I was born in the cottage my mother's family owned for over four hundred years. It was a cold winter's day during one of my mother's visits there. She said I was always eager to explore the world. That's why I came so early. My father said I was the cutest thing he'd ever seen. Even though I was so tiny and covered with junk.
For my third birthday my grandmother and I made cloaks with silky, red fabric. I would always were my cloak when I went to her house, which was every day. The town's people always talk about my grandmother and call her crazy. All the women in my family have been spiritual healers since the dawn of time. My grandma is the best healer there ever was, but they think she's a witch or they just think she's old and senile.
My father is one of the greatest warriors in the village. He's the lord of New Kessiengton. My father left to fight the great beast of Nutwood our ally to the North. He's been gone for five years now. Mother says he'll be back soon, but the village people say he's dead or will never return. I believe my grandmom. She says he'll return and we'll be a family again.
I miss going to grandma's house in the royal carriage. Father would sing a song to me, as we road in the little buggy. "Over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house we go." When I go to her house alone I still sing it. "Over the river and..." I know my mom finds it hard to continue but she does. Every night she puts a candle on the windowsill so father can find his way home.
My Uncle Kane is the acting lord now that father's gone. He's been different since my father left. Before they got into a huge fight, and Uncle Kane just hasn't been the same. He was always a little distant at times and he could be really mean. But now it seems like all he has in side of him is anger. My father said when I was really little Uncle Kane lost his wife and son, because of a birth complication and that we had to be gentle and understanding with him. Uncle Kane keeps urging mother to remarry and help build up the kingdom. He's sure it's what my father would have wanted. Today's the day we leave our cottage just outside the village bounders to have Dinner with Uncle Kane and Cousin Duncan.
"Lotty," Uncle Kane said hugging mother.
"Kane you look well," she smiles and then hugs my little cousin Duncan. My uncle adopted him a few years after he lost his wife and son. Duncan was orphaned after a great flood.
"Roselyn," Uncle Kane smiles at me, and my stomach not. I feel like I've just walked into a lion's din.
"Hello Uncle Kane."
"Rose, why don't you play with Cousin Duncan while I talk with Uncle Kane," mother said going up the palace steps.
"Duncan, would you mind going to the garden with me?" I ask him. Duncan's two years younger than me but he's still taller than me. His blonde hair's always brushed so his eyes are hard to see.
"No," he says waling past the stirs to the servants entrance.
"Why not?" I ask as I follow him to the study.
"You always go there and get all anger and I get in trouble for it. Not this time."
"Fine I'll go on my own then." I say he grabs my arm and looks into my eyes.
"You're staying in the study with me until dinner." He orders me.
"You will unhand me. I'm you elder and the future countess of this land," I say pulling my arm back.
"If you don't give up this silly notation that your father's coming home you'll be too weak to rule anything." He yells at me
Anger pulls into my hand and I slap him with the all the strength I could pull together in my anger. "Take it back." I yell at him.
"Why should I? We both know it's true, just admit it."
"He's going to come back what do you know?" I say and leave the study to go to my old room just a few doors down. I look at the family portrait of us hinging on the far wall, and the painting I started of him setting in the garden still sits incomplete on my work desk. Father promised he'll come home soon and we would finish the painting then. He loved it when I paint the garden or mother. He said I had an act for capturing the natural beauty of everything.
"Red can I come in," Duncan ask standing in the door way.
"yes" I say in a soft broken whisper. I didn't realize I was crying until I felt his arms wrap around me. I missed my father more than ever. I hated coming to the palace because everything reminds me of him and his absence.
"Red, I'm sorry I should have never said anything like that to you. Please forgive me," he asks. I didn't know what to say a part of me knows he is only trying to help me in his own twisted way. Then another part of me wants to hit him really hard.
"It's okay," I say as I sit on my bed and rub my hand across the silky fabric. My grandmother made this comforter for me. She said it would protect me for nightmares and evil as I slept. All I wanted to do was wrap myself in the blanket and never come from under its warmth and safety.
"When did your mom say you two were going to come back home?" he asks as he sits down next to me.
"I don't think she's ready yet," I say and laugh a little bit. "Duncan, you really think he's never coming home?" I ask and lay my head on his shoulder.
"He promised he would come back and he will, just wait and see," Duncan says brushing the hair on the top of my head back and kissing me there.
"Thanks for understanding," I say as the maid comes and calls us for dinner
My mom hasn't look at me since I set down for dinner. That could only mean something I won't like is about to happen. Uncle Kane is staring at her too. Obviously whatever it is was his idea, as always. "Lotty, would you like to give the kids the news, or should I?" Uncle Kane asks as the servants clear the table and put out dessert. It made me feel a little better that Duncan was worried. At less I won't have to suffer alone.
"Maybe we should ask the children's opinions before we decide to do something?" my mom says eating her pudding.
"Why? They'll agree with me I'm sure," Uncle Kane says smiling his icy smile at me.
"What's going on?" Duncan asks. He must have sensed I was about to say something out of term to Uncle Kane.
Uncle Kane looks at mother and she reluctantly gestures for him to continue. "Well Duncan you and Roselyn are both of age and we feel it's time you marry."
Duncan and I exchange looks and my mom continues. "We know this seems sudden but it's what happens at your age. You two must build families and those new families will be your future and your legacy. We're going to hold a banquet and invite all the people we think will suit each of you. After that you two will select who you like. If you don't we'll chose for you."
"Your mother and I have made up our minds it's been long enough," Uncle Kane says cutting me off.
"You can't marry me off, only my father can," I say looking at my mom. "May I be excused?" I ask. I can't stand the sight of my uncle at this very moment, how dare he?
"I'm doing this for the good of the family. I'm sure it's what your father would have wanted," Uncle Kane says smiling his fake icy tormented smile at me once again. "You may go."
I ran to my room and slammed the door I could kill Uncle Kane for what he's doing. There was no way he'd get me to marry some stranger. I felt a little bad for Duncan. There was no reason he couldn't marry. Girls all over the village seemed to be really fond of him. He was fairly handsome and very kind. Duncan wasn't corrupted by Uncle Kane's mind games not like everyone else. He could see that something deep inside Uncle Kane had changed when my father left.
"Can I talk to you for a moment, Red?" mother ask as she comes into the room and sits at my side.
"I want to go back to the cottage." I say into the pillow.
She gently pets my head the same way she used to when I was sick as a child, "I know but we're staying in the palace now," mother says and I shoot-up and glare at her.
"Why?" I ask sensing something wrong was happening.
"Your Uncle and I are going to unite Kessiengton and New Kessiengton," mother says smiling softly at me and rubbing my cheek.
"But that means…" My eyes widen when she nods her head in agreement.
"I'm going to marry Uncle Kane."
"But what about father?"
"I know my love, but we need to make sure the village is taken care of," she said
"I want to be alone!" I yell at her.
"Look Red, just try to understand"-
"LEAVE…NOW!" I yell again.
"I'll come check on you in the morning and we can still visit with your grandmother if you like." Mother waits for a response but I say nothing. I have nothing else to say to her. She was the one that kept reassuring me that father was coming home and now she is giving up.
"Red, your mother's been calling for you for hours." Josefina the maid's daughter says.
"I don't want to speak with her." I say as I run my hand against the gentle water in the little fountain in the garden.
"Red what happened?" she asks.
"She's marrying Uncle Kane." I say giving Josefina an icy look as if this was all her fault.
"Red people are beginning to talk."
"I don't care about talk. Let them all talk. They still pay their tide and honor the family, so why should it matter."
"Red it's been five years." she says in a calming soft voice.
"I'm not giving up on him Josie, he's my father and he promised to come back." I sob.
"Red, Duncan and I both think it's time you accept that his gone, forever." Josefina says sitting on the edge of the fountain with me.
"I'm going to Grams don't tell my mom where I am." I say shouting up.
"You should wait for Duncan. The hunters spotted a wolf a few days ago." She calls after me.
I just kept going and try hard to stop thinking about Uncle Kane. He's lost his mind. I know in my heart my father's coming home. There had to be away for me to get to Nuttwood and find him. I had to convince Gram to take me. She was the only person in the village that hates Uncle Kane more than me. She can feel the darkness inside him. She won't let him.
"What do you mean you won't take me, Gram?" I ask stun.
"Sweetness, if this is what your mother wants to do there's nothing either of us can do." She say smoothing my hair.
"Gram, I miss him," I cry as I lay my head on her shoulder.
"I know love," she says cooing the song my father used to sing to me. "You should get going before it gets too dark."
"Yes Gram." I say wiping my face. "I love you Gram."
"I love you too," She grabs a basket from the kitchen, "Share these with Josie and Duncan okay."
"I will," I say taking the basket and closing the door.
Something feels off about the forest tonight. The sun's quickly disappearing over the canopy of the trees, the air nestled around me is filled with an alien awareness. I've never felt this, this surge of power. I've never felt so strong. Then I felt someone's eyes on me. Someone is following me. I could hear them breathing. A deep labored breathing. Then I saw him. The little wolf that everyone is talking about the scrawny little thing looked strived. In this state he looked more like a stray dog. He sits in the middle of the road and stares at me. He doesn't growl he doesn't sneer. He just looks at me like he wants to say something. I take a step back and he starts to whine. My heart's racing and I don't know what to do.
"Hey boy," I say getting on my knees. The wolf slowly walks over. "That's it come on boy," I say egging him on. He laid his head in my lap and I caress his ears. "You're not so scary after all hunh?" He sets up and his ears point out. He starts howling and sneering at something behind me.
"Red!" I hear someone screaming my name off in the distance. The wolf just growls louder. "Red are you okay?" Duncan asks rushing to me. Then the wolf started to growl at him and I knew he was going to attack Duncan if he came any closer.
"Duncan stay away he won't hurt me." I yell.
"Red it's a wolf and he looks pretty hungry," Duncan says but something in his tone makes me uneasy.
"Duncan I can handle this just give me a chance." I say going into the basket and getting out a sandwich. "Hey you hungry boy," I say.
"Red just come on it's a 'wolf'" Duncan yells putting too much emphasizes on wolf. What is his problem?
"Duncan I said I can handle it now leave," I yell at him.
"I'm not leaving you here in the forest at night with a wolf eating your hand!" he yells, and they call me stubborn. He walks closer and the wolf goes crazy.
"Duncan stay away," I yell at him. "Don't get yourself killed you crazy imbecile."
"I'm not stupid," he says getting upset like he always does. I can't help but smile.
"Now really isn't the time for this, go, I'll catch-up." I say trying to reassure him.
"Red for the last time no," He yells coming closer and the wolf laps on top of him.
"No don't hurt him please don't hurt him," I yell at the wolf and he runs to my side and growls at Duncan.
"Red come with me please," Duncan pleas.
"I'm going to be okay," I say and I know it's true I can just feel it.
"I'll stay right here but I won't leave you," he says sitting by a tree.
"Okay," I say sitting and petting the wolf until he fell asleep. I get up and lay so more sandwiches out for him when he wakes up. "Duncan come on." I say waking him up.
"Do you know that wolf could have killed you? What were you thinking Red?" Duncan yells at me when we gets closer to the village.
"Some one's being a little melodramatic." Say smiling at him.
"Red this is serious you can't be in the forest alone especially at night. Do you know how worried I was? Then I heard the wolf and I thought the worst." He says holding me.
"Dunk, I'm fine," I say pulling away from he and seeing the tears pooled in his eyes.
"I know I just... you scare me sometimes." Duncan says rubbing my cheek and I feel this weird flutter in my stomach.
"We should keep going it's really late." I say walking though the branches that have grown so long the cover the road.
"You're mom was going crazy when you weren't back at noon," he says smiling at me. "Stop fretting over the banquet she's been trying to prolong this for years," he says taking up for her like he always does.
"Sure Duncan whatever you say," I smile and grab his hand.
"I mean it we both know who's to blame."
"You're great you know that," I say stopping him from going in to the village gate.
"Yeah, I know," he says kissing my cheek.
When we enter the gates the village is to quite. There's this eerie feeling of isolation. I find myself walking really close to Duncan and watching my every step. The villagers are never this quite. It's a relief when we get to the palace and I hear the band playing and see the outline of the jester. "What's going on?" I asked Duncan.
"Today the first day of festival and your dad's birthday." He whispers, "If you rather go to bed I'm sure everyone will understand."
"Yeah I'm sure that's the best thing." I say going to my room.
"How about I grab Josie and we pig out on the food your grandma gave us," he says smiling at me.
"Sure," I say closing the door. How did I forget today is father's birthday. I feel my body slowly sink to the floor and I start to cry. I don't know how long it was before the banging started. I'm just lying in my bed and I hear the banging. It's like I'm not even alive anymore. It even takes a second for me to realize the banging is the door. And I hear mother calling me. "Roselyn Marie open this door I know you're in there."
I peel myself from under the protection of the covers and head to the door. "Yes mother?"
I stumble back as her arms wrap around me. "Why were you in the forest this late? I was worried sick about you and I sent Duncan and then neither of you return until fourth hour are you two insane. Now Duncan saying you were attacked by a wolf."
"I wasn't attacked,, and that scrawny thing was hardly a wolf." I laugh but mother isn't amused at all.
"Red I'm so sorry about last night I don't know what I would've done if that wolf had hurt you." She cries holding on to me.
"Mother I'm fine please stop crying," I beg as she squeeze me tighter.
"Father, I'm sorry." I say hanging my head ready for him to strike me like he always does when I mess up.
"I don't know how you could let Able get out, and worst how could you let him find Roselyn. Do you know what this means. He knows she's still alive and he'll try to get her to use her powers." Father says in a huff. I don't know why but I hate myself for messing up. Even though all father wants to do is hurt Red and Uncle Able. I don't see how he can hate his own brother in such a way.
"I'm sorry father I'll fix everything." I say pleading with him.
"Duncan nothing can be done now, Able got away and it's all your fault." He yells at me and goes to strike me but he halts. "Duncan you're right there's one last thing we can try." Father says.
"What do you mean?" I ask lifting my gaze to his face.
He kisses the top of my head and says, "Don't worry about it now, go enjoy festival."
"Yes father," I say and go to get Josefina from the dining hall.
"Duncan did you find Red?" Josie asks rushing over to me.
"Yeah she's in her room now," I say surprised that she's been waiting out side the study all this time.
"I heard you saved her from a wolf. The hunters are talking about it," she says giving me a bandage for my arm. Josie's always there after I have these fights with father, or Red. She's really a great friend. I guess that's how kids turn out when their parents are kind and care. They have no choice but to be kind and care. It's great that I know I can trust Josie with my secrets and know she won't judge me, or worst tell Red how much of a monster I am.
"Duncan I think you should tell Lotty what Lord Kane is doing to you. It's not fair that he take's his anger out on you." I don't know how many times I've heard this from her.
"I can't tell Aunt Lotty and you better keep your mouth shut." I say as we round the corner leading to Red's room.
"What can't you tell me." Aunt Lotty asks with curious eyes.
"Nothing," I say hiding my bleeding arm behind my back, and hoping she won't grill me like she does Red.
"Find then," she says and Josie and I walk pass her, "And Duncan," she calls.
"Yes Aunt Lotty," I say a little nervous.
"Thank you for helping Red, it was very gallant of you." She says smiling warmly at me. Then she hugs me and a wince at the pain in my arm. "What happened to your arm?" she asked holding on to my arm.
"I'm fine okay," I say pulling my arm back.
"Duncan did this happen in the forest," she says looking at the scars I've had all my life.
"Umm, yeah I'm fine though," I say walking away.
"Duncan if you don't tell her what's going on soon I will," Josefina says speeding ahead of me to Red's room.
"Look, Josie this is complicated and you would never be able to understand this. I can't tell her and neither will you okay," I say looking into her eyes. I can feel her pulse rushing through me even though we aren't touching and I slowly will her mind to do as I say.
"I really hate what he's doing to you Duncan it's not right," she says wrapping her arms around me.
I look down at her and say, "Let's go get Red and watch the fireworks," She giggles and we're back on our way past the servants' quarters and the study to Red's room.
"Where are you off to in such a rush Little Red," Duncan says when I swing my door open. He glances down at the travel bag in my hand and his eyes grow red with anger and that vein in his neck starts to twitch. "Please tell me you're not about to do what I think you are?" He asks with anger booming in his voice.
"No one will miss me I just have to go away for a week. I won't give you a chance to miss me," I say and Duncan and Josie just stare at me.
Josie look at me with her soft brown eyes and I know she is disappointed. I can't just stay here and not wonder where my father is. I have to go to Nutwood and find him. "Red your mom almost had a heart attack when she found out you were gone."
"I was fine."
"A wolf attacked you. Why can't you see how dangerous this is. Your sacrificing our family to find your dad's body. He's died we all know he is. As much as he loved you, do you really believe he would want to spend this much time away from you and your mother?" Duncan asks. He looks down at me and I don't know what to say. My heart is telling me things I can't ignore. "Look Red he's gone." he says trying to hug me.
"No he's not. I know he's still here I can feel it. I know." I say with tears gently gliding down my checks. I didn't know I was crying until my throat tightened.
"Don't," I say as I pushing his hands away. "No one's going to stop me from going to Nutwood and if my father is dead, I'll find out when I get there." I say getting my stuff off the dresser.
"I'm coming with you," Josie says grabbing my arm.
I look down at her hand then look into her glisten eyes. "You should stay," I smile at her.
"I believe you and I want to help you," she says and it is like a huge weights been lifted off my shoulders.
"Very well we most make haste, pack a small bag and meet me at the stables." Josie rushes off and Duncan looks twice as mad as he was before.
"I'm not letting either of you leave without me,'' he says in his gallant hero way.
"Never, you're not coming because that would get Kane involved in this. The last thing I need is the royal guards escorting me home after two miles of riding." I say giving him my dad's golden chalice. "Keep this safe until I come back."
"Red if you leave my father will go crazy. He promised a day of courtship with you to the duke of Earl," Duncan says and it suits Uncle Kane right for trying to give me away.
"I guess I should make haste," I give Duncan a kiss on the cheek. "Wish me fair well cousin."
"Or what Duncan? I can't sit here and pretend he never existed. I have to know what happened to my dad," I yell at him.
"I'm not letting you leave without me. We can plan this out and be smart about it?" Duncan says as if he really could stop me.
"Like how?" I ask.
"I don't know, tell them we want to visit Gödel it's not too far from Nutwood and Josie has family there. We can say we need a vacation from all the courting and banquets and we'll go after the Grand Ball."
"My mom would never let me go on holiday with just you and Josie," I laugh at him.
"She'll be too busy with wedding preparations to stop us if she wanted to. I'm sure you can get Prince to invite you," he said with a jealous glance at me.
"I don't like Prince Erwin okay," I say chewing on my lip. His plan could work and it is better than just running off. "This will take weeks."
"Yeah, but I'd be with you and you'll be safe," he says looking into my eyes, and making my stomach flutter. "I'll get you to Nutwood I promise," he says kissing my cheek. "Promise."
"I'll go get Josie," I say putting my bag down.
"Great I'll start mapping out the best rout for Gödel and Nutwood. I'm sure you weren't going to take one," he says smiling at me.
"I would have if this was planned," I smile at him as I go out the door.
I found myself in the strangest position. I couldn't take Red all the way to Nutwood to find something that wasn't there. What was going to happen when they say there was no war? I can't tell father because he'd go crazy. I have to do something soon. I look out the window to the Goddess moon and beg her to help me. Please let this work.
I grab my black cloak and go out into the cold night. There's a riding lamp missing from the stable and of course Red's horse is missing. I can't believe I fell for that. I get a lamp and my horse trying to ride after her. Who knows where she is now. Hopefully she remembered to bring a map.
"Duncan where are you going?" Jacques the stable master and Josie's father asks.
"I think Red left again. Please don't say anything to anyone especially, Lotty and my father," I say hoping he'd keep this between us.
"I'm sure she's missing now, because Josie left us this note and I was just going to ride after her," he says handing me the crumbled up piece of paper.
"I think I can find them, if we're not back by morning tell everyone you're sister's sick and Red and I insisted on taking Josie to care for her," I say putting a saddle and bridle on my horse. "I will bring them back as soon as I can," I say as I mount my horse.
"My lord I don't feel comfortable lying to the duke and duchess on the whereabouts of their children," Jacques says in the most respectful way.
"I know, but it's the only way to keep Red out of trouble. I wouldn't ask you to if it weren't important," I say riding off.
I know if I can't find Red, Able can. If only I could find him. I had to get Red back before morning, or father was going to kill us both. "Why can't you ever be reasonable Red?" I ask aloud as I approached the stop we'd left Able. He wasn't there. "Able" I call out. "Look I know I'm the last person you want to see, but Red is lost and she has Josie with her. Josie's parents are going crazy and by morning so will Lotty and father." Nothing, not a rustle, not a growl nothing, but eerie silence. "Able help me find her," I beg and the he comes charging at me knocking me off my horse. "This is uncalled for," I say as he huffs and puffs his rotten dog breath in my face.
He sneers at me and I know what it means. He's mad at me for losing Red. He's also mad at me for allowing my dad to let him think Red and Lotty were killed. "Look we don't have time to fight in the morning you'll be human and you can tell Red what ever you like, but now we have to figure out what direction she's headed in," I say as he gets off of me and he starts to sniff around.
I calm my horse down and I guess he had found something because he was just sitting and waiting. "What direction is she headed," I ask him as I mount my horse. He gestures to the north with his nose. "Thanks Able, and I meant what I said when I let you out. I'll make all of this right give me time." I say riding off but he runs after me.
"You can't follow me Able. You have to stay here the hunters are already looking for you under my father's orders died of alive." I say trying to get him to see reason. Now I know where Red gets it from.
He still not staying behind. "You can come only until morning if we don't find Red by dawn you have to go," I say continuing. Red couldn't see him when he turned back for the day.
Josie was asleep and drooling on my shoulder. I can feel it being cooled by the cold breeze. I make Thunder slow down so Josie can rest a bit better. We still aren't far enough away to rest with out worry. I just hope no one got out of bed to in-check on us. When Duncan finds out he's going to be mad. I hate lying to him, but I can't wait weeks to find my dad. I have to do something now before my mom marries Uncle Kane.
The sun will be up soon and we're not at the border and I don't have a pass. Great, and if I go through the blind spot there is a good chance we'd get shot, or caught. I have my royal crest and I can say Josie's a midwife and they won't check her. This could work. I'm really good at think on my feet. I smile to myself then I hear Duncan. Great.
I get off my horse and pull it to a trench in the side of the road. "Josie" I whisper trying to wake her. "Josie," I say and she cracks her eyes open. "Duncan's here stay quiet okay," I say as we sink into the mucky trench.
"Red I know you're around here," he yells. "Look I know what I'm doing you can go now," he says, but I don't think he's talking to me. "If she and Josie sees you like this they'll freak out."
"Who in the world is he talking to?" Josie asks me.
"I wish I knew," I say with a shrug. Did he bring Uncle Kane with him. I couldn't see through the trees.
"I know she's here I can feel it I just have to find her," he says. "Stay here." Please don't walk over here. I beg him in my mind. Leave it to Duncan to ruin everything.
"We have to move before he gets too close," I whisper to Josie.
"I think we should just go back for now," Josie yawns.
"You're just tired start walking up," I say pushing her shoulder.
"Red, we'll find him just not now," Josie says climbing out of the trench. "Duncan can you help us get Thunder out," she yells over to him.
"Thanks a lot Josie," I say climbing out and tugging at Thunders bridle.
"Why would you hide in a trench?" Duncan asks me.
"Why were you talking to yourself," I say giving him Thunder's reins and taking his riding lamp.
"Look, I need you to stop running off," he says as he gets Thunder half way out of the trench.
"I didn't run off. Josie and I we're just riding," I smile at him, and he glares at me.
"If you're not careful something bad could happen to you Red. Who knows what lurks in these woods at night," he says wiping mud off my chin. "Keep him calm his almost out," he says easing Thunder up a little more.
"It's okay Thunder," I say petting him and cooing in his ear. "Come on just a little farther," I say as Duncan gets him all the way up on the road. "That's a good boy," I say petting his nose and taking the reins.
"If you want to keep going you're on your own Red you can, but Josie's dad was looking for her and he was pretty worried," Duncan says knowing it would make Josie change her mind.
"That was a low blow," I whisper to him.
"Sneaking off after we made plans is even lower," he says going to get his horse. "Come on Josie."
"Red," Josie says looking over at me.
"Fine I'm coming," I say tugging Thunder along. When something jumps from out of the bushes, and frightens him. It's the wolf from early. "Thunder it's okay," I say as he kicks and jumps in terror. "Calm down Thunder come on boy," I say trying to grab his reins but he kicks at me and I fall.
"Now, what did you do to the poor horse," Duncan asks riding out of the bushes. "Oh God Red you're just a danger magnet," he says getting off his horse and calming Thunder before he stomped me to death.
"It wasn't me it was that crazy wolf from the other day," I say getting up and a pain shoots up my leg. "Crap," I yell in pain.
"Wonderful, did you bring a medical kit?" he asks knowing the answer to that. "What am I supposed to do with you?" he smiles at me.
"Josie can you tend to her while I try to look for this wolf," I say tired of Able budding in to everything. If he could only leave well enough alone Red would be okay. "Keep the lamp with you if you see something use it to lit this," I say handing her a torch.
"You need me to go with you. That thing hates you," Red says trying to get up.
"Would you relax I'm a big boy I can handle myself," I say throwing her words right back at her.
"You have to give respect to get," she sneered at me letting Josie look at her leg.
"I'll only be a second," I say going into the clearing around the bushes. Sunlight was starting to break through and I had to get Able as far away from Red as time will allow me. He can't tell her the truth she'd never forgive me.
"Able where are you?" I ask knowing he was somewhere in the foliage surrounding the clearing.
"Able come out so I can talk with you," I hear a rustling in the bushes behind me. "Can we stop playing these tiresome games of hide-and-seek?" I ask laying out a blanket. "Here's some cloths and food for when you change back. Try to stay away from the village until night fall. I'll comeback then and bring things so you can go away for awhile," he growls at me.
"I'm sure leaving is the last thing I'd want to do too, but father is hell bent on killing you and getting Red's powers next month. If you want to see another day you'll stay in this clearing." More growling.
"Fine have it your way," I say sticking him with the tranquilizer father used to trap him. "I know you love Red, but I love her too and if she knew about this… Well it won't end happily ever after for me."
I hate keeping this from Red, but I need time to make her understand there was no other choice. It's not like I'm going to let father kill him. Able will be safe as long as he listens. In fortnight it will be the grand ball and everything will be okay.
"So how was you're day of courtship with the duke," Mother asks as she shows Josie and I color swatches for the bridal party. She's been hard at work planning her wedding and mine. I don't have the heart to tell her how much I hate this, and how stupid this is. She hasn't had much to do since father left and I haven't seen her happy in so long.
"Do I have to pick him. He's so old and…old," I say making mother and Josie laugh.
"I'm sure there's much more to the duke than that. He's very taking with you," my mother smiled at me.
"Oh God no. Is Uncle Kane going to take his offer?" I ask her. She just smiles at me. "What?" I ask taken back by the sparkle in her eyes.
"I just can't believe you're all grown up. You're getting gentlemen callers and having a ball. Soon you'll be saying this to your daughter," she smiles at me and caresses my cheek. "My baby not a baby anymore."
"Mother," I say as tears gently fall from her soft brown eyes. I hate seeing her cry even if she's happy. I wipe her tears away and gently kiss her cheek. "I hope I don't have to marry someone older then Gram," I say making her laugh with my bluntness.
"I'm sure you won't," she says hugging my and looking at Josie. "My, you girls are turning into really exquisite young ladies."
"Mom, is it okay if Gram and I make your ball gown?" I ask knowing if she said no it wouldn't make a difference because we already started. "Think it would take a lot of stress off of you so you can focus fully on the wedding."
"Why thank you Roselyn. You are so thoughtful. Why wouldn't the duke be taken by you?" she smiles at me. "So what colors do you girls like. Black and white, or blue, cream and gold?" she asks holding the final contestants side by side.
"The blue and gold," Josie says. "I think we can get really nice arrangements to follow that color scheme," she smiles at my mom.
"How about you Roselyn?" she asks as Duncan comes into my room. "Hey stranger we've been looking for you ever where," mother smiles at him.
"I was out in the square," he smiles at her.
"Yes, with Lucy, how is she?" mother asks and my heart skips a beat. Lucy was gorgeous and obsessed with Duncan. Had she got her father to ask Duncan to court her? Waves of jealousy moved through me like an angry sea. They were crashing over my head and drowning me in furious heat.
"Lucy looks like a beached gold fish, pale and stupid," I huff under my breath. "Then again idiots travel in packs like wolves."
"I didn't come in here to be insulted, and Lucy is the most beautiful girl I've ever lead eyes on," he says knocking the wind out of me like a punch to the chest.
"Maybe you should get out more offend," I say hopping off my bed and storming out of my room.
"Red wait," Duncan says. I stop and wait for him to catch up to me.
"What's your problem?" he asks with the strangest look of concern and fury. I never known the two could coexist so beautifully.
"I just don't think Lucy is right for you," I shrug.
"Her family took me in before father found me. They were my parents best friends. Why wouldn't she be right for me," he asks brushing my hair behind my ear. Times like these make me think he knows how I feel about him then he crushes every hope I have of him feeling the same.
"I just think she's promiscuous and she'll hurt you," I say in a soft whisper. I gets hard to talk when he's so close.
"I'm sure she wouldn't hurt me she's my best friend," he laughs at me. And it happens my heart drops in my stomach and is replaced by the angry fire.
"Well, marry the little whorelett don't come crying to me when she breaks your heart," I say walking pass him to my dads study and slamming the door shut.
I lane against the door and slowly sank to the floor. I shouldn't feel like this Duncan's my cousin and we're both supposed to by engaged by the end of the year. "Why do I feel like this?" I ask the picture of my father hanging over the fireplace. "Why is he such an idiot and doesn't even know how I feel?" I ask as I get up and sit in father's favorite reading chair. He would read me bed time stories here and carry me to bed. "I know you're close I can feel you just tell me where you are."
Red is just so infuriating. How dare she try to dictate to me who I can and can't court. God. I yell in my head. It's weird how someone can drive you so crazy, and you just don't have the will power to stay away. "I can't believe she called Lucy a whore." I smile to myself as I go back into her room.
Aunt Lotty was still sitting on the bed going over wedding plans with Josie. See looked up from her book when I came in. "Where's Roselyn?" she asks. She and father are probably the only two people in the village that call Red by her name.
"She's trying to cool off in the study. I really don't understand why they don't like each other." I shrug. And Josie sneakers. "Do you have something to say?" I ask her setting on Red's bed with them.
"Well, unlike me and more civilized women," Josie starts and Lotty and I laugh. She was right Red and Lucy were pretty wild. "Red and Lucy are both you're best friends and they both are afraid of losing you to the other," Josie says smiling her sweet smile.
"I love them both I tell them that all the time," I say not believing her. Girls were to complex to be that petty, or were that petty and it made them so complex?
"Red's just picking you to lash out on. You get a catch like Lucy and she gets The Duke of Earl," Lotty laughs.
"Maybe she's just difficult, always has been," I say as my father comes in the room.
"You could only be talking about Roselyn," he says with a smile.
"Yeah," I sigh as Aunt Lotty hides something under a pillow.
"You can't come in here we're making wedding designs," she says smiling at him.
He laughs and just smiles for a moment. "I only need to steal Duncan for a few moments to see how today went, and to have some guy talk," he says gesturing for me to come.
I get off the bed and kiss Aunt Lotty on the cheek. "Be back in a second."
"Take your time then I'd love to here about your time with Lucy."
I walk with father through the court yard to the other side of the castle into his office. He locks the door behind us and shuts the window. It's freezing in the room from the mid- October frost drifting in. "So how did Lucinda like it?" he asks sitting behind his desk like we are talking business instead of having a father son heart to heart.
"I'm sure she liked it, she seemed really eager to go to the ball with me," I say not sure of how to answer. The truth was I could care less if Lucy liked the date or not, I just wanted to see if Red was okay now.
"That's good," he smiles at me and I repress the shiver his icy smile gives me. "I have good news too," he say getting up to pace. "A hunter spotted Able, but he was in his human form. He informed me that he was so sure it was my brother. I went out to the woods last night and I found him. Able's back in his cell and I'm hoping he stays there," he says looking down at me.
"Yes father," I say. Damn it Able it took forever to get you out the first time how am I supposed to do it again?
"In the morning and evening you are to do nothing more than feed him. Don't touch his restraints don't touch him, got it," he says through his teeth jabbing his finger in my face.
"Yes father," I say getting up to leave.
"And Duncan," he says as I turn. "Keep Roselyn under control," he says.
"Yes father," I say unlocking the door and leaving his office. I gave Able money and food to go somewhere else why would he do this? How the hell am I supposed to get him out? I ask myself.
"Duncan can we talk," Red say coming into the courtyard from the study. Her eyes are bright Red like she just got finish crying. She was upset because of me. I keep hurting her.
"Yeah, Red," I say wrapping my arms around her. Holding Red always make the world disappear. Nothing matters in her arms.
"Um, I wanted to tell you I'm sorry," she whispers in my ear. The warmth of her breath on my ear makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
"Don't, I understand and no one could ever replace you in my life," I say smiling down at her.
"I just really don't like her," she smiles at me.
"You'll have tons of time to get to know each other. I'm sure she doesn't hate you as much as you think," I say trying to reassure her.
"Duncan I don't want to be her friend I just want us to be okay," she says not looking at me.
"Fine," I say picking her chin up and meeting her eyes. "Whatever you want," I smile at her.
"I should go back to my room," she smiles, but doesn't move.
"Maybe you should," I smile back at her. I want to kiss her so bad, but I can't not while I'm keeping her away from her father. She'd never get over that. "Come on." I say leading her away.
"Can I be honest with you," she says stopping me outside her bedroom door.
"I would hope so," I say making her smile, oh God I love her smile, and making her smile is an added bonus.
"I'll never think any girl deserves you. You're to kind, and gentlemanly for any girl."
If only she knew the truth…"Let's go in so I can give you all the gory details of my date," I smile at her and her face drops. "Or we could just set quietly," I laugh as she walks into the room.
I'm almost done mother's dress I haven't spent that much time on my own, but Gram's been helping a lot. She won't come to the ball because she hasn't been feeling too well. I also made a ball gown for Josie. Servants aren't allowed at balls, but it's a masquerade thanks to me. I can't wait to surprise her.
Josie has a crush on Prince and I'm certain he likes her too. Once they see each other they'll dance all night and it will be like a fairytale. I'm glad I can do something for Josie. She's always helping me and Duncan and she never gets much out of it. She never wanted more then our friendship and she deserves it.
"How is it going with your mother's dress," Gram asks coming into the sitting room with tea and cookies.
"I think it's going great, but I'm afraid it will make her upset," I say looking at the design Gram gave me to follow.
"She'll love it," Gram says caressing my cheek. "Let's take a break and talk for awhile. The last time I saw you Little Red you were trying to find Able." she smiles at me.
"I know Gram I shouldn't have ran off, twice," I say getting a plate full of cookies and pouring a glass of milk instead of tea.
"Red you're growing up into a smart, strong welled woman, I don't want you to be sorry for your genealogy. I'm sure your mother and I would do the same thing."
"I know I just wish I knew where he was," I say looking up at Gram and she was smiling at me. "What, do you know something?"
She gets up and starts digging through an old trunk. "Don't tell you're mother we did this," she says pulling out a dusty old book and some more herbs. "I want you to know that the women in our family are special, powerful, and people are afraid of it."
"Gram what are you doing," I ask as she mixes herbs in a cup and pour the hot water on top.
"Gave it a minute and drink this. Make your heart connect with your father so they're one." she says flipping through the book.
I sip what ever it is and it's horrible. "Gram I can't drink this," I say repulsed by the taste.
"Just one big gulp," she says reassuring me. I do as she says and I start to feel dizzy.
"I don't feel good Gram," I say with a yawn. The next thing I know I'm staring at a stone wall. And I can't move my arms. They were tied tightly behind my back.
Red…Red is that you? I hear fathers voice in my head. Run Red. Run.
"Red…Red," Gram says shaking me. I am crying and yelling hysterically. "Red it's okay," she says holding me and rocking me gently.
"What happened?" I ask still scared out of my mind.
"You found you're dad. Is he alive?" Gram asks looking down at me.
"Yes, but someone has him tied up in a dungeon. He kept telling me to run," I say looking up into her eyes. "I have to go find him Gram," I say getting my cloak.
"Little Red, you have no idea where he is and if it's safe to go on you own," Gram says laughing at my eagerness.
"What if they kill him?" I ask as Gram hands me mother's dress.
"They're waiting for something and they can't get it if he's dead so I'm sure we'll have time. You have to trust me," she says returning to her tea.
"Gram, me and patience have never been friends," I say and she laughs.
"Aint that the truth."
"How am I supposed to wait now?" I ask her.
"How was your day with the duke that old loon," she says changing the subject. I guess that was her strategy to stay patient.
"It was loony to say the least. That guy has children older then mom how is it okay for me to marry him he's a creep," I say working on mother's dress some more.
"You don't have to do anything you don't want to," She says pouring another cup of tea.
"Duncan had a great time with Lucy the hag," I frown sewing the white lace to the red silk.
"Lucy's a charming young woman and Duncan's friend," Gram says sounding like mother.
"She's a charming snake that hypnoses her prey like a cobra before she goes in for the kill," I mumble.
"You still have it bad for that poor boy," Gram says smiling at me.
"Gram I feel horrible. Duncan's my cousin and he's in love with Lucy why do I feel like this?" I ask her.
"He's always been good to you, he's smart, and caring, and a good looking young man why wouldn't you feel like this?" she asks me.
"Isn't it wrong," I ask her.
"Love is a pour emotion, so fragile and innocent. When it happens you never ask why just be thankful," Gram say taking her tea try in the kitchen. I guess she's right, but I couldn't let anyone else know I love Duncan. They'd probably put me in a cell and say I've gone mad.
I went down to the dungeon to see Able. When I get to the bottom I can hear him saying Red's name. "Red's not here," I say as I open the cell door. The rusted iron makes the most unsettling noise as it opens. "I got you some clean water to wash with and fresh cloths," I say trying to get his attention. Father untied him earlier this afternoon because Red and Lotty want to visit Gram.
"Where's Red?" he asks in a dry raspy voice.
"With Gram in the cottage, Lotty's going there later tonight Gram isn't feeling well," I say pouring him some water. "Drink this," I say he hasn't eaten in weeks.
"Not until I talk to Red and Lotty," he says refusing the cup.
"What good are you to them dead," I yell at him. "Do you know how miserable Red is with out you. She knows you're alive if you go all these years and die from stubbornness how is that supposed to make her feel," I say putting the cup in his hand.
"And you're have savior now. You give me you disease and lock me up for years. When she finds out about your role in this what do you think she'll do," he asks me.
"I never wanted to hurt you. I love you and I love Red," I said leaving the stuff on the bed. "I going to find away to fix this," I said as I closed the cell door and locked it.
I was done with mother's dress and I neglected my own for weeks. Now the ball's a few hours away and I still had a little to work do. Gram did an amazing job, but her cold has been getting worst by the day an she needed rest. I told her to lay on the couch while I finished my dress and fixed the hem on Josie's.
"Red I need to help you so you're done by the time your mom get's here," She says trying to sit up, but breaking into a coughing fit instead.
"Gram, just stay there I'm almost finished," I say making sure Josie's hem is straight this time.
"You're still not finished," mother says at the sitting room doorway. I hadn't heard her open the door.
"Er, just about," I say tugging on the fabric to make sure it was sewn alright.
"Oh Lotty, you're going to love this dress," Gram says sitting up.
"Well, let me see it," she says coming into the room.
"Um, I really worked hard on it," I start going over to the dress dummy, and rubbing the cover. "Promise me you won't be upset," I beg her.
"Why would I be upset?" she asks sitting next to Gram.
"I modeled it after the ball gown that got destroyed in the great fire. The one you wore when father asked to you marry him. I didn't really remember what it looked like since the great fire happened when I was three, but I do remember father talking about it. Gram also made a drawing for me to follow," I say as I lift the cover.
Her eyes glow with amazement and she starts to cry. "Oh, Rose I can't believe you did this for me," she says going over to the dress with her mouth agape. "You're the sweetest little girl in the world," she says running her fingers over the white and red corset. "It looks just as I remember."
"I'm glad you like it," I smile at her.
"I love it Rose," she says hugging me. "Let's get you home so you can get ready for tonight," she says giving the dress to a servant. "Mom, this is Maria, Josie's mom she's going to stay here with you," my mom says giving Maria a slip of paper. "I wrote down were you can find everything if she becomes a bother."
"I'm no bother and I don't need you making a fuss over me." Gram says making me laugh.
"That's not a good thing to be teaching Roselyn," my mom tsks.
"I'm sure she already learned it," Gram says as Maria laughs. "Go go before it gets late," she says and we're out the door.
I had to get Able out before the party started. I knew now was my golden opportunity. Father is too busy with party guest he won't notice. I go down to the dungeon and Able's sitting on the floor. "Able," I say catching his attention. "I can move you now," I say opening the cell door.
"Where am I going to go if I can't be here and if I can't go to the forest?" he asks and that was a good question.
"Go to the old barn behind Gram's cottage. I'll send Red and Lotty there tomorrow. There's a ball going on in the Grand Ballroom so you can go through the main hall to the courtyard and get a horse from the stable."
"Duncan don't let anything happen to them, and try to stay out of Kane's way," he says as he goes up the opposite set of stairs.
"I will," I say and he starts on his way. "Able," I say and he turns. "I'm sorry." He leaves and I make it look as though he broke out with a craved chicken bone. I'm glade I changed into me dress robes before I came because this is harder then I thought.
I loved the look on Josie's face when she saw the dress. It was her favorite colors blue and gold. I found the perfect mask and pendent for her. Josie was speechless. "Red I don't know what to say," she says looking from the dress for a moment.
"No need for words get dress and I'll tell Prince where to find you," I say finishing my make up. "Lets go get you some undergarments for the dress, and I'll have your sister bring them to the dressing room so you can see it in the full mirror," I say grabbing her and taking her to the huge closet next to mother's room.
"Red why aren't you ready yet?" mother asks me coming out of her room.
"I don't have the right undergarments in my closet for Josie we'll be ready soon," I assure her.
"Fine and keep Josie out of Kane's sight," she says jabbing her finger at me.
"If you need me I'm going to sit in the courtyard and wait for you," she says leaving.
"Okay I'll be there in a moment."
"Come on Red," Josie says pulling me in to the lit mirror room. "I can't believe I'm going to a real Ball," she yelps. "Thank you Red so much."
"Been there, done that," I say flipping through the rack of underwear and corset. "Put these on," I say picking out the ones Josie needed. I fix her hair and do her make up. "There you look amazing." I say as the door opens and Prince peaks in.
"You can't be in here," I warren him.
"Josie you look amazing," he says staring at her in awe.
"Thanks," she blushes.
"I hope you save a dance for me," he says and closes the door.
"See you're not even dressed and he's speechless," I say as her sister brings our dresses in.
I set in the courtyard on the edge of the marble fountain. The water was lit a glowing red and the moon shined down on me as I cried. I lost Able a long time ago and soon I'd be losing Roselyn. She's growing up so fast.
I wipe my tears and get up to check on Rose when something catches my eye. "Hello are you lost?" I ask as I walk over to the person.
"I'm fine go on your way," they say and my heart skips. I could pick that voice out in a choir of angels.
"Able," I say rushing over to him. "Oh, God Able," I say holding him in my arms.
"Carlotta you have to go before Kane comes," he say and that doesn't make any sense. Why wouldn't he want Kane to know he's back?
"What's wrong are you in trouble?" I ask not wanting to let him go.
"I just need to go away for awhile don't tell anyone you've seen me," he says and I still don't understand.
"You can't leave me again I need you," I say crying again. "I've spent five years without you. I convinced Red that you're dead. You're never leaving me again," I say holding him.
"Lotty, I know how much this hurts, but I have to," he says holding my shoulders at arms length and just being that far away from him hurts. "You fixed the dress," he says looking at me with a smile.
"Your daughter did this for me," I say and he wipes a tear from my cheek. "She's such a wonderful young lady," I say wanting to hold him again. "She never stop believing you'd come back," I smile.
"She used her powers to make contact with me a few days ago," he says.
"Mother," I sigh I don't know why she wants Roselyn to learn magic so much. "She's been with my mom all week I'm sure she did it to see how ready she is to start practicing."
"Don't let her go anywhere with anyone alone on her birthday if I don't make it back in time," he says and the look of conviction in his eyes scare me.
"Why is someone after Rose," I say holding my breath hoping he says no.
"Just promise me you won't leave her alone with anyone. Not Duncan, not Kane, Josie, or even Gram, stay with her all the time. Go to the house in the mountains just the two of you and don't tell anyone," he says.
"Able this is crazy tell me what's going on," I demand.
"I will in good time," he promises. "I love you," he says as he kisses me and caresses my cheek. When he runs off to the stables I break down. "Oh God please bring him back to me," I say and sit on my knees and cry for my lost lover.
When I go pass Red's room Jaclyn, Josie's sister is getting Red's gown, of course the parties been going on for three hours and she's not dress. I go to the mirror room certain she's in there and I see Prince walking out with the strangest smile on his face, then Jaclyn comes with her robes.
How dare she let him see her undressed. If someone else had seen that they'd go crazy, and this party would be over before it started. I look out in the courtyard and see Lotty sitting on the ground hunched over.
"Lotty?" I say as she looks over at me.
"Duncan," she says and turns to wipe her eyes. "You look handsome," she says as she gets up.
"Are you alright?" I ask hoping father hasn't killed the only friend he has.
"Everything's fine," she smiles and hugs me. "I just was remembering."
"When you and Able got engaged?" I ask softly.
"Yes," she smiles. "It was right here in the moonlight by the fountain. He told me he needed my opinion on his mother's birthday gift, and he had hide the ring out here. He pretended like he lost the gift, and had me search all around the fountain until I found this ring," she says showing me her engagement ring. "He eased it on my finger, and I said yes before he even asked," she smiles. "I've never been so sure of anything."
"I'm sure he'll be back soon," I say knowing he would be. I'd make sure of it.
"I'm sure you're right," she smiles at me.
"Mother," Red calls out into the courtyard, "I'm ready."
"Come on Duncan," Lotty says taking my hand and leading me over to Red.
Red was wearing the most beautiful red and gold gown I've ever seen and Josie's dress was amazing. "You guys look wonderful."
"Thanks," Red says smiling her angelic smile at me.
"I'll get Drew to announce you two and you'll walk in together. Kane and I will be at the bottom of the staircase. Once you reach the bottom bow to us and start out to the center of the dance floor. You'll dance one song and then the night is yours to do what ever you like." Aunt Lotty says going ahead of us.
"Are you nervous Red?" I ask and she smiles at me.
"Why would I be?" she asks.
"Aren't you wondering how many long romantic dances you'll have with the Duke of Earl?" I ask making Josie laugh.
"I'm going to go I'll see you guys out there," she says putting her gold and sapphire mask on.
"See you Josie," Red says and smile's at her. "Now that she's gone, why are you being mean to me?" she asks me as we walk to the entrance to the grand staircase in the ballroom.
"Why would you let Prince in you're dressing room when you weren't dressed," I ask her and I could feel my jaw clenching.
"He was staring at Josie not me," she shrugs. "Why are you so upset?"
"Because I'm really disappointed in you," I shrug. I want to tell her everything I want to kiss her and hold her but the doors will open any second and that wouldn't be good.
"Where's your mask?" she ask and I pull out my red devil mask. "Uncle Kane is going to kill you if you walk out with that on," she comments.
"That's why I have a diversion mask," I say putting on a white and red mask that had a gold diamond pattern on it. "Ready to find the guy you'll spend the rest of your life with," I ask as she looks into my eye through her red spectacle of a mask.
"I already have," she says and the door opens and the horns start and she pulling me down the steps. Did she mean I was the person she wanted to spend the rest of her life with? I thought to myself. "Red what does that mean?" I ask as we make our way down the steps. Smiling and waving.
"Just forget it," she says as we reach the bottom. Father and Lotty follow us to the center of the dance floor and they start to play a slow waltz.
"Just clarify for me just a bit," I try to ask her over the music.
"Duncan just leave it alone," she says shutting down on me.
"Fine," I say spotting Lucy and waving to her.
"What are you doing?" Red asks picking her head up off of my shoulder.
"Saying hi to Lucy what's it to you?" I asks.
"I can't wait to get as far away from you as I can," she says looking into my eyes.
"Jealous still?" I ask pushing her buttons.
"You're a helpless pig," she says.
"But you wanna kiss me right now," I say and she freezes.
"Don't say things like that."
"You mean the truth?"
"I'll see you later," she says as everyone applauses and joins us on the dance floor.
"Hey, Duncan," Lucy says hugging me. "I thought you were going to call me yesterday?" she asks taking me to the dance floor before I can reach Red.
"Roselyn have you seen Josie," Prince ask coming in from the courtyard.
"How did you know it was me?" I ask.
"You and your mom are pretty much the only ones in red. I'm sure all the other girls knew you'd be wearing it and were persuaded otherwise," he says and I look around. Most of the girls were wearing white and yellow.
"Hey, what can I say," I shrug at him.
"Red," Ella Princess of Eastonia says. Her dress was white and huge. The skirt had enough fabric in it to clothe a poor family. "I just wanted to let you know you look amazing," she smiles at me.
"Red," the duke says coming over to me. "How about a dance?" He asks me.
"Prince asked me already," I turned to Ella, "Would you mind keeping the duke company while I go with Prince to talk for a moment?" I ask her.
"Sure I'd love to," she smiles at the duke.
"Thanks a lot I'll only be a minute," I say sure I'm never going back.
"I've been looking for Josie everywhere then I realized I don't know what she's wearing."
"Look in that corner over there and see if you can pick her out?" I ask pushing him to Josie's general direction. I really wanted to find Duncan and apologize for what I did.
"I see her, thanks for doing this Red," he yells over the band.
"No problem," I say.
"Red," Lucy says hugging on Duncan.
"Lucy," I say staring at Duncan who just smiling his smug stupid smile.
"Can we talk a moment?" I ask him.
"I'm really busy now," he says tilting his head towards Lucy.
"Meet me in the courtyard in two hours," I say going over to Prince and Josie.
"I don't understand how you put up with her?" Lucy asks leading me to a quiet corner.
"Red isn't as bad as she seems," I say pulling a chair out for her. "Just the other day she was telling me how smart and beautiful you are," I smile at her.
"Really," she asks.
"Of course Red loves you, she just doesn't want to seem weak," I shrug.
"I hope the duke can warm her up," Lucy smiles at me.
"I don't think that's going to happen," I say looking at the duke who was dancing with Ella.
"You seem so sure," she smiles at me.
"I'm in love with Red," I say and she stares at me.
"What?" she says and raises her brow.
"I have feelings for Red," I repeat.
"That can't be," she says looking into my eyes.
"I thought it was obvious I'm glad I was hiding it better than I thought."
"This is a joke she's your cousin," Lucy yells at me.
"I know," I say unable to look her in the eyes.
"You're serious aren't you?" she asks.
"Yeah I'm going to ask her to marry me," I say showing her my mother's ring.
"Duncan I don't think you should. Does she know how you feel?" she asks concerned now.
"Yeah she does that's why she doesn't like you," I smile at her.
"You just said she does like me," she says upset that I lied to her twice in one hour.
"She'll love you I promise," I try to reassure her.
"Don't get your hopes to high, okay. She still doesn't know you're a shape shifter," Lucy whispered.
"She will I'll tell her everything once the ball is over in the courtyard like here parents did when they were our age," I smile at her.
"What about Ella isn't she in love with you?" Lucy asks.
"She seems to like the dukes company and Prince can't marry Josie she's not noble," I shrug.
"Whatever you think is best," she smiles an unconvincing smile at me.
"I'll be fine stop worrying," I say.
"Ella do you mind if I cut in," I say ready to resume my duties and hoping she can come between Lucy and Duncan.
"I was really having fun talking to the duke," she says with her wide smile.
"No you two girls go have fun I have to be going any way," the duke says getting up.
"So soon," I smile at him hoping he can't see I'm doing cartwheels on the inside.
"Yes, I'm a very old busy man and I can't party like I used to," he says leaving us.
"I'm sorry it took so long for me to get back to you Princess Ella," I say bowing to her.
"The pleasure was mine he was fun to talk to. Have you seen Duncan?" she asks.
"He's in the corner with Lucy," I smile hoping she'd ask.
"Great, see yeah," she said going over to him.
"Red," Prince says tapping my shoulder.
"Yes," I say then I notice Josie isn't with him.
"Where's Josie?" I asks.
"Kane knows," was all he said then he want to ask Ella to dance and they spent the night together.
I walk through the courtyard to my room and from the shadows Uncle Kane appears. "Who do you think you are dressing that peasant up and parading her a round like nobility," he says grabbing my arm. "How dear you make a mockery out of me and this court. You are to never speak to her again," he orders me.
"Let her go," Duncan says from behind Uncle Kane.
"Did you know about this?" he turns and asks Duncan.
"Know about what," he asks.
"That servant girl with Prince Erwin."
"Yes," Duncan barely gets the words out when Uncle Kane slaps him across the face.
"If you touch him I'll tell my mom and she'll never marry you," I say holding onto Duncan.
"Don't let this happen again, either of you," he says returning to the party as if he never struck his own child.
"Are you okay?" I ask Duncan looking at his cheek.
"You make everything perfect," he smiles at me. "Do you still wanna talk?" he asks rubbing his cheek.
"Yeah," I say heading to my room and holding the door open for him. The second the door was closed he was kissing me, pressing me against the door, waving his fingers through my hair.
His kiss was so passionate and sweet. The eruption of hormones in my body go against everything I believed in. "Stop Duncan," I say finally able to push him away. Everything in my body is telling me I want this and my mind is saying I can't have it.
"You're in love with me," he says gently caressing my neck with his lips.
"You're my cousin we can't be in love," I say trying to be logical.
"We're not related you're uncle chose me to be his heir that's all," he says trying to make the situation simple.
"You know this is wrong. Everyone out there thinks of you as my cousin."
"Is it normal for your cousin to make your heart jump when you see them smile, or for you to get jealous when they're with someone else. Is it okay for me to want to kiss your lips, or for you to not be able to think straight when I get too close to you?" he asks me.
"You should leave," I say trying to put more space in between us.
"Not until you tell me how you really feel," he says. His eye glow with hope.
"I love you Duncan," I say as I kiss him. "I've loved you forever," I say as we stumble to my bed and he falls on top of me.
"Red come here," he says pulling me over to the window. He gets down on one knee and takes my hand. "Roselyn I never want you to be with anyone else. I want to spent every second of my life with you. Will you be my wife?" he asks as he puts his mother's ring on my finger.
"Duncan I can't take this," I say looking down at my hand.
"You don't have to say anything now think about it. I'm going to go find Josie you can stay here and think," he smiles at me then kisses me. "I love you so much Red."
"I love you too Duncan," I say holding him for a moment.
"I'll come get you when everyone leaves," he says leaving.
So I didn't propose to Red the way I wanted to, but it want great. "She's going to say yes I know it." I tell Josie. She wanted to know what happened to my cheek and she wouldn't focus on anything else. "How did father know it was you?" I say taking the cold towel she was pressing against my cheek.
"Prince kissed me and said he loved me, but he said my name and Kane want crazy. He told Prince to go dance with Ella and dragged me off to the servant quarters."
"That's it?" I ask that was too simple for father.
"He said if he saw my face again he'd let my parents go," she says looking me in the eye. "I hope Red's not made at me she want out of her way to make this dress for me and I ruined it all," she says starting to cry.
"Red would never be mad at you," I say trying to comfort her. "She did all of this to thank you for being such a great friend to both of us and you deserved it."
"I don't know why I ever thought I could be with Prince," she says laying her head on my shoulder.
"Josie you're smart, kind, and beautiful there is no reason for Prince not to be with."
"I'm just a poor servant girl there's no such thing as happily ever after," she says and Red knocks on the door.
"Josie get ready to love me," she says beaming.
"Why?" I ask her.
"Prince's mother invited mother and I to tea for my birthday and I told her about my amazing friend who is madly in love with her son, and guess who she'd like to meet," Red says and I'm so mad at her.
"Why would you do that? Do you know what father's going to do when he finds out?" I yell at her.
"I'm giving Josie another chance to be with the person she loves. Why wouldn't I do this?" she asks looking into my eye. I didn't like how disappointed she was.
"I'm sorry," I say taking her hand and kissing it.
"Don't be you are afraid of how Uncle Kane is going to react," she says rubbing my cheek. "I honestly could care less. It's not like he's going to lock me in a dungeon or something," she says. Her and Josie laugh. They have no clue of how right they are…
I had to come up with a plan soon. It is only matter of time before father finally ventures down to the dungeon and realizes Able isn't their anymore. He'll most likely kill me, but not before I tell Red the truth.
"Duncan please keep her safe," Lotty begs me.
"I won't let anything happen to Red we're only going for a picnic then we'll meet you at Gran's, promise," I say trying to comfort her. Ever since the ball she's been really worried about Red. I just hope she doesn't drive her self crazy worrying. Red's very headstrong and hard to control. If she wants to do something there's really no stopping her.
"You probably think I'm crazy," she smiles at me.
"I just think you really love Red," I say wrapping my arms around her. "She twisted her ankle, had a run in with a wolf, and isn't that interested in finding a husband. I'm sure you're allowed to worry."
"Thank you for understanding. I just really can't lose her too," she smiles.
"You'll never lose her I would never allow it," I say as Red and Josie come to the courtyard. Red had on her brown riding pants and her fox skin jacket all under her red cloak. Her hair was braided into a ponytail behind her back with a few stray strands that framed her angelic face. "You two look thick as thieves out here," Josie says as Red smiles.
"I was just instructing Duncan that you are to go out to the valley and then straight to Gran's. I want you there before night fall got it?" Lotty asks Red.
"Yes mother," she says hugging her.
"I'd never dream of leading Duncan astray. Especially, when you gave him direct orders," she smiles, but Lotty isn't laughing.
"I'm serious Red, to the valley and then to Gran's. The last thing I need is for you to get hurt or go missing," she says in a stern voice. I've never heard her talk to Red like this.
"Mom is something wrong?" Red asks looking at Lotty in the most sincere way. She really loves her mom they are best friends and now something was blocking that connection.
"Everything's fine as long as you do as you are told," Lotty says and turns going into the palace.
"Red, I'm sure everything is okay with her. She's just been under a lot of stress," I say hugging her.
"She just lied to me, my mom doesn't lie, not to me," she says glancing up at me.
"I'm sure she's just waiting to tell you in private, maybe when you get to Gran's you should ask her, she'd definitely never lie to Gran," Josie says giving me the picnic basket and going back to the palace.
"Thanks Josie," I wave at her as I sit the basket in the carriage. "Red do you want to stay?" I ask her. She's staring into space chewing on the tie to her red cloak. "Red?"
"What," she asks jerking her head in my direction.
"Are you sure you don't want to stay with Lotty?" I ask her.
"Yeah I'm sure," she says getting into the carriage and sitting the basket on her lap.
We ride through the woods in silence. I can't help but think about Abe what if he didn't listen to me, or he went to Gran. I want to make this the best day of Red's life. This could be the last we ever spend together.
"What are you thinking about?" She asks laying her head on my shoulder.
"How I wish I had a mom like Lotty. You two are really great together," I smile at her.
"Your parents would have to be mad not to love you. You're the most amazing person I've ever met," she says kissing my cheek.
"You're the most amazing person in the world to me," I smile at her.
"We should leave the carriage here so the horses can drink from the spring," she says looking out the carriage window at the valley. The river flowed to the spring, and the bank was cover in flowers. Red and I used to come out her in the summer to watch tadpoles and catch fireflies. Now the flowers were covered with early winter frost and the spring was filled with chunks of ice. I tied the horse up near the bank and gather a good supply of dry wood for a fire. Red was sitting on the blanket looking at me.
"What?" I ask sitting the wood down and setting it in to a pile.
She kiss me and run her hands up my shirt. "Red," I say as she kisses my neck. "I have to start the fire before we freeze to death," I say pushing her away.
"You start your fire and I'll start mine," she whisper in my ear from behind me. "I'm sure my way is faster," she chuckles.
"Just let me take care of this," I say blowing and watching the sticks smoke then ignite.
"There you're finished," she says turning my head. I held her in my arms and I let her get carried away.
"Red don't people usually eat when they go on a picnic?" I ask as we lay on the blanket.
"Good thing we're not usual people," she says kissing me more urgently then before.
"Red we really need to talk," I say getting up.
"There's no need for words," she says sitting on my lap.
"Red please," I ask brushing a stray strand of hair out of her face.
"Fine," she smiles then lay her head on my chest. "What do you want to do?"
"I need to tell you a lot of things you're not going to want to hear," I say as her eyes widen with amusement.
"Like what?" she laughs.
"I'm not human," I say and she giggles.
"Then what are you?" she asks.
"I can turn into a wolf well anything I feel like. My parents were shifters and so are Lucy's. I'm not human," I say and she just smiles.
"Is that all," she asks.
"No," I frown. "I did something unforgivable to you and Lotty. I'm so sorry I've been lying to both of you for years."
"Lying about what?" she asks with a smile. She probably thinks I tore her cloak last year.
"I know where your dad is," I say and she smiles.
"You found him really. Mom's going to be so happy you scared me," she smiles as she hugs me. "thank you so much where is he? He's at Gran's isn't he?"
"Let me finish please. Just try to understand I love you," I say and her smile slowly fades. "I've always known where he was. I helped keep him from you," I say and her eyes tear up. I hate this, but it needs to be done.
"I want to see him," she says getting up and going to the carriage.
I grab her hand and she turns and looks at me, "Just let me finish please," I beg her. I need to make her see I hand no other choice.
"I don't care I just want to be with him," she yells.
"Red I know I've made a mistake"-
"You've more than made a mistake, you told me to give up on finding him. You made me feel stupid for hoping my father was still alive. I just want to see him now Duncan," she yells going to the carriage.
"As long as you promise to listen to what I have to say on the way," I say following her.
"whatever," she sighs.
"Red this is important your life is in danger, just as well as your parents and mine?" I yell at her.
"Even so you should have told me a long time ago instead of making me feel crazy. I trusted you," she says and a sharp pain strikes my heart. I know she's right, but I couldn't, not before she came into her powers.
"I was trying to protect you Red," I say trying get her to understand. "Everything I've ever did was for you," I stop the carriage and she looks up into my eyes. "I love you I'd never hurt you."
"What happened?" she asks in a small voice.
"My father wants power and he'd do anything to get it. Even killing his brother and niece," I say and she gasps.
"I know Uncle Kane is crazy, but he'd never do anything like that, would he?" she asks looking into my eyes searching for the truth.
"He's not himself anymore, he hasn't been for a while," I say missing the kind man that gave me a family and a home. I've been hoping for years that he'd come back. Now I know that will never happen.
"We have to get my mom if he'd do all of this who's to say he wouldn't hurt her," Red panics.
"Look at me," I say welling her to calm down with my gaze. "I'll never let anything happen to either of you," I say holding her.
"He's really okay," she smiles.
"Yeah he's going to be fine," I smile at her.
"Thank you for taking care of my father," she says kissing me. "This means the world to me."
"You have to understand some things first," I say and she smiles.
"I infected your dad"-
"What does that mean?"
"He can shift into what ever I was when I infected him. In this case it's a wolf."-
"The one that was with me in the woods and really hates you?" she asks.
"Yeah," I shrug.
"He was so close and I didn't even know," she sighs.
"I convinced you to stop looking. All of this is my fought I should have told you and Lotty the truth."
"Before you said Lucy's whatever it is you are. Did you tell her about my dad?" she asks me and the look in her eyes make my throat dry. "If you two are the same why not be with her?"
"I love you Red. She doesn't make me feel the way you do, and I hear she's promiscuous." I say trying to make her laugh.
"Duncan you should be with her. She's pretty and smart and she understands what you are."
"She understands what I am, but you understand who I am. I never feel like I have to be noble, or smart to be with you. I get to be someone I'm proud of with you."
"I make you forget what you are I don't want that for you," she says taking my hand. "I don't want you to feel ashamed or evil because you're different."
"See you're thoughtful and caring how could I not choose you. I'm never going to let you go Red." I say and kiss her. "Father can't suspect you know about Abe."
"I still can't believe Uncle Kane knew where my dad was and he knew what you did."
"He made me do it. Lucy's parents told him about my powers and one day he just snapped and he sent this fake letter to your dad summoning him and he made me scratch Abe. The next thing I knew Abe was twitching and yelling in pain. Then he was a wolf like me."
"How long is he going to be like that?"
"The infection only last a few months but father kept making me do it. You're dad is getting over the last of it."
"So he's human now?"
"Yeah you guys can talk and stuff."
Red turns to me and grabs my hand. I look up into her tear stain eyes. "Duncan promise you'll never keep anything like this from me ever again?" she asks and it hurts that she hast to. I should be honest with her. I should have trust her with this long ago, but I was so scared she'd be afraid of me.
"As long as you understand everything I've ever done and will do is because I love you," I say smiling warmly at her.
"I love you too Duncan," Red says as we hear the royal horns and the gulp the lieutenant's horse. "Don't stop keep going to Gran's," she says and I look at her.
"It's probably Jacques with your mom," I say pulling over.
"Duncan keep going trust me," she says getting my bow and bag of arrows.
"I'm a better shot then you," I say grabbing it from her. "You drive get Thunder and Anna to go as fast as they can. I'm going to try and knock them off their horses but they won't be hurt so we'll need to get some distance on them."
"Okay," she says switching seats with me. "Umm, Duncan I think we're in trouble," she says turning into the trees and the carriage rocks and almost turns over. "They have us surrounded. Maybe we can cut through the clearing and split up. Then, we can make it back to the castle to my mom or Josie," she says as we pick up speed.
"I'm not leaving you. He's going to try and kill you on your birthday," I say and she stares at me.
"What?" she yells.
"Yeah, father wants your powers and the only way that will happen is if you're died."
"Duncan the only way to loss these jerks is to split up," she says and I know it's true. There had to be something more I could do to keep her safe.
"Give me your cloak and ride Anna," I say as we approach the clearing.
"Why?" she asks disconnecting the horses from the carriage as I untie them from each other.
"They'll think I'm you and maybe not chase you," I say tying my cloak around her neck. "You go a head of me and take the short way around." I shift into her and she smiles.
"That wasn't as weird as I thought it would be. And I can handle it," she insist. "I don't want you to suffer anymore for me. What happened to my dad is bad enough."
"Red you have to get to your mom and Gran. Thunder can be there and half Anna's time so you taking the short way makes the most sense, it will have us seconds apart. I'm not going anywhere without you. My dad doesn't know I told you and he's probably just found out Abe isn't in the dungeon."
"He put my dad in the dungeon like some common criminal." she yells disgust riddle in her voice and on her face.
"He's going to pay for what he did to our family just like I am," I sigh. "You have to go ahead of me and take my spare bow and a few arrows incase you get into some trouble," I say handing her the bow and spare arrows. "Remember to keep your arm straight until after you fire," I say knowing that was her only folly.
"You remember when my dad gave us lessons," she smiles.
"Yeah, you'll be with him again, promise," I say kissing her goodbye. "Stay smart and rational."
"It's not like I'm some implosive know-it-all," she smiles being her sarcastic self.
"Go now," I say helping her mount Anna and watching her ride out into the woods Northwest of the river. I hear the horns getting closer and I mount Thunder. I ride Northeast and make sure they get a good glimpse of both of us. I know Red hast to be terrified, but I look back and see the bulk of the lieutenant's platoon following me. I knew they were going after Red I only wish I knew why and what they were planning to do to her.
I get to the bridge and the water has turn it to ice. I try to walk Thunder over it as quick as possible, but he's tired and scared. I had a feeling this way would be to icy for Anna that's why I sent Red the other way. If I can get Thunder over the bridge then maybe I can get to Red before someone hurts her.
By the time I get Thunder over the bridge the soldiers are too close to dodge. The most I can do is try to out run them again. I mount Thunder and he runs faster then I've ever seen before. He probable wants to get to Red just as bad as I do. I make it to the welcome sign five miles out of the village and I ride straight into an ambush.
There must be at least fifty soldiers and they were all waiting for Red. I grab my bow and try to take out the sharpshooters in the trees. I get the first five but one gets me in the arm. I try to get Thunder to travel back down the West path to meet Red so I can help her, but they are closing in on me.
"Roselyn of Kensington put your weapon down and surround to the king's army," the lieutenant in charge says.
I shoot at him and miss by a centimeter. He charges me himself and hits me with something and everything quickly goes black.