Flash Fiction: Taylor & Ryder

(Taylor & Ryder’s story originally appeared as a serial flash fiction on CharlieGsOutfitRatings Instagram on 2/23/21 under “Book Vibes.” It has been modified for this blog post. Note: contains characters from Amy & Cole’s flash fiction.)

Taylor finished lacing up her boots, making sure the knife she had hidden was secure. She shimmied and flailed, but it didn’t move. Perfect.

She turned to her maid, Mary. “I’m ready.”

Mary just shook her head in disbelief. “You’re honestly going to put on a ballgown, walk into the castle of your enemy’s family, then go on a rescue mission for a man whose father ordered you both dead?”

Taylor adjusted a pin in her hair. Well, technically it was two pins made of steel that wouldn’t bend when she used them to pick locks. Her brother had taught her well. “That’s some expert level nut-shelling.”

“And if anyone recognizes you?”

She shrugged. “I’m dead if I stay here. I dead if I get caught. So better not do either.” She meet Mary’s eyes. “So are you if you’re caught helping.” 

Mary was only a few years older and they had practically grown up together.

Mary gripped her shoulders. “Where you go Princess, I go. I’ll meet you at the docks at midnight with our bags.”

Taylor pulled her friend into her arms. “I’ll be there. I promise.”

Mary gently shoved her off. “Enough emotions. We need to get your dressed and get make up on to cover the marks.”

Taylor looked at her swollen, red wrists and made a face. “Stupid restraints. Okay, do your magic.”

***

The ballroom was suffocating, or maybe it was the butterflies—no bats—that flapping in her chest. She was wearing a masquerade mask, leggings, and boots under her giant gown. She only needed to hang on for another fifteen minutes, when the guards switched shifts. She’d have a ninety second window to get the door unlocked and get Ryder out.

“May I have this dance?”

Taylor froze. No. Nononono! She spun to face Prince Derrick, the same Prince Derrick who had discovered the affair between her and his brother. The same man whose gossiping mouth had made her and Ryder the casualties of a centuries old family feud. 

She curtsied and raised her eyes, holding her breath. He simply held out his hand expectantly, pleasant smile on his face. He didn’t recognize her. 

She wanted to say decline the dance, but it would draw more attention.No one in their right mind said no to a dance with the prince. 

“Of course, your highness.” She took his hand and he squeezed her fingers, tighter than expected. He led them to the center of the floor, his grip only tightening as he pulled her through a waltz. 

She sucked in a breath as he nearly crushed her hand. Her eyes shot to his and she knew he knew exactly who she was.

Oh no.

“If you’re here to save my brother, you’re doing it wrong.” He spun her around, making her wait to respond. The crowd cooed over their dancing skills, completely oblivious to the panic pressing down on Taylor’s chest. God she hated corsets.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she hissed as her hand returned to his shoulder.

“The guards rotate ten after the hour during balls.”

Her eyes widened. That was in two minutes. She had to escape the dance, the ballroom. If she had to wait for another shift change, they wouldn’t make the docks before midnight. 

Sweat pricked the back of her neck and she couldn’t suck in enough air. She had to keep calm. Shaking hands couldn’t pick a lock and fumbling brains couldn’t get out of a trap. 

“Here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to swoon—“

“I have never swooned a day in my life!” she defended.

He shushed her. “Do you want my help or not?”

She narrowed her eyes on him as he twirled her again. “Oh, I dunno, the last time you helped me, your brother and I were sentenced to death. So maybe not.”

“I was trying to help!” he growled. “I thought if our families knew, maybe there could be peace…” he shook his head. “Swoon and I’ll get you to my private terrace. It has direct access to the tower stairs. But then you’re on your own.”

“How do I know it isn’t a trap?”

He met and held her gaze. “I love my brother. I want him safe and happy. You’ll make sure he’s both?”

She nodded once.

“Then swoon.”

Then, for the first time in her life, Taylor swooned.

***

Derrick wasn’t going to win any awards for gracefully carrying her out of an “overheated ballroom” but he didn’t drop her, so she’d take it. He used a set of keys he kept in his dresser to open an exterior door, practically invisible in the dark. 

“Unlace my dress,” Taylor ordered, and turned her back to him.

His mouth flapped like a flounder. “Uh…what?”

She huffed. “I can’t rescue your brother in a corset and forty pounds of fabric.”

He still didn’t move.

“Derrick, I know you’re a rake. Undo my damn dress so I can save your brother!”

Her words finally broke through. His deft fingers worked quickly, helping her shed the extra fabric. She sucked in a deep breath, rubbing her aching ribs. Now dressed in a tunic and leggings, she was ready. She pulled her steel hairpins from her updo. “Burn the dress, they’ll recognize it.”

“Wait!” Derrick tossed her a small satchel. “Money and a few jewels. It’ll help.”

She nodded. “I’ll tell him you love him.”

He swallowed hard. “If it’s ever safe, I’ll find a way to tell you.”

She smiled and quickly unclasped her bracelet, then handed it to him. “Your brother made this for me. Put out a call for a missing bracelet and we’ll come.”

He tilted it to the light, a beautiful carved dahlia shimmered in the lamplight. He tucked it away in his inner pocket. “God speed Taylor. Don’t get caught. They have orders to shoot in sight.”

She impulsively gave him a quick hug then took off, leaping up the stairs two at a time. A minute, an hour, a day later she finally reached the top, holding her ragged breath to quiet her breathing. She looked around the corner at the door.

No guard.

She jumped to the door and slid to her knees, her pins going into the lock. “Come on baby, come on. You’re so beautiful. Won’t you open up and tell me your secrets.”

“Taylor?!” Ryder whispered. 

“Who else would flirt with your lock while risking her life to save you?”

“Fair point.”

The lock gave. She shoved the pins back into her hair and opened the door. In one smooth motion, she pulled the knife out of her boot and got to work on the rope restraining Ryder’s feet. “Once we get on the ship, I’m never going to stop kissing you,” she admitted. “But guards are ordered to shoot on sight.”

Ryder groaned as his feet released. “How do you know?”

She moved to the cuffs on his hands. With the help of another hair pin, she snapped the lock and released him. “Derrick loves you. I’ll explain the rest later. Ready?”

Ryder grabbed her and kissed her hard, desperate. The fear that this may be the last time their lips ever met only made the kiss sweeter. “I love you forever, okay?”

“Same. Forever.” They joined hands. “Now, let’s move.”

Going down was slower than going up. Ryder was unsteady from being tied to a chair for nearly two days. She was going to throw him over her shoulder the moment they reached the bottom. He would be heavy, but she has so much adrenaline coursing through her she could probably carry a horse.

The scrap of a boot made them freeze. She glanced at her watch.

The guards were early.

“Got a plan?” she asked.

“Run. Run as fast as we can.”

“Can you run?”

He grabbed her face and kissed her one more time. “For you, I could fly. RUN!”

They ran.

They pushed passed the two shocked guards and gained a five second lead. But Ryder’s legs were shaky and she knew they only had a minute, maybe two tops to get to safety. She led him into the woods and behind a large rock. “I’m getting us a horse. Stay here.”

“No way are you going alone!” But even as he said the words, he leaned heavily against the rock. “No food or water really zaps your energy.”

“Don’t move. I’ll be right back.” She was off again, running just inside the tree line. She could hear distant shouts, likely guards putting together a search party. 

Run faster, she told herself. Faster. Then she was at the stables. She slid in through the door and searched the dark for a horse that she could ride bareback. 

“Whaddya you doing in here?!” 

She gasped and spun. A kid, likely left as night watchmen while the adults got drunk, lifted up a lantern. She dug a coin out of the satchel Derrick gave her. “I need a horse and it can’t wait.” She gave him a gold coin that was likely triple what he made in a year.

His eyes widened and he stuffed it in his pocket. “Give me two minutes and I’ll saddle her.”

“I don’t have two minutes.”

“One.” He took off into the stall across from her and got to work. In less than a minute, he was leading the horse out. 

She climbed on the horse, whispered soothing things to it for a few moments, then was off like a shot.

The boy choose well. The horse knew the woods. She was nearly to the rock when the barks started.

They’d released the hounds. 

She barely stopped when Ryder climbed to the top of the rock and slid into the saddle behind her, arms wrapped tightly around her waist. 

“You got my horse. Smart.” He took the reigns from her and the horse whinnied a welcome as they took off at a gallop.

They weaved through the trees then onto the road, heads down and breaths held. Midnight was moments away and if they didn’t make this ship, they were doomed. The dogs grew louder, the sound of a hundred hooves getting closer.

“Do you trust me?” Ryder asked.

“Always.”

“Close your eyes and lean into me.” 

She closed her eyes. Then they were flying. She opened them and gasped. They were leaping from a bridge to the underpass below. If they didn’t die, they would cut five minutes off the trip.

“Lean!” Ryder ordered.

She leaned into him, mimicking how he moved to stay in the saddle as they landed with a teeth jarring thud.

“Good girl,” Ryder told his horse. “You too, love.” He kissed Taylor’s head.

“Almost there!” She whispered.

They rounded the bend and there was the ship that would take them to safety, where they could live in a tiny villa, lost in each other for the rest of their lives. 

A shot rang out. The horse startled and bucked. Ryder wrapped Taylor his his arms as they slid out of the saddle, taking the brunt of the fall. They both gasped for breath, Ryder holding is rib. 

“You okay?” she asked.

“Probably cracked a rib. It’ll heal.” He let her help him up and they stumbled together, creaking bones, onto the dock.

Mary ran toward them. “Hurry!”

A man grabbed Mary from behind. “Another step and I’ll kill her, too.”

Taylor recognized the guard from the tower. She met Ryder’s gaze. He nodded infinitesimally.

In one move, she pulled the knife out of her boot and flung it onto the guard’s arm. The guard screeched and let go of Mary. She was gonna miss that knife.

Taylor threw Mary over her shoulder and they took off, running for the ship. As the town’s clock tower chimed midnight, the gangplank was pulled away from the dock. 

Wasting no time, Taylor tossed Mary over the side of the ship, then grabbed Ryder’s hand. “Ready, steady, GO!” They jumped.

Taylor missed. 

She clung to the side of the boat, her arms too tired to pull herself up. Mary grabbed one arm and Ryder the other, lifting her onto the ship.

They lay there on their backs, unable to move for a moment.

“We made it,” Taylor whispered, pushing herself up.

Mary laughed in disbelief. “I never doubted.” She stood. “Let’s get to the cabin before we’re kicked off the ship for being drunk and disorderly.”

Ryder and Taylor stood and stared at each other for a long moment, then he lowered his lips to hers. “Marry me?” he asked between kisses. 

“Immediately. I heard ship captains can do that.”

He nodded, and kissed her again.

And by the time the sun rose over the water, they were married, with a glassy-eyed Mary cheering them on.

The end.

 

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