On her way back to the Nomad encampment, Kira spied several young men in a clearing, laughing and talking as they tossed knives at a target. Her stomach contracted when she noticed a shock of blond hair; the young warrior Reye was among the group. His handsome face and athletic frame had earned him a reputation among Nomad women as a desirable marriage partner…yet he continued to elude capture. At only fifteen turns of age, Kira was still too young to contemplate marriage, but privately she’d admired Reye along with the rest. She’d had few opportunities to talk with him, but now was her opening. Her fingers itched to best the lads at target practice and socialize with Reye at the same time. As soon as she stepped toward the clearing, however, a fragment of conversation made her pause.
“So Reye, which girl are you escorting to Kysandra’s party?”
“Must I choose only one?”
Raucous laughter greeted Reye’s flippant response.
“I heard Kira Szul is in need of an escort.”
The words sounded innocent enough, but Kira detected an undercurrent of mockery.
“Ha! You take her.” Reye lifted his hands, as if in fright. “I’m too afraid.”
“Oh, come now. She’s little more than a child.”
“She always looks like she wants to kick someone’s teeth in. Besides which, I prefer my women soft, with curves.” He pantomimed an hourglass figure with his hands.
“If it’s voluptuous you want, choose a nymph.”
“Again, must I choose only one?”
More laughter ensued. Stung, Kira faded back into the shadows. Her throat closed up as she felt the full impact of Reye’s scorn, and moisture filled her eyes. Until now, she hadn’t realized she’d become a topic for ridicule.
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