Authors: linda k hopkins
Pursued by a Dragon
Book II of The Dragon Archives
Linda K. Hopkins
Published by Linda K. Hopkins at Amazon
Copyright 2014 Linda K. Hopkins
Amazon Edition, License Notes
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Table of Contents
This book is dedicated to all my fantastic fans whose enjoyment of
Bound by a Dragon
has encouraged me to keep writing
The Dragon Archives
A Note About Pursued by a Dragon
If you have read
Bound by a Dragon
you already know some of Aaron and Keira's story. But before there was Aaron and Keira, there was Favian and Cathryn! Although this is the second book in
The Dragon Archives
, it predates the first book by a dozen years.
Cathryn hurried down the muddy street, clutching her packages close to her chest. It was raining, as it had been all week — a slow steady drizzle that stole all color from the landscape and turned the road into a river of sludge, churned by horses and carriages into six inches of mud. Cathryn’s leather slippers were completely impractical for these conditions, despite the wooden pattens she had laced onto their soles, and they were covered in mud, as was the hem of her gown. She pulled her skirts up higher and carefully adjusted the packages in her arms. It was at that precise moment that a careless passerby, shoving through the unhappy throng, knocked her off balance, sending one of her parcels spilling out of her arms, straight for the mire. She grabbed at the package, but no sooner had she re-established her grasp on it, than the other tumbled from her grip. Wrapped in coarse hessian and string, it had almost reached the mud when a hand, stretching from behind, snatched the package from its sorry fate. Turning around, Cathryn slowly raised her gaze to look into a pair of blue eyes, deep as bottomless pools reflecting the wide expanse of the heavens. The man towered over her, and although most people towered over Cathryn’s five feet, two and a half inches, this man was well past six feet tall, and with a broad chest to match. Adding to the impressiveness of his figure was a head of blazing red hair, hanging loose to his shoulders. He was clean shaven, but looked every bit of what Cathryn supposed a Viking would look like. Not that she had ever seen one of the marauding barbarians, but like anyone else in town, she had heard tales of the violence and sacrilege that had been perpetrated by the invaders up and down the coastline in days gone by. She stared at him, her mouth dropping open, as she took in his features.
“Are you all right, Mistress?” the man asked her gently, the concern in his expression deepening. Cathryn blushed, suddenly aware of how rude, or stupid, she must appear to this stranger. Snapping her mouth closed, she nodded.
“Yes, thank you.”
“Where is your attendant?” The man glanced around, his gaze searching out a careless servant, but when he found none, he turned questioning eyes back to her.
Cathryn shrugged. “I am quite unattended.”
“It is not safe for a lady to walk these streets alone,” he responded, concern creating furrows between thick, heavy eyebrows.
“Thank you for your concern, Sir, but my safety is my own affair!” She paused for a moment to soften her tone before continuing. “Besides, it is broad daylight, and I am well known to my fellow townsmen. I do not believe they would do me harm.”
A look of surprise crossed the man’s face at Cathryn’s sharp retort, but it quickly smoothed over, with just a hint of a grin lurking around his eyes.
“Ah, you may trust the townsmen, but what about strangers who happen within the gates? Do you trust that you are safe with them abroad? Anybody could enter the city during daylight hours — pickpockets, murderers, and ravishers of lovely maidens.”
Tipping her head, Cathryn looked at him askance, her eyes narrowed as she regarded him for a moment.
“Into which of these categories do you place yourself, Sir? For I do not recognize your face, which indicates to me that you must be a stranger.” In bold perusal, she swept her gaze over his large form, before returning to his now grinning countenance. “You are too well dressed to be a pickpocket, and too well spoken to be a murderer, so perhaps you are a ravisher of maidens. Should I sound the alarm?”
The man grinned appreciatively before leaning in a little closer, his voice dropping slightly.
“None of those things, Mistress. I’m only here to assist a damsel in distress.”
“Ah, a knight, then.”
The man pulled back and met her gaze. “If that is what you wish. And my first duty as your personal knight will be to escort you to your destination.”
“No, no, Sir Knight. You have already performed one service for me, which is as much as a damsel can expect on any given day. So I will relieve you of my package and bid you good day.”
Tugging the delinquent parcel from his grasp, she tucked it under her arm before glancing once more into his face. It was clear that he was not happy with her decisive dismissal, but was too much the gentleman to insist. Amused, Cathryn stepped past him to resume her journey along the muddy lane. Instead of watching the path, she kept her eyes warily on the crowds around her, but that proved to be her undoing. Stepping onto a smooth slick of mud, her foot slipped out from under her as her rear end fell towards the morass. She gasped as the packages flew from her hands, her scrabbling feet unable to find purchase on the slippery surface, but before she hit the ground strong hands caught her under the arms and unceremoniously returned to her feet. The packages did not survive the fall, and they lay in the oozing mud as people hurriedly stepped around them. She turned slowly, composing her features, and glanced up, unsurprised to see the large stranger towering above her once more. His warm hands were clamped to the top of her arms, but they fell to his sides as she looked at him.
“How did you reach me so fast?” she asked in surprise. “Or were you following me?”
“I have fast reflexes,” he replied with a wry smile. “And I had a feeling you would need my help again!” Cathryn blushed, but did not look away.
“Thank you. But I trust I won’t need your services again.”
The man grinned as he replied. “I wouldn’t be too sure of that. And this time I insist that you allow me to attend you to your destination.”
Cathryn opened her mouth to protest, before closing it again slowly. Perhaps it would be foolish to refuse his aid, since he had already assisted her twice, and furthermore, she thought in silent appreciation, he was a very handsome man, and his presence could be an enjoyable diversion.
“Very well,” she said with a nod.
“Favian Drake at your service,” he said with a small incline of his head. “And may I have the pleasure of knowing your name?”
“Cathryn Forrester,” she replied. Favian bent down to retrieve one of the packages that had become buried in the mud, and he turned it over with a frown.
“I trust this did not contain anything of value, Mistress,” he said. “I’m afraid whatever was in here is completely ruined!”
“A package of ribbons. I will try washing them, but they are easily replaced,” she said as they turned to walk down the road, Favian walking close to Cathryn. His enormous height was a deterrent to other passers-by, who gave him a wide berth.
“You would make a most admirable protector, Sir,” Cathryn said, watching the people with interest.
“I’m happy to offer my services,” he replied with a grin. Cathryn looked at him in amusement.
“That sounds like a proposition, Sir Knight. Should I be offended?”
“No, no, of course not,” Favian replied hastily, his face momentarily aghast. Cathryn laughed at his shocked expression.
“Then I won’t take offence!” she said, laughing again at his expression of exaggerated relief.
As they walked along, Cathryn glanced at her protector from under lowered eyes. She had no doubt that the man could hold his own in a fight, even one unevenly matched against him. Through the thin fabric of his tunic she could see that his arms were well muscled and strong. His chest was broad, but his waist was narrow, without the extra padding men often started to sport as they settled into life lived comfortably. She guessed him to be in his early thirties, and wondered whether he was settled with a wife and family. Perhaps he really was a knight, returned from crusades in distant lands, who had never had the time to marry. The man was talking again, and she looked up to meet his gaze. He was smiling as he talked, but there was a firmness around his mouth, and a tightness around his eyes, that suggested he was used to giving orders and expecting them to be followed. Someone who would stand his ground and never back down. A man who would be a loyal friend and an unrelenting enemy.
“Wouldn’t you agree, Mistress?”
The questioning tone pulled her from her reflections as she realized that she had not heard a word of what he was saying.
“Mmm,” she responded vaguely, determined to pay closer attention, when the sound of a yell on the other side of the street drew her notice. Turning to look, her heart sank as she took in the scene. Crawling on the ground, his knees caked in mud, a man was scrambling to collect a pile of kindling that had broken free of its bindings and scattered into the mire, over him stood Geoffrey Beaumont, his hands raised as he berated the man.
“You stupid fool,” shouted Geoffrey, the sound of his voice drawing the attention of others. “You could have tripped me into the mud.”
“I’m sorry, Master,” mumbled the laborer. “I didna see you.”
“Next time, look where you are going, you idiot, and make sure you pay attention to your betters.”
The public display did not surprise Cathryn. Geoffrey thought little of his peers and still less of his inferiors. She could feel Favian stiffen besides her, watching the scene, and she glanced at him, catching his look of derision. He opened his mouth to make some comment, but before he could say anything, she quickly took the soggy packages from his hands.
“Thank you for your help, Sir Knight. It is not far from here, so I will relieve you of my company and bid you good day.” Cathryn glanced over her shoulder, relieved to see that Geoffrey still had not noticed her.