Have you ever read a book that has just one sweet moment of perfection so good, you want to keep reading for hours? We found a favorite tiny moment in Amanda Bouchet’s Breath of Fire, and we won’t tell you when it pops up. Just read and enjoy!
We assemble in the Athena courtyard after breakfast on the fourth day. Griffin and I are already mounted, but the rest of Beta Team—Kato, Flynn, and Carver—are still finishing their good-byes, strapping on the last of their gear, and readying their horses. If I’m not mistaken, Flynn is moving slowly because he keeps shooting discreet glances toward Jocasta from under lowered auburn brows. Carver, his long, leggy gait slower than usual, only just left his family under the shaded arcades that band the castle’s ground floor like an ornate, marble ribbon. And Kato, all blond hair, blue eyes, and corded muscle, moves with casual purpose and lionesque indolence—unhurried in his stride but powerful and inherently ready for action. Despite the stakes of the journey, none of them seems to feel any real urgency to leave.
I don’t like lingering over farewells, and their lagging makes me feel like I have ants in my pants. It’s all I can do not to start hopping in the saddle. Panotii is champing at the bit, and so am I. He prances sideways and bumps into Brown Horse. Brown Horse doesn’t move an inch and regards us with calm, intelligent eyes. He’s so much like his rider that I almost laugh.
Unable to hold back a smile, I drink in Griffin with my eyes. Actually, I look at Griffin all the time. I think about him even more, and every time I do, it’s like a wild kick of adrenaline straight to the heart. It’s distracting. distracting.
A tingling warmth spreads beneath my skin. “I can’t wait to gallop.” I haven’t been outside the city walls since Ios. Panotii and I need to stretch our legs, see for miles, and feel the wind in our faces. It’s good for a horse. For a person who’s been confined to a cage, it’s cathartic. Castle Sinta and its grounds may be big, beautiful, and full of Griffin, but in some ways, it’s still a cage. Real freedom is answering to only yourself, and being responsible for no one. Since that’s a moral vacuum, none but the truly wicked are ever truly free.
That must be how Mother feels—free.
Panotii keeps dancing, and I stroke his sleek, chestnut neck, trying to soothe him. “Panotii wants to run, too.”
“You’ll burn yourselves out.” Griffin’s silver-hued eyes hold a hint of warning. “And you’ll burn us out chasing you. We have a long way to go.”
I make a sour face. “Did I ever tell you I detest the voice of reason?”
“Did I ever tell you you’re adorable when you’re riled up?”
I scowl. “I’m never adorable.”
“You’re right,” he says mock-seriously. “You’re very scary. Especially with that curl bouncing over your cheek.”
I shove the stupid curl behind my ear. My wavy hair is turning even more unruly with the approach of the rainy season. It’s overcast for the first time in weeks, and I can smell the moisture in the air, somehow both sultry and refreshing, as if a cloud were about to burst over the scorched land, but the Gods aren’t quite ready to stick a dagger in it yet. My hair doesn’t know the difference. Anything too short to stay firmly in my braid is now springing out with gusto and frizzing all around my head.
Out of habit, I check my knives. My old set hangs from multiple belt loops. My new set is secured to flat, leather straps circling my thighs. My sword is on my back in a sling Griffin had fashioned for me along with the thick boar’s hide armor that hugs my upper body from shoulders to waist in a sleeveless, close-fitting shell. A direct hit will pierce the leather, but it’ll provide protection from slices or glancing blows, as will the new vambraces on my forearms.
I told Griffin I’d be too hot and confined, which I am, but he insisted in that steady, intractable voice of his that if I want to ride with warriors, I’d better have the equipment.
He knows I’ve been fighting without any of this since before I could walk, but I humored him because I love him. Apparently, that’s how couples work. . Now there’s so much metal and leather weighing me down that I almost couldn’t get on my horse.
A French master’s graduate and former English teacher, Amanda lives in Paris, France. She met her husband while studying abroad, and the family now includes two bilingual children who will soon be correcting her French.