Rowen & Gold
Super-duper book blurb here.
Sonja gave Julius his head, smiling as he put on a burst of speed. Her father-in-law would say it was foolhardy to let him race over the wet meadow, but it was only a short run. Besides, she was fleeing everything to do with her in-laws that afternoon; she didn’t need his disapproving voice in the back of her head. He didn’t like her riding astride, didn’t care for the big gelding her husband had given her…didn’t like her, period.
Julius cleared the stone fence and thundered down the lane. Damon had understood her love for horses, the freedom she felt in the saddle. He’d bought the blue roan for her as a wedding gift, knowing the beast would provide the solace sadly lacking in his father’s house.
The sky looked ready to unleash at any moment, but it had been raining all week and she was tired of being indoors. She slowed to a trot and took the seldom used track that ran between her father-in-law’s and Lord Griffin’s properties. Fending off overgrown hemlock, she made a note to ask her father-in-law to send someone to deal with clearing the brush. He might even do it, especially if he thought it would get her out more often.
It wasn’t as if she didn’t wish to socialize, but disgraced widows were not popular guests for tea.
A keening cry came from somewhere nearby, making Julius shy. Sonja glanced uneasily at the misty trees. She hadn’t heard of any wild animals roaming the countryside, but a pack of loose dogs could cause all manner of havoc. Caution might be best.
A strange whooping call sounded as she wheeled Julius and he balked, backing away from the trail home. Ignoring her coaxing, he whirled around and charged into Lord Griffin’s woods.
Julius was smart, but he was just a horse. She guided him as best she could, trying to persuade him to circle around. A call sounded, closer this time, and Julius put on a fresh burst of speed. She flattened herself to his back and held on, terrified of being swept off. Her hat flew off, victim of a branch that raked her face. He jumped a log and landed roughly, jostling her off balance.
Suddenly something huge swooped down from the sky, diving directly for them. She got an impression of angel wings before Julius shied, throwing her from the saddle…and it was lights out for Sonja.
The enormous white owl dove for the black hound. The hound snapped at the horse’s hamstring and got a hoof in the face. The beast snarled with saber teeth too big for its mouth and crouched, ready to spring. It yelped as dagger-sharp talons dug into its back, severing its spine. The owl tossed it aside to writhe uselessly on the ground as it dove at the pack, herding them away from the woman lying on the ground. He hoped she wasn’t dead, but he didn’t have time to check.
The owl back winging to avoid the rabid jaws of another beast. It would be easier if he could gain some air, but he couldn’t leave the girl in reach of the dogs, couldn’t safely pick her up and fly.
“Save some for me!” A sleek blue gargoyle with black hair swooped in, raking the pack with his vicious clawed feet. He landed on a hellhound and ripped into it with his talons, biting through the thick neck with wicked teeth. “Yuck! These things do not taste like chicken,” he spat with disgust, leaping off the now gurgling dog.
“Can you think of something other than dinner?” The owl demanded.
“Like lunch?” Vicious gouged a hound’s eye out. With a howl of defeat, the hounds retreated, running for the shelter of the foggy woods. He watched to make certain they weren’t coming back.
The owl shifted form, becoming a man. His immaculate white suit matched his precisely cut, shoulder length white hair, and he examined the woman with shrewd golden eyes. He ran his hands over her gently, searching for damage. “Other than this bruise on her temple, I can’t see any obvious damage. We need to take her home.” He meant their home, of course. Sage recognized their neighbor Mrs. James, but there was no question of delivering her to her home via gargoyle. It would be much faster to fly her to their home.The sound of large wings heralded the arrival of two other gargoyles. Howl, a wolf-like, gray gargoyle landed with a pounce. “Did you know there’s a horse running loose?” He caught sight of the woman and cocked his head. “Oh.”