Risking Honesty is going to be published on 10th September. Less than two weeks to go! In anticipation, here is a deleted scene, an excerpt from the story, in which Harrison and his friend Tholemew are discussing Hope's training.
Harrison ducked under Thomelew’s punch, his bare feet moving silently over the training room floor. He stepped back out of the way of Tholemew’s kick, then lunged forwards with a double punch to the larger man’s torso. Tholemew grunted and moved back, wiping the sweat off his brow. Whilst he was distracted, Harrison tugged on the end of Thomelew’s beard, leaping back before he could retaliate.
“Oi! That’s not fair,” he grumbled.
Harrison grinned at him, saving his breath for fighting. Tholemew rushed him, using his greater weight and height to rain down a flurry of blows. Harrison stumbled backwards, one fist catching him on the shoulder of his injured arm. He fell to one knee.
Tholemew hesitated, expecting Harrison to yield. Instead, he uncoiled his legs, thrusting upwards, using his bodyweight to back an uppercut to Thomelew’s jaw. He withheld his punch, his fist just kissing Tholemew’s jaw and for a few heartbeats, they stood in tension, a frozen tableau. Then Tholemew threw up his hands and they stepped apart.
“You may have won that one,” said Tholemew, wiping his bald head with a towel, “But how about throwing knives?”
“I’ll even let you go first,” Harrison agreed. He picked up the leather wrap of short throwing knives and handed them over.
Tholemew made a fuss about lining up with the straw dummy target, rolling his shoulders, flexing his wrist, weighing the blade.
“How’s Hope doing with her training?” Harrison asked. Tholemew threw the knife and it struck the centre of the target’s chest.
“Good,” he grunted, throwing the other two knives in quick succession, both thudding into the target next to the first.
“Care to expand on that a little?” asked Harrison with exasperation.
“Are you her teacher or something?” Tholemew had to put his knee against the target in order to draw out the knives.
“Rabbon ordered me to watch her, to assess the extent of her skills. You’re the one who’s been teaching her weaponry, fighting skills, tumblers tricks each morning. How is she? I’ll need to report to the head of the House soon.”
Tholemew handed over the knives, hilts first.
“She’s good. She still needs to build more strength and endurance, but for a healer, she’s a good fighter. She’s a quick learner and has boundless curiosity. She’s intelligent and kind. What about her other lessons?”
Harrison threw the first knife, watching it fly end over end to thud into the target’s chest.
“Adequate. She’s young and innocent, too trusting,” he said, frowning at the knife in his hand. He threw it with force and it buried up to the end of the hilt in the target’s shoulder.
Tholemew chuckled. “You like her.”
Harrison shook his head. “She’s a complication, an inconvenience.”
“She could be a good messenger, a good partner for you. You’ve barely left her side since the pair of you arrived.”
Harrison threw the knife so hard that it plunged through the neck of the dummy and clattered into the wall behind it.
Tholemew chuckled again. “I win,” he declared.
Harrison stalked off across the room to retrieve the knives.
“Where is Hope this evening, anyway? You haven’t left her alone with Jaques have you?”
“He’s teaching her a new card game.”
“He’ll be teaching her something new, for certain, that seducer.”
“I told him not to touch her, warned him that if he did, I would slice off his favourite body part.”
“Now, why would you do that, if you didn’t like her?”
“Because…” Harrison swallowed the words ‘she’s mine’. She wasn’t and he didn’t know why that thought had arisen. He didn’t know why there was an ache in his chest at the thought of her being seduced by Jacques. He had no claim on her. He didn’t like her, despite her bravery and astuteness, her quick wit and compassionate heart. No, he didn’t like her but he had told her that he wouldn’t let anyone hurt her.
Harrison shoved the throwing knives back in their holster and strode from the room. Maybe he would just check on her…