he didn’t lend her a hand to stand like a true gentleman, she stood and brushed her leggings off before her hands paused on the cloth.
Remembering she has to act like a boy now and she wasn’t wearing any skirts, she straightened with her shoulders and bottom pulsing.
She must act and think like a boy, not as a girl. She didn’t want to draw attention to herself, so she turned to face the kingdom of Cirus, staring at her beloved home while she rubbed her now bruised chest.
She rolled her shoulders a few times and stretched her neck, hating how much pain she was in and the ship hasn’t even left harbor yet. She needed to survive the trip to the neighboring kingdom if she wanted to ever see her mother again. Christina blinked back tears as men hollered off the deck to the men directing the sails on the Crystalia.
The warm breeze caressed her cheek, reminding her of her mother’s warm palms. She knew her mother would’ve discovered her absence by now.
Christina had to stand on her toes to oversee the market square aflutter with hollering vendors standing in the shade of their stick built tents with walls of sand colored cloth. Not wanting a repeat of colliding with another man, she grasped hold of the aged wooden wall of the ship with both hands. Careful not to get poked by a splinter, its rough surface tickled her palms.
With the sun held high in the sky, its menacing rays scorching her unprotected face and neck. Used to wearing at least a bandanna or a hat with a dress or skirt, Christina knew she would regret it if she didn’t seek shelter from the sun soon.
With a squint of her eyes she scanned passed several other brick buildings until she found two figures, women in what could only be white dresses hunched over outside, Christina’s heart wrenched.
“Mother,” she whispered to the breeze as the waves below crashed against the walls of the ship. “What are you doing out of bed?” Christina didn’t have to raise her gaze to the King and Queen’s palace, she knew it hovered over the kingdom, a guardian with its strong stone walls surrounding the market and brick buildings like a mother’s arms embracing its child.
An invisible string tugged at her heart as she allowed one tear to trickle down her cheek.
She wiped at it with her sleeve before any of the men noticed.
She closed her eyes, ignoring the birds crying overhead and the grunts of men stomping passed her. Even the pain in her muscles dimmed as she concentrated on her mother’s healthy color filled cheeks a month ago compared to her slow movements with a frail hunched over posture. Gradually she had to load chores onto Christina and Melanie’s shoulders as she laid in bed more and more. It wasn’t until this morning did it dawn on her, she could save her mother, she could do something.
Villagers whispered rumors of a sickness spreading among the people. In a month her mother remained bed bound until now. She felt awful to force her mother out of bed but she believed a disease is stealing her life with each passing day.
A few villagers in the passed died with similar symptoms. Dr. Lockwood’s herbal remedies only comforted the victims until death claimed them.
All along Melanie knew her purpose in life, she enjoyed baking. Christina opened her eyes and glanced down at her slim strong fingers. A few scars decorated her knuckles from pulling thorns out of the ground and her knees hummed, recalling the comfort of kneeling on the soft ground with her skirts hiked high for comfort. She’d lose hours gardening.
Her love for gardening blossomed into an apprenticeship with Dr. Lockwood, a kind old man with an open mind of women understanding the complications of herbal medicine. In Cirus, women were raised to marry and bare children with a trade. She knew better than to push the boundaries of society, but she couldn’t chain down her passion to learn more. Curiosity got the best of her and now…now she stood on a ship of men with no clue how to act-how to survive in their presence.
She tilted her head down at the sound of glass jars chinking together in her bags.
Christina sighed as she watched her home gradually become swallowed by the sea.
As the ship swayed, her legs began to sway with it. If she could master one piece at a time, maybe…just maybe…she’ll have a chance.
For you mother….