Akhal-Teke horses are well-known for speed and endurance, intelligence, and for the distinctive metallic sheen of their coat. Natives of Turkmenistan, the bloom on the coat acts as camouflage in the shimmering desert heat. Prized for their beauty as well as their strength and skill, they are known as the Heavenly Horses. These horses are thought to be one of the oldest existing breeds in the world.
No wonder Arnaut de Montailhac is so proud of his Akhal-Teke, Zephyre. [in Scandalous Lady ]
… Olivia was still fascinated by the shimmering golden horse.
‘Mademoiselle,’ said the newcomer, ‘I am delighted to meet you at last. And I agree with you,’ he waved a hand expressively, ‘ My horse is the most beautiful creature you ever saw, n’est-ce pas?’
She was obliged to laugh. ‘Monsieur. Truly, he took my breath away. I have never seen such a proud animal and his coat is extraordinary – like metal.’
He wheeled round to ride beside her as they turned back towards the city. ‘This is Zephyre. He is an Akhal-Teke, a horse from the deserts of Turkmenistan,’ he explained as she shook her head in puzzlement. ‘He is fleet and strong, hey, my Zephyre?’ He leaned forward to pat the animal’s neck and the stallion tossed his head proudly.
The gentleman had a pronounced French accent but he spoke English without any hesitation. Olivia studied him from under her lashes as they rode on. She had noticed that Richard merely exchanged a nod with this gentleman. So they had met before. When? Why had he appeared now? She felt darkly suspicious but what could happen? They were merely riding back home after all. Soon she would be shut up inside four walls for another day of heartache. Her throat closed up as the misery surged up again. Don’t think ahead, enjoy the rest of this ride. At least for the moment she could admire this superb new horse.
She studied at the shining golden stallion as he trotted gracefully along. At once, her companion smiled and nodded. ‘I see you truly appreciate him. But these horses only accept one master.’
‘How splendid,’ she said wistfully, ‘He moves so beautifully.’
That was enough encouragement. The gentleman launched into a list of all Zephyre’s qualities. By the time he finally stopped for breath, Olivia had caught some of his enthusiasm. She managed a smile.