Monday, 3 October 2016

Chapter Fifteen

The collected volumes of  The Dead London Chronicles are now available FREE at Smashwords, or your favourite ebook retailer! 

She would not think of any of it, Mary told herself as she stalked through the gardens at the back of the house, tracks clear in the now-thick snow, not the state of her mistress, nor the ridiculous weather, and certainly not him, the man or whatever he was that owned this house and had left her feeling a fool. Let him roam hallways in his linens and climb trees and fall out of trees and kiss her and - no, his mischief had gone too far and she would not permit it again. He would be laughing at her with the likes of Sophia Brandenburg she was sure, the thought sending a jolt of embarrassment and annoyance through her.

I don't care, she told herself firmly, I don't care and I will not think on him again. How dare he!

At the suggestion of movement in the trees on the horizon she froze, recognising the lope of a wolf before she heard its unmistakeable bay. The full moon shone down, bathing the snow in a bright white light and ahead, like shadow puppets in the copse, the creatures prowled. Slowly, carefully, she took a step back, and then another, heart hammering and senses on full alert as she judged the distance to the house and safety. She was barely breathing, watching the four enormous creatures emerge from the trees, long snouts moving as they caught her scent, tasted the air. Red eyes flashed, jaws gaping momentarily to expose yellowing teeth as with a low growl, the beasts made their slow, deliberate way towards her.

They had seen her, her chances if she turned and ran not good she knew just from the look of them. She was outsized and out numbered, but her only choice now to stand and face them. The wolf at the head of the pack was a matt of tangled, dirty brown fur, its shoulders sloping low as it stared at her, nose just moving to savour the fragrance of its prey. The jaw moved just a little, teeth grinding and then it dropped low, muscles tensed to spring. Mary had mere seconds before the creature pounced towards her, its brethren howling their excitement, bays rending the air.

The danger was too close, too raw, and she turned before she could think, terror pushing her to flight even as she knew it to be hopeless. For a second, no more, Mary felt a blaze of pain when the wolf landed atop her, its claws slashing into her skin and then the crushing weight was gone, the howls of triumph becoming yelps of fear as the other beasts turned tail and ran. She couldn't move, the pain blotting out almost everything else as she lay in the snow, breath coming in sharp gasps.

Mary's eyes struggled to focus but when they did, they found the immaculate figure of Mishael de Chastelaine stood between her and the wolf. He was clad in crimson silk, the silver-handled walking cane held in one hand whilst the other was extended, palm upwards towards the creature that had attacked her. The wold was suspended in mid air, held for a few seconds as her rescuer murmured in some unknown tongue and then, with a flash of light, send the canine flying backwards towards the trees. It landed in a heap before, with a yelp, it followed its brothers into the darkness.

She couldn't move, a soft whimper escaping her lips as she tried to move her injured limb. It was worse that he had seen her like this, even as she felt a treacherous gladness at his presence, eyes closing briefly as her head flopped down onto the snow.

"You are wounded," his words were soft, gentle, no trace of his usual teasing. "It should be healed... Let me?"

She tried to shake her head but the pain was too great, another whimper escaping as she tried to move.

"You will forgive me, madam," Mishael murmured with utmost chivalry and Mary opened her eye to see him drop to one knee and release the cane that, somehow, remained upright in mid-air. Very gently he took the paw of the silver grey wolf that was sometimes Mary Lambert in one hand, his brow furrowing as he let his dark gaze travel over the wound, blood pooling where her skin had been torn open in a long, ragged gash by the razor sharp claw of her adversary.

She wanted to look away but found she could not, her own gaze fixed on the wound, pain and humiliation rushing through her.

"There is no shame," Mishael closed his free hand over the wound, a heat coursing through her as he did, "In accepting the help of a friend."

Mary forced herself to meet his gaze, the pain slowly but surely giving way to the heat that now blotted out all else. He began to murmur in that same unknown tongue, hand stroking gently over Mary's wounded paw, smoothing down the fur until he lifted his hand from the wound and then raised her paw to his lips, bestowing it with a very soft kiss, lips pressed there for long seconds. Only then did he draw the tip of his tongue along the ragged line of the wound, the blood ceasing to flow beneath his touch. Her eyes closed for the briefest of moments then, opening again to find the pain gone, though the heat remained from the press of his lips.

"My lady," he raised his head, "Might you allow me to escort you back to the house?"

She had a choice, she knew, even as she inclined her own head in assent, following an instinct stronger and deeper than anything that could be put into words.

“Wait,” he snatched up the cane and cast a glance to the storm clouds above; Mishael’s whole demeanour changed then and he whispered, “Follow me and trust me; I will find you when the danger has passed."

The story continues on 17th October!

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