When they’d entered Swinford Woods, laughing and making merry, passing around a flask of spirits “for warmth”, Denny had offered a forfeit to the first hunter to spot the beast. His last bottle of apple brandy from the pressing two years past.
Well, it would appear Cecily had won. It seemed doubtful, however, that she would survive to claim her prize.
Peering through the darkness, she studied her quarry. Dark, beady eyes regarded her around an elongated nose. The curved, lethal tip of a horn glittered in the moonlight. The creature’s rank, gamy odor assaulted her, even from several paces away.
The animal impatiently pawed the leaf-strewn forest floor, fixing her all the while with an offended glare. Good heavens, it was enormous. It must outweigh her by ten stone, at least.
She didn’t know what to do. Should she run? Climb a tree? Feign death and hope it lost interest and went away? She’d become separated from the others some ways back—stupid, stupid. Would they even hear her, if she called?
“Denny?” she ventured. The animal cocked its head, and Cecily cleared her throat to try again. “Portia? Mr. Brooke?”
The beast shuffled toward her, great slabs of muscle flexing beneath its hoary coat.
“Not you,” she told it, taking a quick step back. “Shoo. Go home.”
It bristled and snarled, revealing a narrow row of jagged teeth. Moonlight pooled like liquid around its massive jaw. Good Lord, the thing was drooling.
Truly panicked now, she drew … Read More »