Excerpt: Even as Red Riding Hood approached the darkest part of the woods, where tall pine trees blocked the sun, and the flowers disappeared, and the path faded to a black snarl lined by brooding ferns, still, she remained merry.
Granny was waiting for her goodies, the delicious treats that Red and her mama had baked at dawn. The scents of chocolate and vanilla teased Red’s nose, providing a pleasant counterpoint to the dark, pungent smell of the inner forest. Granny would ask her if she’d made any progress in finding a boy for her eighteenth birthday. Then she’d tell tales of her own misspent youth, leaving out the interesting parts.
Despite the missing parts, Red still enjoyed their talks.
A movement startled her, as a pair of keen gray eyes flashed unexpectedly in the gloom of the forest. She clutched her basket, aware suddenly that she was all alone and a tall man she didn’t know was leaning against one of the few oak trees that had managed to establish its dominance in this northern evergreen forest. Even more alarming, the man’s eyes were caressing her in a bold manner that the boys from the village would never attempt. (Her father would speak to them sharply if they did.)
“Little Red,” he said, in a deep voice that woke up the forest, and buzzed over her skin.
Her skips faltered, and then stopped altogether, as if his voice alone had thrown a barrier across the path.
“Good morning,” she managed. She was always polite. (Her mother had raised her that way and besides, her life was such that good manners were easy.)
He smiled, and the smile spread warmth over her, as if she were suddenly standing in sunshine on a bright summer day, rather than in the middle of a dark forest. A few rays of real sunshine suddenly sparkled in the dark green rooftop above her, like hidden gold coins among the dense leaves.
She stepped closer to the man. “Who are you?”
“Are you traveling to grandma’s house?” he asked, still with that lazy smile.
“Then I am the big, bad wolf,” he declared. “Surely you’ve heard of me?”
She nodded, suddenly alert, but for some reason, not afraid. “Every girl knows your tale.”
He straightened casually and stepped away from the tree. “Then you’ve been warned,” he said. “Let’s move on from the nursery tale.”
“Move on?” She clutched her basket, but her heart thudded with delight. He smelled like fire looked – hot and sparkling and blazing with heat and hope. She sucked in a deep breath of wonder.
Wolf’s arm reached out and snagged her waist. “You’ll give me a kiss, won’t you? A kiss is nothing new to you, I’m sure.”
She giggled. “I don’t kiss and tell, naughty wolf.”
“That’s good.” He pulled her closer, his touch gentle. “You’ll never want to tell what we do together.” ♥ ♥ ♥
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