TITLE: Veiled Iron
GENRE: YA Fantasy
Layla knew she was in luck the moment the woman with the whip started snoring. The sound began as a whistle and deepened by minutes, until Layla felt reasonably certain the night warden wouldn't catch her sneaking out. A heartbeat later, she slipped to a crouch beside her bed.
Ama Devlet shifted on her divan.
Layla froze. Across the rows of sleeping girls, she watched the ama draw her whip-switch closer to her bulk, her snore as calm as the canal running through Rising Sun Academy.
Quickly, Layla mounded her bedding into a decoy. She had to get outside. Physical exercise was essential for an athlete's sleep. Without it, she could lie awake all night, her thoughts circling on when her father might find her a husband. A marriage would secure her future but it would also end her freedom forever.
She rose from her hiding place. A kaftan hung from a nail above her bed. She lifted it down and slipped her arms through the sleeves, whisper silent.
But few things were so quiet in the girl's dormitory that night. As Layla eased across the floorboard joints, a new sound joined the snoring: the rhythmic clopping of iron-shod hooves on the lane outside.
Holding her breath, Layla slipped past the night warden. The door closed behind her on noiseless hinges. She exhaled. Who could be riding up to her school at this hour?
The abrupt jingle of tack told her the horses had stopped somewhere in the grass of the boys' courtyard.