The Bed You Make
~ A Civilized Veneer ~
Dara followed the familiar guard to the stables. He was one of the servants Stefan had chosen to make the trip to Greece. He led the way across the grounds, taking several opportunities to glance back quickly over his shoulder when he thought Dara was not looking. To be truthful, the man probably could have come to a complete stop ahead of her and Dara wouldn't have known until she crashed into him. She was busy taking in the grandeur of the Cassadine estate.
Dara could honestly say that she had never seen anything like it – not on television or in any book or on any Internet website. The grounds were sprawling and lush, the house massive. The expanse of manicured lawn was punctuated by wild greenery that formed a living border at its edges. Somewhere beyond that wild greenery Dara could hear the sounds of the sea and the waves.
Far too soon they reached the stables. The well-worn path they'd traveled took them to the western corner of the estate. The sounds of the sea were replaced by the agitated neighs and hoof beats of horses moving about the immaculately kept enclosure nearby.
"Is something wrong?" Dara asked the guard. "They sound a little … agitated."
"It is because of Semyon," the guard replied with a wave of his hand.
"Semyon?" Dara stepped hesitantly around an unruly hedge. "Who is-" Her breath caught in her throat. A magnificent dark-colored stallion reared and fought against the leather straps attached to its bridle. As Dara watched, the horse struck out at a stable hand, just missing the man's head.
"That is Semyon," the guard chuckled. "He is Master Stefan's mount."
As if to demonstrate his ownership of the horse, Dara watched Stefan emerge from the stables and calmly approach the fractious animal. He firmly uttered a single command and the big horse grew still. Power and impatience continued to vibrate about the stallion, but gone was all the physical resistance.
Dara shook her head. "Please tell me," she implored the guard, "that the horse I'll be riding is named 'Sunflower' or 'Saddlebags' or 'Slowpoke'."
The guard did not try to hide his amusement. "I am sorry, Mistress." He tilted his head toward Semyon. "Semyon is to be your mount today also. But do not worry," the guard hastened to add, "Master Stefan is a horseman without equal."
"Oh, I'm not worried about my husband's riding ability," Dara replied. "I'm worried about Satan over there that we'll be riding on."