shakes her head. “But the bridge is broken, I'm not sure if I can even get back
home unless I cross the river.”
that to me. It will be fixed by the time you head home tomorrow.” I drape the
back of my hand down her cheek. “Sleep now, Rose.”
tucks back into the safety of my arms. “And if I don't come back?”
whisper slices through me like a freshly sharpened blade. “I'll check to make
sure you made it home, but then I will leave you be.”
fingers curl into her hair and press against her head, clinging to her as if
she'll slip away with those words.
blazes through the window forcing my eyes to flutter awake. Heat from the
fireplace warms my skin and a content sigh escapes my lips. Until I roll over
and find I'm alone. Perhaps he sought to fix the bridge, as he said he would have
it taken care of by the time I made to leave.
shoot up to a seated position and glance around the tiny one-room cottage. A
table littered with books and candles stands in the corner. Across from it a
torn and ragged armchair wears my dried clothing. The stone fireplace sits in
the middle of the wall, filling the room with the last of its dying flames.
myself to the edge of the bed, the rawness of my ravaged
reminds me that what happened last night was not a dream. Though, he is one to
me. I've never felt more beautiful and vulnerable in my life, and I crave more
of it. My mind drifts back, replaying every moment of our lovemaking.
body reacts with hardening nipples as I relive the sensation of his large hands
roaming my body. Heat surges between my legs, and if he were here I'd bury him
between them. His rough, yet careful thrusts filled me with a wholeness I'd
long craved. Teasing and torturing me with his lengthy fingers... I'd never
experienced an orgasm so strong and raw.
Yet how he held me tight after he
pillaged my body, as if I were a doll, brought back a soft and caring side.
The one that
risked his life to save mine.
ready to leave, I fling myself back onto the bed and spread my legs as thoughts
continue to swarm my head. My hands glide over my body, and I pretend they are
Though mine are far too soft, much too small to even
substitute for him.
But he is gone, and they're all that will satisfy
the ache he leaves me with.
picture his girth, remembering the thickness of it between my fingers, and I
let a hand fall between my legs. My other hand brushes against my breasts,
finding a nipple erect and waiting for his lips. The
them, along with his tongue flicking through my pussy last night, drive
me over the edge and I must release. I drive my own fingers between my lower
lips, plunging them in and out. But it's nothing like when
danced inside me.
slicks my hand, and I spread it over my aching clit. The sound of my fingers
sliding in the moistness flutters my heart, forcing a gasp through my clenched
teeth. I rock my hips as I stroke myself, and the chill swirling in the room
mixed with the last heat of the fire shoots a tingle over my naked skin. My
fingers continue to rub as the memory of him thrusting his powerful cock inside
me takes me over the edge, and I cry out his name, willing him to come back to
claim my body as I ease my stroking and my hand rests against my mound. Only
partially satisfied, I
in a deep breath and
release it slowly. The smell of our sex remains strong in the air, hindered by
the scent of burning wood.
force myself from the bed and over to where my clothes drape his chair.
Something flashes in the corner of my eye and I dart to the window. Dark and
furry, it leaps behind a large oak tree. I study its movements, and it appears
to be studying mine.
I squeak out in a whisper.
will I be able to leave this house if there's a bear stalking the woods? My
meager bodice dagger would hardly strike a dent in such a large creature.
again, I peek out the window and it stares back at me. Bright blue eyes grow
wide. They carry a hint of fear, not fury, and my heart breaks for the poor
animal. Dropping its head low, it pads away as if sullen, heading deep into the
woods behind the house, with such torture in its eyes. My soul weeps for it.
rummage through the cabinets of the tiny kitchen, searching for something to
offer the creature, should it stray in my path along the way home. In the
icebox, I spy something wrapped in cheesecloth, and from the smell it's a fish.
redressing myself and attempting to force the broken boning of my corset back
into a temporary hold, I grab the fish and make my way outside. Beautiful
untouched snow graces the land, sun reflecting off it like an angel too holy to
lay eyes upon.
step onto the footpath, finding only a small crunch of snow under my feet where
there should be inches deep. Gazing down the walkway through the wooded
landscape I find Marcus has cleared a path for me just as he said. Warmth fills
my heart, yet emptiness overshadows it as I close the door to the tiny cottage
continue on my path, but the heat crawling up my neck stops me in my tracks,
electrifying my hairs to a stance. I whip around, finding no one behind me.
Tossing my hood over my head, I tighten the cloak around my shoulders and press
on. But my ears perk once more as the footsteps crunching in the snow aren't
Red,” the gravelly voice says from behind me.
spin around and lock eyes with the staunch little man, his eyes as black as
peat. Long gray hairs fall from his chin, braided together in a beard. A long
green and brown tunic swallows his wiry frame.
,” I hiss and grip tight to the dagger in my bodice.
now, I'm sure there's no reason to make a hasty decision, my dear. Besides,
I'll kill you before you even manage to free that tiny knife from the confines
of your rather exquisite breasts.” He taps the top of a thick wooden walking
stick with a long grimy fingernail.
do you want? You've taken my mother and now Snow's, what more do you need to
take from us?” The words spit like venom over my lips.
lots of things I can think of,” he says,
inching closer while he runs that same dirty nail along the laces of my corset.
my right, a thunderous roar pierces my ears. Before I even turn my head
something flies through the air and knocks
down the pathway. In a wicked laugh, the dwarf disappears with a puff of purple
and I pant for breath as I take in the
looming black bear standing before me. It locks onto my gaze and those familiar
sullen blue eyes melt my soul. I do not move, nor does it. We remain locked in
a war with our eyes, both of us wondering who will make the first move. I inch
my hand into my cloak, trying not to make any sudden moves to scare it. It lets
out a mighty roar and I jump back.
not going to hurt you,” I cry out and offer the beast the fish from Marcus' ice
box. “I promise.”
stares at the offering in my hand and inches its way closer, sniffing the air
on, I brought it for you.” I extend my arm further.
releases a soft bray as it approaches, snatching the fish from my hand.
leave my hand held out for it, as if willing it to come closer. “Thank you for
its head, it nudges its face against my hand. Those blue eyes haunt me, like
I've seen them before in a dream.
How often do bears have blue eyes?
you walk with me?” I ask, as if it's a pet or a person. I find my own question
silly and a laugh escapes my throat. But somehow the beast comforts me, and my
soul aches for it on my lonely sojourn home.
gulps down the fish before giving me a long stare. Releasing a hard breath, it
plods onto the path in front of me. With a tilt of my head, I study it, giving
him a safe distance before I follow. The beast stops and turns its head back to
me, as if wondering why I'm not coming. A smile curls my lips as I hike my
skirt in hand and jog after it.
reach the foot of the bridge and my shoulders hitch back. I stare at it as the
memory of falling through to the icy river below replays in my mind. The bear
turns its head and looks at me. It plods its way to my side, nudging its head
into my back, urging me to cross it.
glance down to the planks and notice there's no longer a hole. The boards have
been replaced and repaired.
bear whips its head up to me and I gaze back. It releases a loud bray, as if
yelling at me to cross.
you coming with me, bear?” I ask, nodding to the bridge.
deep blue in the bear's eyes ice over. It drops its head and pads its way back
the way we came. Releasing a sigh, I take a hard swallow and press a foot
against the bridge. It holds.
Giving the bear one last
glance, I run as quick as I can over the remainder of the bridge.
is waiting for me on the other side, her arms open wide, and I run into them.
collide, gripping each other tight.
have you been?” Her hands cup my face as she stares deep into my eyes.
got lost in the woods,” I say, surprised at how easily the lie spills from my
Her brow quirks to a sharp arch.
“You've grown up in those woods,
Rose. I know you didn't get lost in them.”
my arm through the crook of hers, we walk the remainder of the path together to
“The storm, Snow.
It came down in
and I couldn't make hide nor hair of where I was.
It blinded me. But I happened upon a cottage and holed up there for the night.”
fingers tighten around me as we enter the house. “Are you all right?”
manage a nod through clouded thoughts and lies swarming my head. “Yes, I think
I will be.”
about a warm bath?” she suggests.
“And something to eat?
I've put on a stew for dinner. Though I fear I made enough for the entire
kingdom, so we'll probably be having it for supper as well.”
all sounds wonderful.” My body needs the cleansing, but my heart sinks at the
thought of rinsing the remnants of Marcus away.
change out of these ragged clothes and I'll pour your bath, my love,” Snow
whispers, dotting my cheek with a kiss.
I say, stopping her before she heads out. “Have you heard anything about that
cottage I mentioned in the woods?”
brows knit together as she shakes her head. “No. You know I don't venture into
those woods. I didn't even know there was a cottage. Are you sure you're okay?
Did something happen?” Worry lines drape her forehead, shadowing her deep brown
lips give her a tender smile. “I'm fine, Snow. I was just curious, because I
too had never known it was there. I just hope someone wasn't living there. I
may have to venture back and investigate.”
worry when you're out in the woods alone, Rose.” She gives my hands a tug.
swipe a thumb over her cheek. “I can take care of myself. I always have and I
know. It's just so lonely here with mother gone. And when you're not around...”
A gentle sigh rushes her lips. “I can't ask you to stay with me forever. You
have a life to
doing whatever it is...you do.”
dear sister, need to get out more.” I shoot her a twisted grin. “Perhaps find
yourself a suitor?”
sucks in a gasp and her eyes brim with both excitement and fear. “There's far
too much to do out here, upkeep of the farm and all, with mother gone. I don't
have time for a suitor.” She pours a kettle of hot water into the large
claw-foot tub. “And there's still
. What if he
comes for us?”
ease myself into the water and
skin as the warmth swallows me. “
will not come
for you. I'll make sure of it. I've got a plan in place to keep you safe. Just
leave it to me. You mind things here.”
I can't lose you too, Rose. Do
needlessly put yourself in harm's
way. I beg of you,” she says, pleading with her eyes.
being careful. Do I not come back home to you every day?” Giving her a
heartfelt smile, I do my best to reassure her.
come a time when you won't.”
words come out choked with anguish, and they
I slink into the water to escape them.