Since I have introduced Nissa, I figured I should go ahead and introduce the rest of the love triangle. Reynard Triannon is the super-serious head groom of the Stagunner stables. Tall and fox-faced with freckles across the bridge of his nose, Nissa isn’t sure if what to make of this rules monger.
The stables were quiet. All the horses were bedded down for the night. After dinner, Nissa was back in the tack room with Reynard, the head groom, companionably going about their separate chores.
Never mind it was because of Reynard’s stupid rules Nissa had broken that she was not warming her feet by the fire, fleecing schills off the other stable hands playing cards. The spoiled pony had eaten grass with a bridle on, junking up the bit with green slime and weeds. She’d been cleaning bridles for so many evenings that she’d given up being mad about it.
Nissa was slowly making her way down the long row of hanging bridles. As she hanged the most recently cleaned and reassembled bridle back on its peg, she realized she was closer to the end of the row than she was to the beginning.
“Look, Reynard,” Nissa said with an impish grin. “I’m finally making some progress.”
The head groom glanced up from the awl and stirrup leathers he was repairing. “I’m not worried. I’m sure you’ll mess something else up and be back in here. The saddles are all in need of a good going over. I’ll expect to see my face shining in them by morning.”
“You have too many rules. I think you do it on purpose,” Nissa said, shoving her shaggy blond hair out of her face with an exasperated gesture.
“Hardly. How can you think I enjoy ruining the blissful solitude of my tack room with your constant nattering?” Reynard asked.
“Nattering?” she asked, her voice rising an octave. She grabbed the next bridle off its peg and turned to face the tall lad, eyebrows raised. “All this time I thought you were enjoying my stories, but now I discover you’d rather suffer my company in silence.”
“And suffering is undoubtedly what it is, especially listening to your off-color tales. Not the sort of fare we indulge in the respectable Hightown ranks,” Reynard said in a snobbish accent. He had a hint of smile at the corners of his lips. Nissa was shocked that this serious lad was trying to make a joke.
“I’ll admit my stories from the streets are pedestrian at best,” she said, inwardly proud of her witty turn of phrase. She crossed the narrow room to the table where Reynard was working on the stirrups. She could smell his wintergreen scent over the leather and hay of the stables. “However, I am well aware of what Hightown lads indulge themselves in, so I would consider my stories rather tame by comparison.”
The smile disappeared from Reynard’s face so fast that Nissa instantly regretted teasing him. “We aren’t all like that,” he said with a serious face.
“I know you aren’t like that,” Nissa said with what she hoped was a dramatic huff to break the tension. Reynard really needed to lighten up sometimes. “After all, I work for you. I can’t imagine the head groom would ever do anything so scandalous with one of his stable hands.” She rolled her eyes at him.
“Indeed,” Reynard said, a faint flush high on his cheeks. Nissa noted how tightly he was gripping the awl in his hand. “I would never break the rules and do anything so scandalously untoward. Not even if I could dream it.”
As always, comments and constructive criticism regarding my work-in-progress are welcome, even encouraged.