Reyna glanced up at the sky, her eyes squinting against the merciless, blazing sun that scorched all who dared to stand beneath it at this time of day. Rivulets of moisture trickled down her body, tracing a path between her breasts and down her back. Her palms were sweaty, forcing her to clench her fingers tighter around the hilt of her sword.
She pumped her legs forward as she raced across the endless expanse of desert that stretched before her. Her long brown waves of hair whipped across her face as she chanced a brief glance over her shoulder. Her next breath caught in her throat, and her eyes widened at the chilling vision. Wrenching her head back around, she dug deep inside of her soul and plowed ahead.
Every muscle in her body burned with fatigue, but she ignored the screaming pain that ripped through her. She ignored the blisters that covered her bare feet and the stinging sensation that made her wince every time she dug her toes into the dry, arid sand of the desert. She ignored it all. Instead, she focused on a single goal. You cannot be captured. You cannot. She kept telling herself that over and over again when the pain threatened to overwhelm her to the point of giving up and surrendering.
Tears stung her brown eyes as she sprinted with everything she had. In her mind, she knew it was only a matter of time before they caught up to her--before he caught up to her. And yet she did not stop.
Suddenly, the blood froze in her veins when she felt the earth beneath her bruised feet begin to tremble. The vibration was familiar--she knew what was coming. And she knew she could not outrun it. She stopped abruptly and spun around to face her destiny head on.
Her brown eyes blazed with rage. They would have to kill her. Gripping her sword in her hand, she let loose the ancient battle cry of her ancestors and charged forward. A bitter smile lifted the corners of her lips when she saw the eyes of the soldiers bulge out of their faces as they began to retreat. She had wounded six of their soldiers--none of them wanted to fight her. Outnumbered by at least twenty men, Reyna lifted her sword and attacked.
With blinding fury, she shot her blade out, slashing through soldier after soldier. She watched many of the untrained men fall beneath her, their eyes glazing over with shock as she sliced through their armor to pierce their flesh. She had no desire to kill the soldiers, who were barely more than boys. They were only doing their duty. She just needed to wound them, scare them, force them to give up their mission to capture her.
She screamed with anger as she cut down each soldier, fighting her way toward the one who commanded them, sitting atop his onyx stallion. She watched him dismount from the large beast, and their eyes met. She stilled for but a moment as she stared into the midnight depths of his eyes. Lifting her chin, she once again raced forward. She was no coward who would just sit and wait for the enemy to come. No, she would face him, even though she knew it meant her death.
Charging towards him, her eyes were wild as her tangled locks danced in the wind, streaming out behind her. She winced when their swords met, the force of the impact sending waves of agonizing pain shooting down her arm. Gritting her teeth, she pushed it aside before crouching low and attacking again. The sounds of metal crunching against metal pierced the silence of the desert, and the grating noise rang in her ears.
Fatigued, Reyna watched with dismay as his sword clashed with hers again, the full weight of his power sending her stumbling backwards. Bracing herself for the fall, she grimaced when a searing pain shot up her spine. Rolling over, she stuck out her legs to jump back up onto her feet.
Her chest heaved from exhaustion, but she ignored it and held her sword clasped tightly within her hand. Her eyes were wary as she stared up at him, waiting for him to make his next move. Why didn't he attack? she asked herself when he didn't move a muscle.
"Let me go," she rasped out between shallow breaths, hating the desperate sound of her voice.
"I can't do that." His eyes were apologetic, although his face remained as hard as a mask of stone.
"Then you will have to kill me," she said stubbornly.
His eyes softened. "I can't do that either," he whispered.
"Well, then I will have to kill you." She didn't want to. She didn't want to kill anyone--she just wanted her freedom.
His mouth lifted into a grin as his eyes flashed with what Reyna could swear was humor. She fumed silently. Nothing was funny about any of this.
"Or you can try," he said, and she bristled at his arrogant tone.
A sneer crossed her face as she stared back at him. That was the problem with men: they never thought a woman could beat them. Today, she was going to prove him wrong.
With renewed anger, she lunged forward, stabbing into the small space that separated them with precision. A triumphant smile crossed her face when she heard him gasp in surprise. She glanced down to see him skim his fingers along the frayed edges of a rip in his black tunic, before his eyes widened with shock when they came away stained with crimson blood.
With wary eyes, she stared back at him, waiting for the rage to seize him. In the past, she'd always found that men would lose control when bested by a woman in the art of battle. A frown pursed her lips when he stayed rooted to his spot. Something was wrong. Her eyes narrowed as she stared back at him. She saw it in his eyes, but by then it was too late.
A scream tore past her lips when she tried to spin around. She shot out her arms and legs, kicking wildly as she struggled against the steel grasp of the person who held her. Shaking her head from side to side, she fought to hold her breath, trying to avoid inhaling the toxic fumes that coated the strip of cloth her captor held across her mouth and nose. Desperately, she fought back as she twisted her body back and forth.
But it was no use. Slowly her limbs grew heavy and exhaustion began to creep its way through her lethargic body. Tears glistened in her eyes as she held the black gaze of the man she'd fought. He'd won.
She finally let her eyelids drift shut when the tears began to stream down her cheeks. She did not want him to see her cry. As she slowly began to slip from this world, her last thoughts were of the man with the piercing eyes that sparkled like onyx jewels.