Midnight Thief

Free Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne

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Authors: Livia Blackburne
Tags: adventure, Romance, Fantasy, Young Adult
gazes with Rand until the redhead cleared his throat and looked away. As Rand stepped off the mat, James removed his outer tunic, tossed it on a nearby box, and took his place. He reached a pale but well-muscled arm toward Rand, who tossed over his dagger. James caught it and beckoned Kyra toward him. She stood, frozen in place, wondering what he wanted and why he was there. James motioned again, more curtly. This time she obeyed.
    “Let’s see what you’ve learned,” he said, settling into an all-too-comfortable fighting stance. It wasn’t a request.
    Kyra tried to ignore the prickling up her spine as she raised her blade and they started to circle each other. She had never seen James fight before. He moved deliberately with no wasted motion, graceful yet dangerous, and his eyes never deviated from her face. There was no taunting or boasting. James just circled her with cold, unswerving focus. He said nothing, and his face gave no indication of his thoughts.
    A long time passed with no attack. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed that activity around the warehouse had stopped. People were watching.
    James continued to circle her. Kyra wiped her sweaty hand on her trousers. Was he expecting her to make the first move? She felt slightly light-headed. Her breathing became quick and shallow, and she struggled to slow it down.
    Finally, she lunged at him, thrusting her blade toward his torso. He moved aside just enough to avoid the sheathed tip. She felt a stunning blow on the side of her face at the same time her legs swept out from under her. The ground came up hard. She lay there for a few moments, eyes closed, not wanting to see who was watching.
    “Keep mapping for now,” she heard James say. Painfully, she rolled onto her side, keeping her eyes on the ground as he walked away. A loud laugh sounded from the corner of the warehouse, and Kyra felt her face flush with shame. To her horror, she felt tears prickle behind her eyes. She forced them back by sheer will and looked toward the source of the laughter. It was Bacchus, slapping his thigh in amusement before following James out.

E I G H T
    T he sting of that fight stayed with her. It was days before she could look another Guild member in the eye, and more than a week before she could think about James without flushing in shame. To work off her frustration, Kyra trained harder than ever, practicing in every free moment and grabbing Rand for lessons whenever he was around.
    And it started to pay off. She became faster with a knife; the movements started feeling more natural. But she was also constantly sore and covered with bruises. Her olive skin camouflaged them to some extent, but she still had to dress strategically to hide her latest bumps. Kyra was doing her best to pull her sleeve over a blue spot on her wrist one afternoon as she helped Bella in the kitchen.
    In Bella’s world, knife work implied something completely different from Kyra’s lessons at the Guild. James and Rand might be formidable opponents, but no one could possibly match Bella’s skill with a cleaver. Kyra watched in fascination as the cook quartered and trimmed five newly slaughtered chickens with efficient speed, deftly transforming them into ingredients for the night’s stew.
    Bella glanced at Kyra as she dropped the last chicken quarter into the pot.
    “I appreciate your efforts to remove every last bit of peel, dear, but if you keep this up, we’ll have no turnips left.”
    Kyra shook her head in mock resignation. “I really think Idalee’s got more of a knack for this than I do.”
    They both looked at Idalee, who sat at the opposite side of the long kitchen table, very seriously chopping potatoes. Next to her, Lettie played with a lump of bread dough.
    “Mayhap you’re right,” mused Bella.
    Kyra pushed her stool back and lowered her voice. “You really think she’ll be helpful, Bella? I don’t want them making trouble.”
    “They won’t. Idalee’s smart and

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