Chapter 1

Ichabod Crane stood uncomfortably in the kitchen as Lady Van Tassel made a stew for dinner.

Mary had always made him slightly uneasy and after having seen her in the woods the night before… with a man that was definitely not Baltus Van Tassel… had only intensified the feeling.

Yes he wouldn't usually have come to find her… particularly not after what he had seen… but he wanted to ask her about her stepdaughter. Katrina.

"She will not see you" said Mary, dashing his hopes that he would be forgiven so soon. Not that had expected anything else after having suspected her Father of the murders committed by the Headless Horseman.

"Did she say anything?" he asked hopefully.

She sighed impatiently. "Only that she will not come down" she said gently but crisply.

"I see. Thank you" he said in a slightly disappointed tone, turning to leave.

"Constable" she said in firm, no-nonsense voice that made him freeze.

"You have not asked me how I have hurt my hand since yesterday. Which would have been polite" she pointed out in a sweet but rather reproachful voice.

She walked up behind him, unwinding the bandage from around her hand.

"In fact, you have been as careful not to look at it as not to mention it" she said meaningfully, standing close to him and putting her left hand near to his face. He visibly flinched as he caught sight of the long half-healed gash on her palm.

"Yes I'm sorry. How did you…" he said quickly, trying not to look at it too much.

"I know you saw me" she hissed, lips not far from his ear.

"What?" he said nervously, trying to pretend he had no idea what she was talking about. He really didn't want to talk about this. It was hard enough to keep the images out of his mind as it was.
He didn't usually have trouble with inappropriate thoughts… even with Katrina his thoughts tended to be more romantic than inappropriate. But when he was near Mary, he couldn't seem to help thinking things he shouldn't… not about a lady… a married woman. And after last night…

"I know you followed last night. And you must promise not to tell my husband what you saw. Promise me!" she hissed, urging him to do what she said.

He swallowed hard, trying to think of a response. He didn't want to promise anything… not when he was already getting slightly suspicious of her. And he was rather distracted by her closeness… her sweet, dark, yet slightly floral perfume.

She moved behind him, putting her hands on his upper arms. Her lips were inches from his ear. "Please don't say anything…." she said in a whispery purr. "You wouldn't want to get me in trouble would you?" she added sweetly, tone ever-so-slightly suggestive.

He stiffened slightly. "No… no of course not…" he said quickly, wanting to pull away but not quite able to. He felt rather light-headed.

"I'm sure a handsome young man like you… knows all about temptation… and how it can lead you astray…" she purred in his ear, fingers lightly stroking his arms.

"I uh… can't say I do know anything… about that…" he said in a rather nervous voice. What was it about her that got him flustered and unable to think straight? With anyone else he would have managed to disentangle himself and escape by now.

"I think you know exactly what I'm talking about…" she whispered in his ear, fingers trailing down his torso. He felt his breathing speed up at the light, teasing touch.

Then her fingers were sliding down his stomach, towards his belt, and he thought he had better stop this before it went any further. Stop it while he still could stop it. A big part of him wanted to let her do whatever she wanted.

But he couldn't let himself think with that particular part…

He pulled away, turning to look at her. She looked rather disappointed. "Something wrong… constable?" she said innocently.

"I can't" he said firmly. "Can't what?" she purred, taking a step closer.

He swallowed hard. "I just can't" he repeated, taking a step back. Annoyance flickered over her face… so briefly he wondered if he'd imagined it.

"Are you going to tell my husband what you saw" she asked, blue eyes fixed on him. "I don't know…" he said honestly.

"Katrina says… you suspect my husband…" she said with careful innocence. Something in him prickled suspiciously. "Well the Van Tassels are the closest kin to the Van Garrets. And someone wanted everyone between them and the Van Garrett fortune dead…" he pointed out.

An icy mask came over her features as he turned to go again.

Suddenly something hard hit him in the back of the head… and everything went black.